The clinic told us we should expect to spend most of the day there, and they were right. Most of the tests were not as invasive as some of the ones described earlier in this blog, but you really get down to the gravity of this whole thing when you hear from the anesthesiologist and actually see copies of living wills, powers of attorney, and other such documents waiting to be filled out by you. (I am tempted to just tattoo the letters DNR on my breastbone, so there’s no misunderstanding should the need arise.)
The surgery will be going forward on Friday morning. We are supposed to be at admissions check-in at 5 a.m., so my guess is that the procedure itself will be underway by 7. Our last appointment today was with the surgeon himself, Bruce Lytle, M.D. He chairs the Cardiology Department at the Cleveland Clinic, and he went to Stanford and Harvard Medical School. He’s at least 60, and he resembles a cross between Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, with a little bit of Hal Linden during his Barney Miller days thrown in for fun. I liked him right away. He wore an O.R. mask around his neck like a sash, a Band-Aid was stuck to the pocket of his lab coat, he wore no tie, and his white shirt and coat were a little off-white from so-so laundering. His office has models of Harley-Davidsons and a cowboy hit sitting in the window sill.
But he was all business. He showed us just what is going to happen–it is almost sure that he will install a mechanical valve, mainly because a human one won’t last as long and will mean another operation in 10-15 years. His biggest concern is Steph’s size, and he says that bariatric surgery further down the road will ease the valve’s and the heart’s burden considerably. The space for the valve will be small, and Dr. Lytle wants to install the biggest valve to allow maximal blood flow. (He showed us where everything will happen, alternating between an anatomical model marked by section, and some colored plates in an erudite medical journal he had on his desk.)
Steph is not the first patient he has had with this set of circumstances. As Bob Seger said, “It happens out in Vegas, happens in Moline, on the blueblood streets of Boston, up in Berkeley and out in Queens.”
So, we are supposed to check in Friday at 5 a.m., and a conservative estimate is that the surgery will take about eight hours. Pat is going to try his damndest to be up here to help me wait without going nuts. (During Steph’s ’99 surgery, I was in the Riverside waiting room with Steph’s dad and her friend Anne. It was also at the crack of dawn, and they had barely wheeled her into surgery, and the doors to the O.R. suite were still swinging, when I turned to them and said, “Let’s get some breakfast.” Steph said I did the right thing.)
This is a low-key anniversary. So far, all I have done is buy Steph a giant Hershey bar from the Rite-Aid on Chester Ave. I don’t even know what the traditional gift is for the 12th wedding anniversary. (I used to have an appointment diary which had a list of all those gifts printed in the front, but it’s buried in the big box of notebooks in my study.)
The best thing about Dr. Lytle is that he has done his homework re Steph’s case. There was a very thick file, and a stack of CD-ROMs on his table labelled with Steph’s name (E-mail before mignight tonight for a boxed set, cats and kittens!)
Susie’s play debuted this afternoon, and as of now (7:10 p.m. EDST, per my Coleman digital watch), we haven’t heard how the performance went down. Pat had Twitter’d earlier this afternoon that he was at Davis to see the play.