One year ago….

I really wasn’t prepared…

Oh I thought I had taken all the precautions necessary for a major surgery.

As I stated previously, before the surgery I was quite literally in the best shape of my life! So surgery be damned, I wasn’t changing a thing! I continued eating right, kept myself in excellent shape, and continually tried focusing on the positive as opposed to dredging myself through self-doubt and inner despair.

I believe I even talked a really good game! Like a salesman expounding upon the virtues of a product! Telling those close enough to me to be in the know that the odds were in my favor. Building upon the very statistics I despised while regurgitating knowledge obtained from my surgeon. But let’s face it, at night I was a complete and at times uncontrollable mess.

Often times as I closed my eyes during a moment of peace or reflection; it looked like the end, it smelled like the end, it tasted like the end and that last tasting of my perceived reality was hard to swallow. Many times I’d walked this pathway as a proposed rock, the shoulder, the crutch, carrying the very same sorrows or concerns of my loved ones. Many times I had been told all the facts and how whatever the medical complication was it was a walk in the park. Yet too many times I sat and watched painfully as it all went to shit!

I tried to become prepared, I really did! Sending the two youngest off to their grandparents so they wouldn’t become a part of this hysterical medical machine. Hoping and praying they wouldn’t need to witness the aftermath of another parent in really bad shape post operation. Carefully my will was wrapped into a nice neat little package and distributed accordingly. The house and all the animals were in good hands, taken care of for the next month without worry. My bedroom had been remodeled in anticipation of my return complete with refrigerator, microwave and a lazy-boy recliner which sat you upright through an electric motor.  All of this necessary as I wouldn’t be allowed to come downstairs for two weeks at the earliest. This was due to the physical strain it would place upon my system post operation.

I was reminded constantly just how weak I would become, how hard it was going to be to breathe, how important it was to do respiratory therapy each and every day. The thought of being immobile, in need, a useless weakling that couldn’t care for himself, I could not bear yet I treated jokingly! I really began to believe those who struggled through these operations did so because they were old, out of shape, and didn’t care for their bodies which is what most likely landed them in this position in the first place. I know it was arrogance, but it was a façade I placed upon myself to help me believe I could accomplish this feat.  Nothing no matter how scared I really was could change the fact that I needed to believe, I needed to know I was coming back, and after all I had been through in life, there was no way I was abandoning my family now! I was strong!

Yeah about that….

I stared at the ceiling tiles that morning in the hallway. They rolled me inside one of the operating rooms, I remember the nurse being super nice. In a matter of minutes an I.V. was in place and my hands were strapped down behind me. I don’t even remember if I was told to count backwards. No laughter, no goodbyes or see you in a bit, no God Damn Van Halen! Yeah; no turning back now. Everything, my whole world simply faded quietly into black.

Waking up, well I don’t even remember the first time I woke up. Lyn’s said it was when they removed my intubation tube. (I just realized typing this my heart rate has doubled, maybe I am a little traumatized?)

This is what I remember from my 7 day stay in the hospital.

My chest hurt! Fuck it hurt! It hurt badly, but through modern chemistry and my desire to look tough in front of my girl (I failed miserably) I remember trudging through some pain that I probably shouldn’t have.

My stomach bloated with air continued to do so for several days. My abdomen hurt, it stretched and I went a few days longer than I should have before my intestines decided to awaken and resume operations. It was touch and go for a bit, and I never want to go through that miserable experience again either.

I had to walk during my physical therapy. The first day was next to impossible and I struggled with the fact that a few days prior I was this healthy strong man who could have run a marathon and now I couldn’t make it to the door of my room without wanting to collapse. Dizziness, nausea, the inability to breathe, wanting to vomit and full body weakness is what greeted me whenever I would stand.

On day two of physical therapy I got pissed at the therapist who kept telling me after ten or twelve steps I needed to lean against the wall! Several times I would explain that we didn’t need to stop, yet she would order me to the wall citing it was in my best interest. Fuck that! I walked off on her and did the circle around the whole quad as a giant F-U! She left and I collapsed in bed exhausted having gone far beyond my capabilities. But I did it and it was a win for my mental wellbeing.

A female night nurse who kept calling me “papi” drove me completely bonkers. How you feeling papi? You need pain meds papi? You want me to get you more pain meds papi? Then as if I didn’t have a say, she would dose me up like a stone cold heroin addict! Oh yeah, she dosed me up so bad one night I thought I was going to die. My morning nurse Andrew after talking with Lyns recognized what was happening and saved my ass! He was my favorite of all the nurses who cared for me. Of course Lyn’s figured out the crazy night nurses game and was all up in her shit about her improper patient care! I never wanted to see that woman again.

I wish Andrew could have been my primary nurse the entire duration of my stay. He understood every minute aspect of my condition and adjusted shit accordingly. I felt safe when he was around and more importantly so did Lyn’s. There was also a nurse near the end of my stay named Chelsea. She was amazing and I felt safe when she was around as well. There is something to be said about nurses that know and love their job. They make a difference every single day.

