Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Friday, April 18, 2008 – A New Beginning

*** note – this is the final installment of retelling the events around the 5th anniversary of my life-saving double bypass heart surgyer.

The last thing I remember, is the chatter of the operating room, “he’s so young for this.”

Coming out of anesthesia was a controlled effort by the part of the doctors.  I had no idea what to expect.  But before I forget, if you read yesterday’s post, as you can see, it is the most powerful thing that I have ever experienced and to actually read that my heart was stopped, and emptied of blood, is just chilling.  Though my body was on a machine, used to pump the blood throughout my body, I guess technically, I was “dead” at that time.  But for those who are curious, no, I did not have any out of body experience.  But reading the surgical report, I could imagine what it was like in that operating room.

As my eyes open in the intenstive care unit, I saw Wendy sitting in the corner of the dimly lit room.  There were no windows so I had no concept of date or time.  She called for my nurse, a young man named Joe who came in, prepared to deal with any pain or panic situation I may experience as I come to grips with what has happened to my body.  Most importantly, I AM ALIVE!!!  I MADE IT!!!

I get picked on quite a bit for the rank I place myself as far as care and concern.  Evidently, with an 8 inch incision on my chest, tubes coming out from everywhere of my body, machines beeping and blinking, I suddenly realized something.  I was supposed to DJ a wedding reception tomorrow morning.  Yes, I actually did that.  Besides being a totally inappropriate time to be worried about something like that, I had no way to communicate it.  I was intubated with an air tube helping me to breath for the time being, and my arms were too weak to move.  Wendy came over, grabbed my hand in care and comfort, and I pulled it away to get her attention, and then pointed my finger.  Not really sure what I was doing, she finally gathered that I was trying to spell out something.

“I was supposed to do a wedding.  Call the bride.  Number is ###-###-####.  Tell her I’m sorry.  Call this guy instead.  He may be able to help them out.”  The look on Wendy’s face was shock.  I’m laying in the ICU just recently out of open heart surgery, and this is the first thing that comes to mind.  Later that evening, Wendy made that call.  And I so appreciated the understanding couple who expressed concern for me.

Pain and discomfort were an initial issue and another dose of Fentanyl was adminstered, and back out I went.  But later, and like I said, with no concept of time or day, I awoke to Joe back in my room, Wendy had left.  He was just going over my vitals and checking out all of the equipment.  He asked if I was comfortable, and for just having had my breast bone cracked open just hours ago and connected to all kinds of machines and hoses, I was quite surprised how comfortable I was.

Just then a familiar face came into the room.  It was Heather, my nurse from the day before.  She came to visit me, while during her shift break,  after hearing that I had to have this procedure done.  Before yesterday, she was a complete stranger to me, and today, she had as much compassion and empathy as someone who had known me my whole life.

There is a saying about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and at that exact moment, Joe came back in, wanting to get me cleaned up from earlier in the day.  So Joe ended up recruiting Heather.  I was in no condition to protest.  And not that there is anything wrong with, was a little more comfortable having someone as easy on the eyes as Heather to take care of me (though for a dude, Joe had some good looks as well).

Joe had informed me of upcoming plans to get me out of the bed in the next few hours.  He went through a long list of things that I had to prepare for when this time came, such as carrying around all the extra tubing, IV lines, wires, etc..  The purpose was to just get me out of the bed and sitting.  I thought, “HOLY SHIT!!!  I just had my heart operated on a few hours ago and they are not even going to let me rest!”

If you are wondering what it feels like to have this type of operation, let me remind you.  Just days before, I had been spending over an hour on the eliptical machine (a stepper/walking machine) followed by another 45 minutes weightlifting in the gym.  This had gone on for months.  Obviously I was in shape, no?

Just sitting up, was exhausting for me.  How could this be?  I did not have anything else done with my body, my legs, my arms.  Okay, so my chest was opened, but how could I be so weak?

Like I said, I had no concept of time, but the time did come, I believe the next day, that I was moved to a private from the intensive care unit.  But here was the catch.  I was told that I would do it under my own power.  I do no think that the nurses expected me to do what I did, but I was determined.  Just the day following my open heart surgery, I walked what amounted to the length of a football field between two floors, with a wheelchair behind me to allow me the opportunity to rest, which I did not take.  It was a walk that I could make just days before, with ease.

I made it to my new room.  And I was exhausted.  Over the next couple of days, I was encouraged to walk.  But on the day after my arrival to my private room, I was found walking the stairways.  You would have thought that the staff would be happy to see my progress.  Not exactly.  But the bar had been set.  Physically I was well on my way to recovery.

But on my second to last day in the hospital, I found out that I was a long way from recovering emotionally.  It was early in the morning, and a group of people had come into my room:  caseworker, finance, physical therapy, occupation therapy, and clergy.

Up until this point in my life, I had done a very good job of controlling my emotions.  But after just a few words by the clergy, I lost it.  I fell apart.  I could not handle all of the care I was receiving.  It was not about believing in a higher power, which I do, but rather dealing with the fact, that I had now survived my second life and death experience.

I was reminded just one day at home from the hospital.  Wendy had stayed with me for the first week at home while I recovered.  While watching television, a story line in her soap opera had a character having open heart surgery.  It was too overwhelming and definitely too soon.  Again, I had lost it.  Wendy had not realized how sensitive I had become.

It has been five years for an anniversary I never thought I would have to see or ever thought I would.  Initially, I wondered just how long the bypasses would hold.  I no longer do that as I have realized, just as I once lived, much easier not to worry or obsess about it.  I would miss so much.

So here ends how my life changed a second time.

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