Welcome to my Heart 2 Heart Series featuring existential reflections of the narratives of my heart stories and those of my children and how these stories impact me, my wife, family & friends. Glad you have joined me on this introspective journey.
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I have survived and persevered through some real shit storms. I hold many great stories and tales of facing then overcoming adversity and the drama that creates trauma. In fact, I have been to Hell and Back so often, I have frequent flier miles.
Yet I had the worst night of my life this week. It was horrible. It was dramatic. It was traumatic.
The biggest fear I harbored related to my open-heart surgery was not death or even permanent disability due to a stroke on the table. It was awaking from my anesthesia-based nap with a breathing tube stuck down my throat. I have a very low gag-reflex. And the thought of having that tube in my throat when I awoke freaked me out in a way I have never experienced anxiety before.
And wouldn’t you know? It happened.
However, after talking to family, who were present in my ICU room some 3 hours post my surgery as I was “coming to”, reported it was a lot different in ‘real life’ than in my drug overloaded mind and soul.
I ‘thought’ I was choking and just wanted to sit up, pull that freaking tube out and breathe.
Oh, and have a drink.
I tried to communicate that “I can’t FUCKING breathe” and was unable to connect with my wife flanked to my right and a kind nurse flanking my left.
My hands were bound as I was ‘restrained’ to my bed for my own protection due to the amount of tubes and IVs that were connected to my ‘just operated on’ body and heart.
Needless to say, once I was cleared and demonstrated that I could breathe on my own and after paging someone from anesthesia, I was relieved of my 12 inch breathing tube.
Oh, and, I am not a back sleeper. I sleep on my side. With loads of pillows.
I hate lying on my back for any length of time. My arms go numb, my neck hurts, I feel exposed. You know, that whole turtle on it’s back story, that is me.
So, after 12 hours of being on my back, 8 of those hours in an operating room and 4 in ICU, I just wanted to sit up, have a drink and watch some hockey. And I couldn’t.
For nearly 10 excruciating hours I lay helpless on my back in the worst physical pain I had ever experienced, parched, moaning, trying to sleep, longing to just reposition my aching body. Occasionally asking my attending nurse to ‘reposition me’ which delivered mild relief. I just wanted to shift to my side and couldn’t. He got my ice chips, which also offered relief and hope.
In the dark, I could see yet not focus on a clock. I felt a “main line” in my neck and heard IV pumps off my right shoulder. Sometimes I connected pain relief with certain sounds. I knew that chest tubes and a catheter were draining fluids from my body.
At 5:30 am, my nurse, helped me finally, sit up, standup and move to a chair. It hurt more than laying in the bed, yet once off my back and on my ass with a heating pad on my back, my recovery went from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds.
It was over. I had control now. I could sit, sip, talk, watch, move, stand, walk (well about 50 steps that next day), and engage with my team and family. Later that day I was moved to a recovery room and since that time, recovery has improved each and every day. But that first night, holy crap, it truly was hell on earth.