Wandering Thoughts

September 15, 2008

The Month So Far

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 12:56 pm
Tags: ,

“Here we go. Think of something pleasant.”

I closed my eyes and pictured myself riding waves – skimming across the glassy surface of the sea. Only for a moment though, then darkness crowded in, overwhelming first the periphery of my imagination and then the rest of my thoughts.

An instant later, or so it seemed, I was at work. Labouring on a never quite achievable task in the jumbled office space of a dream.

I did not, I think, dream for long before something else caught my attention – sound. Talk and the noises of the intensive care unit pulled me into the waking world, where at least 8 hours had elapsed.  I was aware, then unaware, lapsing back into sleep, then waking again for sometime before things steadied. People arrived – my parents and wife. I tried to scrawl a message on a piece of paper. I fell back to sleep – letters and words never quite formed. I woke up again and had the intubation pulled out of me. I can’t remember what my first words were but, drugged and happy to be alive, I was jubilant in the gently clearing fog. I gave the thumbs up to my parents, to my wife, to the semi-comatose complete stranger in the bed opposite me. As I found my voice, I cracked jokes and spoke to my sister on the phone.

For someone who’d just spent seven hours in surgery (four of them on the heart lung machine) and who had his aortic valve and a long chunk of his ascending arota replaced, I felt remarkably chirpy.

Inevitably, this didn’t last. My first night in ICU was horrid. Minutes dragged past like hours. I ached and couldn’t get comfortable, let alone sleep. The nurses were wonderful though. Kind. Helpful. Patient (I am, as my wife can attest, an utter wimp when I’m ill). One of them mixed me some diluted fruit juice. I don’t think I can even begin to tell you how nice this tasted.

After that first night things got steadily better. Winter sun spilled in through the windows of my ICU ward and I lapped it up. I stared at pictures in the Surfer’s Journal and, starting with captions, slowly found the strength to read.

After two days I moved back into the ward, which was to be my home for the next three. My reading skills advanced so that I could read magazine articles and a children’s history of Great Britain that my mother dug out of an old bookshelf. Friends came to visit and I started teetering along hospital corridors under my own steam.

I was released from hospital two days early only to return home to my most ill 48 hours since surgery. The first day I spent vomiting, on the second my memory collapsed. It’s slowly returning, but for the last few weeks I’ve really struggled to recall my immediate past. Other than that, recuperation so far has been pretty kind. My energy levels are low, and now I have a cold. Sometimes my newly ticking aorta keeps me awake at night and my upper spine aches. But I am getting better. And endlessly relieved to have surgery behind me.

Update: my wife informs me that I didn’t vomit all day; just once, after eating. Well it felt like I vomited all day. See, I told you I was a wimp when ill.


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