Just a quick update to my health. I am good. Over the past 18 months or so I have lost more than 50 pounds as I adjusted my diet and did more to in terms of physical activity – like walking every day at least up to last month.
On May 16 I had some severe tummy cramping, so much that I had to make a run to the emergency room. After examination, it was found that I had gallstones. Ugh. Painful. They gave me some pain pills afterward and scheduled me for a follow-up visit.
The E-R’s doctor short answer is that I may need gallstone surgery.
I have to go and see the gallstone doctor this coming week. I was told the guy is so busy that his appointments are like stacked up for months ahead. In the meantime people who are afflicting with recurring gallstone pain have to suffer?
Fortunately since my “attack” on May 16, I have suffered no major pain in the area. One of my friends told me to drink apple cider and lemonade. I am not an apple cider kind of guy but I do love lemonade. I also just love eating lemons as is.
So shortly after that incident I started eating a half lemon every day. While scientific studies have shown that a lemon dietdoes not get rid of gallstones, I would have to disagree in the fact that since starting I have been good. No pain. I don’t know exactly what is going on, but the pure lemon seems to be working.
On another front, I recently got a part time job in the retail industry which requires several hours of standing. I am not used to standing for long periods of time. My feet hurt. By the end of the day, I am usually in pain and am so happy to get home and sit, lie down flat to relieve the painful feet. The pain level is at about a 1 to 2 and maybe 3 on bad days. Have yet to see the doctor as to what to do about the pain or if that it is even bad. Don’t know.
As a result I haven’t been walking as regularly as I should. Prior to the job I was walking at least 2 miles a day. Now I am lucky to get in a 1.5 mile walk every few days.
Heart and function monitors after surgery in intensive care. Photo by Mel.
So you are going to have heart bypass surgery. This post will be about what to expect after your surgery as you spend the next several months in recovery.
AT THE HOSPITAL
First day you’ll be in intensive care, legs up with a number of tubes and other sensors plugged into your body. These are all hooked up to monitors that track your health condition for the time you are there. The stay in intensive care is 24 to 48 hours. It was 36 hours for me.
The stuff plugged into you are gradually removed before you move to the recovery ward.
More than likely after your brief stay in intensive care you will be moved to a telemetry ward. There the hospital staff will monitor your progress. Doctors will occasionally visit you, encourage you to start eating and walking. Nurses are there all the time and help you with just about every aspect of early recovery. Nurses are the lifeblood of most hospitals. Without them the system would probably collapse.
While confined mainly to a bed you will be encouraged to eat, and especially walk. Nurses and other personnel may / will come and visit you to work on your basic motor skills such as standing and walking. You will need help to go to the bathroom or use the bedpan. I chose the bathroom all of the time…
Before that happened though you are hooked up to a catheter which takes care of the urinary functions for the short term. Later the thing is removed and you are free to use the bathroom. I don’t like catheters, especially when it goes in and even comes out. One word: pain.
Speaking of which.
PAIN will be your constant companion for quite some time. Pain will be apparent every time you cough. The intensity of the pain shortly after surgery is high. Your pain level for every cough will be in the area of 8 to 9 on the 10 point pain scale. The pain from coughing will gradually wane. Sneezing also brings about the same chest pain.
The cause of the pain is fluid buildup in the lungs and the fact that your chest pounds against the healing wounds of your ribcage which is located just above your heart (see Wounds below). I tried to suppress my coughing but that was futile. It could have made things worse. As my doctors told me, “cough it out”. Be sure to use the “heart pillow” every time you cough.
WALKING: From early on you are encouraged to walk. You will find walking to be difficult, especially in the beginning. Your walking range after surgery will be short. A walk around the hospital ward will be considered “good”. Walking helps build your strength and gives your newly repaired heart a workout. While in the hospital you are hooked up to a heart monitor that is tracked on computers in the telemetry area. That is kind of cool I think. I used to always like to walk around the telemetry area to check my vitals like pulse and respiration that was displayed on a large flatscreen monitor.
Walking in those first days after surgery will be slow, short and maybe labored. My heart rate was between 100 to 120 beats per minute (bpm) while I walked. While idle I think my heart rate was at around 92 bpm. It gets better as time goes on.
Daily walking will be a recommended activity after your discharge.
EATING: You probably won’t have much of an appetite shortly after surgery. But that improves in time. One thing about eating is that if you were a junk food junkie like me (which more than likely brought about my heart condition) you definitely will have to change your daily menu. Divorce yourself from sugary carbonated drinks, beef, pork, sweets, candies, hamburgers, etc. Think more fruits, vegetables, water and fish. I will write more about meals later.
