When my cardiologist said that we should start to meet with surgeons, I expected to wait a few months to get an appointment. During that time I figured I would set aside some of my worries and just sort of live my life. However, it appears that the first surgeon with whom I will meet (he is local – Reno, NV) is available on Monday July 16. WAIT!!! That’s only 9 days away. How do I prepare? What do I ask? Why didn’t this take longer?
July 16, 2012
Friends and co-workers say…”Best to get it done right away.” “Better to have the surgery and begin healing.” Wait!!! I am not ready.
The good news, though not good news for the surgeon, is that he broke his collarbone recently and will not be performing surgery for a while. Besides, I want to meet with at least a couple of surgeons before we start making any sort of plans. The bad news is that I have to get my head and heart (figuratively) ready for this meeting.
What do you ask a prospective surgeon? Have you lost many patients? What’s your success rate? Can I get references? How many surgeries of this type have you done this year? Ever? Hold out your hands and let me see if they are steady!
If you are new to my blog, you may not know that I have a congenital Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV) that is quite healthy though it is a relatively common variation in the valve. And, I have been recently diagnosed with an ascending and partially descending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA) of 5 cm.
I have done a fair amount of research, well as much as I could stomach without freaking out. I know that I should educate myself as fully as possible and I have learned a great deal about the BAV and TAA. The surgery is a bit harder for me to research. There is just something unnerving about someone messing around with my heart. The heart is not just an extremely important organ, it is also a spiritual center.
For many, the heart is the center of everything. Think of the saying “Get to the heart of the matter.” It is the place from which faith arises. Many believe that the soul resides there. We see the heart as the source of love and speak of a broken heart when someone hurts us. The heart is sacred and pure. There is even a holiday that celebrates love and hearts – Valentines Day.
So how do I begin to conceptualize that one or more people will handle my heart? Taking this a step further, how do I process the idea that the function of my heart and lungs will be managed by a machine during the surgery? What about valves? If they have to replace my valve will it be a mechanical one or will it come from an animal? What happens to this spiritual center when a machine or an animal valve is attached? I no longer eat beef, so that is okay, but I eat pig now and then. I think I would have to give up pork if I had a pig valve. It would feel sort of like cannibalism. Of course I cannot ask the surgeon most of these questions. He would send me for a psychological evaluation I am certain.
I know, they do this surgery all of the time. And truthfully, I am not worrying about death so much anymore. However, none of this makes it any easier to think about the surgery…and what to ask the surgeon in NINE DAYS!