Thursday, January 10, 2008
Branches (and Mama Update #3)
It was the massive green limbs that first caught my eye. When I downloaded the photo, I felt astounded at the shapes and directions of the naked limbs, down to the narrowest ones. It looks as if the winds have influenced these trees in downtown Portland much more that one would realize from seeing them filled out spring, summer and fall. It's inspirational to see beneath what we take for granted, the greens and golds, to realize that the beauty of it all extends year round. Much like my dear Mama's strong little body and the vessels that supply it with life-maintaining blood. So, for me, this is the perfect photo for Thursday's post.
Here's the text of the e-mail that I've sent on Wednesday evening, to the family and friends who regularly read my other blog:
I'm going to try to explain what we understand and what the doctors are planning to do. The neurologists and the doctor that performs the angiogram and the cardiovascular surgeon all think that the subclavian steal syndrome is Mama's problem. This has nothing to do with either one of her carotid arteries, the ones that run up each side of your neck, carrying blood to the front of the brain. Instead, it has to do with one of the two subclavian arteries that runs up the back of the neck, carrying blood to the back of the brain. That's the part of the brain that deals with balance; one doctor told us that they're called vertebral arteries once they leave the collarbone area. Instead of the blood going up to the brain, it goes into the arm that has the blockage on its subclavian artery, therefore the "steal" in the name of the problem.
Thursday at some point, the doctors will do an angiogram, using a dye to take images of the arteries as they leave Mama's heart, of both carotid arteries and of both subclavians. The cardiovascular surgeon told us it is Mama's right one that is too narrow. I must have been mixed up about which side since Monday when we first started hearing about this. What they'll do is insert the catheter in from either the left or right, down near where her leg connects to her body. They'll snake it up to where they want it to go and inject dye so that they can make the images. Once they see whatever, they'll know if a stent (a self-expanding tube according to Wikipedia) will do what they want it to do or if the cardiovascular surgeon will have to come in and do a bypass.
They have a procedure scheduled for 8 a.m. and one for 9:30 a.m., then Mama. The problem is that the 9:30 a.m. one could take from 2 to 6 hours, so we don't know what time she'll be taken to the procedure. She cannot have anything by mouth after midnight; he told her to order herself a milkshake at 10 p.m., so she's already done that.
It didn't register with her, or if it did she didn't say anything, but the surgeon said there is a chance that her vertigo is not caused by this subclavian steal syndome. I do hope that is not the case because she would like to wake up from this with plenty of blood going to her brain and not dizziness or nausea.
I'll end with what she said last night and tonight as all of this sunk in: Last night she told me, "There's no telling how good I'll be when they get this done." Tonight she told one of the doctors, "Dr. Yutan (her regular doctor) told me that he figures I've got 10 more good years, and I intend to go after them."
From all of us, thanks to for your continued prayers.