MEDICATIONS: You will be given a lot of medications shortly after surgery. Nurses are good at being timely in administering your medications. Some will be given through tubes while others will be given in pill form. Before you are discharged from the hospital a long list of medications will be prescribed to you for home use during your recovery and beyond. Be sure to dutifully take your medications. They are vital to sustaining your heart and life.
TUBES AND STUFF: More than likely there will be several tubes stuck into your body. All of these were inserted while you were in surgery. Thankfully you were spared the pain of the insertion since you were under anesthetic at that time. However, the tubes will have to be removed during hospitalization. Some like the catheter and the one going into your chest will be briefly painful when they are removed. The chest tube looks kind of gross upon removal… yellow/brown slime coats it. Yeah, you needed to know that.
There will be at least 1 or 2 intravenous tubes inserted into your arms for blood testing and medication purposes. These will be removed shortly before discharge. From the times you are poked with needles, you will find that your arms will become bruised.
Since you may also be on blood thinning medications, the chances of being bruised increases even after your discharge.
WOUNDS: Everyone who goes through heart bypass surgery will have two major wounds on their body. The first and most obvious wound is the large cut that go from the top of your chest to the bottom just above your tummy. Surgeons cut this area of your chest to gain access to your heart. They also had to break the bones on your rib cage to get to your heart. After the bypass veins are placed around your heart the bones have to be mended with a wire mesh that will stay inside of you for the rest of your life. Then the wound is stitched. It looks pretty gross when you first see it after the big bandage is removed a few days after surgery. Think Frankenstein’s monster… heh. The chest wound will heal but will be a permanent scar on your body. The resulting scar is called “The Zipper” by many bypass survivors.
“The Zipper” and tube wound just below that. Photos by Jerry Stanfield.
The other major wound will be on your leg at the lower end of your thigh just above the knee (at least it was in my case). Basically it is a big hole where the surgeons extracted your own veins for insertion around your heart (hence the word “bypass”). There will be a small tube coming out of that for drainage after surgery which will be removed before discharge.
Taking care of your wounds and being mindful of the condition of your healing heart and ribcage will be an important part of your recovery. The ribcage takes a while to heal. Patients have to be mindful in following instructions to prevent the ribcage mesh from accidentally dislodging itself which would probably result in a medical emergency that will probably require surgery and hospitalization to repair.
The reason for much of the chest pain associated with coughing is attributed to that healing ribcage area.
Below the chest incision wound will likely be a hole from which the gross tube was removed. It will be bandaged and will take time to heal. You have to keep it cleaned and medicated until it heals. The healing time for this wound is about 2 to 3 months.
I think I covered most of the things that happen after surgery. This post ended up being about care during hospitalization. The next post will be about home care. Fun stuff.
Posted onApril 7, 2016|Comments Off on Back to the Emergency Room & Hospitalization
THROWBACK THURSDAY (#TBT)
Kaiser’s Moanalua Hospital. File photo by Mel.
So like this blog has fell behind. My second hospital confinement is being labeled as “Throwback Thursday” since it happened more than 3 months ago now. I’m doing well today. But on January 10 I ended up in the emergency room only 5 days after being released. The following is a brief account of that time.
I was released from the hospital on January 5.
I started keeping a log of my meals, medications and more in a tablet starting on January 6. The following are brief summaries from entries I wrote in the log after my initial release from Kaiser Moanalua.
January 6: Took my morning medications:Oxycodone for pain; and then later Amiodarone, Low Dose Aspirin, Famotidine, Furosemide, Metoprolol, and Terazosin. At the time these and a few more for my evening routine were / are considered essential to my post-up survival. My evening meds included some of the above in addition to Atorvastatin and Warfarin. It was difficult at the beginning to get used to the medication names, dosages and times of day to take each one.
Meals were limited to small portions of fish, fruits, veggies and cereal with low fat milk during breakfast. In those early days after my initial discharge, things were tough.
Walking was a chore. I moved very slowly because my breathing accelerated and grew tired quickly after walking only a short distance. However walking was the key to my recovery as the doctors encouraged more walking many times every day.
Besides walking, PAIN was… well a pain! I was also encouraged to cough the mucus out that built up in my lungs after surgery. I was still required to hold the heart pillow against my chest. For the month of January, the pain level at every cough was a severe 6, 7 or 8 on the numeric pain scale of 0 to 10.
Pain was a constant companion after surgery for many weeks and is still around today but not as intense as it was in January.
