Saturday, September 10, 2005

Things They Don't Tell You

While the doctors and nurses at the hospital were extremely helpful to me during my recent surgery, and fully explained everything that was going on, they were a bit lax in telling me what to expect down the road. That is, what might I experience once I leave the hospital, and when.

For example, no one told me that about a week after my surgery, I would end up looking like a plum. Almost suddenly one day, multiple bruises showed up in all kinds of places on my body. There were some on my arms where the IVs had been removed several days prior, there were some on my right leg from which the veins were harvested, some on the foot of that same leg, and the worst one was located on the left side of my groin where the sandbag had been placed after the femoral line had been removed following surgery. These all popped up exactly a week after my surgery, when I had been home for three days.

No one told me that the same leg, that has three two-inch scars down the side of the calf, would swell along with my right foot. This happened almost two weeks after I had come home. It seems that the leg has to adjust to the loss of three of its blood vessels and it takes some time for this adjustment. So while my left foot looks perfectly normal, my right foot looks like it belongs to Fred Flintstone.

No one told me that my left arm and shoulder would hurt almost three weeks to the day following my surgery. It seems that during the operation, the patient is pulled and contorted in such peculiar positions in order to make as much room as possible in the chest cavity. My left arm hurt so bad one night that I actually thought I was having another heart attack (is it even possible to have a heart attack right after bypass surgery?). If you can remember back to freshmen biology class in high school the position the frog was in when it was dissected - this is the same position the surgical patient is in: on your back, legs spread wide, arms pulled way back over your head. I daily check my bottom lip to be sure a pin was not stuck through it to secure me to the table.

No one told me that my left pec would be, and seem to stay, numb. This possibly has something to do with the harvest of the mammary artery used in one of the bypasses. The skin on the left side of my chest feels almost like a bad sunburn, made worse by the hair growing back and being rubbed by any shirt I wear. I have learned that this numbness may possibly not go away at all. Isn’t it bad enough that this was the same pec that lost the nipple ring? Hasn’t it suffered enough?

The hospital gave me a binder full of information that they said would be my bible for the next 6 weeks. I do refer to it often. And it is admittedly chock full of information. However, they need to add a section titled, “Things You May Experience Residually For The Next 6 Weeks”. But perhaps that is what blogs are for.


  1. I can't help but wince when reading this.

    I have an uncle who got a quadruple bypass last year. I never have asked about any residual effects, I always just heard that he was healing well. Maybe I'll ask him and compare notes...

  2. " it even possible to have a heart attack right after bypass surgery?"

    Not likely, but yes it is and it happens. Blood clots might start to wander and end up in the heart causing another heart attack, or like it happened to my father who had an undetected stroke during his bypass.