I wanted to share some pictures and information in the hopes that someone else might find it helpful. I know when Gary and I were looking online for pictures and first hand knowledge of the procedure any bit of personal experience with the surgery was most helpful! As the wife of the patient, I wanted to know what the recovery was going to be like but I really had a hard time finding real information. Please be aware that some pictures might be a little graphic in nature and I apologize for that but they are necessary to tell the story.
The first picture is intake day. We had to be there bright and early as Gary was the first operation of the day for the cardiac team. First a few nurses came in to take vitals and make sure that Gary was who is said he was and not some person off the street there to get open heart surgery for kicks. lol - like that would happen!
Then the blood people come in to get samples and put an IV in.
A nice male nurse comes in to announce that Gary has to be shaved. Any hair from the neck down on the torso and legs is coming off. Gary said it wasn't so bad - more ticklish than anything but very humbling. That whole process took about half hour and used 4 cordless razors!
After getting him all ready they give him a shot of something to relax him. Word of advice: be sure to say your serious goodbyes prior to them getting this shot. After the shot takes effect, you might as well be a clown floating in a snowglobe....that's how much aware of you they will be. I'm glad Gary and I said our good-byes, love you's and all that prior to this. Pretty soon after "The Shot", he is wheeled away to the operating theater and I stand there and cry and pray.
I'm told it will be a six hour operation and they give me a beeper that works in the hospital. When Gary is almost finished, they will beep me and I am to come to the waiting area and the surgeon will come out to see me. My friend, Regina, comes and waits with me but I am not very good company. My mind is totally focused on Gary and praying that everything goes well.
5 and a half hours later. My beeper goes off and I am already in the waiting area. About 30 mins later, the surgeon comes in and smiles at me. Instantly, I feel better and relieved. He told me that Gary did wonderful. He came off the heart/lung machine without needing further help. I don't really know what that means except that when Gary's fixed heart was supposed to start beating it took off like a champ. The surgeon told me that he was being finished getting closed up and would go to cardiac ICU. Once they got him settled, they would beep me again and I should go there.
Another 30 mins later, the beeper went off again and I hurried to the ICU to see him. I was told that cardiac patients are allowed to wake on their own and not be brought out of anesthesia as they are with other operations. So the first time I saw Gary - this is what I saw. He was all swaddled up tightly in warm blankets with a breathing tube still in. I put my hand on his shoulder and it was cold. His body felt so cold... it was freaky. They assured me this was normal. Still, I did not like to see him like that.
When he started to wake up they called me back in again. He was awake but very drowsy and mumbling incoherently. Again, they assured me this was normal. His skin still felt cool. He kept asking me if I was okay and where was Hannah. He wanted to see Hannah so I brought her in for a moment but she didn't' like seeing him like that. He was not allowed food or drink yet.
This is how his sternum area looked in the ICU. It was bandaged up and very clean looking. He had a catheter and three big tubes coming out of his upper stomach area that were draining fluid. The fluid was draining at a good volume. He mostly slept for the first 12-18 hours after surgery.
This is his left leg right after surgery. It looks very orange/yellow from the wash they use. They harvested vein from his ankle to over his knee on the left leg in order to get the appropriate amount of good vein they needed.
Here is the right leg. Vein was harvested from the ankle to mid calf. Very good vein here.
Here is what his neck area looked like. There was a pic line going into the top of his heart and into his neck. He said this was uncomfortable in a more annoying way than anything.
Here is a picture of the 3 tubes he had for draining. On the morning after his surgery, the drain tubes need to come out. The volume had decreased to an acceptable point and rather than further risk infection, out they must go! The nurse readies the area by removing the tape securing the tubes.
And there he goes. Baby steps....baby steps....but he did make it the 25 feet. I think he slept for a few hours after that. Here is his left leg on day 3:
- Appetite is almost non-existent. Gary has always been a big eater so to see him take 2-3 bites of food and say he couldn't eat anymore was scary to me. His appetite took a good month to come back.
- Going to the bathroom. Of all the indignities he had to endure with this procedure, the worst for him was not being able to wipe his own butt. I assured him that I wouldn't enjoy it either but lets get through it with humor and know I was helping him out of love for him and Huggies baby wipes. Please make sure you have lots of baby wipes. The hospitals have this bodywash, no rinse stuff that is wonderful as well. We used Convatec Aloe Vesta and it was a butt saver.
- Take it Easy - Gary spent the first month home in flannel pants and white t-shirts. He puttered around as much as he could but also rested in the morning and the afternoon. As soon as he felt like it, he was on the treadmill walking a few minutes a day at a very slow pace.
- No driving was hard on all of us because he was cooped up inside. He had a couple friends come pick him up and take him places like Cabelas but he really couldn't walk around a lot without having to sit down frequently.
Here is Gary's incision taken 1/26/2011. Almost one year later.