Medical PTSD & Trauma – Open Heart Surgery

Medical trauma and PTSD in chronic illness patients is a thing. I remember the ER visits after my first surgery. I remember getting fluid in my lungs. I got a fever at one point but got the post-surgical infection under control.

(TW: overdose) I remember the one time I almost accidentally overdosed on pain meds. I put a patch on after my third day home, as instructed. I had no idea what it was, as I was not the advocate and as educated as I am today. It was fentanyl. Everyone was asleep and my schedule was off. It was around 1AM, maybe later. I was sick, vomiting and holding a bag of frozen blueberries on my face while the cold bathroom tile cooled my body down. Why am I so sick, I thought. I then used the little energy I had left to rip off the patch and fell asleep. Fortunately, I woke up soon after and crawled into bed.

People tell me, “you’ll be fine,” but the truth is we never really know that. People assume this is just another procedure, as I often have procedures (sometimes yearly). This isn’t just a simple procedure; it is a major surgery. My sternum will be cracked open 8-10 inches. I will be on a heart-lung machine and wake up in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.

I’m really nervous. I don’t share this for attention but I share because many other patients in my position feel alone. It’s something most people have the luxury of never understanding, which I can respect. But please, if you have a loved one who is dealing with chronic illness or surgeries—we just want someone to listen.

My fatigue is on a whole new level. Imagine pulling an all-nighter, drinking 3 Red Bulls, working all day, going on a run then having to meet up with friends. Every cell in your body aches as your heart pounds through your chest. You are so tired that you could just collapse and take a nap on the hard floor. Walking feels like a chore and all you want to do is crawl into bed. This is my new norm. Exhausted is an understatement. I am trying my best but I am also grieving my health. I feel like a prisoner in my own body who has to put my entire life on hold, then into someone’s hands. Literally.

“Take it easy,” they say, but I have bills to pay so instead I take it day by day.

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