MY HEART BYPASS SURGERY AND NEW LEASE OF LIFE
I will omit the dates of the events – and keep to the incidents — as I will have to go through voluminous medical records to get them straight.
I was at work at my ministry on the computer about 7:30 one morning when I felt intense pain in my left lower abdomen.
It was accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Not wanting to believe that I was experiencing a stone in my kidney, I waited till my cardio-specialist personal doctor would be available and called him on the ‘phone at 9:00 am. His advice to me was to get myself admitted in a hospital immediately.
I rushed to the Fortis Malar hospital which is a bare 4 km. away from home and after conducting a sonogram, it was confirmed that I had a 5 mm. stone in the ureter. They suggested that the stone would eventually pass out in the urine and sent me home.
By noon the pain was so unbearable and continuous, not to mention the vomiting, that I was bathed in sweat almost as if I was experiencing a cardiac arrest. So I went back to the hospital and got admitted for removal of the stone.
I sent for a priest to administer to me the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, but due to a miscommunication, he turned up without the holy oils, etc. and I had to be content with receiving Holy Communion. I had been to Confession about a month prior to this.
The basketing procedure was completed the following day and I was relieved from the pain. As it had been done under anesthesia, I was unaware that they had introduced a stent until the time that the surgeons had a little chat with me.
The stent was meant to remain in me for a couple of weeks in order to widen the ureter passage, after which it would be removed.
At that time, the surgeons also informed me that they had disturbing news for me from the two ECGs they had taken.
I needed immediate heart surgery.
But three days in the hospital was already too much for me and my mind was on my ministry. I went home.
The bill for the occasion was a bit over Rs. 90, 000.
My wife and I have been regularly visiting our cardio-specialist personal doctor every three months for the past five or six years and we have, since the start, been on daily medication for hypertension. He had once conducted an ECG on me and had informed me at that time, maybe four or five years ago that the anterior blood vessels on the left side of my heart were defunct but that “miraculously” my heart had continued to function normally. He had not recommended follow-up.
When I now consulted him with the Fortis Malar ECG test reports, he informed me that the posterior vessels too were not functioning. He recommended that I do a 700 CT slice scan.
I returned to Fortis Malar for the scan but they recommended an angiogram for a better picture. It was found that apparently there were seven blocks in my heart, ranging from 40% to 99% and the report read “Triple Heart Disease”.
They were again most reluctant to discharge me and suggested that I prepare myself for heart bypass surgery.
However, I went home once again.
The next day, around noon, I drove my car to the hospital to complete some paper work. While getting some papers photocopied, I locked myself out of my car about a kilometer from the hospital. It was extremely hot and there was no shade. My flat’s keys were also locked in, I do not own a mobile, there was no way that I could call for help, and I could not leave my car in case the police towed it away.
But the Lord sent a half a dozen strangers who worked on the car door for 45 minutes and finally sprung the autolock open.
I was able to complete my paper work and return home to resume work at my ministry on my pc.
I was not even considering going in for heart surgery. Who has the time for that? So the Lord had to do something about it. My wife, sons, brothers and the neighbours began to pressurize me to do something about the reports on my condition.
Knowing that if I went in for surgery, the continuity of my work would be affected, I kept asking them for a few days grace, reducing the number of days as the pressure on me built up.
So, one fine morning I went for Mass and got a priest to hear my general Confession. It lasted over an hour. Then I drove my scooter to the homes of several friends and relatives, saying “goodbye” in case I didn’t survive the surgery, and asking forgiveness of those I may have hurt. I also drove myself to my doctor. He was furious with me, wanting to know why I wasn’t in a hospital bed. He said I was “walking on thin ice”, “sitting under a Damocles’ sword”, and I might not even reach back to my car from his room.
I returned home and began to send as many emails and make telephone calls as possible, informing friends and supporters of this ministry that I was going in for heart surgery and might not be available for the next few weeks… if at all.
