The Day After My Dad’s Open-Heart Surgery

14 Jun

The whole family was at the hospital all day yesterday. We took advantage of the ICU Family Lounge, which has cushioned seats and recliners; we each took a nap at some point. The lounge also has a phone for nurses to contact family members, so we waited for phone calls giving us updates throughout the day.

9:35 AM: My brother just left the hospital for his flight back to Phoenix. He considered postponing it for one day, but when I asked about it this morning, he said the rental car company has severe penalties for turning in cars late. In hindsight, maybe I should have offered to drive him. But he hopes to visit again in July.

Right now I’m the only one in the room with my dad. He’s calmed down enough to no longer thrash, except once in a while. But he slipped off his mask and keeps trying to talk. I asked if he can talk, and he nodded, but he repeatedly cleared his throat and moaned rather than speaking coherently. Usually he talks constantly. Every time I slip the mask back on, he pulls it back down and tries to speak. He’s still drugged enough that he keeps seemingly falling asleep for a minute, before his eyes become slits and then open up. Sometimes he opens his eyes wide, and they look quite unfocused.

4 PM: My dad is still pretty out of it, drugged, and in pain. He’s rather ADD, so it’s not entirely surprising that he thrashed around last night (while he still had a tube in his mouth) and even a bit this morning.

Shortly after my brother departed, my dad started talking somewhat coherently, though that wasn’t until after a couple of nurses came in and removed the mask. It was a plastic mask, attached to a long plastic tube. The nurses also shifted him up, because he’s fidgety and keeps sliding downward in the hospital bed.

My dad was able to say things like, “Ah, man,” and, “Dang it.” He eventually said, “Dehydrated,” so I stepped out into the hallway and told a nurse and asked if he was hooked up to an IV or something, and she confirmed that he was. He repeatedly groaned about being in pain. When he coughed, he said, “That hurts.” That makes sense, because he has a sore throat; I remember having a sore throat after my appendectomy, because of the anesthetic that goes down the throat.

It was particularly disturbing when he said, “Help me.” I couldn’t make his pain magically go away.

While a couple of nurses were in the room, they explained that when he says he’s dehydrated, what he means is that his lips are dry. And when he says, “I can’t breathe,” he means he can’t breathe as deeply as he normally does, and it hurts when he breathes. A nurse brought him ice water and fed it to him through a straw.

I stayed in my dad’s room until about 11:30, when I went to the family lounge for a nap. When I woke, my sister was there, and we visited Dad again for a few minutes, until visiting hours ended at 2 pm. Probably due to a fresh batch of painkillers, he was less coherent, and his mouth was dry, so my sister gave him a few sips of the ice water that a nurse had left in the room. Visiting hours begin again at 5 pm, until 8, so we’re all (my mother, my sister, and I) are returning this evening.

Before the surgery, my dad said he’d spend a day or two in the Intensive Care Unit before transferring to a regular hospital room, but I rather suspect he’ll spend a couple more days in the ICU, under the circumstances.

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