Tag Archives: Heart

The Kaiser Medical Team

Some of the that helped me. Photos from Kaiser Permanente.

Some of the that helped me. Photos from Kaiser Permanente.

This post has been sitting on the server for at least a month. Yep, haven’t updated this blog… so I am now in catch-up mode. So here we got a short list of Kaiser doctors that helped me get through the heart attack and surgery. Was not easy but without them, I’d be pushing daisies today.

Dr. George Wilkinson, MD – Cardiac surgery – Was Dr. Wilkinson on loan from another location? Do I even have the right person. His connection to Kaiser is not listed online. I definitely met him before surgery. He is the doctor who did my open heart surgery.

Dr. Jeffrey Wu, MD – Cardiac surgery; “There is a Steely Dan song with your name on it”. Dr. Wu was also on my surgical team. As I understand it, he was second to Dr. Wilkinson.

Dr. Steven K. Kramer – My primary health care physician. Conveniently located at Kaiser Honolulu Clinic on King and Pensacola Streets. Mild mannered and listens.

Dr. Ali Z. Merchant – Cardiologist; consulted with him on heart follow-up.

Dr. John Lee – PAC – Encouraged me to cough early on; cardiology dept. Mac guy. 🙂

Dr. Timothy Skovrinski – Emergency room, 1-10-2016

Dr. Sue Lim, I liked her. “It’s okay to swallow the mucus you cough up”.  Her specialty is “hospital medicine”. She wrote some of my prescriptions.


Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass

Single, double, triple and quadruple heart bypasses. Art by Bruce Blaus.

DECEMBER 26, 2015: After suffering a moderate heart attack, I was admitted to Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Hospital for further tests and corrective action to my condition. The first few days that I was there, I was given a variety of medications in either pill or intravenous (IV) form to control the heart and whatever else was in distress.

Once I got admitted, I did tell some of my friends and relatives that I was legs up in a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack. Some of my friends like Daniel, Laura, Spencer and Jay visited over the next few days. Daniel was the person who picked up my car and drove it home from the Magic Island parking lot.

It was nice to have visitors.

DECEMBER 27, 2015: I was subjected to a few more tests including chest X-Rays, and Electrocardiograms over the next couple of days. I was also kept on a number of medications too.

The big event of this day was a procedure called a Coronary Angiography. It is a procedure  where doctors “look at the large blood vessels of your heart (coronary arteries).” A doctor inserts “a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the blood vessel into your groin or arm.” The test is used to see if an artery is blocked.

The doctor and the medical team moves the catheter through the blood vessels into your heart. A dye is injected to see where the blockage is, if any. (Kaiser publication 1047 6161)

Frankly I don’t remember the procedure. Information on the topic say that the patient gets a medicine to help him or her “relax and not feel pain”. Well that certainly happened and I don’t remember the procedure at all. The entire thing took about a half hour or less. I certainly remember waking up and asking the doctor whether or not the procedure was over.

It was. I would have loved to see the image of the dye running into my arteries and veins. I’ll ask Kaiser if they have one and if I can get a copy of it. Everything in imaging at the hospital is digital today (which is one reason why Kodak filed for bankruptcy) and hopefully an image can be passed on to me.

They told me that they had wanted to put a stent in arteries that had a blockage. Instead they found a major blockage of about 50% in one of the big ones. It was decided that a Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery was needed.

DECEMBER 30, 2015. The day of my surgery arrived early. I was awoken by two or three female nurses in the telemetry ward where I was holed up since December 26. They got me up, took off my clothes and shaved almost my entire body except for the hair on my head. The nurses are good at nursing but I would not recommend them as barbers or hair stylists. For the most part most of my bodily hair was gone or at best, reduced to a short stubble.

Then they gave me some special kind of soap and made me take a shower… which was nice. Scrub a dub dub! No one but me in the tub… well stall that is.

One of the funny things before this all happened was my bed was labeled as a “NPO Zone”. I had no idea what NPO stood for until I looked it up, but the subtitle under the label read “Do Not Eat or Drink Anything” (see photo).