I had, since the past several months, had this feeling that my end was near, and I had been hinting of it to close friends and all my neighbours. That resulted in my doing or wanting to do several things: work doubly hard as time was short, make a quiet retreat somewhere, along with a general confession, and rearrange my daily timetable which was to say the least erratic if not chaotic. I am already a patient of ankylosing spondylosis which has caused 95% fusion of my neck, collar bone, spine and hips. It has affected my breathing and metabolism.
I find it difficult to walk more than a hundred meters and even less if the road is unstable. I have had a couple of serious falls even after I commenced using a walking stick. I am also blind from glaucoma in my right eye since four of five years.
Because of my arched back, traveling, sitting and even sleeping are difficult. The same has also caused me immense discomfort in lying in the machine for an MRI scan and even taking X-rays as it was difficult to maintain the posture and also contact with the plate. I certainly did not savour going under anesthesia in this condition and I wondered how I would breathe when I find it impossible to do so when I lie in my back [I don’t]. I felt that there was every chance I would die.
My emails and telephone calls were regularly interrupted by neighbours and family insistent on packing me off to the hospital. I had contacted one of my friends who is a choir master and a faithful Catholic and he came over for finalising the details of my funeral Mass. Earlier I had obtained the assurance from my confessor that he would ensure that my funeral Mass would be orthodox, or rather regular – no liturgical aberrations, eulogies, and the rest.
While I was so busy that I missed my even meals and medication, they were on their mobile phones with various city hospitals and packing my stuff for admission. I was finally forced off the computer and the telephone and admitted at Frontier Lifeline hospital about 20 km from home. I went as cheerfully as I could, not knowing what I was in for.
While the hospital prepared me physically — body shave, tests and what not, I prepared spiritually. A priest came over and administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to me, and I used an old prayer book to say all the prayers for a happy death. I felt that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be coming back home.
The night before my surgery, I was reading psalm 91 in the same spirit [of being reconciled to facing my personal judgement within a few hours] when I was interrupted by the entry of a nurse. When she left the room, I resumed my prayer and I found that I was on verse 8 which reads “Rather with your eyes shall you behold and see the requital of the wicked” in the New American Bible. It came to me that the Lord was speaking to me through this verse; He was reassuring me that I would live, and that He would continue to bless my ministry. Giving praise to God, I prepared to enter surgery and emerge successfully.
During the days preceding surgery and during my convalescence, I was furiously engaged in witnessing to ward boys, nurses, technicians and doctors. They sensed that I was different and wanted to know what it is that I do, I told them.
Except for one or two of them, the rest were Christians, mostly Catholics.
When I came out from under anesthesia a few hours after my surgery, I was unaware that I was on the ventilator or heart lung machine [I had not been informed about it] and I felt that I was in a coffin, conscious and alive, but barely, unable to speak and barely able to breathe [I was, but naturally, on my back]. The thought occurred to me that I might die and they wouldn’t know till it was too late. I made every effort to speak until someone possibly noticed my silent struggle and removed a tube on which I said, “I can’t breathe”, even spelling it out b-r-e-a-t-h-e in case they hadn’t understood.
Reassuring me that I would be unhooked from the machine “at 9:00 am”, the tube was replaced. They were the longest and darkest four or five hours of my life. At precisely 9:00 o’clock, I was freed and able to take stock of things.
There were a lot of tubes in my body, but the surgery was successful. They had also removed the Fortis Malar stent.
I was a new man, with a new lease of life and a renewed commitment to ministry.
Except for the times when I was offered food and other nutrition, was bathed or went to the loo, I mercifully drifted in and out of sleep. I was given large doses of medication to consume and had to go one floor down twice a day for physiotherapy along with about a dozen other hospital-gown clad zombies like myself. But when I wanted to sleep at my leisure, I found that I couldn’t and that became the greatest suffering of mine during the next three weeks. I found that I couldn’t assume any comfortable position for long either on the bed or off it. There were four incisions totaling about twelve inches on my left leg from my above-behind my knee down to my ankle from which the surgeons had removed pieces of vein to use in my heart. There was also the nearly nine inches long slit down the centre of my chest which had been pried open and kept apart for the surgery. Recovery and healing were painfully slow.
I was discharged from the hospital after a few days and went to the home of one of my sons. The tag: around Rs 3,50,000.
