I'm Home! It's been a whirlwind punctuated by intense boredom since my surgery on Tuesday morning. The TL;DR is that I'm home and doing well on day 4 post-op and I think my stay was just the right length. Here are the details I can recall of surgery day, more to come about those that followed as I have chance to write. Please don't hesitate to ask for clarification or further details, I really want this stage of my story to be a resource for anyone else going through heart surgery.
Early morning, 6AM call. I was planning on taking the bus, but the bus didn't start running early enough so there went my dream of that particular righteous story. The whole process through my discharge took place up on the 9th floor on the main building of Foothills hospital, very close to home for me. I had very little notice (I found out on Thursday before a long weekend for a Tuesday operation), so I was unable to get my last-minute bloodwork done beforehand, so they did that first thing. I was greeted by the nurses and staff, and asked to give myself an almost-complete wipe down with some serious disinfectant wipes and get into a hospital gown.
Then I was given my first of many little cups of pills. If you have any difficulty taking pills I would really recommend working to get over that before you have any major medical event. I never had to take any meds regularly until my heart problem was diagnosed, and I had never really gotten the knack of doing it smoothly. I've since had a couple of years of experience with little caplets of ramipril, a blood pressure medication, and I'm good now, but I had to take some big chalky ones by the end (for low potassium just before I left hospital).
Then I was given an ativan, and boy howdy, that's the pre-op finish line right there. I remember lots after that, but if you're worried about holding your nerve you have nothing to worry about after the ativan. Shortly after, I said bye to my wife and was wheeled away to the surgery/ICU part of the floor. A small parade of doctors came by to brief me and introduce themselves, I recall talking with the anesthesiologist and the perfusionist, who operates the heart-lung machine, and I'm certain there were others. I experienced no anxiety at this point, whatever I had had going was all ativaned away.
Soon I was wheeled into the OR, which I recall as being the most thoroughly-lit room I've ever seen in my life. LEDs everywhere. I was chatting happily with the nurses who were putting lines in me and I recall not having a care in the world. My surgeon, Dr. Kent, stuck his head in the door and greeted me, then gave a everyone short recap briefing of what we were there to do: a valve-sparing aortic-root replacement if possible (David procedure), or if not, aortic-root replacement and replacement of my aortic valve with a mechanical one (Bentall procedure). I'll detail the implications of each in a future post.
And I don't remember anything pre-op after that.
When I woke up, I felt like a zombie. I should emphasize first that never did I experience significant pain, from beginning to end of my hospitalization, and while I never felt like I needed to ask for additional pain meds I was always made aware that they were there for me and I shouldn't hesitate to ask for them. So, when I say I felt like a zombie I mean that I instinctively knew that my body was just functioning on a bare subsistence level. There was no panic or anything, just an understanding that for example deep relaxed breathing just wasn't going to be possible, and my job was simply to continue getting by while my body and the doctors started to sort things out. I have fleeting memories of the ICU, but almost nothing to latch on to. I recall the extraction of the carotid artery probe down into your heart that they put in when you're under, and it not hurting at all. I asked for a look at it after it was out, and I recall it looking pretty neat.
My wife tells me she spoke with me briefly that night, but the nurses let her know that I almost certainly wouldn't remember anything, and that if she was there for her well-being that was great, but it probably wouldn't impact mine.
I also remember being told that Dr. Kent was able to save my valve with a great result, so the big question that couldn't be answered until the procedure itself went the way I wanted it to. I don't think that how great that is for me going forward has really sunk in yet, but there will be time for that.