NPO Zone traffic cone. Funny!der that label read “Do Not Eat of Drink Anything.” The funniest thing is that the warning looks just like a traffic cone. See photo.

I guess they don’t allow patients to eat because (I am just guessing) they don’t want them to do #1 or #2 while on the surgery table. Maybe #1 is OK as I found out later they had a catheter inserted into that sensitive area where traffic is supposed to be only one way… down and not up!

Anyway after the hair removal and shower, I dried off and was given a new gown. Someone brought in a gurney and I was shortly thereafter wheeled out of my room (with my things in tow – cell phone, wallet, clothes, slippers, books, papers, Chromebook laptop and bag) and to the 4th floor surgical level of the hospital.

I was wheeled into a staging area for everyone undergoing a surgery that morning. Needless the say, the staging area room was busy with doctors, specialists, technicians and nurses scurrying about and talking to each other as well as patients in hushed tones. I was wheeled into a small area segregated by thin curtains from other patients.

I met my anesthesiologist, whose name escapes me for now. As I was lying in bed, we chatted and I think he put a breather thing over my nose. I think I was also hooked up to an IV. During the course of the chat, which I don’t remember now, I somehow and miraculously just faded away.

This is what I remember of my surgery:

Black Square

Surgery was several hours of unaccounted for time in my life.


This is a good thing. For the next 5 to 8 hours I was out like a light. Don’t remember a darn thing.

In a brief nutshell, heart bypass surgery involves cutting the sternum area of my rib cage open, gaining access to the heart, removing veins from my leg and moving them to the heart in which a bypass is created and then putting me all back together. Sounds simple but I bet it is 110% complicated.

The process also involves stopping my heart and having a machine take over pumping my blood and helping me to breathe. The heart is stopped for a period of time to which the surgical team can put in the bypass.

The possibility of death exists if something goes wrong. That I know as I had to declare my sister as my “Power of Attorney” just in case something did go wrong,

Nothing went wrong. I had an excellent surgical team, led by Dr. Wilkinson and Dr. Wu. They explained the process to me beforehand which I had already known, since my Dad had the same procedure done in 1988. I will write something about my doctors and Kaiser support staff in an upcoming post.

In the end, I had a triple bypass done on me.

If you want all of the gory details related to the procedure of Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CAGB) you can read all about it in this article on Wikipedia.

Intensive Care Tech

Intensive care tech at my bedside. Photo by Mel.

DECEMBER 30, 2015 – Later That Day: I vaguely recall waking up hours after my surgery. The first things I remember seeing was a new room, a pretty blonde nurse (her name was Chelsea) and I think some glass nearby. I also heard the faint sounds of electronic machines monitoring just about all of my body functions.

The first thing I noticed was that I could not talk. I asked the nurse for a piece of paper to write stuff with. One of the reasons why I could not talk was that I had a breathing tube going down my throat. My body was also hooked up to a number of tubes and IV feeds going to the different machines that were managing some body functions, and administering medications. I probably looked like a sick Borg from Star Trek TNG. Lots of tech to keep me alive at that time.

I asked the nurse for a pen and paper so that I could communicate. The first things I wrote down were “What is my condition?”; “Keep this here”; “I Want to Cough”; “Chest Hurts Slightly” and “Tired”.

As I now recall, one of the first tubes withdrawn from me was the breathing tube going down my throat. That was a nice removal and it allowed me to talk…. and eat, though I was not very hungry.

I have to say that my time spent on the 5th floor intensive care unit of Kaieer Moanalua was for the most part, despite all the tubes and stuff connected to me, very pleasant. Nurse Chelsea and later nurse Pat (I think that was his name who told me about the local Jimmy Buffett Pau Hana Parotheads club) were most excellent caretakers.

I slowly recovered over the next 36 hours in intensive care before I was transferred back to the cardio telemetry ward on December 31.


Various IV tubes with medications pumped into me during intensive care.

Bypass Avenue: Heart Attack!

The First Sunrise of 2016

I was lucky to see the first sunrise of 2016 on January 1. Thanks to the medical staff at Kaiser for saving my life and letting this happen. This is not the best sunrise picture I ever took, but perhaps the most memorable as I got this 2 days after my bypass surgery taken from the balcony area of Kaiser Moanalua hospital.

