Big Bear Lake
Las Vegas Nevada
Abu Dhabi UAE
Kuwait Persian Gulf
Bahrain Persian Gulf
Qatar Persian Gulf
Bangkok again 2/2011
Reference map of the region to be explored... if I live long enough. I've
been to Saudi Arabia many years ago and Yemen seems to have tourist barriers
so I'll probably have to skip those. Iran is still a possibility, but visa
requirements could be a problem.
Saint Mary's Hospital: "You did what?"... "but doesn't
the brain die without blood?" ... "a heart-lung machine? ... that's like the
oil pump in my Vette, right?" ... "you sure there'll be no brain damage?
Thinking is one of my favorite pastimes and I'd hate to loose the
ability, as unproductive as it has been lately!"
Saint Mary's Hospital: "You're
sure I will still be able to have outrageous thoughts, right?"
Saint Mary's Hospital:
Close up photo of all
the holes they punched in my chest... and then glued back together!
Greetings from Big Bear Lake,
I know some of you have
been awaiting the next episode in my worldwide odyssey. Planning for an
exploration to the Persian Gulf region with its both ancient and modern
history has been under way quietly
the past month with a debarkation date expected sometime in early April.
However, last Wednesday, 25 March 2009
while sitting at my terminal around 2AM I suddenly experienced a
persistent chest pain
that failed to respond to antacids. Concerned the symptoms could
be related to a heart attack I drove over to the Big Bear Hospital
Emergency Room and planned to wait out the pain, but decided instead to
run in and have someone do a quick EKG just to set my mind at ease. The mere mention of chest pains
produced express vital data capture and a quick shuffle into the inner
sanctums where electrode contacts quickly populated my bare chest. Still
with no one to assess the results, the machine spit out a chart and the
nurse showed me the results. It looked pretty much like all the others I've seen, so I
assumed it to be normal. Fifteen minutes later the on call physician
popped in to talk with the cardiac specialist on the phone to whom our staff had
earlier Faxed my results.
Then all hell broke
loose. "We want to get you to a Cardiac Unit; do you have a preference?"
Do I have a preference?
"Just the best and quickest" I replied. Then began a series of phone
calls to the three closest facilities. First Loma Linda Medical Facility
which assured our emergency room staff they would call back after a
search for available resources. Our doctor didn't miss a beat, "Call St
Mary's" he barked "and alert the Mercy Flight we have a transport." With
his commands in execution he calmly walked over to the gurney to show me
the EKG again. "See these little squiggles, they indicate an
abnormality... and over here on this node another abnormality... you
have definitely had a heart attack. These others are normal wave forms
from other electrodes for comparison."
By now my symptoms had
totally abated and the alerting pain completely disappeared. "They do
that he said, but under these conditions there is no time to waste." I
had long ago heard about a then new drug which if administered during
the first few hours of an
Acute Myocardial Infarction would prevent permanent damage to the heart
muscle. He offered it to me and to my question about the adverse effects
he replied: "... about six percent of patients have a bad reaction to
the drug... including death. I have to offer it to you; it is a part of
the protocol." despite the early morning hour our doctor remained
completely focused, compassionate and professional.
Within ten minutes the
Emergency Room bustled with activity connected with the arrival of the
helicopter. My car hurriedly parked on arrival had to be moved to allow
greater clearance for the aircraft rotors. A few minutes later several
men in military jumpsuits swaggered in to take charge of the compliant
patient. The pilot and co-pilot quickly arranged the paperwork while the
flight nurse and nurse assistant got me moved out to the waiting plane.
Transfer from the rolling gurney to the plane's interior by the two
medicine men could not have
been smoother. These guy's know their stuff.
The flight from 7000ft
Big Bear down to the 2800ft Apple Valley desert location of the
Mary's Medical Center and one of only three coronary care units in our
area took no more than 15 minutes. Transfer from the plane to the
angiogram X-ray equipped operating room took another 5 to 10 minutes and
the diagnostic procedure commenced immediately! The angiogram display is
amazing. Each time a squirt of dye is released the coronary arteries feeding the
heart become visible. The cardiologist, Dr. Patellie tapped on
the screen; "This vein is 99% blocked. You need immediate open heart
Now that is a BIG deal
needing time for evaluation... "What are my options?" I asked with
"Well, death. You have
already had one attack. A clot probably formed in this narrowed region.
The chance of another attack is very high. Your best chance for long
term survival is
bypass surgery... as soon as possible." He waited
expectantly as I processed this profound reality.
