Posts Tagged ‘Stethoscope’

Back to School

November 12, 2010

“Trouble is, there’s not enough of us to go around – we’re spread thin, so sometimes, important things get ignored or don’t get said.” – Judge Tolliver (John Goodman), The Jack Bull (1999)

Yesterday I had the chance to go back to school – I went back to my Alma Mater to our School of Nursing!

I asked for directions just to be sure – when I graduated the School of Nursing didn’t exist. And I didn’t want to assume I could find it only to discover that it was in a back corner of the campus. But it wasn’t a problem; as soon as I turned off of the main highway and scanned the campus, there it was. Everything was exactly as described, which usually doesn’t happen – more often than not, I get twisted up and turned around but everything went perfectly.

After meeting the instructor for the first time, we went upstairs and into a classroom where I met the students (about 30 of them) and talked about myself and my heart defect. If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I usually post the printed text of my presentation. Not the case this time – as I told the students, when I make a presentation to Heart Families, I’ve got a plan and am pretty sure what I will say. With them, I wasn’t sure what they wanted or needed to know, so I’d just talk about myself. If they had a question, feel free to break in.

Someone had a really good question about did I need oxygen. Technically no, I don’t need oxygen, but I sleep with a flow of four liters per hour. It was originally prescribed to keep my Hemoglobin down, and I can skip it for several days without problem. When I take a weekend trip, I don’t take it with me. But I’m like a rechargeable battery and the O2 is like my charger – after about 4 days of sleeping without oxygen, I feel run down.

After I talked about myself and the Question and Answer session, we moved over a larger room set up as a hospital ward. When I walked in there was a bed to my right with a medical mannequin in the bed, tucked under the covers neatly. I saw him/it out of the corner of my eye and for a moment there I thought it was a real person!

We didn’t bother Earl (or whatever the mannequin’s name was), he looked comfortable. I took another bed, and in pairs and threes the students came in and examined me. My heart was listened to more times than I can could count, and everyone took a close look at my blue fingernails. My right hand is a little more blue than usual because of the swelling associated with my wrist, but my left hand is better suited to observe Capillary Refill (press down on the fingernail until it turns white, then release. Observe how long it takes for the blood to flow back.)

More than one student seemed to be very interested in the fact that you can’t read my pulse in my left arm – a side effect of the Blalock-Taussig Shunt, the surgery I had in 1977. In the Blalock-Taussig, the Left Subclavian Artery is cut and sewn into the Pulmonary Artery. The Left Subclavian normally passes near the shoulderblade (the Clavicle), and down the left arm. Because it has been disconnected, you can’t get a pulse in my left arm, can’t take an accurate blood pressure reading, and blood draws and vaccine injections should be done in the right arm.

(NOTE: If you have the Modified Blalock-Taussig Shunt, a small artificial connection is used to connect the Subclavian Artery to the Pulmonary Artery and the Subclavian is left intact. You usually can feel the pulse bilaterally on a patient with the Modified Blalock-Taussig!)

When the students weren’t listening to my heart, the instructor was – with an electronic recording stethoscope. I’ve had this done before, back in 1977 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (recounted in this post.) But back then it was a Stethoscope head connected to wires that ran to a machine the size of a toolbox, that recorded my heart on a cassette tape. This one looked like a regular Stethoscope, perhaps a little thicker around the head. It would record (sensitive enough that it recorded a cough!) and then transmit the recording to a laptop computer via Bluetooth! My Geek side started getting the best of me, and I was developing a very, very bad case of STEVE WANT! But I knew that if I asked how much it cost, the instructor would inject me with 1000 cc’s of reality. Reality is a difficult drug to take – it’s good for you, but can make you feel pretty lousy.

I enjoyed my visit to the Nursing School and I’d like to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome. Even if none of the students chose to work in Congenital Cardiology, they’ll bump into other patients like me – it’s estimated that in the United States, there are slightly more adults living with a Congenital Heart Defect than there are children. Adults with Heart Defects are living longer and better, and we’ll have “normal” medical problems in addition to our bad hearts. And today’s Cardiac Kids are growing into tomorrow’s Heart Warriors.

