The Day Prior to Major Surgery- on Today’s Agenda: Catheter Embolization and Balloon Occlusion Test

May 13th, 2014

I went into MUSC at 6am with my mom and JJ; my first procedure was scheduled for 730am. I was told not to take any medications, so I went in with anxiety rolling high. I checked in and paid the minimum ($300.00) for what I would owe ($8,000) after just the two procedures I was undergoing that day (sadly, this was with insurance). After checking in, I was escorted into another area where I was given a gown and socks and told to urinate in a cup to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. They, unfortunately, would not allow my mom or JJ to leave the waiting area to come to where I was until right before I was wheeled off. As I lied on the gurney, one lady was attempting to insert a catheter in my arm (she failed miserably) while another woman was putting electrodes on my head/scalp and then wrapping my head up like a mummy. As all of this was occurring, I met the anesthesiologist that would be putting me under during the balloon occlusion test, as well as several other doctors. It was a whirlwind of activity and my heart was beating just as rapidly. Finally, my mom and JJ were allowed back and then it was time to say our goodbyes and good lucks.

As I was wheeled into the room where they would be doing the procedures, I remember staring at the bright light on the ceiling while a calmness come over me and I thought, “well, here we go.” There were about 15 people in the room or thereabouts I really didn’t count. I was focused on my breathing and trying to listen mindfully to the music playing. Sam Smith came on, who is currently one of my favorite artists, and I remember thinking, “Thank you God for giving me this song at this moment.” The nurse then began prepping me, and I remember saying, “This is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy,” to which she laughed and said “Yeah, that’s why I can’t watch it.”

The embolization was first. They gave me some drug that relaxed me, but I maintained awareness as the doctors needed to ask me the same questions repeatedly during the process, such as “what’s your name, where are you, when is your birthday.” To my understanding, this was done so that they could determine whether I remained stable during the procedure. First, one doctor came up to me and informed me that he would be inserting a catheter into my right femoral artery and noted that I wouldn’t feel a thing (which I didn’t, thank God). Then they advanced the catheter up to my right carotid artery. To my understanding, during the embolization, they cut off blood supply to my right carotid artery to make certain that I do not react poorly (i.e. have a stroke) if my left carotid artery is solely responsible for blood flow during the actual surgery the following day. I felt warm sensations in different parts of my upper body while they took pictures with a large device that rotated around my head and upper torso. It was intimidating, but I did feel overall pretty calm all things considered. The most important thing was remembering to stay completely still when ordered, as that’s when the pictures were being taken, at least that’s what I assumed. Then the doctors told me “Great job” and a mask was placed over my face and I was told to breathe in deeply. That’s the last thing I remember prior to coming to in the same room where I had started prepping much earlier that day, but to my dismay my mom and JJ weren’t present.

I was wheeled to the 4th floor and I was in/out of sleep for several hours. Finally, at 4pm (I came up to the room around 1230pm) my mom and JJ arrived and I asked where they had gone, assuming they’d left the hospital to get my mom a french press (I’ll go into that story in more detail in a later post- it’s a dousy). But, unfortunately there had been a miscommunication and they had waited nearly 4 hours after which I had been settled in my room, worrying about why they hadn’t heard anything. That was luckily the worst thing that happened that day.

My surgeon, Dr. G, visited me in my room prior to me falling asleep and said (with a smile) that by that time tomorrow I would be without my right carotid body tumor. I should have been excited, but all I remember thinking was, “There still will be another tumor though that will continue to invade my body- what about that one?!?!”

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