Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mom's OK

The phone call I received from my mother Wednesday afternoon was not a message of good news.  After two days of routine blood pressure self checks which were showing a very elevated heart rate (beating erratically anywhere up to 160 beats per minute), my father convinced my mother that it was time to get her to a doctor.

Of course, in the way things often go, her doctor didn't have any openings and advised her to go to her nearest Urgent Care facility, based on the phone description of her heart symptoms.  Mom drove herself to the center, was seen and sent immediately by ambulance to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

A barrage of tests and blood work commenced, and the decision was made to admit Mom into the Cardiac Unit to see about fixing her heart.

The results of all the tests indicated a diagnosis of  Atrial Fibrillation - a condition in which the electrical signals that cause the heart to beat in a regular rate and rhythm don't travel through the upper chambers of the heart properly.  Her heart rate was way too high, and the rhythm was totally irregular.

Above you see the irregular graph of a patient having 150 irregular beats per minute, similar to Mom's.

The plan of treatment was to do a cardioversion.  One method of doing this involves intravenous drug therapy, which was attempted for the first 36 or so hours that she was there.

Unfortunately, this attempt was unsuccessful at regulating her heart, and the decision was made to do another form of cardioversion - a procedure that sends electric shocks to the heart through electrodes placed on the patient's chest.

Prior to the cardioversion, a precautionary test  was done to check for blood clots behind the heart - a TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram.)  A flexible tube with a viewing scope is inserted down the esophagus to provide a clear image of the heart, particularly the back structures such as the left atrium.  Once the TEE showed that there were no blood clots behind the heart, the cardioversion was able to be performed.

The nurse had told my father and I that Mom would be gone perhaps a total of 1 to 1 1/2 hours, not that the procedure takes that long.  However,  including transport time back and forth, set up and anesthesia, and then the TEE and cardioversion itself, we were told to expect her back into her room in 1 1/2 hours or less.

Let me insert here a few personal observations.  My parents have been married since 1955.  That's 57 years together, and they are truly an amazing love story.  They are each other's best friends, and their deep love and care for each other is a lovely inspiration to the entire family.  They both are greatly loved by all of us.

Although we had been told by the doctors that the risk factor of a cardioversion is "only" one  death out of a thousand, it is hard to completely ignore that slight possibility.  Going one step further, it's impossible to imagine one of them without the other.  These kinds of procedures, even as "routine" and successful as we were assured them to be, cause you to step back and think of the "what ifs."  You cannot help but wonder if these could be the last moments you are spending with your loved one.

During the 2 3/4 hours my father and I were waiting for her (yes it was a nerve-wracking longer-than- expected wait, due to some unforeseen delays in starting), there was a text message or phone call coming into my phone every 5 minutes or less, with family members inquiring as to her status.

Finally we were reunited with Mom, and we learned that all had gone well.  No blood clots, and the procedure went off smoothly and successfully.  We were able to take Mom home several hours later, along with several new prescriptions to aid in keeping her heart beating the way it should.

I just need to close here by saying I love love love my mom, and I'm so glad all went well for her.

We can never really know how many days we are allotted here on earth, and once again, I have been reminded that the most important things in life are Faith and Family, in that order.


  1. So glad to hear your mom is ok. I love hearing about long marriages.Sounds like you have a wonderful family
    ~Betty from Milwaukie, Oregon

  2. Take good care of her. I lost my Mom at 93 years old. The doctors told her she wouldn't make t to 30!! She sure fooled them and I am sure your Mom will too.

  3. awww what good news...so glad she is ok....

  4. Moma are sooo important. A-fib, once controlled is easy to keep that way! So glad everything worked out.