John and I have been plunged into an unexpected new adventure. We didn’t choose it but it pounced upon us when we weren’t looking. I wrote in my Super Bowl Sunday post about John’s open heart surgery. All seemed to go well following that unexpected detour in health and John started back to work after ten weeks of recovery. We were excited because he was starting to feel better than he’d felt in a long time. On March 14, his fourth day of work, he felt a bit of chest pain. The cardiologist had told him if he ever felt pain like before surgery, to get himself to the Doctor. By Friday evening, when he got off of work, we headed to the ER. They found nothing but told him to see his Doctor on Monday. By Monday, the pain was more pronounced, particularly upon exertion.
John’s chest scar was flat and smooth following surgery. A few weeks afterwards, the incision turned beet red and became raised, beginning to look like a rope. On Monday, when our doctor saw John’s scar, he suspected a condition called Intimal Hyperplasia. He’d seen two cases in his long career and in both cases they had the raised keloid scar. He told us our best case scenario would be if John could be stinted.
So only eleven weeks after his first open heart surgery, John underwent another heart cath and Intimal hyperplasia was confirmed. (Intimal hyperplasia is the thickening of the tunica intima of a blood vessel as a complication of a reconstruction procedure or endarterectomy. Intimal hyperplasia is the universal response of a vessel to injury and is an important reason of late bypass graft failure, particularly in vein and synthetic vascular grafts.) One in a thousand people have this complication and John was already too blocked to stint. It hit us like a thunderbolt and all our doctor could say was, “I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.” That brought no comfort. We went home that day with a handful of new prescriptions and devastated hearts.
Now I’m a veteran at receiving impossible diagnosis’ and I went into research mode (as did many of our family members) as soon as we could wrap our brains around what we’d been told. Surely we’d find an answer—a Doctor who had pioneered some procedure or a clinical trial that was promising or testimonies of supplements that worked miracles. We searched and searched. I searched Mayo Clinic’s site, Cleveland Clinic site, Vanderbilt, NIH, and others for info. I found that Intimal Hyperplasia is considered the bane of bypass surgery. It’s a rare disorder and doesn’t happen with most people that have scars that keloid. Clinical trials have attempted to find something that turns this condition off. They’ve tried radiation and even chemo. The problem is the scar tissue is inside the arteries. Any attempt to destroy it normally destroys good tissue too. Any attempt to repair it involves cutting and cutting is the injury that causes the scar tissue to go into overdrive. That means any surgical process will instigate more blockage. That spells DEVASTATED hearts for all of us.
When we came home from the second heart cath, John didn’t think he’d live more than two or three weeks. Walking up a few stairs or an incline caused pain. BUT the new meds started to kick in and they brought relief. He now wears a nitroglycerin patch 24 hours a day and occasionally has to pop a nitroglycerin tablet. He takes Ranexa (which I’m told hasn’t been around too many years), a blood thinner, and a pill that keeps his blood pressure low. We eat a plant based diet and take supplements(among them are CO Q 10, fish oil, niacin, and aspirin. ) So far, in spite of this unexpected detour, we are still enjoying life together. We see the Surgeon again tomorrow. Pray for us because John’s pain has stepped up the past week and it’s getting to a point we’ve got to make some more decisions. Another open heart surgery seems our only option and that’s a scary door to walk through. SOOO, pray with us. please, as we journey this unknown path.