Privacy? Yeah, sure.

When in the hospital you will have so many different people walking through your door wanting to poke and prod and just look at your various crevices and orifices.  For the most part, this is legit, though sometimes you have to wonder.  For example, if one person took my blood pressure 2 minutes ago, and they’re still in the room, why can’t you just use their numbers and leave the patient alone?  I’m sure they’re told to do it anyway, so they can check off their checklist that they did indeed check the patient’s blood pressure, but there has to be a better way.

That’s not extreme, but you can forget about privacy… or modesty.  Maybe that’s the real loss here, your modesty.  I mean, you try to maintain some sense of dignity, but there comes a point where you feel like you want to throw your clothes off and yell, “Ok, here!  Look at me!”  Not that you seriously consider that, of course, but the thought does enter your mind.

Example:  On my last full day the nurse’s aid comes in and asks if I’d like a “bath”.  A “wipe bath” with sanitary baby wipes, it’s easier with less clean-up than sponges.  Anyway, She seems surprised that I had had none since the morning before my surgery at home.  I was never asked.  <shrug>

I’m sensing maybe I should, and I was feeling a bit ripe, so we go for it.  Missy and Vicki were visiting at the time.  They left at my request, I still had that much say in who sees what.  The nurse’s aid is a 22 year old who normally doesn’t work this floor, normally she’s in a rehab wing.  This was the second day (not in a row) that she was my aid, and we had built up something of a casual rapport.

So, Missy and Vicki leave.  The aid pulls the curtain closed in case someone else walks in.  It’s just us.  She starts on the legs with the sanitary wipes and works up to the neck, then back down the other side.  Then, *sigh*, the “fun” part.  She needs to do the more intimate regions.  We both are a bit hesitant, I am actually her first “sanitary wipe bath”.  I’m here to help.

We both figuratively heave a sigh of resignation, and the sheet and gown are whipped off leaving me in all my glory.  I’m embarrassed, but not as bad as I normally would have been were I not gradually eased into a lack of modesty the preceding week.  She does the outer regions, and the only part left is… you know.  She hesitates, I sense she is really uncomfortable, but breathes another sigh of resignation and dives in.  I am now clean all over.

We finish up, I cover myself, and all is good.  We’re both relieved it’s over.  She might be scarred for life, not sure.  Our banter was not quite the same for most of the rest of the day, it had an awkwardness that we were both dealing with, though we both lightened up later on.

To top it off, when Missy and Vicki come back, the aid is still there having just finished, and Vicki says somewhat loudly, “Did she get your ‘junk’?”

Oh, the aid blushed.  If she wasn’t scarred by the procedure, she had to have been now.  I, on the other hand, was speechless.  I didn’t know whether to say something serious or sarcastically funny.  I said nothing, just sat there.  There are very few people that can make me speechless, but my sister is good at it, and succeeds more than most.

Many women,especially women who have given birth multiple times, tell me that you just give up trying to stay modest at some point.  I can kind of understand that now.  You develop an attitude of, “Here, just get it done.”

Diet… Does Eating Suck Now?

Many people worry about this, and I’ll admit that I did, too.  I mean, who doesn’t like good food, right?  We can all breath a sigh of relief, it’s not quite as drastic as our fears led us to believe.  A couple friends of mine told me that, for the first month or so after surgery, food tastes terrible.  Not different or unrecognizable, per se, just bad.  Lucky for me, my experience wasn’t like that.  Food still tasted like it was supposed to, though maybe a little ‘dull’ for a short time.  In my case, food tasted fine and I was able to eat almost immediately.

The first day in ICU I was restricted to a solely liquid diet, but that soon after surgery I really didn’t want to eat anyway, so that was fine with me.  The first day and a half in the regular hospital room they fed me normal meals, but I wasn’t all that hungry so I ate only bits and portions.  One meal I didn’t eat at all because I simply wasn’t hungry.  After that I ate fine, and my appetite has been normal since.

And for what it’s worth the hospital food was actually pretty decent, even good at times… though the “pot roast” had the texture of something out of old Army C-rations.  There’s a not too fond memory I’d rather push back into the deep dark recesses of my brain.

