Aftercath

I thought I should write a brief post about the days immediately after my catheterization. The temptation to make the title a pun was too much for me to resist, I’m afraid. (It’s a play on “aftermath,” you see. Sorry.)

In my previous post, I mentioned that my post-procedure instructions included some restrictions, like not driving, avoiding stairs, and not lifting more than five pounds. The ban on driving was in case I was still impaired by the anaesthesia (I wasn’t, as far as I could tell), but all the other restrictions were intended to prevent me from causing the spot where they inserted the catheter (referred to with the charming term “puncture site”) to bleed. The instructions also included warnings not to strain during bowel movements or engage in sexual activity. (That last one wasn’t really a problem for a divorced man who isn’t in a relationship and is not looking for one.)

In addition, I was told that the morning after the procedure, I was to remove the dressing from the puncture site and then shower, gently washing the site with soap and water. I didn’t exactly obey that instruction. I did not have to go anywhere or see anyone on Tuesday (the day after the procedure), and I was doing my best to take it as easy. So I chose to leave the site alone. I left the dressing on, and I didn’t shower.

But I had a dental appointment on Wednesday morning, and plans to meet Bob and Miles for dinner that evening. A shower was mandatory. I carefully peeled off the dressing and examined it. Not a speck of blood on the gauze — clearly, there had been no post-procedure bleeding. So far, so good.

But before getting in the shower, I wanted to take a look at the puncture site to see how well it was healing. I couldn’t find it! I had been expecting a puncture something like the one you get when you donate blood, but clearly it had been smaller than that. And in the two days since, it had apparently closed completely. I am not limber enough to bend double and take a close look at my own groin, but I couldn’t see it in the bathroom mirror, and my attempts to snap a picture of it with my phone were unsuccessful. So I shrugged and got in the shower.

Washing the area with soap and water didn’t provoke any discomfort. I wasn’t terribly surprised, because I had experienced no pain whatsoever during or after the catheterization. No soreness or tenderness, nothing at all. This is typical for me; in the past, following surgical procedures, I have had little or no post-operative pain. My gallbladder surgery, for instance, had left me with four new holes in my abdomen, which didn’t hurt at all. They were little holes, but so is a paper cut, and those hurt like hell. Surgical incisions don’t, not for me. I don’t know why.

The instructions said to put a Band-Aid on the puncture site after washing and drying it. But with only the vaguest idea where it might be, that seemed pointless. I didn’t bother.

After having avoided driving on Tuesday, I did an unusual amount of it on Wednesday. First I went to Apex and back (12 minutes each way) for my dental appointment. Then, in the afternoon, I drove to Fuquay-Varina and back (half an hour each way) to pick up a new work computer. And in the evening, I went to the restaurant and back for dinner (about ten minutes each way). I had no trouble at all driving.

In short, I recovered quickly and easily. My only problem is that, between missing a whole day of work for the procedure, and most of Wednesday morning for a dental appointment, I am short on hours for this week. Which is why I will be working on Saturday. But things are finally calming down. After a steady barrage of medical tests and appointments during all of January and the first half of February, I don’t have another one scheduled until March 7. And after that, nothing until late April. That will probably change, since I was told that Dr. Desai would want to see me again about two weeks after the catheterization. But things are definitely getting back to normal.

One more thing that I forgot to mention in an earlier post: The primary measure of heart function is ejection fraction (EF), which measures the percentage of blood inside the heart that is pushed out when it beats. A healthy heart typically has an EF of 50-65%. When I was admitted to the hospital on December 29, my ejection fraction was in the 20-30% range. (That’s why I was diagnosed with heart failure.) Shortly before the catheterization, Dr. Desai told me that the MRI on January 24 had measured my EF in the 40-50% range. So it’s not quite back up to normal, but it’s improved a great deal. My heart is getting stronger. He was very pleased, and so am I.

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