On the outset, let me just say that you get absolutely no rest when you are a patient in a hospital. My blood was drawn every six hours; drainage tubes were emptied every four hours in the beginning; I would go for x-rays at 3AM, so the cardiac surgeon could see them when he comes in at 4AM; I was awaken for breakfast at 8, lunch at 1, dinner at 5; I was given medication to swallow two times a day and my IVs were checked once very two hours. I know its all necessary, but HELLO - I AM SICK!
Saturday, August 20th – the day following my surgery – is still kind of a blur. I know I was sitting up in bed at 12 noon, because that’s when visiting hours began and my room became inundated with family.
It must have been very difficult for my parents and family to see me in this state. I have always been a pillar of strength and always looked to be the healthiest person in the room. And here I lay, practically as helpless as an infant. Not able to sit up, turn my head, even move at all (of course all of the IVs and catheters assisted in limiting my mobility).
My chest tubes were removed after lunch. The thing is, you are asleep when all of this stuff I had mentioned is put into you, but you are more than awake when they take it out. To watch tubes being pulled out of your body is about as surreal as it gets. I lay flat on the bed, Jessica, the PA (Physician’s Assistant), snipped the suchers that held the tubes in place, then placed a hand on my stomach and yanked two foot-long tubes out of me, near my sternum. I actually felt them move through me and clear my body. No stitches or anything afterwards – she just slapped some gauze and tape over the holes (this way the wounds will heal from the inside out, rather than just on the outside).
The blood pressure catheter in the right side of my groin and the femoral artery catheter in the left side of my groin (which I forgot to mention in my last blog post) were also removed on Saturday. Same procedure: grab, yank, gauze, tape. Except I had to lay with a sandbag on my femoral artery wound that was strapped on me with a belt for about thirty minutes (applied pressure to stop bleeding).
It was also on Saturday that I became introduced to my new best friend – a heart shaped thick pillow that would be my constant companion for at least the next 48 hours. I would need to hug the pillow to sit up, sit down, eventually get out of bed, walk, everything.
Flowers arrived, first from Kevin, then from Kelly, then from my company’s Board of Directors. All flowers had to be sent home though, as they robbed the room of the oxygen I was still in need of.
The next day, Sunday, the bladder catheter was removed – certainly the most painful one but the one that I needed removed to allow me to start moving around independently. As soon as it was removed, they got me out of bed, with the assistance of my pillow, and started walking me around. By late Sunday night, I was walking unassisted, and the IV access line in my neck – which was used to distribute antibiotics directly to my heart – was removed too.
On Monday morning, Jessica visited me, removed me from oxygen-assist, and told me that I could actually be discharged that day – three days after my surgery. However, I thought it was a little too soon for my family to handle. Even though I knew I was ready and able to handle it, I got the feeling that my parents were uneasy. So I stayed another night.
I ended up developing post nasal drip because the air in the unit was so dry. I couldn’t recline my bed at any degree because the back of my throat would dry out and I would end up coughing. Coughing, which is a preferred hobby in this situation to rid your lungs of stagnate fluid, basically hurts more than anything else. I was given a sleeping pill which didn’t work, and two Percocets which only made me itch. This was by far my most miserable night.
Tuesday morning, I said good-bye to the Pace wires and the drainage tube in my sternum – the last foreign items that were sticking out of me. My brother came to pick me up and I was discharged to the care of my parents for the next 4 weeks – which seemed only slightly less scary than heart surgery.