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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Returning Home

I was sent home on Day 4, a beautiful Saturday where I fought discomfort and worsening nausea as the day continued. I finally ate a good meal when I got home, and relaxed in my dad's armchair as I was visited by my friend Rose for a short bit, and then my boyfriend that evening. Little did I know my situation would go from bad to worse. I spent my first night home in excruciating pain and vomiting too much to take more pain medicine. I went twelve hours without anything in my system to help the pain, throwing up, unable to relax, unable to lay flat, and begging my mother to take me back to the hospital. I just wished something would make it stop, or at least make it manageable. I knew in that moment that I shouldn't have stretched the truth earlier that day. When I was asked if I had been eating well, how my pain was, if I was ready to go home, and I answered that everything was fine, I really meant 'It's all terrible but I'd rather be miserable in my own home than in a hospital. This was not however how that worked out. Instead I was sent home early, crippled with pain and nausea, and experienced one of the worst nights I can remember. All that wishful thinking turned into a nightmare that I struggled through in agony.
Me after surgery, first meal

Sunday was the day we began to catch up to the pain. I made the decision to not try the Oxycodone, that it was just too much nausea for me to gain anything from taking it, and I'd rather be in pain. Instead I tried taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol only, around the clock. I forced myself to eat before the pain medicine hit an empty stomach, and took Zofran constantly. By Monday I had the nausea under control, and spoke to the surgeon's Physician Assistant about my concerns. I told her I refused to take narcotics, and she switched the Ibuprofen to a stronger anti inflammatory called Naxoproxen. That seemed to help, and instead of the dose on the bottle saying to take it every twelve hours we did it every eight hours. Once that was controlled I informed Jamie that I could not lay down flat, my shoulder blades and upper stomach just hurt too much. I also had developed a cough, sharp upper left rib pain near my heart, and the feeling that my rib cage was cracking constantly. I was advised that it all was normal, to keep forcing myself to take deep breaths and take some GasX for the stomach pain. Most patients prefer sleeping in a recliner after heart surgery anyways, she said, so it was no surprise. I did not realize at this point that some of those symptoms were not typical post surgery aches. I would find that out Wednesday evening.
Get well flowers from Robbie

My days home consisted of round the clock medications, force feeding myself as I grew an appetite, trying to build up to a bigger walk, and constructing a better sleeping plan through all my discomfort. I struggled to keep my cats from jumping up on my chest, like they love to do, and keeping myself comfortable. Refusing narcotics seemed easy after what I had been through the entire week of the surgery with the throwing up. There is nothing worse than heaving after your rib cage has been broken, other than your entire rib cage being broken of course. One important landmark of being home was figuring out how to move around, which I did with the heart pillow from the hospital and propping myself up with a million pillows everywhere I went. I was supposed to start out slow with walks and increase a few minutes each day.  My first walk made me realize how much my heart was altered. Where I used to run three miles a day, I was winded by slowly inching myself thirty feet. I could not travel alone, I could not easily move, and I was saddened by the setbacks to my physical fitness. My legs had swollen from the thirty pounds of water weight I put on, to the point where bending my toes was uncomfortable, and the skin felt like it was ripping when I moved. I kept hope that in two weeks I would progress as predicted, losing most of the fluid retention in my body, and gaining up to a comfortable thirty minute walk daily. I knew I would improve if I kept positive and reminded myself that there must be a recovery period after such a severe setback. Plus, I had so many people praying for me all over the map that it was impossible for me to not improve eventually. It would take time to get back to where I was, but it was going to feel so good when I reached my peak athletic performance level and could look back on the mountains I had to climb to get there. Nothing worth having comes easily.

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