So far, so good – Part One

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Seaton

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May 13, 2015
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322
Location
London, UK
Thought I’d do a long-winded write-up of my journey through my recent AVR to replace a stenosed bicuspid valve with an Edwards Inspiris Resilia tissue valve.

This will be in three parts as the forum software doesn’t allow posting of more than 10,000 characters.

It’s been eleven days now since Wednesday August 7th. I came home from hospital last Monday 12th. An inpatient for 5 days. They offered to send me home on the fourth day (which would have been the Sunday), as my progress had been so good, but decided against when time got too short for the doctors’ report to be written. So Monday it was.

Wednesday – 7 August

I arrived early at St Thomas’ Hospital. A 7am start. I knew the routine by then, having been cancelled two weeks earlier an hour or so from my proposed procedure.

By midday I was showered and wiped with antiseptic body cloths. I shaved my chest and sat in my gown for a few hours. No bloods taken for cross matching this time as they had been taken the previous time I was there, two weeks earlier and were still useable.

At exactly 1pm I was walked down to the anaesthetic prep room adjoining the theatre. I was introduced to the anaesthetic team and put on a gurney. I was asked name and birth date confirmation questions. A warmed blanket was put over me as the theatre was chilly. I remember shivering slightly prior to that.

A cannula was put in my wrist. They said they’d be giving me something to help me relax. And in a blink of an eye it was lights out.

First thing I remember was a couple of gag reactions as I tried to breathe. It was nothing traumatic, just the felt sense that I couldn’t breathe out. Then shortly after I felt the breathing tube slip out of my throat. Again without any sense of trauma.

This was in the OIR (overnight intensive recovery) unit. Two family members had briefly visited while I still slept with the breathing tube in. I’d previously asked them to photograph me if they were allowed. Which they did. And soon left.

I’ve no idea how much time elapsed after that, but I came-to to find myself being tended exclusively and regularly by a single nurse. It was peaceful and dimly lit, with intermittent monitoring bleeps. There was little pain. I drifted in and out of consciousness as the hours passed.

Thursday – Day One

The day after my surgery is the day they consider your first day, apparently. So day one for me was Thursday.

In the morning, a new nursing team arrived and the ward got brighter and busier. I met my new day nurse, a young Nigerian woman who was fabulous and attentive.

I became aware of a strong heartbeat. Each pulse seemed to wobble my body slightly it was that powerful. And there were ectopic beats. On and off. I was not overly concerned by any of this, as I’d read about it previously.

Eventually a doctor came to see me and explained a few things. He said the team were pleased with how it had gone. He said one of the surgeons would speak to me at some point.

A bed became available in the High Dependency Unit at 11.30am. But shortly before I was moved my assistant surgeon arrived.

He said there was some Left Bundle Branch Block they were monitoring and that they had found a very small pneumothorax in one of my lungs. A pneumothorax can lead to lung collapse but he said they were not overly concerned about it due to its minuscule size and believed it would resolve itself over the next few days. They would be x-raying me several times to monitor it as a precaution to make sure it hadn’t increased in size.

I was very much going with the flow and accepting of whatever. I felt fairly fine, all things considered.

One more EKG to check my rhythm due to the Left Bundle Block issue, and off I went to the HDU.

In the HDU I was placed in a two bed room. You have one critical care nurse per two beds. Unlike the OIR where you have your own nurse. She was an American and had taken up nursing relatively late in her life she said. She was truly wonderful and superb at her job. She said she loved working in the UK but that her three year visa was nearing its end, which she was hoping to renew. I really hope she succeeds. Such a generous and caring soul and a real asset.

The other patient she was monitoring in the bed next to me was in bad shape it seemed. Lot’s of pain and delusion and crying out loud constantly.

There were quite a few doctors around him for quite a while trying to stabilise him. My nurse was ultra apologetic that he was getting all the attention from her at my expense, but I told her absolutely no problem. I was fine and going with the flow and that I’d call her if I needed her.

She eventually got me gently out of bed and into a chair for an hour or so. This felt good once over the discomfort of shifting from bed to chair. The drainage tube was still in and all the pacing wires and tubes in my neck in place and the cannula and tubes in my left hand were dangling. All of those seemed to ache significantly as I moved. But not overwhelmingly.

My hands, feet and legs were swollen from surgery fluid retention.This would eventually resolve as the days passed I was told.

I was spaced out and on Fentanyl. The fentanyl was self-administered via a hand held button. I could infuse this once every 5 minutes minimum. It was automatically locked under five minutes. I only used as needed – for sternum wound or neck pain if I moved.

Switch-over to night staff was 8pm. And another incredible, compassionate and caring nurse arrived for the overnight shift. She was from Estonia and in my dazed state she was like an angel moving silently in and out of my consciousness, attending me with great sensitivity and skill.

She washed me. Took my readings. Changed my urine bag. Gave me my drugs. And so on and so forth. I was hopelessly in love.

As the night drew in the lights dimmed and an isolated calmness and quiet descended (occasionally disrupted by the loud melancholy calls of the patient beside me).

What I noted was the sense of time passing had slowed down. Due no doubt to the medication and after-effects of anaesthetics. I’d note the time from the clock on the wall and when I imagined half an hour or so had passed, I’d look again at the clock and it would be about five minutes or less. The night went on forever.

Cont./ ...
 
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