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Life Experience

My  unexpected  experience as a heart patient  –  Part Two, the Angiogram

What it’s like having an angiogram   –  actually a very interesting experience

I was moved into a cardiac ward and put onto a bed. I had hardly got onto the bed and looked around me when a message came that I could have an angiogram immediately.

Hospital porters pushed my bed into a small room. A doctor explained the procedure and the risks including a small risk of dying. “But don’t worry about that. You’re not going to die.” So I signed. I was about to see amazing technology and medical wizards at work. It was like being a privileged witness. 

I was wheeled  into a large and quite gloomy room with massive pieces of equipment  looking a bit like grey metallic elephants, plus a number of screens.  Along one side behind some windows was something which seemed to serve as an office and control room. There were a few people there. 

The angiogram process was to view my heart in action by injecting a dye into it so that the action could be observed on a large screen.The elephant like machine had a large box at the end of its jointed  “trunk” about the size of a cabin-baggage suitcase. This was the x-ray camera which was placed very close to my chest and for most of the time obscured my view of the screen. The doctor standing by my bed issued instructions to an unseen operator. It was moved into various positions alongside my chest, down a bit,  across, along the other side, etc.

 A little local anaesthetic was injected into my right wrist and then a very thin tube was inserted into  an artery and was pushed up my arm and into my heart. The only sensation at this stage was a slight tickle in my wrist when the tube was first inserted. The tube carried some dye which enabled the condition of my arteries to be clearly seen on the screen. When I was able to glimpse the screen I could see a very large heart and  what looked like the branching of some very fine  black twigs. There also appeared to be some substantial squirting of fluid into one of the chambers which I took to be blood being pumped.

Seen on an angiogram screen  – arteries made visible with dye

A moment’s panic

Whilst the procedure was progressing I suddenly felt palpitations in my chest. Several; people were standing around the operating table and there was a spontaneous “Whoa!” from them. The surgeon in charge immediately started to call for chemicals to be injected. As I remember it (and I could be wrong, of course) there were calls for so many milligrams of calcium, magnesium and potassium. My heart rhythm quickly returned to normal.

Later, when I was in the cardiac ward one of the nurses told me that my heart rate at this time had gone up to over 200 beats per minute.

As soon as the process  of examination was complete the cardiac surgeon came to put me in the picture. He said that I had very clear arteries, free from cholesterol and the heart was basically in a healthy condition,  but there was a potentially fatal electrical fault in it which would need  further investigation and fixing.

No time for embarrassment

This was all happening about 5 to 5:30 p.m. and no doubt the nurses and technicians and cardiac specialist were all wanting to get home. 

I was moved off the operating table by several nurses. I had to roll to my right side. A board was pushed in as far as it would go. I rolled back onto it then they slid the board across onto my bed/trolley. 

I had a strong cramp like feeling in my stomach. I felt I desperately needed to do a poo. Nurses brought me a bedpan. I’ve never seen one before. It seemed unduly small and shallow. A bit like a dustpan that goes with a brush but the outer wall all round it was about 2 inches high. Inside it had been placed a papier mache dish which fitted the  more or less triangular shape. I didn’t feel very secure on it on the wobbly mattress.

It turned out that I had a lot of wind and needed a pee, but that was all. My bum had got wet and I was handed a bundle of heavy-duty tissues to wipe myself. The bedpan made for a really unpleasant experience. A nurse suggested that the dye that they used sometimes caused stomach ache. 

This is as I remember the experiences prompted by the hospital diary that I kept.

Next time  –  Part Three  –  life in the cardiac ward.

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David Roberts

Writer, publisher, music promoter

Born in 1942, I now have time to enjoy life more widely and reflect on my experience, interests, and contemporary events.

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