The picture of this poor high school kid collapsed as he literally crawled past the finish line during a cross country meet symbolizes my own crossing of the “ablation finish line.” While my finish might not have been as dramatic as this kid’s finish, I wasn’t exactly running through the finish line with my arms raised in victory!
The “Sick Scare”
It all started three weeks before my ablation. My daughter came down with the flu. She was vomiting on and off for four days straight and was laid up for the better part of a week. Then right on the heels of that my wife got a really bad head and chest cold that she had right up to when we flew out.
I tend to be a bit of a pessimist when it comes to stuff like this so I figured sooner or later my son and I would get sick and I’d have to delay my ablation yet again. I can’t tell you how many times I washed my hands during those three weeks. I had hand sanitizer in every room of our house and in my car. I was constantly washing my hands. I also doubled down on my vitamin C and vitamin D. I avoided hugging or kissing my daughter and wife and I instructed my son to do the same.
I was in full blown “sick prevention mode.” There was no way I was going to let my son or myself get sick. I had worked too hard to prepare for this procedure both mentally and physically that I wasn’t going to let a cold or flu ruin my plans.
Wouldn’t you know just a few days before we were to fly out on March 4th I started feeling something coming on. My throat was kind of scratchy, my nose was slightly running, and my head was stuffed a little. Normally with symptoms like this I’d have a bad head cold within a couple days. I was fearing the worse and just assumed it was over. I was going to wake up in a day or two and I’d be sicker than a dog and I’d be postponing the ablation after all.
Then the night before we were to fly out, my son looked sick and complained he had a stomach ache and wanted to throw up. At this point, the morning of my ablation couldn’t come quick enough. I kept thinking all we had to do was get to Texas. I didn’t care if my son was vomiting like no tomorrow once we landed or if I got sicker than a dog after my ablation. We just had to get to Texas so I could get on the table and have the ablation done! We just had to hang in there for a couple more days!
My wife literally started praying for me and I started praying too. “Dear Lord, please don’t let me or my son get sick. You have to keep us healthy for just a couple more days!”
He must have been listening to our prayers because my son never got sick and those minor cold symptoms I had never got worse. They didn’t go away but at least they didn’t progress to anything serious. The night before the ablation I was still experiencing those “cold symptoms” so I was a little worried there was a chance I would wake up the morning of the ablation with a full blown cold. Then what? Would they still do the procedure or would they post pone it? I was stressed out!
When I woke up the morning of the ablation I felt great. The symptoms I had been experiencing the past few days were mostly gone! I suspect the symptoms I was feeling the past few days were the result of stress and nothing else.
No Atrial Fibrillation Episodes
The “sick scare” wasn’t the only challenge we faced leading up to the ablation. I also had to think about my atrial fibrillation episodes. Dr. Natale’s nurse told me that if I had an afib episode “close” to the ablation that it would be best if I could ride it out. In other words, don’t take Flecainide. They said if I absolutely couldn’t handle the episode than I could take Flecainide but they really wanted me to avoid it if possible.
My last afib episode was on February 3rd. I was averaging an episode about once a month. That meant I would be due for an episode anytime around March 3rd – just two days before my ablation. I was really hoping for an episode the last week of February. The thinking was I could take the Flecainide without screwing anything up and I wouldn’t have to worry about having an episode anytime near the ablation date.
Wouldn’t you know it I didn’t have a single heart palpitation let alone an afib episode during that last week of February. That really stressed me out because then I would be due for an episode the week of the ablation. I kept thinking with my luck I’d wake up in afib the morning we were to fly out. I started praying to God that I wouldn’t have an episode. Once again he answered my prayers because I didn’t have any afib or even a heart palpitation the week of my ablation. Given all the stress I was under, it was a miracle that my heart was so solid the month leading up to my ablation.
The Unemployment Threat
The day before we were to fly out, Target’s new CEO announced that they would be laying off “thousands” of employees at Target’s Minneapolis headquarters, where my wife works. My wife has worked for Target for twenty years. Up until recently, her job security has never been an issue. My wife was (and still is) concerned that she might be one of those to be laid off.
While my wife wanted to put all of her energy towards my procedure and recovery, she had this threat hovering over her and obviously it affected me too as I was concerned about her future with Target. As I write this we still don’t know what her future holds. The news was just added stress that neither of us needed heading into my big day.
The Flight From Hell
Our flight to Austin was THE worst flight I’ve ever been on. I was hoping for a super smooth, trouble-free flight but what we got was an absolute nightmare. We experienced terrible turbulence for literally half of the 2 ½ hour flight. It was so bad that at one point my daughter clutched my arm and started crying asking me if we were going to crash. I put up a front but I was shitting my pants myself!
The plane was bouncing around like a ping pong ball for most of the flight. Everyone on board was clutching their arm rests and had a look of distress on their face. My only thought was, “Really, Lord. You spare me from getting sick and I spend all this time preparing for this ablation only to die in an air plane crash on the way to the ablation?”
What really pissed me off is that the pilot didn’t make a single announcement during any of it. It would have been nice if he would have at least said why we were experiencing such turbulence and that everything was going to be o.k. Then to top it off we had to circle the airport for whatever reason for about 30 minutes before we could land. Again, I don’t know why because the pilot didn’t give us any updates during the flight.
The Ice Storm
Once we were finally in Austin we started hearing about the winter storm warning. Yes, Austin was having a winter storm warning the evening of March 4th. It was 70 degrees and drizzling when we landed but a front was coming through where the temperature was going to drop to 30 degrees within 12 hours. This cold front probably explained the turbulence we experienced on our flight.
The drizzle/rain was going to freeze so Austin was going to be essentially “iced out.” They were advising no travel of any kind. Schools were canceled. The city hadn’t experienced an “ice storm” like this in three years.
Can you believe my luck?
Booking a Last-Minute Hotel
Because of the impending ice storm we started wondering if we should book a hotel close to the hospital. The house we were renting was only about 12 minutes from the hospital but it was far enough away that traveling in an ice storm may have been a challenge. We didn’t want to risk it so we started calling around. Every hotel was booked. We were finally able to find a room available at the Days Inn which was a block away from St. David’s.
When we pulled up to the hotel I wasn’t so sure we made the right decision. It looked like a very dated and worn down hotel. The only thing missing was a sign that said, “Color TV,” but there was a sign that said, “Free HBO” so close enough. The online reviews of the hotel were not glowing either. People complained of bed bugs, strong smoke odor, and freeway noise. Much to our surprise, the room actually wasn’t that bad and our beds were bug free and actually comfortable to sleep on.
When we woke up at 5 a.m. and turned the TV on to learn about the storm, it turned out not to be the storm they expected. Go figure. These meteorologists always seem to be wrong when it comes to these big storms. Apparently only the far west area of Austin experienced ice but the rest of the city escaped it. We could have stayed in our rented house after all. Oh well, at least we got to sleep in a little longer and were able to get to the hospital in under a minute since we were just a block away.
As you can see, the weeks, days, and even hours leading up to the ablation were hectic and stressful. I may have limped across the finish line but at least I made it! I know in the scheme of things my issues were minor. I know a lot of people go into their ablations with persistent or permanent afib. They have real issues to deal with – not the simple stupid things I’m writing about here. For that reason alone, I’m incredibly grateful I didn’t have to deal with afib itself going into the ablation!