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Spencer, October 3,  2019  11:00am EST

Spencer's First Surgery (Repost - Two Year Anniversary)

To my AFib family, 
Today marks the second anniversary of my first heart surgery.  Everyone on this board knows what I went through.  I wanted to repost my report of my first surgery.  I cleaned up the grammar to actually make it readable.  Some of my experiences now I know are par for the course.  Trouble is I was remarkably absent of that information. 

My First Surgery Experience...
Posted by Spencer on Oct 8, 2017, 1:16 pm
I have never been very sick and recently underwent my first surgery ever (I'm 50 currently), and I wanted to tell of my experience and see if this is normal or common. So if this is normal, tell me so, if not reply with "your nuts!". 
I went in on Tuesday (3 Oct 2017) for catheter ablation to fix an AFib. So I check in at and go through what I guess is standard intake procedure, shed my clothes for surgical pants, and one of their weird tops that tie in the back. I wait, and then I am wheeled down to the cath lab where the procedure is to take place - why can't you walk down there?  Note that I have never had any surgery, an IV, hospitalized, worn a hospital gown, sat in a wheelchair, or anesthesia in my 50 years. I knew next to nothing about AFib or what is done to cure it.  I am greeted by four very young girls from the brownie troop roaming the halls.  No one introduced themselves at all except the doc who I met for five minutes earlier that week waves from across the room.  At least there is one more guy besides me and the doc - the anesthesia guy.  The girls tell me to get up on the icy and hard table, and while doing that, they shed me of my clothes.  They then, as a group, commence placing about twenty stickers all over my body.  Then one of the girls with more than a hint of mischief in her eye starts to shave my nether regions.  And I can see and feel that she has real gusto for the job.  I was under the impression my heart was north of the equator, and such ministrations are unnecessary.  The little fact that the catheters go in your groin might have been something to tell the patient.  I was completely nude on the table for quite a while.  Then once the shearing is done, comes the cleanup and sanitizing.  She and her friends have no problem moving the wedding tackle around to get those hard to reach spots.  So the doc across the room is munching on a donut and some coffee.  I guess that is OK in the OR?  I did take notice that I was not offered a donut. Rude.  Next goes the anesthesia... he pushes in the first vial, and that was it.  Out like a light.  I wake up in the ICU about five hours later.  The military hospital I was at pushes all cardiac patients to the ICU as their recovery unit was closed to support the war in Iraq. 
So I am now in the ICU, completely nude still, but at least I have a blanket now.  But that doesn't matter as the nurse, of course, who looks about 12, checks the groin catheters every 15 min.  Oh, and again thank you, doctor, for not mentioning that I will be in the ICU, that the catheters would still be in me and that I have to keep entirely still for six hours, or I might die.  So the nurse kept checking, and at this point, it is just whatever... so I have become immune to this.  After a couple of hours, two of them approached my bed... it was time for the catheters to come out.  There were four, two in each leg, and about 18 inches long still inside the vein.  Off comes the sheet, and I swear the nurse got her foot on the bed for leverage.  Shes says, "this will hurt."  She makes a fake 3-2-1 countdown.  They went on about 2 1/2.  Yep.  Hurt, and quite a bit.  I at least was able to get blood on both of them. Yeah. Then it is back to the, "don't move or you might die" time.  Again, thank you, doctor, for giving me all the information so I could make an informed consent about what you did to me. It was about four hours later that I was allowed or forced to walk around the ICU.  I did this with a lot of help as that anesthesia wiped me out.   So about 3/4th of the way around, I sprung a leak in my groin and a good one at that.  I got blood all on the ground, the nurse's shoes and pants.  Next, I find myself hurled back into bed, and she jumped on my groin with some bandages.  She puts so much pressure on my crotch that I was bruised later.  Not to mention my little guys down there.   