For many years one of the things that I have done was wake up early on the first day of the new year to get photograph of the first sunrise of the year. Capturing the first sunrise of 2016 almost did not happen.


On the morning of December 26, 2015 I woke up at around 5:45 am. Got out of bed, got in the car and drove to Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island to do a walk around the area and perhaps take a photo of the setting full moon that I missed on Christmas Day night.

Camera in hand, I started my walk just fine for about 20 yards. I was on the paved Magic Island jogging trail when I kind of felt my chest tighten and heighten in pain. The level of pain was not very great. I continued walking for a few more feet when I decided this doesn’t feel normal.

I did an about face and slowly walked back to my car. I found it kind of astounding that I was also running out of breath. I had only awoken about 45 minutes before this happened. “Am I having a heart attack” I silently asked myself as I struggled a few more yards to get back to my car.

I got there and immediately turned on my cell phone. I was kind of debating whether or not to call 911 or simply drive the car home and rest in my apartment. By the way I am one of the last persons on earth to have bought a cell phone. This occurred in March of 2014. I did not tell anyone about my cell phone or its number except to a few close relatives and friends. Little did I know that the cell phone would be instrumental in saving my life.

While seated in the car, I called my friend Lisa. As I vaguely recall now, her line was busy. So I waited for a few moments, still in some mild pain. I decided against driving home and instead called 911. Here in Honolulu the 911 operator asks if you want police, fire or ambulance. I said “ambulance”. They switched me over to the ambulance dispatcher. The person on the other side told me to stay in the car and turn on its emergency flashers.

Ambulance on the street

The ambulance took 20 minutes to get to where I was. File photo by Mel.

The ambulance took 20 minutes to get to where I was. Parked car, emergency flashers on, parking lot. The nearest ambulance place is about 2 miles from Magic Island. Why did it take so long? If my heart attack was massive, I probably would have been dead before they arrived.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I did call Lisa again. I vaguely remember any conversation I had with her, but I think for the most part she asked me to stay calm and don’t panic.

EMS’s ambulance finally arrived. They opened the back door of the ambulance and surprisingly I could walk out of my car and sit in the gurney. Before I did that I made sure my car was secured. Turned off the flashers, got my stuff (cell phone, camera, wallet, bag). I locked the doors.

The paramedics loaded me onto the ambulance after I sat in the gurney. They laid me down, stuck an IV needle in me, hooked me up to a blood pressure and oxygen machine, an EKG reader and who knows what else. I was also given a nitroglycerin pill that I had to hold under my tongue until it dissolved.

The paramedics also asked me a lot of health questions, including whether or not I drink or smoke, to which my answers were in the negative. I was conscious for the whole ride on the ambulance… from Magic Island to Kaiser Moanalua Hospital near the Salt Lake area of Honolulu / Pearl City-Aiea.

The ambulance arrived at the Kaiser Moanalua Emergency Room in about 20 minutes from my pickup. Since it was an early Saturday morning, there was no traffic on the H1 freeway.


Kaiser Moanalua

Kaiser’s Moanalua Hospital. File photo by Mel.

By the time I got to the Emergency Room, I was feeling a little better. I think the nitro kind of help relieve my heart attack stress.

Anyways I was wheeled in and transferred to one of the emergency rooms. Nurses promptly hooked me up to a number of machines, had some kind of IV going and there I was. Heart attack victim laying on a bed, high tech machines reading out numbers and making strange little beeping noises that were relayed to the main desk I think informing the nurses that I was still alive.

While at the emergency room they ran a series of blood tests. They also gave me something to swallow to check if it was a bad case of heartburn. Turned out it wasn’t. After about an hour the blood test results were returned and the emergency room doctors determined that I had a “moderate heart attack”.

Therefore I was admitted and wheeled out of the emergency room and on to the third floor which is part of the cardio telemetry area of the hospital. The hospital would take good care of me from this point going forward.

After several days and a big operation (which will be covered in the next post), I would be able to see my first sunrise of 2016.


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