Open Heart Surgery – Post Op Diary

Post op Diary – Day one:

Completely ‘out my face’!

Day Two:

This day consisted mostly of happiness. I was so happy to be alive. So happy that I had not suffered from serious brain damage as I was told over and over again before the operation that this was a significant risk of the surgery. So happy to be talking to everyone around me, and according to my family, I had informed them that that I was just so happy that my eye operation had gone well. So I guess on day two I was still somewhat ‘out my face’!

Three large tubes referred to by the medical staff as ‘drains’ were sitting inside my ribcage, entering through a taped up hole in my stomach. Through them ran blood into a large box under the bed. On this day I was told to sit up on a bed to have my drains removed. I remember this being yet another feeling of happiness as these drains had been the main source of my physical pain so far. Emotions post -surgery were very simple. There was no differentiating between such emotions to say one was relieved or grateful or so on. It was just an endless rush of happiness. That may very well be owed to the morphine.

The nurse warned me that this would be painful and told me not look. I smiled challengingly and looked. First she removed the tape. This increased the pain as the tubes were no longer supported but just hung heavily from the skin along the edge of the hole in my stomach. I watched as she got a good firm grasp of the first tube and started to pull and wriggle it free from my insides. She seemed to be having some trouble… it appeared to be stuck. This went on for a few long seconds and eventually the tube appeared to lengthen in her hand as it came out of my body. Still wriggling and pulling in all directions, the nurse concentrating on her task seemed to have forgotten about me being attached to her subject. I stared in almost disbelief at the length of this tube coming out of me and I was unable to avert my eyes from the blood lightly spraying out in a few different directions.

I could feel this tube inside me as the nurse wriggled and none too gently, pushed back and forth. I said to her, “This must be what it feels like to be stabbed”. I can’t quite explain the feeling. Although it was a painful experience, pain is not the first word that comes to mind when trying to explain how it felt. It was more of an awful lurching feeling of something violently digging around inside your body.

With one last pull, the first tube was out. The nurse looked at me and said “I though you would have been screaming”. Resisting an overwhelming urge to slap her stupid face, I replied, “It wasn’t that bad”. To which she then happily announced “you still have two more to go”. Bitch! The removal of the last two tubes is not as significant in my memory as I had become almost bored with the procedure. I had seen all that was to be seen so I put my head back and allowed her to continue with her sadistic ritual.

As time went by the days rolled into one long progressive type period. Initially filled with tasks such as drip refills, oxygen intake levels and catheter bag changes, then progressing onto the removal of most of these things, pain control and increasing mobility. I was up on my feet from day two after surgery. By day three I was no longer taking morphine but managing pain control with paracetamol and tramadol. My pain was brutal, my tiredness was overwhelming and the nurses were absolutely awful, but my progress was steady and significant.

Day Four:

The first thought to enter my mind upon awakening this morning was undoubtedly and shamefully one of defeat. For but a split second, before my eyes opened in response to the harsher morning pain, I thought I didn’t want to fight today. I didn’t want to breathe through the pain, a little more each time. I didn’t want to smile through the feelings of brutal torture going down my chest. I didn’t want to spend hours on end gagging while trying to swallow more pills. I didn’t want to sit still in a pool of my own weakness and pain for another day and I didn’t want to get up and walk around trying to fight for a faster recovery. I just didn’t want today to come… for a split second. Then I opened my eyes!

I tried to lift my head from the pillow but the pain shot up through my torso and along my neck disabling me. I tried to hold on to the bedside railings but the pain and tightness had spread further now and controlled my arms. I relaxed and concentrated on my breathing… Breathing through the pain a little more with each breath until my breathing was no longer shallow and sporadic. I had finally gotten a decent night sleep so today was the day to make my progress and push a little harder in order to eventually reduce some of the pain.

As I became more awake I felt better and better and more determined. Day four was my turning point. On day four I learned how to fight.