Saturday, April 12, 2014

Frankenstein's Monster. Or, Vanity.

MWARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS AN IMAGE OF A PARTLY-HEALED SURGICAL INCISION WITH OBVIOUS INTERNAL SUTURE MARKS AND EXPOSED FLESH. DO NOT READ IF THIS IS LIKELY TO UPSET YOU!

I can't believe that after everything I've been through over the past few weeks, that it has come down to a question of vanity. 

Ten days post-surgery, my friendly local GP removed the dressing and replaced it with steri-strips, as advised by the hospital, and I saw the new scar in all its angry, red glory. 

I was pretty upset when I saw it. To me, I looked like Frankenstein's monster, a cobbled-together hack job of random body parts. I am aware that as a young-ish and vain woman with a sound literary education, this is not a comparison that most people would draw...but here we are!

I'm probably this disappointed because the previous wound literally looked like it had been scratched on by a paperclip when the dressings came off, and this one is more reminiscent of a sausage on a BBQ, oozing its insides out of the holes  you've pricked with a fork. My expectations were high, and this has missed the mark by a long, long way.

It probably also doesn't help that I'm single, because to insecure ol' me, having this...thing on my chest, an area of the body that we as women are groomed to believe is our most powerful asset, just feels like yet another disadvantage. I know that's dumb, and I also know that if the scar was on my leg or my arm or my back, I probably wouldn't care. 

Also, I know that unless I actively show people, the only people likely to see it are unlikely to care, and the next lucky bastard that gets my shirt off will probably have put in a bit of groundwork to begin with, and is unlikely to be turned off at that point by an ugly scar in an unfortunate location after all that effort. And, as one friend helpfully suggested, I should think like a 15-year-old boy: scars are cool, and...boobs!

I've spent the last eighteen hours being a sad sack about it, and now I'm done with that. I'm going to focus on the good stuff.

I live in a country where this amazing level of medical care is available.

I live in an era where the technology to give me a healthier, safer life is available. 

I live in an era where I have the luxury of complaining about a scar that is less than 10cm long with very little functional impact, and where people listen to me whinging and say supportive, soothing, kind things. 

I found out I needed the surgery as a result of a routine check, not because something went horribly wrong and I ended up in the emergency department. 

I managed to land in the care of the leading specialist in the country. 

The operation went well, even though my deeply-implanted pacemaker/ICD was difficult to remove, and the leads needed lasers to burn off the scar tissue. 

I get to say "lasers". 

I didn't become the one-in-100 that needs their rib cage cracked open to stop the bleeding, or the one-in-800 who die because they can't stop the bleeding at all. And that's not considering the fact that I'm a high anaesthetic risk to begin with. 

My employer has been incredibly supportive, as have my workmates. 

My family and friends have been their usual, wonderful selves, and on top of that I've become closer to people I wasn't as close to, rekindled older friendships and made completely new friends with pretty amazing people. And I've seen more of all of these people in the last three weeks than I had for a long time before. Not a day passed without a visitor and a phone call, and the support has been overwhelming.

Today, I managed to get my shirt on, OVER my head, so my mobility is coming back.

I went for a walk in the rain yesterday, because I could... Although it did highlight to me that I have a lot of fitness to regain!

I was probably the fittest and in the healthiest mindset I've ever been when I was hospitalised, so, although this seems like a huge step backwards, really I'm probably at a pretty good level of fitness now.

My pants still fit (just!), despite having been locked indoors for three weeks. 

I've read heaps. 

I've become addicted to Game of Thrones, and my scar ain't got nothin' on Tyrion's.  

See, lots of positives!

Probably part of what got me is that seeing the new scar took me back to this image of myself, six years ago, alone and scared in a new city, thinking my life was over, not understanding what impact this heart condition would have on my existence, staring at a huge, purple scar and a flabby body in a fogged-up mirror,  crying my defective heart out. I was so unhappy, and so scared of what the future may hold. At that moment it felt like it held nothing. 

But a lot has changed since then. I've been to hell and back a few times, not just medically but also in my personal life, so I'm definitely stronger and can do and handle pretty much anything. I have more friends. I'm closer to my family. I'm the same weight as I was in that image I just mentioned, but more of me must be muscle because I'm not sad anymore when I look in the mirror like that scared girl was. Hah, or maybe I'm just older and wiser! I still don't know what the future holds, but none of us do, and I'm not scared of it anymore because I'm making an effort to live it and enjoy it every day. Even now, writing this, I made a conscious choice to move outside into the sunshine and the wind to write, rather than watching it pass me by outside the window. And when I think of it in terms of that horrible place I've come from, the scar seems pretty insignificant. 

I do realise that when I look at The Scar, it's 10cm from my face and occupies my entire field of vision. But when others look at it, it's in the context of a 6'1" body! So maybe my friends are right. Maybe it's not so bad after all.

So here it is. This is what upset me so much last night. Hope it doesn't gross you out too much, and that grown-up boys think that scars are cool, just like 15-year-old ones do!


Yeah. All this fuss, for that. Harden up, girl. Harden the f**k up. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day 19 - FREEDOM!!!

Yesterday I was released, after a fashion. Nineteen nights and twenty days spent in hospital, and they finally let me go. 

Of course, I didn't actually leave the hospital until almost five, and they left me hanging for about eight hours. The floor doctor and my surgeon had both been in before nine and had said I could go. The floor doctor eventually said to have someone come get me at ten. I organised for Kirsti's folks to come get me, and they were aiming for eleven. While they were on their way, someone changed their mind and decided I should also wait to see my normal electrophysiologist, who I knew would say "that looks good, come see me in a month."

So we waited. 

And we waited. 

And I slept. 

And I hassled nurses. 

And we waited some more. 

And I slept some more. 

Finally I got jack of waiting and rang my doctor's PA and asked if he was coming, on account of my friend having been waiting for five hours. She said he'd been in surgery all day but that she'd call and find out for me. 

Less than five minutes later the nurse came in meekly and said I could go. Coincidence? I think not!

Kirsti's mum had given up circling the block four and a half hours before, so we  called her dad to get us and he even did a Maccas run on the way home. Legend. 

And look! I wore pants yesterday for the first time in almost three weeks! And they still fit, despite all that sitting around on my arse I did in hospital!

So now I'm back at mum's and we're trying not to drive each other crazy. Something of an anticlimax, really. 

The sad part is that either I'm a lot less sick or she's a lot more frail than last time, but I don't think she's really looking after me anymore. I guess that's the price you pay for independence - nobody nurses you anymore. I know 31 is kind of old to have that realisation or to want babying, but man, getting older can really suck! I guess it's better to age and lose people babying you than never having the chance to age, though...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 18 - No Napping Zone

It looks like today may have been it for hospital - I'm probably being kicked out in the morning. 

It passed quickly enough - I had a friend visit for a few hours in the morning, and hopefully I was making some sense for him because I'm not sure if it was the painkillers or the sleepiness but I can't remember much of what I said...which leads me to think I may have been rambling!

A couple more friends visited in the afternoon - hopefully I made sense for them, too - and a fourth friend brought me S3 of Game of Thrones in the evening. 

The rest of the day was spent teeing up a lift home tomorrow, which is harder than it sounds as I have no idea what time I'll be let out!

I didn't nap all day, and I walked about five laps, and I'm starting to feel it so I'll leave you with a PJ selfie. An apple a day keeps the doctor away! 
The top doesn't really match, but it does a good job of supporting the surgery site so you'll have to forgive me! And the hair is all I can do with limited motion. Good thing I like Pipi Longstocking ;)