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10 Years...and I'm Still Here (Part 6)

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

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 SEVEN: Thursday, April 11, 2013

Music. I'm hearing music now. That first day, in and out of consciousness, I thought I saw and heard that thunderstorm. Now I'm completely awake, standing in the shower, trying my best to remain standing and not utilize the bench behind me even though my legs shake and wobble as if I'm exhausted—and I'm hearing music. Not just any music. It's a Celtic-sounding theme. There are bagpipes accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. I close my eyes and listen while the hot, steaming shower revitalizes me—I recognize the theme. Then it comes to me—I'm hearing the opening theme music to one of my favorite movies: Braveheart!

Braveheart—was there a reason I was hearing this particular music? I stood there confused, wondering just how and why I was hearing this music. It wasn't just in my head either—I felt like the music was all around me, as if the shower had built-in speakers. But I still came back to the name of the movie: BraveHEART. Heart—I'd just undergone heart surgery. Was there a connection? Was it just my head relating one to the other? God? Is this You? Are You trying to tell me something?

To this day, I don't know. I never spoke to a doctor or psychologist about it, either—maybe I should have. The only thing I can think of is that my unconscious dreams were encroaching on my waking existence. Remember me mentioning the body undergoing a soft reset? Was this part of that? If anyone has any insight, or if you've encountered this as well, I'd love to hear your story.

This wasn't the only time I heard music, either. The thunderstorm happened on the first night after my surgery. The theme to Braveheart on the second. On the third night, my head was tuned in to a Spanish radio station and for an hour, I listened to that upbeat Tejano music as if there were a band right there in my hospital room.

I still had an attitude when it came to exercising. The last thing I wanted to do was get behind that rolling walker and make laps around that wing of the hospital. I was weak, couldn't get enough oxygen, and just wanted to sleep. Those nurses spurred me on, though. They told me repeatedly that the faster I gained my independence (walking on my own), the faster I'd get to leave and go home. That's not what I wanted right then. No, I just wanted to sleep—but most of all, I wanted my body to do the necessary, I still hadn't been able to go to the bathroom other than to urinate. My abdomen was so swollen with retained waste that it was beginning to put pressure on everything—both my other organs and the drain tubes that were still inside me. Feeling my insides press against those plastic tubes was the worst. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as the night I had the muscle spasms, but it wasn't pleasant. The nurses never gave up hope on me, though. Through it all, they always had a smile and hearts of gold, despite my attitude.

Finally, my body decided to relearn what it had unlearned—and I had never been happier to visit the bathroom than at that moment. I won't go into the gory details, as I'm sure you can imagine them all on your own. It's one of those situations like in a horror movie, when the action takes place off-screen and you know what just happened to some unfortunate soul, your mind fills in the details and more often than not, those details are worse than what could have ever been shown. Consider this that type of moment. You're welcome.

From that point onward, things started looking up. The doctor came in and removed me from the oxygen and, to my surprise, also removed the drain lines from my stomach. It wasn't until that moment I realized just how depressed I was—and I think it was the fact that at every moment since awakening from surgery; I was battling those tubes. As careful as I was, I felt them move inside me and my mind always went back to that night I spasmed, that ticking muscle in my back scraping against the end of one of those plastic tubes, the shivering, the shaking, the need to feel nothing and be rid of the knife-like pain inside me.

It was then, too, that I got a good look at the giant scar on my chest. He removed the bandaging to check the incision to make sure there was no infection setting in. I looked like Frankenstein's monster. Twenty-four staples held together the skin of my chest and unseen beneath the scar were wires connecting my ribs back to my sternum. Then, below the scar, were the three one-inch holes that had once encircled the drain tubes. After surgery, they gave me a small pillow to hold against my chest when I moved and coughed (which I had done quite a lot of over the past several days). The good thing was, I was able to stifle the coughing enough to not hurt too much. The one thing I didn't expect was the violent reaction my body had the one and only time I sneezed.

I do not recommend sneezing after open heart surgery. That's my professional opinion. If I would have known the amount of pain waiting for me, I would have done everything I could to avert it. I can only explain it like this: have you seen the 1979 classic science fiction horror Alien? You know the scene I'm referencing? The one where the crew, in celebration of John Hurt's character awakening from the coma, decide to have a feast before heading back to cryosleep for the remainder of the journey home? That was the moment the alien decided to make its grand appearance, breaking through his chest from the inside. That's what I imagined happening to me. My recovery would take six weeks and let me tell you here, that was the first and only time I sneezed during that time. If I felt a sneeze coming, I held my breath; I buried my face in a pillow; I did whatever I could to defuse it from happening. That's how badly it hurt.

The remainder of the week was pretty much the same. I took the walker for a spin as often as I could until I felt I no longer needed it. I was no longer hearing music in my head and my blood-oxygen levels were improving. My incisions (those on my chest, stomach, and leg) were healing nicely with no evidence of inflammation or infection.

They admitted me on Sunday, April 7th and released me the following Sunday; April 14th. I was ready to go home!

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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