Shortly after my release from the hospital I bought a blood pressure monitor. I also have a Pulse Oximeter which I bought for my Mom in 2014. I got it back after she passed away last year. The former device measures your blood pressure and the latter measures your breathing and heartbeat. The blood pressure monitor also gives out a heartbeat reading.
It is a good thing I had these devices at home.
January 6 — Pulse: 96 bpm O2 – 95: I learned early on that a pulse rate of 96 is considered high. That pulse rate was with me after my surgery and would spike higher when I walked around in the hospital.
January 7 — 8:00 am — Pulse 96 bpm O2 – 93 | BP 125/85 Later that day: BP 144/89
January 7 – 6:30 pm — BP 149/89 Pulse 97 bpm
January 8 – 5:30 am – I had a higher heart rate that morning when I walked a very short distance: Pulse 112 bpm. A blood pressure reading one hour later: 117/74 Pulse 102 bpm 10:30 am – Pulse 96 bpm BP 123/84 8:40 PM BP 120/83 Pulse 88 bpm
January 9 – 11:15 am BP 115/78 Pulse 90 bpm
January 10 – I had a hard time breathing that morning. Shortness of breath. I could hardly walk or move around without running out of breath. It was decided early that morning that I would be driven to the hospital emergency room. Sandra and I were originally going to take a taxi from the hotel to Kaiser Moanalua. That did not work out. I tried to walk out of the room and in the hallway but rapidly ran out of breath. I could feel the shortness of breath as well as my accelerated heartbeat. Had I continued walking I probably would have collapsed. Therefore I turned around and walked slowly back to the room.
We called 911.
The Oximeter reading that morning showed an O2 rate of 94 (normal) but a pulse of 112 bpm. The paper log stopped after the that for 2 days.
THE AMBULANCE RIDE: It took about 20 minutes (again) before the City’s EMS ambulance arrived. Two paramedics came up to the room and took me away on a gurney. Sandra accompanied me on the ambulance. She rode in the front seat with the driver. She was quite impressed as to how quickly the vehicle moved and more than that, how quickly other drivers in front of the ambulance moved out of the way. I was fully conscious and aware of where we were going. We raced up Keeaumoku St., turned left on Beretania than again on Piikoi to take the on-ramp to the H1 freeway. We got to the emergency room in about 15 minutes. All the way there I was hooked up to an EKG monitor as well as other devices while the paramedics read off numbers and communicated with the hospital.
HOSPITALIZATION…. AGAIN: I spent about two hours in the emergency room before the doctor on call decided to admit me and keep me “under observation”. I was taken to a nearby complex of small rooms where patients are placed “under observation”. It was not the same telemetry ward that I was in during my initial hospitalization. For the next two days I was hooked up to a constant IV drip of Amidarone (for heart fibrillation) among other medications.
I vividly remember is that while being moved out of the emergency room and to one of the observation rooms, they had my heart hooked up to an audio heart monitor. It played out each heartbeat which sounded like a Pong game gone wild. The chaotic heartbeat was a sure sign that something was wrong with me. If this was not treated I could have had a stroke. Fluid buildup in my left lung was also a culprit.
In time, the drug therapy worked and by the afternoon on January 12 I was discharged.
January 13 – Out of the hospital and back at “home”. 8:16 am – O2 94Pulse 83 bpm. 10:00 am Blood test at Kaiser Clinic on Pensacola St.
January 14 – Walking more; down the hallway and to the lobby. Better than Jan. 10. Pulse sitting 99 bpm. At 3:10 pm that day I noticed higher heartbeat rates of 106, 108, 109, 111, 103, 97 and more just sitting in place after walking. I called Kaiser’s cardiology department and talk to Nurse Ruth. Can’t remember exactly what she told me then, but I think it was to keep monitoring and call her again the next day.
By this time I was taking Amidarone twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. Over time the Amidarone did its job. My heart rate, fibrillation eventually slowed down to “normal” levels.
Comments Off on Back to the Emergency Room & Hospitalization
This blog is about my personal journey from heart attack to surgery and recovery. By no means is this blog to be used for medical advice. Consult your physician, cardiologist and medical services facility for help, diagnosis and care. Online you can visit Web MD for general information. If you are experiencing a medical emergency such as a heart attack, chest pain, shortness of breath or anything out of the ordinary, CALL 911! (Works in most places in the U.S.A.)
The scope of the blog is being expanded to cover more than heart and health issues. Posts will also include lifestyle, personal, family and some photographic content. Heart health issues will still be the central focus.
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