Hi everyone! As mentioned before, I wanted to include a review of my entire week in the hospital! Here it is! A bit detailed, but should include most of the hurdles required to get through the OHS (Open Heart Surgery) experience!
Day of the Surgery:
So! After the doctors did all of their amazing hard work, it was up to me to recover. Waking up was not the most fun process, but the grogginess from the medicine helps a lot with the memories so its not as traumatizing as it could be.
|Dad and I a few minutes before the surgery|
|This photo was taken the day of the surgery in ICU|
The first thing I remember is waking up the afternoon of my surgery. It is a very fuzzy memory, partly because of the medicine and also due to the fact that my eyes were so swollen. The first memory of waking up did involve the breathing tube and it was not pleasant. However, the strongest part of the memory was hearing the doctor tell me “Its going to be okay.” It was very calming and her words underlined the rest of my stay. Every nurse and doctor did whatever they could to make me as comfortable as possible and to ensure my recovery was right on track.
The next memory I have is of the night after the surgery. From this point I am able to remember most everything. The first night was definitely the hardest pain wise, but again the medicine really helps with the pain and the memory so it does not seem as bad in retrospect.
ICU (2 days, 2 nights)
|The "Christmas Tree" of wires and IVs in ICU|
After moving out of the bed and having fairly stable vitals, I was unhooked from a bunch of machines (and IVs) and moved down to a lower level of the cardiovascular unit. Because of the medicine, the removal of IVs and the pokes did not really bother me. I remember feeling leaps and bounds better on my last day in ICU and excited to be one step closer to leaving the hospital.
Main Floor of Cardiovascular Unit (4 days)
First day main floor
Once on the main floor my goals became more ambitious. I pushed myself to walk all the way to the bathroom the day I moved down (same day I got out of bed for the first time) It was a huge accomplishment and was followed by a lot more walking! In addition to movement, the staff began pushing more food on me. I was moved to a solid food (heart healthy!) diet and was able to eat half of a chicken sandwich my first night on the main floor. Within the next few days my appetite decreased, although that was mainly because my taste buds were not a fan of badly cooked hospital food. As the days passed, my parents figured the key to making me eat was to bring me real food, and they began to sneak in pasta, chicken and delicious veggies. I even got a few popsicles J
The first day on the main floor I also began breathing exercises. I was given a contraption with which to practice inhaling. The nurses pushed me to do it ten times every hour and I regret that I did not follow through with that all the time. It was very hard to inhale as my lungs were regaining function and I got a little bit frustrated with the lack of process. However, as time passed I got better at using the contraption and was able to increase my breaths.
One of the great things about the hospital was the nursing staff. I had the best nurses around. Pauline was my first nurse. She was from
Jamaica and had two little
girls. While staying on the unit, I got
to be adopted as another little one under her care. She made sure to stop by just to say hey and
she would occasionally lecture me on how I needed to be kind to my little
siblings. She was fun and I really enjoyed
having her upbeat presence as I went through my first few days on the main
floor. My second nurse Sara was a hoot!
She was so spontaneous and had the funniest comments to help me push
through. Under her care we decided I was
entitled to a “Heart Card” which I could pull at my fancy for any number of
things. As the days past and new
milestones were reached I had years added onto the heart card. As of now, I’ve got ten years to use it
however I wish. J She was a great nurse and I miss her
constantly uplifting care.
Second day main floor
My second day on the main floor I began walking! After staying in the recliner for quite a while, I was helped by the nurses to walk down the hall. They had a handy walker that was made for OHS patients and didn’t put any strain on the chest. It helped me keep my balance as I meandered down the hall. I came back from the walk tired, but excited that I had made some progress. That night, I walked again, doubling the distance I had covered earlier in the day. For the remainder of the evening, I continued to rest and practice breathing.
As my medicines decreased in the hospital, my lucidity increased and so the nurses’ interruptions in the night became more noticeable. During my stay on the lower floor my vitals were taken every four hours and I was weighed twice a day. I was put on diuretics to help with the water weight and so my weight was constantly going down. By the end of my visit I had lost twenty pounds of water weight! It was crazy!
On my second day on the main floor, the pain in my chest became more noticeable. Part of this was due to the medicine changes and partly due to the amount of time my chest drainage tubes had been in.
Third day main Floor
I spent most of the third day in my bed, except for when I was walking. While the pain was managed well, my nausea was not! This is not normal, most don’t have any problem, my body just seemed to really hate the pain medicine the nurses gave me that day. Sadly, the medicine lasted for 6 hours and so did my nausea. However, it was a great chance to learn how to advocate for myself, because I refused to accept the medication after my six hours of misery was up and was put on the other brand of medicine.
|The Lovely BFFL coming to visit|
With all of the guests my good mood was strong and I had a good night of walking. That night there were also fewer disturbances from nurses and I was able to get a bit more sleep.
Fourth Day Main Floor
|Dr. Kogan and I|
For the remainder of the day I rested. I did take a few walks down the hall and made it pretty far. It was a good day after the tubes were removed.
Fifth Day on Main Floor
By the fifth day it was time to go home! After a great looking X-ray which showed much of the drainage by my lungs and in my chest cavity gone, I was given the OK to head back to
South Carolina! Departure did take a little while. We were given permission around 12:00 and
didn’t get to leave until 5:00. However, the time passed quickly and before we
knew it, we were out the door!
Most of the day was uneventful. We were given bunches of information on how to proceed with the next few days and weeks. Lots of diet information as well as a few prescriptions.
There are a few things I wish I had known before the surgery.
I wish I had also known about the pain. There is a website, http://www.simplehand.org/heart-surgery/recovering-from-open-heart-surgery.html which I read through before my surgery. It had me so worried about the pain and my mobility. While everyone experiences pain differently I will say, I do not feel this response is completely accurate for someone of my age and health. The pain is not sharp, but rather dull and primarily on my back. It feels very much like a crick. While frustrating, it is not unbearable and often I do forget about it. While it is worse in the hospital and the first week at home, the pain medicine makes it manageable. I even found myself going hours at a time without pain medicine once home and feeling completely fine.
As a woman with congenital heart disease, the worst part of this surgery was the anxiety and preparation beforehand. Unlike those who have emergency surgeries, the “blowing things out of proportion” tendency was, for me, the worst part of this entire ordeal! I hope this opinion and information is helpful.
Finally, I wish I had known how much better I would feel afterwards. This blog is an attempt to get at just that! Before the surgery, as seen in some videos I was constantly out breath. I was very tired after walking around my college campus and really did have to budget my time so that I could rest often. Three weeks out I am tired, but it is completely different. You can feel the difference in the tiredness. It is not as oppressive as it was before the surgery. According to the doctors (and you will find updates on the blog) this tiredness will steadily decrease as I get further away from the surgery. By six weeks the tiredness is supposed to dramatically change, and I can’t wait!
I hope this dissertation sized post has been helpful. While each experience is different, the general format of care is similar. There will be different leaps and hurdles for each patient. Different aspects of recovery will be more prominent for some than others. Still, I intend for this outline to provide a general idea of what to expect from OHS recovery as a young, healthy person and to help lessen the anxiety experienced by any preparing for an upcoming open heart surgery!