The Heart

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Caustic Anatomy Class

Dr. Rob Tarzwell is back with Joe, Toren, and Kevin to get to the heart of the matter of… the heart. We’ll discuss its structure, a brief history of heart knowledge, look at early “pluggable” and “luggable” pacemakers, plus news from Syria and Heart Attack Grill and pop culture!

Music: “Burrow Your Way To My Heart (Live)” by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets




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7 Responses

  1. We joke that my mom is a cyborg now – her pacemaker is so insanely awesome that it takes real-time pictures of her heart, and they can charge it (and download the footage) by just holding something against her chest. And it’s the barest bump under the skin! Crazy modern times, man.

  2. My favourite quote re moderation from a friend who was not good at it:
    “Everything in moderation. Even moderation in moderation.”

  3. I’ve got a pretty good caustic heart story that I’ve been waiting to tell.

    In the middle of October 2014 I had to go in for heart surgery to get one valve repaired and a graph of some kind done to my Aortic root. I’ve been monitored for the possibility for going in for surgery my entire life, so it wasn’t really a shocker that I had to go in. What was strange, was that despite the severe leak in my heart, I showed no other signs of heart failure. However, years prior I had developed a chronic cough which many people passed off as mild asthma when in actuality it was blood seeping back into my lunges from my leaky valve! I was choking on my own blood! Lovely!

    After talking to the surgeon, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty standard procedure (if you can ever call open heart surgery as “standard”) that should only take 4-6 hours. Once I was in the operating room however, things drastically changed. Apparently my heart was in a lot worst shape then the tests before had shown. I can’t remember the exact details, but it had something to do with the size of the leak being a lot bigger then anticipated and the “Ring” he was using to stitch it closed was not going to work with the tear.

    After he figured that out and completed the surgery, he was then unhappy with the end result and redid the entire surgery! So my 4-6 hour surgery turned into 11 and a half hours.

    So usually after heart surgery, you typically lose weight. Or so I have been told. I however, gained over twenty pounds in water weight, which the doctors found suspicious because gaining water weight is a sign of heart failure.

    The day after my surgery (Which was more like 12 hours after my surgery) my mom was staying with me in ICU before the nurses told her to leave so that they could remove the draining tubes that were in my chest. They told her to come back in half an hour. A half an hour after that she received a call from the hospital telling her that I had gone into cardiac arrest and was being rushed back into the operating room where they used Defibrillation to restart my heart.

    According to the doctors there was no “Smoking gun” as to what caused the arrest. It was either a kink in a blood vessel or a blood clot. So they closed me back up but by then my heart was so shocked from the ordeal that it was no longer working. It could not sustain my body and I was quickly put on life support.

    Every day for a week they tried to ween me off of it, but it was a no go. Eventually the doctors said that I was going to need a heart transplant. Now before you can have a transplant in Canada, you apparently have to be hooked up to a machine called an LVAD. It sits in your chest with the battery pack outside of you, and pumps blood through your body so that your heart can rest.

    The doctors decided to wait over the weekend to give my heart a couple more days to rest and then Monday, they would do the surgery for the LVAD machine.

    My parents were pretty distraught by now, but they were pretty hopeful and grateful for the LVAD. However…Come Monday, the doctors returned and were sad to say that I did not qualify for a transplant because I also have Marfan Syndrome, and there was no guarantee that my body could connect to a new heart or the LVAD machine.

    So then I died and decided to spend my ghostly days haunting the internet.

    Just jokes.

    In actuality, my surgeon was so angry, that he apparently made a lot of angry phone calls and the doctors returned to tell my poor parents that their twenty five year old daughter deserved a second chance. They decided to wait one more day and then they would proceed with the surgery.

    They next day however when they tried to take me off of life support again (They tried every day) my heart beat strong and true for twenty minutes so they took me off of life support and I never needed to go in for the other surgery.

    It was like my heart went “Woah, these guys aren’t messing around this time!”

    So I woke up and everyone was happy. Other things that happened while I was in the hospital was that I had developed a lot of water on my lungs which is apparently common after heart surgery. But I A lot of water on my lungs. For about a week they were giving me diuretic pills to help my body flush out the excess water which was a total pain because it made you have to go to the bathroom every twenty minutes which was no easy feat when you could barely move.

    Eventually they put a tube into my back that went to my lungs. In one hour is drained over a liter of dark brownish fluid. You could hear it flowing into the bucket! It was gross and…not really painful…but I could feel my skin tightening around the tube. So not enjoyable over all.

    And now here I am fit as a fiddle! I am technically still in heart failure but the function rate of my heart is slowly climbing and the doctors are expecting it to be back up to snuff in a year.

    Some funny things about the whole thing:

    -I didn’t know any of that had happened, so when I woke up I thought it was after 4-6 hours. My mom kept bringing nurses and doctors into the room so I could meet them and I was so confused as to how she could have made so many friends in 4-6 short hours.

    -I hallucinated for what felt like days after I woke up from the coma. I could swear that I woke up in a vertical bed that went through a hospital “car wash” to bathe patients. I would say hello to people in the hallway that weren’t really there. I saw whales on the walls and a lot of nurses not wearing shirts. It always felt like there was someone always standing to my right, even though there was just a wall there. Then there were scary hallucinations that kept me from sleeping. The worst one was falling to sleep but in order to do that, I had to fall backwards. In my brain I knew that if I fell past a certain point, I would be a sleep, but right before that point, there was a man leaning over my bed with a green light on his face. It would always scare me awake and I would fall right back into the hallucination always to be woken up by the man. Then there were hallucinations of doctors telling me I needed to go in for more surgeries because they stitched me up too tight so I couldn’t breath. They were going to cut strips out of my sides so that air could get in.

    -Once I was discharged from ICU and put up into the cardiac ward, I had a very difficult time with moving. Being in a coma for so long had started to atrophy my muscles so it took quite a while for me to be able to walk. As I was practicing I was given a walker. Now, most people who had heart surgery were about thirty plus years older then me, so it was a funny sight to see the twenty five year old huddled over a walker and the older people walking around like it was no body’s business.

    Sorry, that’s a pretty long story! If you’ve made it this far, thanks! I thought if anywhere would enjoy that story, it would be here.

    Love the podcast and I’m happy to still be around to listen to it!


    1. I would be happy if you did! That’s every Soda Jerk’s dream, right? Haha