Exactly 4 weeks ago, my life completely changed. 6 hours of surgery, 2 new mechanical valves, and one sore body. Some days are tougher than others. I find that if I am out and about getting things done, then I need a full day to recover. If I do not take a full day, then I have setbacks for days. Pacing myself is hard, but essential. I was not taking narcotics regularly, but I have taken a couple in the past week. Nights are the hardest. The pain is enhanced when I am trying to rest. My chest and back hurt the the most. Specifically, it hurts the most my where the wires were left. They poke out a little and are uncomfortable. The medical team say that is will eventually go away, but it is annoying right now. My mom is leaving tomorrow and I am nervous. She has really helped me and motivated me to listen to my body. I could not have imagined doing this without her. I guess we shall see how I manage.
Friday was a big day. I learned I had too low of !NR levels so I was required to self administer injections into my stomach. Yes, I did it. Scared, but I did it. I also met with the medical staff of the surgeon to discover that my scars are healing nicely. I only have taken one narcotic pain pill dose since Thursday. I can take a shower and wash my hair by myself. Fridayś adventures really drained me. It takes me a lot longer to recover from everything. I set up my first cardio rehab appointment for the beginning of February.
Let´s talk about about the clicking. The mechanical valves click. I actually like it when it clicks normal. It reminds me that I am alive. However, there are times when it is irregular. Fast click, then slow and jolts my entire body, Like my body switches. It makes it hard to sleep. It bothers me most at night and I am trying to determine what triggers it because it does not happen every night. I want to shout out to my mom. I could not have done this as smoothly without her. She really has helped me through this entire journey. I am so blessed to have her here with me.
Can not communicate everyday but I will be honest.
Journal posted on January 6, 2020
I am tired. I feel like I am going to say the same thing over and over again. Pain. When they tell you that it will feel like a truck ran over you, they are being kind. Yes, your heart and chest hurt. But my arms, my legs, my back, even my nose hairs hurt. This week is about documentation and getting appointments lined up. It is a process. Kevin, my husband, and my mom keep me sane explaining to each medical staff as to what are my needs. I have horrible pains and that makes me super irritable. Showers are becoming bearable. My kids went back to school today and I get depressed thinking about all of my students that I miss. I know that this is just a season in my life and it will pass but man, PASS already. I am so blessed to have a support system that listens to be cry and comforts me.
Coming home. So happy but such a long road to recovery.
Journal posted on January 4, 2020
Guess who got to go home today..... Me. It was so scary but so rewarding. It was frightful because now I have to remember how position myself and all of my limitations. Well, my body reminds me immediately and then I have to rest. I got to see my kids for the first time in the week and I was overjoyed. They hug me. I am restricted from hugging them. They have been busy helping my husband get the house in order for me and I am so proud of them and their maturity.
Things that I have learned today. I MUST use the spirometer. A spirometer is an apparatus for measuring the volume of air inspired and expired by the lungs. But honestly it really opens up my lungs. My back started hurting. I mean really hurting. Meds weren´t helping. I did not believe that blowing into it would work but it so worked. I could sell this product but it was given to me. As my body heals, I bet the challenges will be hard and frustrating but I am blessed to have a strong support system.
Post op Day 4. This is the real Heather. My husband,Kevin, with the help of my mom, has been updating you very accurately about my progress. He understood how important you all are to my recovery. But today, I am speaking to you. Like yesterday, pain is hard to control. I got the Prevena incision dressing RIPPED off and the sensitivity to the tape was a new pain. I use that word ¨ripped¨ because it was the most painful yet and there was the skin missing from my chest so the hot nice shower was unbearable. It needed to be done but man it hurt. Today adventures have been short walks, chair sitting. building my confidence in personal hygiene , and mastering putting on clothes. I can hear the clicking of the valves all of the time and it is not annoying. Again, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this crazy time in my life. Maybe this weekend, I can go home.
Day 3 (Day 2 out of CICU): Towards the end of Day 2, I awoke in my new room, and out of the CICU. So far, this is about as bad as one can get. Through all the medical battles I have succeeded in my life, this is by far the most personal, physical, emotional and mentally challenging procedure I have ever faced. I wish this on no one. Today I began to walk slightly more (approx. 15 steps) and ate/drink more. Several intense surgery related concerns have plagued me all day. I am so grateful for the support each nurse has given me...I need it. I finally had the two chest drains removed today. Not fun, but better without them. Tomorrow I will begin PT! I know I need it, but I am not sure I am ready! Pain is still unmanageable without the medical support. I can´t even begin to list all the ways these great nurses are tending to me. I am and will continue to remain extremely grateful. Thanks to All for your efforts and prayers.
Day 2: Long night and great nurses dealing with my pain and discomfort. I am able to remain awake for a few minutes at a time. I have been able to stand twice today (and more tubes have been removed). Today, I hope to move out of ICU and slowly proceed with OT. Most time is spent sleeping and accepting pain medicine. I have tried to eat and succeeded in keeping the small amount down.
Day 1: surgery lasted approx. 4.5 hours. In ICU, the pain is intense and continuous monitoring. The breathing tube was removed at 7:30, once I could breath by myself. The remaining tubes (and there are many) were removed during the night. Additional pain medications are supplied as each new phase begins. Tomorrow I will attempt to stand and work with my PT and OT. Lots of new information, supplied with huge booklets supplying how to transition home are supplied. Thanks to my Husband and Mother collecting it all and standing beside me supporting. Thanks to all for keeping in up-to-date. Sorry, no visitors allowed. My husband will inform close friends when visits could happen at home!
All went well. Arteries are awesome. We are ready for surgery on Monday. I love the medical team. Learning more and more each day about the procedures. Like the the draining of the 3 tubes and the wires needed to be left in case of an emergency. How they will be monitoring my blood sugar levels every hour on the hour. I vowed to everyone that I would eat in a chair, walk 4 times a day and eat. Trying to prepare the kids for my limitations. After the procedure today, I lost my driving privileges :( Let the season begin so recovery can begin.
Such a busy time in the year. My students have projects to complete, my own children have gifts to prepare for their teachers, and I have to release my responsibilities 3 days before break. Man, that is hard. I had some really good discussions with students and teachers. over the last week. I am trying to be honest but show too much fear in my voice. It is scarier to know how long I will go before I come back to school. Over the last few weeks, my students and I have been making a positive message. Check it out in the photo.
I will say, my surgeon´s team really calms me. They immediately answer my questions and demonstrate an empathy that can not be faked. I appreciate everyone´s prayers and support.
In class today, Wayne, my student teacher, led the class. He previously assessed where the students were with a specific skill and brought in reinforcements to enhance their own abilities. My point, I did not lead my class. My mind is shifting to away from school. In fact, during that time, I had a conversation with the district about my leave, bought my mom a plane ticket on my phone to come here for surgery and submitted reimbursement for a bill. I can not seem to let go of my tasks. I hate thinking about my limitations after surgery.
My heart is telling to handling me or it will handle me. Because of my lack to attention to my stress levels, I will be undergoing a dual mechanical valve replacement for my aortic and mitral valves. Wow.