10 Years...and I'm Still Here (Part 4)
If you haven't already read the first installments of this series, you can find part 1 here: I'm Still Here (Part 1)
DAY FIVE: Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Before I continue the story of my heart attack and subsequent recovery, I have to warn you, from this point onward I will be diverging from that which was written within the pages of my memoir, I Am Nobody. The story is the same, but the details inside the book are tame compared to what happened. Why, you might be asking? It's simple really, with advice from my beta readers and editor, it was recommended that the nasty details of that week might be too much for readers to handle--too shocking in other words. So, with their sage advice hanging heavy in my mind, I edited the ordeal down and just presented the bare bones.
Upon reflection of this decision, I often wondered, if I would have left those gory details in the book, would someone have taken their personal health and wellbeing a little more seriously? Would the actual details cause them to take stock of their lives and begin taking steps to better themselves? Believe me, if I would have read someone else's account of post-op heart surgery, I certainly would have thought more about my health and might have taken steps to prevent from ever reaching the point that I'd need surgery. Yes, it's that bad—and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
So, be warned, dear reader—from this point forward, I'm not going to pull any punches. If what I write next scares you healthy, then all the better. Sometimes it takes a scare to make us change, don't you think?
Surgery day, six o'clock in the morning, and I'm wide awake before the first nurse arrives to prepare me—even before the sun. The nurses start arriving soon after and before long, my room is a beehive of activity. Nurses attach sensors to my body and they explained that I would have a central IV line inserted into my neck by the collarbone. It would be the fasted way to introduce medication to my body. They attached metal IV poles to the end of the bed and I couldn't help but wonder just how many medications I'd be on during the surgery.
Another nurse rubbed a nasal antibiotic gel into each nostril, explaining that it would kill any bacteria in the nose and help prevent foreign substances from entering through the nose. It felt weird at first, but the feeling quickly went away (we'll revisit the nasal antibiotic later—and it's not pretty).
Finally, the nurses wheeled me out of the room and into surgery. The anesthesiologist asked me to count backwards from ten and injected something into one of my IVs. I think I made it to 8 before losing consciousness.
Being knocked out under anesthesia is different from the unconsciousness we experience while sleeping—at least, it was for me. When I sleep, everything seems dark, almost like I'm flying through space, with swirling ribbons of color and wavering shapes. This swirling darkness is interrupted only by waking (obviously), or dreams. They say we only dream in black and white, but I would swear my dreams are in bright, shining color. Being unconscious through anesthesia was the polar opposite. I didn't dream. What I saw was constant. It wasn't a light that I saw, but more like a solid wall, painted white. There were no swirling patterns across its surface, no ribbons of color, just the whiteness.
When the whiteness finally went away, I was back in my hospital room, looking up at the ceiling in utter confusion. Panic set in and I started to thrash. A few seconds later I realized I was choking. Something was in my throat! I tried to cry out. I tried to grab hold of the obstruction and pull it out. All I knew was that I couldn't breathe and something, or someone, was holding down my arms, keeping me from reaching that which choked me.
"Mister Thomasson," the nurse said, trying to get me to calm down. "The breathing tube is in...just hold still and we'll pull it out, okay?" She had to get my attention several times before I understood and lie still. She leaned over me, "Now try to cough while I pull it out, okay?" I blinked in response and did what she said, but it was more like a gag. It felt unnatural, like a slimy tentacle being pulled from inside me, which caused me to swallow. The muscles in my throat clamped down, keeping her from pulling the tube out all the way and trapping it inside me.
"Cough, Mister Thomasson, cough." I forced myself to cough. She pulled it the rest of the way and I was finally free of the obstruction. I could breathe again. To me, from the moment I was knocked out, to this point where I'm back in my room, seemed like a blink of an eye. It's strange knowing that time has passed, but you have no recollection of it. I can't image how my wife and family felt, seeing me like this, hooked up to machines, a bandage over my chest where the surgeon separated my ribs from my sternum, knowing that at some part, my heart stopped and I was put on a bypass machine so that the doctor could make the necessary repairs around my heart. The constant beeping of machines reading my vitals, the five-minute interval between the blood pressure cuff inflating around my left arm, the silence between breaths, the waiting, waiting, waiting for me to finally wake.
The rest of that day is a blur. I know my family was there, speaking to me, but I don't remember any of the conversations. I know I fell asleep a lot—probably while talking.
Tuesday came and went. Wednesday loomed just there, through the darkness that enveloped me even throughout the daytime. Wednesday would come, and it would be the absolute worst day of my post-op life...
...to be continued in: 10 Years...and I'm Still Here (Part 5)
About the Author
Christopher J. Thomasson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1972. At the age of two, his family permanently settled in the piney woods of East Texas. He discovered a love for reading and writing at a very young age and until the mid-2010's he only ever wrote for himself, his family, and his closest friends.
He currently lives in Smith County, Texas with his beautiful wife Debra. They have two children, Camron and Megan; and four grandchildren; Braydon, Cheyenne, Brooklynn, and Wyatt Christopher.
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