A bypass in life: The discovery


Note: Unspun found out that he had a sever heart problem in December last year. After a series of incidents and confusion he found out that he would definitely have to have a bypass surgery, which is slotted for next week. Throughout this time he wrestled on whether he should blog about it. Initially he and the Missues thought no, as it might only trigger a sense of pity among some readers and friends. But with the bypass around the corner, Unspun has had a change of heart (OK, bad pun). Part of blogging is to share our experiences and boy, have I had a spadeful of experiences since last December. Its Unspun‘s hope is that his experiences may prove instructive or valuable to others who may find themselves in the same position and confronting all the confusion of medical advice and what to do.

Unspun‘s glad that through the experience so far friends and family, especially my sister and wife, has been so understanding and helpful. Is’s actually humbling experience – not a usual one for the likes of Unspun – and he hopes that you’d read this series of postings (yes, the adventures are too long to be squeezed into one post) with the right spirit – that shit happens in life, but what’s important is not to dwell on it but to accept it and move on- often with large doses of humor that is even more efficacious than Crestor.

The first time they told me I had to have open heart surgery it sounded like a death sentence.

It was two days before last Christmas and my family was in Kuala Lumpur visiting relatives. In between we managed to do something that we could not find time to do over the past two to three years – my wife and I went for a regular health screening.

We did the bloodwork, the urine bit and the XRays. Then we did the treadmill test. That was the first time I had an inkling that I could drop dead any moment.

During the treadmill test the attendant kept asking me if felt any heart pains. I was nonchalant and a little irritated: “Absolutely not,” I said. After all, I work out at the gym about four to five times a week, doing cardio and weights. And hadn’t I just breezed through all four stages of the treadmill test?

When the results were in the resident cardiologist shook his head and said: “This is bad. I won’t be surprised if you have multiple blockages.”

I was taken aback. This can’t be happening to me, I thought. Not especially since the results of the other tests showed that my cholesterol level, while a little high was still in the normal range; ditto my triglycerides, blood pressure and other usual cardiac tell tale signs. On top of that there was no known heart disease or diabetic history in my family. I don’t smoke apart from the rare occasional puff and I drink moderately. What went wrong?

My questions were cut short by the cardiologist who said that I needed to do an angiogram as soon as possible to verify the treadmill test results. I was warded the same day and he did the angiogram. It’s a pretty weird experience. The stick this wire like tube through a cut in your wrist and push it all the way to your heart. You can feel the wire traveling through your arms.

You can also see on the TV screen, when they train the “cameras” on the heart, a black and white image of the wire, your pumping heart and your arteries, especially when they inject a dye into your blood stream.

When he had finished, they wheeled me to the next room to show me the results. I could see images of my arteries and the blood flowing through them when the dye was injected. I could also see that plainly some parts were constricted. The cardiologist said that I had three blockages, the most severed being an 80 percent blockage on my left main artery, next to where it branches out into two arteries that supply blood to the heart.

The severity, coupled by the position of the blockage meant that I could not just have an angioplasty – the process of inserting stents into blocked areas. A process that some people refer to as ballooning or catheter-ing. I would have to have a bypass or I could collapse any time.

In such moments Unspun always finds himself dissociating and, like someone looking on myself, wondering how I should be reacting to all this shocking news. I remembered playing out some scenarios in my mind, high-speed movies that my mind constructs to cope with such news. I now do not remember what the rest are. The only enduring one was this weird feeling in my chest as I contemplated how they would have to cut me up, crack open my rib cage, to get to my heart. Then they’d have to sew me up and it must hurt like hell recovering after that.

That was the image/feeling that kept looping through my mind. On another level I was contemplating that, if what the doctor says is true, I might suffer a heart attack at any time and drop dead on the spot. Death, it seemed, was close by, biding its time but ready to pounce. I remember feeling that I should be worried but instead found myself dissociating again and wondering, with some amusement, how I should react to the prospect of Death at any time soon. The bottom line, however, is that it seems one of inexplicable things in life. If I go, I go but there doesn’t seem to be much point worrying about it, or being afraid of it.

The cardiologist warded me immediately and scheduled a bypass surgery in two days time.

Then, when I was in hospital, my X-Ray results came in and they found something “white-ish” on my lungs. I asked him what that meant. He said it could be anything. I asked him to spell out the range of anything. He said the best case was that its an infection; the worst case was that it was a tumor (and the worst case if its a tumor was that it was malignant – we’re talking cancer here).

“Oh shit!” I thought. “Please don’t let be a tumor. I can’t handle so much good news in one day.”

Next: Was it tumor or infection and how it saved Unspun from the operating table for the next six months.

9 thoughts on “A bypass in life: The discovery

  1. I think your decision to share your personal experience is a right one. I am confident that many people reading your post will be able to relate, in one way or another, with health ‘scares’ of their own. I wish you the best with the surgery.

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  2. Can’t believe it! I know you go to gym religiously (foursquares keeps telling me that!) and although this sounds naive I always think that people who exercise wouldn’t have bad hearts. Wish you all the best with the surgery and a speedy recovery.

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  3. Hi Ong, agree with others that we’re thankful you shared. Many people think they are healthy, exercise and so miss the signs of serious illnesses, which in your case, showed up on a treadmill. It’s good advice to anyone reading your blogs and similar blogs to just not trust your own feelings and evaluations and actually get tested. I had a friend who postponed her annual check up for 2 years as she was just too busy. When she finally did it, she was wheeled into emergency surgery as they found cancer, which in just 2 weeks would not have been operable. She was a seriously healthy-looking specimen with glowing skin and ravishing hair and no one would have expected her to be seriously ill. Her cancer was the size of a grapefruit. Just tonight, we got news a friend’s niece has died from a lung infection contracted 6 days ago. A healthy woman, dead in 6 days. Clearly she had some underlying problems that were not previously diagnosed that a lung infection seriously compromised her ability to fight back. I am very glad to hear you had a successful surgery and hope you rest up, recover and be the Ong we all love and respect. Just Ong 2.1 (bugs removed) 🙂

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  4. I have a by bass surgery August 12, 2009,my recovery is very slow, my sleeping, the poor memory, the change of moods, depresion, are terrible.
    The redness in my wound dont dissapear, its a lot of pain in the chest incision, Iam always tired, lyig in bed, its tolerated, but when I will be healthy againg, without dizziness all the time.

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    1. Soon, August 12, 2010, my “Open Heart Surgery Anniversary”, survive, full recovery, feel like a new wome, I walk a lot, control my diet, no salt, no fats, take your time to recovery.
      Be positive, take good care oy yourself, read, walk, dance, listen to music, enjoy the life, the other chance of living by God.

      Remember you are not alone, God is always with you, but take care, have your medications, control diet, and live Day by Day.
      Its ALWAYS A BETTER TODAY AND BETTER TOMORROW.

      Regards, from a survivor of Open Heart Surgery 7/29/2010

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  5. Can’t believe it! I know you go to gym religiously (foursquares keeps telling me that!) and although this sounds naive I always think that people who exercise wouldn’t have bad hearts. Wish you all the best with the surgery and a speedy recovery.

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