On the surgeon's summary that I received on discharge (next day, so nearly two full days for this operation), there was a mention that cardioversion was carried out on me before the ablation.  Of course at max voltage, of course.  I think he just set the machine on well-done.  Now, in the doctor's office, we talked about cardioversion and ablation.  Well, rather briefly.  Cardioversion was explained as temporary, and the ablation permanent.  I specifically decided against having cardioversion done.  It was never explained that it would be performed first and then the ablation.  I never gave consent for the cardioversion, but it was carried out anyway.  I also came away with two very lovely electrical burns on my chest.

What bothered me the most about this experience was that I was not given full information about what the surgery would entail.  How can a patient give informed consent without all the facts, and there is an inherent disparity of information.  Doctors can easily shade the info provided to lead the patient by the nose down the path he wants.  Additionally, the experience was very dehumanizing.  I was reduced to lying on a cold slab and people doing unknown things to you while you are naked.   You are something that does not need to be introduced.  The OR nurses carried on about their love lives and who was doing what that weekend.  I tried to hold my head up to see what was going on, I was thrust back onto the pillow and told to remain still.  We are humans, and we are scared or do not understand when is going on.  Patients do not work within your area so what is common to you is a life-changing event.  Have the compassion to tell us what to expect, allow us to make a truly informed decision, treat us well when we are under your care.

PS.  I would go on to have two more ablations, and another cardioversion (I approved this one).  In six months starting in Oct '17, I stayed in the hospital for 21 days (most in the ICU), three ablations, six cardioversion (two sets of three), eight ER visits, eight hospitalizations from the ER, three ambulance rides and two 9-1-1 calls.   I do want to thank my wife that saw me through all of this.  She was and is my rock in my healthcare.  Oh, and Thor.  I want to thank him also.

Lastly, I live in NSR now.  Pix is one of my not so great times in the ICU.  Three licks from Thor would have cured this.

  • Jeanamo815
    Jeanamo815, October 3,  2019  12:26pm EST

    Lots has happend to you since that day in 2017.....new job, new home, new location.  I continue to wish you the best for your good mental and physical health.  You are an important memberr of this forum and your contributions and humor are valued by so many folks here.

    Take care and keep in the sunlight,

    Your friend,


  • RichVeg
    RichVeg, October 3,  2019  12:31pm EST

    WOW - first, thank God you are in NSR - hopefully that makes it all worth it.  I've had 2 ablations.  The first one they pulled the caths out of me when I was awake and it was aweful but nothing like what you experienced.  The lack of communication and dignity you received is far from normal or acceptable.  The second was at Cleveland Clinic and they did all that when I was still out.  MUCH BETTER.  my problem was I kept bleeding afterwards as I think the compression bandages were not angled properly and I bled all night on bedrest and back was killing me - worst night of my life - but was informed every second of the way.   Bleeding only stopped with stitches - I wish they just did that when I was under but I guess they worry about infection.  WOW again, sounds horrible - so glad you are well brother.

  • Cantrell
    Cantrell, October 3,  2019  12:55pm EST

     Spencer, your posts have meant alot to me along with your good sense of humor!  Best wishes to you.

  • grandscheme
    grandscheme, October 3,  2019  2:50pm EST

    Spencer, I am so glad you are in NSR. That is awesome and I too enjoy your postings. You are very generous with your authenticity.

    When my first and only (so far) ablation was scheduled, a friend recomended a book with accompanying CD, both of which helped me immensely to get ready.

    At the time I was also dealing with the sudden deaths within a month of my two best friends, and wondered how I'd get through things without them, even though I have a great daughter and S-I-L in another city. My friends were the rocks, and they were gone.

    So the book helped a lot. It's...  

    "Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide Of Mind-Body Techniques by Peggy Huddleston"

    It stresses the body/mind connection and I had already been a devotee of meditation.

    For two weeks prior I meditated on several occasions with friends who were helping me to prepare. I also insisted on speaking by phone with the anesthesiology practice days prior to the event so I knew exactly what would happen, and I asked the anesthetist on the day of the procedure to please repeat when possible during the surgery the following:

    "Your heart is beautiful."

    "Everything is going well."

    "You will have no pain when you awake."

    He agreed. Did he do it? Who knows. It as not until I was under that I was "uncovered" and a catheter was inserted.

