Friday morning was supposed to be my "rule out all horrible possibilities" appointment with my cardiologist. I woke up feeling the same, short of breath, swollen, but otherwise ok.
My strong mother has been through so many different medical experiences that Jason and I decided it would be best for her to attend these appointments to ask the right questions and help me understand what was really going on. I couldn't be more thankful that she was there with me.
We arrived at the cardiologist office, and I was completely calm. I had zero expectations of any answers. Since I was a new patient, they gave me an EKG immediately, and I weighed in at 140 pounds. The 140 pounds was very disheartening, 16 pounds in my first trimester.
The cardiologist came in, and began to ask several questions about my activity level prior to pregnancy. I told him about my ballet experiences for nearly 15 years, and the several miles Jason and I would walk with Fenway around our neighborhood for leisure. He informed me that neither one of those activities were very strenuous, and began to act annoyed with me for wasting his time with my appointment. He did not look at my swelling. He kept looking at my EKG, but making no comment on it. He tells me that he would complete an ECHO (an ultrasound of my heart) "sometime the following week." I was frustrated, as my high-risk OB has requested the ECHO to be completed at the time of my appointment.
The cardiologist became agitated with me as we tried to explain to him the purpose of the appointment. He told us that my OB did not decide how he chose to practice, only he did, and he did not see an ECHO as necessary until next week. I began to cry. I'm out of vacation time and sick time at work, and I was worried about trouble for more appointments the following week. We also needed these results before I had my OB appointment on Monday afternoon, and that was quickly becoming impossible. My mom began to ask about my EKG. He hesitantly told me that it was definitely not normal. He left and checked the schedule and came back to tell us there was no possible way I would get my ECHO that same day. Of course, he wanted to see me again a few days AFTER the ECHO to review the results, meaning two more appointments that we would have to try to schedule.
We went to check out, and began to try to schedule an appointment. My mom was wonderful with the lady, politely insisting that we schedule the ECHO and follow-up on the same day due to the lack of planning that the office did for our initial appointment. The cardiologist came around the corner and very hatefully tells us: "We've been THROUGH this ALREADY!" I'm amazed that Mom didn't crawl over the counter and slap him. She calmly tells him we are discussing the next appointment, not complaining about what had just occurred. He stomped off.
We finally left, and I began to cry as soon as we got in the car. I didn't feel comfortable with the cardiologist, I especially didn't appreciate his attitude, and I felt afraid. Instead of accepting defeat, my Mom turned the car around and pulled into our local hospital. She told me that she knew of a cardiac surgeon in the hospital that may be able to talk with us and refer us to someone that would be more suitable for our specific needs.
We began to talk with an RN that my parents have known for years, and he called the surgeon that my Mom knew of. The surgeon cited that he could not see me since I wouldn't need any procedures, but based on my condition, instructed that an ECHO be ordered immediately and set me up with another cardiologist to read it and meet with me on Monday before my OB appointment. Relieved and grateful, we headed to the Outpatient area of the hospital for my ECHO.
Within 30 minutes, I was in a lab with an extremely friendly tech to complete my ECHO. After about 20 minutes, the tech told me to get dressed, but not to leave "in case the pictures did not turn out." She stayed gone for a very long time, and my Mom told me that something was off. She said that with these types of imaging, they do not have you dress until they know for sure the pictures were ok.
The tech returned, and closed the door. She told me that she was calling a cardiologist down immediately, and did not feel that I should wait the weekend to have something done on my heart. She began to explain to me that the sac around the heart normally carries 1mm of fluid, and my sac was holding 3cm of fluid. The massive amount of fluid was not allowing my heart to beat fully, and she feared that the walls of my heart were about to collapse. She began to explain to me that they would likely need to drain the fluid, and explain the options of the procedures. I immediately began to panic and cry.
The RN that set me up with the ECHO at the hospital came in, and told me that due to my pregnancy, age, and severity of my condition, no cardiologist in town felt safe operating on me. He told me they were sending me to Nashville, and was on the phone to begin the transfer. I could hardly speak, so Mom began to call my Dad, sister and Jason to have everyone be with me as we began a horrible weekend.
The cardiologist that the RN set up for me on Monday came in. She told me that she was not on duty, but visiting her son in the hospital. She heard about my ECHO, and wanted to see me. She began to ask if I could breathe. She, along with the tech, told me they were amazed that I was functioning at the level I was. They kept asking me if I was in extreme pain, and I described semi-major discomfort, but only when I would lie down. We discussed transporting me to Nashville, and originally told me that I could go by vehicle. Within moments, all doctors in my hospital as well as Nashville ruled that it was severe enough to transport me by ambulance.
Within moments, I was admitted to the ER for an ER to ER transport. I have never been in the hospital for myself, never had an IV, never taken pain medication, never had surgery, never had a catheter (which HURT more than anything), never even had stitches. I cannot explain the fear I had to you all. The hospital in Kentucky all seemed disturbed that I may not live. I worried about Baby Cannoli. I just knew that my pregnancy was over, and I began to feel so guilty.
After about 4 hours post ECHO, I was loaded in the ambulance to be taken to a hospital in Nashville. The EMT asked me if they offered to send me by helicopter. I told him no, and asked him if they should have. He looked at me gravely and told me that I was definitely in enough danger to warrant a helicopter transport. We rode the entire hour flying down the interstate with sirens blaring and lights going. The EMT eventually had me laughing, and began to calm me down a bit. He was wonderful at keeping my mind off things, and before I knew it, I was admitted into the CCU in Nashville.
Jason rode in the ambulance, and the rest of my family arrived shortly after. A new cardiologist came in and did another ECHO. He explained to me that I had pericardial effusion, and would need a periocardiocentesis. Basically, they would be inserting a needle underneath my sternum, and running a catheter up into my heart. This would drain the fluid, and the catheter would remain in place for at least 24 hours after the surgery. The procedure would be completed while I was awake, but they would sedate me to where I would not remember the procedure, which gave me some peace of mind. He told me that although he felt this procedure was best, and would be safe for Baby Cannoli, he would not be completing it because he felt that someone else was more skilled and experienced. He told me that he has completed this procedure before, but felt much more comfortable with me in the care of the best he knew.
He left, and Friday night was the most anxiety filled, sleepless, scary night of my life. My CCU nurse was completely phenomenal, and although visitors were not allowed to stay in my room overnight, she decided to allow Jason to stay with me because I was so afraid. She checked on me very frequently, and even stayed to talk with me for nearly half an hour to provide me comfort. I couldn't ask for a better CCU night-time nurse.
Tomorrow, I'll give you the update on my procedure and continue to keep you posted on this crazy ride we've been on. Thank you all so much for the prayers.