It has been about seven weeks now since my seventy-seven year old mother had triple bypass surgery and six weeks prior to that she had the carotid artery in her neck cleaned out. She was just barely getting back to herself after the first surgery. The surgeon says it works best if you do the surgeries back to back and since he is one of the top surgeons in our area we said okay.
When you go to pre-surgery screenings and blood tests, etc. they make you sign your life away, literally. You have to sign off that you understand what all the worse case scenarios are and how this could all possibly go wrong. That is enough to scare the bajeebees out of you and you have not even made it into surgery yet. I, of course, went with mom and did my best to explain everything because it seems that nurses and doctors have a hard time dumbing down their language to meet the needs of the patients. Though I did discover that understanding it does not make it better, in fact it is terrifying. But what chose to you have when they say your arteries are all blocked up over eighty or more percent?
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The doctors and surgeons do tell you beforehand that you will be very tired and it will take time to get back to a normal routine. There are a lot of things they do not mention before and after surgery about recovery. I am guessing they do not want to tell you all the post surgery situations that may come up in case you are mentally susceptible to suggestion.
My mom has done fine in regards to physically healing from the two surgeries but surgery has opened up a whole new world of problems that never existed before in mom. First she started having trouble with her hip with a lot of pain, making it hard for her to walk. She did not have that problem before surgery. She is nauseated all the time now and we (meaning my daughter and I) have been trying to determine if it is one of the several new medications she is on. We have tried to divide up the pills after each meal so she will not get nauseated but then we ran into a whole other problem. Nothing tastes good and she is not interested in eating. She barely eats, she does not want to talk on the phone, or go anywhere.
Okay, so now we figured out we were dealing with depression issues, along with the anesthesia after effects. I was told that things taste differently because of anesthesia sometimes. Oh boy. So now, even though she is recovering well from the open heart and carotid artery we have multiple other issues to deal with. And it does not help that she is on Medicare and a supplemental insurance and each and every time she needs to see her heart doctor, orthopedic, etc. then we have to get a referral from her general doctor. And to make things even more complicated I just called the general doctor to ask him if he could give her something for the mucus that she is starting to get in her throat and the acid reflex and they say we have to come in. She has been there twice in the last two months and I am taking her to two doctors tomorrow already.
I know I sound like a major complainer but I am trying to show you the ordeal you have to go through after surgery, even though you are healing well from the primary cause. Now I know she is seventy-seven and things may be worse on her than a younger person. But I also had various surgeries of my own when I was forty-five through about fifty after an automobile accident that was pretty serious. I too went through some serious depression, the loss of desire for food, and most of the same symptoms as mom.
Please do not get me wrong, I am very thankful for the doctors and surgeons that keep us alive and well. I know that these symptoms are not any fault of theirs but they are real and can cause more problems than the surgery itself. And if you are alone in this world like so many people are and especially if you are elderly and alone without the close personal care of someone who loves you these added health issues can be deadly.
I have been thinking lately about all the things our family has had to do for mom and how much encouragement she needs. We have a lot of family members who really care and they do their best to help out and encourage. For the caregiver, who in this case is me, it can be very stressful and tiring. If you are not a trained professional in the medical field you do not know what to do next sometimes. It seems like you are on the phone with doctors or nurses on a regular basis. Mom, half the time, does not even know what is wrong. She just does not feel good.
It is especially hard on those who, like my mother, have only had one other much more minor surgery in her life. She is rarely sick and can work a young person under the table. Why, just the week before we found out she needed all this surgery she was at her seventy year old sisters house cutting down a large tree with a chain saw. So you see we are not talking about a frail little old lady, she was functioning better than I am at fifty-six before these surgeries.
I was actually wondering what we were going to do with her once she had these blockages removed because I figured she would be climbing the trees and up fixing the shingles on the roof after they got her fixed up. Now I am wondering where that woman, that strong momma of mine went and how I can get her back. Yes they have put her on anti-depressants and all the doctors say she is healing well from the surgeries. If all of these ailments stem from depression then how in the world do you help?
I am doing my best to take her to all the doctors related to her problems so that I can find out what can be helped and what just needs time. Her general practitioner told her that the problem with her hip was a muscle and gave her a shot and some meds but it has persisted. I took her back twice to him and finally asked if they would please give me a referral to an orthopedic so that we can be sure and that she will be reassured that everything is being done that can be. I know from my personal recovery that it is very important to get that reassurance. A lot of what you are experiencing is fear and anxiety, who wouldn’t? Surgery shocks your body, your mind, and your spirit and not only that but stays in the hospital with the revolving doors of nurses, techs, doctors, etc. does not help.
I recall from the several months I spent in the hospital that even the smell of the covered trays of food would make me nauseated before I even opened them! The countless bottles of Ensure that they were bringing to me did not help, as a matter of fact most of them ended up in the trash, in the side table drawers, or smuggled out by good-meaning friends that were trying to save me.
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The emotional trauma that comes with surgery is often times much more difficult to overcome than the surgery itself. Keep this in mind when you are helping someone to recover. It is hard because sometimes you just want to scream and tell them they are fine and it is all in their minds. My accident was pretty traumatic and I also had some other major life events happen at the same time. I tell you this because it took me about ten years to get over all of the after surgery depression and recovery. This concerns me greatly and I am praying that the Lord heals my mom much more quickly than that because she is seventy-seven and I really want my momma back. It takes a lot of love, patience, and understanding but by God’s great grace there is hope.