Waking Up In The Intensive Care Unit
Excerpt From Chapter Eleven of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery:
I would exit the operating room at three-thirty in the afternoon. My surgery was four hours long. Both my aortic and pulmonary valves were replaced. I remember nothing of the event. I especially don't remember my gurney rolling out of the operating room and into the intensive care unit, also known as the ICU.
The general anesthetic would keep me asleep for another two hours following surgery. Then, at about five-thirty in the afternoon, my eyelids separated and light stimulated my pupils.
I was awake.
Seconds after I opened my eyes, I slipped back into sleep.
Sometime later, my eyelids would split again. This time... I was conscious.
I was now able to center my attention and comprehend the surrounding stimulus.
My first cognitive process centered on the image of my father standing before me. He was on my left side, standing tall, not more than a foot away.
What I then experienced was beautiful. I saw my father smiling from ear-to-ear. Even though his hands were tucked in his pockets, there was joy and love radiating from his heart to my newly, stitched heart.
In that moment, my father was beyond happy. I took that as a good sign. I was relieved. I wanted to talk with him. I wanted to know what had happened. I wanted the details.
I could not speak.
Unknown to me, a large tube had been inserted into my mouth and down my throat. This foreign structure, known as a ventilator tube, rendered my vocal capability useless.
While it was quite uncomfortable, I remained calm and chose to enjoy the silence. Then, I noticed Robyn (my wife) standing quietly behind my father.
I fell back to sleep.
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.