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Dare To Be 100: Lack Of Progress Report

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Three weeks from tomorrow, hopefully, I will be embedded in the chambers of the Stanford Hospital awaiting a colleague who will serve to restore my heart beat to its normal sinus rhythm, NSR, via an ablation procedure. About a year ago I casually noted that my pulse had become irregular, like a car with a flat tire. Quickly via an EKG I found that I had developed atrial fibrillation, AF. This is a very common arrhythmia, and I am now recently well read about it. There is no discomfort, just easy fatigue, shortness of breath. My heart is working at 80% of its normal capacity. I do not fret because of it. People rarely die of AF. The concern regards the real possibility of a stroke because of an release upstream of a clot from within the irregular heart chamber. I have consulted dozens of cardiologists among my friends and the dominant advice is "learn to live with it." Well since I am only 86 years young and planning to live at least another 14 grand vital years "living with it" is not advice that works for me.

Consequently, I surveyed different opportunities and ten months ago I turned myself in to a cardiologist in San Francisco who served to apply his wires in the hope of restoring my NSR via an ablation. It didn't work.

I was disappointed. But in a couple weeks the topic of my never miss weekly Medical Grand Rounds at Stanford was atrial fibrillation. A new faculty hotshot recruit discussed his new technique. Through a combination of hard work, skill, and ingenuity he fashioned a new approach, a new method by which he is able to target more specifically the irritable focus that initiates the skipped beats. He effectively characterized prior efforts to do this as charades, only partially effective if at all. Within seconds of the conclusion of his talk I was at his elbow ingratiating myself into his list of prospective patients. I impatiently awaited my time. Four weeks ago I was in the pre-op suite shaved, IV running, and ready to go in to the OR when my concerned attending daughter casually inquired "he will be able to go to Boston on Monday for a big meeting won't he?" An audible gasp. "He is not going to Boston on Monday", and with that he canceled the whole enterprise leaving all those involved without a patient. I'm sure they compensated.

I am rescheduled for three weeks from now. I await this with great anticipation. I fear none of the features of the surgery, however the eight hours of anesthesia is a concern. I want to wake up with all of my cognitive facilities intact. I'm also hoping that these delays will allow my surgeon to become even more proficient in his skills.

I have constantly expressed fear of Medicine's excesses, too much surgery, too many tests, too many drugs, too high bills. However I am hoping that every anxiety is accompanied by accomplishment. Now instead of criticism, I hope to be able to sing Medicine's praises again.