Looking back: Day before and day of surgery

As planned, we left quite early on September 11, 2012 for California and were nearly halfway there by the time the sun came up. We had pre-op appointments at the surgeon’s office including ultrasound of my carotid arteries and vitals. We also talked to the PA who explained the process and that I would leave the hospital with a 30 day supply of beta blockers and a 10 day supply of diuretics. He talked about follow up appointments and limitations following the surgery. Then we were off to the hospital.

We filled out paperwork, labs were drawn, xrays taken, and an EKG. They put a hospital band on my wrist that was not to be removed as it indicated the codes for typing and crossing of my blood. They also explained the preoperative cleansing process (more about this shortly). I had read all of the literature on my surgeon’s website and knew that someone was supposed to have given me mouthwash – I had no idea what it was for, but knew that I was supposed to have it. The hospital told me they did not dispense it and we ended up driving an hour roundtrip back to the surgeon’s office to retrieve the mouthwash. They explained that the mouthwash was to be used to help prevent pneumonia. While there, I decided to ask – what could they say? I wanted to know if I could have a couple of glasses of wine the night before surgery to calm me down. The nurse told me that I could certainly have 2 or 3.

Once all of this was done, we were off to find our hotel. This was no easy feat despite my planning and maps. Nonetheless, we finally arrived and checked in. By this time, I was starting to realize just how nervous I was. After some attempts to coordinate dinner, my boyfriend escorted me down to happy hour where I got a glass of wine and sat near the pool while he finalized the plans. We were then off to pick up my dad and stepmom and then to dinner. While my food was not as good as I had hoped, the wine and company were wonderful. And my dad and stepmom brought gifts – my favorite was a heart jewelry set with matching necklace, bracelet, and earrings.

After dinner, we said goodnights and headed back to our hotel room. It was time for ‘cleansing routine number one’. I was to bathe and then to take a disinfectant cloth and scrub my chest for three minutes. Then I was to take the second cloth and wipe down the rest of my body. The nurse had warned me that this might cause itching and that I could lightly rinse. I was to then put on a clean ‘nightie’ (really? who wears nighties? I had to borrow a tee shirt from my boyfriend). Next, I was instructed to brush my teeth and then rinse my mouth for 30 seconds with the mouthwash. By the time I got into bed, the itching was horrible. Somehow I eventually dozed off and far too soon, the alarm went off. We had to be at the hospital at 0515 and I had to repeat the ‘cleansing routine’. This time it itched even more.

We arrived as ordered and found our way to the appointed waiting area. Before too long we were escorted back to pre-op where I gowned up and my vitals were taken. At this point I learned about shaving. My surgeon likes for his patients to be,  well, hairless. If you are not someone who attends to these types of things on your own, you are shaved by a nurse. I will leave that part a secret – sorry. People were in and out pretty quickly from this point on and before I knew it, my anesthesiologist was starting an IV and someone said he would be giving me some “happy juice”. It was all moving too fast and I wanted to just yell “stop!” I started to cry, my boyfriend kissed me and they started to wheel me out of the room. That’s all I remember.

The next thing I knew, I was in a room with what sounded like a waterfall (I later found out it was the oxygen humidifier) and they were explaining I would have to pass a few milestones and some time before they could extubate me. That seemed to go on forever. However, they did eventually remove the tube and I could breathe on my own. I had three visitors (I think) that night – my boyfriend, my dad, and my stepmom. I don’t remember what my dad said. I remember my stepmom talked about how well things had gone. But the thing I remember most clearly that evening was the visit from my boyfriend and two words (one from me in the form of a question and one from him in the form of an answer).

My question, in a whispered and weak voice…Valve? His answer…No. I don’t know whether my face smiled, but my heart and spirit smiled as wide as they could. I was so grateful that Dr. G. left my valve. There was no need to replace my wonderful bicuspid aortic valve.

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