Until a few weeks ago, the only thing I knew about percutaneous coronary intervention was that I couldn’t spell it.
Now I know that PCI is the insertion of a metal stent into a narrow or blocked artery to restore blood flow.
My general practitioner had regularly run a battery of tests that proclaimed me in good health — but now I realize he must have graded on a curve. Come to think of it, I didn’t just feel rundown; I felt like road kill.
Then I saw my cardiologist. The good news? My heart was ticking. The bad news? He wanted to make sure it wasn’t a time bomb.
He proposed I undergo an angiogram. My artery was about to be Roto-Rootered! The next thing I knew I was spending the night in the hospital (it may have been private but the gown was public!)
The cardiologist explained he’d have to go up through my groin. I thought, shouldn’t he at least buy me dinner first?
They had given me a local anesthetic. I told them I preferred an imported varietal but by then —
Groin, groin, gone! He inserted a thin, flexible catheter that at the very tip held what looked like a deflated balloon through my blood vessels all the way up into my heart.
Lying there watching it all on the monitor, I started thinking about how fast, how efficient and how strangely painless and calming the process was.
I can remember when anyone having any kind of heart surgery had crisscrossing scars on their chest — they’d take their shirt off and people would mistake them for the Secret Square!
Stents have only been around since 1986. The first coronary artery bypass surgery was performed in 1960.
Then he found it — my main artery was 85 percent closed.
The “balloon” was inflated, expanding the stent around it to permanently prop open the artery walls, allowing better blood flow.
And now? I’m proud of myself for doing it. I don’t expect a ticker tape parade. I realize that I’m only one of more than half a million people a year who have had a PCI.
So I had no reason to be frightened or put it off — and neither should you.
If you’re still not convinced, then the following heart-stopping facts from the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women website should convince you.
Heart disease strikes more women than men and is more deadly to women than all forms of cancer combined.
Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
For both men and women, the common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, dizziness and extreme fatigue.
The Go Red For Women website shows you there is plenty you can do to reduce your risk. I did.
I took a licking and I keep on ticking!
Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.
— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are her own.