22nd May 2018
My computer warned me that that the traffic was bad to Eindhoven! Understatement, it was a nightmare! Stop, start all the way and I am going to be late. Have in fact to make a phone call to say, nearly here, expect to arrive in about 10 minutes. Then a huge sigh of relief and calm as we drive into the car park. My daughter is with me.
We ‘checked in’ at the Reception in the Heart Lounge and after the preliminary checks go through into another part of this new complex at Catharina Hospital, which has an atmosphere, which I can only describe as, homely. Putting in an IV drip is causing problems, but no doubt someone will manage it. I settle myself down into an extremely comfortable chair having been told that I am scheduled at around noon. I actually manage to read one single sentence of the new book I have brought with me (a Dutch book called Stromboli by Saskia Noort) and then a nurse comes to tell me it is time to change and get ready, the operation before mine is finished.
Yet another visit to the toilet even though I have not drunk anything since midnight the day before, just put it down to some sign of nerves, although I am feeling incredibly calm and not at all nervous.
Once in bed in my charming operation gown, the patient who was before me arrives back in the room. Wesley, a really friendly young man is in charge of the sedation during the procedure and he manages to finally get the IV drip in, so ready to go. On the way to theatre, one of the people wheeling the bed asks me if I am from England and then we launch into a chat about Ireland as he is going on holiday tomorrow along the Wild Atlantic Coast. It is incredibly beautiful there, where huge Atlantic waves crash against the coastline and have created one of the most spectacular wonders of the world – The Giant’s Causeway. I tell him what is it and definitely not to miss!
Once in the theatre which is number 5 by the way, then we suddenly start to chatter on about the Royal Wedding the previous Saturday which literally everyone has seen. England in its full glory, all that pomp and circumstance. All that normal stiffness has literally been swept away by a very new type of service. Lukas intervenes and says ‘shall we get on with things!’ Yes of course.
Then after the normal pre-op questions I then have to get out of my bed and onto the actual operating table and that in a gown, which is about the size of a tea towel. I make a remark but come on its nothing they all have not seen hundreds of times before. The table itself is quite narrow and hard as stone.
My ‘tea towel’ is removed and a mass of people are putting on ECG leads and preparing for the actual ablation itself. I have a totally unflattering hat on my head and now an oxygen mask across my nose and face. I glance up at the clock at the time is coming up to exactly 11.11 am. Wesley says it is time to start putting me to sleep and then everything goes blank.
In actual fact, as I have already told Lukas, I go right out of my physical body and leave it behind on the table for them to get on with their work. I have made this journey out many times before and it always starts in the same way:
There is blinding white light, I am going through it and eventually come into a space which is so totally different than anything from the world as we know it as humans. My soul is making this journey; my physical body is left behind on an operating table in Eindhoven.
The first thing about this place is it is totally serene. The sounds are different, the colours are different and as I begin to move into this world of in between, there is a small bridge crossing a river. To the left is a field filled with the most incredible flowers, all colours and a heady perfume scent. There standing in the garden is my spiritual father. He is pleased to see me and holds out his arms to give me an embrace. It feels incredibly familiar, which it is and perfect.
I make my way further, seeing things along the way I have seen before.
My next recollection is that I am travelling to somewhere completely new. I can move extremely fast and without any restriction whatsoever and space and time itself fade away. This new place is something I will write about another time, I still have to absorb the impressions and things that happened and try and put it into words. As I write this blog several days later, I know I need time. This place is where I am going after this life here on this planet. It is something totally new.
Suddenly at about 1 pm I feel someone moving my physical body. I have a moment of hesitation, do I actually want to come back, yes or now, there is split second of time, but I do because I know I have promised to. It is not right to pass over at this moment that will happen later on a date I have known actually since my birth on this planet, all those years ago now in England.
Now Lukas will take over this blog again and tell you exactly what he did. The reason I asked him to do this and be so specific is that a lot of people (more than 1400) have reacted to my first blog and all want to know ‘what happened next?’
“After Jill fell asleep I punctured the femoral vein twice in order to place 2 catheters in her heart via de inferior caval vein: one catheter in the coronary sinus for pacing the heart and one in the left atrium. The latter catheter enters the left atrium via a puncture through the atrial septum. This is a routine procedure in our centre. This is all the equipment we need, as we try to minimize the number of punctures and catheters for patient safety. The procedure went perfectly according to plan, normal anatomy and optimal electrical isolation by inflating a cryo-balloon (freezing) in the pulmonary veins. We believe this is the most effective and safe procedure for atrial fibrillation. It took about 80 minutes from start until removing the catheters”.
Suddenly, I can feel incredible pressure on my groin, hard fingers pressing deep into my flesh. I know this is happening stop any bleeding. A pressure bandage is wrapped around my groin and having moved myself back into my bed, I am now on the way back to the room where I started. Have to lie flat now for several hours. I sleep the rest of the afternoon until Lukas appears and tells me that everything has gone really well. He and his team accomplished what they were going to do. I actually ask him if my heart has stopped? He reassures me that it did not and they have only given me cardio version to re-set my heart after the procedure, because after all it is mended now, to ensure there is a good rhythm. Totally logical of course!
In the meantime several other people have come and gone during the afternoon, the majority of which I have missed entirely because I was in such a deep sleep.
The nurse comes to ask if I want something to eat, yes, suddenly feel hungry and attempt to eat something lying down, which is in my opinion totally impossible.
When I am allowed to sit up, I wait for quite a long time before even attempting to stand up. Everything feels stiff and I have real cramp in my leg from lying in one position for so long. Once the feeling of dizziness has passed, I can walk to the toilet.
Unfortunately, there is a sudden huge loss of blood and I have to rush back to tell her. Apparently this can happen, when the catheter has been passed through one of the major veins, but the urgency is that I have to lie flat as soon as possible and they have to stop the bleeding. This happens and I have to lie flat for about an hour or so.
Around 9pm I am moved together with two male patients to the so-called Night Stay. Restless night, filled with dreams, a lot of which I cannot remember.
After breakfast and a shower, which makes me feel human again, I can go home and start on the procedure of healing. The major job is done, thanks to Lukas and his team and it is up to me now to take things easy and slowly build up my activity once more.
The most amazing thing is that for the first time in a long while my heart is beating in a perfect sinus rhythm. A rhythm in my body but also beating in time with the universe itself. All is well, all is perfect.
Back in August for a control and in the meantime enjoy the most amazing summer weather. I am actually typing this blog in the shade in my garden, which is filled with roses and lilacs. The scent is almost intoxicating. It’s a very hot day here (30oC) but a gentle breeze coming off the sea is making my wind spinner turn and the wind chime is playing its tune too. Life is so good.
I hope that any of you who are reading this blog, that if you have heart concerns, worry no more. The techniques, the equipment, and the way cardiologists work with their teams of experts are changing so much now. Just like our world is changing each and every day. It is very important however, to have a good rapport with your cardiologist as that in my opinion contributes a lot to how you feel as a patient beforehand and how you go into the actual procedure itself. A feeling of complete trust, and complete surrender to their expertise. I certainly had that and I am incredibly grateful that it all went that way.
It was wonderful that there were so many other things that all came together on that day, now one week later. Each and every day I am getting better. Stiffness is subsiding and I feel incredibly well.
Jill Kramer (May 2018) © & Dr. L.R.C. Dekker, Catharina Hospital, Eindhoven, The Netherlands