Thursday, 6 April 2017

The coal face of life and life in the slow lane after open heart surgery.

It's six weeks to the the day since my last post on 23 February about my pre-open heart surgery visit to Nottingham City Hospital and how I was treated like royalty.

Well, I did have my op on Monday 27 February as planned and it is a case of so far so good. I can only describe the treatment and care I have received as faultless. I was in hospital for ten days and everyone, from the hospital cleaners and catering staff, to the nursing assistants, the nurses, the physios and the doctors were caring and supportive. I bonded with fellow patients and saw that not everyone shared my experience. Some, by their own admission, struggle to cope and place extra pressure on themselves and hospital staff. In such situations I noticed that it was some of the doctors who struggled to communicate. The cleaners and the nursing staff live closer to the coal face of life and continually worked at trying to make more anxious patients feel better.

The attention was relentless, from day one in the Intensive Care Unit after my operation, where I had one-to-one support, to the two days in the High Dependency ward, where I shared two nurses with another patient, then my eight days on the cardiac surgical ward, which had beds for 20 men and 4 women during my stay. I had my moments when the buzzers sounded and I found myself surrounded by staff being fitted with extra drips and other things I cannot remember with any certainty, but they all passed and the mantra of all staff was so true that I suspect I have been hard-wired with the words 'You will have good days and bad days' for the rest of my life.

The food passed muster with a little help from home and being directed by knowing fellow patients to the Afro-Caribbean, Halal and Kosher menus, and there was always vanilla ice cream! Most patients didn't wander far, sticking for the most part to their beds and bays. I was one of the wanderers, who used the dining room and a small sitting area to read and enjoy areas most patients said were 'cold', whereas I found the wards hot and stuffy.

I can honestly say that I have yet to suffer any pain or discomfort as a result of my operation, even when being fitted with drips or having tubes removed.

I found the whole experience amazing and overwhelming at the same time, but having reached nearly 73 without ever having an operation or a stay in hospital, it was a whole new world as far as I was concerned. Having a general anaesthetic was a whole new experience. There was no counting backwards, just chatting with the theatre staff is the last thing I remember, then hearing Susan's voice saying 'Hello Darling' and another lovely voice saying 'Hello, I'm Michelle'. Susan later told me it was another hour before I was really wake. Twelve hours of being nowhere. I have written a short piece about it, which I will place on my seniorfiction blog in ther next few days.

Probably what amazed me most was the fact that I met only two other men who were having planned open heart/by-pass surgery like myself. Everyone else had entered the system as an emergency, some having been in hospital since the new year and coming from as afar as Lincoln, Newark and Mansfield, whilst others were still in hospital weeks after their surgery for a variety of reasons. A few who had the op on the same day as me went out before me, but I did have the added problem of lung fibrosis.

Going home ten days after my op was great, but having been the subject of four hourly checks and a daily visit from doctors and nurses, who fine tuned my treatment and medication daily, to be suddenly on your own at home took some getting used to. Fortunately my GP practice (Derby Road Health Centre) picked me up and have been supporting me ever since and, as always, have been truly wonderful. I have en had visits at home from a NHS/British Heart Foundation community nurse and I have found her visits reassuring.

I have been at home now for four weeks and until Monday (this week) my worst problem has been night sweats. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they have now passed. The other big problem which hit me out of the blue was constipation, which I solved after three days with the help of a laxative bought from a Beeston chemist, but those three days were truly awful.

I have been pottering for the past two weeks, walking for a little longer each day and picking up on little chores around the house and having the odd few hours out. I've been to Staunton Harold for lunch and a walk last week, to Table 8 this week for lunch with a friend from Birmingham and yesterday I walked down Wollaton Road with a shopping basket and visit Hallams and sainsbury's before catching an L10 bus back up Wollaton Road.

I have been making bread for a couple of weeks now and helping with little chores, even cooking my favourite meal last Saturday — poached eggs on toast! Sometime this has left me tired because it is easy to forget how a string of little tasks ends up being comparable to one large task I would not even think about yet.

I have to pace myself and have still over two weeks to go before I return to the City Hospital for tests and an x-ray to see how well I am progressing. It will be May before my six week cardiac re-hab program begins — which is a good measure in itself of how long and slow open heart surgery recovery takes.  If I am lucky, I may get to play some lawn bowls in Broadgate Park this coming July and I may just manage to plant some runner beans.

In the meantime, I have some things I can begin doing on my computer and posting to this blog, so watch this space over coming days. Before I signed off in February I was a little pre-occupied with a dispute I had with Broxtowe Borough Council over being refused access to data about council tax exempt properties in the borough. I came home to fid this email on my computer:

I replied to Sue Rodden that there was no rush, as I was recovering from open heart surgery, but I have now asked for the data, so watch this space.

March really did pass me by. How I would have managed without Susan I do not know. Family and friends have been attentive and supportive and part of the process has been reassuring them as well as myself. Ordinary people are extraordinary and I could write a book about the people I met in the City Hospital during my ten day stay. So many wonderful people. A bit like Beeston, a real home from home.

I'm not sure how informative this blog post has been, but I am glad that I am here to write it!


  1. Very informative - thanks for sharing.
    Hope you get your strength back quickly.

  2. My mother had a triple bypass there a few years ago, the new cardiac centre - as it was then - was excellent for her too, and I'm glad your procedure went well