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If I can round up Greet I'll send her over; her DH went through a heart transplant, and she can be very comforting about major surgery, and waiting for answers.

Comforting? Me?

Well, any opportunity to make myself useful (Ooh, just heard my mom say "Make yourself useful, dammit!" A flashback.)

So here goes.



There, there, it'll be okay...really! DH went through a transplant, was opened up like a book, put on a heart-lung machine, heart yanked out, new one popped in, kicked out the door in two weeks. Barbaric, but true. (There. Was that comforting? No? Dang…)

Most people who have open heart surgery are in bad health before their procedures, and get through it just fine, and even feel tons better afterwards. The hospitals are crammed full of people in bad health who need, receive, and recover from open heart surgery in less time than seems reasonable. Surgeons have lots of practice, and huge egos. While their people skills may be so-so, they will not permit your sweetie to make them look bad. The surgeon has his or her reputation on the line. If they screw up, the other surgeons will think they're hacks, and they don't want that! I take a lot of comfort in that.

As for family? Well, I hope none of my in-laws read this, but sometimes "no family" in the hospital is better than either a very tense, combative family, or a nervous, lamely supportive one. In either case, they can drive you nuts. Take a friend with you for the waiting part, if you want. One who is quiet, a good listener, with a good sense of humor. (Would you like me to drive up to Chicago? I could be there in six or so hours..;o)

The waiting room is the worst part. They'll probably forget to call you when they said they would, so about ten minutes after they said they'd come and get you, you'll think the worst has happened. It hasn't. It's a hospital. What's traumatic to you is routine to them, and they'll go for a break right when you're ready to climb the walls. So, when they tell you "He should be in the recovery room in about 2 hours" (or 3 or 6 or whatever), multiply that by at least 1 1/2 times. After that, go to the desk and tell them how long it's been and you really need some reassurance if it's not to much trouble. Sometimes I use the line, "I was just in the ladies room, and I wondered if they called while I was away? Could you check, please?"

Honestly, I always figure out "hospital time" in my head, based on doubling their spoken estimate. It greatly reduces my stress. At the very least, add an hour to the official estimate. If they're on time, what a pleasant surprise!

Hmmm...they have crappy magazines in hospital waiting rooms, bad coffee, and really awful TV shows on the communal set. Bring your own magazines (a book is too much), your own drinks, your own snacks. I usually pack a knapsack with reading, writing, drinks, snacks, pens, kleenex, and something for a headache. ;o) Don't overdo the caffeine. Get up and move if the people next to you are a pain in the butt. Frankly, teaching hospitals are the best at what they do, but the waiting rooms are below average.

When you see the poor boy, he'll be dopey and sore, maybe puffed up like a balloon from having fluids pumped in (DH was puffy a couple times after surgeries.). He'll ask you the same questions over and over again, because the anesthetics do that. And you'll start out like Saint Parger, the Most Nurturing, Wonderful Person in All the World, but when he asks you for the tenth time "So, what time did I get out of surgery?", you'll want to bludgeon him with his IV pole. He will not appreciate how wonderful you truly are. He will itch, he'll want to scratch, he'll want to use the bathroom and will forget he has a catheter in his privatest part. He may want to get up, forgetting he has multiple lines here there and everywhere. He will be grumpy, and his least charming self. He may even ask you what day it is, and when you answer, he'll angrily tell you that you're wrong. (As my sweet darling did after his transplant.) But you'll be able to touch him, and pat his arm, and kiss him on the forehead if you can reach him over the tubes, ekg lines, and bedrail. And that's when you'll start to feel a lot better.

The IV monitor will beep constantly. You'll watch the little green line as if your own life depends on it. When the line suddenly looks completely erratic and beeps a long, loud, alarming tone, you'll think he's dying, but really it'll be a loose lead, or he'll wiggle, or the sheet will tug on a wire.. The erratic nonsense ekg scratchings are called. "artifacts". Like an alien landing site or an archaeological dig...if you ask the nurse nicely, sometimes they'll turn down the volume on the annoying beeps.

Keep all your mail in one place for the next week or so, so you don't lose your bills and other mail. Don't grab it on the way out the door thinking you'll take care of it at the hospital. I lost boatloads of stuff that way. For awhile, your memory might be shot all to hell, but that's normal after this kind of stuff. And carb cravings are normal too.

You're under a lot of stress right now, and will be for awhile. Do what you can to relax and feel okay. Some things I found helpful were meditation tapes, some kinds of music, hugs from my favorite people, cuddles with my critters. Soaking in hot water up to my eyeballs. Stupid but favorite television shows... laughing whenever possible. Avoiding the news, avoiding people who had to tell me medical horror stories. Learning to say "I think I'd feel better if we changed the subject." or "I don't want to talk about that right now, but thanks for asking."

That's about all I can think of right now. Looks like I've used up all the Fool's allotted cyberspace. ;o)

He'll be fine. So will you. This time next week, the knot in your innards will be gone, and you'll know that what they say about hospital food is true.

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