how you wake up from heart surgery

I remember a bit of Lost – people walking through a jungle.

Then I remember the Channel 7 Eyewitness News bumper music and the blues and chromes of their logo animation cutting to and from a commercial.

The Virginia Tech massacre had happened two days before – I knew as Eyewitness News ended that Nightline was going to be about the shootings.  And I didn’t want to see that, not now.

I was lying in a bed, I could barely move – something was deep in my throat, I couldn’t close my mouth.  When I tried, plastic.  I tried not to think about it, tried not to gag.

I raised my arm to get someone’s attention to turn the channel on the TV bolted up in the  corner of the ceiling.  I could barely see, everything was colored blobs that flowed together, some with shimmering edges.

Eventually I heard and sensed someone saw me, and she waded into my vision.  I was awake.

It was like lifting concrete, and my wrist was taped and tubed, but I pushed my arm up toward the television.  Twisted my wrist to tell the nurse I wanted the station changed.  She figured it out.  I put two fingers up, waved them – I guess like a peace sign, but all I wanted was to get the TV changed to Channel 2.  I really would have preferred Letterman, but he was on Channel 4, and that would have meant twice the effort.  Leno was on Channel 2.

She grabbed a remote, clicked the channels.

There was a plastic tube down my mouth going down, down my throat to where my nerves barely fired.  I hated it, tried not to move my mouth, but part of me also wanted to feel it totally, I kept moving my tongue to try to define it.   I tried not to gag, tried to relax.

The nurse got me my glasses, rested them on my face and ears with a little help from me – I honestly can’t remember if she let me drink, a little, by letting me lift my head and carefully tipping the rim of a plastic cup at my lip, or if she told me I had to wait for the respiratory specialist to come over and remove the tube before I could.

After the specialist had me try some deep breathing through the tube, he decided my lungs were at the threshold where I could handle it myself.  He pulled the tube out, and I spit up.  The nurse told me it always happens as she wiped me.  I spit up more on her hand.  After that, I know she got me some water, tipping the plastic cup to my lips as I turned my head to the side.

She gently cleaned my face and forehead with a damp washcloth.  “You’re cute…” I told her.  I thought she was.  She laughed.

I was in the cardiac ICU.  I had to lie there – I had 3 tubes in my belly to drain me if I needed, and a catheter I was surprised I couldn’t feel.

In the morning the three tubes would be pulled out.  But the catheter I couldn’t feel would still be tubed up, when three nursed rolled me over to make me sit up on the edge of the bed – moving was the worst pain I have ever felt, even with the drugs flooding my body.

The nurses made me walk a few shuffling steps and turn and sit in a chair.  Still hooked up to an IV drip stand and other tubes trailing to whatever at the foot of my bed.  It was a nurse’s birthday, and they gave me a little piece of lemon cake.

And that’s how you wake up from heart surgery.

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3 responses to “how you wake up from heart surgery

  1. Pingback: poem 4/18/10 – mother lion « novaheart's blog

  2. thank you for sharing this and providing a link… a whole other door just opened… we never realize the daily pleasure of breathing and moving… how something so simple is really very complex in the day to day viewing of the cosmos… donchathink…

  3. Wow–what an intense experience. I’m sure it has been a life-transforming event for you. Impressed that you could think to compliment the nurse in the condition you were in! :))

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