Payback can be bloody

June 29, 2009

At multiple times in their lives, both of my parents have needed blood during surgeries they have had.  I have always tried to donate blood to repay that debt.   The problem was, I’ve always had an irrational fear of needles.  I must have tried to donate at least 5 times, feeling sick, hyperventilating, almost passing out at a mere finger prick test kept me from donating 80% of the time. I was successful only once, and successful still means passing out while my blood was being collected.

During my surgery I was given two pints of blood, plus palettes, from a total of three donors.  So let’s say I owe my parents 3 pints of blood, plus three more for myself, that’s 30 attempts at donating and 6 episodes ending in a panicking nurse pulling out the smelling salt.  I need a blood bailout!

It is pretty amazing to think that I have little cells floating through my body that other people made, and that those cells were floating through their bodies only days (platelets must be used within 5 days) or weeks (red blood cells must be used within 42 days) before.  Unnatural but beautiful too.   So thanks donors, and hey- I’m gonna try and hit ya back, or maybe the government will.


If you’re gangsta, you’ll have one in 6 months

June 12, 2009
Leave a Comment

The chickens are down with it

Now that I am certified badass with an ‘I’m tougher than you’ scar on my chest, I am qualified to start a new trend.  Move over Flaver Flav and get a freaking watch.  Forget about gold chains, platinum and diamond encrusted nameplates!  Who wants to represent with foolish trends or tired jewelry?

Gangstas West and East coast unite!  I have taken it upon myself to bring you together, with this new trend.  I ask you all, what is the best way to show your status?  To show off something that symbolizes wealth, exclusivity, and tenacity.   I am happy to tell you that Rocephin, my current I.V. antibiotic medication is just that.

Not only is this stuff is expensive, it is contraband (unless prescribed), and it can kill Russian spy bacteria, so it is gangster in its own right.  What perfectly symbolic bling, right?! Who needs precious stones when you can have bacteria murdering liquid?  At $400 a shot, this is better than gold, and it’ll give you way more street cred…trust.

The trend has officially begun and it’s spreading from Echo Park.

...it's cool

Peace-get some.

© Hdiddy Enterprises

Don’t spinal tap me!

June 11, 2009
Leave a Comment

A Spinal Tap removes a small amount the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal chord by using a big scary needle.  The spinal fluid is like the brain’s smart food, it has proteins and nutrients and microscopic Cliffs Notes books in it.  By analyzing this smart liquid my doctors would be able to determine whether or not I had meningitis.

I was terrified at the idea of a needle being poked from the outside world to the inside of my spine.

Spinal Tap Needle

All I had ever heard about spinal taps was how painful they were.  But for me, the procedure turned out to be more uncomfortable than painful.

Luckily, my back was numbed with lidocaine and I had another human’s hand to hold to keep me connected to real life.   The doctor warned me that he was essentially going in blind; driving a car with a blindfold.  I had to be his eyes.  So when he hit my vertebrae I had to say so.  This was not hard because whenever this happened an involuntary ‘eek’ ‘ack’ or ‘ayiyi’ blurted out of my mouth.  After several of these expulsions, my foot started twitching.  Suddenly, I turned into a puppet.  Slurring my words I said “Whas going on, my FOOT!”

Which foot? The doctor asked.  It was so hard for me to think.  I remembered, the left hand makes the letter L, but my arms were crossed, and I was laying on my side, so my legs were crossed over one another too.  Plus I was sedated, and drooling a little bit, which was distracting.  Twitching away, I realized it was my left foot.  Feeling confident in my decision, I proudly said “Left!”  After my final answer, the doctor reassured me, he was almost there.  Almost there meaning he went too far and hit my spinal chord, but I couldn’t blame him, he was driving blindfolded.

Once my brain food was collected the doctor told me I might experience some Spinal Tap Headaches.  The little bit of fluid that was removed from my spine changed the level of fluid surrounding my brain, as well as the pressure of the fluid in the spine, causing intense headaches when you sit up from laying down, stand up from sitting, or sometimes just turn your head. The headaches were maddening.  But eventually they went away, and I turned back into happy Heather once again.

Thank you family!

June 10, 2009
1 Comment

I am lucky.  So so lucky.  Lucky that I had the most supportive and caring family ever.  This has hopefully been the most traumatic experience of my life.   I really don’t know what I would have done without the comfort of these three very important people.  They were my breath blood and heartbeats when I needed them.

Dad-thank you for the flowers from the muffler shop, for dealing with the kitchen sink noodle explosion in my apartment, for sharing the gummy penguin snacks* with me, for being in LA 12 hours after I was in the ER and the following 15 days after that, and for being such a wonderful father.

Mom-thank you for your support in my second week in the hospital and two weeks after, for saving my water bottles in case I need them again, for talking to me that night at 4am until I was calm enough to go back to sleep, for safely driving my Prius, and for being such a wonderful mother.

Melissa-thank you for calling incessantly and wanting to be next to me with mom and dad in the hospital, for learning how to do laundry for me, for making that beautiful cake, for keeping me calm and bringing me back to reality, and for being my wonderful big sister.

