Thursday, March 22, 2012

Take Heart

Dad and I sharing a beater back in the day.

I don't even know what to say about the past couple of weeks. I'm in a post-shocked, nearly normal state by now, I suppose - 

My dad had open heart surgery - a triple bypass - which was an unexpected situation for him and the rest of the family to find ourselves in. It all started with a calcium test, which my dad took after his best friend had one. My dad's friend's results were not so great, so he encouraged my dad to get the same test done. And thank goodness. The calcium test led to an angiogram, which showed MAJOR blockages in the arteries of my dad's heart. Based on what they saw, my dad's doctors decided the best course of action was bypass surgery. A stent wasn't going to cut it. Heart surgery was scheduled for the day after my dad's angiogram. The lucky thing is that my dad came into the hospital with a healthy heart, rather than one damaged during a heart attack, but you know things are aren't looking too hot when the doctors want to move that fast. My dad checked in to the hospital, and we hung out in his room all evening. Apparently, Dad slept just fine that night. I, however, slept terribly! My back hurt. I couldn't get comfortable. I had chest pains and difficulty inhaling. At the time, I thought I was having sympathy pains. Now, I'm pretty sure I was manifesting the panic I was feeling. Thank goodness we only had to wait one night for dad's surgery.

Although bypass surgery is very common in the US (implying, as a nurse told us, both the American lifestyle and lifespan), it isn't common when it comes to your own father. It is terrifying to imagine your dad's rib cage being opened and his heart being stopped. Even though most people's hearts start again, you wonder if your dad's will. It did. Thank God.

During the surgery itself, I wasn't nearly as panicked or frightened as I had expected. At some point, it's not worth the internal drama. It fades, and the reality of the moment, the being in the moment, takes over. What needs to be done will be done. What is going to happen is going to happen. I had to trust in the professionals and acknowledge the fact that I cannot control everything. That is incredibly difficult for me. It is also nearly impossible for me to not visualize the worst outcome possible in any situation. It's not that I expect the worst, I just worry about it, probably because I don't want to lose what I hold dear. That possibly explains the darkness I have within - my sometimes morbid preoccupations with death, illness, and other inevitables in this world that will someday touch me and the people I love. Luckily, though, the darkness did not set in on the day of surgery. I felt calm - emotional, but calm. The nurses, the surgeon, even the housekeeper, made us feel really positive about the surgery. When everyone around you believes in a positive outcome, so do you.

Before surgery, each time the nurses or technicians asked why Dad was in the hospital (because they ask again and again what you are there for, so as not to confuse you with another patient and to make sure the patient is not confused), he would say, "Well, they're going to crack me open..." My dad is a really good patient. He always faces surgery with humor and kindness. I don't know how he does it, but I hope I can be that kind of patient if the time ever comes. I was scared, and I wasn't even facing surgery! Having a good disposition towards those who care for you and a fear-combating sense of humor have got to offer a protective shield.

Dad has been home for over a week now and is doing well. He was in the hospital for five days, which is typical after bypass surgery. Going through such an intense surgery weakens a person's body. However, from all that I've heard, Dad will be like a new man once he heals. He'll be getting better blood flow and more oxygen. He will feel more energetic than he has felt in years. Bypass surgery is amazing! Watch out, Dad, I can think of several woodworking projects I need your help with!!

Have you or a loved one had an unexpected hospital stay or medical procedure? How did you get through it?

Alison :)


  1. YEAH HE'S HOME! Glad to hear he's recouping well. It's good to remember to keep our hearts healthy since we're still youngish.

    1. Thanks, Amanda. You are so right. It's really making me reevaluate my habits, especially since both my grandparents (my dad's mom and dad) had heart attacks on top of my dad needing bypass surgery.


      P.S. Let's not add the -ish to young yet!! ;)

  2. I am so glad your dad is home and doing well!!
    My dad has had heart problems, bypasses and surgeries since he had a heart attack when I was 8, so I'm a little too familiar with what you are going through. It's wonderful to hear that your dad is a good patient, as it makes a huge difference. Medical technology is amazing these days and you are right that your dad will feel like a new man once he recovers, especially since his problem was caught before a heart attack damaged his heart. So lucky!!
    I hope that he continues to have a speedy and good recovery. I'll be thinking of him, and of you.

  3. Thanks, Abigail. I really appreciate that. Several of my friends have gone through similar situations with their parents, and I find it really comforting to hear that their parents have pulled through. Of course, I wish your dad the best - and you, too! It's so nice to hear from you!!