I just sneezed. No big deal, right?
Now try that with your sternum recently wired back together.
Coughing is excruciating, and laughing can be a roll on the floor crying.
But sneezing is sudden and explosive. The pain reverberates, crashing in your chest cavity, slamming your rearranged lungs into your redesigned heart. Probably some other organs too.
Walking is a painful challenge as I still have a fresh healing 14” wound/ scar on my left leg from the knee to the ankle. It generally gets a bit better as the day goes on. Mornings or middle of night situations feel as if I cannot put any weight on it. And it’s not because I am overdoing things.
So far, I am only hobbling from bed to chair, to couch to bathroom. Three times a day I try the hallway walk. Then I’ m exhausted again.
But every day a bit better.
What about nights?
Seventy percent of heart surgery patients experience sleep difficulties after surgery. In the hospital, my desire to sleep was compromised by the sounds of the guy in the bed next to me, his CPAP machine, a nice gurgling wave like noise, air going in and out with a mechanical pattern, punctuated with groans, swearing, big flappy farts etc.
One morning a guy down the hallway was screaming I CAN’T SEE!!!
Only to have the nurses tell him that he had strawberry jam on his nose.
One of the nights toward the end of stay in the hospital, I was trying to wean off the opioids. Around 9 pm the nurse came in to see if I had what I needed. I said I understood we were weaning, going from two morphine pils to zero was a bit a of jump. I was consumed with anxiety. It was like every cell was alive shouting me, me, me. She said they were too late to get the morphoids, and would I like to try a melatonin?
My inside voice screamed WHAT THE FUCK- what the fuck is a stupid over the counter “ natural” supplement going to do to help me with coming off the opioid dependency that they had facilitated?
My polite Canadian patient said instead, sure. Let me try. I need something.
I closed my eyes and the movies began.
Nonsensical never-ending, rapidly changing images.
As the hairdresser said, Who the gel knows.
Eyes closed, you are strapped in.
The wheezing of the CPAP. Gassy flaps, lights on. Lights off.
Crazed but boring, just plain exhausting images parade inside my eyes.
This dream is like a release of effluent. Not art. No memory of it, thank god,
Awake again about 90 minutes. What a fucking night.
Relentless. Boring. Painful, No Control or Relief.
At one point I shifted on the hospital bed and could no longer find the call buzzer.
Around six in the am, my feet were uncovered and freezing. The sheets were tied around me,
I grabbed one of the blankets and tried in a very weak and unsteady way to try to “ shake the sheet”.
What a stupid mistake! It was like a knife was stabbed in my back. Self inflicted jab to the left shoulder blade.
I lay back and should have done the adult manly version of crying. But instead, I was too exhausted and in too much pain now to even cry.
That was seven days ago, and my shoulder blade is still fucked and in pain.
So sleeping from home is definitely better. It took me about three days to find the right sleeping positions. First consideration is finding best position to breathe. Then the chest must be situated to allow not only for optimal breathing, but also for escape when being in that position no longer works.
Nothing is static in sleep. And don’t forget that the leg with the wound has yet to find a place where the wound is supported, but not touching too much.
As I said before, coughing or sneezing or laughing are all very painful. Now imagine how a full night of that lingers and intensifies, then just transfers to the next shift.
There is no zeroing.
However, there is sleep enhancement.
The little pill dissolving beneath your tongue.
This minor relief gives maybe 2-4 hours.
In the night shift, brief respite beats relentless.
And every day and every night is a bit better.