Well, it’s now been about 5 weeks since my surgery and I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve had a check up with my primary care doctor and am walking up to 20+ minutes/day. One of my best friends, Jill, spent the weekend with me to help out while my husband went down to clean our condo in Palm Springs (we had recent guests stay there). We figured it’s probably a good idea to still have someone around since I haven’t been released to drive yet. Jill has twins that get along famously with my son and we have a great time. We walked to dinner and on the way home I noticed I had a weird pain between my shoulder blades. I blew it off but it was similar to the chest pain and mid-scapular pain I initially had so I make a mental note of it.
The day that Jill leaves, my mom picks me up and Riley and I stay with her. I go for another walk and noticed the pain again. It starts about 8-10 minutes into my walk and continues until I stop and rest. I’m a bit concerned now as this could be an indicator of angina. I feel ok otherwise though.
Monday, April 26th I leave my mom’s house for a walk. I have a routine of carrying my nitroglycerin and cell phone with me. At about 10 minutes into the walk the mid-scapular pain returns and now I’m worried. My heart rate is in the 130s so I stop and rest and take a nitroglycerin. Low and behold, the pain goes away. What is going on? I can’t figure out if it’s posture-related or angina. It doesn’t feel like it’s musculoskeletal so I’m concerned. I start walking again, as I’m several minutes from home, and the pain returns. I have a raging headache from the nitroglycerin and now the mid-scapular pain is back. Luckily, there is a fire station down the street from my mom’s so I call her and tell her I’m going to stop there to get an EKG. I certainly shocked the firefighters by walking in and asking for a 12-lead EKG! They were awesome though and I explained my history and symptoms. They are required to call an ambulance so they did and then they took my vital signs. My EKG wasn’t really changed but I was having more PVCs and they were pretty concerned so they talked me into going to Kaiser via ambulance.
I have to admit that I was pretty frightened, but, as an ICU nurse I knew that that was the right thing to do. I’d never been in an ambulance but I made it to the hospital without getting car sick! Luckily it was a short trip! Once in the ER at Kaiser I’m treated like every other rule out MI (myocardial infarction). An IV is started, labs are sent, 12 lead EKGs are done. I was all alone and my mom was watching my son and my husband was 450 miles away in Palm Springs. I called him to let him know and I also called my old manager and good friend who is the Director of QM at Kaiser and left her a message.
After a couple of hours in the ER my friend came over to see me as soon as she heard the message. My cardiologist came in to talk with me and let me know that I would be admitted and a repeat angiogram would be done the next day. They were concerned given my history and that was really the only test that would show what was going on. By now I’m frightened and I call my husband to tell him, he lets me know that he is packing up and driving home. I’ve also phoned my manager and friend and she comes to sit with me as well. It was pretty surreal laying in the ER wondering if something was wrong with my graft! This was probably almost scarier than when I was told I initially needed a CABG!
After almost 8 hours in the ER I am admitted to the cardiac unit and spend the night wide awake as I’m too ramped up to sleep. I’m on the schedule for a cath the next day but they don’t know what time. I’m NPO after midnight (no food or water by mouth). My husband got in at about 3 am and went to sleep for a few hours before coming in to visit. My manager also comes to visit again and stays with me most of the day until my husband comes in with our son early in the afternoon.
As I lay in the bed worrying about what’s going on I am visited by several friends that work at Kaiser. This helps take my mind off things but I also feel like a dork as I’m back in the hospital just 4 1/2 weeks after surgery. I finally get the call for my cath at about 4 pm and off I go.
My cath went pretty quickly and I definitely have a medication tolerance as I chewed through the sedation and still remember parts of the procedure. The good news is my graft looks perfect and there are no problems…the bad news is, no one knows if the pain is related to my heart working harder during exercise (and still not getting quite enough blood flow), or if it’s truly musculoskeletal. I’m hoping it’s musculoskeletal of course!
I’m discharged the following day. I developed a groin hematoma that is pressing on my femoral nerve so I’m in a lot of pain, but am told this will subside in time. It took about 5-6 days for me to be able to walk normally, but this can happen after groin punctures. I’m at higher risk due to the aspirin and Plavix I’m on so I realize that this was a risk. As soon as I can I get back to my walking…I continue to have the mid-scapular pain while exercising for another week or so after I start exercising, but eventually it goes away.