Chapter #17 first and last and always – sisters of mercy – 1985

heart surgery

Day 1 (Friday)

I’d done really well the nurses said. After getting back to my new room at 11ish am I’d sat in my chair for most of the day, and so when evening arrived I was well up for going to bed and calling it quite literally, a night. I’d read that after cardiac surgery, I’d probably need to clear my lungs quite a bit by ‘huffing’, kind of coughing without coughing as that would be bloody painful. Luckily I was spared this (even as an ex smoker) and probably as I’m fairly young to have had a heart bypass operation.

Getting in and out of bed was quite a mission as, even on the pain-killers, my chest felt like lead and I couldn’t take any weight on my arms. I had to have the bed in the upright position and get my bum just in the right angle of the bed whilst I sat up. Then I could slowly lower the bed and hence my upper half. I had to keep the bed quite raised, even with the extra bulk of pillows or, I don’t know if it was gravity or just the stretching of my chest, but I’d be so aware of my heart pounding I couldn’t actually lie that far back.

Then that was it really. I had to lie on my back for the duration. Firstly I had my catheter and chest drain in so rolling around in bed was practically difficult. Lying on my left side just made me really heart aware and I thought about it’s new stitches twisting around. Lying on my right hand side was slightly easier but I couldn’t roll all the way over and get full nose in pillow satisfaction so always ended up lolling back on to my back over the space of 30 mins or so. The best option was just to stay on my back and give my arse a good wiggle as I needed to.

Day 2 (Saturday)

“You should be able to get out of bed with some assistance and go to the bathroom for a wash. The pysiotherapist will then take you for a walk along the corridor and review your breathing excercises”

I did manage to get out of bed and have at least a face wash and toothy clean. I felt a whole lot better for it although it took ages and with much sitting down again on the bed between stages. Also I extracted a load of rock solid boogas out of my nose. I think its the tubes they put up there. I could hang my wee bag on just about anything and had to remember to carry the chest drain with me and stand it on the floor next to wherever I was standing. It had a long old tube on it and was quite a hard plastic that clonked on the ground a lot when it fell over.

I felt my movements very much as a skeleton, one bone connected to the next, and imagined myself in X-ray leaning against the sink. My flesh didn’t matter too much, I didn’t have any bodily functions happening and the strong pain killers meant I wasn’t feeling too much either. My bones however were strangely in my thoughts. I think it still stemmed from my ribcage having to actually come apart to do this. And now it felt vulnerably wired back together, I couldn’t feel it, but I knew it. And I could feel every bit of pressure as I applied scrub to my skull with my finger bones, and held the toothbrush to my teeth as they sat in my skull.

No sooner had I washed than my physiotherapist knocked on the door. She checked that I was up for a walk and wee bag in one hand and long tube of the chest feeding over the top of my robe, she helped me into Pussy Deluxe and off we set.

It was actually harder than it looked, that first walk. It turned out that the pysiotherapist did some work around Thame, where I’d gone to school, so we chatted this through. By the time I had walked about 50 yards and back from a designated line in The Spire’s corridor I was whacked and had learned that walking and talking at the same time were no longer an option. I held it together while the physiotherapist was there but basically then had a little lie down and a full on whitey.

Little Miss Transylvania of ‘the bloodz’ arrived and ‘fed’ me something through the tubes in my neck which were then removed. She said she could also remove the dressing covering the wound on my chest. That was a bit of a shocker. The dressing was psychologically giving a huge out of sight out of mind buffer to the fact that I had a massive chest wound at all. It came off fairly easily and then, most apologetically she sprayed an icy cold antibacterial spray liberally covering the area. She said it was fine to wash and was ok if water splashed on it but not to get it excessively wet.

I checked it in the mirror when she’d gone. It was perfectly surgical. It looked a bit like pig skin literally sewn together expertly from the inside. Or, yes, ok, a lot like a horror film. No blood or leakage, two perfectly straight edges of skin SEWN TOGETHER ON MY BODY!!! Wow. Not only had my ribcage been pulled back together, the skin over the top had also been sewn back over the top, obviously and thankfully. I also noted how evenly my boobs were lined up. My nipples were exactly level. Not that I remember them ever not being level but, from years of sewing, I do appreciate how one rogue stitch can alter the hang of a garment. As a 3D body, that was a pretty impressive fix it job. I later noticed when lying in bed that my boobs were now standing quite upright, as if a very small breast enhancement had happened. This turned out to be a result of the skin being sewn together quite tightly ie there’s just not a lot of excess there to work with. This also gave me quite a few problems in the next few weeks with the healing process (or lack of).

When B arrived that afternoon we shuffled into the bathroom and he gave me a wash with some paper pads and body wash in the shower. It was really cute. There’s generally nothing gentle about what I do. If I’m scrubbing my face, it gets a damn good scrubbing, if I’m hitting a drum it gets a damn good hitting, if I’m cleaning a kitchen it gets a damn good cleaning. B was soooo gentle and I felt like such a shadow puppet of my former self. Where I was sewn together and my breast bone was sticking up a little, I felt all pulled in at the chest. This had the effect of pulling my shoulders in to a little hunchback position. As I wasn’t standing up straight I seemed to have a perfectly round pot belly. I’ve no idea what was in there as I hadn’t really eaten for 48 hours. I was still shaky and luckily there was some sort of commode chair in the shower so I perched and moved limbs on command while B adoringly smoothed me down with soap and water. I am so lucky he loves me so much. He patted me down, infuriatingly gently (!) with a luxury white private healthcare towel and I snuggled back into pussy deluxe. We sat next to each other on the bed and went in for a much needed shnuffle. Not sexual just tactile cosyness and I felt, again, how weirdly my skeleton was behaving. I was so aware of how moving one bone would ricochet through my other bones and leave me feeling clicked up in some Richard Third contortion. I was seriously worried I would never straighten out again.

