Friday, August 1, 2014

A Holiday Scare

January 13, 2011

Back in early December my husband was told pretty suddenly that he'd need heart first there's a round of tests, and then admission to a hospital that was an hour and a half (on a good traffic day) away from where we live. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be all that much of an issue, except that I don't drive and he does. That meant for me to be with him for the surgery and some days afterward (and of course I'd want to be), I needed to find a hotel nearby.

Well, the ONLY hotel even remotely close to someone who travels on foot was about a 30 minute walk from the hospital. But, for someone whose used to walking, that's reasonably "doable", so I booked it. At what we consider an outrageous price - partly I assume that's because it's was pretty close to Christmas.

My husband was admitted on the 13th of December, and this major surgery was scheduled for December 15th, so I booked my hotel from the 15th to 19th (cost without meals for the hotel was in excess of $500) and my daughters and I headed down to the big city very early in the morning on the 15th of December. His surgery was scheduled to begin somewhere between 9:00am and 9:30 and we arrived at around 8:30 (which was the time they'd told us to be there so we could see him before he went in).

However, they were ahead of themselves I guess - he'd already been under and in surgery by 7:30am. So we waited...and it was a very long day. Over 7 hours for the surgery, but the surgeon said he tolerated it fairly well, and this was his second surgery of this type (aortic valve replacement). We breathed a sigh of relief and the girls went home. I stayed until I could see him and went to the hotel to sleep, arriving back at the hospital early next morning. He spent the next 4 days in CICU - complications with the medication they gave him, and at one point he pulled out his central line (that was stuck in the carotid artery) and he nearly killed himself by doing that (you can bleed to death in 2 minutes from that artery...good thing he was in CICU.)

Late in the evening on the 18th they transferred him to a private room on the Cardiac wing - he was shaky and pale, and still somewhat confused (medication), but very glad to be out of CICU. The next morning he was vastly improved, and I was pretty glad to see that since I had to head back home. The hotel bill wiped out any holiday joy because it sure wasn't something we'd planned ahead for, and if I didn't get back home at that point the kids (grandkids) wouldn't have their Christmas gifts (still hadn't really shopped cause of this and hadn't wrapped either).

To be honest, I really didn't want to go home - the next day (the 20th of Dec.) would be our 35th wedding anniversary and the thought of spending alone wasn't pleasant for either of us. I was at that point just thankful he was still alive and would eventually be home.

They did release him shortly after that, though I was a little surprised since he was still somewhat weak, and they were still concerned about some issue showing up in his blood but he arrived back home around suppertime on the 21st. Early in the wee small hours of the morning I woke up to him hollering at look and I dialled 911 - he was so white...a white I've never seen before, and covered with so much sweat a bathtowel wouldn't have sopped it all up.  My first thoughts were something wrong with the valve, or internal bleeding or something...he said he wasn't in pain, just dizzy and having a little trouble breathing. So the ambulance arrives and whisks him away as I try to reach one of the girls to come get me.

Later that afternoon, they finally tell us (at our own local hospital) that he had a heart attack. Imagine that. I'd admit to being pretty dumbfounded because except for this defective valve, he doesn't have heart disease or blocked arteries...all those extensive tests were done right before the surgery and they'd have noticed something like that. At that point though, they told us he might need to go back for bypass surgery and that was the most frightening was doubtful he'd survive another surgery of that magnitude in his current condition.

It turns out, that  the heart attack was caused by a blood clot, and not heart disease. Phew. Anyhow, he was put on heparin (blood thinners) and watched carefully, then sent home on the evening of Dec. 25th - so although it was kind of late, he did get home for Christmas.

Somewhere around the Wednesday following Christmas I forced him back to the hospital because I was certain one of his incisions was fact I'd started telling him that the day he came home from the surgery. It just didn't look right to me. So, our local hospital looks at it and heads for the telephone to call up the hospital that had done the surgery. Apparently it wasn't something that's seen very often in our Emergency Dept...all the nurses had to come and get a look. I knew it wasn't right, but it's condition was hard to describe really because I hadn't seen anything like it either. Not that I'm a nurse or anything but this is about his 4th surgery or so, and I've always looked after the incisions until they healed. I'm used to seeing some inflammation and some little puss or infection but not like this...ever.

The next day my daughter drives him back to the "other" hospital where they were supposed to check it, maybe dose him up with some antibiotics and make sure the infection didn't reach his heart. Well...things went from bad to worse and they admitted him for another 5 days, however, at least the infection was finally being taken seriously. He's home again now, and I think those extra days in the hospital were good for him. He came home looking much better - more rested and his skin was pinkish again, instead of dead white. He's still on antibiotics and a nurse comes every other day to unpack the incision, clean it and repack it. They didn't sew it back up - they left it open, hence the packing.

Another few weeks and he'll be able to drive the car again...he's already bored to tears being stuck at home.

Sorry...guess that was kind of a long story, but there's also a bit of a moral there - more than one perhaps. Be thankful for all things - instead of grumping that we couldn't spend our anniversary, Christmas morning or New Year's eve together, I was grateful he was alive and would be home eventually. There's nothing like a good shake up to make you realize that there are some things more valuable than holiday pleasantries.

And the second moral? When your gut tells you something's wrong, don't ignore it.

No comments:

Post a Comment