I had a bit of an anatomy lesson today. A cardiologist sat behind a desk in a hospital and explained to me how a heart works, how the valves open and close, form seals, push blood in the right directions at the right times.
He then explained how my Dad's heart wasn't working. Essentially, his heart has blown a gasket, there is a valve which is simply too weak to form a proper seal. It will push the blood out but then lets some of it leak back into the chamber, where it then mixes with the next tidal wave and is engulfed. The proper ebb and flow is destroyed this way and the heart labours, to make amends.
I'm not sure how much of this my Dad was able to take in. Just to sit there in an office was a struggle for him and you could tell that he was exhausted and not totally comprehending. Apparently there is medication that can assist the heart to beat regularly. Depending on Dad's physical condition, there is also the prospect of open-heart surgery to repair the valve. Watching him sitting there, slumped in his chair, it was hard to imagine him successfully undergoing a dental filling, let alone a major surgery.
What was supposed to have been a simple visit today to the clinic for an echo-cardiogram turned into a full-fledged hospital admission, as the doctor quickly became aware of Dad's deteriorating condition. So tonight Dad's hopefully resting comfortably, gaining strength for whatever tests they have in mind for him tomorrow. At this point they are talking about an angiogram, to get a better grasp of blood flow issues. At some point they will begin administering regulatory medication.
Many of the questions Dad and I were asked got put to us several different times by different doctors. After awhile it almost seemed as though they were tying to trip us up. We were having none of that! I'm sure though that the fact that often our answers conflicted with each other made them somewhat suspicious. Dad is at a point in his life when he really doesn't remember what happened five minutes ago, let alone what happened in emerg two and a half weeks ago and who said what. At one point the intern interviewing Dad felt compelled to ask him what his wishes were around heroic, life-saving measures being used to prolong his life, should it come to that. Dad's initial reaction was, "Pull the plug!" He then relented and said they could give it their best shot for two or three days, just to see what might happen. A surreal conversation to be having...
And there is a surreal feeling around all of this. This isn't golf and it's not hopping into a boat and it's not throwing a football around. It's reflection and preparation, struggle and acceptance, all in varying amounts and to different degrees. Some of it is just plumbing. In its simplest terms, it is one hard breath and then another.