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Friday, May 2, 2014

3-4 Weeks After Surgery

After my emergency room visit on Easter day, I was able to concentrate on recovery the rest of post op week three. I had a visiting nurse come out on Monday morning and check up on me. The cannulated stitch in my upper thigh from the bypass incision site was removed, and all my vitals were checked. I ran through a list of medications with her to update her on any changes. Nothing had been changed yet, as I had not started reducing the Prednisone yet. I was anxious to start getting off of it, though, because I struggled with the side effects. One minute I was doing okay, and the next I was angry or bawling my eyes out. It also made me feel like I could eat the entire sink and still be hungry, a typical steroid side effect. I started becoming concerned with the fact that I was not losing any more weight from the fluid retention, and instead the weight was staying on. I tried not to concentrate on that. Being a young female who had worked so hard on my physique before surgery, I was disappointed in the aftermath. I needed to remember that none of these factors were permanent and I would soon be able to tone my muscles back to where they were. I struggled with the first stages of atrophy and my joint pain increased throughout the week. I practiced the exercises I was assigned by the Occupational Therapist to begin the process of strengthening my upper body through a series of controlled stretches. These were inspiring as I felt myself getting a little more controlled and having increased endurance each day. I also continued a long walk each day with lots of movement in between. Beginning the process of strengthening myself and getting moving again kept me going.

Toward the end of the week the glue was working its way apart from the sternal scar. It peeled back slowly, mainly on it's own accord. I had to consciously not help it along, and wait for it to fall off naturally so that the scar could heal correctly. Once all the glue had fallen off, the scar was just a light wrinkle about four and a half inches long, barely noticeable under a necklace. This was inspiring to me, and I watched for the bruising to reduce on the rest of my body. I still have the fading hematoma on my thigh, it has not reduced yet. Also there are bruises on each elbow from IVs, and a yellowing bruise on the right side of the sternal incision. There was some bruising where the port was removed but it went away pretty fast. My body continued to heal, getting better by the day and able to do more without becoming short of breath. People who saw me could no longer tell that I had open heart surgery just three weeks before. My efforts could begin to concentrate on aligning my future plans, and finding some help with the burdens I was encountering financially (see 'Partners In Health'). By week four, I was well enough to begin my final exam essays for American History (my last high school class needed to graduate). The essays took the entire week, but by the time they were done I was so relieved I could have cried. I also did a lot of paperwork for state programs and tried to concentrate on deciding which issues in my life were more pressing than others. When there is so much going on at one time, that is when I begin to list. I had this pointed out to me by my incredibly intellectual boyfriend. He noticed that with my anxiety, I list all the possible negatives, the what ifs, and the oh-nos of anything currently overwhelming my life. Worrying about things does not get you anywhere, so when he notices me doing this he cuts me off and makes me recenter on the current situation. I do the same thing to help me stay organized as well though. I write out long lists and make notes as I accomplish things, and when enough of the list has been accomplished I make another list. It's cool to feel accomplished when you check items off of the list.

On week four I was taken off of the Cardiocom system that checked my vitals daily because I was doing so well and feeling stabilized. My Occupational Therapist came to my house and went on a walk with me for the final time, discharging me for good. I ventured out and about more often, for some short shopping trips and visiting friends, and did not feel as worn out by the movement. I began to feel more comfortable lifting a gallon of milk and pulling my car door closed as my muscles healed. I even picked up a cheap oximeter at Wal-Mart to measure my pulse through exercise and my oxygen levels if I need to. I improved my upper body exercises, and felt inspired to improve my walks with some uphill slopes. All these things fell into place, and I knew by the time I saw the surgeon for a check-up in another week I would be improved enough to be released to do more activity.

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