The Birth Of A Book – “Enter The Heart Transplant Era “

Brian HaydenI will never have the writing skills necessary to convey the depth and scope of emotion I felt during this period of my life. Fear, confusion,thoughts of death, despair – a few of the emotions that I battled every day. My family too. In 1990, as I departed from the Air Force, my doctor told us (Denise and I) that I would not survive five years without a new heart. That prophecy was put to the test often, and each time I emerged in the land of the living. I never imagined this day would actually arrive. The day I would begin the process to receive a new heart. Did I dare think of life after 55 years?

Still, I am gravely ill, and by any reckoning should be dead. I am at the cusp of life – balancing precariously, and now help may be at hand.

We all have dreams lying deep in the recesses of our minds. We dream, but are comfortable in the knowledge that our deep dream could not really happen. Not really. Then one day, quite unexpectedly the dream surfaces and loudly proclaims its intentions. The intention for a dream to come true. And, when that very moment arrives, you begin shaking, and sweating and, well…shitting your pants!

Now the dream begins, and like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the heart transplant era is filled with fear, confusion,thoughts of death, despair – oh, and hope.

You want a new what?! Heart please..

April 26, 2010 by brha99

True to their word, the Social Security office called me about a week after I filed. An appointment was set. When I arrived at the office I was concerned. Concerned that they would not perceive the problems as I had. As the rest of the doctors that saw me did. I don’t know why. I just worried they wouldn’t. As most physicals go, this one was pretty standard.  Blood work, chest x-ray..oh and an echo cardiogram. That’s an ultrasound of the heart. As I lay down preparing for this test my thoughts turned to running scenarios: “what will I do if they turn me down”,  “how will we make a living?” You know, the usual stuff. As they proceeded, there was the technician, a doctor looking at the screen and a medical transcriber. They would go through the process. The doctor and technician talking. Occasionally telling the transcriptions to make notes. They used terms like ” Severe Globle Hypokinesis” and ”AKinesis” to describe parts of my heart. When it was over, the doctor turned on the light. I sat back up. He asked me how long I have been on the heart transplant list. Well, I don’t know. The subject never came up. Then the doctor said it all. ” Well son”, he told me, “you better get on a list, and do it quickly”. I finished up the exam and left. Later that evening I called my cardiologist at home ( I don’t know why he gave me his home number). I told him where I had been earlier today. I told him what the doctor told me and I asked him if this is something we need to look into. He said he would check it out and get back to me. The next day I got a call telling me that I have my first visit with the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital set for next week. Let the fun begin.

Transplant hospitals are scary

April 27, 2010 by brha99

So here we are, summer 2006 and I am ready to go to my first appointment at the transplant hospital. By this time I have both a walker and a wheel chair. My walker was the racing style. You know the kind, bicycle looking handle bars and brake handles. The paint: metal flake blue with a leather seat.. Oh yea baby! It was hot!! I beckoned all the racing style I could muster. I strapped on my oxygen, grabbed the handle bars and wabbled slowly into the building. The one thing I  immediately sensed about  this place was the relaxing atmosphere. It was almost like a funeral home.  Oh, in fact some of the patients that I met while I was there used to call it the waiting room for the funeral home. In truth, people there were very serious. They were afterall dealing with patients who’s “clocks” are definitely winding down.  That’s why they insist on taking care of billing prior to your visit.  Twenty dollar co-pay please.  Ok, now you can see the doctor. It is difficult to convey to you the enormity of the process of getting a new heart.   As I make this attempt to do so I will consolidate 12 months worth of visits into as many blogs. A hundred visits to doctors offices,  a dozen trips to emergency rooms and  as many hospitalizations.  Throw in at least three ambulance rides along the way and you have a glimpse at what our year was like. So lets enter the transplant era. God help us.

Dr Kwan, I presume…

April 28, 2010 by brha99

ANYWAY, like  I was saying,  back in the summer of 2006,  hobbling  into the Methodist Specialty and transplant Hospital in San Antonio, my wife Denise pushing me along, we got through the administrative stuff. Up to the cardiology office. Why do I struggle with the word “cardiology” ? Even now I wanted to spell it with a capital ”C”. Do you think there is some sub liminal message to be had? I don’t know. I think it’s just that I can’t spell. If it seems like I am stalling at this point in the story, I am. After the last blog an odd sort of thing happened to me. A wave of memories and emotion over took my sensibilities. I couldn’t help myself. Re-living these moments is not going to be easy. Not from this point. It gets dicey here and I think I am a bit afraid to exam that time period. Even my daughter did not want to comment in the blog , along the way. She definitely did not want to re-due this part of our lives. My wife doesn’t either. Must be pretty scary. Enough stalling.

As I entered the door of the doctor’s office, the first thing that struck me was that it was small, and under decorated. No pictures on the walls. No carpeting or soft lights. I didn’t see a single decoration. A plain, cold, and small waiting room was all there was. Behind the frosted glass window was the receptionist. I approached. “Hello” I said. “My name is Brian Hayden”. That was all I need say. At that point she greeting me and whooshed me into another room. Hmmm. A moment later a very nice lady came by. She had lots of papers, 3 – ring binders and books in her arms. She will be my lead nurse. The one I always talk to when I go to the hospital. The one I call if I have questions and the one who will guide me and my family through this ordeal. She began talking to us ( by us I refer to my wife Denise and me). The nurse talked about the whole process. All the different doctors that will be involved, the various testing they will do before, and after the transplant, and tons more. it was overwhelming. As I stopped to catch my breath, almost as if cued.. the door opened. Through it was a small man. Very thin, probably older than he looks…. Holding out his hand…..”hello, I’m Dr Kwan. DO YOU SMOKE??”

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