The big change in my diet kind of surprised me.  Being diabetic and having everybody continually harp on me about blood sugar and carbs I was expecting a huge restriction there.  Not so.  Now don’t get me wrong, carb watching is still as important as ever.  I still have to keep them in check and do the right thing.  No, the big thing for me, at least for the foreseeable future, is sodium.  I need to keep my salt intake down and well-managed.  My hospital meals were specially designated as low-sodium, or possibly even no-sodium, I forget.  They also made it a point to provide packets of Mrs Dash for seasoning to replace the salt.  So the #1 dietary goal for me right now is reduce my sodium intake.  I can do that.

About 15-ish years ago I eliminated added table salt on all foods, except french fries, corn on the cob, and popcorn.  I did that for several years, but slowly backed away and started adding table salt to everything again.  Well, now I’m determined to go back to that goal… and add french fries to the no salt rule.  I even used Mrs Dash on some corn on the cob tonight and it was very good.  I still can’t envision unsalted popcorn, though.

I’m also making an effort to make more foods either from scratch, or at least simpler.  Packaged foods and mixes usually contain a bunch of sodium, for both taste and preservative purposes.  And here’s a fun fact:  Low-calorie, reduced-calorie, non-fat, and low-fat foods… basically anything packaged and marketed as an allegedly ‘healthier’ alternative… almost always have something increased to make up for what they took out, and very often that addition is a boatload of sodium.  For a few years now my position has been to eat the real thing, just watch portion control.

So, here’s my ‘new’ dietary regimen…

  • Reduce sodium greatly.
  • Keep watching my carbs.
  • Watch my portions… not easy for me, but I’ve been good so far.
  • Eat real food, not bastardized concoctions, just watch portions (there’s that theme again).

See, it’s really not all that bad.  Instead of ordering a meal and an appetizer, I pick one or the other, but not both.  If I go to fast food, instead of a value meal and another burger as a side… yes, I do that… just the value meal.  No more side burgers.  And guess what… it’s really not that bad.  I’m still satisfied when done.

Eat well, and bon appétit.  🙂

Rehabilitation

Physical Rehabilitation

Aka exercise.  Proper exercise and physical rehabilitation is crucial to a good recovery.  This is something that both the professionals and the people who have gone through this have told me, and it is stressed a lot.  Some people have told me about family members who blew off any physical aspect to recovery, and suffered for it.  They either had more medical problems or at least took far longer to recover.

The first thing you’re going to do is walk.  Three to four times a day in the hospital, even in ICU, and even as early as the next morning after the surgery.  It’s not going to be far at first.  It certainly won’t be fast.  Are you familiar with Tim Conway’s old man character on the Carol Burnett Show who shuffled along with 2″ steps?  Yeah, it’s going to be kind of like that.  In the beginning you will have an entourage of 2 to 3 nurses dealing with your various IVs and tubes, etc., plus to make sure you don’t fall.  A few days later you will get the regular physical rehabilitation people coming to see you 1 to 2 times a day, and they’re going to push you to go a little further, make sure you can do stairs, and so on.

Next comes a more rigorous rehabilitation, at the hospital three times a week.  Here you do things like a treadmill, exercise bicycle, stretching, etc.  I just started this week so my treadmill is at 15 minutes, but my goal is to work up to 30 minutes.  I will eventually do some strength training, but right now my focus is on aerobic exercises.  You wear a heart monitor the whole time, and they check your blood pressure several times before, during, and after.  It’s pretty thorough.  I also took a bunch of surveys the first day, which will be repeated for comparison purposes at the end.  It’s a twelve week program, so I will have to work something out at work once I return.

Incentive Spirometer

Another aspect, both before and after surgery, is the incentive spirometer.  This is a device intended to stretch and exercise your lungs.  Prior use was recommended by my surgeon, it is not ‘normal’.  The purpose for after surgery is that your lungs are negatively affected during surgery… “got lazy” is how one person explained it to me… and this contraption helps expand the lungs back into shape so they can be fully usable again.  This is a big deal, but I have struggled with it.  I can do it a few times then I start gagging, and I think the whole thing is mental.  You’re supposed to do this 10+ times an hour, every hour that you’re awake.

I was also given a set of four arm exercises, stretching type exercises.  These help stretch your body and muscles in your arms and upper chest back into shape, and it’s surprising how ‘closed in’, almost protective, your upper body becomes.  You are expected to do these 3 to 4 times a day.  For me it helped when I combined them with my walks, while in the hospital.  They’re easy in a ‘hurts so good’ way.  You do not have to do these anymore once you start the official rehabilitation.

