Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Next Milepost

The end result of all the years of trials and tribulation of the heart, is that he is now so disabled and low on energy that he is basically housebound, and has been for nearly a year.  It wears on him--a formerly very fit and active guy, who cannot stand just sitting around doing nothing.

After all that Hubby has been through, years of treatments, assorted prescription drugs, several hospitalizations for more stents, the latest heart attack has put him 'over the top,' if you will.
The doctors have informed him that there is nothing further to be done to fix the heart he has; he has been referred to the transplant team to begin the process of getting a new heart.

Wow!  That was a scary bit of information to absorb, and it shook him to the core.  Not only does this mean another major surgery, even more of a "big deal" than the bypass graft he had years back, but he is very disturbed by the concept that someone else must die in order for him to continue to live.

He is little consoled by everyone's reassurances that, "It was the person's wish," or "They are already dead." No, what bothers him is the sorrow and grief of the donor's family  over losing their loved one in an untimely manner.  What makes it even worse, is the information he was given that most transplants occur between October 15th and January 15th -- in other words, over the holidays, largely due to traffic accidents -- the worst possible time of year to suffer the loss of a family member or loved one. (Not that there is ever a good time for such an event.)

Now, the emotional roller-coaster begins.  He was told that at all times, he must remain within an hour's travel time of the hospital, near a phone, etc.  
Then, the meeting with the transplant team, and they decide that, "Well, we think it is best to keep the heart you came with as long as possible, so we're not going to recommend a transplant at this time.  We'll just get more aggressive with the medications."  Great!  A guy who detests drugs of all kinds, is now dependent upon a cocktail of about 15 medications to keep his ticker going!  

This is very stressful, and is hard on me as well.  Some of the other drugs he's been on, as well as simply the effects of all the heart attacks (he now stands at a total of 14!), have impacted his memory functions.  Oh--and they discovered during one test that he'd also had a small stroke.  It did not affect his physical functions, but apparently did nothing to help the memory issues.

Therefore, it falls to me to keep all the medications straight.  It is driving me crazy.  There are some for once a day; some for twice a day; some that must be held back if the blood pressure readings fall below a certain level; some that must be dose-adjusted based on telephone consults with the "team."  It is a constant juggling act, and a fearsome one, as too much or too little of some of these could be deadly.

He must monitor his weight and blood pressure on a daily basis; twice daily for the blood pressure.  He has been instructed to lose weight, and during his latest hospital stay, it was discovered that he was retaining water.  So, out trots the team with the Lasix...a strong diuretic that results in "output" of about three times the input of what you drink.  A royal pain in the butt.

The hardest part?  He was put on a strict diet of no salt, and restricted liquid intake.  Now, it is bad enough to drink 2 or fewer quarts of water (or other liquid, such as soup) per day; but I challenge anyone to have a truly no salt diet.  I'll explore that adventure in the next installment.