In April of 1998, I went to St. Joseph Hospital, Towson, Maryland, for an Angioplasty. There was also a stent placed in that same artery. Four months later I had to return and have the stent reopened because it had collapsed. Since then, I have seen several cardiologists. I have taken this medicine and that, all to no avail. The arteries became progressively worse.
In May of 2007, just nine years later, I went to Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland for a scan that would show just how serious my clogged arteries were.
Less than two days later I received a phone call from a lady at that hospital. She was so hysterical! Mr. Ernstberger, she cried, you must come to the hospital right away, or you’re gonna die! You have the worst scan this hospital has ever seen! Marvelous professionalism.
And so, my wife and I made a beeline to that hospital. I was admitted on May 5 and early in the morning of May 7, I was on a gurney being rolled into the operating room. Three and a half hours later, it was over. When I awoke, I remember hearing myself say, “I’m alive!” It was then that I heard chuckles; no doubt nervous ones…
Something worthy of note. As I was rolled into the O.R., I recall asking the doctor what the mortality was for an operation of this nature. He replied, “only two percent.” Actually, it’s two to four percent, but who’s counting?
Seriously, though, think about it. If there are 10,000 of these operations per year, that equates to 200 to 400 of them never getting off that gurney! I wonder what the mortality is for those who were told they would die, and then refused surgery and lived?
How many actually do not die for having the chutzpah to ignore doctors’ suggestions? This is something worthy of exploration at a later time, Lord willing. My gut tells me the survivors indeed outweigh those who succumb to these 18th century blood-lettings.
Following surgery, I treated this event as a new beginning, a time to start my life all over again. I had made up my mind to follow the suggestions of the doctors and staff, to the letter.
As I began walking in the hallways of the hospital, there were no hints of chest pain! You see, when my wife and I first walked into the hospital, I was riddled with chest pains. It took me a good while to get to where I was supposed to go.
After the operation I was convinced I had indeed been given a gift from God, a new lease on life. I took it very seriously. As my body and doctors’ orders permitted, I began exercising. I walked throughout my house. I exercised using 5 pound dumbbells. Gradually, I added to the weights. I began using the Total Gym.
I gradually added walking around our neighborhood, until I was walking a mile or two each and every day during the hot summer months. I found an office building in the area and began climbing their stairs, though not on a regular basis, for I had read that I should always be thinking of ways to challenge my heart, never allowing it to become “accustomed” to any particular regimen. It certainly made sense to me.
I felt fantastic, better than I felt in years! I was gaining stamina and strength daily. I went into the hospital weighing 273 pounds (I’m 5 foot 10 inches tall) and was down to 223 pounds when it happened. On one of my morning walks, I began to experience a very familiar pain in the chest area. What’s this? It was not only puzzling, but quite alarming, and I was both frightened and angry.
That very same day I drove myself back to the hospital and sought out Dr. Michael Fiocco, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery, Union Memorial Hospital, the man who performed my surgery. As I slowly walked to his office, I could see him in my mind’s eye as he stood in front of my bed after surgery, crowing like a Rooster. “Bill, you have five new grafts and a beautiful heart!” Perhaps, I thought, but time will tell…
And now I was on my way back to him to ask why my chest pain had returned. His reply, “I don’t know.” What do you mean you don’t know, I queried? He had made a quarter of a million dollars in three hours and twenty-two minutes with me in the operating room, and all he could say is, “I don’t know.”
The hospital made an additional $28,000 for my four day stay. The Doc then suggested that I come back to the hospital for more tests. More slice and dice? In addition to having clogged arteries, he must think I’m insane!
The doctor proclaimed that he did not know why the chest pains were reoccurring, yet he had declared with utmost confidence that I would die if I did not have the surgery! The surgery had failed and I still had those very familiar chest pains.
“Bill, there are no guarantees,” the Doctor had proffered. Really? On that note I suggested he not be so quick to encourage such drastic measures as open-heart surgery, knowing how tenuous these surgeries are.
Given the fifty percent (50%) failure of this kind of surgery, would it not be more advantageous (certainly not for the surgeons!), to not get the patients’ hopes up? Rather, look the patient in the eyes and state that nothing can be done for him or her, insofar as “conventional medicine” understands. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic notion of “doing no harm?”
On that note of doing no harm, there is a movie on the web entitled, “First Do No Harm.” It will give you another glimpse into the fraud of medicine being “practiced” in this country today.
Now keep in mind, I have been receiving “treatment” since 1998, swallowing tons of pills, two Angioplasties and four catheters, a stent and its reopening, and then five-bypass cardiac surgery, the culmination of all this still being the existence of chest pain; Atherosclerosis, Angina, hardening of the arteries, plaque buildup, whatever. A rose by any other name is still a rose.
My Dad always said that when you keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again, expecting different results, it’s a good sign of insanity. I told the Doc this. His reply: “If you can live with the pain, then so can I.” And so I am, Doc, and so I am…
Would love to hear your thoughts.