Dad, Mom and MelissaIf my family were gummy snacks they would be sweet and funny like these penguin treats

*DeDe- thanks for supplying these Penguin snacks!

Vampires and their Tabasco sauce

June 8, 2009
Leave a Comment

Vampires like the spice.  My arms were bruised to prove this. Do they mention that in the Twilight books?  Well then those Twilight books are probably all made up.

What Twilight forgot to mention

Day, or night, sometimes every 15 minutes, sometimes only once a day, no matter what, the vampires always came for me.  I could not escape!  Some nurses blood thirsty animals were kind and apologetic, “Yes Miss, we need more blood again” they would say.  Some would start cleaning the target vein in my arm before I even woke up.  Not okay.

I understand these preternatural beings need to make a living.  And they are in fact legit employees, they have earned their hospital scrubs.  It’s like when the FBI hires ex-criminals to work for them.  They are by nature bad, but good at what they do.

Most of the time these hospital workers would come around and collect my blood in vials labeled with my name, birth date etc.  But then every once in a while, one would come into my room with a glimmer in his eye, and two Tabasco sauce bottles in his hands.  “Not the Tabasco bottles!” I would plead.

Now, it’s fun to pretend, and let your imagination run away with you.  Obviously.  I was on drugs, so my memories may be extra dramatic…but one specific night, a nurse actually responded to my pathetic plea “Yup, it’s hot sauce time!”  Funny… but terrifying.  Funny if you’re not visiting my room at the bewitching hour of 3am… but terrifying if you are.

I absolutely loathed these Tabasco blood drawings, and all the others in between.  During the first 9 days of my hospital stay they took so much blood I was starting to think maybe the vampires were draining my blood hoping my fever would go away the way they used to do in George Washington’s day.  That didn’t work out well for George though…revelation! Maybe it was a vampire with a plate of hot wings waiting in the next room who performed the bloodletting that killed our first president, only enjoy our forefathers’s  blood for his own culinary delight.  This is a horrifying theory, but it could be true.  America should boycott vampires.  Do not watch TV shows or movies about them, and do NOT fall in love with them!

Breath blood and heartbeats in a very important machine.

June 7, 2009

In order for the surgeons to do their thing, my heart had to be very very quiet.  Quite as in no longer beating, but still living.  Scare me right?   Nonetheless, the heart had to stop, for approximately 3 hours. The lungs, they had to be quiet too.  Surgeons need a flat, unmoving surface to work.  So picky.  Fortunately, there is a wild contraption called a heart and lung machine, which provides the benefit of a motionless heart and an almost bloodless surgical area.  Blood, yuck.

First, my blood was thinned to avoid clotting as it passes through the 14 feet of not-Heather’s-veins/foreign tubing. Then my blood was diverted to run through the tubes of the machine.  As the blood passes through these tubes, the blood is oxygenated and cooled.  Cooled blood slows the body’s basic metabolic rate, decreasing the demand for oxygen.  Cooling the blood also finally got rid of the 103 fever I was rocking for 13 days. It’s like a biology lesson, right?

Once the blood was successfully oxygenated and pumped through the heart and lung machine, my heart received a shot of cardioplegia, and it… or I, went into cardiac arrest (this was my first arrest, I swear).   At this point, my breath, blood and heartbeats were in the hands of the technician controlling the heart and lung machine.  After about 3 hours, the surgeons fixed my heart, high fived one another and started my heart back up by tempting it with Chris Pine.

But wait, my blood was as thin as Tori Spelling!  So they had to thicken it with a special medication that is made with salmon sperm.  I don’t know, that’s what my doctor told me.

Anyway, if it weren’t for this very important machine, I don’t know how they would have repaired my heart. Bottom line, I’m very glad they didn’t tell me about this process before the surgery.  I would have needed my [ex-boyfriend] Dilaudid to calm me down.

No hot doctors? Fall in love with your painkiller.

June 6, 2009
1 Comment

Dilaudid, I loved you. This potent painkiller sedated my sobs away during the painful times before and after my surgery. I needed it most of the time I asked for it. Honestly, there were probably a few rendezvous that may have occurred under false pretenses, or perhaps that were not of 100% necessity. But love is irrational sometimes, sometimes it’s wrong but it feels right. Sorry Dilaudid, I’m grateful for the time we spent together, but it had to end.  You’ll move on, I know it.

Cut to reality-I don’t mean to be insensitive, addiction to Dilaudid can happen even with short-term use. For me, Dilaudid induced a euphoric, emotionally numbing feeling, in addition to physical numbness. Had the nurses offered me a take-home cup  I wouldn’t have refused.

Cut from reality- lucky for me, after I was out of the hospital and separated from Dilaudid, I didn’t look back. This was my first painless break-up!

An Open-Heart Surgery Tale

June 6, 2009
1 Comment

Once upon a time, there was a girl (me!) who went though a life altering experience.  It started with some shakes.   Not the good kind from the 101 Coffee Shop,  the bad kind.   The kind that you can’t escape until you go through 13 days of high fever, and open-heart surgery.  Then those shakes dissipate, but are followed by shakes of the mental kind.  Those shakes are accompanied by tons of flowers, get well gifts and notes (big thanks to my wonderful family and friends), 6 weeks of I.V. antibiotic therapy, 12 total weeks of recovery and a chest scar the size of a dolla bill y’all.

