Following on my previous blog yesterday, one year ago I had Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG or Cabbage), at the age of 40.
*The picture below is a back up kit I gave my Surgeon the night before the operation. Just in case.
I thought I would spend a moment discussing post surgery. I have had surgery before and never really gave it much thought. Knee surgery, shoulder surgery were all pretty routine. You realize very quickly that heart surgery is going to be different. It’s the real deal.
I want to preface, I had an incredible surgeon. He reminded me of a reliever who throws three strikes to win the World Series. Surgeons have one singular job to do, no emotion just performance. They do not pass judgement, they simply fix problems.
The obvious part is the actual surgery. The part you cannot prepare for is the mental side, the hours you spend analyzing your situation and the anxiety about the future.
The second you wake up you are physically being assaulted. This assault lasts until the hour before you leave the hospital. There is a lot of hardware that goes into opening up your chest and putting in some bypass grafts. It’s a four hour surgery and takes some time to dismantle. There are breathing tubes, drainage tubes, electric wiring, neck catheter, urinary catheter, IV in arm, cuts on leg from vein removal and a pretty large cut down the front of your chest that is wired together with platinum cable and then glued shut. Within a few hours of regaining your wits, it dawns on you that all this equipment needs to be removed before you get to go home.
There are drugs, strong ones; and at some point you are begging for them. I had a glorified vision that I wouldn’t need them… that was a mistake. The key is to medicate a little bit all the time versus my method of waiting until the pain was unbearable.
There are great moments also. Moments of levity that occur when you feel your worst. There is also the love that pours in from your family and friends.
Surviving surgery and getting home is the part you really have no control over. Your body can only heal at it’s own pace. The next few months are much harder and generally it has very little to do with the physical pain.
Guilt & Regret. There is a lot of time to think. A lot of time to consider the choices you made. A lot of time to place blame. I am a member of a number of support forums for cardiac surgery and a large number of survivors do not do well post operation. The depression levels are very high and there is a strong likelihood of picking up a pretty serious drug problem.
Your successful recovery is going to depend on your ability to have a plan. A course of action that will provide you with a blueprint to each day. It is your fall back point when you have a terrible day and there are many. It is a plan that offers hope but more importantly a cure.
This is the inflection point in your life that you make a choice to move forward in a positive fashion. To listen to your body and choose to put your health on the top of the priority list. It is a time to make big changes and respect the fact that you are still alive.
For those of us that had to find prevention after the surgery, my suggestion is to adopt a plan that promotes wellness. For me that plan was a Plant Based Diet. Do not underestimate the power of the simple act of replacing your animal protein with plant protein. It is insanely powerful, well before the physical affects take place, because it provides you with a path to the light.
Have a Plan.
And even when the reality of a situation is extremely negative, we can still have an outlook that views problems as challenges, with an orientation toward problem solving, striving for one’s goal, and being on the lookout for potential opportunities to bring about beneficial changes.
…. people who are optimists are more resilient. They emerge from their anguish more satisfied with life, more optimistic, more tranquil and likely more resilient – than before. Hope, Optimism and Resilience. Dalai Lama