A Holiday Season To Remember
The Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2000 started out pretty normal. I drove to Jitter’s a coffee shop, to meet my brother, Ty, as usual for coffee. David, my husband of 20 years at the time, decided to ride his bicycle and join us. When I arrived David was there and sitting outside. He didn’t look right to me; he was as white as a ghost. I asked him if he was OK and he replied “I don’t know I have this pain radiating from my chest into my arm” “Do I need to call 911?” “No it is going away”. Little did I know that the next two weeks would be a time we would never forget.
We had coffee with Ty, but never said anything else about the pain. Most of our conversation was about Vader, my brother’s dog, half Labrador and half Chow. David and I agreed to keep Vader a while because he was not doing well in my brother’s apartment. Our house with a back yard would be a better environment. Before we knew it Ty had to leave. He was playing drums at the children’s mass at St. Viator’s. David and I put his bike in the Explorer, went home and decided he would call the doctor tomorrow. We thought this pain is probably just a pulled muscle or something . David then informed me that on Thanksgiving Day he was riding his bike on Russell Road (which is around the corner from our house) and had to stop because of the pain. I asked him what the pain felt like, he said like someone was pushing on his chest with their fist.
He was able to get an appointment with his general physician the next day. While David was hooked up to heart monitoring equipment he had to walk on a treadmill. David didn’t get very far when he had to stop. The doctor referred him to a cardiologist. Now I was getting scared.
David had one appointment with the cardiologist just for background and x-rays. In the meantime if he exerted himself in any way he would experience pain. The night before his follow up visit with the cardiologist I asked him to help me put Christmas presents (for my office) in our Explorer . We were still thinking this pain was a pulled muscle or something easy. He put all the presents in the Explorer and once again had to sit down, he was white as a ghost . The next day he went to the office for the doctor to read the x-rays and try to do another treadmill test. At that appointment the doctor decided David had to have an angiogram and fast. This was a Thursday, I was at the office doing paper work when he called to tell me he was registering at the hospital for the procedure. I started asking him questions. “Why an angiogram?” David said “The doctor thinks one of my arteries is blocked just like Vice President Cheney.” I was in shock but I think I hid that from him, then the office phone rang. Linda, my boss’ wife, (who is like a sister to me) called to find out the outcome of the visit. When I explained to her what was happening she was torn, she wanted to be with me at the hospital to give moral support. However, my boss, Dr. Browand (a periodontist) needed an assistant. I have worked for and with him for over twenty years. He is not use to working alone, I am always there. Between Linda and I we would figure out a schedule so Dr. Browand would not have to work alone and I could leave to be with David. Linda inquired who the doctor was, and who was the surgeon on duty, she is a registered nurse. The name sounded familiar to her, but I didn’t know what surgeon was on duty. “Why?” I asked. “Remember my cousin Roger and Pete (our handy man) they both went in for angiograms and had to have emergency open heart surgery. But that is not going to happen to David.”
When I got off the phone with her I completely lost it, all I kept thinking about was Mom and how she died, but that was different I told myself Mom had valve problems with her heart, this is arteries. My brother called and he could tell something was wrong. He happened to be off the next day. He told me he would be at the hospital. I told him I would call with more details later.
David registered for the hospital. I met him at home and told him to call his parents. They agreed to meet us at the hospital the next day. David and I went out to dinner. During dinner another good friend called who knew David was having tests done. When I talked to him he told me if I needed anything to let him know. He would call tomorrow. David was pretty calm through all this, I was a bundle of nerves. I asked David if his general physician had reached him on his cell phone. He said “Oh yeah, you know what he said?” “No, what?” “You couldn’t pass that test either?”. We laughed. I thought to myself ; “If we can laugh we are handling this pretty well.”
We slept that night, but I don’t know how. I got up to go to work. I would go in for a few hours and come home to take David to the hospital. Our first patient is at 7am, but those three hours dragged by as if it were a lazy summer afternoon. He actually felt bad because I was going to miss the first Christmas party in 20 years, I told him I think I can handle it. Everyone at work was very supportive when they heard about David. Linda was there ready to assist Dr. Browand, but I think he actually had the office manager cut his day off. After 20 years he would rather not work than work without me, nice job security, don’t you think?
We arrived at the hospital way too early. David’s parents met us in the waiting room. My brother including his girlfriend, came by. Finally, David’s name was called for pre- op. We were able to stay with him until they would take him in for the actual procedure. David kept saying, “You can go. I am going to be fine, go enjoy your party.” “Honey, I am not going anywhere”.
The procedure took a little longer than expected. At one point a nurse came out to tell me the doctor was definitely doing an angioplasty, a stent was going to go into one of his arteries to keep it open. “Oh joy!” (I thought to myself) “This sounds real interesting.”
