Saturday, March 20, 2010

Part 2, the Journey

I think it was his second night in ICU. They took his oxygen off and put on his cpap. Sometime in the middle of the night, he woke up and couldn't breathe. His oxygen saturation had dropped and this was compounded by the fact that he had to lay flat on his back and he always sleeps on his side with the cpap. He couldn't roll to his side, he couldn't get up. He said he was gasping for air.

He panicked. He went into a major anxiety attack. He rang the call button. The nurses came and put him back on oxygen, but that fear he was in kept him awake all night long. He didn't call me because he didn't want to wake me up. I felt horrible when he told me the next day and made him promise to call me any time. We also arranged to have the phone put on his bedtray at night so he could call. I think it was day 4 that he decided to keep his iphone in his pocket. And he did use it to call me whenever I wasn't there. Once he got moved to the heart unit, he had a privat room and I could be there from 8 am to 8 pm. I think it's ok that they ask family to go home at night. I was able to keep up with my rest and he was resting knowing that I was taking care of myself.

Because of that incident, he stayed on oxygen for the next 5 days. I'm pretty sure he was scared to death to take it off. Even during the day when the nurses asked, he did not want to take it off. They slowly started lowering the amount he was getting and he realized in time what was happening and that he was breathing just fine.

I can't fathom the fear that he must have had. To be alone in a hospital room (thank goodness he was still in the ICU unit), have no one in the world with you, wake up from sleeping, and not be able to breathe. It must have been a horrible experience. He has talked about it a few times and said he never wanted to go through that again.

The next night was the longest. He called me several times and I knew he was afraid to go to sleep. I just kept reassuring him that he was back on oxygen and didn't have a thing to worry about. I'm sure that was easy for me to say and hard for him to accept.

On the upside of it, I think it made him a better patient. I think it made him listen to his own body a little harder. He said he didn't think he was ready for the cpap but they wanted him to try it. After that, he would say "no" to anything he didn't think he was ready for. So that is good.

Because he has spinal stenosis, walking was almost impossible. But he did so well. He did 300 feet the 3rd and 4th days, 4 times a day. I noticed that even with the oxygen while walking, if he started to get a little winded, he would turn around and head right back to his room. I know he was still afraid of not being able to breathe. I did many of the walks with him, counting steps. Some days were 400 ft, some were 100 ft. The staff was ever so supportive of him and encouraging with each little improvement. Since coming home, he has continued his walking - about 400 ft, 5 minutes, 4 times a day. Now, to a normal person, that might seem so minimal, but it is more than he has done in 3 years, so I think it's wonderful!

Ever stop to think about the fear of falling down while walking just after you've had open heart surgery? The Physical Therapist talked to us about that. And the fear of having a car wreck on the way home. I don't think I ever drove so slow in my life! LOL!!! And we are being pretty cautious about how he walks here at home.


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