Since there was such a big response to last week's Q&A with “Rachel,” figured I’d publish this email she sent to me Saturday. I edited out one or two details that might make you squeamish. (OK, they made ME squeamish.)
I was released from the hospital (Friday) at about 1 p.m. Considering the major nature of the surgery, I actually didn't experience much pain, just lots of discomfort. According to the doctors and nurses, my procedure was very routine; there were no surprises.
I believe surgery started at 7:30 a.m. I only remember one nurse telling me that quite honestly, she was surprised to see me in surgery for the bypass because of my size. She also praised my surgeon for being extremely proactive about pain. I enjoyed talking with all the staff, but when I finally was asleep, it was OVER. I awakened at 1:10 p.m., still in surgical recovery. Soon, I was wheeled to my private room on the fifth floor. That first day I consumed no fluids orally. Stayed on oxygen until Thursday evening.
Here was the hospital regimen:
· Morphine on demand button – I could use this gizmo any time I wanted until I'd pumped 1 millimeter; then I'd have to wait until another hour passed.
· On-Q Pain pump (installed during surgery) kept it in until I got home.
· Heparin (blood thinner shot) every eight hours – a singularly unpleasant memory. More when I'm further from this part of the process.
· Get up and walk, dragging the IV pole along beside me at least twice daily. I tried to walk much more than that, even though I was pretty groggy the whole time I was in there.
Thursday, the Foley catheter was removed. …
The cheerful nutrition staff brought me a huge tray of clear broth, water, protein powder, and jell-o. Because I am currently allowed only 60 ML (four tablespoons) of liquid every hour, I never finished the fluids they brought. On Thursday, I only got a breakfast and a lunch, and on Friday, just breakfast.
They tried to discharge me Thursday, but I wasn't having it. I needed to have a clearer understanding of what I needed to do at home, and I needed that understanding from the nursing staff. Doctors tend to deal in the theology (higher-minded concepts) of procedures, but nurses go for the geometry (the actual implementation) and keep it real. I needed it real. …
The (surgical) resident told me I could drive 24 hours after the last narcotics were out of my system. He said I could jog if that had been my habit before. See, that was why I wanted to stay until Friday. Trust me, if I HAD been a jogger before, there is NO WAY I'd be trying it this week.
I have to thank three of my … friends in particular for their devotion. One picked me up from the hospital, and later, she and her man brought my car to me. Another friend made sure I understood that once I got upstairs in my house I needed to stay there. (Except for broth breaks, I have.) A third friend was also very supportive.
So, my regimen here at home: WALK-SIP-REST. REPEAT.
Starting Wednesday, I can drink pureed foods, so I bought a blender while I was out Friday filling my pain prescription.
I did go out to pay my rent this morning, which meant going to an ATM and then to my landlord's credit union. It was not a fun excursion. Right now, I'm not in pain; I'm in DISCOMFORT. I take every possible opportunity to belch. I walk v-e-r-y slowly, as if I'm a 90-year-old woman, and it is uncomfortable to stand up straight right now (gas). Needing to belch makes lying down pretty unpleasant until I can belch, but I do actually feel better than I did yesterday.
Oh, and thank you so much for your call. It seemed like a dream, but I do know you called to check on me. As I said earlier, I was pretty out of it that first day.
I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for. ~ James H. Boren
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.