And it was all going so well...!
The medical team, while doing their usual checks, found a build up of fluid in my right lung. I was told this was quite common after major surgery and one of the ways to clear it is to simply cough it up.
So with bypass surgery I soon realized how connected all your tissue and muscles are, when I had to “simply” cough. The searing pain that follows starts with heat in my lungs that races to my throat, pulling my rib cage, raw tissue and muscles and the convulsion tugs at my stitched incisions.
My brain screamed,
Don’t do that again!
And my instinct at that point was to stop.
Unfortunately the fluid build up, together with weak lungs, can lead to pneumonia I was told, and then could cause serious issues for me so soon after major surgery.
So that was to be my target for the hours and days coming up.
I need to clear my lungs as soon as possible.
I now have a 4am X-ray added to my medical routine. I realized later that they were also checking the fluid on my lungs.
The benefit of being in intensive care is that everything comes to you. So I didn’t have to leave my bed to have the scan as the radiology team brought a mobile unit to my bedside in the dark.
I had to sit upright for the X-ray to work. That is a problem for all the same reasons that coughing causes such severe pain. Each movement unless perfectly balanced sets my nerves on fire.
Crossing my arms across my chest I tried to sit up but could not quite get there but I was stuck mid-way...
Maybe it was because it was 4am
Maybe it was because that morning the X-Ray nurse didn’t know my condition or where my incisions were...
...but she grabbed my arm, hooked hers under my armpit until she had locked me up and then without warning she hauled me up the bed to sit upright. Meanwhile my ICU Nurse on the other side of me tried to keep up and I twisted adding to the pain. Then as my nerves and muscles started to relax, the ache started. Relentless, throbbing aching.
I know it needed to happen and it was impressive that the Nurse could move my dead weight in such a manner but a little explanation of what we were trying to do and it could have been easier. Believe me, I was better prepared for the following morning!
After multiple X-rays and the four hourly routine from the Nursing team, I had cleared some of the fluid on my lung but now it looked like the lung had partially collapsed. I was told that perhaps part of the area around the organ had been nicked by a scalpel during the operation.
They then started me on oxygen through a mask to see if the pure gas could help to inflate my lung. I was on oxygen for most of the day that followed.
The Nurse Practitioner and respiratory specialist came to see me later that day to say that they now suspected that I had an air pocket between my lung and my chest wall that was forcing the depression of my lung. The solution was to insert two tubes through my rib cage in to this trapped air and then to syringe it out from my cavity.
Within minutes I was sitting up in bed as they added some local freezing to my side, and then my inserted the tubing. I could sense a prodding inside as the tube was pushed further in.
There was pain but when you have pain everywhere and constantly, you mentally come to accept it. I was just glad I was then able to rest a while.
Getting out of bed
They want you out of bed and sitting up in order to get your body to adjust and locate everything that’s been moved around! Well that’s how they sold it to me!
So, three times a day for mealtimes is the regime and I was encouraged to take my first move to a chair next to the bed as part of my mobilization.
So now my adventure involves sitting up, moving my body connected to wires and tubes, shifting my leg, swollen with grafts to a standing position. The Nurses were there the whole time on both sides of me and I made it! The relief of getting out of bed and standing for the first time since “pre-op” countered all the other sensations of tubes, wires and stitches pulling at me.
And then it happened...
As I made the three steps to the chair and sat down, my ribs moved with my body as normal but the tubes in my side to my lung didn’t seem to follow. The pain in my side was excruciating. I was hyperventilating, each breath making it worse but my instinct was to breathe to calm down the pain.
“On a scale of 1-10, where would say the pain is?” The Nurse asked...
My head was screaming, “isn’t it obvious?!” But eventually I was able to say politely, “nine, nine out of ten.” I still don’t know why I didn’t just go all in call it a ten, it felt that bad!
It seemed like tens of minutes had passed before she calmly came back with a syringe. She inserted the pain killer in to the IV line in my neck and moments later my breathing was back under control and the pain stated to ease.
What a day.