Where do we start?
Anyway, let’s just start. Maybe with disclaimers. You can skip this or any part of the blog that you find boring or insignificant. Ok, disclaimers…
- First, I’m no medical professional. The only knowledge I have about medicine and surgery are things that I read from Robin Cook and Michael Palmer novels and what I’ve seen from movies and medical TV series, plus of course the readings and research I did on my condition and upcoming procedure. So excuse me if I misused a medical term or used the wrong one in writing.
- Second, as I have been told and as I have read, each CABG case is unique. It’s like a tennis game. No single tennis game is ever like another. So my CABG experience may have similarities with those of others but may have lots of differences too.
- Third, I have no other purpose in writing about my experience but to share. Story-telling lang. No intention to preach, make claims, or brag about anything. If at some point, my words may seem haughty, it will most likely be because I am proud of how I responded to certain situations.
- Fourth, my recollection of certain events may have been clouded by the medication that was administered to me. So there are stories here which I might have confused as reality when these might have just been products of a hyper-active mind under drugs (legal yan ha, hindi pang tokhang!).
- Lastly, I don’t know how many installments I will make of these “Cabbage Chronicles”. So many stories to tell. I don’t want to sound rambling, spewing nonsense, but I leave it to the reader na lang to figure out what’s significant or not. I’ll just mark the last installment as such, and maybe that’s when I get clearance to return to work and back to the activities (maybe hindi na lahat) I loved doing.
I’m Writing This, So I’m Ok. No Worries.
Now here goes… By now, many of you, especially my family and friends connected to me via Facebook, have seen my post last Feb 6, 2018, with me “cabbage dancing” at the Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village. That’s part of my exercise routine (my own addition to the prescribed exercises by my cardiac rehab team). Somebody googled “cabbage dancing” and found something close to what I was doing — the “cabbage patch dance”. Nah, I just coined the term “cabbage dancing” from my “CABG” procedure, which medical staff at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) called “cabbage”, e.g., “Ma’am, cabbage patient po kayo?” At first I said “anong cabbage?” (para kasing gulay e, kainis!), then later, caught using the term myself.
Here’s the link to the “cabbage dancing” FB post or just play the vid below. So by now, many of you have seen how I have recovered so far.
As you’ve read from the first two installments of my Cabbage Chronicles on this blog (Part 1 – Oops Patch Needed, Part 2 – Z You Soon), I was supposed to undergo CABG last Jan 16. But the PHC informed me of a change in schedule. So I was actually admitted on Jan 16 for my CABG procedure on Jan 18.
Prepping for Cabbage
The first two days in the hospital are spent preparing me for the procedure, several more diagnostic tests were done, e.g., 2D echo, chest x-ray, blood chem, etc. There was also a patient and family orientation where a very informative video about the PHC’s CABG peri-operative procedures was shown.
I got a light meal for dinner, showered with the surgical soap, and slept. Early in the morning, a female orderly came to shave the areas to be operated on, then I showered again with the special scrub and surgical soap, and stripped. The OR nurse came at around 6:30am to bring me to the Operating Room. Nurse Tin gave me a sedative upon orders of my anesthesiologist, then I was wheeled to the OR, with my family, best friend and private nurse tagging along. (I was thinking, parang boarding lang for a flight.) Into the OR I went while my family, bff and nurse went to the family waiting room.
Here’s a video clip of my trip to the OR.
Into the Cabbage Theater
The sedative immediately started to kick in, but I remember having a good impression of how the PHC Operating Room looked like. It was mostly white and metal and seemed well-equipped with all sorts of monitoring devices. I remember hearing my surgical team coming together and started fussing over me. I even remember one of the team members sounding foreign (parang middle-eastern accent, and when the other staff address him, they speak in English. Isip ko lang, ano kaya sya, fellow dito sa PHC? Note though, when I checked the names on my surgical team, there wasn’t any that was foreign sounding. So ewan.)
