Video: How Do You Feel Immediately After Surgery?

Patients and caregivers often ask me about the immediate, post-op experience in the intensive care unit. Common questions include:

  • How long were you in the intensive care unit?
  • Did you experience pain immediately?
  • Was your family allowed in the ICU area?
  • How many tubes were sticking out of you when you woke up?

However, one of more common questions I get is, “How did you feel as you came out of general anesthesia?” Honestly, I don’t remember much – just bits and pieces of the first few hours after surgery. But, lucky for me, my family has clued me in on the strange experience of waking up after heart surgery with a ventilator tube, Foley catheter and several other tubes still inserted in my body.

On this topic, I just read that the video below was one of YouTube’s Top 10 Videos of 2009. The video titled “David After Dentist” has been watched over 37 million times this year. It’s not an exact match to the experience of waking up after heart surgery but I think you might find some silly and honest humor as little David talks candidly with his father after dental surgery.

Please remember, each patient case is unique. Just because David was a tad loopy after his surgery, that does not mean you will have the same experience.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Dale P.

    Yup, that’s about how I felt. Except I wasn’t able to talk that much, what with tubes in my mouth.

  • Phyllis

    I’m having an aortic valve replacement and triple by-pass next week, and I am scared out of my mind about waking up with the ventilator tube. I don’t have any family here, so I’ll be on my own.

    How do you keep from fighting the ventilator tube? How do you communicate panic? Or something that feels wrong?

  • Rita

    Okay then – I can honestly say that scream made me really laugh except heart patients would be in some serious trouble had we screamed like that after surgery. Thank you for the touch of humor today.

  • Duane Hunt

    Adam, this is way too funny! Makes me think about having one of my kids or someone tape me coming out from down under when I have my surgery. Don’t know how that would work with the tubes, etc.

  • jerry

    I’ve had general anesthesia three times now, and the absolute worse was as a kid, having a tooth pulled. (Which at the time required a general). I woke up disoriented and in pain.

    In contrast, waking up after heart surgery was a cakewalk with no pain whatsoever.

    So I laugh along with David and his father, and I recommend the Versed which provides a welcome (to me at least) amnesia of the whole event.

    Phyllis, you have my best wishes — my experience was the ventilator tube itself was unpleasant, but not horrible, but you’re right, being unable to communicate at times was very frustrating.

    I was able to write, and I was lucky enough to have a nurse who allowed me to write with my finger on her hand, and I was able to communicate that way. But it was very slow and frustrating.

    I’d suggest if this is a big thing for you that you speak to your doctor about it ahead of time AND bring along your own clipboard with paper and sharpie.

    I am genuinely surprised that in 2009, that patients are not provided some sort of electronic whiteboard device / tablet application (with predictive text, and with names of relatives/friends/etc already filled in) to help communicate.

    (My very cynical guess with a certain amount of evidence from personal experience is that the hospitals, doctors, and nurses really DON’T want to hear from you.)

    You have my best wishes of course.

  • Meigs

    I WOKE UP WITH MY VENT TUBE IN, WHICH DID SURPRISE ME AFTER MY VAVE SURGERY ALMAOST 2 WEEKS AGO. I COULD NOD OR SHAKE MY HEAD A BIT. I ALSO USED A BLACKBOARD AND CHALK. IT WAS NOT THAT BAD FOR ME. THEY DID KEEP EXPLAINING THAT THEY WERE WAITING FOR SOME VALUE TO BE RIGHT BEFORE THEY TOOK THE VENT OUT- IT WOULD NOT BE LONG. I HAD TO PRACTICE PATIENCE, BUT I FELT HEARD AND CARED FOR.
    MEIGS

  • Eric Desbonnet

    Adam,

    I don’t remember very much about my time in ICU when I had my mitral valve repair. My wife said that I acted the way I had predicted prior to surgery and tried to pull all the tubes out especially the vent. The nurses had to put me back down 3-4 times before I finally cooperated. Thankfully all I remember is them saying the vent tube is coming out. After that I fell back asleep. I think the amnesia I have about the whole time helped me get through the rest of the hospital experience.

    Eric
    Southold

  • Mary Ferraro

    Here’s what I remember: I was in ICU one full day. Family could see me and my boyfriend, too. There was no pain. When I first opened my eyes I could see that it was dark outside and I could see a countertop and my brother and my sister standing about 5 feet from the foot of my bed with my nurse. My boyfriend was there too and looked so worried because I was very pale but I knew I was fine because my nurse kept telling me that everything went well and I was doing good and needed to rest so I told myself to go back to sleep and just tried to give a “thumbs-up.” I was very relaxed but the tubes did feel pretty weird. I felt like I had an IV in the back of my hand and in my arm. The 3 tubes coming out of my upper abdomen looked more weird than they felt so I just chose not to look. My neck was itchy on one side because there were some very thin lines coming out of my neck on that side. I also had a urinary catheter so I did not have to worry about wetting myself. The anesthesia will make you constipated for several days by which time I was able to make it to the toilet myself. It was not painful but sometimes it felt like I had been sleeping on rocks and had run into a steel door. You actually feel a tiny bit better every single day.

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