Day 3 (Sunday)

“The physiotherapist will increase your walking distance as you are able and will walk around the circuit with you”

This was the morning I woke up to my nightmare. Bassalot and myself, together with another friend, an ex Eastenders character and another guy I recognised as a television actor had been playing a bizarre hyper real computer game. As I woke, bodies were piecing themselves back together and we were all freaking out about what generally had just happened. I do sometimes remember my dreams but I very rarely have nightmares. I leave that to B who has horrific dreams and night terrors, sometimes on many nights in succession. As soon as a dream starts to go bad for me I generally wake myself up. I guess with the heightened thoughts I’d been having and the anaesthetic still in my system I thought I’d hang around for this one. It was wierd as the story was actually finishing as I woke up. I was aware it was a dream and I was witnessing it as a spectator. It has made me wonder since if, although I was fully sedated, I could still hear things during the operation. Like the saw… Even with Google, I haven’t found a convincing answer yet.

I was therefore fully awake by about 5 am. There was generally a visit between 6 am – 7 am when the day nurses would start their shift and take over. The 6 am nurse had removed my catheter and I finally realised that the tube had actually been inserted into my she-wee while I’d been unconscious and had been there ever since! I’m so naïve! I was a little worried I’d just be weeing all the time when it came out, as I had been into the bag, but I seemed to regain my bladder self control immediately. Although I did do small wee tube farts for a while after having the tube removed.

My first visitor that day was the physiotherapist. This time she said, a day early, we were gonna do stairs! In all honesty I felt like stairs would be ok. We walked to the line in the corridor where we had got to the day before, then beyond and finally arrived at some double doors. Behind these were about 6 stairs heading down and then a flat bit heading to the left. I ‘did’ the stairs without incident but by the time I got back to my room was feeling really really weak and collapsed gratefully onto the bed.

Within minutes another nurse arrived and said they could take my chest drain out as well. I think she could see I was a little flaky so gave me half an hour to recuperate. I was a little apprehensive after the laughing gas required to remove the first two. The remaining one however was small fry compared with the two beasts that had been removed on day 1 and merely required a holding of the breath to pull out the tube. I won’t lie, it did still feel every bit as if a tube was being pulled out from just below my rib cage. And maybe, where my torso is quite short, the suction seemed to pull the inside of my right boob down too which was a mightily strange feeling. I was well and truly instructed after this that I should lie down for 30 minutes. I had no complaints to that and took myself a full hour. Free finally from all my attachments she said I was could have a proper shower, wash my hair and generally lord it up in water as I needed to. I still had a square dressing on the top of my stomach where the tubes had been and should keep that dry but the main wound was fine to get water on.

Mum and Dad were coming to visit today. I’m so aware this must have been intensely tough for them to wait this out in Long Crendon while their offspring was hacked open. They were driving to our house in Southsea and then B was going to give them a lift to the hospital. I was so looking forward to seeing all of them. Mum and Dad as it was the first time I’d seen them since the op and B as he really has been my absolute hero and constant through this.

Keen to look as well as possible I decided to wash my hair which was performing all sorts of fashion crimes there and then.

God, that felt so much better! I’d messaged B to bring in a grey snood scarf. The top of the scar looked quite neat just introducing itself above my shirt buttons. It was still nice to have the option of showing it or not, without a neckline tightly buttoned over it. There’s nothing like a bit of make up to convince the world that everything’s ok so my skeletal fingers rubbed in a bit of foundation, applied a subtle lippy and used a bit of extra lippy to just add a smudge of colour to my cheeks – job done!

B was amazed when he saw me. The day before I’d been pale, hair all over the place, and presumably still a slight look of surprise on my face. It was like one of those before and after programmes. When he came in with my parents I was sitting up in bed, hair washed and brushed with a neat parting, and real clothes on rather than a hospital robe.

We chatted excitedly for about 30 minutes before I was overcome with immense and unfightable tiredness. Bloody talking, it really takes it out of you! I’d decided I had to be honest with Mum and Dad about how I was feeling rather than battling through as I usually would until I presumably passed out. So I said I needed to have a little rest. Mum tried valiantly to set a time for their return but I gently suggested there wasn’t an actual time, we’d just see how it went. My Mum is incredible and actually never stops whether it’s work, the garden, baking, cleaning, reading, going to church / cinema / theatre, providing and looking after her family, organising and making lists, lists, lists. I also love lists but here, in hospital, there is a luxury to being looked after and falling into someone else’s schedule. Generally I suffer from acute FOMO (fear of missing out) but three days after heart surgery I was quite happy for the three of them to hop off to the canteen to get dinner while I actually slept.

Mum was so excited to see me when they got back (after a full private healthcare roasty!) she said was I ready for a whizz round the block! Ever hopeful! We opted instead for a wander downstairs to sit in the dappled sunlight on benches around the waterfall where water came up through a hole in a large rock and spilled, healingly over it. I even picked up a hot chocolate on the way which various people carried for me and we sat in the ambience of the rustling trees and the trickling water while the low October sun shifted its light around us.

It was a lovely afternoon. All too soon the three of them were leaving although I was proper knackered and needed the Lucy time after an exhausting day. B messaged me to say my parents were delighted to see me so well. A good day.

It’s nearly all done folks – just a few more days in hospital and then home! Thanks for sticking with it. Next chapter will be here next week, 9th December at 6.10pm – check in for ‘Hot Mess’.

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