I went back to the ICU. There were about six beds and then a private room with another bed. There was one guy who left shortly after Zung arrived and there was someone in the private room. There was also an older woman who we later learned had also been staying at the Lindo and had been seriously injured when she fell down the stairs. Her family ended up having her air evacuated back to the states after a couple of days. I heard the doctors telling her she needed surgery and I didn’t get the feeling the family wanted her to have it in Mexico.
A nurse was starting another IV on Zung and the bag attached to it had aluminum foil on it. I asked what it was and he replied, “Nitroglycerin.” Zung occasionally takes Ibuprofen. I can’t imagine what he felt like with all the different drugs that were being pumped into his system. I probably drove the nurses crazy because every time they gave him something I was asking, “What is that? What are you giving him? What’s it for?” Being a nurse, I know mistakes are made all the time and whether you are getting meds in a hospital in Mexico or the US or where-ever, I always recommend asking what you are being given and what’s it for.
I saw Dr. Basave in a glass windowed office. He was typing away. When he was done he came out with the consent. It looked like he had typed the whole thing. It didn’t look like a fill in the blank form. It was also entirely in Spanish. Zung looked at me and I said, “Just sign it.” Dr. Basave told us they were getting the room ready and he would be going for the procedure in “some” minutes.
Veronica, the nursing supervisor came back at some point. She walked up to the foot of Zung’s bed and frowned. Then she started talking to the nurses, in Spanish of course, and it was clear she was not happy about something. The nurses looked at her like she had a screw loose. What I could gather was she didn’t like the fact that Zung still had that flowered bedspread. They took it away (the other beds in the ICU didn’t have it). She also didn’t like that his sheets were not neat looking. So, the nurses straightened his covers. Then she smiled at us. Zung was given a handful of Plavix (literally, eight of them) and she was the one who gave them to him.
We waited. I asked them to get Zung some water and they did. A couple of minutes later they told him not to drink any more water. They put compression stockings on him. I was glad for my background as a nurse so I knew what was going on. They nurses spoke pretty decent English, but communication definitely was an issue. We had trouble with words like “straw” and “washcloth.”
The wait seemed to never end. I went to the nurse’s station (it was just across from his bed) and asked how much longer. She replied, “Some minutes.” Ummmmm, how many? Five? Thirty? She went and got Dr. Basave and he said it would be “some” minutes. Okay, I think my head is going to explode. This is an example of a communication issue.
It was a Saturday and they probably had to call a crew in from home.
Finally they were taking him. I kissed him good-bye, told him I loved him and went to wait. I could either wait in the lobby area or the coffee shop. The information desk said I should wait in the coffee shop, which is just off the lobby. I called Susie at some point and she had asked if I wanted her to come to the hospital. It was really all I could do to hold it together for myself and Zung. I really didn’t want to have to be strong in front of the kids, so I told her to stay at the hotel.
Lesson # 13 – Have a couple of cell phones that have service in Mexico. I needed on at the hospital and one for the kids. We were using Tony’s phone because we didn’t realize Susie’s phone had service in Mexico. I can’t remember when and how we figured that out. Make sure you keep them charged. If you go to the hospital, take a charger with you. I’m sure there were phones I could have used at the hospital, but I would have been making a long distance call to a US cell phone to call the kids.
I remember thinking what they would do if they realized there was no blockage in his heart. I still just could not believe this had happened. I also remember thinking, seriously thinking this — maybe this was just a really bad dream and I just had to wake up.
It was about 30-45 minutes when a couple of hospital dudes (I actually think one of them was one of the doctors) came in to the coffee shop and motioned for me to come with them. I thought the procedure was finished. They took me into the cath room. There were two rooms. One where Zung was on the table and there was an anesthesiologist (Dr. Corona – no lie, that was his name) and a couple of nurses. There was a room outside of this room where there was a computer screen and Dr. Basave was waiting for me to show me on the screen the video of the blockage.
This is what happens during a cardiac catheterization: They insert an IV into an artery or vein, usually the femoral artery in the groin area, and then they thread the tube up to the heart and inject dye into it to see what artery’s are blocked. They insert a balloon to open up the blocked artery and insert a stent into the clocked artery. A stent is a metal tube and it springs open to keep the artery open. Then the balloon is deflated and removed.
Dr. Basave showed me how Zung’s left anterior descending artery was 99% blocked. There was another artery that was 50% blocked, but he said that could be treated medically. They were going to stent the one that was 99% blocked. He also showed me the other side that was clear so I could see the difference in the blood flow.
He said, “Now we are going to fix it.”
Good. You do that. Quickly.
I would later learn that a blocked left anterior descending artery is nicknamed the “widowmaker.” Nice, huh? Many medical people wanted to share that little factoid with me.
I went back to the coffee shop and in about 20-30 minutes they came back to get me and took me back in. Dr. Basave showed me the video of the artery with the stent and you could clearly see the blood was flowing normally. Then he did something very unusual. he let me go into the procedure room to see Zung (there were still sterile drapes all over). I knew it was unusual because of the daggers shooting out of the nurses eyes when I walked in and Dr. Basave told her he was letting me in to see Zung. I went over to Zung and asked him how he was feeling. He said he felt better. He said it was instantaneous after the stent was placed, the pain went away. He had been awake the whole time. Dr. Corona offered him a sedative, but he’s a tough guy and declined it.
I didn’t stay long. I really appreciated that Dr. Basave clearly grasped how worried I was and that seeing Zung and his heart pictures were enormously reassuring to me. He really was an amazing doctor.
I went back to the coffee shop to wait for them to finish. I called Susie to update her and I had her give me my travel agent’s number. I use Tami with Trip Surfer. I called her. She said, “How are you? WHERE are you?” I explained what had happened. Shed some more tears. I told her I wanted to see if we could move to a hotel that was closer to the hospital. Zung had asked about recovery time and Dr. Basave had said at least a day in the ICU and a couple of days in a regular room. If this had happened in the US they probably would have sent him home in 24 hours. I told Tami I could see the hotels in the Cancun Hotel Zone from Zung’s original room, so there must be something closer. She said she would call Apple and have them get in touch with me and she also would call the travel insurance people. It had not even occurred to me to contact them.
They never did come out to get me when he was taken back to the ICU, so I just went in after what seemed like a long time (and I had seen Dr. Basave in the lobby on the phone). They make you put on a cover gown in the ICU. We gave up those cover gowns in the US ages ago. It has been proven that they do not prevent the spread of infection unless there are communicable diseases. In that case the patient would be in an isolation room. Whatever.
Zung was doing well. I hung out for a while. There are no chairs to sit on while you visit someone in the ICU. Zung was sleepy. At some point a nurse came over and said, “The visit is over.” This is what they would say, but the amount of time for them to say it would vary. There were posted ICU visiting hours and the visit was supposed to last 15 minutes, but they often let me come more often and stay longer. They said I could come back at 4pm. I think it was around 2 at this point. I decided to go back to the hotel and check in with the kids. I gave the nurses my cell phone number and told them which hotel I was staying at and I took the number for the ICU.
Lesson # 14 – Carry around the number of your hotel. I had no idea what it was and I doubt they knew it either.
I took a taxi back to the hotel.
The scariest part of the day was yet to come.