Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. I am truly blessed with so many friends and relatives!
A Heart Saved
Narrative non-fiction by
Sometimes I think I’m pretty strong. Other times I think I’m good at using the brain. But when the doctors told me in December of 2009 that my heart had a rare aneurysm which had not burst but required open-heart surgery…I just stared at the floor, not knowing what to think. Should I feel thankful that my doctors discovered the unusual situation? Should I be upset that I had to cancel a planned ski trip? Would I survive? How would Gretta take the news?
In the days leading up to surgery, the background chatter in my dreams was noisier than usual. I heard a lot of voices discussing many things. I assumed that my soul’s disposition was the topic of their discussions. During the day, our dog, who is not the typical give-me-a-hug type of dog, knew something was up. He became chummy and tucked his nose next to my leg as we sat on the couch.
I’m thankful for the people who are strong and smart when it comes to health care. I felt like a wimp going to the slaughter, asking for anything to put me out quickly on the day of surgery. I didn’t want any part of it, and was glad I didn’t have to hear the whine of the saw and smell the burnt bone as they began the procedure of opening me up.
The best feeling of the hospital experience was waking up from surgery. I knew that I had survived. I was highly medicated and didn’t feel the pain, yet. The worst experience was the next 72 hours. It seemed like the hospital was a big tube, and I was being squeezed through bizarro-land. Best to just go with the flow.
After four and a half days in the hospital, I’m resting at home now. I feel like I’ve survived a rite of passage, mixed with drugs, pain, tubes, excellent nurses, mediocre food, and constant “vital sign” checks. I am smart enough to know that I need to take care of myself and follow the doctor’s and nurse’s instructions. No driving for 4 weeks. No lifting over 10 pounds until approved by the doctor, lung exercises, walking repetitions, etc.
The discharge nurse told me a story about a man who returned to the cardiac floor after he had gone home from heart surgery. The man had decided that since his limit for lifting was ten pounds, it would be just fine to build a deck with a five-pound hammer. While working on the deck, some of the surgical wires that held his sternum together began to poke through his chest. He cut the exposed wires and took them to the doctor, asking him if the wires had accidentally been left in his chest. Not very smart.
Outside, the 20 inches of snow accumulation from back-to-back blizzards has been melting for five days. And thanks to my good friend, Jim Fleming, for stopping by to remove an ice dam from the roof. Now there is a kind heart!