I had the misfortune of needing to have a stent placement just less than 3 weeks ago. About 7 to 8 weeks prior I developed chest pains, very mild at first, and had a bout of bronchitis at the same time. When chest pains increased with exertion, I went in to my doc who sent me right away to the ER when ECG revealed some problems.
Repeat serial EKGs were normal, so were multiple cardiac enzymes, so I was kept in the ER overnight and taken to the stress test area early the next morning. I was told that I passed it, but needed follow-up with the cardiologist.
I called immediately– I was still on hospital grounds when I scheduled to be seen and was given an appt in two weeks. I returned to the ER for worsening chest pains and was sent home because ECG was normal. Never had crushing pain, but did have increased fatigue and couldn’t manage to walk more than 100 feet without at least some discomfort.
So the day of the appointment, I arrived set to convince the doc that I needed the angiogram ASAP. He finally concurred that I needed it, but that an angiogram was not going to happen that day and recommended that it be scheduled which put me off another 6 days. so, I became anxious about “making it” 150 hours until the test.
I did as little as possible, and awakened the day of very anxious to get this event over with. I have a family member (related by marriage, not by blood) who needed an angiogram and also had a stent placed in the process and it was the proverbial piece-of-cake for him.
The medication “knocked him out”– he awoke in recovery and was told then that he was the owner of a stent. What I experienced was considerably different. The negatives started in the prep area– took three tries with two nurses to get in an IV.
Never had a problem with either blood draws or IV lines before. The nurse assigned to me was wearing a white uniform with her name embroidered on it, comma RN comma PhD. Initially thought I was getting a real crack critical care nurse– no such luck! They gave me the usual 5 mg Valium and a Benadryl capsule.
Said nurse couldn’t open the blister pack that contained the unit dose of Valium, and managed to break the table and even pulverize part of it. I had been scheduled to be the 2 p.m. case. Another patient had some difficulties and they were very delayed in getting started with me, and so those medications were not affecting me one blessed bit by the time it was my turn. The doc came in and again reminded me of all the risks.
He even acted as if I had bullied him into doing the angiogram, citing that “just because I was getting an angiogram didn’t mean that I was also getting a stent (as if I would be mentioning a stent just for the fun of describing my dilemma to others at parties! Hey, I know my own body– I’m not obese, I’m not a diabetic, avoid junk foods/soda pop, etc, and do daily walks even in the rain in addition to going out with a hiking group that organizes 12-mile hikes every now and again.
So they wheel me in. I asked for a towel over my eyes because I have sensitivity to bright lights, and thought that darkening the environment would help me drift off to sleep, or so I thought! They had used EMLA cream over my wrist. I felt the pressure of being fussed with, and a very slight sting of lidocaine being injected, but no real pain. I knew that the doc was making the incision but felt nothing. thought in a few seconds I would be “out” but that NEVER happened. I had warned them that Versed had not worked with my first colonoscopy, and since then, propofol was used with good results. So I felt the coolness enter my blood vessels when the contrast material was injected.
And then the excruciating pain when the catheter was threaded to the heart area, then the balloon inflation and then stent and stent inflation. I did not want to interrupt the doc’s work, but I thought something was very radically wrong. I voiced that I was in terrible pain twice. He ordered nitro then another dose of Fentanyl.
Nothing phased me. The last time that the pain receded– it had not even fully receded– they then asked me to scoot of the table onto the gurney. They assisted me in sitting up a bit to give me the loading dose of Plavix, and then he announced that I was 99% occluded on the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) and that I did indeed need the stent.
“Yeah, doc”– was I supposed to cheer after I my complaints were ignored, was treated as if I were a complete idiot, and came close to death in the process? Yeah, and how about the sheer torture of the anxiety he put me though, to say nothing of the horrible pain of the procedure itself???
Oh, and the ECG that was done during the stress test THREE FULL WEEKS PRIOR– indicated that I was having prolonged QT complexes, and other changes consistent with left ventricular hypertrophy and ischemia in the LAD area. And that wasn’t enough to warrant sending someone down for an angiogram any sooner???
I say I was kept anxious and in the dark, and deliberately tortured. When I mentioned that I felt everything when I was seen two weeks post procedure, he had the nerve to chuckle about it! (I also mentioned this to him when I got back to recovery, and I have witnesses to the fact). It doesn’t end there! I was in recovery for about 10 minutes when my right arm started to swell and become black and blue (I had right radial artery access for the procedure). The doc had to loosen the clamp and reapply it, so my whole forearm turned black and blue and was very tender. It is resolving very slowly.
I am 18 days post procedure tonight and the whole forearm is still tender and downright painful to even drag my arm across the sheets (yeah, still not sleeping well after the physical and psychological trauma of this thing!).
Look, for most of those needing this procedure, things are going to work out just fine– I realize that! I’m the aberration. Just make sure that your interventional cardiologist is compassionate and mature, in addition to knowing his stuff. Discuss what could go wrong and what he/she plans to do in case it does.
For me, this was the worst experience of my life, and I’ve already lined up another group of medical care providers. I no longer want to look at any of the providers I’ve had, in some cases for many years. Very bad taste in my mouth for the whole environment where they practice. Thank you for listening. I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone except possibly for medical care personnel who give their patients little respect or compassion.