Wednesday, August 8, 2012


                Fast forward to April 2012.  Almost a year to the day of my first diagnosis, a routine follow-up visit to my doctor proves to be not so routine. A bad news gut feeling fills my being when the sonar technician stops chewing his gum and signals my surgeon to look at the screen. Dr. Richard Matano has my upmost confidence as a celebrity of vascular surgery and head of that department in one of the nation’s most renowned hospitals, St. Francis in Roslyn, N.Y.  That said, I would never play poker with the man. He has remarkable body control when delivering sensitive news. He instructs me to get a blood test and CT Scan ASAP, inquires about my kidneys, and sends me home with don’t worry, I’ll call you after I get the results.
            Not so fast. Test and Scan are complete before a week goes by – no call. At this point, I’m operating on the optimistic theory: No news is good news. I find it difficult to accept the fact; I’m not his only patient. Finally, the long awaited call:

“I reviewed your test and I’d like to do another angioplasty. Similar to the last one, it should be no more than a two day hospital stay. Call Susan (his secretary) and have      her schedule the procedure. Take care and enjoy your day.”

            Is it me or what? Has anyone noticed the new substitution of “procedure” for “surgery”? Has anyone noticed “pre-owned” for “used”? Not to be confused with the analogy, sometimes I feel used for a procedure that my HMO will consider a surgery on a pre-owned condition. As anyone who’s been there will attest, non-emergency “procedures” require pre-surgical exams. Mine raises a new “red flag”. My heart rate is low and surgery may have to be postponed until corrected. The decision rest with my surgeon who instructs everything remain on schedule, everything that is, until Friday, May 25th, the day of my scheduled surgery and the eve of Memorial Day weekend. Again, the “red flag” appears from the anesthesiologist who summons a procession of doctors, including my surgeon, to discuss the risk of going forward. I, being the object of this conference, am beginning to see the risk of a planned bar-be-que.

            Thanks to the head of cardiology who happens to be another celebrity of medicine, my surgery/procedure is now postponed to Sunday. Of course that decision is based on caution, which is the only comfort I’m afforded as my planned two day episode fades in the dust. My sense of smell still intact, I do not fail to detect the aromas of the grill on various staff as they monitor the intravenous connection to my arm. No hard feelings; they are scheduled for their shifts regardless of the presence of Ron Scott. The OR (Operating Room) is a different story.

            The head of a medical department has authority, power and clout. To be a member of a team of authority, power and clout entails sacrifice on many occasions. Sunday, May 27th was such an occasion. During my final prep for surgery, I noticed no other patients in the usual assembly line. I also noticed familiar faces from the first attempt to send me on my way, including my anesthesiologist. What was unmistakable was the lack of smiling faces. Mine was not the only bar-be-que in jeopardy! I prayed they wouldn’t take it out on me.
If you are reading this, you know the procedure/surgery was a success.  I’m in recovery when I receive information clarifying the reason for the original delay – over-medication from a drug I’ve been taking for years (Toprol XL). Now the irony begins. Before I can be released from the hospital, a completely unrelated medication, Coumadin must be given time to restore my blood level to its desired level. For the uniformed, this medication is a controversial blood thinner used to prevent blood clouts. Serving its purpose, it requires regular monitoring which disturbs many doctors and patients. Privately, I’ve heard it referred to as rat poison by an unnamed physician. After eight extended days and innumerable blood samples, I am granted my release. Okay, so maybe it is rat poison, but it prevented me from becoming one of those statistics: The operation was a success, but the patient died.