Friday, December 16, 2011

What It's Like to Have A Heart Catheterization

So, yesterday was "D" day. Or rather, "H" day, since we are talking about my heart after all. It was time for my heart catheterization.

The night before the the procedure, I could not sleep. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not sleep. I had researched what they would do in detail, so I could be as prepared as possible. I may have researched a bit too much.

I got up bright and early, as I was not allowed anything to eat or drink after 7:00 a.m. My heart cath was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. It was going to be a long day...

I arrived at the heart center, and they checked me in. The heart center that is closest to us is one of the best, which made me feel like I was in good hands.

A nurse asked me a ton of questions about my health history, and I changed into a gown and those cute little socks they give you. I had shaved the "area" before hand, but I wasn't exactly sure how much was necessary, so she had to shave a bit more. They took my blood pressure, my temperature, and listened to my heart.

Remember how I mentioned that I hate needles? I told the nurse, who was incredibly kind, how terrified I am of needles. I asked her where the least painful place to have an IV was. I told her I had only ever had them done on the top of my hand, which I thought was probably the most painful place ever. Plus, it ruined the veins on my right hand. I have delicate hands, and they didn't appreciate a needle being shoved in them.
I asked her if the vein on the top of my arm would work, as it seemed to be a less painful place. She said sure, that she could......try.

Try? That is NOT a word that a needle phobe like myself wants to hear. However, since I have always wondered if, in fact, it would be a less painful place, I told her to go ahead.

She proceeded to "try". It didn't hurt as bad as a remember it hurting in the past. However, she couldn't get it to work. So, she moved the needle around and around in there, and it still didn't take. By this time, I was starting to tear up. I was squeezing Hubs' hand very hard.

She mentioned that she was going to have to try in another spot. She gave me a break, and Hubs said he was going to go to the bathroom. I heard water running, and then he was in there for a while. I asked him if he was OK, and he said he felt like he was going to pass out.

He started walking out toward me, and he was completely white. I told him to sit down, and got the nurse. He was as white as a sheet! He hadn't had hardly anything to eat all day, and he had been watching the nurse as she was trying to start the IV and digging around in my arm. I was beginning to fall apart a little by that time, and I guess it was all just too much. So, we had another patient on our hands. Ha! They quickly laid him down on the floor, and gave him some crackers to eat. Scary!

They had a different nurse come in and try to start another IV on me. This time, she did one on the inside of my elbow. It took, but it really hurt, and was burning. She mentioned that it was fine, and that it was probably just the alcohol. They gave me a warm blanket to put over it, and I did my best to try to forget about it. But the pain continued on.

My pastor came in to pray with Hubs and I before the surgery. What a blessing it is to have a pastor like him! He had driven an hour just to see me and be able to pray with me. He truly cares about people, and did his best to make me laugh, and forget about what I was going through.

About a half an hour later, my arm had shooting pains in it, and it was very hard to bend. It felt like someone had pumped the blood pressure cuff all the way up and then left it there. I told Hubs that something was very wrong. I felt my arm, that had been covered in a blanket, and it felt as hard as a rock. It was also around the size of Hubs', throbbing, and very painful. Yeah....not good.

They then went and got THE BEST nurse in the place, that could start an IV on anyone, and she proceeded to put a good one in my wrist. It hardly hurt, and when it was done, it didn't hurt at all. The other arm had to have the bad IV taken out, which wasn't very fun. Apparently, the needle had gone completely through the vein, and the fluid was just building up inside the tissue, instead of moving along in the vein like it was supposed to.

By this time, I was beside myself. The lack of sleep, the stress, the worrying, the pain, it all just got to be too much. I started crying, and I couldn't make myself stop. They had orginally told me when I asked for sedatives when I first got there, that they wouldn't give me any anything until I was back in the cath lab, but then they changed their minds. It was like something came over me, and I was not myself. I guess we all have our breaking point, and I definitely reached mine.

They were running behind, so since I wasn't an emergency case, my time came and went. It was around 4:00 p.m. by the time they took me back. Hubs wasn't allowed to go back in the cath lab with me, but by that time, some of the sedatives had kicked in.The nurse said they had slipped me a "mickey" and I was beginning to feel much better about the whole thing. Hooray for good drugs!

Everyone that I came in contact with at the heart center was very kind and caring. They did their best to make me feel comfortable, and even when they had to hurt me, they were nice about it. It definitely does make things better when people are nice. Kindness counts!

Back in the cath lab, they told me everything they were going to do, and they asked me exactly how much I wanted to participate. They mentioned that some people like to watch the screen as they go into their heart, and be told what they are seeing. I told them I wanted to be HEAVILY sedated, and didn't even want to know anything at all!

It was very cold in the cath lab, but just like in my regular room at the hospital, they put warm blankets on top of me, and then I was quite comfortable. I had to lay on a table similar to what they would use in an operating room. They had these plastic things that my arms could lay in that had heated towels in them. I wasn't strapped down at all, and never felt panicky in the least. They covered me completely from head to toe with a drape that felt just like a heavy blanket. They told me not to move my arms at all, and if my nose got itchy, then I was just to tell them, and they would itch it for me!

They covered my bikini area with a towel, so I wasn't exposed at all. It was all very professional. The people were so nice, and were laughing and joking with me. I told them about my experience prior to getting in to see them, and the one lady told me that she would do her best to make this procedure go as smoothly as possible. I felt like I was being cared for by dear friends, instead of total strangers.

