Monday, February 13, 2012

T Plus 1 and counting

Feb 7, 2012, the day after my surgery, I was moved from the ICU to the telemetry unit where you begin working towards leaving the hospital. I was in 3 West which deals with Heart, Lung, and Cardiac surgeries. Cardiac covers the entire blood distribution system in your body like arteries and veins in legs and arms.

This is where I started to return to as much normality as possible before release from the hospital. The morning before my transfer from ICU I had some oatmeal for breakfast. But once I was in 3 West, I started to order my own meals and eat them on my own. My nurse or technician would come in to help me get settled into the chair and then they'd let me be on my own.

I found out real quick that some food combinations that sounded good the night before weren't so good and some were better than expected. For instance, pork loin, brown rice, and green beans aren't the best combination. Yeah, um, it just doesn't work. But oatmeal with brown sugar, fresh fruit, and a glass of milk works very well.

I found that having family and friends visit helped pass the time. There's not much you can do when recovering from surgery and even though you need your rest, there's times that you can't sleep and it's best to not sit there and think about the whole situation. I am blessed with parents that came back from their vacation to be with me and stayed until I got back home and situated. I am blessed with In-laws who came to visit and see how I was doing. I am blessed with a wife and daughter who came every day to be with me as much as they could be while still keeping things going at home. I am blessed with friends who came to visit, texted, or talked to my wife and daughter to check on my status.

It was in telemetry 3 West that they slowly started to remove my reliance on intravenous liquids. I'm not even sure what all they had me on. I think there was saline, heperin, nitro, and something else that eludes me now.

IV pumps for all the liquids my body needed

ICU got me through the critical part right after my surgery but 3 West were the folks that motivated me to get out of bed and start moving. Wednesday, my first full day in 3 West, my technician had me out of bed three times walking the hallway. We went about half way the first time, a little further the next, and to the end of the hall the last time.

Wednesday was also the day I got a lot of the "Borg" stuff removed from my body. (if you aren't sure what a Borg is, wiki it. Trek rocks!). I had a couple IV's they removed, the bandaging from my left arm, the catheter from my, er, bladder. (that's sounds icky now that I type it). They also removed the chest tubes that allowed drainage after surgery. Those were the ones that hurt the most, even with Percoset killing the pain. I've still got two openings / indentations where the tubes were inserted. The blood is all clotted so it's started to heal but it looks like a vampire with buck fangs bit me just above the stomach.

I also continued use of the Incentive Spirometer that is used to increase lung capacity after surgery. This is a device that you inhale through and it measures how much air you have inhaled. Over time you build up the amount of air you are breathing in until you reach the goal your doctors have set for you. In the pictures below, I've got the end of the tube you inhale from stuck through the spirometer to keep it contained. Normally that end of the tube is sticking straight out at you.
Front of Incentive Spirometer
Back of Incentive Spirometer
On Thursday, Doctor Mirro, my cardiologist, came in to see if I was ready to go home on Friday. He said I was making great progress and he thought it a real possibility that I would be ready. There were just a couple X-rays and blood work needed and he would know for sure.

Friday came and along with it the news that I would be released that day. One of Doctor Sowden's (my heart surgeon) nurse practitioners stopped by my room with a whole bunch of information for me. Prescriptions for when I got home, information on diet, exercise guidelines, follow-up doctor appointments, etc. I talked with Lisa real quick and we had the prescriptions faxed over to the Walgreen's near our house so Lisa could get them before picking me up at the hospital.

My folks arrived around Noon to see how I was doing and to help with anything that we needed done. We were mostly in a holding pattern waiting for Lisa and Kristin to get there. There were a few things that were needed from the store before they picked me up. Things that would be needed over the next couple days. Even then there were a few things we didn't think of and Lisa had to go out to get. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

Once Lisa and Kristin arrived, my nurse went over all the information with us again. She also went over the prescriptions, what they were for, when I had my last dosage of them, and when my next dose was due.

After all that, Lisa went down to get the Vue and pull it around to the front door of the hospital. The nurse had me get in a wheelchair, took me downstairs, and out to where Lisa and Kristin were waiting for me. The nurse and valet helped me get in the Vue and we headed for home. And that feels like a good place to stop for now. Home is a whole new story.

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