Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another update - feeling better

So much can change in a day!

Since I posted yesterday, the weeping has been slowing down, and today there was barely any. Since the (hypo-allergenic...) tape has been irritating my skin, I decided to remove the gauze and let it dry out. It has "scabbed over" nicely, and there's no swelling or soreness under where it's been weeping, so I'm assuming it's finally stopped or at least slowed down enough for the body to reabsorb the fluid. I'm assuming there was the start of an infection, and the antibiotics helped it. The test the doctors did will eventually reveal all.

So, I thought I'd take a photo - exactly 4 weeks on!

You can see the darker spot near the top - that's the bit that's been weeping incessantly. The bit underneath it is also a bit darker. That had almost completely healed, but unfortunately all the fluid building under it caused the scar to press out a bit, and therefore get wider and more obvious which is a shame. Otherwise, everything is healing really well. Apparently it can take up to 12 months to fade as much as it ever will. You can also see to the left of the top of the scar a reddish semi-circle - that's from the stupid hypo-allergenic tape irritating my skin that's been holding on the gauze...

For comparison, this is a couple of days after surgery. You can probably see toward the top of the incision, in the spot where the weeping has been it's crooked and wider. Our theory is they had only opened to about an inch below that, then realised they had to go higher to use a better artery for the heart-lung machine (that part we know happened, the incision isn't normally so high otherwise), and by that stage I was all covered, so it was hard to keep it straight when the lengthened the incision. The scar itself has straightened out though which is good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just an update

As I've been recovering, I've been feeling worse. How silly huh? The weeping has been getting worse - more cloudy, more of it, and the tiny hole has gotten bigger where the incision is a little open. As well as that, I must have strained something as my muscles all across my chest, shoulders and neck have been incredibly painful. I spent about 3 days in agony, and got almost no sleep.

I went back to the hospital to get the incision checked out, which involved them squeezing all around it REALLY hard which killed, then they helped me up which hurt my sore muscles even more, and in my exhausted, emotional state, I started crying. So the doctors realised I was having more issues than just the incision which was good because they can fix these things! So told me to take high dosage Ibuprofen (800mg 3 times a day) since I hadn't been taking it since I wasn't in much pain, which meant I wasn't getting the anti-inflammatory benefits. So I have that to take, antibiotics since my incision is probably close to infection, and might as well prevent it, and sleeping tablets to help me get a decent night sleep.

So between all the drugs, I'm finally in a lot less pain, which makes life much more happy again, and I finally got a good night's sleep last night. I believe I actually slept the entire night - first time in nearly a month!

I'm about to get a massage to help my poor, unhappy muscles, so should sleep even better tonight. It's nice ot feel human again :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm so weepy!

No, not that sort of weeping - a much more gross weeping... Part of my incision has been weeping for over a week now. It just leaks and leaks. It's so disgusting. We're assured it's not infected, there's just extra fluid in there that needs to come out. It doesn't help. It's still disgusting.

I've also got a sore, hard lump in a similar area, and as my weepy area gets swollen and tight, it stretches the sore area which makes it more sore!

I can't wait for it to heal. Because it's doing all this, I think it's going to scar in that area which is fairly high up on my neck. Sigh!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A few more hours at Stanford Hospital

Everything is fine though.

Andrew and I were lying in bed watching a DVD last night, and I noticed my heart rate seemed pretty fast. After the DVD finished I tried to take my pulse, but it was too fast and a bit over the place, so I used the blood pressure monitor instead. My heart beat was all over the place, and it said my pulse was 160 . I did it 2 more times, and they both said 153.

So I called the cardiology doc on call, and she said just to go to the ER so they could do an EKG and check it out. It was already late, so it was midnight by the time we got to the hospital.

The EKG was all over the place, so they got me a bed. They hooked me up to everything, and it was fascinating watching my heart rate. It was bouncing all over the place - it wouldn't stay the same for more than half a second. It was bouncing between about 95 and 160, so definitely irregular!

They gave me some beta blocker drugs by IV, and that settled things down within about 5-10 minutes. They took blood and an x-ray, then we had to wait until all the blood test results came back.

Everything was fine, so I was released about 3am. I have to go see my cardiologist this week again, but I daresay they'll tell me to try taking extra oral beta blockers if it happens again, then go back to the ER if it continues.

The doctors last night were surprised that an aorta replacement could affect anything that had to with the bits that control the electrical impulses of the heart. So they looked at the surgery notes and apparently when they did my surgery, they had to detach, then "reimplant" the right coronary artery, which apparently CAN affect the electrical impulses. So I may have this happen again. Basically the heart is getting irritated by something (funnily enough, it's not too happy after heart surgery), and this is causing the whacky heartbeat.

So there you go. That was our fun night. Everything is fine though, we're just a little tired!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chest x-rays

The cardiologist was nice enough to email us copies of one of the chest x-rays today. You can see the wires pretty clearly that are holding the sternum together. These will stay in place, they don't ever take them out.

The other bright things you can see are from the EKG stickers where they attach the leads.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Atrial fibrillation aka "whacky heart beat"

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was feeling exhausted, and was actually requiring day time naps. Not just wanting a nap - by midday I was feeling so exhausted that I HAD to sleep (yesterday for 3 hours!). As well as that, my heart beat was super strong to the point that my pillow was shaking when I was trying to sleep, and it felt like my heart was about to beat out of my chest. It was worse after even just slight exertion (walks and stairs in particular), and worse toward the end of the day. And to add to it, something in my chest is twitching up near my collar bone, but it's as strong as the heartbeat, happens right across my chest and neck and twitches at a different rate to my heart obviously.

