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OHS Recovery: A Series of Firsts

Friday, October 16, 2015

By Deb Flaherty-Kizer

One lesson learned from recovery is to appreciate the simple things in life and not take anything for granted. Life for me has become a series of firsts.

I remember the first time I walked in my front door after surgery. It took my husband Keith about 10 minutes to take out the huge oxygen tank, set up the walker, and help me out of the car. It seemed to take forever!

I couldn’t wait to get “lovies” from my dog Kovu. Walking into my house was like returning to my childhood home—it was familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time. I was overwhelmed with happiness and but somewhat hesitant—what do I do now?

While I was at the rehabilitation facility, my day was pretty much planned and organized for me. Now it was up to me. Everything at first was a struggle—how can I get myself into the kitchen chair, how can I maneuver my way into the bathroom? Keith was somewhat at a loss too, not knowing how best to help me.

I remember the first day I was “home alone.” It was time for Keith to return to work. While I was still under sternal precautions, I thought I could manage by myself. I just asked Keith to leave things out on the counter that I might need so I would not have to reach for them. I suddenly felt free and almost “normal.”

I remember the first time I cooked a meal and did laundry. I was starting to feel more like a household contributor, not a patient. It felt good to start doing household chores and take some of the burden off Keith.

I remember my first time going out to a restaurant. Keith and I had frequently gone out for a weekend breakfast at a local diner. We hadn’t been since before I left for surgery. Keith said he just couldn’t go alone while I was in the local rehab hospital—he wanted to wait for me to celebrate. Getting me ready to go out was almost as bad as getting kids out the door—did I have my walker, did I have an extra oxygen tank, etc. It was an effort, but well worth it. Our former routines were slowly but surely returning.

I remember my first time walking without a walker. It was somewhat scary at first, but I could feel myself getting stronger each day. I was starting to feel more like my old self.

I remember the first time I walked upstairs and took a shower. I had been limited to “bowl baths” downstairs, which were OK but not great. Keith wanted to make sure I was strong enough to venture upstairs, since with his disability he would not be much help. I felt like I was in heaven. Warm water cascading over me, being able to use my favorite body wash—pure bliss!

I remember my first time driving! It was so good not to have to rely on Keith, my wonderful son Colin or my good friend Pam to take me places. It felt freeing to be able to run to the market to pick up some groceries or go to the library. I started out slowly—just driving locally—but then took the plunge and eventually drove to cardiac rehab. Depending on location and time of day, there are still some places I don’t feel comfortable driving to yet, but I know I will get there.

I remember my first time at cardiac rehab, my first walk outside, my first yoga class, and my first trip to the Y. I was so grateful to get physically active again and participate in my favorite activities.

Experiencing these firsts has helped me recognize how far I have truly come since May. I often feel down at the pace of my recovery, but then I look back and see what great progress I have made. I’ve also come to appreciate the simple everyday things in life that we so often take for granted until we can’t experience them. Seeing these anew has brought back a childlike joy and wonder. I still have a recovery journey ahead of me, with several firsts I have yet to experience—getting rid of the oxygen, walking my furry friend Kovu, and getting into the YMCA pool. All in good time….

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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