Mental Rehabilitation

Doctors and medical people can tell you all about the physical recovery.  They can’t tell you much at all regarding what to expect emotionally and mentally.  Oh, they can give vague and generic suggestions, but not first-hand experience.

I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been very straight forward throughout this whole experience.  I’ve openly lifted my shirt and showed people my chest scar in public several times.  I’ve been very open about it, almost absurdly.  I haven’t really felt down or depressed, and I think things like this blog have contributed to my acceptance.

As I said in a previous post, while you are off work you’re going to have a lot of “extra” time on your hands.  First and foremost you need to rest and rehabilitate, but what about you mind and emotional state?  Be sure to keep your mind occupied.  Do some easy projects around the house.  You get a positive sense of accomplishment.  Read and/or study some topics that interest you, but you wouldn’t normally have time for.  Don’t be a couch potato mindlessly watching television every waking hour, but when you do watch tv include some mentally stimulating programs that will make you think and keep your mind occupied.

You will gain strength both physically and emotionally the farther you get from your surgery.  Take advantage of it.

What to do?

I’d been told by the surgeon and various doctors that I’d be out of work for around six to eight weeks, so up to two months.  Approximately.  Most likely.  So, what to do with all that spare time?  I mean, I work 40+ hours per week, normally.  I have a schedule.  I get up at a certain time, yada yada yada.  This was going to be thrown all out-of-whack.

In ICU right after the surgery wasn’t an issue.  Unless I was visiting with someone, or being poked and prodded by a nurse, I was sleeping.  Once we got into the regular room in the hospital the first couple days still involved a lot of sleeping, though with each day not as much.  I was also on somewhat of a regular schedule, sleep at night, up during the day, and so on.  My last couple days I was up more, and a little more restless.

Then I went home.

Prior to surgery I had all these grand plans for what I would accomplish during my time off.  I was going to clean my office, I was going to work on my blogs (I have four blogs now), and I was going to process more photos.  In the 19 or so days I’ve been home I have accomplished little of that.

My sleep schedule has been upended.  I’m naturally a night person.  If I could have my way, and I did this when I was self-employed doing contract work, I’d work all night and sleep all day.  I am pretty much back to doing that.  As I write this it is 4:30 am.  I went to bed at 2:00, couldn’t sleep for an hour, so I got back up and have been watching tv and pounding on the keyboard doing this and sending emails.  Between 4:00 and 6:00 has become my normal bedtime, though, and it’s starting to catch up to me.

I have accomplished some things.  My blogs have been addressed, though not as up-to-date as I’d like.  I cleaned off my desk and a table in my office, but the rest still has to be done.  Not a single photo has been processed.  I started driving again less than a week after getting home, so that was good, and it’s allowed me to take myself to several follow-up medical appointments.  I’ve also started post-surgery cardio physical rehab, which is three times a week.

So it’s not like there’s nothing to do, but the maintenance you need to do is only a small fraction of what you are used to doing.  If you find yourself either with an upcoming heart surgery, or a just completed surgery, you might want to give some forethought as to what you will do with your “extra” time.  Keeping in mind, of course, that you will need to ease into it.  Your body will be stiff and sore, which will limit what you can do.  Also know that you will tire quickly and easily, which will bring on some unscheduled naps, which are very welcome when you can get them.  As you progress in your recovery your stamina will increase accordingly.  I will probably revisit this topic in a few weeks or a month and compare how things have changed.

Have something in mind to do, set a goal or two, but don’t worry if it doesn’t all get done as quickly as it normally would.  Things aren’t normal right now, so roll with it.

Pain & pain meds

Pain

‘Does it hurt?’  ‘How long until the pain goes away?’

Those are common questions that I often hear, and that I had myself.  I can say that results have not met expectations… in a good way.  Right out of surgery you would think it would hurt like hell.  You would think the pain would be constant.  It really didn’t.  I was sore, very sore, but not really in pain, per se.  Of course there were some really good pain meds being pumped into me via the IV, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.

