Having just heard I had not suffered a heart attack, a fact that seemed to surprise the doctors given the symptoms that brought me to the emergency room and my very high blood pressure, my wife Sheri and I were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, given the circumstances that’s a morbid analogy.The ER doctor explained that my blood pressure, while still high, was not dangerous since the nitroglycerin they’d been giving me for about 2 hours had brought it down. But, and that’s a word I would grow to hate in the next few days, every time they stopped the nitro for even a little while the pressure climbed back up. Something was wrong and would have to be fixed. Medication wasn’t doing it.To read from the heart- part 1 go hereTo read from the heart- part 2 go hereTo read from the heart- part 3 go here
“Mr. Kendrick, I’ve called in Dr. Cyril Tawa, our cardiologist specializing in interventional cardiology. He’s very good and we need him to examine you and take over your care.” That doesn’t sound good to me. Interventional cardiology- what exactly does that mean? Why won’t my BP stay down and what can they do about it?I should interject here that I now know how lucky I am that Dr. Tawa was the specialist assigned to the ER that fateful night. The medical community in Houston is famous throughout the world for it’s advanced medical care and hospital facilities but even so, sometimes you just have to get a little lucky.A tall, skinny young man walks into the room and shakes my hand. “Hi, I’m Dr. Tawa and I’m the cardiologist who’s going to make sure you get better. I’ve reviewed your chart and blood work and I have an idea what we’re dealing with. Your blood pressure when you were admitted to the ER was in the critical stage. You don’t realize how lucky you are that you didn’t have a heart attack or a stroke. You’re very stable now that the nitroglycerin has brought the pressure down but it won’t stay down without medication so we have to find out what exactly is wrong and how to fix it.””We need to scope your heart to determine if there’s blockage in the arteries, or if some other malfunction in the heart is causing your problem. I’m sending you up to intensive care now so we can monitor you very carefully until the Cath(eter) Lab is prepared. What we are going to do is insert a catheter in your groin and run a fiber optic camera up the main artery all the way to the heart. We will be able to see the heart and all the surrounding arteries to determine if there is blockage causing your pressure to be so high.”All during his speech I’m getting nervous and Sheri’s face is getting whiter. When he’s finished speaking she asks the doctor if this procedure is risky. He thinks for a moment and responds “all procedures are risky when the BP is this high but I’ve done thousands of these and there’s nothing to worry about. What you have to realize is how serious James’ condition is until we find out what’s wrong. He is very lucky he has suffered no damage to his heart and he hasn’t stroked out. This is why he needs to be in intensive care while we prepare for the catheterization.”Wow. Since the first time “intensive care” was spoken I’ve gone completely cold. I’ve never heard of anything good coming from the intensive care.It doesn’t take long before they come down to take me up. I’ve been hooked up to an IV, cardiac monitor, and BP cuff since I got here and it’s a bit of a coordinated dance to get me moving. There was a slight delay taking me up as Dr. Tawa insisted on having a defibrillator on the foot of the gurney before going up in the elevator. That’s one of those electric paddle gizmos for shocking your heart into action after it’s stopped. Any tiny remaining doubt that Sheri and I might have still had about how serious my condition was left when we saw that box. They look exactly like they do on TV.