As many of you know my dad survived two massive heart attacks last week. He had to have 3 stents put into two major arteries that were blocked in his heart. It was scary and unsettling to say the least. In my life I have always been the patient. I am the one with all the heart problems in my family. I know to expect the unexpected, and how to deal with my own illness. Dealing with someone else’s illness, especially someone so close to me, is a very different thing.
I found myself in new but somewhat familiar territory every time I walked into the hospital. The smells, sounds, and memories all flooded back to me and in a weird sense I felt like I was walking back into my old school days. Much of my life has been spent in hospitals and doctors’ offices. They don’t scare or unsettle me, but being there not because of me caused emotions in me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
For the first few days, I was numb. I went into survival mode and all emotions shut down. I was there to be a caregiver, so I did the best I could. I shared a lot of my own experiences with my mom and dad to help compare or confirm what he was feeling. I offered advice and comfort the best way I knew how. At one point the doctors were talking about the possibility of a bypass surgery for my dad. He asked me questions about how the chest was closed and how long it took me to recover from my open-heart surgeries. He was there for each one of my surgeries, but he either couldn’t remember or was just wanting to prepare himself for what might be coming. We chatted a lot about how he was feeling and thankfully he didn’t need a bypass surgery.
We also talked about his need to verbalize what he was feeling. He and I have a stubborn streak more connected to not wanting to bother or worry people, then not wanting people’s help. I encouraged him to talk about whatever he is feeling with mom and the doctor’s. He wasn’t sure what was a “big deal” and what was just his body healing. I told him it didn’t matter. The only one that knows how you feel is you and you HAVE to tell someone that so you can get the proper care. He has had the same talk with me. It was weird being the one to give that speech. It was also interesting (and kind of amusing) to see the parent/child double standard that exists. If it is happening to your child you will care for them the best you know how. If it is happening to you, you have tendency to wait until a better time, or when everyone else is taken care of.
On Friday, 4 days after the heart attacks, he was moved out of ICU and into a regular room. It was a great sigh of relief for all of us. He was getting better and moving forward towards a new future. We talked many times about how God had answered our prayers and the prayers of many others. It was amazing to watch in those hospital days how many people came out of the wood work to pray and help support my family. It was overwhelming to see how many lives my parents have touched. In a moment of morbidity I remember thinking, “Wow! His funeral would’ve been packed.” I’m SO grateful there was no funeral, and so proud of the love my parents have showed to everyone around them.
On Saturday, my emotions turned back on. I woke up crying. My husband said it was probably because I was distracting myself most of the week and because I was tired. He’s probably right…like always. The tears came and went all day. I was overwhelmed by the reality of almost losing my dad. I still can’t really wrap my brain around it. I don’t really like to even dwell on it. It was a productive day because I had to catch up on a bunch of stuff that got left through the week. I decided the best way to help my dad was to put together a care package to prepare him for his new life as a heart patient. It was quite a mind-blowing moment when on day three I mentioned he would now have a cardiologist of his very own. His eyes got real big as his said, “Really?” His life is going to change a lot now, so I did my best to prepare him. Listed below is what I put in the care package.
On Sunday, he woke up and told my mom, “I’m ready to go home.” He had been nervous about going home, and rightfully so, because he didn’t want something else to happen and end up right back at the hospital. After a long talk with the doctor he felt more comfortable and agreed he would sleep better in the comfort of his own home.
He’s been home three days and is doing well. He is having some side effects to some medications still, so he and his cardiologist are working on getting that all worked out. He will go back to see his cardiologist in a week or so, and start his new journey as a heart patient from there. I plan to be there for him as much as I can. I will pass on any knowledge I can to him about being a good heart patient. It’s always a one step at a time journey, but I know with all the support he has he will do well.
Thank you again for all the prayers love and support offered to my family through this unexpected journey. It means the world to all of us.
A medication organizer (He will now be on some daily medications for his heart)
Fish Oil pills (good for anyone to take; acts as a lubricant for the heart)
Tylenol (Ibuprofen is off limits once you’re on a blood thinner)
Twizzlers (a small pack. He’s favorite)
Fresh nuts (a healthy snack)
Gum (when you are snacky, but you are watching your weigh, gum helps)
Lotion (diuretics can leave you feeling dry. Lotion, chap stick, and water are vital)
A fold-able box (to help carry things home from the hospital)