Day 2 – Jumper Cables

Michael Day 2
Michael with Mom and DaughterB

Day 2 was better than Day 1.  The remaining tube was removed from me and I was free to get up and walk carefully to the bathroom.  Initially with a nurse escort but I quickly established that I was careful and able to walk safely.  I got through three wonderful hospital meals, met with additional family, and considering where I was two days prior, had a really good day.

I also learned more about the wires to my heart.  By this point now there were two things left poking into me.  There was a neck port leading to an artery so they could easily pull stuff out and put stuff in and monitor me.  And there were two thin wires going into my lower chest. I recalled something said the morning of Day 1 between the nurses about a pacemaker but I was out of it and didn’t ask questions.  I gather I was on an external pacemaker at some point.  I’m sure that is routine.  And for convenience, they leave the wires connected, coiled up, and taped over.  You know, just in case they need to use them again.  Like jumper cables.  I thought it was funny.  I’m weird.

My morning checkin today was with the physican’s assistant who harvested the vein from my leg.  She was pleased with my progress and raised the slight possibility that I might get released Day 3 which almost never happens.

I went on my first extended walk with the respiratory therapist.  He needed to see if I could get enough oxygen in my lungs while walking and we talked about breathing exercises.  I made one loop around the floor and he decided he wanted to come back and see me later in the day.  My breathing wasn’t quite strong enough so more exercises but walking was a nice novelty.

My Girlfriend and I then walked over to a cardiac recovery class in the late morning.  I was able to get there without a walker, just my own power and my safety pillow.  It was nice to have a partner in the class since it was challenging for me to focus for that long and the class had lots of good information.  There were two other recovering patients plus family of a third.  I felt very fortunate for how good I was feeling vs how others looked.  This is a very traumatic surgery and for me to be walking around and fairly jolly on Day 2 is extremely unusual.

The physical therapist came back and we worked more.  His technique is to let me try things, walking, standing up, getting in and out of bed, and coaching me to do what feels comfortable and adjust if something is uncomfortable.  His first action, which surprised me and made me laugh was to take away my safety pillow.  Proper use of the safety pillow is Hospital Dogma but it seems not everyone believes it is necessary and he wanted me to be open to different safe ways of moving.  I think that makes sense, but I still like my pillow.  Getting in and out of bed is very challenging for me.  It involves simultaneous falling sideways into bed and twisting and rolling or the opposite to get up.  I have a lot of concern about hurting myself, which is probably partly unfounded.  However, there is some physical discomfort and due to my worrying nature, I’m not always sure which physical discomfort to be more worried about than others.  Walking around continues to work well, though, and the PT tech clears me from that hurdle.

There are several hurdles that need to be accomplished before I can be released and I am liking the idea of a day 3 release, even though it almost never happens.

We are also learning more about this hospital.  According to the PT, Mercy General does about 2000 heart surgeries a year where a normal busy hospital might do 200.  They received a large $10M donation from a wealthy patient some years back and the cardiac wing we were in was finished about 2 years ago.  They are one of the top 50 hospitals in the country and certainly the premiere cardiac center in this region of California.  Outside of grouchy day 0 nurse, EVERYONE has been incredibly professional and kind and friendly.  Hospital systems run smoothly.  I always got questions answered clearly and with more than enough information.  I had confidence that I was getting world class service.  We all were in agreement from our various hospital experiences that this was an extraordinary place and it was a blessing to have ended up here.  My health provider, Kaiser, is in partnership with Mercy General and provided the surgeon and some staff for the operation and Mercy General provides the facility and recovery staff and all.  Thank you Kaiser and thank you Mercy General.  I couldn’t have asked for better care.

In the afternoon, the respiratory tech came back and after a second walk, he cleared me.  The reality is that the most important recovery is going to happen at home.  The hospital staff need to verify that I’m going in the right direction and be able to take care of the rest of my own recovery.  I’m highly motivated to do this.  I really want to get out on day 3.  Part of it is ego.  Part of it is that I’m getting bored.  I feel good.  I don’t feel like running a marathon but I feel good and better each day.  And this is only day 2.

I spent a lot of the day in a chair and was struck by how hard it is to get into bed by comparison.

Since my Girlfriend was flying back home in the morning, she stayed the night on the sofa in the sitting area to keep me company.  We watched part of a movie, Sabrina (1954, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden), which we thought was good and went to sleep.

As usual I was up and down through the night.  I would read for a while.  Try to doze more.  At 3 hour intervals, I would get nursing visits.  It is usual hospital stuff.  I don’t tend to need a lot of sleep anyway and with all of the activity, and being alive, I wasn’t getting a lot of solid sleep but since I was sitting around all day, I wasn’t expending much energy.