Of CABGs and Kin part 1

You'll forgive me a bit if I get a bit more personal here than I normally do. I want this to be clearly about human beings (not just me), and not abstractions. Names will be named.

Don't worry, I'll go back to linking to ethnic musicians doing pop songs on Youtube soon enough. But right now? Things have been re-prioritized for me.

Going back just over a week, to Thursday September 17, I had an early morning doctor's appointment (which works out to late night for me - I'd just gotten off of work). It was to be my first time seeing Dr. Lunde, and I expected to get a reasonably standard outcome: "Eat better, exercise more, here's a prescription, now go home."

Dr. Lunde did something entirely unexpected. He listened to everything I said, including my family history. He put it all together. He explained that if I didn't have my family background, he wouldn't have been terribly concerned, but as it was he was prompted to give me an EKG test, and found something interesting on it. Interesting enough to call an ambulance to bring me to the hospital, apparently.

The sirens I heard outside, which I had discounted as Hillcrest local color, were there for me. Even as the half dozen-ish EMTs were around me on the exam table, getting ready to move me to the gurney, I was kind of denying this could all be for me. I felt fine! As they had trouble maneuvering the gurney through the doorway to get alongside the exam table I was perched on, I said, "Um, I can walk, if it helps..."

"You sure?"

"Uh.. Yeah, I feel fine... I'm not really sure what all this is about..."

During the ambulance ride, I tried getting more info out of the EMT. I still didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

I asked, "Is it really this big a deal?"

"Well, it's better to do this now than CPR later."

Couldn't fault the logic.

I was brought to the ER (a couple of blocks away, by my approximation; I could easily have walked it, I thought).

They began running tests. Started with the fairly standard (blood pressure and temperature), doing another EKG, some kind of ultrasound (I really wish I'd gotten a recording of my heartbeat - I mean, it's not like I'd never heard a heartbeat before, but the sound on this thing was amazing and full. I wanted to remix it. The syncopation in in that I was digging may have been part of the problem, though) and some waiting around. With tube and wires attached. It was becoming more and more clear that what I had expected to be a simple 1/2 hour doctor's appointment would be expanding into something else.

Since it had been a couple of hours now since I'd left home, I figured I should probably let my wife know something else was going on.

I'm pretty sure there is something wrong with starting any phone call with, "I'm okay, but...", though I really couldn't think of a better way. I tried to calmly explain to Cyndi that I'm feeling fine, but they have me in the hospital, hooked up to machines, feeling fine, running a variety of tests, and feeling fine.

At this point, it's probably a good idea to explain why it's kinda silly for me to be downplaying this as much as I have been, and talk a bit about that family history I mentioned earlier.

See, my dad's family has a very strong tendency toward heart problems stemming from high cholesterol. Okay, "tendency" is probably a tad weak for my purposes. My uncle Eddie died of a heart attack at 37 years old. My aunt Beth, who used to babysit for me when I was much shorter and was a mother of two, wasn't much older than that when she was taken. Another aunt survived a heart attack at 27. Fifteen years ago, my dad had a six way bypass at 45 years of age (I didn't realized there were six ways to pass). Out of nine sibling, seven have had some combination of cardiac bypass surgery or heart attack.

I am 35. Thirty five years old. 5'7", 155 lbs. Relatively young, not apparently overweight. Not someone you would immediately identify as someone who ought to have open heart surgery, but no Olympic athlete either.

But I knew it was coming; that's why I was going to the doctor - pretty much because of my wife's persistent insistence, as well as Amanda's concerns based on her personal story.

So I find myself attached to a variety of machines, running tests whose results are being interpreted, fortunately for me, by some pretty smart people. Smart enough to see results in one test, and decide that doing the stress test (making me run a treadmill with the tubes and wires attached to show how all my stuff reacts to the situation) wouldn't give clear enough results, and they'd be better off skipping it and going to an angiogram.

Getting the angiogram was not the first time this day that sparked me to think how fucking cool science is. It was, however, the beginning of me giving up on modesty and decorum.

