Heart, One Small Hole (Repaired, should not affect function…)

At 6.30 on Thursday morning I turned up at Jefferson Hospital to sign myself over to their Cardiology Department for the closure of my PFO.

Note: this early start time could have been a major problem. They were supposed to call me the day before with my reporting time. When I hadn’t received a call by 9 p.m. I called them. Turns out they had left a message on the wrong answerphone. I then had to arrange something for the kids at extremely short notice. My friend M. stepped into the breach, and as I know she is hardly a morning person, I appreciate this more than she knows.

In a surprisingly short time I was sitting on a bed in one of those dreadful hospital gowns with a print that looks like rorschach ink blots and the lovely ties that leave it flapping open at the back. I signed consent forms, chewed a 325mg Aspirin (turned out I should have already taken it that morning after all), had a drip put in, and pretty soon after that I was being wheeled down to theater. Oh I also learned some good nursing jargon. I believe I have mentioned the problems medical personnel have finding a good vein of mine from which to draw blood. Well, apparently I am a bad stick!

This, my second OR this year, looked much like the first one. Another sense of deja vu arose when a) I realized I was going to have to repeat the TEE as part of the procedure, and b) that the same cute young doctor was officiating over that part. He had a different assistant however, whose bedside manner left something to be desired: “There is a two in fifteen thousand chance of DEATH from this procedure…” (Capitals reflect the emphasis of delivery!)

But that’s pretty much all she wrote as far as the procedure was concerned. I sucked on the dead sea creature lollipop and by that time they were already pumping very strong medication into my IV.

I woke up in the recovery room, my long-suffering husband by my side. The next unpleasant part was when they had to remove the tube they had inserted into my groin down which the closure device had been wiggled. A heavyset male nurse called Tim told me that he was the ‘pressure’ nurse. When the tube was removed it was his job to apply pressure to the vein in order to staunch the bleeding. Bloody hell that hurt! Poor Tim, if that was really his job–doesn’t sound much fun doing that all day!

I then had to keep that leg as still as possible for six hours. Ick. I’m going to gloss over the next few hours but it involved cramps and bedpans. Meanwhile the staunched vein was bruising up nicely, and my throat felt like I’d swallowed the dead sea creature, and that it had been a rather scaly one at that. (Of course I’d really only swallowed the ultrasound probe.)

The interesting thing is that my heart didn’t hurt at all. I had thought I would be able to tell that there was now a foreign body sealing the flaw in the living tissue, but no.

They moved me to the ward and here I struck up an acquaintance with my roommate, C, who had also had a PFO closure on Thursday after a series of strokes and TIAs. C is 10 years older than I am and was not on the BCP at the time of her incidents, but in a way that was a good thing to know. Perhaps, if I hadn’t been taking the BCP I would have been her in 10 years time when an age-related clot made its first appearance. She had also suffered some minor but bothersome long term effects from her attacks. (Her PFO was 7mm to my 5.)

K disappeared and returned later with the kids. In his absence I was treated to a glorious ‘heart-healthy’ hospital dinner: roast beef and pearl onions in watery gravy with chipped potatoes and tinned carrots. I was starving though so I ate every mouthful. Fortunately K came back with chocolate.

Then I was left to a Law & Order fest on TNT. Oh it was a joy at around 9.30 pm to move my leg at last, even if it was only to shuffle to the bathroom with my drip!

I slept as well as you can in a hospital, with the nurses waking you every three hours to check your vital signs. When they did this the third time at 7 am, I gave up on sleep and read my book until it was time to go and have my chest x-rayed.

Everything checked out, so by lunchtime I was ready to leave, although I am not allowed to drive until Monday, lift anything more than 10lb until next Thursday, or take any exercise for 2 weeks. I’m still going to Liam’s memorial, though. I can walk okay for short periods and not fast, but I think I’m going to take the wheelchair to be safe.

So, thanks again to M for stepping in there, Twinings and the QNDs for the gift basket and flowers respectively, and to all my friends who have left me messages of support and encouragement. Hopefully this episode of House is now over. I’ll let you know when I’m done writing the book.


  1. Maryann Corbett

    Anna, I’ve just read this on Saturday afternoon. I’m chuckling over your description of the taste of dead sea creature, but I’m sure none of this was humorous at the time! I’m glad all seems to be well so far.

    If I’d read this first, I might have figured you have enough on your plate and not have sent a cheerful query about a possible essay for Barefoot Muse. So don’t hesitate to tell me if I should just chill out.

    Best wishes for good health,

  2. Bruce Niedt

    Glad to hear you’re making a speedy recovery, Anna. Maybe I’ll see you on the 5th? I liked your entry on Liam’s memorial, too.

  3. Heidi

    Hi Anna,
    I just found your site as I was searching through google with the terms “TIA”, “BCP” and “PFO closure.” I had the same experience as you after being on Yaz since August. I had been on other bcp’s for 15 years before I took a 4 year break. I’m considering the PFO closure, but all my docs don’t seem convinced that that’s any better than staying on just plain aspirin. My PFO is 2mm, so it’s a little smaller than yours, but still, I’m pretty much on my own with this decision. How are you doing now?

  4. Anna M Evans

    Hi Heidi,

    I am doing just fine now. I’m pretty much back to normal in every way. To get a complete picture, try reading all my blog entries labelled “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano.” It was a difficult decision to make, but I don’t regret it. As one gets older other risk factors that might cause blood to clot increase, but your body is best able to take an operation when you are young. Feel welcome to email me if you want to discuss further: evnsanna_at_comcast_dot_net.


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