Catheter report

Well, the catheter is done. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but the doctors got the information that they need, so that was good. I hope no-one minds me going into detail, but they put the catheter in through my neck and both legs, so I am currently feeling a bit sore! Apparently they couldn’t see the veins from below because of the weird way my heart is, so they had to go via the neck artery/vein as well. I currently look a bit like the victim of a vampire attack, although this is nothing compared to the enormous bruise on my leg!  

I’m afraid that I wasn’t a very good patient. My anxiety levels were rather high most of the time. Just being in the hospital was enough to set me off crying, once I was left on my own for a bit. However, things improved when some other women arrived to share my part of the ward. They were friendly and chatty and made the hospital stay a lot more bearable. I can’t fault the medical staff – they were great – and the ward was surprisingly quiet with a nice view of the London skyline from the window, so it definitely wasn’t all bad.

It is surprising to me, though, how quickly and easily being in hospital changes you from being a person who functions just about normally in society to a ‘Patient’, subject to the routines of hospital life, always waiting for a doctor or nurse’s next visit, or for the next instruction or procedure. The doctors and nurses were friendly and actually very good at answering questions, and, more importantly, letting me ask them in the first place, but there is still the feeling that the medical staff are superior beings and the patients are their subjects. I suppose this is the case, to a certain extent. The medical staff have the knowledge and skills that the patients don’t have, and we have to accept that. However,  I think it is important that patients feel, and are, able to have some degree of control over the way in which they are treated (medically and otherwise), otherwise they are in danger of becoming no more than medical subjects (in their own minds, if not in reality).

It was interesting to see the different reactions and behaviours of the various people on the ward. The ward I was on was especially for adults with congenital heart defects but there was also a lady on the ward who didn’t have a congenital heart defect and hadn’t had the experience of a childhood full of medical procedures. I found it interesting that she was a lot more laid back and positive about the whole experience of being in hospital than those of us who had had more experience as patients.

In a way it was reassuring to find that other people who have had similar experiences to me reacting in a similar way towards medical procedures (although I should point out that they were still a lot braver and more controlled than I am!). The medical staff also recognised that our childhood experiences are now affecting our reactions to, for example, coming into hospital, and I appreciated that they did so. While we were in the ward someone came around with a survey about how having a congenital heart defect affects people emotionally and psychologically, so it seems that this is an area that is being looked at by the medical profession, which I think can only be a good thing.

The next stage, as far as my heart and what’s to be done with it is concerned, is that I will be discussed in a big meeting (!)  to decide whether or not they can treat the obstruction(s) in my arteries with a stent. This is a small metal tube that’s put into the artery via the artery in the leg (similar to the catheter) to support the artery and keep it open.

The catheter showed that part of my heart has over-compensated for the damaged part that was repaired with the pig valve and has grown too much new tissue just above the repair (weird, I know). This is now causing the blood flow to be a bit restricted, which could explain my increased tiredness, etc. There are also some calcium deposits in the area around the repair to the hole in the heart which is causing some obstruction as well, but they didn’t seem to think that this needs treating at the moment. I’ve now seen the written catheter report and this mentions possibly replacing the valve, but nobody mentioned this to me when they spoke to me!

The doctor attempted to persuade me to have another MRI scan, but I am afraid I refused – I just can’t face that again. Fortunately, the staff were understanding and said that it wasn’t essential if I really couldn’t face it. I had an echocardiogram so hopefully that will also help them to make their decisions. I will just wait for the letter giving me an out-patients clinic appointment and hopefully dicuss things a bit more with the doctor then.  Overall, they seemed quite positive about everything, so that was good.

This experience has taught me, again, that I really need to do something about my anxiety levels, particularly in relation to medical procedures. Being anxious doesn’t help me or the people trying to treat me, but it’s something I don’t seem able to control. I’m just not sure what to do about it. If anyone has any (sensible) ideas, please let me know! Sorry this post turned out to be so long and possibly a bit dull!


Author: Lilian

Librarian who likes music, cataloguing, theology, gardening, crochet, ampersands, taking photos, baking & tea. Has CHD & pacemaker.

6 thoughts on “Catheter report”

  1. You’re so right about the being in hospital making you feel like a “patient”, not a functioning adult. Last time I was in they put the cannula in the back of my hand the night before the procedure and it’s really disabling: makes you feel so “patient-like” even when you’ve just walked in off the street. And then there’s the gowns… and the paper pants… yuk!

    And they seem to be making progress… though it’s a pain when it is so slow! hope the stent route is suitable: much less hassle than an operation!

    I am not sure what to suggest about anxiety levels; mine generally drop once I’m actually in the hospital. I think this is because something is (finally…) happening. You could try taking a radio in to keep you connected to the outside world. Or make sure you have company most of the time (though this can be annoying…). Or the old favourite of deep breathing exercises. How about asking the hospital; they must deal with anxious patients all day every day.

    Anyway, relax – it’s over for now!

  2. They did the cannula thing with me, too, and didn’t take it out until just before I went home, even though I didn’t need it any more. Still at least it saves having even more needles during procedures etc.

    I think I will ask the hospital/my GP or someone about trying to do something about the anxiety. Anyway, as you say, at least it’s all over for the moment.

  3. Oh those bloody (literally) cannulas — yes, it saves time and yet more bruises but so uncomfortable. It was interesting to note your thoughts about the different attitudes between those, like yourself, who have been through a lot of medical interventions and those, like me, who have come to this rather later in life. I wonder whether it is based on the earlier interventions or the age of the people involved. However, the important thing is that it’s over for now. You, and the medical people, know what is going wrong and the experts will be able to find a way to improve things.
    God bless

  4. I’m glad it’s all over and you’re safe at home.

    I don’t know what to say about the anxiety. You’ve had such a long and traumatic history with hospitals, I don’t know it’s possible or even fair to expect you to deal with it any other way than becoming anxious. Is it on your file, how anxious you get and with what excellent reason? I’m glad the staff were good, but it might help if they know in advance so that they can take the extra time you really need to make things go as smoothly as possible for you.

    I am very patient and brave in hospitals, but alas also completely stupid and amnesiac, and can never remember what I wanted to ask. So I write questions down. And now I can’t remember the answers. Pathetic. I think I got so praised for ‘being good’ when I was hospitalised as a child that I now feel incapable of being anything but ‘good’ – a good child, that is, not a good adult.

    I would suggest Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, if anything. A few sessions, to get to grips with the anxiety and find a mechanism for turning it down a few notches.

    Also, I still have a tender bump/cyst thing on the back of my wrist from the cannula back in July. Grr.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Reed. I think the anxiety about the MRI scan is on my record but not sure about anxiety in general! I suppose it would be useful if it was – at least people would be warned in advance!

    Writing questions down is a good idea. Maybe you should write the answers down as well. I’m the same – I can never quite remember what was said to me, so it’s useful when they give me a written report as well. Times have changed – patients never used to see these in the past, as far as I remember!

    At least you are patient and brave – I’m sure the medical staff appreciate it. I am a bad child and a bad adult!

    Hmm, CBT may well be the answer. I should probably investigate it.

    Sorry you still have your bump thing on your hand. Is it alright or do you need to see a doctor about it? (Sorry, I am probably worrying unduly!)

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