It did hurt when I would try to sit up, or twist my upper body.  Getting in and out of bed was a chore, and in the first few days I really needed help doing it.  This was tough for me.  I’m someone who always prided them self on being independent.  I’m a big boy, I could get up and go to the bathroom on my own, right?  Well, no, I couldn’t.  I needed help.  At first from nurses, two in ICU, one in the regular room, but later as I improved Missy was able to help me alone.  Then, once back in bed I wouldn’t be up high enough so two nurses would have to ‘adjust’ me.  One on each side, they’d grab the sides of a pad that I was laying on, 1… 2… 3… *heave!*, and that would work.  My bed could be adjusted up now and I could go back to sleep.

It hurt when I coughed, which I was warned about from everyone, but not as bad as I had been warned.  A local charity gave me a heart pillow that would become my ‘security pillow’ for the foreseeable future.  Coughing is a big deal.  You hold this tightly to your chest when you cough, it helps manage the immediate pain somewhat, and you’re encouraged to cough often to clear your lungs of stuff so you don’t get pneumonia.    Breathing clearly is one of everybody’s foremost concerns in your recovery for this reason.

What does hurt, and what no one had really warned me about, is sneezing.  One person did warn me, after I mentioned it to them, to “let it fly” and not hold it in, and now I know why.  When you hold it in it creates a great pressure and strain on your lungs and chest, and they don’t need that right now.

By the time I came home, there was virtually no pain at all, except for coughing and sneezing.  The soreness lasts quite awhile, and you move slowly everywhere and for everything.  Two days after I got home I unloaded the dishwasher, and that single effort wiped me out and left me in some pain and soreness, so I took a nap.

As I sit here writing this almost three weeks later my chest is still sore, but much of that is the skin around the incision tightening as it heals, which it is doing quickly.  Last couple days I have had a few instances where it felt like my heart ‘jumped’, and would sometimes cause a reflex in my arm and/or leg.  This is new.  Some internet research indicated that it might be AFib (Atrial Fibrillation), which is fairly common after heart by-pass surgery.  I am on meds to prevent blood clots, and AFib usually goes away fairly quickly in this case.  I have a doctor appointment with my surgeon for a check-up later today and will ask about it.

The two very small incisions in my left leg have been fine.  The long incision on my inner left arm has been the most problematic.  It’s appeared more inflamed, but my cardiologist said it was fine.  It gets sore as well, partially for the same stretching reasons, but also partly because it keeps rubbing against things, primarily my stubbly chest and stomach hair as it grows back in.

Both my chest and arm incisions are hypersensitive, though.  I do not enjoy not wearing a shirt, but have had to go shirtless a lot here at home because a shirt brushing up against an incision is quite irritating, and if it goes on for too long they do begin to hurt.

Pain Medications

Prior to surgery I was given some kind of medication to take on a daily basis that I call “mini nitroglycerine”.  If I remember correctly this was to expand my arteries, or something like that.  It gave me severe headaches, which I had been warned was a possibility, so I stopped taking it after about 3 days.

I do not remember what pain med they gave me through the IV after surgery.  I was taking Oxycodone and Tylenol in pill form after surgery.  The Oxycodone was interesting.  I had some strange dreams on that stuff.  One while in the hospital had me dreaming of scrolling Facebook on my phone, and I somehow knew my hand was up near my face actually making scrolling motions.  I told myself to stop doing that, but I kept doing it.  I would have thought nothing of it, but Missy told me about it the next morning, and confirmed that not only did she see my hand making the scrolling motion, but my legs were moving, too, kind of like how a dog runs in its sleep.

The second day after I got home I started getting sick.  Discharge instructions said to call the nurse’s station if any issues so I did.  They said call my family doctor, so I did.  They said call my surgeon’s office, so I did.  They initially didn’t want to deal with it, but when I explained more she went and consulted with my surgeon and he said to discontinue my two anti-biotics and the Oxycodone, as either were known to potentially cause this.  I did so, and I stopped getting sick.  Before we ended the call, though, I was instructed that any other questions should go to my family doctor.  😐  Thanks.

ICU from the Outside

After my first 10 minute visit I was a little shook but yet so relieved.  Shook because there was so much to take in and try to understand.  I sat in the waiting room with Vicki and we chatted and did our thing waiting until 2:30.  That was our next 10 minute visit time.  We went in to see him and I stepped up to hold his hand and say hello.  The breathing tube was still in.  He was looking good for a man who just had heart surgery.  Vicki came up to the bed and got in a short “chat” and got to see that her brother was going to be OK.

