Ignoring the bad (cough. VERY bad) accent, Keanu Reaves’ character Jonathan Harkar describes his apparent state of mind while visiting Count Dracula in his castle:
Doctor, you must understand, I doubted everything! Including my mind! I was impotent with fear!
As though I am the bad (English?) accented Jonathan Harker speaking to my own benevolent doctor (if anyone on my medical team is reading this I will leave it to you to decide to which of my doctors I am referring. hmmm.) I can draw parallels to this fear when thinking of my own state of mind at several moments while in hospital. The fear is ever-present. It never really leaves. You just have to breathe it in and let it go. Before I figured this out though, through many of these moments, my fear could have crippled me. There was really only one moment throughout my
ordeal vacation where I felt especially impotent – and this was right before my LVAD surgery as I wrote about in a previous post.
March 17th is a day that changed my life and I knew it would from start to finish. For most people this day is St. Patrick’s day – where the luck o’ the Irish is with ye – especially if you are Irish. Good thing that I am! LOL. Partly – on my father’s side. Anyway. March 17th is also my nephew’s birthday. It will forever be known to me as my VADiversary – the day I received my LVAD. A monumental day. For better or for worse.
The following account is the story of Vlad and how HE came into this world.
After a really great hospital breakfast…Cough. Wait. Scratch that. They did not feed me. No feeding the animals before surgery! Let’s start again.
Upon waking in the morning I was filled with excitement and loads of anxiety. My stomach was in knots. I could go into detail, but since that has already been done, let’s just say I was pretty scared. So, to help me think through my fear I wrote a blog post and had some tea. Some time around 10AM my day nurse came in to tell me to have a shower. I had to scrub myself with some kind of pre-operative soap. In hindsight I probably should have had a bath – despite the icky feeling of sitting in a hospital bath – this would be the last shower I could have for a while… and the last bath until I get my transplant. Naturally I didn’t think of this fact until after I had a nice shower with my fancy soap. Shortly after I got out of the shower my nurse came in and said They are ready for you! I was like What? How could they be ready? My husband’s not here yet! Neither are my parents! So, I made some calls and within the hour everyone was at the hospital waiting in my room. Naturally, when they say They are ready for you. You wait another hour. Such is life in hospitals. At least the nurse gave me some Ativan to chill out with. #PraiseAllNurses
Around 11:30AM an OR nurse (I think?) came to collect me. I was wheeled down to a waiting area outside the OR. Nick was with me, as was my mom. I also got a visit from my super-wicked-awesome nurse educator, Jen. Here we are (Nice hat Jill!) #JenROCKS!
My surgeon, the esteemed Dr. Anson Cheung – also referred to as GOD (or Captian Cheung if you are me post surgery, high on drugs) came out to greet me. I said Let me see your hands. For real. I actually said that. I then proceeded to touch his hands to make sure they weren’t shaking. LOL. As if. Shortly after that they wheeled me into the OR. I scooted from the gurney onto the OR table (Brrrr!) where they stuck the biggest needle I have ever seen into my arm. Within minutes of my arriving in the OR I was sleeping. Well. Not really sleeping. It’s like lights were just shut off and there was blackness.
There were no dreams.
Sometime that afternoon Vlad was born. The exact time cannot be determined since I was unconscious. It was nice of them to give me drugs. I don’t think I wanted to be awake during this delivery! #ThanksButNoThanks
Upon my waking from surgery I felt weak and very tired. I remember seeing Nick. I think he said You’re OK. but I can’t be sure. All I remember for certain is seeing his eyes – love those eyes! – full of relief and concern. I remember seeing my mom and dad. I don’t know if they said anything, they probably did, but I can’t quite remember what it was. I recall that there was a really nice halo around everything in the room; almost as though everything was glowing and maybe a bit like I was looking through glass. Cool.
Mostly my body felt strange. I had a sharp, localized pain running through my chest starting from right under my left ribcage and it radiated upwards into the centre of my chest with each breath I took. I felt as though an invisible vice were closing around me – squeezing me – from the inside. This part was not exactly painful but it was scary because I couldn’t catch my breath. At the same time I felt stuffed as though I ate too much turkey at thanksgiving; stuffed beyond the point of exploding. I knew that it was because of my new LVAD. In thinking about these new sensations, I thought Well obviously I feel this way, since I now had a bunch of new equipment jammed inside my ribcage along side my heart and up against my lungs both of which were not used to having so little space to expand in. Incidentally, my heart is probably at least three times the size it should be anyway. All of this was a very strange, disconcerting, yet vaguely interesting, series of feelings to have all at once.
Sometime in the days following my surgery, I came to refer to my LVAD as Vlad, because… well… it was easier to say and, quite possibly, because I was high on some sort of opiate. You see, given that I had that radiating pain in my chest that would get worse when I breathed and since I breathe all the time… the pain would not go away (the vice-like feeling eventually went away, though). So, my nurses were kind enough to give me a cool little button to press that administered said opiate whenever I wanted. #AwesomeThanks
Here is Vlad in all his glory. I have no idea why it’s a he… Well, probably because I have never met any woman named Vlad…. Anyway. Here HE is.
</end education break>
Ironically, the name Vlad would later come to mean so much more given how things went during my ‘vacation‘. Vlad likes blood. Vlad is only happy when he has blood. Lots of blood. Vlad also (indirectly) impaled me. Hence, why he is also know as Vlad… the Impaler.
Although uncertain at first, I have come to love Vlad. Vlad is reliable where my heart is not. Vlad is continuous where my heart is fallible. For, as much as my current heart may seem to have taken from me, Vlad has given me so much more – Vlad has given me life again. Life in my body that I have not had in years. Now 3 months post surgery, Nick now looks at me and says You haven’t looked like this in a very long time. I have my Jilli back! There is no better feeling.
So, I know that no matter what comes next, I am very grateful. Grateful for how I now feel, and that I can feel this way and be able to spend time with those I care about. I have, and will continue to, use the time I have waiting for my transplant to express my gratitude for this life by making myself stronger, both mentally and physically, and by making sure those around me know how grateful I am for all that they do for me because I know that life – MY life – now more than ever, is a gift.
So, Thanks Vlad. Thanks for getting me back in the Game.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:53 am
Yes! Thanks, Vlad, for getting Jilli back in the game! It’s very hard to imagine what it is like to live in the conditions you live with. Not to mention living through the ‘adventure’ itself. Your courage and humour are inspirational dear Jill. You should publish this blog, so brilliantly and charmingly written. We are really looking forward to our visit this summer so we can all express our love in person with our decidedly un-Vlad-ish squeezes. Thanks for keeping us up to date! Love Ali
June 23, 2014 @ 6:55 am
P.S. LOVE the birth announcement! Hee,hee…
June 23, 2014 @ 9:12 am
Wow! That’s quite the story. thank you for sharing it with us. I like that you shared your fear with us. I wanted to hug you as I read your blog.
July 7, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
Jillianne, you’re the only heart patient I know who sends out a birth announcement to announce her new LVAD implantation! Love that!
Hope you’re doing well.
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