~ Reflections of my inner self ~

Archive for August, 2007

My heart is beating (It keeps on repeating)

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Have you tried to give a definition for Heart? Try and you will realise how difficult it is, considering its unique nature. Simply put one can say it is a very hard working organ and the only source of energy for our body to function properly, that is for the brain to think, lungs to breathe, muscles to act all done by an organ weighing only 330 grams, a size similar to our wrist, and its activity involves pumping of blood to a distance of one hundred thousand kilometers distance, with a beating rhythm of one hundred thousand times.

All cells of the heart have a unique capacity to beat/vibrate all the time to act like a pump which can move blood and oxygen in one way traffic. How does it function like this? An unanswered question till today! Its functions start three weeks after the fetus is formed, initially as two parallel tubes with inter connections, and in five weeks the compartments gets formed, and in eight weeks its fully formed, and in sixteen weeks it starts functioning – beating and repeating and never stops until…

I had to undergo a CABG (coronary artery bypass graft) to provide an alternate path for the blood flow. They diagnosed that I have three blocks in my heart and the only solution was to go in for an open heart surgery where another vessel and route is created to maintain the normal flow/function of the heart and this tube (vein) is taken from my leg. This is the best way I can describe what I had undergone. This has also stimulated my interest to know all about heart, its functions, likely problems, remedies etc. I have attempted to put all this information in a short form so that it is useful for others like me to understand the issues involved. I also like to state here that the information is my understanding of the subject and should not be taken as a recommendation or guidance. For that the best person is your doctor and nobody else.

Our heart beats all the time (even during a heart attack) and you probably know the two movements, defined as systole and diastole and in the process oxygen is supplied to all parts of the body. Even though it appears to be a continuous function, in reality it is not so. The heart takes a fractional rest in between. It beats seventy times a minute, pumps approximately five liters of blood and functions all 24 hrs of a day, even when you are asleep. Don’t we owe a debt of gratitude and a big thank you to our heart once a day? Whose heart it is anyway? So why hesitate?

We all, well at least most of us have a tendency to take things for granted in many matters, particularly in matters outside our control and we apply the same logic to our heart, little realising that our life styles, attitudes, food habits, undesirable habits and our pedigree have a say or impact on the working of our heart. The poor innocent organ which takes all the punishment for wrongs not done by itself and we think we can get away from it unnoticed till our hyper tension, treadmill test, and finally the angiogram proves otherwise. We will blame everybody else, the easiest escape route available to us all.

Experts in this field would say that there are many reasons why we get a problem with the heart. One is that if there is history of heart problems in the family it is always advisable to underscore the fact you could be a potential victim and guard against it all the time. Overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, irregular and untimely food habits, highly tensioned and reactive life styles, high and regular intake of junk foods and fried, roasted oily foods, excessive smoking, excessive drinking, feelings of anger, hatred, jealously, bolted emotions etc can be some of the factors that can affect the normal functioning of the heart leading to problems like blockages in surface blood vessels of the heart or major blocks in arteries. One or multiple blocks needing a angioplasty or open heart surgery as the case may be. In all such cases it is generally advised that we go for an early correction than to live with it in fear all the time, causing tension to us and to others around us.

The open heart surgery (CABG) done for me involved preparation mentally so that all aspects are understood clearly. It enables oneself to prepare himself better and face the ordeal cheerfully and boldly instead of worrying unnecessarily. That what is being done is for my own good and healthy life, done by experts with experience and long training in this field in a specialised hospital and it is a routine procedure for them. Besides one can recover fast and be back home in 10 days time and through a process of recovery can come back to normal activity in 3-6 months. That the success rate is over 95% in these surgeries and in most cases patients who had undergone this need not go back for further operations of this kind in most of the cases. So there is nothing to lose – the cost benefit ratio is very favorable.

In CABG the bone protecting the heart/chest called the sternum is opened (after the patient is sedated) the heart should not beat to facilitate surgery. For this a solution of pattasin mixed in cold water is used and it stops the heart functions. It’s called cardio plegia-t substitute. The heart pump machine is connected to the heart till the surgery is over which in normal course of time takes 2-3 hrs. After the procedure is done a small current is passed which makes the heart click back to normal operation/or back to life! Said to be a great sight to see!

I was put in a special after care ward for 3 days for close monitoring with regular checks of all parameters by trained team of people/duty doctors and of course by the surgeon who did the surgery. I had to wear a tight chest band, and feeding was by intravenous tubes. Visitors to see only from a glass partitioned door outside as every day more and more patients came in to the ward which had about 20 beds or so I had plenty of company! Days rolled on fast and before I knew it I was back to my room allotted in the hospital, with only one attendee allowed (my son Arjuna stayed with me). Visitors were allowed and my wife Geetha beautifully managed the other end for us, finding time to visit me every other day. Arjuna was a source of moral, mental, helpful support as usual and on the 10th day we packed back home after farewell and thank you to all in the hospital connected with my surgery. My eldest son Vivek and his wife Cathy were in regular touch with Geetha all the time and spoke to me as soon as I reached home. As visitors were not encouraged for a month and I recovered it’s always advisable to seek the support and help of any known paramedics provided by trained institutions for a period of 4 weeks to be available on call or even stay 24 hrs for the first 2 weeks or so, and this helped me to a great extent as a supporting person will be required during this phase for sponge baths, dressing, medications, food administering etc. We are required to report to hospital 10 days after, one month, 3 month and 6 month and one year after for checkups and reviews.

Some of suggestions made during after care and to be adopted in general are the following:

  • Walking, preferably in early hours for 30-45 minutes a day at least for 5 days a week. Practice breathing exercises, meditation.
  • Eat oil less food, increase fiber content oats/cereals, and take fresh vegetables and fruits, sprouted grains, dry fruits. Avoid all junk foods, fried items and non vegetarian food. Reduce salt in food; avoid sugar as much as possible. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Stop all Aerated drinks.
  • Control weight, maintain BMI applicable to you. Never over eat. Eat as far as possible during a fixed time of a day and leave a gap of 2 hours after supper and before you go to sleep.
  • Live a relaxed life, read, develop new hobbies, travel, and learn to enjoy company.
  • Draw an agenda for each day for special activities.

While these things are done for your care it is equally important to know and learn the first aid techniques to be done in case you are suspecting someone having a cardiac attack. Always keep aspirin at homes as it can come handy during early stages of an attack

The symptoms are severe pain in the chest, sweating excessively, breathlessness. Learn the techniques for mouth to mouth breathing. Take a deep breath and blow through person’s mouth keeping the head slightly raised. Repeat this 15 times every minute. While doing this another person should do the chest/heart massage. Keep the left palm over the right and press the chest. Repeat this seven times a minute. Observe, the patients lungs for onset of breathing. Give them a tablet of aspirin immediately as this will reduce the impact of the attack. Alert the closest hospital with facilities and ask for an ambulance. Alert the person’s doctor/or family physician to reach the hospital (or home if there is time). All of this can save a life but time and presence of mind and quick actions are a must.

Written by Raghuraman

August 26th, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Health