Update on the surg…

Your smile lights up the hospital room,
please help me
During open-heart surgery,
please stay with me
During open-heart surgery….
“Open Heart Surgery”, Sense Field, 1999
I’ll be meeting with the surgeon on Feb.7 and then going under the knife within a few weeks after that…could be the next day, could be 3 weeks. I’ve been doing a little research on the surgeon, the procedure and the recovery, and it’s eased my mind a little bit. Of course, obviously it’s a huge thing no matter how you slice it.
The surgeon is a big player in the thoracic surgery field; he’s a well known specialist in off-pump bypass surgery, as well as part of the teaching staff at UBC med school. There’s basically two types of bypass surgery: off pump and on pump. In the original on-pump surgery basically they hook you up to a heart lung machine and stop your heart for the procedure; in off pump they use devices to control specific parts of the organ while they’re working on them. Off pump tends to have less complications than on-pump, tho neither are super risky anymore. This surgeon prefers to do off pump surgery if he can, and I think from my limited knowlege that’s what I’d prefer as well.
Of course during the surgery I’ll be completely anesthetized and won’t be aware of anything. I did ask for a dvd of it afterwards previously, but they all just laughed; I guess they figured I wasn’t serious. I was; I want to be able to look deep inside myself Bahhaahaha. Anyways. The surgery will take anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on the difficulty and if any complications arise. Statistically, around 5% of patients suffer a mild heart attack during the process, and 5% have a mild stroke, although that does tend to happen more with people over the age of 70. By my very simple and probably wrong math that means I have 45% less chance of either of those issues based on age alone. Plus I’m generally more healthy than alot of patients. They’ve found that 1-4% die on the table, but again this tends to be the older people. Interestingly women tend to have more complications than men.
They will break my breastplate and spread open my ribs to do the operation; this is actually what takes the longest to heal. They will also make an incision in my leg to get the veins they use for grafts. After the surgery I’ll be wheeled into Intensive Care for up to 48 hours, depending on whether there are complications or not. Apparently I will wake up at some point and have a breathing tube in my mouth and not be able to talk. I’ve been told this can be the worst part for many patients; quite disorienting and confusing. However, due to the amount of anaesthetic goop in the system you tend to just fall asleep and then not remember it.
At some point in the ICU I will wake up with the tube removed and my rehab therapy will begin right then. I believe I will get some breathing exercises and have to sit up (perhaps even stand and walk a few steps?) and (as klagenberg said) at my age they’ll be nazis about the rehab. That’s ok by me. I will then be wheeled into my new home for the next 4-6 days, a room at the hospital I’ll get to share with three other lucky sods. I will probably sleep alot and do my rehab excercises. Eventually they’ll have had enough of my snoring and lame jokes, and if I survive the boredom and hospital food they’ll make Ruth take me home.
At home recovery generally takes 6-8 weeks. I’m going to schedule to be back at work after 6 weeks, but may start working from home after 4 or may not make it til 8 depending on the recovery. Full recovery takes 4-6 months, but functional recovery takes 4 weeks. After 4 weeks I’ll be able to drive and move around a bit more. “Other physical activities” will be allowed once I can climb two flights of stairs…sheesh. During my recovery time, the joys I get to look forward to include (lifted for the most part from here, the comments are my own):
  • Many people have a poor appetite for several weeks after surgery. This is normal and expected. I can live with this…
  • Constipation is also common during this time, probably due to decreased activity and food intake and use of pain medications. Oh lovely…
  • People who have a graft harvested from the leg sometimes notice swelling in this leg after surgery. Elevating the leg and wearing compression stockings can help to reduce swelling. Whee…sexy surgical stockings…that’s gonna be HAWT.
  • It is common to have difficulty sleeping after bypass surgery, especially while in the hospital. This usually improves after discharge from the hospital. Well, this won’t be too difficult to live with.
  • Approximately 20 to 40 percent of people become depressed after CABG. Signs of depression include sadness for most of the day, diminished pleasure or interest in almost all activities, insomnia or excessive sleep, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Depression can interfere with recovery and increase the risk of heart problems in the future. I’m going to trust that Ruth’s support and love (not to mention the well wishes and support from other friends and acquaintances) will mitigate this. If I do get this, let me apologize in advance to Ruth and others.
  • Subtle problems in long-term memory, comprehension, calculation skills, and concentration. This will be the determining factor in how soon I go back to work; concentration and comprehension are pretty important for sales. Plus it’s gonna put my poker career on hold for a bit.
So all in all it’s going to be an exciting and scary journey. I need to thank Ruth for all her support and understanding thus far and in the next 2-3 months, and want to go out and promise right now to take her on a nice tropical vacation when I can to show my appreciation, even though I know she’d do it anyways, cuz that’s the kind of person she is; its a big part of why I love her.
I’m also receiving a lot of positive support from management at work, and that is definitely appreciated. And of course, again, all the well wishes from friends and acquaintances.

4 comments so far

  1. kasia on

    Nice opening quote. At first I thought it was something a nurse said to you about your smile – it’s totally possible. 🙂
    Also, I know where you can take Ruth on her tropical vacation….!

  2. R on

    At first I was going to ask if we could please skip the tropical vacation, and save the money for vanilla beans instead, but given Kasia’s comment, yes, I will take the tropical vacation! (Although, you do know that ‘appreciation gifts are NOT necessary–if they are, I guess we’ll be taking my mom to Kasia’s wedding, as I have the feeling that she’ll be the one changing your support hose!)

    Anyway, my darling, we will get through this. Although the road will seem long, and at times, scary and daunting, at the same time it is exciting to think about what lies at the end of it all. I don’t want to sound Pollyanna-ish, but I do believe that your hardship will not be in vain, and that all of this is, to paraphrase you, just the precipice of a whole lot of ‘awesomeness’.

    I’m enjoying reading your posts on this experience. Keep writing! Now, I think I will go tell you that I love you and photograph your angiogram bruises.


  3. Cage on

    I believe that your attitude coming in will have a play in how you come out of surgery and your recovery. You have a good attitude and although you may have good days and bad days over all your attitude is very positive and will give you the necessary boost to see you through this time in your life.

  4. Rosie on

    You must let me know when will be a good time and place to visit (or if you even want visitors!)

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