[Here’s a picture of my scar. It’s a little gross, so beware.]

It all began on a Tuesday evening. Heading home from her job at Paramount Pictures (Star Trek, Transformers, G.I. Joe) in her magical hybrid vehicle, the young protagonist of this story began to feel ill.  “I feel like I have a fever” she told her dad.

After arriving home, she crawled into her bed for a rest.  Shivers came next.  Need another blanket.  Need sweatpants.  Need sweatshirt. Need another sweatshirt.  Need a cold shower to break this ridiculous fever.

Fast-forward through the typical flu-like symptoms, an unfortunately brief visit from an out of town visitor, initial flu diagnosis, inability to ingest flu medicine and resume play at the point when a man in a Ford Taurus brings the girl to the ER of Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  After taking her blood pressure, the nurse cried “66/40! How did you walk in here?  You’ll have a bed shortly Miss.”

Within minutes the girl had settled into a gown, an I.V. line, and already had band aids covering wounds from the blood hungry, scrub wearing phlebotomist.  With her friend beside her, she spoke honestly “I’m feeling a lot better, this I.V. fixed me, let’s get out of here.”

But wait, there was much more in store for this young woman.  The nurse revealed the patient still had a 104 fever, dangerously low blood pressure and possibly…meningitis.  Gross, and scary.  The ER doctor assessed the situation and concluded, “I’ll need to do a spinal tap.”

The spinal tap ruled out bacterial meningitis, but not viral.  The young woman was sent to an available room in the Pediatric wing until a team of physicians could figure out what was wrong.  After this point the girl did not see a mouth or nose besides her own for another 10 days, anyone entering her room had to wear a mask.  The sign on her closed room door read “Contagious.”

After a barrage of tests, countless blood drawings, three days passed and the fever persisted.  Suddenly, the Infectious Disease Doctor arrived to announce that an evil and mysterious bacteria came forth and claimed responsibility for the sickness. Haemophilous ParaInfluenza (b) was its name.  Damaging the respiratory system is usually its game.  But this Haemophilous ParaInfluenza (b) was in disguise, some suspect it was a Russian Spy Bacteria.  The truth to that suspicion will remain a mystery, because the bacteria is now dead-YAY HEATHER LIVES!

Err…back to the story.  So the antibiotic treatments continued.  But you know those Russians are tough.  And as one would predict, the bacteria continued to wreak havoc. The fever remained, an esophageal echo cardiogram revealed that some of the bacteria settled in the young woman’s heart, the Mitro-Valve to be precise.

The Cedars Sinai Chief Cardiac Surgeon entered, he said, “I’ll fix that heart of yours, no problem.  I’ve done surgeries of this sort for 30 years, 5 years of which you didn’t exist!”

Two days later the young woman was ready to go.  A ‘last meal before the surgery but definitely not a last and final meal’ feast of In-N-Out burger was still coursing through her veins.  Her parents kissed her goodbye as she was wheeled into the OR.  The girl does not even recall this happening, not to mention the following 8 hours of her life, or suspension and correction of life rather.

She awoke with a start, feeling like a hybrid octopus/human with 2 legs, 2 arms and 8 tubes coming out of her center.  She was in the ICU, the time said 11:30-that’s 3 hours later than the time the doctor said she would wake.  Nervous about the time and the possibility that she was out for maybe much longer than the doctors had planned, she tried to look at her hands to see if they aged.  They looked about the same as she remembered.  Why weren’t her parents there, and why in the world was she still on a ventilator?

Over an 8 hour period of time 6 of the 8 tubes were removed, both legs and both arms remained intact. The girl was relieved to be more human than octopus but was displeased to think about  all the openings that had been stitched up, and uncomfortable with the pacemaker wires still protruding from her chest.

Finally, settled in a comfortable room on the Cardiac wing with her mother and father beside her, the young woman rested and slowly began her rehabilitation.  When the pain arrived, handsome Dilaudid came to the rescue.  Blood tests revealed the Russians were gone…or so it seemed.  Heavy antibiotics continued their battle against the possible resurgence of the Russians, and any other harmful bacteria that might come around.

Four days after her surgery, the girl was told she was free to return home.  Her parents brought her and the entourage of balloons and flowers (which represent her real entourage of friends and family) home. The young woman is currently continuing her recovery from home, gaining a little more strength with every day.


I intend to tell a few short stories about my experience, from ER room through the OR  and the days on 6th Floor Cardiac unit to the Echo Park healing facility in my apartment.  It has been quite a ride, and I sometimes can’t believe it happened.   I am documenting this all in my blog so I can remember it, and hopefully some of you may view life with the same gratitude and perspective that I have been gifted.  My healing heart hopes you enjoy!

About author

Hi! My name is Heather and I write a blog :) I hope you enjoy!