    I also asked the doctor in an appointment prior to the surgery what he was going to do and what to expect. 

    I did not have pain afterward and seemed to regroup quickly. That said, the ablation only lessened the frequency and duration of episodes but has not entirely eradicated them. So I am considering a second round. 

    For unrelated reasons I became very -- shall we say -- disenchanted with this doctor (personality) and have moved to another practice, which has worked beautifully for me.

    Everyone is different, each case is different, each doctor is different. This was only my experience. But I cannot recommend the book more strongly. I went in completely calm.

  • depotdoug
    depotdoug, October 3,  2019  9:53pm EST

    Spencer, I like or rather love it when you relate to "normal" or "nuts". Are not we all to a certain extent. Some more nuts like me Exercising 2X's daily. I've even been told I crazy for E.E.C.'ing so much. They say what are you trying to do kill yourself. To the contrary my friend Watson, just keeping the old ticker ticking.

    Wonderful Thor, how we all miss him, YOu more than anybody. Pix's of Thor out for his early morning run with you and Breakfast too. What a journey my friend Spencer, what a journey. Just think you are now taking it easy, easy life in Flordia, I think on the west Coast, Tampa area? Keep us updated! 

    Waiting for your Sunrise....


  • KdS27
    KdS27, October 4,  2019  1:35am EST

    When T. Gray said “ ignorance is bliss” he obviously had never been cathed  before!  Congrats on 2 yrs and many more to come. 

  • Thumper2
    Thumper2, October 4,  2019  7:24am EST

    Spencer, I enjoyed the sanitized re-run!  I'm so glad you're still with us, still responding to others, and still in the sunlight!

    God bless you!

    Thumper2 (Judy)

  • MellanieSAF
    MellanieSAF, October 4,  2019  8:40am EST


    Thanks for sharing your original story again. Congrats, again, on being afib free. I hope you are all settled into your new place and accustomed to civilian life by now.


  • Spencer
    Spencer, October 5,  2019  8:07am EST

    Ed - Thanks.   Glad you got a new pup.   Was talking about getting Thor II, or some other name.  The shrink wants to give me a prescription for a dog.  I guess it is an emotion support dog and I think that insurance will cover some of the costs of training.  I need to look into it. 

    Also recently was a resident of another one of "those" hospitals.  I stopped sleeping (along with a host of other issues) for four eventually five full days.  You can imagine your state after that. Engaging other residents all with a lot of drama, kind of like being in the middle of Cops or Geraldo.  I spent about three days in and had to give Thorazine injection for sleep.  When they finally got to the dose all to nearly the max, did it work?  After that, sleep was easy, if not painful.  See to get they inject it is in the hindquarters with multiple syringes.  They follow standard protocol, and three rather large ape-sized nurse techs come in to pin you down while the very petite nurse does the deed.  I was there voluntarily, and I needed it for sleep.  Interesting experience, not one I wish to repeat but it will probably happen before too long.   They did look after my heart very well.  A couple of EKGs and the nurses came by to listen.  I was having trouble before I got to sleep - PACs mainly and lots of Tac. Slightly weird, you just walk up to the ER, they freak, and you get seen quickly, then you have the minder nurse with you after that.  Then off to the third floor.


    In the Sunlight.

  • grandscheme
    grandscheme, October 5,  2019  9:32am EST

    Spencer, glad you got to sleep -- even if it needed to be the way it was. Best of good fortunate to you.

    I'm coming late to the stories of Thor, but I love the significance of his name:

    Taken from various Internet sites:

    "From the Old Norse Þórr meaning "thunder", ultimately from the early Germanic *Þunraz. Thor was the Norse god of strength, thunder, war and storms, the son of Odin. He was armed with a hammer called Mjolnir, and wore an enchanted belt that doubled his strength."

    We all need people and critter companions to double our strength!!

    My cat is 19 and going strong. It seemed best to have cats in the years I worked long hours.

    But I wish I could also have another dog now. They provide a different sort of comfort and force you to get out and walk! Eddie the cat would just NOT appreciate that while he's alive.


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