It felt like my heartbeat was going completely psycho, but then I figured out the heartbeat and twitching were separate. So I used my blood pressure monitor to watch my heartbeat, as it beeps with each heart beat. Sure enough, it did a double beat. I put my fingers on the pulse in my neck so see if I could pick it up, or if it was the machine being weird. It did another double beat, which I felt this time. Later in the evening, I'd just gotten up to brush my teeth and get ready for bed when I got really light headed, my chest started going nuts, and I was puffing from walking the 10 or so steps. So I checked it again, and it did a couple more double beats.

So Tuesday I went in to see the cardiologist who did an EKG, a quick echo, and checked my heart lungs with the stethoscope. There was no signs of anything wrong - no leaking, no odd sounds, and lungs were clear, so it's just atrial fibrillation. Apparently it's quite common after heart surgery, your heart is still sorting itself out after the trauma, and just needs some extra time. It feels weird, and a little scary, but it's nothing to worry about - the don't even do anything for it. I was still taking the diuretics for fluid retention, and the potassium tablets to replace the potassium lost thanks to the diuretics. The cardiologist thought lack of potassium could be contributing, so told me to stop taking the diuretics, and eat lots of foods high in potassium - bananas, tomatoes and oranges. He also said that I was having a perfect recovery and nobody is allowed a perfect recovery :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Feel a million times better

Amazing what a night in your own bed does. I still barely slept as I was in some pain, it was hard to find a comfortable spot, and my right lung is still not so good, so was wheezing most of the night. But while I was awake, I was snuggled up in my nice cozy bed, listening to Andrew's breathing, and just knowing that he was there next to me and was feeling so relaxed and happy. It wasn't staring at the ceiling listening to the noises wondering if sleep would come, it was just relaxing.

We went for a walk a little while ago for about 20 minutes at pretty much normal pace. I felt as though I could have gone longer, but we don't want to push it too much. I got told when we got home, I would walk for 5 minutes, then would need to sleep for a couple of hours because I'd be exhausted. I certainly blew that theory out of the water... I guess that's for older people whose body doesn't cope as well. I feel completely fine now.

It's so great having Andrew home for the month, not only is he just so good about looking after me, but it's nice to have quality relaxing time together to just go to the movies, catch up on DVDs, go for walks, and whatever else takes our fancy.

I'm thinking sleeping will be even better tonight!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'm home!!!!!

Oh man it is so good to be home! Stanford Hospital is pretty good as far as hospital's go I daresay (I don't have much hospital experience), the nurses were fabulous, and I recovered really fast, but by 2 days ago I was completely over Stanford and ready to come home. By yesterday I was almost climbing the walls!

Overall it all went really well - the doctors were all very impressed with my recovery, and I felt pretty decent by the day after surgery, and even better by the next day.

But I slept badly every night, despite having a private room - it was uncomfortable and people came in constantly, so I only managed to get about 1 1/2 hours sleep at a time, and even then it was a very light sleep. The food was also terrible, and combined with a sore, swollen throat from the respirator, and screwed up taste buds (anything sweet tastes disgusting at the moment), made for a pretty stuffed up diet. I just had some mashed potatoes and gravy for lunch and it was oh so fabulous :-)

I'll do a more comprehensive update at some point, but don't expect anything any time soon, this is tiring enough :-)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Surgery tomorrow

My cardiac surgery is tomorrow! We have to be there at 5:15am, and surgery is at 7:30am. Did you know that there was a 5:15 in the morning?!?!?!

I had my pre-op stuff today - talking to doctors, blood tests, EKG, chest x-ray. Nothing exciting. We asked lots of questions, so feel pretty calm about it all. I'm amazed how calm I am, but I guess it's hard to comprehend that I'm getting major surgery when I feel fine. I've also just been through emotionally traumatic surgery and had a hospital stay just a couple of months ago, so we know what to expect and how the hospital system works.

We just had 2 friends, Briana and Lisa, drop by with a care package. There was a stuffed elephant holding a heart, and they wrapped the heart in bandages. There was a "Box of hugs and kisses" - a box full of Hershey's kisses and Hershey's Hugs chocolates. There was a big box covered in bandaids and inside was a bunch of magazines, Uno card game, a Cranium card game, a card game called "Duck Duck Bruce", a heart shaped box filled with red Jelly Belly jelly beans, and heaps more chocolates. We have such an amazing support network!

For anyone considering visiting - only Andrew will be allowed in ICU, and I'll be there for a day or two. Feel free to come keep him company though. Just give him a call on his mobile to find out where he is. I'll also have my mobile diverted to him.

After ICU I'll be in the Intermediate Cardiac Care Unit (or something like that), and will be allowed visitors. When we lost Joshua they let us pretty much have a free run of visitors given the circumstances, but I believe this time, they'll limit visitor hours, limit time visiting, and make sure things are pretty quiet in the room as I'll need plenty of rest. Once again, I'm sure Andrew will appreciate company though, so feel free to drop in and hang out with him!

Thanks again for everyone's support!