There’s a Hole in My……Heart?

As medical procedures go, my Trans Esophageal Echo wasn’t actually that bad. The whole thing took only around two and half hours (including a good twenty minutes trying to fix an IV in my terribly aristocratic veins) and I had the undivided attention of a very cute young doctor and a male nurse. Of course, I did have to suck on a sponge ‘lollipop’ slathered in a numbing goo, which tasted of long dead sea creatures, and then swallow a sensor-tipped tube, but hey, I was away with the fairies by that point.

Here’s the thing though: this test was positive. Apparently I have a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), which is the technical term for a particular kind of hole in the heart. PFOs are amazingly common–one in four adults has one, apparently–and in most people they cause no problems. However, about 50% of cases of TIA in ‘young’ people can be linked to the presence of a PFO. Are you following me so far?

The theory is, (Skip this if your eyes are beginning to glaze over,) that tiny clots naturally form in the side of the heart that pumps blood to the lungs, and this is not usually dangerous because they disperse at the lungs. A PFO is a hole between the left and right sides of the heart, which allows such a clot to pass into the side of the heart that pumps blood to the brain. Clot reaches brain; tea mug hits floor; Anna speaks gibberish for ten minutes.

So the good news is that the aspirin I have been taking daily since my TIA should have already noticeably reduced the risk of this happening again. I also have the option of undergoing a fairly new procedure to close the hole without open heart surgery. The technique involves inserting a tiny–hmm, I don’t know the technical term; I’ll call it a ‘thingie’–into an artery at the groin and guiding it into the heart by X-ray whereby it seals the hole.

Decisions, decisions.

In other news, Mezzo Cammin have now chosen two more of my poems to add to the two they had already picked for their December issue. The additional poems will be “Dreaming of Robert Lowell” and “Three for Hope.” Literary Mama have also taken “she would rather change her bones” (a personal favorite of mine) for their December issue.

I’ve nearly finished my October packet and I feel…

Well, let’s just say I feel.


  1. […] Let us consider then, the strange case of Patient A, a 38 year old woman in apparently good health with no obvious risk factors. In January of 2006, Patient A is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is treated with levothyroxine in standard dosage. All seems well until September 2006 when Patient A suffers a Transient Ischemic Attack and is hospitalized. After undergoing countless tests which all prove normal Patient A is released, but in follow up testing a Trans Esophagal Echo determines the presence of a 5 mm Patent Foramen Ovale (Hole in the Heart). Further testing demonstrates that this PFO is Grade IV and Patient A is told she will probably need to have it closed. Meanwhile Patient A has stopped taking the Birth Control Pill Yasmin and is suffering horrible symptoms from hormonal fluctuations including dizziness, palpitations, restless leg syndrome, insomnia etc. The abrupt cessation of hormones has also led to Patient A experiencing acute abdominal pains during her menstrual cycle. She reports these to her doctor, concerned that the pains might be indicative of endometriosis, the presence of which has been masked by the pill. An ultrasound followed by an MRI in early 2007 determine that Patient A’s left ovary has in fact been entirely taken over by a Dermoid Cyst, which will need to be removed. Surgery is tentatively scheduled for late February. […]

  2. […] 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!) […]

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