Chapter #15 Paper Thin – hot water music – 2001

heart surgery

The first forty-eight hours in that hospital bed were a regimented cycle of visiting nurses. There was Celeste whose real name I have to use because how cool a name is that! It really suited her as well. She was supremely elegant, like a ballerina and drifted around as you would imagine the Marie Celeste to be drifting into a moonlit pirate cove. There was no fussing with Celeste, just calm.

Then, so you didn’t get too calm, there was kung fu nurse. She strode into my room, full of business. Whereas really you’re encouraged to do as much by yourself as possible, as I tried to sit up she magnificently hooked my neck in the crook of her elbow and swung me upright as if I were a rag doll. It felt completely professional, if a little unexpected. She brusquely told me that one pillow was in no way enough and would be back with another two. She soon was and laid them at the top of the bed, each beautifully slightly overlapping the previous one in a line. She was so believable that I was convinced this was going to feel amazing. Although when I did actually lie back it didn’t feel as if I’d lain back at all and was in fact, still in a seated position. I slowly got rid of one pillow and then the next over the course of the night, slightly terrified she’d return and hook me into another position of punishment that I could do nothing about. She also talked loudly on the phone for most of the night outside my door.

There was a slight Korean nurse who loved my little cute mouse slippers but was terrified by the wildlife noises coming from the trees outside my window. And the lady with the convincing Transylvanian accent who had first asked me about ‘the bloodz’ was also a regular carer.

Every four hours I would have my temperature checked via my ear, my oxygen levels would be read, blood pressure checked and the amount of fluid in my chest drain flask measured. Also medication. I was on regular doses of paracetamol and sometimes Tramadol and anti nausea drugs as required. It was a strange pain when it filtered back as the drugs wore off. As if a massive weight was pressing down on my chest. I guess even though I was asleep for the operation, my muscles were still feeling the effect of being held apart for a few hours so access to my heart was possible. It was a pretty real feeling that I had actually been ‘open’ and now had been pulled back ‘closed’ again.

I could operate the bed by buttons on the side. I wasn’t allowed to push myself up or support my body weight in any way with my arms so had to raise the top of the bed fully to the upright position when I wanted to sit up or get out of bed. Then I could swing my legs round to the side and shuffle on. As I said, with a catheter and no poo yet, I really had very little to do except to reflect on the sorry state I found myself in. It was pretty much at this point that I thought I might write it all down…

So, my wee bag. The nurse called it a catheter, and it worked differently to a bladder and going to the toilet normally. Until it was taken out I didn’t think to check how it was accessing my bladder. As I say, I’m generally ok with medical stuff, I just don’t need to look at it too closely. I just know I was constantly dripping into the bag, fairly gushing when I drank a cup of coffee. I do drink a lot of water anyway, hence the constant drip but I was amazed how big and heavy the bag looked in no time. Surely that’s my bladder under normal circumstances, I suddenly had a healthy respect for what a bladder has to go through. When I’m out on the pints, I kid you not, I can go all night without needing a pee. I am, jokingly, bladder of steel. While my friends are commenting on just how many times on a standard night in the pub they need to go to the loo, I very rarely do.

As your bladder is constantly emptying into the bag you never actually feel as if you need to go the toilet. And it’s quite liberating not to be tied to such basic biological functions. Also, following a hectic bout of general anaesthetic my intestines were completely asleep so there was no chance of anything more solid either – bliss. As I do drink a lot of water, the nurses couldn’t have been happier with the amount and colour of my urine – top of the class!

My other attachment was a smaller chest drain. A container the size of a small flask into which was literally draining reddish bodily fluids. At each check the nurse would see how much fluid had drained into the flask (there was a measuring gauge up the side). Luckily, I’m guessing, not much was. Hopefully all my bodily fluids were contained in the inner workings of my body and newly revamped heart rather than swishing around in my chest cavity. These two attachments had to be carried everywhere with me. Although as I didn’t need the toilet at all, and was properly dog tired from all the anaesthetic in my system this was literally from the chair to the bed.

Lying in the hospital, my heart beat too felt surreally different. I’m guessing it was wired up slightly differently to how it had been, and could now flow freely. If I lay back too flat in the bed I was so aware of the new beat that it was unbearable. Really powerful in my chest. Had my heart really been rubbish for that long? When Bassalot put his head on my chest he said he could hear an off beat. Certainly never had one of those before. More just a constant BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Probably explains why I’ve never really got on with Reggae music. I don’t hate it but it doesn’t make me want to move. My friend feels the same and calls it being Reggae indifferent.

I read magazines, ordered food, barely ate food, watched TV, tried to read a book but my concentration levels really weren’t having it, and slept – a lot.

If you want to – tune in next week for a horror style dream sequence – ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ – you’ve been warned! Sleep well… xx

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