Back to the waiting room for an hour.  In that hour our son Matt showed up.  When the next visiting time came up Matt and I went in to see Ken.  Matt cautiously approached his dad.  It was hard to see him with all the tubes and lines, but so good to see him aware and good.  He STILL had the breathing tube in so we could only talk and hold his hand.  The nurse came in and said they would be taking the tube out soon.  A chance to hear his voice on our next visit.  We retreated to the waiting room and more time wasting.

For the next visit I only went long enough to hear his voice….say I love you.  Then left Matt to visit with his dad in private.  It was important that he knew his dad would be OK.  After that visit Matt headed home.  Vicki stayed until the next hour.  She went to see him but he was sleeping soundly.  She informed me that he needed his CPAP machine hooked up and that she was leaving.  I thanked her for being there.  I really appreciated her calm company.

I went to see how he was sleeping and talk to the nurse.  I could not find her.  I told the staff at the desk outside his room that Ken needed his CPAP hooked up ASAP.  I explained that I could see him having breathing issues as we spoke.  I was assured it would be done.  I believed them so much that I watched the time tick by and went back a half our later.  No CPAP.  I hunted down his nurse and told her I really thought it was important.  She agreed and said she would get to him very soon.  Next time I went back, a half hour later, he had it and was sleeping better.  He woke up and talked to me a few minutes.  Then I felt better leaving him to sleep.

I stayed for one more visit.  I decided to work on a puzzle in the waiting room on my last hour there.  It was very calming and time flew.  I then went down for my last visit before I went home to try for some sleep.  I got there and the night nurse told me I could stay as long as I wanted.  I sat for a visit and she also informed me that she was going to get him on his feet to stand next to his bed that night.  I was so excited!  When the time came, she helped him to “walk” his legs over the side.  Then he slowly stood next to his bed.  I was SO happy to see that!  It wore him out!  He got put back to bed and I helped settle him in before leaving.  Home for the night and back early for rounds.

Room move next!

Room 330

“Boardrow, 6/10/68″*

That’s the identifying information, name and birth date, everyone asks when they come to see you.  And I mean everyone.  There’s no way around it.  It’s a ubiquitous part of your very existence in a hospital.  (Yes, I know why they do it, but it still gets old quick.)

It was time for me to leave ICU.  Surgery was the 11th, and it was the next day, the 12th, roughly 11am…-ish.  I was put in a wooden wheelchair that reminded of some old sadistic psychiatric hospital in an old Hitchcock film, and wheeled up to the third floor to my home for the next few days.  The trip was pretty uneventful.  Missy was with me and the nurse and we chatted on the way up about nothing in particular.  If I remember correctly, my newly assigned nurse came down to get me.

“Boardrow, 6/10/68”

I was taken to Room 330, a small and sparse sterile-looking room.  When I was in overnight a few weeks before for observation I stayed in Room 436, which was a corner room with two windows and comparatively nice views.  For a hospital it looked and felt almost like an apartment.  So when we were in the “orientation” a week prior to surgery we ‘requested’ room 336, right below with the same set-up.  Allegedly these two are the only rooms with a decent view in the entire hospital.  My room, 330, had a view of the roof… the window washers were a surprise… and building expansions from when the hospital has been expanded haphazardly in fits and starts.

So we get into the room and begin to get settled.  I think it’s hot and stuffy.  I find out the next day that the room has an individual thermostat, so we set the temperature down to 68.  I think it’s still a bit warm, but Missy’s cold.  I also requested a fan so we could get the air circulating, and that was delivered right away.  The fan was a huge help.  At this point the room was reasonably comfortable, and it would be home for the next few days.

By this time the only things attached to me are the heart monitor and a single IV in the back of my right hand.  They used IV for some pain meds and other stuff the first day, but after that nothing was connected to it, though it was left in “just in case” they’d need it.  I was fully unattached now, so I could do things by myself like walk and go to the bathroom.  This is huge.

Edit:  Missy reminded that the small drainage tube from my stomach was still in, and had a bulb at the end that caught body fluids, which the nurses would have to empty 1 to 2 times a day.

