Wednesday, April 29, 2015

All The Cool Kids Are Born With *Some Assembly Required: Part 1

My assembly (surgery) was a success, and I was discharged to the comfort of my home yesterday. I will get to that in another post - I'm going to have to break up the past few days over a couple posts. This post is a long one, and it only covers my first few days in the hospital.

Forewarning: There are some pictures of me in this post just after surgery.

So yes, if you read my last post, Friday was the big day! I had to be at the medical center at 5:45 to check in and get ready for my surgery. I was scheduled to be the first procedure of the day. I got checked in and called back almost immediately to get ready.

(Last "selfie" with this broken heart of mine)

After I got ready, they took my vitals, asked me a bunch of questions and then brought my parents back. At that point they wheeled me over to the pre-surgical area. I spoke to the cardiac anesthesiologist, and the cardiac anesthesiology fellow, and then I sat there for a while as I watched one by one everyone leave for their procedures. We finally met with my surgeon one last time, went over everything, and made sure we were all in agreement. Then it was time for me to say my final goodbyes to my parents. I started crying, but thankfully, right after I said goodbye, the anesthesiologist gave me some "happy juice" and honestly, I only remember seconds after that. I don't even remember being rolled out of the pre-surgical area.

Remembering Through The Haze:

The next thing I remember is "kind of" waking up in the ICU. I still had my breathing tube in and I was fighting it. I also heard someone crying in the background saying they could not see me like this.




The next thing I remember is people yelling at me to breathe, that was before everything went black again. I remember being told that in order to get my breathing tube out, I needed to breathe without assistance for an hour. Since I could not talk, I remember one of the Attending's I work for stopping by to see how I was doing, and I was motioning to my mom to talk to him. She said she had already met him earlier in the day. I remember 2 of the mid-level providers that I work with stopping by, both of them had previously worked on the floor I was staying on, and they wanted to make sure I had the best possible care.

I also remember REALLY struggling and fighting the vent. My aunt said my hands and feet were outstretched, and she said she really hated seeing me so upset. I also remember motioning for the nurse to suction the vent because I honestly felt like I was going to choke (even though I know I won't), at the time, I wasn't able to tell myself that. I remember Angie coming in and leaving. Even though Angie was there the entire day with my family, she had tired to leave, but decided not to because I was still on the vent. So she sat back down in the waiting area. She ended up leaving before I was able to get off the vent, but I remember her leaving. I also remember my mom and Angie showing me 2 really cool pictures that the surgeon took of my heart during surgery. He had printed them out and given them to me! (I LOVE that kind of stuff, I can't wait to get a frame to put it in!)

I remember my uncle and cousin coming in, and me waving to them. I was finally with it enough to stay awake for the length of their stay and I was breathing on my own. The nurse came in and said he was just waiting for respiratory to come in and help remove the tube. I waited FOREVER. I'm not going to lie, I was getting REALLY annoyed. I also felt very warm, and I kept fanning myself. My cousin went out to the nurses station to see if they had a box fan for me, but they didn't. So instead, he took a sign off the wall and started fanning me. I was so thankful for that! Finally, the nurse and respiratory therapist came in and removed the tube. Oh thank god. It was very hard to speak, but at least I could squeak out a few words with my family who were there to see me. They also let me have some ice chips.

Finally (Somewhat) Coherent:

I didn't get my breathing tube out until around 7:30. Later, I found out that I had started to wake up during my surgery and I was told I was kicking my feet, so they had to give me more anesthesia to finish up. So, I assume that's why I had such a rough time getting off the vent. I was also told that they tried to let me breathe on my own about 4 times, but each time I would fall back asleep and stop breathing. My family left to let me get some rest (and I'm sure they were all exhausted as well). I slept a little longer and then I woke up and was pretty with it around 10 pm. At that point I felt nauseous from the ice chips. I decided to turn my phone on - I had multiple messages to respond to. Then, just as respiratory came into help me with my breathing exercises, I threw up all of the ice chips I ate. My nurse came in and gave me some more anti-nausea medication. That made me drowsy, and I napped again. Around midnight I woke up again, so I sent a selfie to my friends to let them know I was alive.


(Still swollen from surgery)


I slept on and off all night, so between naps I was watching either HGTV or ABC Family. When I woke up Saturday morning, Young and Hungry was on TV, so I watched most of the episode before drifting off again. My nurse came in and cleaned me up a bit, since I was still covered in Iodine from the operating room. I finally got my arterial line and catheter out around 10, then I had to lay flat for about 2 hours before they could get me out of bed and to the chair for the first time. Timing was perfect because I was able to eat something for the first time at noon!

(First meal! I'm still so swollen)

Angie dropped by for a visit after the heart walk. I was bummed I couldn't join my coworkers at the walk that morning, but they kept me updated with a lot of pictures! When Angie got there, mom went to grab a bite to eat and I sat there to catch up with Angie. She was filling me in on how Friday went for them out in the waiting room. Soon, my nurse came in and wanted me to get up and go for a walk.


