After a few days of nurses watching me and typical hospital stay experiences I was led to believe I could head home Saturday. The requirements were that my pain be under control, and my heart be draining less than 50 ml of fluid in a 24 hour period. The drain appeared to completely stop draining after Thursday, and my pain was doing better than ever with the discomfort in my stomach, shoulder blades, and chest relieved for the first times since the surgery. However, Saturday morning when I was awakened at four by a heavy man wanting to steal my blood, I recognized very familiar pain. He took the blood as I sat in a fatigued stupor, and upon him leaving I struggled with shortness of breath and the pain in my upper stomach. I went to the bathroom in desperation to relieve the discomfort, wanting to just fall back asleep. I felt in shooting to my shoulder blade, and nausea setting in. It was a mirage of symptoms previously ignored that I now related to the traumatic events of the pericardial effusion that led to cardiac tamponade in the days prior. I informed the nursing staff of my discomforts and settled into an uneasy sleep with the bed sitting upright. Later that morning an Echo cardiogram was scheduled to check the heart before the tube was removed from my chest.
While waiting for the Cardiac Sonographer to be called into the hospital on a Saturday morning, an attentive nurse decided to change out the type of suction system I had, seeing as it was not doing anything and I was having symptoms. It turned out to be just a different type of system, not anything that was pinpointed as broken or defective. When the new system got running and five different nurses figured out how to add the water to the suction compartment, it became apparent there was actually fluid building up on my heart again. After 100 ml of fluid drained off of my heart in just an hour (double the amount needed in 24 hours in order to send me home), the ultrasound was performed. It showed a small pocket of fluid still there, and the tube was left in longer to continue draining a few more days. This gave my heart the time it needed to heal more in the hospital while the Prednisone kicked in and my heart rate adjusted. I was not allowed outside, was craving a hot shower, and started hating the food. I also was not sleeping enough, and the IV in my right arm was hurting from still being placed ever since my ambulance ride five days earlier. I struggled to stay sane, and the Prednisone side effects of mood swings and food cravings were in full force. Thankfully through all of this I had some pretty amazing visitors. My loving church pastor visited me with prayers and well wishes after driving all the way to the hospital just to see me, which made me feel incredibly loved. I also had a long time friend stop by when I was at the hospital alone on Monday, and even went for a walk with me when I was finally released outside. Mostly I had my mother there with me until Sunday night when she had to return home for work the next day. I also had my boyfriend visiting me almost daily, bringing snacks and sanity in the form of chocolate and hugs. He worked hard to learn about every small detail of my medical care and educated himself on what I was going through and how he could help. It was great knowing that even though we had not been together very long, he still was not scared off by the traumatic medical experiences he had to witness. In fact it made us grow stronger, and we grew in our friendship and relationship daily with long philosophical talks and lots of laughs. He lifted me up in multiple ways when I was down. It wouldn't be hard for anyone to feel insecure after experiencing so much, but he concentrated on building my self esteem and reassuring me that I am not defined by my struggles, and there is certainly something special about me worth sticking around for.
By the time the chest tube came out on Monday, I had my pain well controlled, my stamina to moving around was building, I was independently helping myself to the bathroom and kitchen for water, and anxious to get outside. They finally released me that evening for a short break outside where I walked myself to the elevator and out to sit in the breezy evening air with my friend and parents. Upon returning to the room I was able to tape up my arm IV and chest tube insertion site, and take a hot shower. It was a painful shower and I struggled with a pinch in my back and some knee pain for a few hours afterwards, but slept on clean hair and was excited for that. The next morning started with teams of physicians assistants and doctors preparing me for discharge. I had another ultrasound done where I questioned the technician about her schooling experience and how I was interested in the career option for myself. I also had a chest X-Ray, clean blood work, normal heart functions and great vitals. All was ready for me to head out, and my mother's friend was called upon to pick me up. I packed my things, even attempted french braiding my own hair (which raised my heart rate quite a bit), and was ready when my ride showed up to walk myself to the car. I got home and immediately wanted food. Sitting in the same place I had when I left the house by stretcher a week before, I thanked God for the fact I was still alive to see my family and house again. It felt good to eat with my cat by my feet and the busy life of my family swirling around me. I knew what I had just been through was too much to ever fully type for my blog readers, but I would try in the next days to recount the experiences to the best of my ability for other's around me, and also for my own outlet.