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Riding the OHS Recovery Rollercoaster

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

By Deb Flaherty-Kizer

I feel like I am on a county fair ride rather than being home recuperating. I’ve had ups, downs, sideways turns, and spins. So, what have I learned during my recovery so far?

Expect the unexpected. I was all set to leave my rehabilitation facility when a 6-hour nosebleed kept me there another week. I’ve learned to realize that these things happen, and that I will get through them. After all, I’ve survived every bad day so far! It’s also important to recognize that this is your recovery, no one else’s. I stopped comparing my recovery to others’ when I started to feel I wasn’t making progress fast enough. My congenital cardiologist reinforced this when she told me that I had one of the most difficult surgeries from which to recover.

I have also learned that I will have good days and bad. That’s normal, and part of the process. My support network helps keep me positive on the bad days and encourages me to push through these times. Assessing my progress realistically also enables me truly see how far I have come. I think about what I couldn’t do just two weeks ago, a month ago, etc. I also remind myself that it hasn’t even been three months since my surgery—in the grand scheme of things that is not that long!

I have also learned how to manage the challenge of care coordination. It’s a whole new world—the cardiologist can write this prescription, but not that. My surgeon says one thing, my cardiologist says something else. This is where I have had to take control of my recovery and “manage” my health team. Fortunately, they generally work well together but I have found the need to oversee the process at times.

I have also learned the importance of setting realistic goals for my recovery. Before surgery, I had the now unrealistic goal of competing in a 5K in October. Given that I am still on oxygen, that will likely not be possible. But, I’ve set small realistic goals—such as walking around the house without the walker—which I can accomplish.

I’ve also learned to live more in the moment and appreciate the small things that I might have ignored before. Nothing makes me happier than sitting down with my dog Kovu next to me or relaxing with my husband over a glass of wine. Just getting up early and watching the sunrise brings me joy and contentment. I try not to take these everyday moments for granted and feel blessed to be able to experience them.

A sense of humor works wonders when recuperating. I remember after surgery I needed to go for a chest X-ray. I wasn’t very strong, and although I could stand and hold on to the machine bars, I just couldn’t hang on and slid down. Fortunately, three men were there to rescue me. When I returned to my floor, the nurses got a good laugh when I told them I was on the floor with three men.

Time takes on a whole different dimension when you are recuperating. Sometimes it seems like it was eons ago that I was in the hospital and rehab, but it’s been only a few months. That is what kept me going during those difficult times—the belief that I would soon be home and recovering.

But, perhaps most importantly, I have learned not to worry about tomorrow and to not play the “what if” game. If I am doing all I can do to help my recovery, then I have met the goal. Recovery will come in my body’s time, not mine.

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