Two Fridays ago, I showed up at the hospital at 5:00AM for cardiac bypass surgery. The plan was for three, possibly four bypasses. During that time a heart-lung bypass machine would pump my blood and provide air while the medical professionals worked their magic on me. With care and concern they would cut open my chest, dividing it into two halves with a scalpel. The next target for their symmetrical division would be my sternum using a saw. Three holes were cut into my leg to harvest a yardstick’s worth of vein from my leg and the rest of surgery would consist of some very expert, high tech plumbing work – so the surgical team said.
I was lucky as all four bypasses proved viable. I had been in surgery for four hours before being moved to Critical Care to recover. In Critical Care my recovery progressed normally for 90 minutes and then my numbers changed. My team had an urgent situation developing with me – not an emergency – but it was time for quick decisions and action.
My first post-surgery memory was waking up to the strange sensation the ventilator tube down my throat which was breathing for me was also feeling like it was strangling me. I heard voices. I felt nauseous. As my eyes rolled back like when a person faints I remember thinking: I am 59 and a half, this is what it is like to die. Then my memory ends.
It was back to surgery for me and two more hours of plumbing work were able to fix the urgency that would have become an emergency. It was now 6:00PM in the evening and I had been at the hospital for 13 hours. I was kept sedated and on a ventilator until Saturday mid-morning when I was awakened to my second post-surgery memory. I had 12 tubes into my body but was told my numbers looked really good and they were ready to pull out the vent tube from my throat – so they did.
I had now been hospitalized 28 and half hours and was the proud owner of four bypasses, two frightening memories and one overwhelming realization: I am grateful to be alive.