July 18, 2008

ASD: Episode IV

“Ang bangka ni Juan, may butas sa gilid...”

I was in a hospital bed at this time exactly a year ago. No, I was not sick. The doctors did not call what I had an “ailment” but rather had a more definitive term for it – atrial septal defect or simply ASD. There was a hole inside my heart in that part where the atriums (or atria?) [WARNING: SCIENCE CONTENT!!!] are divided by the septum. The hole needed to be plugged up to get rid of the chance of me dying because of it; the probability of which can occur anywhere between the next second and the next 20 or years or so. When that probability was presented to me by one of the doctors during earlier checkups, I readily threw out the window the option of me taking my chances. I did not want to die now (early); or to be less candid about it, I did not want to live my next 20 years of life thinking I was going to die any second.

So there I was, in a hospital bed at PGH at this time exactly a year ago. I was not sick. I had ASD and was about to be operated on the next morning. It was not as if I was having a sleepless night. I was already over that at that time. I felt worse 5-6 months earlier during those sequences of checkups to confirm which-caused-what. In between these checkups were sporadic occasions of heart palpitations that made me think I was having a heart attack. As if I knew what a heart attack was.

The worst feeling was when the ASD was confirmed. 

How could that be? Been snorkeling, diving (once stayed 15 minutes 15 feet underwater in a discovery-scuba dive), climbing mountains (both as hobby and work), biking (once traversed Bulacan province to and from Quezon City on a mountain bike), and bowling (had a tenpin “career” high of 248) all my life; and was once even a Quiz Bee national finalist and a WW2BAM winner (toink!)! And now, you tell me I have a hole in my heart?

It was by means of a procedure called transesophageal echo-cardiogram or TEE that the doctors finally found the hole. (If one is keen in the area of word-formation - etymology? - it is not that difficult to discern how a TEE procedure is done). The TEE also showed telling info on how the hole in my heart was making some of my blood flow in the wrong direction; which in turn made my heart work harder and grow abnormally bigger. (I used to think having a big heart means something good).

ASD’s are congenital, I was told. Mine I had it since the day I was born – in 1968. So it did not really matter if I was a multi-awarded action-drama movie star. One doctor even theorized the highly-physical activities that I used to do might even have made my condition worse. Though he was quick to assure me that my being able to do all those things despite my physical defect was one good indicator I could survive an open-heart surgery.

And so there I was, a year ago at this time, in a hospital bed at the PGH. After watching the late night news on TV, I went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be one helluva day.

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