My Incredible Journey

Just as the wild imagination of Jules Verne proved to be prescient, the fantasy world played out in The Fantastic Voyage appears to be on the verge of reality.  For those who missed this “classic” 1966 screenplay, the plot includes shrinking a medical team supported by sailors in a nuclear powered mini-sub and injecting them into a patient so they can circumnavigate through the blood stream to remove a blood clot in the brain. 

I’m currently recuperating from a catheter ablation procedure for atrial fibrillation which was not quite so fantastic but every bit as incredible.  The medical team from New York Hospital Cornell Weill Medical Center, supported by a ConEd power line crew, several percussionists from the New York Philharmonic, and a Swiss watchmaker remained normal sized but worked with miniature robotic tools inserted into my veins so they could repair some downed power lines that were sparking and causing my heart to misfire and beat out of rhythm.

 

After prepping me so that I’ll look my best in my Speedo (LOL) they wheeled me into the procedure room which looked more like the NASA space launch control center than a hospital.  A suite of remote controlled miniature tools including a video camera, GPS navigation system, electrical sensing probe, and radio frequency blow torch were inserted through several femoral veins and directed past the anterior varicose vein to the pulmonary veins. 

Dr. Steven Markowitz and his team took 9 hours to complete the mission and  got the ticker keeping good time again – still no match for the National Institute of Standards nuclear clock, but after probing, scraping, burning, electrocuting, and stomping they’ve proven without a doubt that a Timex Model PDK52 can take a licking and keep on ticking (without skipping a beat). 

There were many factors that led me to select Dr. M and the folks at Cornell Weill Medical Center, not the least of which were his views on patient care:

“I am fortunate to have access to the latest advances in technology and a highly trained, professional team that shares a common goal of achieving optimal outcomes in patient care. But more importantly, my colleagues and I recognize that treating a patient with heart rhythm ailments requires attention not only to technical considerations but also to coping with the impact of arrhythmias on lifestyle and overall wellbeing.”

Many thanks to Dr. M’s great team from the bottom (and left atrium) of my heart.

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Great Moments in Time(x):

Click on the photos below for a short trip down memory lane…(The lower one has been added after receiving the  comments below from the two Bob Ks).

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Bob and Paul: That Timex commercial is one of my great TV memories, and thanks for bringing it up. I must point out, however, in the interest of historical accuracy, that Swayze did not find the watch at the bottom of the tank. He said that the routine had worked well in 6 rehearsals and assured us that the watch was still ticking but that we had to take his word for it. And he said that the next time they tried the watch would be better secured. He was, as you indicated, unflappable. But don’t take my word for it – do a YouTube on ‘Classic Timex Motorboat Commercial’.

    On another note, I take full credit for Paul’s VIP treatment at the hospital. I’m the brother who drives a Porsche (2003 Boxster S).

    Editor’s response: Thanks Rob, found the Timex commercial in question and have now posted it above. Live TV was quite a trip (as are interactive blogs and YouTube). And thanks for driving a Porsche.

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  2. Hi Paul:

    What a heart warming story!!

    Glad you have your old rhythm back again.

    Editor’s response: Thanks Laura, still singing “I got rhythm!”

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  3. I remember another Timex commercial…and remember, these were done LIVE so they were taking a real chance: they affixed the watch to the propeller of an outboard motor submerged in a glass tank and then started the motor. When they turned off the motor and looked for the watch, it wasn’t on the propeller. After about 10 long seconds of searching, J.C Swezye found it on the bottom of the tank…still ticking. So I suspect that even if you get tanked, you’ll still be ticking. Bob

    Editor’s response: Thanks Bob, I seem to remember the one with the outboard motor too but don’t recall that the watch disappeared (maybe they did it a few tmes). That’s when performers really earned their keep! Good to know that even though I’ve given up caffeine I can still get tanked on occasion.

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  4. I’m glad your movie had a happy ending!

