This was originally posted to my old blog on November 7, 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:
I suppose it is time for another update on how my healing progress is going here at home. I had heart surgery, a triple bypass, on October 18th and have been home since October 24th. I have already written about my first several days home, so this update will pick-up from there.
On Tuesday, October 29th, I had to get some blood-work and a chest X-ray done in preparation for my first post-op exam. My husband drove me to the lab in Selma at 6:45 in the morning. He had to get to work so he dropped me off all on my own. Here I was, weak and exhausted already and the day hadn’t even gotten started yet. I stood third in line with my cane, heart pillow, and purse, all of which felt like they weighed a combined fifty pounds. Thank the gods that I didn’t have to stand too long and the blood-work was done quickly…even though they had trouble finding a good vein.
After the blood-work, I was supposed to wait for my mom to show up and take me across the street to the hospital to get the chest x-ray done. But I was in and out of the lab so quickly, I thought I could walk across the street easy enough and mom could just pick me up there. I’m so smart, aren’t I? The short walk across the street and through the hospital parking lot (it is a small, and I mean small, hospital) would have taken a healthy person all of three minutes, It took me probably close to fifteen. By time I got to the waiting room I was so exhausted, and several people asked me if I was OK.
I called my mom and told her where I was. She showed up less than five minutes later. My doctor had forgotten to put a reason for the x-ray on his order so the hospital had to call his office for a new one. Of course, his office didn’t open for another hour, so mom and I went home and had breakfast before returning to try again.
On our second try everything went smoothly except that there was a lot of walking involved and I was exceedingly exhausted and had to stop and rest every few steps I took. My mom was concerned about this. We thought at first that it was the fact that I had been doing so much walking all at one time so soon after major heart surgery. She bought a blood pressure monitor before we went home, just to be safe.
When I got home, we checked my blood pressure and it was low. A healthy blood pressure is around 120 over 80. Mine was 88 over 65, very low. This explains why I felt so tired and why my vision was going dark every time I stood up. I called my doctors office and told them what was going on. My doctor was in surgery so I had to wait for him to call me back. When he did, he lowered two of my blood pressure medications and told me to keep monitoring my blood-pressure.
On Friday, November 1st, I went in to see my doctor. They removed all the staples in my chest and leg. I never did count how many staples there were. The lab had not sent over the results of my blood tests, so the doctor could not review them with me. He did look at the chest x-ray and found that there was quite a bit of fluid on my lungs, which would further explain my breathing trouble and exhaustion. He immediately set up an appointment to have a thoracentesis done at the hospital.
Mom and I went over to the hospital and didn’t have to wait long to get in for the procedure. They first did an ultrasound of my lungs and found that the right lung had a lot of fluid and the left lung didn’t have very much. This perplexed me a bit considering it was the left lung that was giving me the most grief. The next step was to clean the area on my back (upper right side near my shoulder blade) and then stick me with an injection of numbing agent, and then another deeper one. Then they took a rather large gauge needle and stuck in between the ribs and deep to the lung. On the back end of this needle was a long tube connected to an empty bottle. They squeezed the bottle and that caused a suction. They ended up removing 500 ML of fluid from my right lung. They didn’t do the left side for two reasons: They never do both sides on the same day, and there wasn’t enough fluid on the left to warrant the procedure.
After the thoracentesis was done, they did an x-ray to make sure everything was clear. Within ten minutes of the draining, I was already feeling so much better, I could breath easy again!
In the days that followed, things were pretty uneventful, I suffered a lot with stiffness and soreness, especially in my neck and back and chest. I had some trouble with swelling in my feet and ankles, but it slowly subsided. I also was having trouble with high blood-pressure now and then and had work with the doctor to adjust my medications.
The worst of my complaints was my neck trouble. This actually started while I was still in the hospital. My neck was stiff and sore as if I pulled a muscle, which is quite possible, and the back of my head was numb for over a week. When the numbness subsided, the oversensitivity set in. It felt constantly as if someone had poured acid on the back of my head, and if anything touched it even slightly, it felt like I was being stabbed by a million little needles. sometimes, the right side of my face would go slightly numb and I would get a shooting pain in my right eye. The doctor said it was damage or inflammation of my lesser occipital nerve and should go away with time and moist heat treatments and resting my neck. It did, after several months. It got better, slowly, like everything else.