St. Mary's Hospital in the small desert community of Apple Valley is not
known internationally for its advanced medical research facilities. A
friend of mine had been treated here a year ago and came down with a
becoming critically ill for a time from it! Transfer to somewhere like UCLA Medical
Center, if even possible would eat up precious time... and I must decide
NOW. The fact
surgeon, Dr. Devin R Mudgn performs a dozen open heart surgeries
every week and is on the staff of several area hospitals bolstered my confidence in him. When he arrived
to discuss my options the first time he noted the anti-clotting drugs
administered up to this point were a concern. He would check my platelet
clotting factors before making a timing decision. At our next meeting he
still had minor concerns over the 8-hour half life drug still working
it's magic, but they were minor and could be countered by administering
donor platelets, if necessary. "I've been thinking about your situation
all morning while on rounds and believe we should go ahead as soon as we
can schedule an operating room." He waited for my response. Dr. Mudgn is
probably in his 50's, soft spoken and quick of wit.
"O.K. Let's do it. But make sure you do a good job."
"I will, but only because you asked me." he replied with a twinkle in
his eye. This guy radiates competence and compassion... and what a "good
job" he did. Using harvested veins from my left leg and artery segments
from my breast, he replaced four partially clogged blood vessels and then glued me
back together. To reach the heart the sternum is split down the middle and wired closed
after the operation, but the chest skin covering the incision is glued
back in place using medical
SuperGlue! A little over four days after the
procedures the glue still holds.
On a more poignant note,
during our pre-operation conversations the surgeon warned there is a one
percent chance of mortality and a three percent chance of other
complications (I later learned the recent
California is more than twice that!). As the Wednesday noon time to begin the anesthetic
process approached I had a few minutes to consider the distinct
possibility this could be my last moment on Earth. A calm never before
experienced swept over me and I reminded myself of the Buddhist
knowledge that all life is an illusion. My consciousness might cease,
but that is a reality of no particular consequence to "me," if
"I" no longer exist! I imagine
religious people might have a similar calming reaction to the prospect
of eminent death based on their particular beliefs.
All of the staff at the
hospital seemed to be competent. Two nurses in particular added genuine
compassion and humor. Nurse Linsey in the ICU especially impressed me,
partially because her mannerisms so strongly reminded me of a young
nurse I had dated a half lifetime ago. The ICU staff obviously enjoyed
their work... at all hours of the day and night because I asked twice if
the loud hilarious laughter coming from staff gatherings, repeatedly
awakening me from my brief snatches of sleep could be softened. Healing
and necessary visits by my nurses to obtain vital sign measurements made
any real sleep problematic that first 24 hours in any case.
over possible Staph infection proved totally unfounded in the
pre-operation area and Intensive Care Unit where scrupulous attention to
instantly obvious. After the operation with my condition quickly
improving, they warned me I would soon need to be moved out of the ICU
when a bed could be found in the recovery wing. That happened about 11PM
Thursday, a little over a day after the operation. Jostled about and
sleep deprived I discovered a more casual attitude regarding hygiene
prevailed during the early morning hours in this section of the
hospital. The matronly nurse, all business and none too happy with her
lot focused on expediency. No uncomfortable gloves for her and alcohol
wipes just slowed down the process of drawing a blood sample. When dawn finally arrived and a shift
change took effect I saw better compliance with the
promoted by the CDC.
During my last two days Nurse Jenny from Romania made me feel like her
only responsibility, though she had many duties like all the nursing
staff. Her diminutive stature and charming Romanian accent led to some
engaging conversations about her homeland which I had
visited in 1999.
Well, this little note
started as a prelude to my next, now postponed World adventure. I am
growing stronger and more vital by the day, so the planning will resume.
It is too early to predict a new disembarkation date, but will keep
anyone interested posted.
Fred L Bellomy
Big Bear Lake: Traffic jam during the mandatory fire evacuation.
Big Bear Lake: My lonely chair will soon be patiently awaiting my return.
Big Bear Lake: The blue Ming vase silently reminds me of my travels through
Big Bear Lake: Painted on a thin sheet of real ivory, this reminds me of my
travels through India.
Dubai: In the souk on the opposite side of the creek near the Dubai Museum I
met Mohammad who became fascinated by my tiny "CIA" camera and wanted to try
it out. I became his amused subject and the picture turned out so good I
decided to keep it. This is a record of my vitality almost two years
after the open heart, four way bypass surgery in March 2009.