(Going for my first stroll around the ICU)

We decided to take 2 laps because I was doing so well, then I got back in my chair. They were all joking that I must have set a record for speed around the unit because I as cruising right along. One of the Fellows I work with was out at the desk and he was cheering me on. We joked that he should go get me an ultrasound machine and I would do some portables. He then stopped in my room to see how I was doing before leaving the unit. He was amazed at how great I was doing so soon after surgery. Angie stayed for a few hours, and she also introduced me to the lead cardiac sonographer at the Medical Center. Angie was also able to catch up with my mom when she got back from getting a bite to eat.

Shortly after mom got back, my surgeon stopped by for a visit. He was in surgery all morning with an emergency. He took one look at me and said "Did we actually do open heart surgery on you yesterday?" He was really happy with how well I looked, I was sitting up, had been up walking, was talking and smiling. Angie had even made me laugh, which really hurt, but I didn't care. Laughter is the best medicine! We talked about my surgery and he told me how well it went. I also thanked him for giving me a couple pictures of my heart that he had taken during surgery, and I asked if he had more. (Haha, I'm such a nerd, I love things like that!) He must have been reading my mind when he gave the pictures to my mom, Angie and I had joked that we were going to try and get him to wear a Go Pro camera during surgery. He told me how important it was for me to get up and walk and work on my breathing exercises, and I told him I was but would continue.

After Angie left, I went for another few laps around the ICU, then slept in the chair for a bit. My aunt and uncle came by to visit me, they were going to go out for dinner with my parents that evening. Mom and dad went back to my house to feed our dogs while I sat and caught up with my aunt and uncle for a while. Once my mom and dad called them and said they were on their way to the restaurant, they headed out. I ate dinner, and then got back into bed to relax. The nurse was kind and closed the curtain and door for me so I could get some rest, and didn't come in to bother me unless I was awake. He came in to flush my IV's and give me my pain medication around 4 am, and lucky me, the 2 IV's I had in, BOTH blew! Not going to lie, that was excruciating! He took both out, and gave me an ice pack for my hand because it puffed up and hurt so much. After that he brought me a heat pack to soothe it. Then of course, I needed a new IV. Luckily he was able to find something and get a new one in, then draw my labs.

Sunday morning, I ordered breakfast, but I wasn't too hungry. I ate the yogurt and peaches that I had ordered. I also had text my friends that were running the Flower City Challenge to wish them luck. I was supposed to run the 5K that morning (when my surgery was still on Monday). The sun was out, but my parent said it was cold. My cousin sent me a picture of them at the race - I was happy they still went even though I couldn't. My surgeon came in to see how I was doing. He said I was still doing great, and that they were just waiting on a bed in the step down unit to open so I could move. He also increased the amount of walks or laps I had to do. I was supposed to do 3 on Saturday, and I did 4. Sunday he increased the amount of walks to 6.

While I was sitting there watching some television that morning, one of my friends from Team RWB stopped in to visit and drop off a card and some balloons. She works at the Medical Center, so she was able to sneak away quickly to drop them off. It was SO sweet of my team to think of me. She said she was able to see some of the half marathon runners from her patients rooms that morning. The card made me smile and the balloons brightened up my room (even though, technically, I was not allowed to have them in the ICU).


(Definitely brightened my day!)

That afternoon my aunt and 2 of my uncles stopped by to visit. As luck would have it, shortly after they came, I was moved to a private room on the step down unit. So they helped carry some of my belongings down to my new room. I used the cart they had in the ICU and walked myself down to my new room (that counted towards one of my 6 walks). The nurses got me settled in my room, and they were so kind to bring in some chairs for my family to sit. My family sat and visited for a while, and still remarked on how well I looked for only being two days post op.

My family left, and I relaxed and watched some TV and finished up my walks for the day. Nita, Mel and Matt all came to visit me that evening. Nita brought her medal from the half marathon that morning, and she told me about the race course and what not. Hopefully I'll be able to run it next year! I filled them in on everything that had been going on with me in the hospital (things that I hadn't already text them about), and we chatted for about and hour or so. Nita and Mel both had to laugh that I sent them the selfie at midnight the night after my surgery. It was great to see all of them, definitely made me smile to hear about their weekends and life outside the hospital.

I crawled into bed and put a movie on. Later that evening another one of the Fellows I work with stopped up for a few minutes to say hi and see how I was doing. We talked about what I remembered from coming out of surgery, especially with the breathing tube. He asked if I remembered starting to wake up during surgery (thankfully, no). I also told him about the really cool pictures that my surgeon gave me from surgery. We also chatted about work for a few minutes, and then he was off to save some lives and I was off to dreamland.

Little by little I was losing my connections. I no longer had to wear oxygen, or a blood pressure cuff around the clock. However, I was still on continuous telemetry, and had my chest tubes. I still had to rely on the nurse to be in there to get me out of my bed or chair, to walk me to the bathroom, and they still had to help me with my walks. I can honestly say, you don't know pain until you've had your sternum sawed in half, and chest cracked, and then you either cough, vomit, sneeze or laugh. But, I had to admit, I felt pretty good, and every one's positive comments were very encouraging.

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