this is no disrespect to my mom, calling her 'old' but in the light of this weekend's events, there is nothing that brings attention to the age of your parents like medical difficulties. 'massive heart attack' is about the scariest thing you can hear about your mom at only 63 years of age.
this is mom, uncomfortable but pain free and other than a few questions mostly at peace.
This is the whole story of my mom's heart attack.
At about 3 pm on Saturday mom started to complain of neck and back pain, combined with some nausea, symptoms seeming familiar to a stomach issue my sister Jodi gets, so between the waves of symptoms and my mom’s high tolerance for pain she dismissed going to the emergency until it was finally too bad. When they got to the Steinbach hospital at about 8 pm they admitted her for tests, telling my dad to go home and they would call when he could pick her up or with an update. At just before 10 pm a nurse called dad to say mom was having a heart attack right then in the hospital. Blessing #1, can’t be in a better place having a heart attack than the hospital! We don’t want to think what would have happened had mom dismissed the pain and gone to sleep that night. They discovered it was due to a blood clot, they gave her medication to clear the blood clot, pain killers as well as medication to stabilize her erratic heart rate. During the clearing of the blood clot mom’s pain scale was at 9 out of 10. The pain was gone as soon as the clot was. Dad called us all at about 10 pm but couldn’t get a hold of any of us girls until closer to 10:30 pm. Only Jodi was able to go see mom in the hospital. Dad called to update us that they then determined she would be sent to St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg on Sunday for a short ‘cleaning of the pipes’ surgery, we assumed that meant an angioplasty. Dad was under the impression it would be short and there would be no chance to visit her in Winnipeg so we were going to wait for word on Sunday when she’d be sent back to Steinbach and we could visit her.
Sunday we waited for word from Dad, he had Jodi call us about 11:45 am with the first update, mom was at St. B already and what Steinbach hospital had said before they left was that they concluded it was a massive heart attack, she would need to be in Winnipeg at least a few days and now it was likely she would need bypass surgery. Dad would call back after the St. B tests. Jodi called back about an hour and a half later to say what they saw in the arteries was much worse than they thought and that they were wanting us at the hospital asap because dad wanted all us girls there to help with the decision on which surgery to choose, they wanted to begin surgery asap. Sean and I got there first of course, mom was mostly in good spirits, pain free other than she wasn’t comfortable having laid in bed for so long already. She also had to keep her leg still as the tube inflating a balloon in her artery was through her leg, moving her leg could cut off the balloon so it had to be completely still, which was hard for mom to do. And her only concern was she couldn’t quite get her head around the surgery options, for a number of reasons she couldn’t recall all that the doctor had explained, it was a lot to take in. Dad explained it to us and then we waited for my sisters to arrive from Steinbach and Altona.
Dad explained this, the head of heart surgery at St. Boniface was the one consulting mom and dad (blessing #2) and he explained that mom’s artery that had caused the heart attack was 50-60% blocked up until Saturday and then with the blood clot that artery became 90% blocked causing the heart attack. This is because this artery was the almost sole supply of blood to her heart, her main (middle) artery was 100% blocked and so blood flow was minimal. This main artery has likely been blocked for years, it sounds like she has probably already had a few small heart attacks that were missed because her high threshold for pain and not sharing the extent of her pain/tiredness with dad. She’s been experiencing a lot of tiredness lately. Blessing #3 is that they caught this first massive heart attack, in a hospital, so it wasn’t fatal like many heart attacks, and now they should be able to rectify the problem because they’ve caught it.
Her heart is now at 66% capacity, with at least those two arteries needing surgery, the third seemed clear. Our options were a stent on the 90% artery or bypass, and we could leave the 100% blocked artery alone or also have a bypass on that. The doctors told mom and dad that the stent life average from St.B is 10 years with it progressively working less over the years where as a bypass would be almost ‘good as new’ and add 20-30 years of life with not much deterioration. Their average failure rate of a stent was 1% chance and the failure rate on a bypass was 2-3% (failure meaning, deaths during surgery). That of course was the average at St. B, the best heart hospital in Winnipeg, and additionally the head cardiac surgeon factored in that mom is about 20 years younger than most women who face this surgery and much healthier having never smoked, did not have other unhealthy eating habits, and being significantly physically fit since her hip replacement surgery, her risk was much less and he recommended multiple bypass (didn’t want paperwork to limit to 2 in case they found the third artery was also significantly blocked upon opening mom up). Speaking of the hip surgery, she had EKGs to clear her for that surgery and as post op checkups but blocked arteries are not detected by that and only someone looking specifically for that would have found it. After dad explained all that he asked mom what she wanted and she wanted the double bypass, we all agreed.
The head surgeon then came back to hear the verdict and said he could try to get the surgery tonight if the OR was available or tomorrow morning, he would be the one doing it tonight but not tomorrow morning. Mom was her usual self and said, ‘whatever is best for you,’ but the rest of us said now would be optimal. Sure enough they were able to get the OR today before 5 pm she was prepped and wheeled to the OR with the head surgeon able to perform the surgery, blessing # 4! Not before one of Southland’s pastors was able to come out and pray over mom. She had a lot of peace about it all and that is a great testament to her faith and everyone’s prayers!
Just after 6 pm they came to say mom just went under because they had to wait for blood thinners to be countered against. The surgeon came in the waiting room at about 9:30 to let us know the surgery ended up being a triple bypass, that it all went as planned. He said the heart was pretty damaged from the heart attack, it had been pretty weak but there was already some improvement and he expected that to continue improving. They prepared us it would be about 45 minutes before we could see her and prepared us for how she would look.
Well, 45 minutes just about doubled by the time we actually got to see mom. She has a dedicated nurse in the cardiac recovery area, which is comforting. Because of a balloon in her chest helping her new arteries heal they have her heavily sedated to keep her still enough it doesn’t not deflate the balloon. She is so heavily sedated she can’t breathe on her own for now. They also have her on additional medication and plasma to counter act the fact she was on blood thinners before the surgery, making things slightly more difficult but it was expected and her recovery is ‘typical’ for her situation. They are very careful not to use hopeful words, they still classify her as ‘sick’ which is about as descriptive as they’ll get, but they assure us with it is all ‘what was expected’ and it’s ‘normal’ for her specific situation. The 24 hours after surgery is critical, but the surgeon said that is the case in all bypass surgeries. We can begin to expect her to be more alert and recognize us hopefully tomorrow afternoon or evening. She will likely be in this ward until Wednesday and then a different ward for a week after. The nurse wasn’t sure how things are done on that ward, if she could be moved to Steinbach instead is not clear. We were able to see her and ask our questions but we all went home for the night as nothing will likely change before morning at the earliest and we need to catch up on our sleep as many of us couldn’t sleep last night.
Thank you again for all your prayers and care for my mom and our family during this time. Your prayers have been felt, and as you can see God had his hand in this throughout. Continued prayers for optimal recovery over the next few days especially, but also the weeks ahead, would be greatly appreciated!