OK, not really the "last" chapter because I made through all of this so there is still more to be written in my life story:) But hopefully this will be last part of the story of what happened to me last Sunday.
Overall, my experience at the hospital in Macon was excellent. I have been there many times in the past few months for procedures, tests and pre-op and I have received only the best of care. So as I share what I went through as I was going into surgery, please remember that this was urgent and emergency surgery so things were being pulled together for me up until the very last minute.
The surgeon wheeled me up to the OR area while Casey was taken to a waiting area. I recall the surgeon being concerned for where Casey was so that he would be able to find him after surgery. I appreciated that. Next thing I knew, my gurney was parked at a registration desk where the anesthesiologist "met" with me and was asking me questions about my medical history. I have no idea how I made it through that in my state... I even had to hold a pen to "sign" a consent form!
I was then rolled into the OR where they placed me on a hard, flat, narrow table. If you or someone you know has ever had open heart surgery then you know that lying flat is quite painful and likened to say, an elephant standing on your chest. It's not something that I've done voluntarily since before my surgery so this move came with a few moans from me. In fact, I must admit that I was pretty close to a wimpering little baby during all my awake time in the OR. Wait...awake time in the OR? Yeah, there's a reason most people don't ever experience that- not fun!
My complete incision was then prepped three times with vigorous scrubbing and swabbing which caused more moans from me. At the same time, they were putting a mask on me (I was already on supplemental oxygen) that had rubber edges and didn't seem to have anything coming out of it. I'm sure that's not the case but in my state, that's how it felt. So there I was, laid out bare on this flat table, with medical personal swarming about me, having my sore chest prepped with disinfecting chemicals and I thought I couldn't breathe. As the mask was being pressed tighter to my face, I managed to turn my head to the side and get a gasp of air. In that same breathe, I reminded them that I was awake ("Hello?? Remember me? The patient?). At this point, in all the rush, I was concerned that they had forgotten to put me to sleep and that I was about to feel the scalpel!
After I felt four bursts of acid in my IV (OK, probably wasn't acid but that's what it felt like:), I begged to be put to sleep. My only consolation in all the horror of my physical condition was that I would be asleep and out of anguish and here I was, a concious participant. I'm guessing that they had to keep me awake as long as possible because of the critical nature of my vital signs and because everything was so urgent so I understand. However, I still wish those memories could forever be erased from my memory because they were so difficult to bear. It was also challenging to be cooperative during that, but besides my moans and logical requests to be knocked out, I was a good patient... given the circumstances.
Fortunately, that was my last memory from the operating room. While I slept, the surgeon removed 8-9 staples and re-opened the bottom 1.5 inches of my existing incision. He created a pericardial window and drained 500 ccs of fluid from the sac around my heart. It is my understanding that the normal amount of fluid around the heart is only 20 ml. (Another 500-600 ccs of fluid was drained in the days to follow.)
I was later told that Casey had been alone in the waiting room and was at his end emotionally. That morning was like a hurricane and when they wheeled me into surgery, I was so unstable that he just couldn't think straight. He was just to his breaking point when my sister, also shell-shocked, came in. They both hugged and cried until the emotional pressure had been released. Before long, friends filled the room and stayed by Casey's side until I came safely out of surgery. We were also surprised to find out later on that as soon as they heard about me, Casey's dad (from NC) and my brother (from FL) hopped in their vehicles and drove hours to be with us.
Little did we know at the time, but heaven was also filling up with prayers on my behalf from people all over who heard of the urgent prayer request. I am still blown away by the number of people who have called my name to the Lord. It's encouraging and humbling at the same time. Thank you!
Somewhere between being at the registration desk right before entering the OR and opening my eyes in my hospital room, I have memories of a lot of convulsing that caused me to roll my shoulders back against the table/gurney many times. Between that and being flat, I guess, I am more sore than I was when I came home from the open heart surgery.
I was partially awake in the recovery room but would never allow myself to open my eyes. I only wanted to be asleep or at least have everyone think I was asleep so no one would bother me. I didn't want to talk, to move or to be poked or prodded. I just wanted to lie there and not feel a thing. There was another patient in recovery who was having a difficult time with all of the tubes and such when she awoke so she was needing a lot of attention from the nurses. I was relieved that they were focused on her and hoped that they wouldn't notice me.
I know I was in and out in recovery because later, my surgeon asked me if I remembered him talking to me in recovery, which I didn't. I do remember feeling so much better and feeling relieved of all the.. the... feelings that come with heart failure. It's too terrible to describe. I couldn't believe that with one surgical procedure I was stable and relaxed. How the day had turned and how everything worked out was such a miracle.
Eventually, I was wheeled to a room in the same cardiovascular step-down unit that I had spent several days in after my initial surgery. (I was in room 411 instead of 410.) After having done so well after my first surgery I would have never guessed that I would end up back in the hospital! Anyway, I awoke to my sweet husband, who is always by my side, looking very much relieved. My sister, pastor and other dear friends from church were there, too. I immediately had tears in my eyes because that's all that would come when I thought of what I had just endured. That whole morning seemed never-ending and only got worse with each passing moment. I had fought to be strong and controlled but now it was over and I just wanted to bawl. I didn't cry though because I was in a lot of pain from surgery and from the chest tube. So once again I had to hold it together because it was physically best for me. It's still not in my best interest to cry, but I suspect one day soon, it will all come out.
In the mean time, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to my Heavenly Father who will never leave me nor forsake me. I am also constantly aware of the blessing of having so many people who love me and have supported me in many different ways through this time. Physically, I'm back to square one with my recovery so I'm slow. But spiritually I'm soaring and desiring to bless the name of the Lord every chance I get as long as I have the chance. We're not guaranteed tomorrow and so as long as it is called today, I want to give Him praise.