Heart Surgery Afterthoughts

Heart Surgery Afterthoughts
I sometimes tend to forget about my bout with heart surgery in the day to day living and coping with life. But it hits me rather hard at times when I realize that I somehow have changed in the last year. I don’t like the same things to do, to eat, to even think about anymore. Is this normal?
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I sometimes tend to forget about my bout with heart surgery in the day to day living and coping with life. But it hits me rather hard at times when I realize that I somehow have changed in the last year. I don’t like the same things to do, to eat, to even think about anymore. Is this normal?  Some say it is who have been through the process.

I apparently had no choice in the matter of going through this ordeal. I had a bit of chest pain and shortness of breath, but after all I was 66 years old and chased two itty bitty grandchildren quite a bit. In fact I was at the docs with the baby (6 months old at the time) for his shots and mentioned the chest pain, etc. to the doctor.

Oh, my Lord, the next day found me in a cardiologists office being admitted to the hospital for a heart catherization the next day. The heart cath was not good, so a surgeon was at my bedside giving me several options, some being rather foreign to me, but his opinion was that I needed bypass surgery and he had an opening the next day.  Was I interested in doing this? 

I felt like, Good Grief, an opening? Was I having my hair done or nails? I felt like I had no time to discuss anything with anybody, but I’m sure if I had asked, it would have been granted. My husband was there nodding his head, poor thing, he was flabbergasted enough as it was without having to help me make a decision, especially apparently a life threatening discussion.

My children were thunderstruck. Mama? Is mama sick? Mama is never sick except for a migraine now and then and outgrew them several years ago.

Ok, to the OR, James. As I watched the ceiling of the hospital corridor, I thought, how many times have I seen this scene on TV? The white tiles flying by, the chatter of the OR nurses and attendants. My kids and husband saying bye, Mama, we’ll be right here. Good luck, a couple of quick kisses.

When I awoke in the cardiac ICU, I was terrified, petrified and most any other fied you could think of. My hands were still fastened down; my throat was filled with some kind of tube. I felt like I would choke and could say nothing. Another TV scene came to mind; you’re about to have an autopsy and can’t speak or cry out or anything. I watch too much TV, I guess. I moved one finger and kept it moving. No sound and no movement. Good Grief, was I dead? No, I could feel air moving, ah, I spied a male nurse behind the station.  All at once he saw the finger moving, I guess.

“Oh, you’re awake, honey, let’s get that tube out!” No more precious words had ever been heard. But being without a tube didn’t make my feel much better. Granted, I was not choking, but I was groggy, I hurt and seemed to be in a deep well of depression which I voiced vehemently.

My little nurse cooed and sympathized and said, “It will wear off shortly, dear. The anesthesia is pretty strong.” 

I could just imagine it being strong; after all I had really major surgery. It was only after I went home that I found out that I had to be kept going with a machine whilst the doctor cut here and stitched there.

A lot of what I thought and felt was surreal at the time and most I tried to forget.

I don’t remember seeing my family until I got to a room later that day. After an awful bout with nausea, I got better so they said, and went home after three days. 

This too was a bane to my thoughts. I stayed longer in a hospital having a baby and actually brought something home.  I had a heart shaped pillow that came in handy when I had to cough.

It’s been a year or more now since all of this occurred and my initial recuperation was rather fast and smooth. I healed quickly and apparently had some very good doctors.  The surgeon had operated on several of my friends and we discussed this at length. Good fellow, excellent doctor and so forth.

When I first got home, I was immediately gung-ho about exercise, cooking the right foods, bought sea salt, even ordered several cook-books with heart healthy recipes.  That petered out in about a month. I found out right quick that we don’t buy what’s used in those cookbooks anyway. I was more health concerned that before, so I made my own recipes, etc.

Most say three months you are pretty much back to normal. I don’t know what ‘normal’ is supposed to be for me. I still have a problem with stamina and walking is still a chore for me. Physically I was ok, I guess, still overweight and that too was a chore.

They said short term memory would be bad for awhile. All this I learned from looking up this surgery on the internet. As with the machine taking over your heart’s duties, I had the rib cage cracked and put back together, etc. This caused one of my granddaughters to get big eyed and express.  “Yuck, Mam-ma, that’s gross!!

(Mam-ma thought so too at the time.) 

Doctors fail to tell you some of the problems because they see and do so much of this, they tend to just forget that some patients would like to know the whole story or at least page two of it.


As I said my physical side of the coin was good, I healed quickly although I was left with scars that looked like Zorro and I had a sword battle; had to watch what kind of neckline I wore and the left leg looked like it got caught in a hay binder!

The short term memory with me is more of a problem than normal I think.  When I lose my keys now, I really LOSE them. I leave things out of the fridge or just forget stupid things. Or so my husband thinks. He really worried about me and still does.

I still wake at night thinking I hear him calling me or my cat meowing, the phone or doorbell ringing. I’ve learned to wait a second and if I don’t hear it the second time, I ignore it. This happened to began with during the first week and was blamed on sleeping meds, but I don’t take sleeping meds anymore and it’s starting again.

Oh, speaking of meds, I have a purple pill box with the days and hours or I would be up the creek so to speak with taking my medicine right.

As a freelance writer for many years, I was upset that I could not concentrate as well it seemed, and had no patience with trying to write again. Oh, that will come back the doc said. Just hang in there.

I guess I’ll take all this in stride and when I need an excuse for not doing something, I have a doozy.  Nope, just don’t feel like it today; a little down; and folks don’t argue. But is this right?  Who knows? It has gotten to be my way of coping. 

As I said, I healed quickly from the surgery itself and there has to be a reason for me healing at all. Or them catching my problem before it was a full blown heart attack. Am I too close to see the actual reason: My husband; my three children; my seven grandchildren?  They all need me to a certain extent-or am I supposed to do something else with my life?

I have conversations every day with a higher power to help figure it out.I contemplate all this every morning as I read my e-mail, drink my coffee and climb on my treadmill for a few minutes. (Yes, I do the treadmill thing a bit when the cat’s not sleeping on it!) I never thought I would be a member of the ‘zipper’ club as some of my friends call it, but I am. It’s something you live with and talk about. One of these mornings, maybe I’ll find out more about my lot in life.

Well, as the doc said, I guess I’ll just hang in there until something jells. I shudder to think what might have happened had I not had the surgery. Apparently I was right on the verge of having a massive heart attack and my recovery would have been much harder. I am determined though to get back to my normal activities and hey, I did write this story. All is not lost!


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