The Recovery

After heart surgery, the patient’s chest is left open for a few days. This grants rapid access if complications arise including internal bleeding and also allows the swelling to go down. Some patients go into close chest surgery and come out with the chest still open due to swelling issues. The experience is different for everyone. Also note the patient is intubated to assist with breathing. A flexible plastic tube is placed down your trachea, or windpipe and you are unable to speak or eat.

My dad got chest closure surgery two days later. We learned the majority of heart transplant/TAH patients have issues with their gallbladder. As a precaution, the doctors recommended we remove the gallbladder in the middle of surgery. I signed the consent form in the OR lobby. My sister and I youtubed to procedure to better understand what was going to happen in the OR. Over the next few days, many tests were conducted to monitor his brain activity, liver function, blood levels and more. By day four, Dad was able to follow commands. He was still intubated due to mucus build up in his lungs. I could only imaging how uncomfortable he was at this point. 

Almost one week after closing his chest and working on his recovery, we had to go back into open chest surgery due to internal bleeding. They removed one liter of clotted blood. This was an emotional time for us after working so hard to get him better. I cried.

Two days later, Dad got to close his chest again. Two days later, we got to extubate Dad. It has been a full two weeks since we were admitted at the hospital.

Dad was able to walk with the assistance of three other nurses and myself the day after Valentine's Day. This was a huge accomplishment. We were excited and hopeful.