Bypassaversary

Today, October 18, 2014 marks exactly one year since my triple bypass heart surgery.  This year sure has flown by.  It has also been full of changes, challenges, and so much more.

One day after surgery.

Last year I spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year in a healing state.  This didn’t really change the holidays too much for me.  Other than being much slower and weaker at decorating and cooking, I really didn’t change much in my routines and traditions.  Other than eating healthier, that is.  I did miss the awesome Halloween party my friends throw every year.  That was a bit upsetting.  They made a point to tag me in a post on Facebook during the party, though, that was awesome, knowing that they noticed my absence and missed me.

Also during my recovery, a few friends went to Wondercon and met RuPaul. They knew that my husband and I love RuPaul and asked him to record a message for us.  He did, and it was wonderful!  My husband reposts it on Facebook every few months because he is so happy about it.

I have so many wonderful friends and family that came to visit me in the hospital and at home.  It is a huge comfort to know so many people truly care.  Both my mother and mother-in-law came and took care of me for the first three weeks of my home recovery, and my husband was always there to help as well. I remember I thought I felt fine, but I was so weak and got exhausted just trying to get up off the couch, or walk down the hallway, or take a shower.  I needed the help and was so glad to have it.

In November I did a fun little photo shoot that was intended to be used in a calendar for an art group I am in with my friends.  I am a writer (yes, it is an art!) and also had just had heart surgery, so I thought I would use these two themes together and do a kind of “pouring my heart into my writing”.  It was a fun evening with a couple friends and my brother-in-law.  I wasn’t happy with the pictures, though.  They came out fine, I just hate seeing myself and tend to pick on every little fault in my appearance.  I’m too fat!, I’m just plain ugly!, I never photograph well!, etc.

One I’m not too unhappy with.

For the first three months I wasn’t allowed to use my arms or chest muscles.  This made life more difficult.  I knew I had to obey the rules because I made the mistake of using these muscles a couple times and the resulting pain was not fun.  If you are wondering what I mean by making life more difficult, just try getting up off the couch or from a laying position in bed without using your arms or chest muscles at all.  Not so easy is it?  Now try doing that for three months straight. It gets old, fast.

When the new year came ’round, my resolution was an obvious one.  I resolved to live healthier and get control of my diabetes.  I have stuck to that resolution for the most part.  It is not easy and I struggle everyday with temptation, frustration, and worry.  There is a lot of triumph though, too.  I have gained a lot of control and am getting better every day.

One huge difficulty is with exercise.  I love to be active and exercise is no problem as far as motivation and desire are concerned.  It’s my physical issues that keep me much more sedentary than I ‘d like or need.  I have neuropathy and it makes for a ton of pain in my legs and feet, and numbness in my toes.  The pain comes on almost immediately as I do physical activity, and then progressively gets worse as I continue with exercise.  I get to the point where It is difficult to walk and I just want to sit where I am and cry.

So, yeah, exercise is more torture than fun these days.

January is my birth month.  So the January following my heart surgery I threw myself a party.  The theme was “survivor” (not the T.V. show).  There weren’t any decorations really, but I did have a pow-wow where everyone told a story of their own personal survival (near death experience) and the group had to vote on whether or not it was a true story.  We had a lot of laughs and fun, and got to know each other a little better.

Mid January was when I was allowed to resume normal activities with no physical restrictions.  I was shocked at how weak my chest and arm muscles had become in just three months.  Well, not so shocked at the chest muscles, they had been sliced through!   It took a few weeks to rebuild them to the point where I didn’t feel weak or pained.

First day back to work.

A terrible result of the heart surgery and recovery was that I developed frozen shoulder syndrome in my left shoulder.  It is painful, weak, and movement is restricted.  I am still dealing with this issue but it is very slowly getting better.

I am on a lot of medications due to being diabetic and having so many complications of diabetes.  As far as my heart goes, after surgery I was put on Metoprolol, low-dose aspirin, and Plavix, and the Lisinopril I was already on was adjusted to work with the Metoprolol.  I am still on all of these medications and my cardiologist has not done any lab work to make sure the dosage is correct or that I still need them.  This worries me to no end.

As the months go by the memory of the pain I was in for a couple of years before surgery is distant but still strong.  That pain was crippling and even though I thought it was being caused by something else, it was terrifying.  The surgery itself is still a strong memory as well.  Every time I look in the mirror and see this huge scar down the center of my chest, or the five two inch scars down my inner left thigh, I remember my week long stay in the hospital and the long recovery…and the fact that I could have dropped dead at any second during the two years leading up to it.

Scar at one year.

It’s been a year and I feel great as far as my heart is concerned.  Here’s to many more bypassaversaries!

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Author: Tamra K. Garcia

Stephen King says to "Write what you know." I know diabetes, I know me; so this is what I write about.

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