Dad’s Angioplasty

Spent most of the day today at the hospital with my dad, who had angioplasty to fix a number of blockages in veins surrounding his heart. He came through fine, although it was a harrowing experience for him.

He’s had a history of angina, although he hadn’t had symptoms for years. Then about two years ago, he started complaining about chest pains. His doctor kept telling him it was just muscle pain, but after his last trip down south last winter where he could barely walk without pain, we switched him to a new family physician who immediately sent him to a heart specialist. It must have been serious – he was given higher priority so they could perform various tests and procedures as quickly as possible. Still, it took months. Finally, an angiogram last week gave us details about a number of blockages, and they immediately scheduled him for angioplasty.

An angioplasty is where they thread a small wire through a vein in your thigh to the veins near your heart. The wire contains a balloon and wire stent, which when inflated pushes blocking material out along with the stent. The stent keeps the vein open in an attempt to prevent it from clogging up again.

We left Thorold by 5:30 this morning and arrived at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto by 7:30 a.m. Once we arrived, we were told the procedure was scheduled for 10 am (!), which didn’t actually occur until 1pm (!!).

We had plenty of time to talk, and I started making analogies to stories he used to tell about his job. He worked for the City of Thorold Water Works Department for years. “Hey dad, remember how you told me about pipes that supply water that get clogged after years of use. I guess that’s what happened to your veins.” That supplied some interesting conversation for a short while – my mother joking that they would use the same procedures to clear the pipes to clear his veins.

The research we did into angioplasty procedures led us to believe there would only be mild discomfort during the procedure. And I suppose that’s true, judging by a couple of room mates we saw afterwards. The doctor told me he was going to clear 2 of the blockages (the ones that were 95% and 70% blocked). I remember saying, gee, he has a lot more blockages (another at 60%, another at 50% and more). The doctor said he’d see once he got in there. The procedure took an hour longer than we were told. As we started to worry, a nurse kindly checked and let us know that the doctors had decided to clear more of the blockages.

After it was over, dad felt horrible – very nauseous and suffering from a lot of chest pain. But the doctor came out all smiles, saying “We put 4 stents in, and prevented a by-pass”. My brother and mother are with him this evening, and I hear he’s much better already. The amazing thing for me is, the doctor says he can exercise and do whatever he wants, physically, after a couple of days of rest. The rest is only needed for his thigh, where the catheter went in. His heart is absolutely fine now. Wow. Science is amazing. Let’s hear it for angioplasty!! Heck of a lot better than by-pass surgery!

One final word: The doctor was great: very approachable and patient with explanations. I love doctors like that. the many nurses that helped us at St. Michael’s were absolutely fabulous, very friendly and comforting. Some went out of their way to help us. One of them stroked my dad’s face, and called him sweet. (I teased him about how handsome he is – some older women have commented about it – and he said he couldn’t help it, he just inherited good looks 🙂