The short version is that I’ve had the ablation (see previous post) and the surgeon who did it says that he has a good feeling about it. It’s taken till now to write this because, unlike most people who have ablations, I felt terrible for two days after it — with a headache (normal) and a fever (less normal but not unheard of). The fever was not very high, but high enough to be unpleasant, and meant that the only thing I could bear to do was go to bed, except that on the second night after the operation I had to spend part of the night sitting up on a sofa because my chest hurt too much when I was horizontal. (That was normal, and nothing to worry about.) So today is the first day that I am well enough to do anything as strenuous as writing a blog post.
One of the first things I found out when I arrived at the hospital was that I was having the ablation done under a general anaesthetic. I was quite surprised by this but the surgeon came and explained that he was expecting it to take quite a long time, and that he thought he would be able to do a better job if I was under a general anaesthetic. Since that was my top priority, I was happy to agree, though a little disappointed that I wouldn’t have an interesting and unusual experience that I was expecting to have. (That reasoning was conditional on my needing to have the ablation in the first place — obviously it’s not the sort of experience I would seek out otherwise.)
So I spent the morning being prepared in various ways. I had sticky pads attached to me so that I could be monitored, I had a canula inserted into my left wrist, and I was required to put on hilariously unsexy garments — long white socks with a hole at the end for the toes to stick out (which squeeze the leg hard and reduce the chance of an embolism), “paper pants”, which after the operation were half cut off, and a hospital gown that opened at the back. Another thing I had to do was discuss the risks and sign a consent form. The risks sounded worse than I thought — quite a long list, and quite a number of items being given as 1 to 2 percent. The most worrying was permanent damage to the phrenic nerve, a nerve that takes signals from the brain to the diaphragm. The registrar I spoke to wasn’t very specific, but I think that would have left me short of breath for the rest of my life. That was one of the 1 to 2 percent risks. I’ve just found a paper on the web that says that the risk is between 0.11% and 0.48% (whatever that means). Anyhow, I signed the form. I was later asked twice to confirm that it was my signature.
Eventually the time came and I was wheeled to the operating theatre. I was given a drug that made me feel pleasantly woozy, and after a couple of minutes of that I was out.
Next thing I knew, I was back in my room. My wife was there, and I thought to myself, “Great — survived that.” I can’t remember whether my surgeon was there too or whether he arrived soon afterwards. Anyhow, he told me it had gone well.
The next night was fairly awful, because they were worried that my blood pressure was low, so they came to measure it once an hour. I was fairly uncomfortable, so I had a succession of hours where I would be woken up, would get to sleep with some difficulty, and would be woken up again. So the next day I felt pretty awful, but assumed it was probably the night I’d had. The best part of the night was watching the moment the US election was called for Barack Obama — I was awake, and someone else was listening to it so loudly that I could hear what was going on, so there wasn’t much to lose by watching it myself.
The low point of the whole experience was when the registrar who had explained to me the risks (and also put in a canula with very shaky hands) said to me a rather matter-of-fact way that they had put a stent in one of my arteries. He explained to me that this meant I would be on a certain drug for the next year. I was quite surprised, to say the least. I asked why, and he explained that the artery in question was quite narrow. I said something like, “You mean it was dangerously narrow and they had to do it as an emergency procedure?” and he suddenly said, “Oh wait, hang on, I’ve got the wrong notes.” He came back with the right notes and helpfully explained to me that I had had an ablation. But for a couple of minutes I genuinely believed that I had had a stent fitted.
I was discharged in the early evening the next day, but then had another difficult night (mentioned above), a day in bed doing nothing, a better night, and now part of a morning sitting writing this. But I’m beginning to feel like going back to bed for a while.