Small Victories, Seven Weeks On

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So it’s been seven weeks since I had open-heart surgery, and technically speaking I’m recovered.  I’d put myself at 85% back to normal, maybe 90%.
Still, there are odd triumphs.
For example, last night I finally slept on my side.  It hurt, as my ribs are still healing from being snipped open – and will for six months, I’m told – and I had to drug up a lot to sleep on my back.  But last night, I eschewed my usual dosage of Ativan and rolled over onto a pillow… and while it hurt getting there, I could stay there long enough to catch half an hour’s sleep.  Which I did, until I moved in my sleep and woke myself up, at which point I’d roll on my back for ten minutes, then push through the pain to roll back over on my side…
…it was not a good sleep.  But it was triumphant.
Likewise, I’ll be happy the day I can stay up late and be useful.  As it is, I have limited energy; by 8:30 at night, my brain fogs out and I’m pretty useless.  I can watch TV and converse, but anything that requires full concentration (like programming or writing) is right out.  Given that I often work late, this is bothersome.
There’s still tons of things I can’t do.  I can’t drive.  (In a crash, the steering wheel might crush my still-fragile sternum.)  I can’t lift anything over eight pounds, and it actually hurts a little to lift those weights, which means moving my laptop off my lap requires a bit of thought.  Coughing or sneezing is like being stabbed.  And – let us be frank – missionary position will be a fond memory for the next few months.
And I’m actually pissed at my doctors.  Those of you who remember my harrowing incident with the ventilator will know just how traumatic I found it to be intubated.  (Andrew Ducker sent me a link, which I read and then accidentally deleted his email, showing that one out of three people put on a ventilator displayed PTSD symptoms.  I don’t have the signs of PTSD, which is not to say it wasn’t significant; I was literally traumatized.)  That was the worst experience of my life.
I found out last night that this was expected behavior.  In other words, every patient with a triple bypass wakes up on a ventilator.  And yet not one of the fucking doctors or nurses involved with any of this said, “When this is over, you will wake up on a ventilator to help you breathe, and it’ll be about three hours before you can breathe on your own.”  So when I awoke, I thought this was a sign that something had gone drastically wrong, and not that this was SOP, leading to a ton of terror.
Christ, that makes me mad. One brief conversation would have saved me hours of fear, especially since they specifically encouraged me not to go on the Internet and look up how the surgery went, since that panicked many patients.  Well, if you advise me not to do my own research, the least you could do is tell me what to expect, you dumb fuckers.
(And no, I haven’t written up the rude nurse, but I still need to do that soon.  I will.)
Anyway.  I’m mostly better.  Still recovering seven weeks later, and maybe for months.  But I’m exercising.  I’m writing.  I’m getting there.

1 Comment

  1. Eric Burns-White
    Feb 28, 2013

    Not to ever get into a contest of “frightening post-surgery wakeups,” but I had a weird experience too. They’d decided to leave me intubated for a while after my surgery, and they’d had trouble intubating me in the first place, so they elected to leave me sedated during the process, for more than 24 hours post-surgery. So, I clearly remember succumbing to the anesthesia (as in, I had just been intubated and then my eyes lost the ability to track, which is freaky as Hell) on a Wednesday morning, and then my next memory is the tube being removed and my being told it was Thursday afternoon. Freaked me the Hell out.

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