Open Heart Surgery is a challenge
Last week my mother had open heart surgery where they replaced one valve, fixed two other ones and placed a clip on the side of the heart to prevent blood clots. My mother is 77 and has been falling down so we placed her into an assisted living center and then she went into the hospital back to a rehab center, to the assisted living center again then back to the hospital for open heart surgery.
This was a big decision to make because of how hard the surgery is on your body and how long it takes to recover. The doctor told us that she had about a one in ten chance that she could die during the operation. The doctor explained that his computer program that figures risks would not even let him enter a heart operation for a 77 year old with 3 valves. My mother has Fibromyalgia rumatica, lupus, high blood pressure, diabetes and she is on several medications. She does not like being on pain meds because it not only makes her loopy but she can't sleep so she is in quite a bit of pain.
The doctor explained that some patients have problems with their kidneys and have to be put on dialysis after open heart surgery.
He also explained that if you don't take deep enough breaths that you can have problems with the lungs. Also fluid in the lungs which my mother does have. She was tested two days ago to see how she swallows. They made her drink barium and they did an x-ray while she swallowed. Some of the fluid was going into the lungs instead of down to the stomach.
She had 3 chest tubes in, her skin has been ripped in several places because it is so sensitive. Once nurse cut her so bad she bled quite a bit all over the bed and he felt so bad he kept apologizing over and over. She has been on blood thinners for a long time although she stopped before the operation. She has also been on steroids and was taken off of those and they just restarted them and that is part of the reason she has been in so much pain. She had IV lines in, a line into her neck to measure the pressures and a breathing tube that was attached to the ventilator. She had the tube down her throat for the first 24 hours and then they got that out. They nicked her throat with the tube and she was bleeding out of the side of her mouth when we went to see her after the surgery. The nurse said she was going to clean her off but had not gotten to it yet. The staff at Saint Marks is very good and I have been impressed with their over all performance.
Now when I asked her if it had been worth it she said, don't ask me that yet. I told her she looked better and she said no I don't, I look like hell so why tell me I look good. I explained that her face was twice the size the day before so I though she looked much better than she did before. She has been very frustrated because she is trying to get her strength back and having the leaky valves was really holding her back.
She is really hoping to get her quality of life back. She has never smoked, never drank liquor and until just about 1.5 years ago she was walking 4 miles a day and very active. She for the most part has been eating well throughout her life so having all of these health concerns hit her at once has been a real challenge. My mother has always been a very positive person and an example to all who meet her.
We discussed it as a family and none of us are even home during the day so we could not take care of her at home. The Legacy Center charges about $3500 per month and provides a wonderful environment along with allowing the residents to have their own furniture. Avalon costs about double that but provides more service with nurses on staff as well as people to help you with rehab etc....
Challenges are many including fear of where you will end up after surgery, physical limitations and not being used to having others do things for you that you have always done for yourself. Lack or the loss of independence, mental and memory issues due to age and medication. My mother is taking I believe 9 medications and doing so requires coordination between doctors and pharmacies.
My brother David said he does not want to keep living if he is very sick and if his quality of life is not there so he wants someone to "take care of it" or kill him if he gets to that point. I feel that many people feel this way inside. When it comes down to it we end up spending most of our life savings in the last two years of life trying to hang on and trying to live longer. At first mom had a DNR and a DNI Do no resuscitate and do not intibate. When she went into the hospital several times ago she changed that because she changed her mind and wanted to live longer. Now after all this mess I don't know if she still feels that way.