I am assigned an 8:00 time slot for the angiogram.  I get up early so I can eat something before 6:00 a.m.  I haven’t slept well.  We enter the by now familiar Royal Surrey Hospital, walk past the pond with water plants in it, turn right to Cardiac Day Care.  A very blond and pleasant nurse tells me to undress and put on the hospital gown, which I do.  I can never figure out how to tie the strings, but it doesn’t much matter.  It doesn’t actually hide much even if you tie them. 

  • I’ve brought my laptop and a book.  I can type up a few blogs while I’m waiting, I think.   I write one and then Katia, the Polish nurse, is back to ask me questions.  Her English is not good and I’m worried.  What if she ticks the wrong box?  However, we figure it out together, and I warm to her.  Still, I just want to get in and out of there.  The room has 4 beds in it, with blue drapes between them.  It looks clean but not tidy, not like the cool, soothing rooms where I have the acupuncture.  She comes back with a paper towel and a razor and asks me to shave my groin.  I am more than pleased to do it myself.

The woman next to me, probably 15 years my junior, is taken away for her angiogram, and back more quickly than I expect. I am next, so they put some throw away sponge slippers on my feet and I walk into the lab.  I climb onto another bed,  and the x-ray technician explains exactly what they will be doing, and where I should look to follow the procedure.  The slippers go into the bin.  An attractive young Indian woman explains further.  She will inject a local anaesthetic in my groin, then push the wire through, followed by injection of the dye.  I will feel a pin prick, she says, and then some pressure. 

  • More quickly than I imagined the probe is already into my heart, and straggly black tentacles writhe and throb on the screen.  These are my arteries, and they look so tiny.  I thought they were bigger.  Was I thinking they were all aorta sized?  And these images are magnified several times.  No wonder you can’t have any extraneous matter on the walls of these little threads.   I feel something like a cramp in my heart, and I don’t like it.  The doctor says it’s because when the dye goes in the heart skips a beat.  I don’t like the sound of that, but so be it.  She moves the probe to the left, and the same thing occurs, a little heart discomfort, then the squiggly, messy black strings again. 

Then it is all over, except for stopping the artery from continuing to bleed.  It’s the most unpleasant part.  This smallish woman puts both hands on my groin and presses to my back bone.  Or close to it, anyway.   She keeps doing this for several minutes, releases, looks, does it again.  I wonder if I will stop bleeding.  My sister didn’t, and had to stay longer.  I don’t want to do that, lying flat for 3 hours is bad enough.  Her efforts are effective, though, and I am asked to press on a gauze pad over the entry point as they help me slide to the gurney and back to bed.   One hour more on my back, two hours sitting up.  Okay, boring, but doable.  I am okay.  My arteries are clear and my heart is functioning normally.  Whew.

  • Katia is kind and attentive. I think I will write a letter to the hospital to tell them she should have a raise. AN She is 3 months pregnant with her second child, and her one year old girl is in the hospital nursery.  She lights up when she speaks of her daughter, who is a sunny, smiley baby beloved of all her carers, apparently.  Katia is hungry all the time, she says.  She brings me my bag lunch, which consists of a boring tuna fish sandwich, yogurt, a small piece of cheese, a tiny Mars bar, and a banana.  I offer her my banana, which she gratefully accepts.  She calls Bernard to come and get me.