in a week of blurry days. My husband had open heart surgery last Wednesday to replace a floppy aortic valve and part of his aorta (the big artery that sends oxygenated blood from your heart on its journey around the body). I’ve been absolutely shattered and I wasn’t even the one who had the surgery! I can’t imagine how he must feel – although I do get a sense of it as I help him recover. For me, the week has just smugded itself like pastels into a fuzz of emotions:
- sadness as we waved goodbye while he was wheeled into theatre
- fear as we whiled away the seven hours of his surgery
- relief at the surgeon’s call to say it went well
- bubbling laughter at his leftover silliness as he emerged from his medical coma
- and a myriad of ups and downs, fatigue and alertness as I have watched him suffer and progress over the past week.
Mostly now I just feel really, really tired. It has been a long time coming – six months of knowing the surgery was necessary but needing various tests to ascertain just how much the surgeon needed to replace. But even now that the operation is over it is still a slow road to full recovery. Heart surgery with the heart-lung bypass machine is intensive and leaves people fatigued for several weeks.
I am used to caring for people and have found my nursing knowledge and skills coming back to me quite easily. However, when you have such an emotional investment in the person who needs caring for, and when it is 24/7, the load feels much heavier. It’s a bit of a rollar-coaster ride, that’s for sure. Many times over the past few days my husband and I have wondered just how other people do it – those who live alone, who are less mobile, who can’t afford or are unable to take time off work, who don’t have easy access to a GP. Even just juggling the pain relief and anti-nausea medication, along with all his regular medications is a challenge. Then add in the sleeplessness, the memory loss, trying to eat around the nausea, visual disturbances and figuring out what is a normal side-effect of the surgery (which most of the above are) with what might be something that requires attention. It is hard work!
I’m too sleepy to really think about these things at the moment but it has given me a small insight into how some people live their lives every day – caring for a loved one with a chronic condition and interacting with various health professionals. When I was working as a nurse I only ever saw people in the hospital. I never saw the whole continuum of care – from no-contact with health services, to contact with primary and community services, through secondary and tertiary care, and back out to the community again. It would certainly be a fascinating pathway to follow. Currently another close relative has tread this pathway also and it is interesting comparing the two roads. Something I might write about one day.
But for now, I’ll sign off and go and catch a few rays of sun. Very therepeutic!