The Sunday before the surgery, I don’t remember much of what happened, other than family and friends of the family popping in to visit.
Monday morning, I was taken downstairs to a prep area. I have to admit, having a nurse shave your trunk from the neck down – all parts – was slightly more than a little very awkward. Once she finished, and some of the family wished me luck, I was taken back to the room for the surgery. I remember not being nervous about the surgery, surprising the nurse, my sister, and her best friend especially. I didn’t think I had much to worry about – things were out of my control at that point.
I can’t quite remember how many doctors were in the room but I di remember at least 4: one who gave me a mask to put on, 2 others that were getting everything ready, and one sitting at some machines. Once I put on the mask, most everything else was a blur…. except for one instance. Sometime during the surgery, I guess that I had a tube inserted because I do remember feeling it being removed and waking up for a few seconds. It was an odd feeling. Then, out again.
The next few hazy moments were when I was in the recovery room, I think. I couldn’t open my eyes and couldn’t move anything but my fingers but I heard nearly everything. I remember hearing one of the nurses telling me to hold the hand of whoever was talking and squeeze once for ‘no’, twice for ‘yes’ if they asked me a question. I don’t, however, remember what anyone asked, other than a few snippets from my sister Nichole and her best friend Detra (my Dad and younger brother Corey were there; I think my older brother Kenny got there a little later).
Another bout of haziness/sleep/blackout.
I finally awoke fully sometime Tuesday morning. Dr. Williams came in shortly after, along with Dr. C (I’m blanking on his name at the moment); the surgery, they said, was successful. It took about 9 hours (I don’t if that was a standard time for a heart surgery or not), where they replaced the Aortic and Mitric valves with 2 St. Jude metallic valves. As for the infection, I had a PICC line put into my left biceps and was put on antibiotics, twice a day for (at that time) 4 weeks. I also had a daily cocktail of different medicines, including Lovenox shots, Metformin and Warfarin, that I now had to take (thankfully, I’m down to just ‘baby’ Aspirin, Warfarin, and a multivitamin today). Considering the shape that I was in 3 days previous, I would consider that a pretty good trade-off. 😉
A side note: it was from Dr. Williams that I got the nickname “Cyborg”.
The first few days after the surgery were a mesh of near-constant visits from the nurses, visits from Dr. C and his staff, and a couple more visits from Dr. Williams before he headed back to Jewish. I was bed-ridden during that time, which isn’t always a good thing for someone who would rather be up and active, but at least it was comfortable. A couple of friends from Target, friends and staff from my Drum and Bugle Corps, and some college friends stopped by to visit, bearing gifts, including one friend bringing 3 books to read and the other bringing different activity books to keep me occupied. Sleep was rare; usually, I had a nurse or doctor visit every 2 hours or so to take my vital signs, check my heart, and/or draw blood to see how the antibiotics were working.
Once I had stabilized, the frequency of the nurses/doctor visits slowed but the number of people visiting with the doctors increased a LOT. Since UofL Hospital is also a teaching hospital, a handful of students would pop in to “study” me. They seemed worried sometimes that they were bothering me; it was actually the opposite. I thought it was kinda neat to have a class come by and see how me and the valves were working; apparently, I was an unusual case, having had 2 valves replaced plus having dealt with that bad of an infection.
Week 2, I started to be able to sit up for longer periods and eventually stand for a few seconds… when I wasn’t hooked to a machine. More on that in Part 3.