The torture continued there and I remained painfully awake the whole night. The main problem was the congestion that developed in my chest and the tortuous coughing that accompanied my trying to clear it into a spittoon. It so happened that on the very next street there was a Catholic family who are very much in the Lord and appreciative of my ministry. I have realised that the Lord had had a plan when he inspired my son to invite me over to his place. The lady of that family is a qualified nurse. We contacted her and she came over to check me out. I was so ill that I could communicate only in writing, much of which was illegible. She asked if she could nurse me back to health for a few days. I happily agreed. We moved to her home and found that my wife Angela was herself so ill that she was almost admitted into a nearby nursing home. So there we were, my wife in one room and I in another for the next few days. I discovered through my nurse-hostess that the solution to my congestion was steam-inhalation. Five days later I went home much better, but still having immense problems with finding a comfortable position in which to fall asleep, a commodity I was getting very little of. My taste and appetite too were shot to pieces.
On the way home we took a diversion to the hospital.
The leg and surgical wounds seemed to be festering. The doctors in the Coronary Care Unit checked the wounds and declared them to be okay. They also checked my BP and did an ECG and pronounced me well on my way to recover.
About twelve days later there was definite pus formation in the wounds and I went all the way back to the hospital, a most uncomfortable journey when your chest has been opened and sewn shut again.
This time the doctor opened all the wounds and cleaned them using all sorts of instruments and blades. I passed out!
The wounds are just about healing as I write this, November 30. The lowest wound on the left leg is about four+ inches long, half and inch wide and seemingly half and inch deep as the sutures were removed during the last hospital visit.
They need to be cleaned and dressed every day, a stressful experience. They still ooze a bit. The referred wound may take another month to heal, maybe more. The chest wounds have closed and dried but the area is extremely sensitive to contact of any sort. I sleep fairly well when I do, but I can spend the rest of the time simply struggling to sleep, even having to give up on sleeping tablets which were ineffective. So what do I do? I got back to work.
Before going in for surgery, my pc had been giving me loads of trouble. If it ever shut down which happened regularly due to load shedding, it would take hours to restart [it had to warm up first; the start push button on the CPU had gone bust]. The system had become overloaded and slow, it hung a lot. I needed a new one. The Lord had to intervene again. He did.
Both my web masters live in Bangalore. They surprised me by turning up at home on the 8th of November; I requested them to go over to the electronics market and pick up an entire new desk top personal computer system [assembled to a configuration that I had arrived at and ordered for around Rs 55,000 a couple of months before my hospitalization.] It is almost ready for use and it may be in operation in a few weeks time as some original soft wares are to be uploaded for which one of my web masters will have to return to Chennai.
Meanwhile, since November 10, less than a month since my surgery, I am working at my old pc which has been repaired. It went completely bust after the Bangalore chaps left and the technician got it working again with a new RAM, Mother Board and cabinet for 6 K [yes, I know he’s fleecing me.]
I believe that I am alive today because of the kidney stone problem and God’s grace. If not for the stone, I would not have got the ECGs taken and then the angiogram and I would never have known or appreciated the seriousness of my condition.
I would have simply dropped dead any time, any place. In fact, it could have happened at any time prior to the stone issue.
I do all the shopping for provisions and I lug from five to fifteen kilograms of stuff at a time up the stairs to the second floor flat where we live.
God, in His mercy and plan for me gave me a second lease of life. Let me make the best use of it. When I am fully recovered and able to move out of the house, I will have a very different time table in place for me and I am slowly but surely building up towards that.
I thank all of those who prayed for me and offered masses for my surgery and recovery. I also thank all those who have been helping me to settle my bills.
My last update on the production of my ministry was end May 2013. From June 1 till date, I have uploaded [including this one] 88 new files, and 88 older files have been updated [don’t forget that I was out of action for six weeks]
LATEST NEW REPORTS AND UPDATES
Since resuming work on the 10th of November I have added an amazing 22 new files alone.
Please do try and go through them.
For the next week or two, I will be occupied with mailing this information to my mailing list.
Love, and God bless you