Before surgery I was kind of nervous about being in the ICU. It just sounds scary because that is where really sick people go. However, it ended up being really great and I was well taken care with such attentive nurses. There were a lot of really sick people there with me and 3 people passed away in the 2 days I was there. One, sadly was a 21 year old boy that my dad helped give a blessing to, another was an older man and his family that took the news pretty hard, and one man who died completely alone. It helped give a lot of perspective on what I was going through and was difficult to see these families struggle.
One of the hardest parts about being in ICU was that I just had tubes and all kinds of stuff stuck all over in me! I had three chest tubes that look like this:
Two pace maker wires that look like this:
And finally, a catheter in my wrist that was sutured in that looked like a giant IV, a regular IV, and a urinary catheter (I for sure won't show you a picture of that ;)).
Well, guess how much fun it is to get all of those things out?? Zero. Part of the problem was I gained 22 pounds in water weight from the surgery and was very puffy and swollen. This made where they sewed all of these lines in super tight and very hard to cut out which wasn't fun. Then pulling out the chest tubes was just no bueno. That was my least favorite and yet it gave a lot of relief after they were finally out. They have to yank them out (while you are awake I might add) slowly but fast at the same time and it just did not feel good at all. The other problem was when they took them out I got some air under my skin on my chest that was really uncomfortable...especially when they had to push on my already sensitive chest pretty hard to get it out. It sounded crackly like rice crispies under my skin...weird and painful sensation. My wrist line hurt pretty bad too because they blew the vein so bad and being on so many blood thinners and having to put so much pressure on it caused a lot of bruising that hurts a lot still to this day.
My final complaint about all of this: the tape. Isn't there a better way?! I know what you are thinking, tape is not that big of a deal. But let me just tell you, you have tape everywhere. Not to mention after you have just had it with being poked and prodded but you made it through a tried to be way tough, then they come yank that stupid stuff off and it would just make me cry. It was the straw that broke the camel's back and it just makes me so mad. It is my mission to come up with a better way.
After we got the tubes out it was time to start walking a lot. I really did not feel like walking at all but the nurses were very persistent and I got up and had to admit I felt a lot better after I got up. I made it my goal to walk a little more than the time before and I started doing a lot better. Nausea was a real challenge through all of this and I just was so sick...you couldn't even mention food in front of me without just wanting to throw up. I think what made it really hard was, bless my doctor's heart because he is incredible, but some of his bedside manner was interesting. I think in his mind this is no big deal and so he discontinued all of my IV meds very quickly, which left everyone pretty surprised. And when I say quickly, I mean day 2. This meant that since I was already nauseated, now doing meds by mouth was going to make things much, much worse. We finally switched some things around and the nausea got slightly better...but still rough.
On the morning of day three I was able to leave ICU!
As much as I loved all of the staff in ICU, I was ready to move on because that meant closer to going home!
I once again had really great care in the PCU and loved all of my nurses up until the last day. I had one that reminded me of Julie Andrews and was pure sugar...so gentle and caring. One that was a graveyard nurse that was my age, looked just like Taylor Swift, and we had so many of the same interests. She was married with a 6 month old baby and was just so caring and really lifted my spirits. It was fun too because I really do not sleep at night and she only had one other patient so she would come in and chat with me. I had another one who was super attentive and caring and had just found out she was pregnant and I was the first (besides her husband) to know! I also had a really good cardiac rehab specialist named Sean who looked like an Asian Jay-Z and was very cool and great to work with. I liked all of them and secretly I think they were all happy to have a young patient. I definitely am not the norm at all and so many would walk in my room in total shock that a 23 year old was having this surgery. They do these on generally 50 and older and young kids and babies.
I did pretty well in the PCU we just always have a hard time with pain control. I have a VERY high tolerance for medications, just like my dad and grandma, and so it takes so much more medication to do anything for me than the average person. Once we changed a few things around I did a lot better but still struggled with the nausea most. It is such a catch 22 because I hate how the narcotics make me feel and how sick they make me, but you have to stay on top of the pain as well. Very hard to find that balance.
I had few complications gratefully, only that they could not get my blood pressure up and also that my hematocrit was really low so I needed a blood transfusion. This really freaked out my mom and she asked if she could just give me hers. The doctor laughed and tried to explain that blood has to go through rigorous testing before they use it and is generally very safe. It felt kind of weird getting someone else's blood and just wonder who's I have! I felt so much better after getting some blood and a lot of iron in me and this is really what helped me turn the corner to go home. But now with even more fluid in me I was so puffy! That meant they had to put me on a diuretic which made me have to tinkle literally every 10 minutes. Going to the bathroom that often is maddening! As soon as I would lay down and get comfortable, which was quite the feat, I would have to get up again. It was a necessary evil.
Finally, on day 4 it looked like I would be able to go home! I was so ready, especially because the nurse I had that day I had a really hard time with. She was a very nice lady, but every time she would start something she would get half way done and then get sidetracked. Then, she put my call light very far away and so I tried to get up by myself and ended up spilling apple juice everywhere, dropping all my pills and ended up in a very uncomfortable position. Half an hour later she came in and chewed me out for trying to get up by myself and that I should not do that. Well, it makes it kind of hard if you don't give me the call light, you silly. I just got teary and really emotional when gratefully my parents came. Then, when she was taking out my central line she got half way through it and said, "oh shoot, I forgot to give something to this other patient!" I then politely but firmly said, "shouldn't we get through and finish this kind of important thing first? This line does go straight to my heart..." Thankfully she finished, but I was just so done. Glad I was leaving!
This is me heading out with my favorite CNA Jeanette! She was great, and very helpful.
The ride home from Salt Lake was not super fun, but my dad drove as carefully as possible and did a great job. It was bitter sweet saying good-bye to all the people who took such good care of me, but I was definitely ready to be in my bed at home and taken care of by my parents, who are incredible! Thank you St. Mark's for such a positive experience through a difficult time.
To be continued....