Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Cardiac Chronicles: No moon walks after "Happy Juice"

They shot me up with some of that Michael Jackson happy juice. You know, propofol, the anaesthetic that Michael allegedly took for 60 nights straight for insomnia until it, combined with some other stuff prescribed by his doc, killed him. The drug's nickname is "Milk of Amnesia" for its milky color and its major side effect.

Earlier, I was on some other happy juice for my ICD surgery. But I was awake. It's odd to be lucid while a coterie of docs and nurses and technicians hover over you. It's a bit like a bad dream, although the happy juice makes it not so bad.

As announced earlier on these pages, I had surgery on Monday, part of my continuing recovery from a Christmas 2012 heart attack. The docs implanted an ICD, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. This is part defibrillator, part pacemaker. It will correct arrhythmias and shock me back to reality should I be threatened with sudden cardiac death. Patients such as me who have heart muscle damage that leads to a reduced ejection fraction have a 5-8 percent chance of experiencing sudden cardiac death. I don't like those odds. They are much higher than the chance of getting hit by lightning during a lifetime (1/6250) or the odds of injury from mowing the lawn (3,623 to 1). It's even worse that getting killed in a car wreck (77-1).

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) Sucks. I'm having T-shirts made.

So I agreed to have the procedure.

One complaint, though. Last time I had a CRMC Cath Lab procedure, Led Zep was on the stereo. This time, I had to settle for Journey. Not sure if this was a tribute to Journey's upcoming concert (with Styx) on July 19 as part of Cheyenne Frontier Days. I took it as a bad sign.

But all was copacetic. Betsy was my nurse-guide. She stuck to me like the glue the docs used to seal my incision. She explained the proceedings to me. First came the preparations and then my chest was swabbed with orange goop and then, when that was dry, they draped me with sterile drapes. Finally, a tent was constructed over me. I was a bit claustrophobic until Betsy rolled back the tent walls and I could see her smiling face again. I couldn't actually see her face as she wore a mask. The nurses plopped something heavy dangerously close to my crotch.

"Ooomph," I said.

"Don't move," they said. "You'll contaminate the sterile field."

A disembodied voice informed me that I was getting some happy juice through my IV. After that, I only remember a few things, as happy juice is an amnesiac. Someone was kneading my chest like a baker kneading dough. It started to hurt but I'm not sure if I asked why they were baking bread and not not installing my gadget. When that was over, a big head appeared over me. Someone said "anesthesiologist" and "happy juice." Next thing I knew, I was rolling back to my room. I found out later that that last hit of juice was the propofol, which only put me out for five minutes or so while they tested my new gadget. Nurse-guide Betsy reported to my wife Chris that I was not happy with being test-shocked. My legs went flying up, she said, and I had a stern look on my face.

Wouldn't you?

After surgery, I slept for awhile and woke up feeling giddy. Happy juice can produce euphoria, which may have been Michael Jackson's desired side-effect. I had lot of visitors who said I looked good. I felt good.

The next day, the walls came crashing down. I slept 12 hours and didn't feel so chipper when I awoke Wednesday morning. Hangover Part I.

Oh, about that bread-kneading thing. Nurse Rita explained later that the surgeon had to insert his/her fingers through the incision and "knead" a pocket for the ICD.

So I wasn't imagining things.

I found a couple of videos of the procedure in YouTube. First one comes from Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida. I was an orderly at this hospital as I worked my way through community college in the 1970s. My mom also died there in 1986, but that's another story. Go here.

A more recent operation comes from December 2011 out of Holland (that's a guess, as I didn't recognize the language). English speakers may have a hard time with the audio, but the video is very detailed. Go here.


RobertP said...


So happy to see you made it through and are now part cyborg in a good way.

Sorry about the Journey, good lesson there not to assume the tunes and make a request before hand, My son recently gave me the chuck Palahniuk book Rant, which if you have not read, you should. Here is a great quote about listening to the right music:

“Music is crucial. Beyond no way can I overstress this fact. Let's say you're southbound on the interstate, cruising alone in the middle lane, listening to AM radio. Up alongside comes a tractor trailer of logs or concrete pipe, a tie-down strap breaks, and the load dumps on top of your little sheetmetal ride. Crushed under a world of concrete, you're sandwiched like so much meat salad between layers of steel and glass. In that last, fast flutter of your eyelids, you looking down that long tunnel toward the bright God Light and your dead grandma walking up to hug you--do you want to be hearing another radio commercial for a mega, clearance, closeout, blow-out liquidation car-stereo sale?”

Mike, take care and keep up the good work.


Michael Shay said...

I like Palahniuk. I've read a few, including "Fight Club." He's right, life's too short not to have Led Zep or The Stones or The Floyd on the Cath Lab tune box. At least it wasn't tuned into AM Talk Radio.