It’s amazing how something you can fit at the palm of your hand can cost a LOT!          -and  extend one’s life for more than a decade. There’s an unread manual about a third of an inch thick included in the kit, as well as an ID certifying that I have had a heart valve replacement. The doctors tell me that the ID would be useful when the staples in my ribs sound off whenever I pass security checks.

On July 3, my life was extended by about 15 years thanks to the new mitral valve. I’ve been finally cleared for the heart valve replacement after four months of waiting for the swelling in the brain vein to subside.

I was admitted on July 1 at the Philippine Heart Center for the preliminary tests and other preparations for the open heart surgery. We availed of the the surgical package that the hospital offers. It was more practical. The mother financed everything. At 28, that’s not a source of pride – having the parent deal with your hospital bills. But this broke daughter in her late 20’s is deeply grateful.

The third sister and I stayed in the Adult Payward Section with 19 other patients who were mostly considered elderly. By this time, I’ve gotten used to being the youngest patient waiting during the series of consultations with the cardiologist, neurologist, surgeon, and the infectious diseases specialist.

At 7am, I was brought to the operating room. I’ve been given the morphine shot earlier. I remember being transferred to the operating table. There were lots of lights! and people! The room was so bright and I can hear soft metal clangs as the nurses prepared the instruments for the surgery. Seeing the anaesthesiologist in the room brought great comfort. She was in charge in preparing me for the operation. I dozed off before the cardiologist and surgeon arrived.

The next thing I remember was seeing blurred masked heads. One of those heads kept saying I was still asleep, which irritated me because it felt like my eyes – heavy as they were – were open. How else would I see their heads hovering over me? It was afternoon. That, I knew because there was a clock/calendar in the wall in front of me. There was nothing else to do but watch the clock.

I immediately checked if I could move my legs and arms – okay, make that fingers. One of the risks we had to prepare for was that abnormal vein in my brain to bleed out during the operation resulting to a stroke. Thankfully, everything seemed alright. The nurse noticed and suggested that I sleep some more and start with the exercise later. I expected the wound to hurt but I was more concerned about my shoulders feeling sore as if I have just been lifting some seriously heavy load.

During that time, I was unable to talk with the breathing tube still attached to my body – among other tubes and wires. Thank goodness I couldn’t see my reflection at the time. I remember tearing up as I begged for water. Since 11pm the night before, I haven’t had any fluid intake. I was informed that I cannot be given fluids until the breathing tube was removed at 8pm and four hours has passed after the tube’s removal. That’d be 12 midnight. All I could think of was that iced tea I usually prepared back home. The nurse kept urging me to get some sleep and rest. I couldn’t sleep. I was thirsty. So thirsty that I kept mouthing water every time a doctor or a nurse came near the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) bed. Still didn’t get the water.

The painkillers did little to help me sleep. I used to love painkillers because they gave me some deep restful sleep. Not this time. From 3pm to 12 midnight, I kept watching the clock, counting the minutes until I could drink water. When midnight came, the nurse – bless him – gave me a glass of cold water. It was the best glass of water I’ve had! For the food, I needed to wait until 6am to take in solids. I had no problem with that. I just wanted the cold water to keep coming. The cold water supply ended with my second glass.

Stayed at the SICU for two more days and was transferred back to the Adult Payward Section. Fortunately, the long-lost godfather and his wife were at the hospital when I was transferred back to the ward. They helped the third sister transfer our things from the SICU waiting area. It took quite a while before I recognized him. I remembered fearing that I’d be dying when we suddenly had a call from him before the operation. Things are looking better these days.

The attending physician-cardiologist was worried about my lungs. My x-ray results showed that the lungs were still deflated from the operation. Thankfully, the anaesthesiologist advised that I prioritize keeping the body upright and take longer walks. True enough, I started taking deeper breaths – well, you have to do that if you’re to take walks and keep a conversation with the third sister.

Come July 9 and the doctors have cleared me for release. My lungs looked good and stitches were removed. We started for home on a rainy afternoon with me clutching the heart-shaped pillow in front of my chest as if my life depended on it.


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