Saturday, March 19, 2016

CABG – A New Acronym In My Life

I hesitated writing this post because my blog is supposed to be about our adventures in the Cougar, not other stuff.

But the cougar is in its den for much longer than I desire because CABG has entered my life.

When I woke up on 12 Feb 2016, Michelle and our daughter Tricia who came from North Carolina to be with Michelle during this adventure were waiting for me. They looked like they had been dragged through a wringer; I'm sure I looked much worse. I had just emerged from Triple Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG). CABG is a type of surgery. A vein from my leg was used to bypass the three blocked coronary arteries and improve blood flow to my heart.

After returning from our Christmas visit to Denver, I underwent a series of tests, over a period of several weeks, looking for an explanation for several episodes of dizziness I had experienced. The last test was a heart catheterization that revealed I should be dead (I exaggerate – just a little). Then things moved very fast. The cardiologist contacted a surgeon who rearranged his schedule for the next day, and suddenly I was in the hospital. I interviewed this surgeon for about ten minutes, found out he is a Drexel University grad (my alma mater) and decided to let him cut my chest open. How's that for rigorous comparison shopping?

What followed was five days in the hospital, two weeks in a rehabilitation hospital, then home rehabilitation with a visiting nurse and a visiting physical therapist. All of this for surgery healing rehabilitation.
I got to be best friends with my little heart pillow

I learned a lot about and practiced "Sternum Precautions." Those are behavior modifications necessary while the chest bone, which has been wired back together, heals. Everything from sitting down and getting up from a chair to dressing and undressing – all designed to avoid stretching the wires holding the sternum together. Wrapping my arms around my heart pillow whenever I coughed, sneezed, got up, or sat down both protected my chest and kept my arms occupied so I couldn't use them to push, pull, or lift.

My care at the hospital (Holmes Regional Medical Center, Melbourne, FL) and the rehab center (Sea Pines Rehabilitation Hospital) was excellent. I can't thank those folks enough.

Holmes Regional Medical Center, Melbourne, FL

The staff at Holmes had me up and walking the day after surgery. Otherwise, it was like any other hospital stay – a hospital gown that destroys all modesty; needles, pills, and vital signs every two hours 24/7; trying to pee lying down in bed; and meals made tasteless by anasthesia residue.

Sea Pines Rehabilitation Hospital, Melbourne, FL

My time at Sea Pines was better, probably because I was better. I had physical therapy twice a day (two, one hour sessions) where I exercised to protect muscle tone while not endangering the chest incision. I also had one hour per day of occupational therapy where I learned and practiced all the sternum precautions necessary to get through my healing period without damaging the chest repair work – much more to that than you might imagine. They have a practice bathroom and toward the end, I practiced getting into and out of my truck without using my arms. Boy, was that fun. Although I was up and about and had my laptop with me, for the most part, I could not get motivated to do anything. So what I was counting on for boredom relief didn't work. Reading helped a little.

I came home on 02 March – day 19 and was put under the supervision of a Visiting Nurse and Physical Therapist, who each came twice a week. I also had a remote unit for reading Blood Oxygen, Blood Pressure, and Weight. So every morning I had to sit down with this thing and go through a ritual of collecting data and transmitting it to a data center, who in turn transmitted to my doctor. Each session included a lecture on some phase of cardiac healthcare taught by the same lovely lady who inhabits your GPS and gives you verbal instructions on how to get lost on the highway. During this period, I slept in a recliner. Medication forced several trips to the bathroom during the night and getting in and out of bed was just too much work. I was still restricted to sleeping on my back. That was much easier to do in the recliner.

The surgeon released me on 09 March – day 26. That was a major victory for me because I was cleared to sleep on my side and no longer restricted to sleeping on my back.

Able to concentrate more, I got back to work on my new website. That is now up and running, but there is still a lot of work to do on it. You can see it at

We also have a subscription to Netflix, and we have been binge-watching "House of Cards". It took several evenings to get through season 1. That is where we are now. We'll start with season 2 soon.

Next week I go back under the care of the cardiologist for a program of heart rehabilitation. I don't know how long it will last, but I do know we will not be roaming the country this summer.

Through it all, my dear wife Michelle has borne the burden of being nurse, pharmacist, appointment scheduler, and overall patient guardian – traveling over 90 miles each day to do it. For that, she has my everlasting gratitude.

Another side of this situation is that the spring break visit by our grandson Joshua has to be postponed until summer. There is no way that Gramps is going to be able to navigate Disney World in March of 2016. We're rolling that back to June. That gave Michelle a big task of replanning and reticketing. I don't think we lost any money, but it was still a lot of work. I know Joshua is disappointed, and so are we. We are looking forward to his visit, and we'll try to make it an extra special adventure for him.

The bottom line is that I am doing well having finished surgery rehab and getting ready to start cardiac rehab. For excitement, I think I'll do our income taxes.