Friday, April 15, 2011

The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself...And An Aortic Tear

     Have you ever felt your heart shiver inside your chest because you're so scared? I mean you can physically feel it flutter and not in a good way. Happened to me today on the fourth floor of the parking garage at the hospital. For a few minutes, I lost control of my head and it did very bad things to me in that short span of time. All this happened while I was making my way through the garage to the emergency room where I'd left my husband a couple of hours before.

     I'd taken him there at his request earlier that morning because the pain in his back wouldn't let go, had spread to his chest and he was having a difficult time breathing. What's that you say? He had a check-up only a few days ago and was found to be in (relatively speaking) great shape? Why, yes! Yes, he did. And today he's in the ER and that's what's known as irony.

     As he walked by my desk at work yesterday, he mentioned that his back was starting to cramp up, so he'd taken a Flexoril. That's a fairly heavy muscle relaxer and some would say it's kind of overkill for something as simple as a muscle cramp in his back. Can't he just stretch it out until it goes away? Actually, no.

     The thing is, Marfan's Syndrome affects the body's connective tissue, right? That would include the tissue that connects one's vertebrae. When he was twenty-two, he was carrying a loaded tray of food at work one day and suddenly couldn't feel anything below his waist. He thought to himself, "Well, THAT doesn't seem right," put the tray down and went straight to the doctor. Of course, first order of business was an x-ray and upon viewing that x-ray of the jacked-up mess that was my husband's spine, the good doctor scheduled spinal surgery.

      I've seen the x-ray myself and I have no idea how he was still walking around. According to my very limited medical knowledge, the nerves in his spine should have been so compressed that walking shouldn't have been an option. Seriously, that image is like something out of a horror movie. (And yet, he thinks building a custom light box and displaying that x-ray in our home like art is good idea. He's a strange one...) What ended up happening was that the powers that be put in three titanium rods of varying lengths and all the accompanying hardware and fused his spine together for a good twelve inches. The scar that runs up his back is roughly twice that long.

     So now, he can't twist and turn like a person usually would and those muscles that now never get used have atrophied to some degree. When he says they're cramping up on him, he doesn't mean he's got a damn charley horse; he means the muscles are spasming so severely that he can't move, or in this case, breathe properly. I'm used to the pain in his back and I'm used to trips to the ER for the major painkilling drugs administered through IV's, but I am not used to the pain banding his chest as well and causing him to have difficulty breathing.

     As I've said before, we don't run to the hospital for every damn thing, so when he woke me up this morning by telling me he needed me to take him there, I knew it was bad. And when the attending physician mentioned a CT scan and the words "aortic tear", something went a little wonky in my head. I kept listening to the doctor talk and stayed with my husband as long as I could before I had to leave for work. When my time was up, I kissed him, told him I loved him and to call me when he was ready to be picked up, and left for work.

     I know that one of the major concerns with Marfan's is the possibility of an aortic dissection and I know that his risk for such a thing has been dramatically lowered since he got new parts, but... Why did the doctor want to check for an aortic tear? A TEAR IN HIS HEART?! Are you kidding me? I realize now what an abstract concept it's been to me, the aortic destruction possibilities. It was never real, because I never had to face it. I've only ever had to face muscle issues. (Yeah, I know, the heart is a muscle. Not the point.) Today it was awfully damn real and I was not prepared for it.

     When my boss caught wind of what was going on, he sent me out of my office and right back to the ER to be with my husband. He's kind of awesome that way. It was during the short return trip across the parking garage that I lost it for a few minutes. There were no outward signs of the screaming panic, because that's how I operate - keep it together and keep moving. My head, though. Jesus Christ, it was bad.

     I felt my heart move, swear to you it dropped, when I thought about losing him to some tiny hole that had no business anywhere near my husband's heart. I tried to calm myself - obviously, if it's there, it will be found and dealt with. And if there's to be open-heart surgery, at least it will be at the hands of Dr. Braverman and I'm told there is no one better. Those thoughts worked about twenty-five percent of the time.

     I did what I always do, though, shook it off and kept moving because my husband did not need me to go to pieces over what turned out to be nothing. We sat in our little cubicle in the ER for another few hours, until the nurse came in to unhook his IV and send us home with paperwork and two prescriptions to be filled immediately if not sooner. I helped him dress and we walked through the hospital to the elevators in the parking garage. My car is a manual, but we held hands on the way home anyway. I needed to reassure myself that he was with me still and okay. I'm going to have to figure out something to do with my head before the next round, though. Any thoughts as to what?

1 comment:

Allie G said...

Trust that you can rely on people to help you get through. Aside from the cliche, it truly is what friends are for!