SUSAN'S HEART HISTORY 1/5/96

Susan Hattie Steinsapir

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1/5/96 (Andreas)

5th January. Friday morning. Susan had been told that we probably leave for LA by 10 am Friday. But there wasn't an available bed at the UCLA. We would have to wait until a bed became free.

So we sat. Susan looked at e-mail and I packed up her hospital room. I had brought our baggage and left it in the trunk of the car. At 11 am, Susan began napping. Still no bed at UCLA. We waited hour by hour. Normally, visitors are only allowed ten minutes. This is a bit of a flexible rule: the nurses use it to throw people out. They have to watch two patients each, so they appreciate those who take over much of the work: I feed Susan (but that means mostly listening to her complain about the hospital food), help her to the bathroom, fetch this and that, bring her water, cover her up, and so on: its a full time job and that takes the load from the nurse, so they certainly don't mind my being here all the time.

At 3 p.m., Susan began to become nauseated. It was a symptom of her body's chemical imbalances; it got worse and her pulse and blood pressure began to collaspe. Within moments, her room was filled with nurses and doctors and the recusitation equipment. For an hour, she was very close. Her pulse fell to 35 or lower; she was skipping heart beats, her blood pressure wasn't there, she began to pass out. At five or so, she began to stabalize again. Her cardiologist decided to put a cath into her heart to measure cardiac pressure. I held Susan's hand and watched and helped by passing along things. During the procedure, he said that I was the first person hed ever allowed to remain in the room. Susan didn't mind the procedure too much. By this time, Susan was wired for sound: she had tubes in and out of just about everything.

At six p.m., UCLA called and said that a bed was finally available. The ambulance airplane was on its way to Sacramento. During its flight, they called and asked for Susan's weight. The nurses said that I was coming along. They said no. Susan insisted. They asked for my weight. I added that there was about 45 pounds of baggage. After a bit of negotiations, they said that I could accompany, but with only ten pounds of baggage. It meant leaving everything behind. We were ready with only a small bag of things and the laptop. And a framed portrait of Orion, her cat.

At 7:30 p.m., the airplane landed in Sacramento. The ambulance picked up their team and brought them to the hospital. Susan was disconnected from the hospitals ICU monitors and medical pumps and reconnected to the teams portable equipment. She became her own rolling ICU. When everything was tested and ready, we all left: two ambulance people, two air ambulance team, Susan, and me. At the airport, we loaded into a small twin engine plane. It was extremely crowded in the airplane: Susan was constantly watched. She was bundled securely and surrounded by monitors. It was an excellent night for flying: clear sky, no clouds, full moon, no traffic. Susan felt a bit of discomfort, so she was given morphine. She was floating on her own cloud. I sat behind her head and gave her sips of water. With a strong tail wind, we got to LA 30 minutes ahead of schedual. We taxied to a large hanger where the LA ambulance was waiting.

After a short ride, we arrived at UCLA medical center and Susan was brought up to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). It makes ICU look like a day care center. At midnight, Susan was inspected and poked and yet more tubes and sensors were added. There is so much telemetry here. Youd need a roadmap to follow all of them. Ive learned to follow the readouts and I keep an eye on things. A cath was put into her bladder; nearly half a liter came out. That relieved the pressure. From 1 am to 3 am, I dozed next to her bed; its four am now, Saturday, and she's asleep and stable. At ten am, there will be another series of inspections and decisions. Ill try to write again tonight.

Susan says many hellos to everyone. As I add each name to her support list, I tell her who it is and she say, oh, yeah, say hey to them... Shes very, very glad to hear from each of you. She says"today was the worst day of my life. Thanks for the prayers and candles: it worked." A little bit ago, she awoke, saw me writing on the laptop and asked if there was a telephone port in the room so that we could connect the laptop. By tomorrow, she'll probably be online again. Can't keep her down... they'll probably have to pry her fingers away from the keyboard as they take her in for her transplant. "no, tell the donor to wait! I have a great pickle recipe!"


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