As I’ve been going through the process of hospitalizations, tests, being out of work involuntarily, and having plastic tubing up my nose all day long, I’ve noticed a few things. I’ve been told several times that people don’t want to tell me things because I’m going through a lot myself and they don’t want to put any more stress on me. I gently remind them that my heart vessels are what are messed up, not my ears. I’ve always been someone who invites people to talk with me and get things off their chest. It’s never caused me undue stress and I’m honored to keep so many secrets for the people I care about.
With this clearly on my mind then (and now), I have invited friends, family, and even strangers to ask me anything… anything at all. You see, I’m not the only one undergoing a life-changing experience. Whenever something major happens to someone in your life, you are unwittingly, inadvertently, and sometimes unconsciously affected. I think of my parents, family members, loved ones, and friends who are going through their own thought processes much as I am. I didn’t expect the questions to come rolling in, but I was expecting the following from an RN colleague:
“As a nurse, does the fear of knowing everything that could possibly go wrong create anxiety or other emotions for you?”
Christy, thank you for the question. I don’t know if I’m “normal” in the sense that I feel some of the anxiety alleviated by my somewhat limited knowledge of cardiac surgery, but I’m incredibly thankful for the knowledge I do have of hospitalizations, recovery, medications, infection risks, etc. I’m also grateful for knowing the physiology and anatomy of the heart, because when it was explained to me that I have the extra SVC which drains into the left atrium, it’s like everything made perfect sense in about three seconds.
With that being said, I did reach out to a friend who works in cardiac rehab as well as cardiac units, and she drafted an excellent and rather long, scary description of what to expect. (Thank you, Anna.) The first few weeks I was anxious, scared, and my mind would not stop working overtime. I researched and researched, reading stories, blogs, and medical websites. I did research online through medical and cardiology journals exploring potential cases of patients with what I have… and I only found two, one of which was similar but not totally identical. With the results of my recent CT angiogram, I have a bit of extra anxiety over the formation of my one left pulmonary vein (vessel which drains oxygenated blood from my left lung into my heart – usually people have two left veins) but will be addressing that as well with the surgeon this coming week.
I know of many things that could go wrong, but that doesn’t add to the anxiety for me. Every surgery has its risks, and open heart surgery probably has some of the most dangerous risks. I know that I will be under the best care with my cardiac and surgical team as well as my nurses, staff, and other team members including my primary physician and hospitalist. All I have to do is remember that it will hurt, but it won’t hurt forever and I just have to deal with it the best I can. Honestly, the thing I’m worried about the most is waking up on a ventilator.
My emotions are all over the place. I go through sadness, anxiety, hope, happiness, loneliness, irritability, anger, etc. The past couple of days have been relatively good since I got the angiogram out of the way. I’m sure that I will be going through emotion switches all the way down the road, and that’s okay. Lately I haven’t been sleeping very well, but I can handle that.
I try to get out every day for a mini-walk and to feel the sun on my face. I try to have nutritious foods through the day and drink plenty of water, but don’t beat myself up for enjoying the bad things once in a while like a chocolate milkshake. I’ve become used to the whirring sound from the oxygen concentrator and it’s like white noise to me, now. Right now I’m in the middle of a House marathon on the television and will get back to working on another paper for my class when I’m done with this blog entry. As normal as possible is what I’m shooting for.
Thank you for reading.
|Rainbow outside my hospital room window the day I was told I was a mutant.|