Saturday, February 10, 2007

Getting to the heart of the matter

On Monday morning my boss told me how much fun he'd had hunting with his grandson over the weekend. And then he told me how tiring it had been, how he almost didn't have enough breath or energy to walk out of the woods.

He's been hunting almost every weekend for the past couple of months, so this fatigue was unusual, and he knew it. He'd heard a friend mention that a new test, a coronary calcium screening test, had alerted him to heart problems, so he called and arranged to take the same test Monday afternoon.

Test results showed there was at least a 90-percent arterial blockage. I called the cardiologist who has been seeing him once a year since a heart attack 12 years ago and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon, the earliest they could work him in on a non-emergency basis.

Tuesday morning my boss had court. He wasn't feeling great, but court was uneventful and he returned to the office in relatively good humor. He called his nephew, a Baton Rouge physician, and told him about the results of his coronary calcium screening test. He also told his nephew that it had been years since his cardiologist had done anything on those annual visits other than listen to his chest with a stethoscope, check his blood pressure, and look at the lab reports on his cholesterol level.

Dr. Nephew said that wasn't good enough. In a matter of minutes he called back and said he had made an appointment for my boss with a better cardiologist early Wednesday morning.

The first time I saw my boss on Wednesday was when he returned to the office from seeing the new cardiologist, and he was a bundle of mixed emotions. Based on the morning's test results, they'd sent him home to pack a bag so he could check back into the hospital for a late-Wednesday-afternoon heart catheterization. That's the last time I've seen him.

The catheterization showed severe blockage that would almost certainly have resulted in a heart attack in the very near future. The new cardiologist kept him in the hospital Wednesday night and Thursday, and at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery -- seven hours' worth.

Throughout this ordeal, my boss's lovely wife stayed in touch via her cell phone. Each time she'd get a medical update, she'd call and tell me, and it would then be my turn to get on the phone and relay the news to concerned friends and clients who were anxious for information. I think my boss underestimates how many friends he really has.

The surgery went very well, according to the doctors, and the next phase for my boss would be a day or two (today and tomorrow) in the intensive care unit. His wife and grown children would be able to visit him for a few minutes at a time, and they were told to expect that he'd look pretty bad.

His wife called me this morning after she went to visit him. "You wouldn't believe it," she said. "He was sitting up in the bed, talking -- saying he doesn't plan to go through anything like this again -- and they're talking about moving him out of ICU later in the day."

I am so relieved. My boss -- my good friend -- is going to be okay because he was smart enough to pay attention to the warning signs.

On a lighter note, let me tell you how this story played out on the Louisiana-small-town rumor circuit:

A very worried lady called the office yesterday afternoon and asked, "Did Mr. J have a heart attack?"

"No," I told her, and I explained the course of events to her much as I've outlined it for you above.

"Thank God!" she said. "Now, let me tell you what the rumor is. I heard from someone who said they'd heard it from a client of Mr. J's who was there when it happened. They said Mr. J and his client were in front of the judge, and Mr. J was arguing, defending his client. They said Mr. J was so worked up that he started yelling, then he grabbed his chest and fell out on the floor of the courtroom, and the paramedics had to come in and take him away in the ambulance."

I can't wait for my laid-back boss to hear this version of the story. I told it to a good friend of his who said, "Well, he may not spread this rumor himself, but if he hears it, he probably won't deny it, either."

He's going to be okay. It'll be an interesting and challenging couple of months, workwise, but it's going to be okay.


  1. That's wonderful he will be alright! My brother-in-law jsut went through very serious bypass surgery and we all heaved a huge sigh of relief that he came through alright. Glad your alright too! Carmon

    You know, you'd think after you tried a few times word verification would believe you're just a human with poor letter recognition!

  2. I am glad he made it to the surgery just in a nick of time. Once the attack occurs there is no turning back. Damage is done. So this is for the best.

    Everyone seems to have a crisis. We are all dealing with them. As Patsy always says..."as the world turns".
    sister 3

  3. That's great, that he's doing so well. Be interesting to see what the rumor mill comes up with as time goes on. It's a good thing Dr. Nephew got him to see another cardiologist.

    Thanks for the links, too!

  4. So glad your boss got help in time! What a busy few days you've had. Hang in there! Holly

  5. I still plan on dying from a heart attack.

  6. Velvet, so glad your boss - and friend - is well now. Many thanks for the links - although after checking the warning signs, I realized I frequently experience all of them to some degree - and I'd probably never take myself to the doctor for any of them.

    Don't you just love the gossip - like playing a child's game of "Telephone." It will be interesting to hear the variations - might make for some amusing posts!

    Glad to see you back. I was a little concerned as you tend to post fairly regularly. Then I saw Kim put up an auction a couple of days ago and decided that if there had been a huge tragedy in your world, she would not have done that.

  7. Velvet, glad your boss will be okay. He was a smart man to go for testing.
    And thanks for the link. I'm going to check whether or not they do that screening in our area. I'm all for testing that is NON invasive - although I'm scared to death of doctors - so just going into their offices causes my heart rate to rise drastically!

  8. Carmon, so many people who called about my boss told me about their own open-heart surgery experiences, and they're all getting along just fine. I guess it's a common surgical procedure now. I hope your brother-in-law continues to do well.

    As for the word verification, I've noticed that it's pickier when I first log on. The first time I encounter word verification, I ALWAYS have a problem. It accepts my email address, but I have to repeat the mixed-up letters AND my password. It's hard to believe I always miss both those things the first time and always get them both right the second time.

  9. Sister-Three, you're right about everyone having a crisis. It's like standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It might take a while, but sooner or later, your number comes up.

    Janet, hearing the rumor helped me understand what celebrities must feel when they read about themselves in the tabloids.

    Holly, he and I are the only two people in the office, so it'll be interesting to try to keep things going without him. Fortunately, two other attorneys have volunteered to help out until he's able to give me directions from home, and I've already called on both of them.

    Mike, it's the quick-and-easy part of the heart attack that appeals to you, right? I agree; there are lots of worse ways to die, but I'd like for all of them to hold off until I'm good and ready.

    Sunflower, I don't go to the doctor for every little ache and pain either, but I think it's important to know the warning signs in case they rear their ugly heads in any significant way.

    I wanted to post something sooner but was too distracted to think of anything to write about.

    Jackie, I know what you mean about non-invasive tests. I think the cardiac calcium screening test is going to save quite a few lives. I'm told that insurance doesn't cover it yet (probably because it's too new) but it only costs $75 in this area.

  10. Just got back from the hospital, and I'm impressed. He's looking pretty good, other than the fact that he looks like he's been run over by a truck. He still has some tubes hooked up to him, and it's obvious that he's very tired. They moved him out of ICU yesterday afternoon. He's had quite a bit of company since then, plus they'd just been walking him around the hospital corridor right before I got there. Medical science is an amazing thing!

  11. I hope he's getting some rest in between the visitors and the forced marching. I know they want you walking around to avoid blood clots, but it's hard when you just want to sleep.


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