After doing a singalong of Alice's Restaurant (seriously) with Aaron (much to the (I am sure) delight (and completely not annoyance) of a clean-room full of his co-worker medical types), they began the actual test.

Well, after getting trimmed to allow a very narrow tube into my right groin, that would travel up my torso and to my heart - which would then have its nearly unsettlingly clear image put onto a screen in real time. That was pretty neat.

This begins the choruses of, "keep your head down." I just wanted to see what was going on, but apparently they don't think it's a good idea for me to lift my head. More on that later.

After this procedure, I am shown video of my heart, and very specifically where three arteries around it are not quite allowing blood to flow, and one has completely shut down. Fortunately, that one that was completely blocked had managed to grow its own tributary or something and formed a natural bypass.

Short form? I'd need coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

More to come.

Healthcare Musings

(Opinions expressed do not represent those of my employer or anyone but me. Sometimes not even me - I'm still trying to understand this myself.)

The problem is primarily one of reportage, exasperated by attention whoring.

The story becomes about the knuckleheads at the townhall meetings who start yelling, rather than any actual concerns they might have. Attention focuses on the guy carrying a gun rather than the message. Anything real gets lost, the story is now about methods.

The two main concerns regarding this issue have come about from misinterpretations of the bill(s): There are no death panels, and illegal aliens won't get free health care. No, I have not read the entire bill(s), nor have you (you can find it here http://docs.house.gov/edlabor/AAHCA-BillText-071409.pdf though). Thousands of pages each, several versions, several drafts. Many lies regarding them (Page 425 begins the section that Betsy McCaughey and Sarah Palin liked to present as the Death Panels. Really it's about enforcement of the patient's own choices regarding living wills and other end-of-life issues). Congressfolks claiming to have eliminated passages that were never there.

Yelling and noise.

How will it get paid for? Don't know. People are busy debating misinformation and being disruptive when they could be clarifying misunderstandings or presenting concerns to their representatives.

From a capitalist perspective, universal healthcare would be very good for small businesses.

If an owner of a small business needs a bit of help, there are wage minimums that may make it prohibitive to hire a worker even part-time (one more person out of work, one more business weakened). Assuming that business owner can budget payroll, odds are she won't be able to pay for health insurance as well. The employee in this case clearly cannot afford it on his own.

Since the employee can't pay for healthcare and needs the income, he will work when he really should not, lowering productivity, spreading germs, costing the business more money (and long-term income with potential loss of customers). Government assisted health care would help alleviate that.

More and stronger small businesses would make for a more stable economy.

Why don't we hear an outcry like this when public funds go to support a private entertainment business (if a stadium is so great for the local businesses, shouldn't they be investing it it themselves?)? How about the communist aspects of eminent domain and its abuses (as far as I'm concerned, that's most if not all uses of it)?

But if someone is broke and needs some help with their own physical well being, it's all WHARRGARBL!!

Why health and not housing, food, and fuel?
Someone who is unhealthy can't or shouldn't necessarily work, go to school, and be able to improve their lot to the point where they can contribute to society at a greater level.

Ideally, this would mean fewer people on other government programs. Reality? No idea. Is it open to abuses? Probably.

How will it be paid for? I'd like to know.


* Easily distracted media
* Debating misinformation
* Minimum wage laws
* Being ill
* Public funds for entertainment venues

* Openly carrying a weapon
* Small businesses
* That picture of the wharrgarbl dog

Previously mostly against but find myself accepting more and more:
* Universal healthcare

This dramatic recreation

... with the implicit threat that you may be in danger from cardboard cutouts.

Ever get the idea that some "journalism" is based on a dare?

Keep an eye on those shipping cartons.

Just a few days until Comic-Con

You'll find me at Comic-Con this coming weekend, for the twenty-second consecutive year (Not that I'm proud). I'll be the pale, out-of-shape one with the unconventionally long hair.

The FoxTrot comic here can be found at http://www.gocomics.com/foxtrot/2009/07/19/ and is unreasonably accurate.

This may justify the existence of Bon Jovi

Eläkeläiset is apparently a Finnish humppa band and the inspiration for a new hairstyle.

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