All along I was receiving phone calls from my boss. My whole office was at a nice restaurant enjoying our Christmas party. My boss is like a second father to me. He would call to find out how it was going and then reassure me all would be well.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the cardiologist came out. I had never met the man before so he introduced himself. He explained to me, to my husband’s parents, and to my brother exactly what took place. First he said David was doing fine. He continued by taking his hand and making an upside down V to explain that the blockage David had was right where two arteries branch off. Then he stated very calmly “We used to call this lesion, years ago ‘The Widow Maker’. You could have knocked me over with a feather. “David” he said, “is going to be fine. Over the last year he has gotten his diabetes under control, has lost weight and his cholesterol is down and he is young.” David was forty four years old at the time of this procedure. My eyes never left the doctor’s eyes. I must have looked really stressed out because when I asked him “What happens now?” “Now” he said, “you sit down and relax, the nurses will be bringing him out in a few minutes to get him settled in a room.”
I sat down, but before I did my brother gave me a huge hug. This was pretty hard on him also, he has known David since he was seven years old. Also we lost our mother in 1994, she had heart problems almost all her life. And my brother himself had open heart surgery in 1997. What is it with this family and hearts?
David’s parents had to leave, my father-in-law had his own health issues and was getting tired. I waited with Ty and his girlfriend, Jen. I was talking with them and right in the middle of whatever they were saying I heard David’s voice. I got up and there he was being wheeled out, looking no worse for wear. I could not believe what he said “Hi Hon, hey you can go to your party now.” “Honey, the party is over. I am staying right here.”
Before we arrived at the room the nurses asked me to give them a few minutes while they got him settled in. While I was waiting Linda called and asked “Susan, how are your doing?” With a crack in my voice I replied, “Fine, now that I have seen my husband.” “Good, why don’t you come up to the house and get something to eat before you go home” “Hey, now that you mention it I am hungry?” I realized I had not eaten all day.
I went into David’s room. He was doing pretty well, considering he wasn’t going to be able to move his left leg all night. Since the doctor has to go through an artery in your groin area to get to the one in your heart, the rest of the night you have to keep very still so the area does not bleed. David being the practical and very sensible person he is, had the nurses tie his leg down so he wouldn’t move it all night. Once I knew he was O. K. I said my good nights and drove to out to Linda and Dr. Browand’s house. I didn’t realize the hour. By the time I had something to eat with them and went over the day’s events it was going on nine o’clock. I also received my Christmas present from them. Dr. Browand has made it a tradition of giving very nice jewelry to his staff. This year was no different. We each received a Wittnauer watch, looks a lot like a Rolex. When I saw the box I thought of my Mom again, but in a neat way. She worked in a store that sold those watches, she always thought that was very good watch to have. In a way I could feel her with me.
I slept better but not great. When I got up the next morning I made some phone calls. I needed to tell my sisters, one in Phoenix and one in Dallas about David. My older sister was a little upset I didn’t tell her before the procedure took place, I explained to her there was nothing she could do.
I went back to the hospital in the morning. David was fine, he had a great male nurse. I went to run some errands. On the way back my Dad called. Ty had filled him in on everything. I didn’t want to talk to Dad because at that particular point in time David and I were not on the greatest terms with my Dad, but that is another story. Dad met me at the hospital and the timing was great because the cardiologist’s son (who helped with the procedure) came in and explained what was to be done next. David couldn’t drive or climb stairs for about a week. He could go home this evening as soon as the intravenous blood thinner was finished.
David had some surprise visitors. Normally he would be out Christmas caroling, but due to circumstances beyond his control he couldn’t. The Christmas Carolers came to him. They sang a few carols and we had brief conversation. One of his co-carolers, Beth, made an interesting statement. “David, Thank God you listen to your body and not ignore what it is telling you” My sentiments exactly!
Dad and I left to get something to eat while David got some rest. Then I returned and David was sleeping. The nurse told me we could leave around six o’clock. I went back downstairs and waited. When I came back up I approached David’s room and I saw he was standing with his back to the door. “Honey” I exclaimed, “everyone can see your backside!” “I don’t care about that, I am going home.”
The ride home was fine. Poor David. I must have asked him a dozen times “Are you okay?” When we got home I told him he needed to make a few phone calls. He got settled in his favorite chair and I went to get the mail. He called Linda and Dr. Browand first. As he was talking to Linda I gave him an envelope from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He told Linda to hold on while he opened it. It was what we were waiting for. He was approved for his Master’s Degree in Special Education. Linda congratulated us. I thought “What a great home coming!”