Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Surgery 411

The date has been set. Next Friday February 1st is Operation Fix a Heart. I realized I have done a pretty terrible job of explaining what this surgery is all about, so here is the Surgery 411.

I can't say for certain, but I am fairly confident that I am one of the first women who has ever undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and also rocks a robot heart. I might not be the only one ever, but I know I am the only that they have done at Toronto General. Being the first one means that my surgeons used all kinds of cutting edge research, science, and techniques. But it also makes me a bit of a guinea pig. (We are establishing Best Practices here people! <--- thats just a little medical humor for ya!)

I was linked up with some of the best surgeons in the countries and we spent 15 months discussing options, having consults, running tests, and going back and forth about how exactly we were going to make this work. In the end it was decided that we would place my ICD (Internal Cardiac Device, aka my robot heart, aka Penelope) behind the muscle and behind a slightly smaller implant. So in essence my left tata is half robot heart and half silicone implant - but it looks the same as the right one.

What was supposed to happpen:
  • Once you place a foreign object in your body, your body recognizes it as foreign, and then creates a pocket of scar tissue around it to isolate it from the rest of your functioning body and to keep it in place.
  • The scar tissue was meant to form around both the pacemaker and the implant. And then they would both remain secure and happy inside one little pocket.
What actually happened:
  • Having two different sized foreign objects in the same pocket meant that they actually worked against each other.
  • The implant couldn't stick to the metal surface of the ICD.
  • And the ICD is so much smaller than the implant, so it is left floating around inside a pocket that is too big for it. 
  • And finally the scar tissue couldn't form properly because everything was moving around way too much
Make sense? Have I lost you yet?

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 here. We went into my last surgery thinking one thing, but the struggles I have had post-op have revealed another. There was a lot of wishful thinking happening early on in my recovery. Maybe things would just take longer to heal? Maybe we could put off surgery for a while longer? Maybe? Maybe? Maybe?
I knew things were going down hill in December. That pesky wire was sticking out more. My energy levels had dropped. Swelling and irritation at the site was becoming an everyday thing. The signs were all there. But I wanted to live in a blissful world of denial and remain surgery-free. So I chalked up my symptoms to the craziness of the holidays, my own silly paranoia, not enough running, etc. You name it - I probably used it as an excuse. But once I heard that fateful pop - I knew. It was time.

But watch out world, because I am coming for you! This time nothing is going to stop me! This time we are going to get it right! This time I am going to feel strong and healthy! This time I am making a full recovery! And this time I am running a sub-5 marathon! So let's do this!

February 1st I am making genetics my BITCH (*again*)! Bring it on Robot Heart! You don't know who you are messing with!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,