I awoke around 7 AM, after sleeping for about 45 minutes. Throughout the night I was basically in managed care, regulating my pain meds, and watching my heart rhythm on a regular basis, with monitors that beeped repeatedly all night. For me sleep was the ability to rest for 20 minutes at a time without moving around in order to keep the chest tubes in place to maintain steady drainage of fluid from the surgery. For the next two or three days, I chose not to look at my chest for fear of what I was about to see. I knew there had been some major adjustments, and I was just happy to leave things as is for a day or two.
I did wake up thinking about my family though. The nurse had told me our morning goal would be to get out of bed and sit in a chair. There would be no walking today – I would remain hooked up to a catheter for the next 72 hours. I was pretty impressed with that aspect of my care though. I thought not having to walk to the bathroom to pass urine was sort of a cool thing, I could get used to that. The things we find acceptable when recovering from a major surgery. So my next adventure began when the nurse came in and asked if I wanted to sit up for awhile.
Remarkably I got out of bed with assistance and while the tubes and wires were guided around me, sat down in a chair and immediately picked up the telephone. I called home and Sue answered, and I just wanted to assure her and the kids I was in a lot better shape than the night before, and actually felt pretty comfortable for the time being. Sue was relieved, and I was happy the kids would be relieved as well. The medical staff told me I looked pretty remarkable for the morning after surgery. I smiled inside and felt satisfied knowing I was still hooked up to a morphine drip. I think I was probably out of bed for about fifteen minutes when I realized it was time to take a nap. I grabbed my spirometer and drew a few breaths. The object was to get the meter to rise to the top in order to exercise my lungs. They had been collapsed during the surgery and needed to virtually be brought back to life. I drew back and blew out and reached about 65 to 70 percent before the chest pain took me aside. That was pretty good effort for the first day. I would top off at 100 percent by the end of that second day of recovery, but there would be additional moments where I couldn’t get the meter past 60 percent. Recovery would take time, and I couldn’t rush things. When I asked if I could take a walk, my assigned physical therapist said sure, I could walk from the chair to my bed, that was it for today. I set my sights on the morning, and was sleeping like a baby by around 8 AM.
One thing to remember is that while in a hospital the idea of sleeping for long periods of time was impossible. However, if I could sleep for 20 minutes without shifting the tubes in my chest, the act of which caused excruciating pain, I was pretty happy. If I moved wrong, one has to just imagine having a garden hose sticking into a fresh wound and every time you move, the sheath of the hose might readjust itself with your bare and raw skin. Good times.