My median sternotomy and thymectomy: Part III – Hospital, Day One

loadBinaryCAERMIFEThe first day was the hardest, as you might assume. It only took an hour or so to figure out that morphine was not the best drug for my pain – the relief was immediate, of course, but it wore off fast and hard. When I had my c-section I had a pump, but not this time. I was dependent on the nurses getting me the medicine asap when they had so many other people to look after. They switched me to pills fairly quickly. Slower to take effect, but long-lasting with a more gentle wearing off period.

Pain medication makes me queasy. Very queasy. Always has. Every time I called a nurse for my pain medication, I asked for toradol too. After a few oh-my-god-please-hurry emergency buzzes, they started to bring it automatically. Vomiting was just not going to happen.

Surprise #1: I was offered a meal immediately. I didn’t eat it. First, I was fighting to keep my stomach quiet from the pain medication. Second, I didn’t have an appetite at all. I didn’t expect to be allowed to eat that day at all (I don’t think anyone told me that, I just assumed), so this bit of normalcy was encouraging, even if it was unwanted.

My physical condition: I had three small bulb drains and one large chest drain attached to a bubbly thing on the ground (no, I’m not going to look up what it is called). The small drains sometimes got in the way when I moved around in bed, but weren’t uncomfortable. They had to occasionally be emptied. The large tube coming out of my chest was a different issue. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable either, but I could feel it move around inside my chest. If a nurse moved it or what it was attached to, I ended up with a very odd sensation. I did not appreciate it.

Aside from the drains, I still had a catheter (it was removed the next morning) and the compression devices on my legs. My incision was bandaged (I didn’t see it at all the first day) and I was wrapped up in a big compression bra that held everything together. It was only after I went home and removed this compression device that I realized how much it helped. Boobs are heavy and they pulled at the incision. So did my arms.

One unexpected problem – my back muscles were a mess. I have scoliosis, so the muscles in my back and upper body are often held in a delicate balance of tension that keeps me from great pain. When I’m overweight, my muscles are strained and uncomfortable. Well, apparently ripping open my chest didn’t help. Because of the problem with my back, I felt like I was surrounded in a big circle of pain. I couldn’t get a lot of relief – the medication didn’t help the back pain as much. I don’t think I was able to explain the extent of my pain to the nurses, because they never took it very seriously. Eventually, I managed to secure a heating pad and got a little relief. This extra pain made a couple of hours absolutely unbearable though.

Surprise #2: I found out later that afternoon that I was allowed to get up and walk around. Again, I didn’t expect this. And I didn’t get up either. I felt like I could barely move; I certainly wasn’t trying to get up yet.

I had to keep my upper body elevated – the flatter I got, the more intense the pain was. This caused me to slowly slip down in the bed. Typically, you would just scoot yourself back up and not think twice about it, but I couldn’t quite move that way yet. I wasn’t allowed to use my arms to do anything, so pushing myself up that way wasn’t an option. My abdominal muscles were angry. Very angry. And I wasn’t able to isolate them to help me do anything either. The eventual solution was to have the nurses help pull me back up in bed. This was helpful, but meant that they had to lay me as flat as I could go [ouch, pain] and then quickly pull the sheet back up with me on it [ouch, pain].

I was a mess. I was in pain. I was confused about what was going to happen next and nervous about the recovery period. My chest was still orange from the surgery. Overall, it was a rough day. I didn’t cry, but I did come close to breaking down a few times.


One comment

  1. This is so interesting to read. It gives me a new patient perspective on things since I am normally on the other side of things. BTW (not that you care) you had a chest tube (the chest drain with the bubbly thing) and I am guessing the others were JP drains.

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