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On Giving Up Control

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

By Deb Flaherty-Kizer

Preparing for surgery has brought out a bit of my dark side—I am a Type A person with a need for control. I don’t like things left to chance. I need to have everything worked out to the last tiny detail. While I am also a woman of faith and believe spiritually and intellectually that God, or a supreme being, is in control, it is not something I relinquish easily.

Surgery, however, is filled with many unknowns. For example, I don’t know exactly how long I will be in the hospital. When making plans to board our dog during that time, I did not like not knowing when exactly I would be picking him up.

At a recent meeting with my surgeon, I expressed frustration that I am unable to do things like exercise at my former level. He looked at me and said the “governor (meaning my heart) is in control here, not you.” It’s hard for me to accept this and work within my current physical state. I want to know when I will return to my former exercise capacity.

In considering the actual surgery and post-op, control concerns just flood my mind. I need to trust that the surgical and post-op team will do what is best for me and provide what I need at any given time. I question how they will know if I am in pain, how they will know when I can eat, how will they know if I am walking too much or not enough, etc.

I’ve come to realize that I cannot control this process and will need to follow their lead. That doesn’t mean, however, that I will be a casual observer. My job will be to participate in the recovery process as best I can—walk when they tell me to walk, breathe when they tell me to breathe, and so on.

The recuperation period at home also has my stomach in knots. My husband will be managing my at-home recovery. I’m already stressing over the condition my house will be in and how he will organize things. (OK, but there is a precedent here. I once came home from a business trip to find the contents of my hutch and cabinets all rearranged to “make things easier.”)

So how am I dealing with this? I’m working on clearly identifying what aspects of this process I can control and what I can’t. At this stage in the game, my goal is to prepare myself physically, mentally, and emotionally for surgery and recuperation. I need to trust that everyone will “do their jobs,” as Bill Belichick says.

I need to trust, for example, that my surgeon’s administrative assistant will work through the insurance quagmire and get the appropriate authorizations. (Alright, I probably will make one phone call just to check if she has all the information she needs—habits are hard to break.) I need to trust that I won’t be discharged until I am “road ready.” I need to trust that my husband will be able to successfully shop from a prepared list, or heaven forbid, make up a list himself.

But what scares me the most is that I may have to lower my standards when I return home. So what if the floor isn’t spotless, so what if my husband buys pita bread instead of pocket bread, so what if a cup is left on the counter or the laundry doesn’t get done right away? I will survive. I’m learning to channel my inner Elsa and “let it go.”


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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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