This was originally posted to my old blog on October 26, 2013
*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events. Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories. In any case, this is how I remember it:
The first thing I want to say in mention of my stay at Community Regional Medical Center Fresno, is that there was not one employee I came in contact with that was not so very kind, compassionate, gentle, and professional. Everyone from the nurses, CNA’s, doctors, food servers, housekeeping, etc.; they were all wonderful and made my stay bearable.
I was in the hospital from Wednesday, October 16th, until Thursday, October 24, 2013. This post will cover the time I spent in PreOp (Thursday, October 17th) and Critical Care. Friday, October 18th – Sunday, October 20).
Thursday, October 17th was a day of calm and nerves. I awoke that morning to the sound of my roommates daughter talking to the nurse. She was sobbing and saying things like, “I understand.” “I know everyone has done everything they can.” My roommate was an elderly woman who, if I remember correctly, had COPD, had had a stroke, and had an infected bed sore that covered a large portion of her back. She had stopped eating and this morning the nurse was telling the daughter, in so many words, that this was the beginning of the end. The rest of the day was spent listening to the family cry and make arrangements to send their mother to hospice care.
As far as myself this day, I was subjected to EKG’s, blood-work, an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, chest x-ray, and multiple people coming in and out to talk to me about different parts of the surgery: anesthesia, all the tubes and wires that would be hooked up to me, what the surgery entailed, what to expect after surgery, etc. Several of my friends and family showed up to visit with me, for this I was so very grateful. I was not very nervous yet, but I wanted the time to go by faster and having people to talk to and distract me was a good thing. The last thing that happened before the lights went out for the night was a sponge bath. For some reason they wouldn’t allow me to take a regular shower. This was my first sponge bath ever and it felt so weird to be bathing in a chair next to my bed. It was one of those feelings of simply being out of place and discombobulated.
At some point, they took my roommate away and brought in a new one. Another elderly lady, this one had just had a heart procedure done, stints, I think. she spent several hours asleep. It was when she woke up that things got interesting. I don’t know if she was having a strange reaction to the anesthesia, medication, or if she had dementia or Alzheimer’s; but she was very confused and spent the entire night arguing with everyone, refusing to stay in bed, and peeing all over the place. Yeah…
The morning of my surgery, I woke up to my roommate still fighting with everyone and peeing on the floor. I had no concern about this however, my mind was on the surgery. I was now feeling the fear. My head refused to think about anything other than everything that could go wrong. They were about to crack my chest open! My heart was going to be handled by strangers hands! I cried for a couple minutes in the bathroom while my roommate stood outside arguing with the nurses and her daughter about why there was a stranger in her bathroom. When I came out, my husband was there and I cried in his arms. All I could think was, “I want my mommy.” And she showed up, I cried in her arms. Then they took me away to a very cold room, they told me what would happen and then I fell asleep.
When I woke up I was in ICU. The few days I was in ICU, I felt wide awake but now that I try to remember this time, it is foggy. the first thing I remember is waking up to the nurse and respiratory guy discussing whether or not I should be put back on the breathing tube. Breathing was difficult, it felt like I couldn’t take in a full breath, but I tried hard and they decided I was OK on my own. I remember my brother, Glenn, sitting in a chair next to my bed.
Doctors and nurses kept coming in to talk to me and do things. Family and friends stopped by to visit. They all said I looked so good for what I had just been through. When I saw myself in a picture my husband took of me, I thought I looked like death. I was up and sitting in a chair mere hours after the surgery. I had bad nausea from the pain medication and it took several tries with different meds to find one that didn’t result in painful vomiting. I had no appetite, ate very little, and usually threw up after. I slept a lot in ICU, but never for more than two hours at a time. I kept being shocked awake, as if something was terribly wrong, and it was not a comfortable experience to have just had major heart surgery, so you can imagine how difficult it was to find even the most remote amount of comfort.
When I first arrived in ICU, I had an oxygen tube in my nose, two central lines in my carotid artery, a chest tube, an IV in the back of my hand, a heart monitor, a blood-pressure monitor, and one of those finger things that measure your oxygen saturation, and a catheter. By time I left ICU, I had one central line in my carotid and the heart monitor.
I felt very little pain while in ICU and it wasn’t just because of the pain medication. The chest incision was totally numb and the leg incisions didn’t hurt really either. I think because of the numbness, my mind couldn’t “feel” the pain so all I felt that told me I was in pain was stiffness and a heavy feeling on my chest. The only real pain I felt while in ICU was when the doctor came in and yanked…yes, I mean YANKED the chest tube out of me. OMG, it felt like he was disemboweling me. But it only lasted a few seconds and I felt tons of relief once that huge tube was gone.
At around nine in the evening on October 20th, I was moved from ICU to a private room. I will write about this part of my stay later.