friday the 18th is the day

We like Dr. Robinson. He was straight with us, actually paid attention to what we had to say and ask. So we went ahead and scheduled the surgery for February 18, just a week from Friday. Dr. R. will be on duty that weekend, so he’ll be able to tend to Stanley.

Stanley is scheduled for an aortic valve replacement (he has a bicuspid aortic valve, which is congenital, and it’s finally giving up) and a coronary bypass. The bypass will be one of those where they connect stuff to the mammary artery rather than grafting in a vein or artery from the leg or arm.

The blockage (lower front part of the heart, whatever artery that is—we’re not sure) is 80%. Stanley’s cardiologist (David Lomnitz) was concerned that the aortic wall had thickened, so that’s what was checked when Stanley had an MRA (an MRI for the heart) last week. His score was 3.6 which, according to the doc, means it’s not too badly thickened (borderline).

Stanley is getting a tissue valve (vs. a mechanical valve)—Dr. Robinson also seemed to think this is the best choice because, he said, long-term prognosis for a mechanical heart isn’t that good considering all the warfarin S would have to take for the rest of his life. He is NOT getting the Ross procedure (Stanley’s attitude is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), which the surgeon agreed with.

Stanley is otherwise ridiculously healthy, so the prognosis is excellent. There is a 98% success rate (or, as Mr. Half-empty says, “2% croak on the table”) with a 90% chance there will be no complications. Stanley goes in for a bunch of pre-op tests etc. soon (we have to schedule this tomorrow). We don’t know yet how long he’ll be in hospital, maybe three or four days only if all goes well, then a month to six weeks to recover, and doing those lung exercises, walking, etc.

The risks of waiting to have the surgery later are too high—Stanley already passed out once (which Dr. R. said is called syncope) which is a key “get thee to a surgeon” symptom for aortic valve stenosis. Dr. Robinson said the prognosis gets worse if there is damage to the heart muscle—Stanley doesn’t have this problem yet, fortunately, so it’s best to get things fixed before he does.

Stanley seems to be looking forward to getting the surgery over with rather than being [completely] wigged out about it—except he’s annoyed he won’t be able to see Constantine when it opens.  He swears he will be completely recovered three weeks after surgery.  (One can hope ... )

I am the one who is really wigged out. It’s been such a shock—just over a month ago, Stanley was perfectly healthy, we thought, then we discover he has a life-threatening condition. We both have this sense of unreality about it all. I’m worried about the operation and won’t be unfreaked again until about a week after it happens and things seem to be ok. I know all the statistics and hear all the assurances and all that, but it doesn’t matter: I’m still scared. Really scared.

I also remember what Dad went through when he was recovering from his bypass surgery: the mood swings, the frustration and not getting better fast enough, the painful breathing exercises to prevent pneumonia, etc. But I know we’ll get through it. Stanley told me today that it’s been really bugging him, how quickly he’s been getting tired over the past year and not knowing why.

Well, now I know that we can plan to take our honeymoon in April—which is probably a great month to visit Washington, DC for three or four days. Something to really look forward to when things get rough—I can’t wait to take him to the Lincoln Memorial.

Now if I could just get it together enough to get my work done—I need to get my focus back. I’ll be in the middle of constructing a form and then I enter the Twilight Zone, compelled to google “aortic valve stenosis” yet again, like there is something new and miraculous that happened just five minutes ago, a magic bullet. Oh frell ...

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