I learned that I am 100% a horrible patient! The very worst! You know the kind that throw it in you face with statements like; I know myself better than you, you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do! Yeah I was that guy! But I think that behavior as far as I am concerned arises from having been a care giver to others. Strange I know, but truthful none the less for you see we as caregivers have a standard set in our heads and expect the very same in return, but quickly you learn that the work world you live in is yours and yours alone. It is not how the rest of the world operates and others standards which may or may not be less, equal or superior to your own are theirs and they surely would believe your level of caregiving was most likely inadequate.

I learned the importance of letting new people inside my life. Lyn’s was there for me from day one. She never wavered, she took time off work to care for me, she took it upon herself to ensure my care was top notch all the time and she never left the hospital! Not once, not one moment, not one second, anytime I looked to my right, she was always there with a tired, worn out sleepy smile. If I moved she was at my side seeing if I needed anything. She cheered me on when I struggled and cheered for me even louder when I succeeded. She celebrated my stubbornness and never let me forget the reasons I was still alive. I will forever be grateful for the love and compassion she showed me along the way.  She taught me a term that we use between us to this day.

Every day, every way..

I also learned that true friends are just that, true. Those that learned of my operation later on weren’t offended for me keeping it to a tight nit group. Those who knew, kept the lid quiet and my recovery was peaceful. It was a time of renewal for me and my inner circle, a time of growth as people became closer and new people entered my life. It was a time to stop and see things differently. No longer always on the go as fast as I could helping, caring and worrying about others. No longer hearing alarms several times in the middle of the night, running calls at midnight, 1, 2, 2:30 and 4 am. Barley getting sleep some nights while getting 3-4 hours another. It was time to stop and be thankful I was in fact still alive.

No matter the pain, no matter how hard it was to do simple things, I always reflected, learned and did my best to thankful. Like walking from the recliner I slept in for two months to the bathroom. I hated sleeping there, but the reality was I couldn’t lay flat, I was lucky to have it, and I could have been in the hospital but I wasn’t, I was home. Or needing to breathe into a stupid fucking tube for respiratory therapy! God I hated that stupid fucking tube, but the reality was I needed to for my lungs to get stronger, to help keep pneumonia away and the sooner I reached certain goals the sooner I would begin to grow stronger. To simply being able to eat more than a spoonful of food. That was indeed a hard one, but I did, even when I didn’t want too and after depleting myself to a gaunt 158 pounds it didn’t take long to return to 205. Staring at the wall, not moving much, watching movies and healing was my new pastime. It was boring, I don’t do well sitting still, but I did it and was thankful to still be alive.

It has been a long hard road over this last year and Sunday the 28th was my one year mark, my new birthday. I still am nowhere near 100%! Oh like I stated, the weight is back on and I am much stronger, but my heart still jumps to 120 bpm for no reason at times, and I still have episodes of A-fib when startled. I can only do a challenging task for a little while and then I need a couple hour break, I also can no longer take the heat. If it hits the 90’s and up I get a little nauseous.  I can sit in it, I have done a little fishing on hotter days, but for the most part I get really tired and it feels hard to breathe.

But all of that aside, I am here still. One year later. Still breathing, still kicking, still ornery and still able to witness my children’s lives. I don’t know what the future holds. I miss my station, I miss my crew, and yes even though it was beginning to wear thin, I miss the calls, the excitement, and the ability to help another human being during the toughest moment of their lives.

I’m still scared.

There are so many variables with this operation in my case. I could be back on the table in a year or five or ten? Nobody knows. But the one thing they all know is that it will happen eventually and I will need to go through this all over again. The key to my life right now is no stress. Stress places a greater chance the valve will be replaced sooner than it needs too.

Have they not met me???? I am nothing but a ball of stress!!!!!! All the God Damn Fucking Time!!!!!!

Phew… Deep breath… Good air in, bad air out…….

The aneurysm repair so far shows it was done flawlessly! That brings great peace of mind. But that damn valve repair will haunt me forever. I am on baby aspirin every day to prevent clotting right now. Terrified to go on blood thinners, yet it is a very real possibility that I need to live with.

So we move forward. Like I always say; get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, stand up, and always take that all important step forward. Don’t sit back down, don’t cry over your bullshit, just square up those shoulders and move.

Life is to short and regardless of what you are bombarded with daily on television, or Facebook or from some of your weaker minded friends, to damn beautiful to do anything else but enjoy.

If you don’t believe me, do like I do and get up at 5:30 am to watch the sunrise. I promise, you’ll be thankful you are still here as well.

7 thoughts on “One year ago….

  1. Wow. Just wow. Thank you for continuing to share your story, James. If nothing else I can do, I will pray for you. Praying for peace, NO STRESS, and for a touch from God to restore your body.
    Keep hanging in there and enjoy each day 🙂

    Like

  2. Happy 1 year anniversary James!! Happy you are still around😊. Miss you and sending you my love. Heather RN

    Like

  3. You never cease to amaze me. You are an amazing person and an incredible writer.

    Thank you for sharing this intimate story with us and thank the Lord for Lyns!!

    Like

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