They attached sticky pads and electrodes all over me, so they could monitor my heart and breathing at all times.

They told me they were going to give me four shots in my groin, and that they would feel like a bee sting. And, while they were painful, it was bearable. They gave me enough medicine so that I basically slept through most of it. I did wake up a couple times in pain, as they were taking things in and out, and pressing heavily on my artery, so I wouldn't bleed to death. But, they talked me though it, and told me to take some deep breaths, and it was over before I knew it. I had read that I would feel a "warm" feeling spreading though my body when they put the dye in, and I did. It didn't hurt at all, and just felt warm. I never felt any pain in my heart during the procedure. They told me that I may feel some palpitations, but I don't remember feeling any. Like I said, I don't really remember very much of it, which is just the way I wanted it!

After I came back to my room, I was still in and out of it. They had a nurse take out the "sheaths" in my groin, and that was pretty painful, but over quickly. She then began pressing on my artery, right above where they had cut, and she did that for the next half hour. While I slept through it, I was awakened every once in a while because I could feel her pressing. Hard. I kept asking her how much longer she was going to do that! For anyone who has ever had a baby, and they have "pressed" on your stomach so that your uterus would go back to it's normal size, it's kind of like that. Not pleasant, but very necessary.

I had to lay flat, with my head slightly elevated for the next 5 hours. I had a sand bag pillow on my groin, and they came in constantly to check on me. During this time after the surgery, they worry about the artery bleeding out. They took my blood pressure every 5 mins. at the beginning, and then every 15 mins. after that. They kept checking on the area, and repositioning the sand bag every so often.

I mainly slept through this time, so for me, the time went rather fast. I was allowed to eat, but since I couldn't lift my head, Hubs had to feed me. Now, that's love. He took such great care of me, and just knowing he was there with me was a tremendous comfort. He really is my rock.

They told Hubs after the surgery that my heart looked just fine. They mentioned that my arteries are a little small, which made it harder for them to get in. Maybe that's why I felt more? Not sure.

They were checking for pulmonary hypertension, and for any defects in the valves. Praise the Lord, everything is in working order. I do indeed have a heart, and now I have the pictures to prove it!

I was allowed to leave after I walked some laps around the area, and they took out my IV.

We didn't get home until after midnight. I was told that I can't do any kind of exercise, walk up/down stairs, drive, or lift anything heavier than 5 lbs. for the next 4-5 days.

Today, my groin is pretty sore, and it hurts to walk around. I'm also still pretty groggy, but, that is to be expected. I was told that if I started bleeding from the area, or developed a large swollen "knot," that I was to immediately call 911. I was also supposed to alert my doctor if my leg showed any signs of the blood not circulating properly, like if my toes or leg turned cold, white, or blue.

I am supposed to just rest and take it easy for the next few days, and I assure you, that is exactly what I plan on doing!

I hope that if you ever find yourself in the same situation that I was, and have to have a heart cath done, that by reading this, you will feel better about having it done. While it was not a walk in the park, it was bearable, and they made sure that although I wasn't "asleep", I really was quite out of it.

Thanks for all the prayers! I really appreciate it ♥


  1. Amiee, it is so good to see you posting on your blog again and know that you are OK. Your writing made it seem as if we were all right there with you, and I teared up a little, just going through it along with you! God answered the prayers of so many who love and care for you, and I'm thanking Him for bringing you safely through. Rest well, and talk to you later! ~Candice~

  2. Thanks so much for your prayers, Candice. I definitely needed them ;)

  3. Don't know why my comment says "gracieface", when I'm signed in as pr31woman(ugh!) but as long as you know it's me(Candice Campbell), I'm gonnna save myself the hassle of trying to change it :). g'night!

  4. Yep, I know it's you :) Isn't technology wonderful sometimes?!

  5. I am so glad to hear that all is well with your heart. I cannot believe the issues you had with the IV. ((HUGS)) Rest up and feel better soon.

  6. You had quite an experience, and am so glad that they didn't find a problem with your heart. Some nurses have the knack for inserting IV's. It is a gift. Glad you finally found one. Will keep you in my prayers as you recover. Blessings.

  7. I´m so glad you made it through all right! Sounds like a horror story to me, but wonderful at the same time, after all went well.
    Hope you get better quickly and heal well!

  8. I am glad to hear you are okay. The IV part was scary to hear about. I had an IV in my right hand. It took weeks for it to feel better and the swollen vein to diminish. My incident was minor to yours. I can't imagine what you had to go through! =(
    I can relate to the part about your husband going white… once I had an accident and part of my finger tip was sliced off. My husband sat in the doctors office as they stitched it up and he too went white! He had to leave the room and then when he came back in the doctor quickly found a seat for him to sit on.
    Get well soon and listen to the doctors… DONT DO ANYTHING! =)

  9. ArtyMarti, the nurse who did the IV had been a nurse for 36 years! I told her that she was never allowed to retire ;) Ha!

    Tami, your finger tip was sliced off? OUCH! That doesn't sound like fun either :/

    Thanks, everyone! I am very relieved that nothing is wrong with my heart. Just taking it easy :)

  10. Thank you Aimee for your story I will have my Heart Cath done on November 30th. they told me it will be done through my wrist.

    Your story will certainly help me to be prepared for this procedure.