Tuesday was a tough day. We followed up with the pulmonologist and he insisted that I would need to have a second thoracentesis. He stated that there was about half of a liter of fluid in the pleural area around my right lung and that he believed all of the liquid should be gone. I started to cry (this procedure really hurts and I am tired of medical procedures and pain). He was relatively insensitive to my tears and this further distressed me. However, we agreed that we would talk to my heart surgeon and see what he had to say. We already had our post surgery follow up appointment scheduled for Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay area.
I cried most of the way home and did not sleep well at all. I awakened yesterday in a very foul mood. Fortunately, my boyfriend understood even though there was really nothing he could do at the time. I even cried on and off for the first two hours of our trip to California. I felt so deflated and to be honest, hopeless. I have had so many roadblocks and so many obstacles in the past 14 months. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to get through one more.
We arrived in Redwood City and (as always) were very warmly greeted by one of the nurses in his office. This practice epitomizes exceptional patient care. We waited only a few minutes before moving to the exam room. When the doctor came in, he was his usual friendly, energetic self. He went straight to my scar, examined it and smiled widely. I may post a photo at some point – suffice to say that it is only about four inches and that the anesthesiologist said that the surgery was basically performed through a keyhole. He was so pleased with his work that he snapped a photo after spending some time trying to figure out how to work the camera on his phone.
We talked about the procedure and he informed us that I was only on the bypass machine for 36 minutes. He completed the entire aneurysm repair/replacement in 36 minutes! The rest of the time was opening me up and closing. Amazing.
Of course, our first concern was this whole second thoracentesis issue. We showed him the x-rays and he immediately assured us that to go in and remove such a small amount of fluid was unnecessary and he did not recommend it. He explained the body’s stress response and that the fluid in the pleural sacs fills and depletes each day. While I have some extra at this point, he believes it will take care of itself in time. As you can guess, I cried again – tears of relief, happiness, and exhaustion.
What else did we learn? As of yesterday, I can take baths again. I am a water person and to be deprived of baths (particularly when I am emotionally out of balance) is very difficult.
Why is my pulse so fast (used to be 60, now about 75)? Surgery is stressful, especially heart surgery. The body goes into fight or flight mode and stays there for a long time. While my blood pressure is normal, my pulse may not return to normal for quite some time. As I further considered this, it explains all sorts of other things including – no appetite, supercharged sense of smell, and extra sensitive skin.
For five weeks now, I have not been allowed to raise my elbows above my shoulders and was supposed to keep my hands in front of me. I am now cleared to move my arms in any way I want as long as I am pain free. “If it hurts, stop.”
The take home message for me, finally, was – You are now cleared to live the rest of your life – GO!
I plan to return to the gym tomorrow or sometime this weekend. I will drive (in the next few days) for the first time in more than 5 weeks. I have a hair appointment next week. And who knows, I should be back to work within the next two weeks. See my cheat meal post to really appreciate how I celebrated all of this.