“Boardrow, 6/10/68”

I had a plethora of nurses, nurse techs, nurse’s aids, and others, throughout my stay.  Pretty much down to every one, they were all absolutely awesome.  Caring, concerned, knowledgeable, helpful, anything you would want.  There’s a couple that stick out to me as exceptionally fantastic, Torry and Ande, but really they were all good.  All but one were women, and I’d say that probably all but one were most likely under 30.  Which, to me, makes it even more impressive that they have such a young staff that is both capable and dedicated.  They ran on 12 hour shifts, and I never had the same one twice, except Torry and Fifi.

I can say unequivocally that I left with a whole new respect and admiration for nurses.  These are the people on the ‘front lines’, so to speak.  These are the people that make or break your recovery, your comfort, your whole experience.  Even if you’re feeling cranky, be nice to your nurse.

The other downside to the ‘regular’ room experience was that there would be times where one person after another would come in wanting to do something to me… one would check my vitals (“Boardrow, 6/10/68”), two minutes after they left one would check my blood sugar (“Boardrow, 6/10/68”), 10 minutes after they left someone would come in to take my order for lunch (“Boardrow, 6/10/68”), 5 minutes after they left the doctor and/or their nurse’s practitioner would come in for their daily visit(“Boardrow, 6/10/68”) … and on (“Boardrow, 6/10/68”) and on(“Boardrow, 6/10/68”) , for sometimes three hours straight.  I wanted to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.  It was impossible to get any sleep.

“Boardrow, 6/10/68”

My walks increased in both frequency and length.  I would go a little farther and a different route each time.  My minimum goal was 4 times a day, one day I did 5.  I also had arm / stretching exercises to do.  The goal for these was 3 times a day, and I usually did 2 to 3.  “The Wave” is Missy’s favorite, btw, but I’ll let her explain it.

The bed, when packed with pillows around me, was reasonably comfortable.  The first couple days, though, I was so beat from the surgery that I could have slept on a bed of broken glass.  The only downside was that the controls for the bed were on the side railing, and I was too sore and stiff that made twisting my chest painful, so I generally had to rely on someone else.

“Boardrow, 6/10/68”

I came into my room on Wednesday, and on Saturday I had progressed fast enough and far enough that they were ready to discharge me.  I wasn’t quite ready, though.  I expressed a desire to stay another day, just to be sure.  Missy was not happy, but supported my desire.  So we stayed another day and I was discharged on Sunday.  The extra day gave me a peace of mind that everything really was ok, and that was important to me.  What was estimated prior to be a 4 to 6 day stay was 6 days total, but could have been 5 days.

So we get packed up, they put me in the wooden wheelchair for the trip to be dumped off at the curb, and away we go.  I’m on my way home.

Oh, and btw… “Boardrow, 6/10/68”

*- Birthday made up for example purposes.

Post-Surgery… ICU

Roughly four and a half hours later I came to in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)… which is standard procedure after this type of surgery… in a dark room and with a bunch of tubes and hoses in me.  Very sore, very groggy, but I slowly woke up.  I was allowed limited visitors, and I made it very clear to my family beforehand that while I was in ICU I only wanted visits from three people: my wife Missy, my son Matt, and my sister Vicki.  I was willing to see anyone once I get into my regular room after ICU, but not in ICU.

My memories of visits initially are vague.  I do remember Missy coming in, vaguely, I think she was first, and I’m not sure if I reacted or not.  I think I did.  I remember Matt coming in, not sure for how long, but I do remember grasping his hand right before he left.  I was aware enough for that, and I sensed that it was something that both he and I needed.  I also know that Vicki visited, but she was unlucky enough that I was usually sleeping when she did.  At first, visits were limited to one person at  a time.

In me were a breathing tube, a catheter, a large drain tube from my stomach, a small drain tube from my stomach, a heart monitor (which would stay on to the very end), an IV in a large vein in my neck, and either two or three IVs in my right arm.  Throughout this entire blog this is the only thing that I am going to rail about:  the breathing tube.  I had been told by everybody… doctors, nurses, people who had had this surgery before, experiences I’d read online… that you generally don’t even know it’s there.  It’s removed prior to you waking up, as soon as you’re able to breath on your own without outside assistance.

