What to Expect With Heart Bypass
July 2, 2012
Have you missed me? I have not written an article in over three weeks. I suffered a heart attack and followed with double bypass surgery. I am hoping this account of my stay at the hospital and recovery at home can be beneficial to others.
Watch for the signs. I was sitting at my desk and suddenly my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it. I immediately went to the kitchen and took my blood pressure and it was normal. In the past, when my chest felt weird I would take my blood pressure and it would be very high. They call it the "Silent Killer" because you are not supposed to feel high blood pressure, but I am hear to tell you that I can and others I know can tell as well.
If my blood pressure had been high, I would have taken another blood pressure pill and waited for the pain to subside. In this case, however, since my blood pressure was normal I knew to chew an aspirin. Later, they told me this saved my life and kept my damage to the heart at minimal damage.
I calmly called 911 and within a couple of moments a fire truck and ambulance arrived. There were a total of six men on the two vehicles and they all crowded into the ambulance around me. They soon had contact with the hospital and knew all about me. Various wires were place on my skin and information was being passed along to both the ambulance and the ER at my local hospital.
I heard one of the men whisper to another, "He is too calm to be having a heart attack!" I was calm and for the life of me do not know why. I just felt I was in God's hands and what would be would be.
They soon had me in ER and all the necessary tests were done. They could find nothing wrong. However, because I had heart stents four years earlier they wanted to keep me overnight. That is a good thing because during the night they took the tests again and discovered that I had indeed suffered a heart attack.
My cardiologist walked into my room early that next morning and simply said three words, "It is time." I knew exactly what he meant...heart bypass surgery. Again, I stayed very calm and even though I had heard horror stories about the procedure, I knew it was time. They had learned four years earlier that my main artery to the heart was 50% blocked. They could not stent that artery and suggested bypass at the time, but after a negative look on my face they ran another test called the Nuclear Stress Test which showed that my blood was flowing very well through that artery. Therefore, they let me go home and told me to do a better job with choices of foods.
I do not remember anything about the surgery. All I do remember is the chaplain standing in front of my bed in the pre-surgery room along with my wife, son, daughter and close high-school friend. He said a prayer over me. Now, this is serious.
When you come out of surgery and go to ICU, I pray that you get a nurse with the strength and care as the one that I had for the first twelve hours. His name was Chuck and I am hear to tell you that Chuck never let me have an ounce of pain. He moved me around like a magician. My family did not care for his disposition, but they were not the ones being taken care of and Chuck was not there to win a popularity contest.
I was beginning to think that maybe this would not be as hard on me as expected. Then, the shift changed and in came the new nurse....and I mean fresh out of school new. She was cute and polite and it seemed like her whole vocabulary consisted of "Are you okay?"
Every time she moved me I was in pain. She did not even have the common sense to lower my bed before getting me out of it and again back onto it. She would just pull and push and I would yell.
"Are you okay?"
She put me into a wheelchair to take me down for an x ray. I had a catheter in me and she carried the machine hooked to the catheter. While walking down the hallway, she stepped on the cord running from the machine to my private part. Yelp!
"Are you okay?"
As soon as I got out of ICU and into my room, I asked for the head nurse and told her of my experience. She said she would see to it that the young woman received more training.
Do not wait as long as I did. If you are being handled incorrectly, ask to speak to the head nurse and complain right away.
Recovery time at the hospital
After spending two nights in ICU, I spent another three nights in a private room. This was no fun. Almost every hour throughout the night they would wake me to do a breathing treatment, draw blood, or take my blood pressure. I could not get out of there soon enough.
I can not tell you enough how important it is to do the breathing treatments they provide as well as the ones that you do for yourself. The quicker you can get off the oxygen, the quicker you will go home and recover.
Once at home, I felt a whole lot better and appreciated my new-found freedom. I actually felt so good that I probably over did some things and found myself going backwards the next few days. Here is the kicker; for five days and five nights I could not find a position that I could get into that would allow my body to sleep. The bed was out of the question. I had to stay in my recliner and stare into the darkness all through the night. The pain just prevented my body from doing anything except sitting in a lean-back position and when I would try to sleep the pain quickly put a stop to that because it required me to move this way and that.
The hardest part for me was taking a shower. I was simply exhausted by the time I finished. That gets a little easier each time.
The home nurse and home physical therapist started visiting me and on the second visit by the therapist, she put me through a pretty good workout. I had been walking on my own for ten minutes morning and evening, but she put two walks back to back along with adding weights to my ankles while I did leg exercises.
I got through it pretty well and asked her how I was doing on a scale of 1-10 compared to her other bypass patients. She said I was a 10. I felt very proud.
The next morning, I felt like a piece of liver hung out to dry. I could not walk. I could not do much of anything except stare at the television. My advice is to take it slower than I did. You have no way of knowing if you are over doing something at the time because your body has never been put into this position before. Remember, they cut open my chest, sawed through my rib cage and began moving things around. That is a lot for a body to handle.
They took veins out of my right leg to use as arteries, but for some reason could not use them. So, they went for the other leg. I am told that serious pain is ahead for me when the legs start healing and therefore mine will be double. I am hoping that by doing a lot of walking I can avoid that pain.
I am feeling pretty good at this writing. My left hand was numb after surgery and I could not use the last two fingers for anything. I had to type with one hand. However, today I am typing normally although the fingers still feel numb. I am sure the doctors will explain what is happening when I go in for checkups this week. It will be my first time out of the house.
My goal is to be on the golf course within three months. Hope I have answered some of your questions whether you just had this procedure done, or just wanted to hear a first hand report for a probable bypass in your future. Let us hope not.
I have been sustained by my many friends and family, but especially by my rock, my wife of forty years who has been simply marvelous with me. We spent our 40th anniversary in the hospital. I am looking forward to making it up to her.