So its important for those of us with a heart defect to “meet the public” – and not just to raise awareness, but to educate. To guide new Heart Families through this scary world we never expected to enter, but also to give the professionals who will be taking care of us a chance to learn from us. it doesn’t matter if someone is the best Heart Surgeon, the best Cardiologist, or the very best Cardiac Care Nurse… sometime in the past, these people had no idea that Heart Defects even existed.

Someone had to teach them.

WOMB-too

July 1, 2010

The first time I heard my heart “speak” was in 1977. I figured that it couldn’t speak English, but I knew that it made some type of sound that an expert could understand. I mean, every time I had ever been to see a doctor, one or more people has placed a stethoscope against my chest. Something’s got to be ratting around in there, right?

On my first full day at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital my Cardiologist, Dr. Lionel Barjaron, asked if he could “tape” my heart. I was sort of expecting something to do with medical tape, but they lay me on a table and did the usual Stethoscope against the chest routine. But this stethoscope was attached to a microphone, and that was attached to a tape recorder. They thanked me half a dozen times, and told me that the tape would go to the medical school for the doctors-in-training to listen to. My strange plumbing gave off sounds that would tip a doctor to a problem, and obviously the vast majority of hearts are healthy and don’t produce the sounds they were looking for.

“You want to hear what it sounds like?” Dr. Barjaron asked, and turned on a speaker. “WOMB-too,” it kept repeating over and over, the first sound exactly like the word womb and the second sound like the word tooth with the th left off.

And though I hadn’t realized it, this was not the first time I had ever heard my heart speak. I was told that the heart beat – the “lub-dub” sound we are all familiar with – is caused by the valves slamming shut after the heart chambers fill with blood.

A week later it was the same room, and the same stethoscope/microphone.

“We have to do this again?” I asked. It hadn’t hurt, but I figured the recording had been a one time event.

“You’ve had surgery, and now your heart is making different sounds,” Dr. Barjaron responded. “We’d like to record those, too.” As proof he turned the speaker on again. “You hear the difference?”

“Not really,” I said. To me, it was the same “WOMB-too” as before.

“You just haven’t had any lessons on what to listen for, but to me it sounds a lot different from a week ago,” the Cardiologist assured me. “You’ll just have to trust me on that one.”

Maybe it picked up Dr. Pacifico’s  accent, I thought, thinking about my surgeon’s Brooklyn born voice.

So for a while my heart’s voice lived in my body, but also on a tape at the UAB Medical School. It’s probably gone now; that was 1977, after all. And while I own a stethoscope and have heard both healthy and sick hearts speak, I don’t know what they are saying. It’s a subtle language, the language of the heart, and can be easily misinterpreted.

But my heart can say whatever it wants, as long as it just keeps on talking.

After Christmas Sale, All Links 50% off!

December 26, 2008

There is news on two upcoming events from the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA). April 24-26 2009 have been selected as the dates for ACHA 09,  the Association’s Professional Development Conference. Only Medical Professionals are invited to ACHA 09.

But the ACHA’s Sixth National Conference will be held in Los Angeles in 2010! The National Conference will be open to ACHA members as well as our Cardiologists and medical staff! No dates or specific location (Los Angeles is a big place!) has been announced yet, but as soon as I hear, I’ll let you know.

Lobby Day will be held in Washington, DC on February 10, 2009. It’s hard to believe that in just a week the calender will read 2009 and that event will be just around the corner!

Trisha Torry, writer of the Patient Empowerment blog, writes that Santa is going to be working again in a few days. We all know that he usually only works on the night of December 24, but this year he’s making an exception. Trisha’s mom was one of the few people that he couldn’t visit. Best wishes to you and your mom, Trisha!

Canadian researchers are developing a better way to preserve organs for transplantation! You usually have to transport the organ before you can transplant it, and if you’re going further than the next room, it helps to keep things cool. But you can keep it too cool and damage it! But now there’s a better way to figure out how cold is “just cold enough!”

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a hot drink works well, too!

Read this article and you will see, no caffeine for the Mom-to-be!

There’s a new stethoscope called the VRI, and it works (kinda) like an MRI! No magnets or large tubes, though. Check it out, it’s pretty cool!

The Cardiac CT scan your doc ordered my not be the best way to go. Not only is there a good chance of a bad reading, but you also pick up a fairly high dose of radiation for your trouble. Right now, it’s probably best to stick with an angiogram.

‘Till next time!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers