Adventures in Catheterization!

A friend of mine had to have a Catheterization this week. Thankfully, things went well for him. No surgery was recommended; rather, his doctors feel they can help him best through medication.

Sounds like he had a pretty easy time of it. I had a Cath in 1987, and it was a almost as bad as torture. I halfway expected Amnesty International to come busting through the doors and demand that the prisoner (me) be released!

The main reason it was so rough, I think, is that it was done while I was awake and pretty much unsedated. Now if they had given me a Free Pass to the Happy Juice fountain, it probably would have been livable. But… no such luck.

I was wheeled down to the Cath Lab and the first thing that happened was I was hog-tied! Wha…? No one had mentioned this! I was taped to the Cath Lab bed with tape over my ankles, my thighs, my hips, my stomach, and my chest. My head was taped down, and I was told to extend my arms over my head, and those were taped down too!

Oh, boy. Trussed up like a Christmas goose!

They gave me a local antisthetic at the juncture of my right leg and my groin, made the incision, and the Cath was inserted. I couldn’t feel anything except a little pressure on my leg; and no sensation from the advancing Catheter at all.

“Ok, we’re ready to inject the dye,” the doc says. “You are going to feel a little rush of heat when we inject the medication. To get rid of the feeling, breathe rapidly.”

The dye machine made a zzzht sound and the heat rush hit me. It was just like they had said – I felt flushed all over my body. As instructed, I breathed rapidly to get rid of the flushed feeling.

I began to cool down from my head toward my feet, as if the “fire” was actually being pushed out of my body. As strange as that was, as my body cooled, my feet got hotter! It was almost as if the heat was being pushed out… and it was collecting in my feet before it was expelled! At the end, my feet felt as if they were being caressed by a blowtorch and I was puffing for all I was worth!


They had to inject the dye three more times before they were finished. I was prepared each time, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that my feet were being dry roasted.

Finally they were finished. Taking me back to my room, the nurse came into the room and laid down the law: We cut a major vein to do this procedure. It is closed but you can rip it open. DO NOT MOVE. You may tear it. Don’t even blink. You can’t move a muscle. Lay perfectly still for the next five hours… or else!

And then she left.

So I lay there, dead still (bad pun). My family wasn’t anywhere around – they were still in the Waiting Room, doing what you did in a Waiting Room: waiting. Some miscommunication kept them down there an extra hour, and they were starting to go nuts with worry. Finally they were brought up to my room, and the “don’t move” speech was repeated.

After four hours (not five) they came in and yanked me up. That’s it! Everything is acceptable, and you can go home! Hey, wait a minute… what about the five hours? No problem, you’re golden. We’re signing you out. Have a good trip!

And what a trip it was – a 200 mile ride and me with a sliced up leg. In the middle of the night, too, since I was discharged at 9:00 PM. When we got home, I couldn’t put any pressure on it at all, and my parents had to use the Two Man Fireman’s Carry to get me to my room. Dad and Mom are wonderful people, but neither one of them have ever served in the Fire Service, so I ricocheted off of several walls before I got to my room.  And finally, my adventure in the Cath Lab was over.

I don’t know what the deal was – I’d like to think that they were new to Catherizations, but I don’t know. Later on when I was told in Birmingham that they wanted to do a Cath, I protested… loudly! Thankfully UAB had more experience doing Catheterizations, and had decided that everyone takes a nap during their Cath. I had no problems at all!

But back in the “bad old days”, it was quite an adventure!

NOTE: Did you see the early version of the Blog Carnival? I was writing the commentary and wanted to preview it, and pushed POST rather than PREVIEW. Whoops!

You guys didn’t see that, ok? *Slightly embarrassed*


7 Responses to “Adventures in Catheterization!”

  1. Kelly Says:

    You are a brave, brave man! I am thankful you were the guinea pig for all these treatments! At least you’ve kept your sense of humor! JBR is out of the hospital and thankfully on the mend. We’re off to Miami this weekend in search of coronary artery origins on the echo! I’ll keep you posted if you keep us laughing with your posts!

  2. carolyn compton Says:

    I think some are still done without a general, but babies and kiddies move too much! I had a friend recently who had a procedure similar to the testing of pressures except they “burnt” a little thing near his heart to stop some kind of movement. It stopped his palpatations.

    I think the ex Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, had the same procedure. He had an interview on Parkinson and he recounted how the surgeaon said to him something like “What happens if this goes wrong…” the Prime Minister said “well, you’re the surgeon?!” surgeon replies “well you’re the Prime Minister!” and Prime Minister replies “you’re the surgeon!, is something going to go wrong?!?!”

    the article below shows the details:

    World Briefing | Europe: Britain: Blair ‘Fine’ After Heart Procedure
    By Patrick E. Tyler (NYT)
    Published: Saturday, October 2, 2004
    Prime Minister Tony Blair underwent a successful medical procedure on his heart, correcting an irregular beat that was diagnosed and first treated in October 2003. He left Hammersmith Hospital around 5 p.m., and was scheduled for a weekend of rest before preparing for a trip to Africa next week. ”I’m absolutely fine,” Mr. Blair said upon arrival back at No.10 Downing Street. In a statement, the hospital said, ”We consider the risk of a recurrence of the problem to be very low.” Patrick E. Tyler (NYT)

  3. carolyn compton Says:

    Blair’s cardiologist, Punit Ramrakha, said the procedure — the technical term for which is catheter ablation — was low risk. It does not amount to full surgery and will be carried out under local anaesthetic.

  4. Teri Martin Says:

    I have to say I think I am on my 25 cath to date. I demand they knock me out because I have been so tramatized by the first 15 times it was a toture I do not wish on anyone. Plus back then they were really long I was typically awake on the table for 6 to 8 hours. How on earth I did that so many times still astonishes me

  5. Teri Martin Says:

    I had 4 of them this past summer. They went through the neck each time which was much better the the groin. If you have to have one I recommend asking them if they can do it through the neck. You do have to have some press on you neck for 30 mins but it is such a faster recovery. Now I have these holes on my neck and people actually stop me and ask if I was bitten by a vampire!

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