What to Expect If You Have Bypass Surgery
I recently had open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic – one of America’s premier heart hospitals – and I was completely unaware of what to expect after the procedure was over. Now, I didn’t have any stents put in, so I can’t tell you what to expect after that, but I can tell you what happens after bypass surgery. It isn’t a walk through the park, but knowing what to expect can be beneficial. The following five items will help you be prepared for what is ahead of you or a loved one. Knowledge will be your friend while treading into this unknown territory.
The Day of the Surgery
You may arrive the day of your surgery. They will give you a special soap to wash with the day prior to the surgery and a mouthwash to take. You’ll arrive at the hospital and they will take you into the operating room. The room will be chilly as they lie you on the operating table, which sort of resembles a flat board with arm cutouts to the side. The anesthesiologist will be there and put an IV into each arm. He will explain what he is going to do and there will be a cold, burning sensation as he injects you with the medication that will put you out. That's all there is to it. Don't worry, you'll be in good hands.
Incisions and Post Operation
The next thing you will remember is someone waking you up in the ICU. Your surgery is over and you are recuperating. You will be very groggy from the drugs they have given you and you will be ventilated so you cannot breathe on your own. Two tubes will be in your stomach below the main chest incision to remove fluids and there will be a tube in your neck where they gave you drugs during the surgery. Additionally, there will be a wire hanging out of your chest so they could monitor your heart and you will have a Foley catheter inserted in you to remove waste. These will all be removed once they insure that you are awake and aware of your surroundings. I won’t lie, this is very uncomfortable. The doctors claim that it is slightly uncomfortable, but don’t let them fool you – there is nothing “slight” about this. It is downright alien to anything that you’ve ever experienced. Plan on spending the rest of the day in the ICU because they are going to monitor everything that is going on in your body. You will now be able to have some visitors, but they will be kept to a minimum.
The next day, you should leave the ICU and go to what they call “Step down”. This is a regular room where you can have more visitors. You are not going to feel like doing anything including: eating, reading, watching television or even staying awake. However, the hospital wants you to get better quickly! So the first thing they are going to do is sit you up on the edge of your bed and get you a meal! Do it. It is going to hurt because you have wounds, but it is what is best for you. That is all they will really ask of you this first day and sitting up on the side of your bed will be enough.
The next day, however, plan on more! They are going to get you into a chair, whether they have you stand on your own or they drag you over to it. Sitting up is very important because they do not want you catching pneumonia. You should also get a device called a “spirometer”. This is a painless device that will keep your lungs working and get more oxygen to you. Use it. Before you know it, they will have you walking in the next day or so. You’ll learn exercises to make this easier. You have to count on your legs. You can’t power your way through things with upper body strength because you have a broken sternum. Life will get better, though. I promise.
In a few days, they will have you ready to go home or moving on to a nursing facility. I wanted to go home and, since my mother-in-law is a nurse, that’s where I went. They will strongly suggest the nursing facility, though. I was told that I’d be back in the hospital in 2 days if I went home. Happily, I proved them wrong. Note: you are going to need a few things when you do go home. You can’t lay down flat, so I would suggest an easy chair that has a lift on it. You can get one of these through most furniture stores. Most people that I know that have gone through this procedure sleep in their chairs for the next six months. Your body will know when you can lie flat. Other things you are going to need are: access to a same floor bathroom, a shower, a place to walk around, and room to exercise.
Taking Care of Yourself
You will have to face the fact that after your heart attack you will be on a ton of pills. You need to know what medications you are taking and when. Walk as much as you can. You can’t lift more than ten pounds, but I got some five pound weights to build up my arms. Eventually, they will have you on a cardiac rehab program to get you in shape. Your diet has to change, too. There are so many foods that taste god, but you have to portion. A heart healthy diet is low fat. You can eat almost anything as long as it isn’t out of control. Get your body slim. It is a sure way to prevent another heart attack. Also, go to your doctors when they set up appointments and don’t miss them. It’s a pain, but they are trying to save you from more trouble down the road. Follow all of the information that they give you and you will be fine. Good luck and I hope this doesn’t happen again!