That didn’t happen with me.  In my ICU room was a clock on the wall right in front of me, and I was aware and coherent enough that I was able to count the time.  I was awake and aware of the breathing tube for three hours.  THREE  HOURS!!!  Because it disrupts your vocal chords you can’t speak or even make grunting noises.  Because my hands were secured to the bed… so people don’t remove the breathing tube themselves, which people apparently do when given the chance, and now I know why… I couldn’t even signal anybody to ‘ask’ that it be removed.  Three hours I laid there staring at the clock watching the time slowly tick by.  I was livid.

I have been since told that I wasn’t breathing well enough on my own for the anesthesiologist’s satisfaction.  I didn’t care.  They should have put me back out, or something.  Once they finally told me they were going to remove it, I started planning in my mind all the invectives I was going to let loose with.  “It’s about fucking time!  What the fuck is wrong with you people?!?”  Once it did come out, however, all I did say was a solid, “It’s about time!”.  I even said it twice to make sure they heard it.

Moving on, I was recovering very fast, they said.  I stood by the side of my bed later that afternoon, which I was told is unusually fantastic.  The next morning, roughly 18 hours after surgery, I took my first walk around the nurses station.  Everyone was impressed with how soon and how well I was doing.  Because of my plethora of tubes and such still in me I had three nurses accompanying me, both to carry the tubes and stuff, and to make sure I was steady and didn’t fall down.  They said I walked them, I did so well and so fast.

My web server had a major implosion and was down for five days, hence the delay in this post, so I forget a couple of the details, but my memory tells me that no tubes other than the breathing tube came out the first day.  The next morning some of the tubes started coming out… not necessarily in order, both stomach drain tubes, the catheter, the neck IV (which required the nurse holding pressure for roughly 15 minutes so I wouldn’t bleed to death), and one or two arm IVs.  By the time I was transferred out of ICU and to my “regular” room around mid-day I only had one arm IV and the heart monitor.  I am told that my recovery was going much faster than average and very well.  Impressively well.

Surprisingly, as major as this surgery is supposed to be, I didn’t feel all that bad.  Sore, sure, but not any real pain.  Of course I did have some good pain medicine coming into me via an IV, but even after that stopped I never did have real outright pain.  The vast majority of pain medication in my regular room was simple acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Before I headed off to my regular room I distinctly recall a nurse practitioner rip my two nurses a new one because one of them cancelled a particular medication that she had ordered.  Kind of reminded me of Army basic training the way she spoke to them.  She was tough!  I did kind of chuckle because, before she started chastising them, she pulled the curtain to my room closed as if that might preclude me from hearing.

One aspect that intrigues me is that the nurses on the recovery floor were absolutely awesome, but the ICU nurses… while certainly capable and good… were a little sketchy by comparison.  The whole ICU seemed to be a tad less coordinated than the recovery floor, which is where we’re heading next.

Surgery Day

Up at 4am.  To the hospital before 5:30.  Let the games begin!  We do not sit around and wait for long.  We are taken back and put in a prep room.  Nurse comes in and asks questions and is way too cheery for that time in the morning.  Then she leaves us so Ken will be able to get “dressed”.  More like UNdressed.  Gown and socks only.

Let the fun begin!  Vitals checked, tons of questions asked and answered.  Then the shaving starts.  Yes, I said shaving.  TEEHEE!  Ken got almost all of his front half shaved.  Neck down.  He had already shaved his face the night before.  He made sure to tell the young nurse who was shaving him that he was a bit ticklish on his tummy.  She was avoiding that while others where coming and going and talking to him.  This process took the better part of an hour.  The whole time she worked hard to keep the more private parts covered.  When she did get to shaving the stomach area, it was VERY amusing.  Ken had to clench all up and make faces while trying not to laugh.  Trust me, there were some escaping giggles.

More vitals and questions before he was taken away from me and I went to the waiting room to collect my beeper.  The beeper was my life line to Ken.  Now, I will not say that I was scared or even really worried just yet.  I had instructions on how the day would go and what to expect.  I knew there was a board in the waiting area that told you where your person was in the process.  I had a color coated card to be sure I could read it.  I had a beeper that would go off any time there was news and I needed to talk to someone.  I also had three of the most awesome friends waiting for me.