Before I went under the full effects of the anesthetic cocktail they served me, I was praying Psalm 23, in my own words, and some verses not in the right order. Plus I keep missing a verse, I know I’m missing a verse and I was talking to God — sorry Lord, I know I’m missing a verse but I really can’t remember. (I found out at a later time what it was, and maybe sometime God will reveal to me why I kept on missing that verse.)
So Psalm 23 was the last thing I remember at the OR when I went through the CABG. All I felt was peace and calm. I didn’t feel afraid of anything at all. (Thank goodness, my hyper-active mind didn’t remember any of the intubation, cutting, ribcage sawing, heart-lung machine, heart freezing, saphenous vein extraction, grafting, etc. Can’t imagine if I was aware through all that — ngiii!)
Post Cabbage Procedure – Take 1
I vaguely remember being at the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit), still groggy, still intubated and breathing through a respirator. I had a nurse watching over me near my bed. I seem to remember having some difficulty breathing despite the respirator and I remember the nurse suctioning off some fluids from my airway several times. I was kinda sure it wasn’t phlegm — more of saliva and water causing me a bit of trouble. I noticed the nurse checking my chest drain tubes of output from time to time. Of course, at that time, I didn’t know that my CABG procedure took 8 hours (longer than usual). I also vaguely remember several other doctors, including those on my surgical team coming in and checking on me. I think I may have been initially ok post-surgery, but somewhere along the way, something happened. I seem to remember one of my doctors saying that there’s just too much blood coming out of me. And I heard somebody order the OR to be prepped for me. I think they also had me sedated again because I was partially awake and then I started praying my Psalm 23 again (still missing that verse that I kept missing). Before I lost awareness, I was kinda worried what my family must be feeling if they are seeing what was happening to me. But still peace and calm enveloped my being before I lost track of any thoughts.
Post Cabbage Procedure – Take 2
The next thing I remember was being slightly awake at the SICU 2 again. I felt I’ve been there for a long time, but it was only Jan 19 (Fri) and I knew I’ve been re-operated on. SICU 2 is actually the pediatric surgical ICU of PHC, but since there are a lot more adult patients, that’s where they brought me for recovery. I was still intubated, but I felt I was breathing better, drifting in and out between dream-like states (I have vivid recollections of some of these dreamscapes, tell you more about it in another installment) and slight awareness. I guessed I was still under sedation but at the same time, began being aware of my breathing pattern (inflating lungs first, then via the diaphragm, them by the stomach and repeat) (Ewan ko ba, sometimes I over-analyze things, pati breathing). I also hear the monitors beeping and see some numbers showing my vital signs. Nurse JP again regularly checks my chest drain tube output and it seems I wasn’t bleeding as bad as before. So they must have fixed the cause of my internal bleeding on my second appointment with the OR.
After some time, I don’t know how long, but it was already Jan 20 (Sat) I think, nurse JP said that he can now pull out my breathing tube and take me off the respirator. He warned me a little about discomfort and possible gagging. Then with expert hands, he did what he said he’d do (yup, medyo irritating sa throat). He got me to gargle with some mouthwash and cough out the excess fluids in my airway. (Pero yun pala yung major Ouchie! Coughing has never been so painful!) That’s where the PHC heart pillow helped a lot. To cough properly, I must inhale a big breath, embrace the heart pillow tight, and cough. (The things we take for granted when we’re normal, di ba?)
This was the start of my real recovery after that internal bleeding scare. I would learn later how so many prayer warriors, family and friends, literally stormed the heavens to seek God’s intervention and help me survive the unexpected complications from my CABG. My dear family and friends, pasensya na po sa heavy drama na nangyari. Those situations that we see in movies and TV series do happen in real life, when someone’s life would just fall into the hands of professionals who would do everything they can to fix you up. Sorry po, if my situation caused you lots of worries, and I thank you all again for all the thoughts and prayers you sent my way on the days around my operation. Knowing how many people and how much they wished me to survive and recover from my procedure motivated me to work on recovering really well, following doctors’ orders and getting over whatever pain I experienced to get moving as soon as I can. I think I had the best support system one could wish for.