    Editors response: Thanks Kay, not so fast – still waiting to see if there will be a sequel.

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  5. Sounds like you were at least somewhat conscious if you remember the looks of the procedure room. For my robotic surgery a couple of years ago, they put me totally under, so I only remember the anesthesia staff smiling as I apparently said goofy things as I became, well, goofy.

    And then when I came to, I could hear the recovery room nurses kind of arguing with the patient next to me – they kept telling him not to stick his tongue out. There was a curtain between us, so I don’t know how far he was sticking it out or why. I’m guessing he was just still goofy too.

    Then the nurses came on my side of the curtain and gave me something cold to sip and that was great, so I decided to be nice to them and not stick my tongue out, and they were nice to me. Even nicer than Swayze. Mostly I remember just being really really happy that I actually got to wake up again. These voyages really are fantastic, even if the real trip is in your head.

    Woody Allen should have directed Fantastic Voyage. He’d have treated the circulatory system like a subway system and had the doctors stuck waiting for the local that never came because an emobolism was blocking the tunnel so no trains were able to move. They’d have had to try to get an aoritic taxi in rush hour, while cancer cells wanting to metastacize also tried to flag down the taxi, all to the sound of Dixieland jazz. Yes, cheesy, but the movie would have had better pace than most of the high tech fantasy films.

    As the late Judith Crist wrote, 2001 A Space Odyssey would have been a great film if Kubrick had cut half of it out. My robotic surgery was supposed to be 2 hours but it was directed by Kubrik and took over 6 hours. My dear wife would have appreciated it if Hal spoke and worked more quickly. Siri, surgery, pronto!

    They also put me totally out to pull out my wisdom teeth (no robots here). The cool thing was that the doctor had a James Brown collection playing when i went under, and when I awoke, JB was still screaming, sweating and grunting, Maceo Parket was still blowing his sax, and the band was still wailing. They tell me I was trying to dance as they led me to the recovery room. And my wife only had to wait 45 minutes. Siri, play James Brown and do surgery!

    Editor’s response: Thanks Steve, your comments had me in stitches (none required for the procedure). I especially liked the vision of Woody Allen’s interpretation of The Fantastic Voyage but then again he had me with his interpretation of a banana republic. For the record I was totally out but they didn’t throw the switch until I was in the procedure room for a few minutes so I do recall its appearance – also recall when I was just waking up the first thing I heard was one of the male nurses discussing various muscle cars and he turns to me and asks, “You like cars?” My mouth was so dry I could hardly speak and it seemed a rather surreal way to enter back through the reality portal. Plus there was the issue of how I feel about muscle cars… So I thought about it for a second and summoned up enough energy to mumble, “I drive a Prius” figuring that about says it all. Not surprisingly, he was unimpressed…until I added “but my brother drives a Porsche” and they all moved back over on the Group W bench…I researched my doctor and medical team rather thoroughly but didn’t think to check their musical playlist. Hmmm, might be on to something.

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  6. and, note, Mr. Swayze is wearing a tie! Modern medicine IS amazing. How fortunate we are to be able to access it. I loved the references to Incredible Journey and the diagram. Article is informative, as well as, humorous.

    Editor’s response: thanks Mary – you know a thing or two about the marvels of modern medicine. I need to make a confession here… I got the name of the movie wrong. I was calling it Fantastic Journey, but it was really Fantastic Voyage. I fixed the mistake in the Late City Edition now posted.

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  7. Hi Paul!
    Modern medicine never ceases to totally amaze and overwhelm me. I am so glad that you found these super hero doctors! I enjoyed the old Timex comercial. I was struck by the formality and politeness of John Cameron Swayze in the commercial. Rmember when almost everyone was polite? My very best wishes for your continued health.
    Love, Sandi

    Editor’s Respones: Yes Ma’am, I sure do… and thank you kindly for your most thoughtful wishes. Please tell Prince Harry and David Beckham their fruit is exquisite next time you see them.

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