Lisa, Teresa, and Kerry were waiting for me when I came out.  They drove over from Illinois the night before and stayed near by.  I was so glad to see their sleepy faces!  After greetings and a little discussion they went down to the cafeteria with me.  I would not have made it through without the distraction they brought me.  It went a little like this…  I would check “the board” and one of them would check on me.  The beeper would go off and I would go find out what was going on, and they all watched my every move.  Once they knew life was good, they went back to the jokes and the stories.  The teasing and the laughter.  Yes, that is what friends are for!  Eventually his sister, Vicki, showed up too.  She was there for the talk with the surgeon and this was very helpful.

When surgery was over they told me they would come get me when he was settled and I would be allowed to visit for 10 minutes every hour.  Only 10 minutes!?!?!  OK…I guess.  I was retrieved and went back for my first 10 minute visit.  He was aware and looked at me and squeezed my hand.  That was all I could ask for at that point.  After my 10 minutes I went back out to say good bye to my fantastic friends.  I could not thank them enough for what they did.  Then his sister and I sat and waited until the next visit time.

More waiting and progress stories to come.

Missy  🙂

Surgery makes one a busy person

It’s been two weeks since my last post.  Where does the time go?  Well, I’m gonna tell ya.  The last week before surgery was a plethora of appointments.  Some very valuable and important, some just seemingly dumb.  An example of the valuable:  an appointment where Missy and I went for almost half a day and met with a nurse and got the full low-down on what will happen and what to expect.  This was our chance to ask any questions we wanted.  We used our chance, you bet.

An example of the seemingly dumb:  I had to go to my family doctor for a pre-surgery physical, and get their clearance.  Ummm, why?  The family doc checked my vitals such as blood pressure, temperature, breathing, etc… things that the cardiologist and the surgeon and everyone else had been doing on an almost daily basis for the last two weeks… then they asked a bunch of questions from a checklist, AND it also cost me over two hours off work and a $30 co-pay.  I’m sorry, but I feel that I got no benefit out of that whatsoever.

One week of the last two weeks was occupied by my actual surgery and hospital recovery.  Yes, it finally happened!  Last Tuesday, September 11, 2018, was the big day.  I had fully intended to pick up the blogging a few days afterward, most likely in the hospital.  I mean, how hard can it be to bang on a keyboard and blog, right?  Apparently, harder than it sounds.  I simply did not feel like it.  I slept.  A LOT!!!  I came home two days ago, and even now I tire very easily.  Not sleeping as much, but something as simple as typing something can be exhausting.

So, anyway, the day of surgery comes.  I have to be there for check-in at 5:30 am.  I get up at 4:00 am, take a shower and scrub with some special cleaning solution pre-injected into a sponge, intended reduce the risk of infection by removing as many organisms from your body as possible.  I had shaved my beard the previous night, for the same reason.  First time I had done that in over ten years.

Anyway, we get there, check in, and am led to the back for prep.  I’m introduced to several nurses who have various roles.  The whole vital sign check… which will become a ubiquitous facet of life for the next week, along with repeating ny name and birthday… and other sundry tasks, including… the body shaving.  Yes, the body shaving.  I was not allowed to do this myself, again to avoid infection if I were to nick myself.  A young girl got the joy of shaving me.  I will say they were very cautious and very respectful, during this process.  I remained covered as much as possible at every step.  They used a special electric razor that virtually eliminates any risk of nick or cut.  Now, I was informed early that half my body would be shaved.  Which half, you ask?  Surely the top half, it is heart surgery, of course.  No, the front half.  The imagination runs wild.

End result it that, with the exception of a tuft around the “twig & berries”, the front half of my body was silken smooth, first time since probably babyhood.  This included my left armpit, by the way, but not the right armpit.  Had something to do with them taking an artery from the left arm, or something like that.

This last description is for the benefit of a co-worker of mine who was intensely interested in this aspect.  Which is ok, because once you get discharged from the hospital you have no modesty left anyway.

So, 7:30 gets closer and I get a visit from the anesthesiologist and the surgeon.  We all talk some, and I get wheeled from the prep room into the surgery room, all the while asking questions like how many surgery rooms they have total (12), how many are pretty much dedicated to heart only (2, but 2 others are purely dedicated to cancer), do they ever have all 12 going at the same time (yes, but not often), and so on.

And that’s where my memory ends.  There is a several hour void until after everything is said and done.  We’ll pick up post-surgery in the next post.