Tuesday, February 14, 2012

life post-hospital

Having bellyached about my time in the hospital, let me assure everyone that I am slowly but surely healing.
It's been almost five weeks since I had surgery. My chest still occasionally feels like a stiff corset with buckles up the middle, but that discomfort is relieved with a mild, over-the-counter pain killer. My appetite is good. I sleep a lot--long hours at night and naps during the day. The fourth and fifth fingers of my left hand are still numb. And I'm left-handed. I've figured out how to type but can't hold a pen--and boy, do I have fun trying to brush my teeth. Fortunately, I can eat with my right hand. I'm trying to get used to the ticking of the valves. Obviously, ticking is better than not ticking--or I'd be dead. But not hearing the ticking would be best.
I walk every day, and every day a bit farther. The booklet I was given at the hospital tells me to walk in shopping malls where the ground is even and there are benches to rest. Shopping malls are so dreary. The lights, the muzak, the over-breathed air. I would sooner take my chances and walk outside. It's cold and it's winter. I risk sliding on ice. So be it. At least we're having a mild, reasonably dry winter in Montreal. No thigh-high snowbanks to clamber over to get to the next street corner. I walk slowly, but I walk.
Uphill is hard. Last week I had to return to the hospital for a blood test, which meant trudging up the steep hill from the subway to the grey stone castle on the side of the mountain. Ah, the lovely topography of Montreal, a city built around a mountain! It's somewhat less lovely when you're huffing for breath. I had to keep stopping for breaks. Blinking catlike in the sun. Mumbled cursing.
There are various tasks listed in my booklet, which I'm supposed to use as a guideline for what I'm allowed to do. Some make no sense. Fold clothes? Is that so strenuous that it counts as an activity? Not the way I fold clothes. And mini golf? Do people truly play mini golf? I thought it was a torture devised for parents with a carload of children to amuse.
And here on the list is sexual activity. Not to be attempted before you can climb two flights of stairs. I'm wondering if by "sex" the booklet means actual physical rowdiness or simply having an orgasm (which, even achieved gently, increases the heart rate)? And is this "sex" gender specific? Surely it requires more energy to thrust than receive. Though I suppose that depends on the style and the manner.
I'm still post-hospital wary of my body. My legs, okay. I trust my legs. I have my Austrian grandmother's mountain climbing calves. My arms and hands... well, forget the left hand for now. I'm still not supposed to lift anything heavier than 5 lbs. (The booklet seems not to know that Canada switched to metric in the mid-70s.) My back is sore because I keep trying to find contorted ways to sleep so I don't hear the valves ticking. I still feel protective of my freshly hacked torso. This purplish welt from my collarbone to my diaphragm. My flesh zipper. My expensive tattoo. (Though as a friend pointed out, tattoo-wise it looked more impressive when I still had the metal staples.) I drape my neck and chest in collars, turtlenecks, scarves, and shawls.
According to the booklet, I should start driving this week. I didn't realize I needed a driver's license and a car to have cardiac surgery.


  1. congratulations on writing about your heart on feb. 14 without dragging in valentines day. leave it to people like me to spoil the whole effect. this folding clothes business - i dunno, the way it's done here, the firm grip and vigorous snapping of pants and sheets, chin clamping t-shirts, feats of arm contortions, alice, this could even be a whole new rehab method, starting with underpants and working up. here's a helpful hint, from my stepmother, possibly the most efficient person i've ever known: roll up your clothes sausage-like when packing for a trip. they take up less space. my stepmother walks the local athletic field running track, very few obstacles there, nice efficient walking. could you walk the montreal library? train station? you do want to be careful, don't you. a cathedral. this could develop into a story. a priest. a walker.

  2. Hm, yeah. Folding clothes as rehab. A good European notion--esp the you describe it.
    I think I'll stick with walking. A cafe with good hot chocolate (bitter, the way I like it; a thick milk froth on top) serves as an excellent goal.

  3. Hi Alice, Mark Kline told me about your blog. I hope you're getting better, finding good quality hot chocolate and refraining from sex on the stairs :)

    And a huge congrats on the Prarie Fire contest!


  4. Not ON the stairs? No wonder I was getting so winded.
    Nice to hear from you, Mithran. Hope you're keeping well.