December 31, 2010

Cardiac Lab Procedure at the VA Hospital in Houston Texas

I had been having chest pains for a couple of months, which finally manifested themselves into my conscious realm of not being able to ignore them any longer. As it so happened I had chest pains while seeing my Prime Care doctor at the VA and he put me in the hospital. OK, we will find out what is going on.

Early the next morning a young woman came in pushing what I thought to be an EKG machine. It turned out to be my doctor pushing a notebook computer on a cart like contraption. I use the words young woman loosely; she did not look old enough to be out of high school. Really, no exaggeration on this point. She introduced herself as Dr. ??? and I said OK. She also informed me she would be the doctor performing my procedure in the ‘cath lab in a few minutes.’ In a few minutes; I had gone from waking up to being primed for a cardiac procedure in a few minutes. NEAT… Dr. ??? is asking me questions and typing her data into the computer as we speak. Man, this is neat… This doctor comes to my room herself to get my info. Wow… Did I mention that I was her first patient and that she was so excited that she literally ran all the way from the cath lab to my room to get her lab rat ready? She did not mention that to me at the time either.[...]
The nurses are trying to pull my rings off of me because there is no jewelry allowed in the cath lab. My college ring finally comes off with the help of Vaseline and a lot of pulling; but my wedding band literally took off all the skin on my ring finger when it was pried off. OH Well; at least I am ready. I now get wheeled down to the cath lab.

The nurse that was my caretaker in the cath lab asked if they got me ready for surgery up stairs. I told her they got my rings off. Other than that I did not know what ‘ready’ entailed. The next thing I know she is looking under my gown and stating, “NO, they did not get you shaved or a catheter inserted.” At this point anther nurse comes running with a pair of barber clippers as the doctors are waiting for me. I hear the sound I have heard all my life of clippers cutting hair except this was not on the top of my head. OK… Now the catheter; the condom catheter was selected due to the expediency that it could be put on. Wow… this nurse must have had a lot of practice at putting condoms on because she had that dude on and I was being wheeled into the doctors quicker than you could blink an eye.

My doctor was there along with several other doctors. They all introduced themselves; I know this because I have not been given any anti-anxiety medication yet. Did you snap to that? My eyes are as big as saucers. I hear this booming voice say “Robert, you seem a little anxious, would you like a little something to relax you?” I thought it may have been God asking me this; but the voice had a Middle Eastern accent so maybe it was Allah or Walt Disney. I did not care; just give me the drugs. My doctor tells me we are going to start now. She forgot one thing. She did not shoot a local anesthetic into my femoral artery region. I hear someone ask her, “did you numb that area first?” I could have told the guy that she had not. We are on our way, numbing or no numbing. I can tell you this entire procedure has been much more painful than the one I had performed at a civilian hospital in 2003. To make a long story short; everyone forgot in their haste to get the lab rat into the OR to prepare the rat psychologically and physiologically for the procedure. It was not fun, it was not exciting, and it was painful. They asked me if I wanted more anti-anxiety medication; I guess they took my wide eyed stare as a “yes” because I felt a burn hit my I/V so the meds were being administered. Have you got the jest of things now? OK… there is a 80% blockage, but in a small artery so I am told this can be controlled with meds. Do they know how hard I have worked to get off of meds?

It is been a month or so now I am still having chest pains. I have nuclear stress tests scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday, the 3rd and 4th of January, 2011. The meds have been a nightmare. A beta blocker, plus an isosorbide denitrate that literally takes my head off. I have been put back on the Deloxiatine (Cymbalta) which I did fighting, kicking and screaming. But I am trying to do what is asked of me. I have put on 30 pounds since I have been back on the SSRI… My metabolism is crawling along and I am still having chest pains. Oh Well… I am alive.

The entire experience is all sort of funny now. The one thing I hate is thinking that the young warriors returning today are going to be subjected to the same treatment.

Both my wife and oldest daughter recently had weight loss surgeries at private hospitals… I could not believe the difference in the quality of care. If I was completing a statistics course I would have to say the measurement was ‘robust.’ Oh, and the condom catheter; it has a glue like substance on the inside of the latex. Remember what my finger looked like after getting my wedding band off! I will say no more.



  1. I'm sorry you have had substandard treatment at the VA. My experiences have been quite the opposite. Where my care in civilian medical facilities has ranged from stellar to atrocious. My treatment by the VA has always been top notch.

  2. Dear Warrior;
    It is a training facility... I could of had House as the attending and it would still have been a little funny to me. I agree that the VA mental health care is the best in the world. There is no competition except for some of the work the Canadian and Israeli doctors are researching on Combat PTSD. My experience was unique; I hope... Glad you are pleased and are getting good care. You deserve it.


  3. oh my Goodness, sorry I'm a bit late getting to these blogs, didn't get the memo it was posted. Sounds "not" like a fun day. I'm finally off the cymbalta so/and I know how hard you struggled to get and stay off meds. Did they tell you that it will raise your cholesterol level? Hope you are feeling better. Training hospital or not, they should have someone around who knows what they are doing.

  4. no post from you since this...I do hope all is well for you.

  5. do you use the site I set for you and did you want this link put to that one?

  6. Wow. I am surprised they made you take off your rings! What for? I work in a cath lab(not the VA) and we never do that. They should have explained the entire procedure to you. Did you not get an informed(explain procedure and risks) consent to sign? and they forgot to numb your groin, nice :( I hope they at least prepped it with antiseptics. What you had was not the norm for a heart cath. I hope if you have to have another, it will be done the correct way. Do take care of yourself and go for a second opinion if possible, you may need to try some different medications until find what works for you.


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