A LETTER FROM THE TIN MAN
|I'm sorry this latest update has been so late in coming, but early last week, I was
just about to write about how well the first week home had gone (which it did), when I had
a bit of a distressing incident.
Tuesday morning, I realized I was feeling a little more fatigued than usual doing each daily task -- making and eating breakfast (nothing more than cereal and an English muffin, it's not like I was making breakfast for 80 at the Plaza Hotel or anything), showering, etc. However, I decided to look for some paperwork on my desk, and while doing so, started to feel a shortness of breath. Instead of stopping, however, I kept going until I went through every piece of paper on my desk and never found the one I was looking for (typical), then went downstairs to rest (I have a rented hospital bed in the living room, covered by insurance -- the best thing I've done since I got home, since I get a great night's sleep on it, whereas my normal bed is kind of "dippy" and can't give the kind of support I need).
When I got to the bed, I started to feel faint and sat down on the bed while a sort of swoon came over me. When it was over, I was able to get up and call to my partner. I lay down, and was able to fall asleep. When I awoke 1 1/2 hours later, I noticed that my heartbeat was fast and erratic, something which had not been happening since 5 or so days post-op (this was 13 days post-op). Only this time, it wasn't going away. So I called my cardiologist, who had us come in immediately. More swoons on the car ride over (about 20 miles) and at the doctors' office. A little scary!
The doctor did an EKG, and had me admitted again to hospital (Bridgeport), where I was put on Digitalis (sp?) and a Heparin IV to get my heartrate back to normal. I stayed overnight, but it actually took only three hours to get the rate down. After an echocardiogram to make sure the heart sack was not affected by the crazy thumping of the day before, I was sent home and put on Digoxin, in addition to the Atenolol I was already taking, to keep the heartrate down. In two weeks they'll give me a 24-hour monitor to wear to see how the heart is acting for a full day.
My cardiologist told me that my experience is not uncommon in heart surgery patients, which was reassuring. It's just the heart getting used to its new parts. The heart was still pumping as hard as it had when I had the faulty aortic valve. It doesnt realize yet that it doesn't have to work as hard as it used to in order to keep the blood flowing. In the same vein (again, no pun intended), starting Friday, I've had some pain in my lower left ribs and shoulder. This, my cardiologist assures me, is simply a delayed reaction from having been opened up so thoroughly two weeks ago and having had my insides shifted around so much. Ibuprofen seems to be the saving grace here.
Right now its Saturday night, and I'm doing pretty well -- tonight, I tried going up a hill in my nightly walk, and although it was more difficult than what I've been used to these past couple of weeks, I'm sure it'll be a permanent part of my routine from now on. I think I've learned a little bit more about this whole procedure throughout this unusual week. Although I've been feeling OK, I've always got to keep in mind the seriousness of surgery that was performed on me, and realize that it can have multi-layered repercussions. Chalk it up to experience, folks. I presume I'll be learning a LOT in the coming weeks!
My best to you all, and thank you for your kind indulgence.
Stay tuned for more...