The ‘new normal’ escalates quickly

This is part four of patient Brad Pope’s story. Part one / Part two / Part three

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Driving home to tell my wife I have congestive heart failure, I thought of my mom. She’s 89 years young and also has this disease. She would talk of being short of breath when walking – now I’m there too. I guess it’s a shared bond, but one I’d prefer not to have.

But, there it is, the new normal. I’ll face it with the incredible support of a loving family that I’m blessed to have. That resource I’ll be calling on now.

After dinner with my wife and kids, I returned to the hospital with an overnight bag. In the emergency ward, many nurses took many blood samples and watched the machine that recorded vitals like blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation level. I soon understood how to read those measurements as time went on. My family and work friends who visited were very uplifting, friendly faces while I wondered what would happen to my health.

Lost in thought

I had plenty of time to reflect. How could this be happening? I know there is heart disease in my family, and that I may have slipped a touch with respect to my own health and diet, but exercise was on the upswing. My wife and I were going to the gym more often. I had cycled over 200 km the summer before. Plus: I was only 47!

In emergency, I researched all my new medications. I learned about the heart’s function and various dysfunctions. I had an MRI and echocardiogram. Then I got word a bed was available in the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, and I was on the move to get an angiogram. This should help tell the story, I thought.

The nurses and surgeon were kind and reassuring. I felt that everything was going to be okay and that this test was going to just confirm what we already knew. Whatever was affecting me could be treated. Let’s get this done so I can get better, I thought.

Lying on the gurney in the angiogram room, it was nice to have friendly, talkative staff there to put me at ease. People who are so talented at what they do have always impressed me. I couldn’t see the monitor the surgeon was using, but the procedure was fascinating: like I was watching the Discovery Channel, but I was the patient.

Three blocked arteries

I am grateful my wife was at my side when the surgeon, diagram in hand, returned.

The doctor said I had three blocked coronary arteries: one at 100%, one at 50-70% and one at 60-80%. This shocking news was like an ocean wave striking me onshore, almost taking me off my feet. Lately, the waves seemed to keep coming.

The doctor added that I’ve experienced multiple heart attacks. What? Immediately I thought of the options but was told that stenting was not an option because of the location of the partial blockages. No possibility of a bypass. The lower portion of my heart was infarcted. Another wave…..keep standing…

I imagined driving down a road, passing all the side lanes, heading to a dead end. The options quickly passing me by. Things started to feel bleak. Is this it?

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