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Darrin Nelson of Rochester, NY, wrote this blog entry on Sept. 1, 2009, the day after he was released from Mayo Clinic – St. Marys Hospital following minimally invasive heart surgery to repair his mitral valve. This is the final post in a series of four.
My wife and I flew in on Aug. 26, 2009, for my pre-op tests on Thursday, Aug. 27, and meeting with Dr. Suri. My pre-op was simple. A quick chest Xray and an electrocardiogram...boom...we were done by 10 a.m. We met with Dr. Suri and Nurse Practioner Erika Halverson at 1 p.m. The meeting was a brief 10 minutes, mostly for my wife to ask questions, because I was already past my questions. Dr. Suri left while my wife and I spoke with Erika. He knocked about five minutes later and asked if I wanted to meet someone who had the procedure done a year prior....of course I would...so he introduced me to a gentleman and his wife who appeared to be in their mid to late forties. I basically asked him the same questions I asked the other robotic patients I had spoken to, and got all the answers I expected.
My mother arrived that evening. She insisted on being there during the surgery, which I was fine with, until I saw her for the first time Thursday evening. She walked into my hotel room and immediately started sobbing. My wife nor I couldn't understand a word she was saying, but as parents we understood what she was going through. I started crying, too. Even as a grown man, I can't stand to see my mother cry. My mother and I hugged for several minutes, she got a hold of herself, and the three of us went out for a nice dinner downtown. I didn't talk much. I let the two of them carry the conversation. I was obviously preoccupied.
We were at Mayo Clinic – St Marys Hospital by 9:30 a.m. By noon, I was taken away on a hospital bed by a young gentleman, who was pleasant and made small talk as he prepped me for surgery. On the way out I said goodbye to my wife and mother. There was no profound exchange of verse or poetry, just simple see-ya-laters...but my mother started crying again and that jerked some tears out of me.
Within about 10 minutes of being shaved and prepped for surgery, I was taken into a room where the anesthesiologist introduced himself to me, exchanged pleasantries, and asked me if I was ready. I actually said, "Let's get this party started!" He put a mask over my nose, I noticed a few seconds of funny taste in my mouth, and that's the last thing I remember until waking up in the ICU.
Several people were around me when I woke up in the ICU, but I only recognized my wife. The breathing tube was out of my mouth, but my chest felt heavy and I noticed that I had the aura that usually precedes my semi-annual bout with a debilitating migraine headache. I told my wife of my heavy chest and migraine and heard her say it is common for your chest to feel heavy. Then I was back out again, I guess, because I don't remember seeing them again until later the following day.
I woke up some time later a bit nauseous, not really noticing pain other than my headache. The nurses were unbelievable. So caring and attentive. They would give me ice chips whenever I asked. The ice tasted so good, better than any gourmet meal I had ever eaten.
The funny thing was that I found myself testing my memory and concentration to ensure I hadn't suffered any of those side effects. I was testing myself on friends and family names, childhood memories, even the conversations I was having with my wife and mother as I was being admitted. I noticed no memory loss and could concentrate fine.
I spent Saturday and Sunday in my private room, being cared for and getting tests done. Whenever I had time to watch TV, I tested myself on movie and actor names to see if I noticed any memory loss - still 100%. Dr. Suri stopped in twice on Saturday, and three times on Monday. On Saturday, he explained that the operation was a success and he was very pleased with the repair. This made me feel so good. I was up and walking around on Saturday and Sunday. When Dr. Suri visited me Monday morning, he asked for my chest tubes to be removed, my chest to be x-rayed, and my echocardiogram to be taken. He had explained that everything was progressing nicely and that if these tests come back favorably I would have the option to leave the hospital that evening. Erika, the nurse practitioner, was with him during each of his visits on Monday.
Monday was a whirlwind. My mother left in the morning. I felt better by the hour, and was pushed out the door in a wheel chair by my wife at 7 p.m....absolutely amazing. The tests all showed that my mitral valve is now outstanding. I walked outside over to this park with my wife and my laptop to sit in the sun and jot down my experience. The only pain medication I am taking is the same medication people take for headaches, extra strength Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
Why did I take the time to write all of this? Simple!
1. While I didn't get a chance to interact with all 38,000 Mayo Clinic employees in Rochester, every single one I met with showed compassion and general care for my well being, as well as a confidence and optimism for my outcome.
2. I have not been a religious individual. I am an engineer who operates on facts, although recent events have certainly made it hard to for me to deny some divine intervention - not going to get into that here, that is even a lengthier discussion. However, I do believe in a kind of Karma - for a quick lesson on that, rent the movie "Pay It Forward." If my story helps one other person take advantage of these amazing people exercising these amazing techniques, then it has served my purpose.
3. Finally, I am not 100%. I am still recovering, but I am on my road to recovery. If you were a 44 year old male that was able to leave the hospital three days after your surgery, wouldn’t you think it was a story worth telling?
I want to thank my friends and family for all of their support through this process, especially my brother and sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law for watching my kids while we were away.
The support my wife and mother showed during these past few days has been immeasurable and only reaffirms how lucky I really am.
Dr. Suri, Erika, and the rest of the Mayo team that fixed me, I offer a public "Thank You," and the willingness to help you, your team and your patients in any way I can.
God bless, and Carpe' Diem,
Darrin D. Nelson