Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Ghose Of Health Crisis Past

I had an aunt year ago who had taken a nasty fall.  In fact, eventually it will be what probably led to her death.  We had gotten a call that she had been admitted to the hospital, and things were not looking good for her.  Wendy and I had stopped by the hospital to either visit, or pay last respects.  We had no idea how things would turn out.  Our daughters were with us.  Our daughters were with us, but after visiting with my aunt, I decided it would not be a good idea for them to see her in her present condition.

You see, the hospital that she was in was the same hospital that I had my open heart surgery.  My daughters knew this.  They knew that I had survived.  I knew that it would not be the last time that I would find myself there.  If by chance, my aunt would pass away in that hospital, and that would be the last memory my daughters would have of their aunt, then there would be the chance that they would believe that I could face that same possibility any time that I would go to that hospital, perhaps any hospital.  The last image that we remember a particulare person or memory of a place can be powerful and overwhelming.  Sometimes a flashback can be just as traumatic as the painful incident itself.

Last week, I was focused on a loved one, in the hospital I was all to familiar with.  He was in for a procedure that many of those in the medical world, patients, family, and doctors call very routine, cleaning of the carotid artery.  Both are fairly blocked seriously at 85% on one side and 80% on the other.  A decade ago, he suffered a severe heart attack, so to me, this was going to be anything but routine.  I delivered him at 5am for his procedure and it would be several hours before they actually started. 

The surgeon came out to the waiting room just after noon, and told me that he was recovering.  Except for a slight blood pressure issue in the beginning, the surgery went well.  I would be able to see him briefly in a little while during recovery.  I was sure to find out all the things he would need to follow once discharged, hopefully in a day or two.  I also made it a point to inform the surgeon, just how stubborn my relative could be.  I told the surgeon to make sure that he got it across to him how crucial it was to follow discharge orders.  He was a caregiver for his spouse and it was imperative that he recovered fully to return to that role.  He would need to accept help, something a man with a whole lot of pride was not in the habit of accepting.  My point was made.

I got the page that I could go back and see my relative.  It was not an unfamliar sight for me seeing someone hooked up to all kinds of machines, tubes coming out of someone, and medical personnel buzzing all around.  My first experience in this environment came nearly thirty years ago with a dear friend who had been in a near fatal car accident.  I have been in this type of room many times, for myself, and for others.  I have made it a habit that I do not panic, cringe or show any other signs of being uncomfortable.  As of late, it has been important to retain my composure to ensure that my ability to make decisions in these time are the proper ones.

He obviously is not used to being a patient and looks quite uncomfortable.  The surgery has left him with an excruciating pain in his ear on the side of his head that had the carotid artery worked on.  The one thing I told him was that this was normal as the artery runs long his ear canal and if he had pain, he had to tell his nurses.  The nurses could manage this for him.  He was also not going to be pleased to find out why they told him before the surgery that he was not going to be able to wear his underwear.  I told him that he would be fine and that the surgeon said everything went well and I would see him again in his room.  I went back into the waiting room to wait to be told that he was being moved and to where.

Approximately at 2pm I had been given his room number and proceeded to take his belongings.  The wing of the hospital was a familiar building to me though it had not hit me emotionally.  As I continued to walk down the hallway from the elevator that I just took to the lower floor, it finally dawned on me.  The last time I had been in this hallway, I was in a wheelchair late April of 2008 being escorted to my wife waiting in the patient pickup following my heart surgery.  Suddenly my knees felt weak.  I turned the corner to head towards the Kasych Wing elevators.  I looked at the slip of paper with the room number on it, 3K25.

In a sudden rewind, my mind went back in time, going in reverse, getting out of the car, having been assisted from the wheel chair, rolled back from the hall, and back up the elevators of the Kasych building.  But back then, the building was not called that.  As I came out of the elevator, I was no longer in the present, there to care for my relative.  I was there reliving a time that I never would have thought I would ever go through, heart surgery.  Directly in front of the elevator, was the hallway that I spent so much time recovering.

I do not recall how long I was in intensive care following my surgery, and I have never asked.  There were no windows so I had no concept of time.  I know that I had three nursing shift changes between Jackie and Joe, and there was a visit from a nurse named Heather that I had the day before for the procedure that had originally been planned to save my life, a catheterization with stints.  However long after it was that I came to, and disconnected from some of the machines, I was given the challenging news.  I was being moved to the room where I would spend the rest of  my time recovering.  The bad news?  They expected me to walk there.  I went from exercising  nearly two hours a day, to being exhausted when I would blink my eyes.  There would be a wheel chair following me to sit and rest while I walked.

Like my relative, I am stubborn and do not like help.  Once I was removed from the bed, and on my feet, I began that journey, the wheel chair close behind.  From the second floor of the hospital of the cardiac intensive care unit, with my enterage, I got to the elevator.  I was strongly advised to sit down, but was afraid to because I had a goal to achieve to prove that I was going to get through this, because at that moment, I did not think I could.  As I got off the elevator, there was the hallway that I was standing in right at that moment currently.  I was warned that it was still going to be quite a distance to my room and it was my option to be wheeled the rest of the way.  They were pleased that I had gotten as far as I did.  But I needed to go the rest of the way.  I stood there staring down that long hall way then, and I did it again now.  Tears began to fall as I remember that time, the ghost of me standing right in front of me.  Telling me that I could get through this and so could my relative.  And I began to take those steps again. 

It is nearly a week since, and he is at home resting with his wife, anxiously waiting to return to his normal life and habits, go back to work, and be independent again.  He is glad to have had me by his side, but not nearly as glad as I am that he made it through this.

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