Below is an excerpt of my "in progress" memoir. When the cat isn't in the way I'll get back to work. Let me know what you think. Enjoy.
A nurse told me I woke up in the operating room after my Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery while they were cleaning up, hours before “most normal people,” wake up after open heart surgery. My wife said I woke up a few times during my first night in the CTICU, and my mother and wife watched in horror as Doctor Shahani, my amazing heart surgeon came in and smacked me on the arm and told me I was ok. I don’t remember either of those premature wake ups.
My first memory after the surgery was of my nurse Robert shining a light into my eyes and telling me that I was going to be okay. His kind face was exactly what someone in my condition needed. He was the perfect person to watch over me on my first night after the surgery, so much so that I almost feel bad about choking him an hour or so into our relationship.
We were told that after bypass surgery most patients sit up and even walk during their first 24 hours in the CTICU but the balloon they inserted up my groin and into my chest was left in and that would force me to lie on my back for two to three days while I recovered. My breathing tube was the first foreign object to be removed. Its existence made me feel like I was choking. As I would find out as my recovery progressed there is a lot of fascinating confusion in the medical industry. The fact that the tube that was attached to the machine that was making it possible for me to breath made me feel, and react, as if I was choking to death.
Despite the tube being removed I was unable to speak for most of the first day in the CTICU. And for 62 hours I was flat on my back, incapable of doing anything on my own or even assist in my own recovery. Never has so much pain come from doing nothing. In addition to all the tubes and wires and blood lines going in and around my body, my chest felt like it was going to explode after every breath I took. The extreme motionless led to intense rashes on my back, legs, backside and my left leg was wrapped in an ace bandage to protect all the intrusions that were made from grafting veins that were removed and transported to my heart.
The pain was intense at times. Imagine a hiccup, a cute little hiccup, we all have them and they are no big deal. Now imagine you have just had someone cut your sternum in half before rooting around under your ribs for eight hours then sewing you up and sending you on your way. Now hiccup. Go ahead, hiccup, what you will feel is a hammer being brought down on your chest. Now cough, you will feel like someone is beating both your chest and upper back with a tire iron. And just when you think it can’t feel any worse. Sneeze. My first sneeze after open heart surgery made me want to wheel myself down to the train tracks and pray the express to Grand Central was on its way.
I didn’t get used to these pains, but I soon learned to deal with them. I grunted or belted out preemptive screams before these bodily functions occurred. At this point the only thing I was interested in was water. I had no appetite, I was told that was normal and began to imagine writing a bestseller called the Bypass Miracle Diet. However I was told that insurance companies and general common sense would never allow that book to be published. So I moved on and focused on other things, like breathing.
By Sunday night I was told that my heart was responding well, my lungs and other organs were looking good (no word on my brain) and that if the night went well the balloon would be removed in the morning. Not exactly how I had planned to spend that weekend, or any weekend for that matter but despite lying on my back with tubes and machines running some of my organs, I was told I was making progress, and that that was a good thing.
When I faded away that night I remember wanting to smile.