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Your Health (Part 3 of 4)

When I left you last week I was lying in the operating room of a famous hospital enjoying the effects of two happy shots, watching a group of masked doctors march in to work on my heart, not directly, but indirectly, starting at the groin.

Now the real show begins. In goes the garden hose. Out squirts the dye. I'm watching the whole thing on T.V. One doctor says, "Whoa, look at that!" Not a comforting concept even with a double happy shot. Another doctor (actually it could have been the same one--all masked men look alike) says, "Wow! That looks like a tough one." Then the doctors confer. They talk in low tones and occasionally look at me over the tops of their masks. They're in a small circle like a football huddle. I think that any minute they'll slap each other's butts, say LETS GO and rush back to the job at hand. They don't do any of those things. They just turn around and run a little Roto Rooter thingy up the garden hose and clear out the left anterior descending artery, which is 95%, blocked with ham fat and ice cream. Therein is the related story mentioned in an earlier column.

After the roto rooter deal, which is really called angioplasty, they get out a little hand calculator and begin plugging in numbers. They discover that so far my total bill is still less than the national debt so more must be done. "A stent, a stent!" one shouts. "Yes," the others agree. So a stent it is. Back to the garden hose we go. A stent is a little metal dealy that is inserted into the artery and opened up like an umbrella to hold the artery open. That done, everybody but April and her mom disappear. They unhook the electrode cables from the big computerized polygraph and attach then to a little portable computerized polygraph. Then they wheel me back to my room. During the long ride I try to put a move on April, who is gorgeous, and who is also the same age as my eldest granddaughter. Remember, I'm under the influence of a double happy shot. Common sense and April's mom prevail and the trip to my room is without further incident.

My loving and devoted sister is waiting in my room. Did I tell you that my sister is a nurse? She is, and a really good one at that. She was very helpful making sure that the doctor's and other nurses' instructions were carried out. One instruction was to drink approximately 17 gallons of water an hour in order to cleanse the body of all that expensive dye that the doctors pumped in a few minutes before. The goal is to cause you pee at least 500 milliliters every 38 seconds. It worked. Let me digress a moment. A kindly but condescending nurse will ask you, "Can you pee-pee by yourself?" The answer to this question should always be yes. Otherwise a different garden hose is produced and shoved up your . . . well, the procedure is called catheterization, just like the one they do to your heart.

Another instruction: lie on your back for 15 consecutive hours and don't move. That was the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure.

You remember the hose running from the groin to the heart? It's still there. Some time late in the afternoon, after I had been lying on my back about 11 hours, someone decided to take it out. This involved a team of four nurses, two of whom were male. I bring up the gender issue only because of the 13 nurses who have attended me so far, only two are male. This proportion is not consistent with proportion of males in the general population of Texas. Back to the hose. It's time to take it out. A fairly simple procedure, I assumed. Probably is, usually. However, in this case my heart rate, which usually is around 60 to 65 beats per minute, started dropping pretty fast. It got down to about 40 beats a minute and someone said, "We're losing him!" I was surprisingly unconcerned about this. "Atropine!" somebody shouted. "Don't let him go to sleep," someone else said, “ Talk to him. Keep him awake." In an effort to do as instructed, one of the male nurses said (I'm not making this up) "What about them Houston Astros?" I promptly went to sleep.

Not much else happened. I lay on my back without moving until 10:30 that night. I was really grouchy. My sister told me. The next day I went home with instructions not to lift anything over 5 pounds (the approximate weight of a gallon of Blue Bell), don't drive a car, and don't have sex for at least 3 more days. As I said, the whole thing was a piece of cake.