The Racing Heart

This was originally posted to my old blog on October 27, 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:

On Sunday, October 20th, 2013 I was sent from ICU to my own private room at Community Regional Medical Center Fresno. It was a relief to have some privacy.  Especially a bathroom and not just a toilet next to my bed (not that I used the toilet next to my bed in ICU…OK, I had to, once).

I stayed in this room from Sunday evening, October 20th until Thursday, late morning, October 24th.  The daily routine was to check my blood-pressure, temperature, and oxygen levels about every four hours.  I was given medications in the morning and evening.  The medications included blood thinners, blood pressure, cholesterol, something to keep my heart rate down, baby aspirin to protect my heart, pain medication, stool softeners, and laxatives.  The first couple of days they forgot to give me my acid reflux medication, but after I was having some weird symptoms they realized it was from acid reflux and started giving the med again.

I was asked to go walking around the halls a couple of times a day.  It is amazing how fast you are up and walking around after major heart surgery.  It is very good to move around, although it is exhausting just to walk a few feet, it does help to keep blood-flow, and really helps to keep stiffness and soreness away.  By time the last day came around, I was taking 3-4 walks a day as well as getting up and moving around my room a lot.  What I mean by walks is that the floor I was roomed on is shaped like a field track, I would walk this track, I passed by maybe six or so patient rooms and three nurses stations on my route.  It wasn’t a long walk, but by time I got back to my room I felt both exhausted and rejuvenated.

I was given a sponge bath each morning which felt good but inadequate at the same time.  Especially my hair, they make you use this leave-in shampoo that only proves to make your hair greasy and disgusting…but clean.  I couldn’t shave and by time I left the hospital I felt like a yeti.

Whenever you have major surgery, it can take a while for all of your bodily functions to come back online at proper capacity. They measured my urine outtake which was more than adequate almost immediately after surgery. I was asked everyday if I had had a bowel movement.  It would be nearly a week after surgery before I had a bowel movement.  Part of the reason for this would be that I was not very active, part because I was not eating much, and part because of the trauma of surgery ( my body was so tense and sore from surgery that EVERY part of it was not wanting to move).

During my stay in my private room, family came to visit and it was nice to have the company and know so many people care.  I was sad to find out that children under 12 years old weren’t allowed to visit, so two of my nieces and a nephew had to wait downstairs.  😦  it is understandable, though, I had just had open heart surgery and was at high risk for infection and had a lowered immune system and little children are notorious carriers of colds and flu, etc.

I watched more T.V. during my stay in the hospital than I have all year.  I paid very little attention to it, though.  I think I spent most of my time just staring out the window, thinking about everything and nothing all at once.  I had my cell phone and laptop with me and checked in on Facebook a couple times a day, but it only made me miss home so I kept that activity to a minimum.

Every four hours I had to do breathing treatments.  When you have major surgery, you are at high risk for blood-clots and fluid buildup in your lungs.  If you don’t exercise your lungs and regain full capacity, you can develop pneumonia.  They gave me a breathing “toy” to keep with me at all times and use at least ten times every hour to exercise and strengthen my lungs.  In addition to the toy, a respiratory therapist would come to my room every four hours and give me a treatment to help open my lungs.  It was a mixture of medications used for asthma patients, delivered through a breathing machine.  I simply breathed in and out through this machine for seven minutes.  I hated these treatments solely because the medication left me feeling jittery for an hour or so after each treatment.

Every morning the surgical assistant would come by and talk to me about my progress.  On Monday he said I might go home on Tuesday.  On Tuesday, he was very concerned that my heart-rate was holding steady in the 110’s (too high).  They decided to keep me another day and administer medication to bring down my heart-rate.  They also gave me I.V. fluids.  The next day my heart-rate was still high and I was feeling like I had a twenty pound weight on my chest.  They increased the medication and gave me more fluids and an EKG.

Wednesday evening my heart-rate had been normal for several hours.  I still had some heaviness on my chest and the feeling like I couldn’t take a deep breath; not like suffocating but like I couldn’t fully open my lungs.  The respiratory therapist came in and by chance we talked about my GERD (acid reflux) problem.  He deduced that it was inflammation from acid reflux that was giving me these weird symptoms.  He told the surgical assistant and I was put on heartburn meds.  By Thursday morning I felt so much better.

Thursday morning was a wonderful time.  I was told to go for a walk so they could make sure that my heart-rate was still under control. It was.  They removed the central line from my carotid artery, and took off the heart monitor, inspected my incision sights, gave me a flu vaccine, and went over all my home care instructions, medications, next doctor visit, etc.  I was on my way home before noon.

My next post will be about my first few days at home.

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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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