Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Scariest Time Of My Life

Nobody told me what to expect.

I was literally on an operating table less than twelve hours after being told I was dying. I was still under the influence of anesthesia from the procedure that discovered a lethal blockage of my heart. As the fog cleared, I was being transported here for this pre-op test, there for this pre-op test, and then being hounded that I needed to eat because I was going to be fasting in less than two hours in preparation for the emergency bypass.

There were two things on my mind. I wanted to at least talk to my daughters that night. And the final thing that I needed to do, just prior to the surgery, a visit to the hospital. Over the evening, there was more prepping, and eventually around 4am, an orderly would transport me downstairs to the surgery suit. That is all I knew.

Today, because of Covid19 issues, caregivers are usually no longer allowed even in the hospital until a patient is moved to a private room, to limit exposure. A patient coming out of surgery, wakes up without a loved one in sight, a calming person in the panic of becoming coherent as to what has happened. But back in 2008, that was not the case.

Up until my bypass, I had gone through four other surgeries. And though someone was by my side when I came to from the anesthesia, I was not in any kind of state of confusion. I have witnessed my daughters go through this when they had tubes put into their ears, a minor procedure, but they were asleep for it, and woke up somewhere else after it was done. Clearly it was upsetting.

I have my hands on the surgical report. Quite fascinating actually. A truly historic tail of what was done to save my life. But there was one thing that I had not been prepared for. No one had told me. And no one was around me that I recognized when I came to. And then the panic hit me, in a very bad way. That much I do remember.

I woke up in the intensive care unit, obviously surviving my bypass surgery. It was much different than the last room I remembered, strapped to an operating table. It was a dark room, but there were a lot of lights flashing all around me. I felt as if my movements were restricted, even barely able to turn my head. What the Hell had happened to me? Then I realized I was unable to talk. Not for lack of trying. Something was physically preventing me from talking. I saw no one.

My heart rate must have skyrocketed at that point, because someone came rushing in. But it was not anyone I recognized. “Please someone explain what happened to me,” is all I could think, since I could not ask it. And then I heard a voice, “my name is Joe, I am your nurse. You are okay Paul. The surgery is done, you are now recovering, you made it.”

He must not have been convincing enough. This was a stranger. Where was someone I knew, someone who knew me. I wanted answers. As my eyes gained focus, I could see a lot more than lights. I saw machines, many of them. There were hoses and cables. I began to process, they were all connected to me. What the Hell happened? Nobody is telling me what happened. Nobody told me this could happen.

I could see Joe had a syringe in his hand and he was inserting it into my IV line, and soon I had fallen asleep again. The whole infamiliarity of the room, not recognizing anyone, was sending me into a full blown panic attack. I am not sure how long I was out. When I woke up, Joe was still there. Only now there was another nurse, her name was Jackie.

Jackie was young, very soft spoken. She could see my eyes scanning the room, still unable to turn my head. And again my heart rate began to accelerate, now not just from confusing, but from anger. I wanted answers “what the Hell happened to me.” Jackie could see I was panicked. Not sure how she knew what was in my mind, though I am sure she had been in this situation before. “It’s just Joe and I. But we are here. You are fine. You did well with the surgery. I need you to calm down, you are fine. You have a breathing tube, and there are other tubes and wires doing what they are supposed to do, so you are not able to move all that well right now, but you are doing great.”

Again, my eyes raced back and forth, scanning the room for others. Jackie knew I was looking for a familiar face. “There’s no one here.”

Did this mean no one else knows if I am dead or alive? Just me, Jackie, and Joe? What the Hell! Nobody told me about this moment or what it would be like, or that I would be doing it alone. And I should not have had to.

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2 thoughts on “The Scariest Time Of My Life

  1. Oh, how terribly frightening for you!! Did no one prepare you for this? I’ve never been in ICU as a patient, but I was always told before surgery I’d wake up in recovery. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    • I knew the obvious going in. I knew my chest would be opened and my breast bone cracked. I was not prepared to see all of the mechanical equipment, let alone be connected to it.
      And all I had were strangers telling me to be calm.

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