My Journey To Being A CABG.
by Chris Osborne
(Tauranga, New Zealand)
I’m Fit and healthy for my age. Aren’t I?
Course I am, nothing wrong with me, I keep active in my job and am going to live forever. Sure I am starting to get a little puffed and have a few aches and pains in my shoulders but hey, I’m 61. You have to expect a bit of a slow down.
Yes, I have smoked for forty odd years and probably eaten heaps of the wrong foods but I feel good and bad things happen to other people right?
I Mentioned to a nurse that I have strange heaviness in my shoulders and am a bit puffed. She sent me straight to ED where I am hooked to a monitor and have needles stuck in me and bloods taken off.
One test for a heart problem came back slightly positive and they will need to do another in a few hours.
The second test came back OK but I need to do a stress test to check everything out.
I get the call to go up to have my stress test and head straight up to Clinical Phys. Hey, this won’t take long because “I’m Fit and healthy for my age. Aren’t I?”
On getting to the third stage on the treadmill the test is stopped by the ladies and a Doctor is called.
Yes, sure I was getting short of breath but hey, I’m 61 and can expect to be a bit puffed.
I have no chest pain but I have a very low level heaviness in my shoulders and a slight (2) pain in the side of my neck.
The Doctor recommends that I be admitted straight away and the system swings into action to find me a bed. Eventually I am admitted to 2b to await a trip to the Cath Lab on Monday to check for a suspected restriction in my heart.
I can’t help thinking that this is all a waste of time as: I’m Fit and healthy for my age. Aren’t I? I don’t even feel ill.
Monday and Cath Lab.
One of my orderly colleagues arrives to take me to “room 5” for my “angio” thingy. This won’t take long and I should be discharged afterwards. Everyone is over reacting aren’t they? I don’t feel ill and I AM Fit and healthy for my age.
I finally start to doubt these thoughts when I hear someone ask if there is a spare bed in CCU. I am told that I have three restrictions in my Cardiac arteries that are bad enough for me to need a Bypass Operation in Waikato.
It finally starts to sink in. I AM NOT fit and healthy for my age. Those bloody cigarettes and all the bad food choices over the years that “wouldn’t get me” have actually “got me”.
OH bugger, I have a lovely young wife and 2 young kids and am facing an uncertain future. I feel totally helpless and frustrated. All of a sudden there may not be a future to look forward to. It is in the hands of others now to sort it all out.
Wednesday in CCU. (Tauranga)
The Cardiologist, Stewart, arrives with some good news. Waikato are prepared to take me and even better news is that they think that the blockages can be “stented” avoiding the need to open my chest. As I am terrified of this “open heart prospect” this is great news. I am off to Waikato and things are looking a little better.
Thursday in CCU Waikato.
“The team” arrives to see me together with many other patients in the queue for “stenting”. The Cardiologist then drops the bombshell that he is not happy to do the “stent” procedure as, in my case, it is too high risk. He has decided to pass it on to the Surgeons to discuss at their Friday conference.
The Surgeons have decided to accept me for surgery and I am scheduled for theatre on Tuesday. It will be a long weekend of waiting and preparing for the most frightening thing I have ever had to face in my life. To be honest “terrified” does not even go close to describing my feelings.
Naturally I have to be strong for those close to me as they are probably trying to be the same for me but inside I’m sure that we are all scared stiff.
I have a visit from the “zipper club” a fantastic group of people who volunteer their time to visit the CABG’s in the ward. They have all had the procedure themselves and are a great source of assurance that all will be OK.
My “cell mates” in the ward are also a great bunch of guys and we have a lot of fun to pass the time away.
The start of the “bumpy ride”.
I have been “bumped” from the list for Tuesday as there are more urgent patients needing theatre. I am now due to go on Friday.
More Waiting and I am getting very frustrated.
Wednesday I am told that they may be able to get me in on Thursday but within an hour this plan is dropped.
Thursday I am hammered again when I get told that I am now postponed to Tuesday. To be honest, I am at the point where I have almost had enough, I am almost emotionally finished and the only thing that stops me walking out is the thought of my family.
Tuesday (May 31st, I will remember this date forever)
At last, I turn the corner.
The orderly arrives to take me away at about 11 am and amid some good natured banter about Tauranga orderlies versus Waikato, I am wheeled down endless corridors to theatre. Most of the chat seems more concerned with the quality of Sallie’s baking (a bribe sent ahead of me) than the patient. All good fun and very relaxing for a terrified patient.
There is not much I remember of the next 24 hours or so. I have a vague memory of being helped out of bed in ICU to transfer to the ward bed and the wheeling of that bed to the “unit” in ward 14. Everything else is a bit muddled. The night seemed to last forever with nurses seeming to be checking OBS non stop. There was a visit from a team of Doctors who stood talking at the bottom of the bed. One of them then announced “drains out” and they left.
Shortly after that a couple of nurses arrived to remove the chest drains and I began to learn different “codes” and what they really mean.
“You will feel so much better with these out” means “This is going to really hurt.”
“Oh they’ve given you four”. Means “This is going to really hurt four times”.
But yes, It did feel better with the drains out.
In the morning another nurse with another code. The PCA pump was taken away and the catheter was removed before she announced “you will feel so much better after a shower.” This is code for “you stink”.
From there I was moved to a room in the ward where for the next few days I would be prepared for discharge a little bit at a time.
I started walking, doing my “laps” of the ward.
There were little milestones in the journey back like the removal of the central line from my neck followed the next day by the removal of the “pacer” wires from my chest and finally the end of the telemetry that I had worn 24/7 since arriving at Waikato. (yes, you even wear them in the shower over there)
Sunday (DAY 5 Post Op.Time to go home.)
Normally patients expect to be discharged around day 7 but my progress was so good that I am ready for home. Either that or they can’t take any more of me.
I already sense that I have regained something that I never knew I had lost. I have the blood pressure of my youth and feel better than I have in a long time. I have faced my biggest fears and overcome them and have a whole new outlook on life.
6 weeks post op.
I feel better than I have in years and have not smoked since the beginning of this story.
My diet is much more balanced and I am going back to work.
In a strange way this is the best thing that could have happened to me.
The surgeons have done their thing and repaired the damage and I am determined to
Look after myself now.
I have lots to look forward to with my new found energy.
A sincere thank you to all who cared for me and supported me through this adventure.