You And Your Family
I have covered most of the YOU part of dealing with it in the previous section (Being Diagnosed). All I can say upfront is, positivity is like a DRUG. A great drug that you yourself can inject into your body, your mind, your sole. It’s an awesome mix of adrenaline, fear and absolute faith in yourself, your doctor and the human spirit.
Again, I know this is not always easy. Some people are diagnosed with horrible things, with bleak outlooks and chances. BUT nothing is final until it is final. The human mind is a Fantastic thing. Please read “Its not about the bike” by Lance Armstrong.
This guy seemed to accomplish a miracle. OR was it the accomplishment of something that anyone could do with the power of the mind. The doctors gave him a 10% chance of survival, if that. He beat cancer 3 times, and has gone on to win the Tour de France three times.
Although you may be the one diagnosed, your family often suffers, mentally, more than you. My dad had 2 by passes and then died of a heart attack. I know how it affects a family, when a member is diagnosed and goes for surgery.
As teenagers we were scared for our dad. The reality of the mortality of your parents hits home. Bypasses nowadays are not as much of a worry as 15 years ago, but it is still an event that sends ripples through a family. Take the good from this experience. Learn and teach, about health. Eating properly, exercise, no smoking etc. It is a great time to teach kids and youngsters about why your health is the most important thing you will ever have. Moms/Dads and partners are the worst hit. This is a time of first, absolute shock, then dealing with it and their partner or sibling, then waiting for the result of the op, dealing with a grumpy, moody patient, and having to nurse this person for a good few weeks.
As a Partner or Parent. All you can do is encourage, help, and mentally prepare your loved one for the op. Be positive. Even your slight negativity will rub off on the patient. They should not have to deal with having to worry about you. They need to focus fully on themselves and their positive recovery. Help in any way you can. Often they will need someone to just talk to. Be there and be positive. When he or she is in ICU, expect to see them at their worst. Don’t let it show on your face. Prepare yourself for a pale sickly grey person with tubes and lines protruding from all parts of their body. He or she, will be heavily drugged, but will be fully compos-mentis. Although many of the things they say or do will not be remembered by them at all. So take all strange or annoying behavior with a pinch of salt. Sometimes patients (specially older ones) lose their minds a bit. They are incredibly disorientated, and may act VERY strangely. This wears of day by day, and after day 3 or 4 they should be returning to them selves again, though this can take longer.
Once home, you will need to nurse your patient. Chat to their doctors and nurses before hand, and find out how best you can help them. Recovery can be a slow process. Walking is great for the recovering patient, their body, mind and sole. Walk a lot! Eat well, eat healthily. Its time to rethink and re-look at your life. I think you will find you the patient will naturally be more aware of what you are putting into your body. Go easy on the alcohol, specially at first. And NO more smoking!
The first week will be difficult. Lots of moods, highs and lows. The excitement of leaving hospital soon wears off, and the boredom of being stuck at home creeps in. Have friends over to visit, but do not go out much in the first couple of weeks. You do not want to be bumped in the chest, or pick up a virus or cold etc. while your still so fragile. REST is very important. Sleep as much as possible! You may feel pain around the ribs and sternum area, this is natural. Everything was moved and reset after the op. Sleeping pills may help if you are battling to sleep because of discomfort and pain. Speak to your doctor.
You may feel temperature fluctuations, loss of taste, smell and other senses. Don’t panic, everyone is different and may feel different senses and emotions. Don’t let yourself become rundown! This is a fantastic time to rest and take stock of you and your life. Lean on friends for support, contact support groups (ask your doctor), sees the net, or e-mail me. There is a great book I can recommend, which will help you both before and after the op. Coping with Heart Surgery and Bypassing Depression.
To order, send me an e-mail.
Your sternum will heal after 5 to 6 weeks. It will be strong again after 3 –4 months, don’t rush this period. Have a 3-month check up with your cardiologist, and let them decide what you can and cant do.
After this it’s up to you. Mail me for anymore info.
GOOD LUCK and ENJOY!