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British Heart Foundation
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Post operation pain

Hubby finally has his bypass grafts this morning (5th time lucky!). I went to visit him late this afternoon. Can anyone who's been through this describe the pain and discomfort immediately after the op.

It was so sad to see him in such a pain ridden state. His shoulders and back were killing him. The lovely nurses said he couldn't be given any more than a low dose of morphine as he wasn't fully awake.

I'm sure intense pain is a part of the recovery process but I love to hear coping mechanisms (for the invalid and their partners!)

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Good morning,

I hope your husband is recovering well. For the first 36 hours or so, everything hurts, and the morphine takes the edge off allowing you to nap, not sleep. Shoulders and back are the result of the intrusive surgery and the muscles that are all interconnected, that will ease but maybe look at some physio further down the recovery road to help here. Chest, now that's going to hurt, whatever he does, however he moves it will hurt, then when you think you're comfy it will hurt again Make sure he is propped up, it does help, well it did for me. Let him sleep, cat naps are great and hospitals even at night are horrendously noisy. They will encourage him out of bed, make sure he does, it helps, plus showering, it may be exhausting for him and everything will take an eternity but it needs to be done.

Once home, try and get him to talk to you about how he feels, both physically and mentally, he will most likely wonder if he is ever going to recover and get back to where he was, he will and he will be better. There are many on here who have caught the fitness bug, walking, whatever, I have only just recently completed a charity walk the length of Hadrian's wall, so get him to read the stories and posts on here.

He will get invited to a cardiac rehab class, make sure he goes and completes the course, will show him what he can do and how he can recover quicker.

It was a very invasive operation, he is going to to feel it for a few months yet, but the sun is shining, and there will be plenty of time to recover and smell the roses.

Take care best of luck to you both

Mark

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Thank you so much Mark. Brilliant insight!! xxxx

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Morning Handel

Everything Mark has said in his reply to you I can second.

It will take time and we're all different in our healing.. I'm now 14months post double bypass graft and cardio version and I'm still occasionally experiencing aches in my chest especially when I don't have a bra on.. although that won't apply to your hubby. Ha. My upper body is still weak and I know if I've done too much when I ache.

My cardiac consultant told me it sometimes takes up to 2years for some folk to fully heal and not experience aches..whereas you'll hear of others that are free from aches after a few months.

Take strength from knowing he will improve every day.. keeping positive and communicating is of enormous value.

Sending you both hugs.

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Thanks you Sandra. Really good info to work with. Thanks too for your kind thoughts. That means so much xxx

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Glad that your husband finally had his op, I appreciate how frustrating the delays can be but the good old NHS aways seems to get there in the end!

You said in your post, "I'm sure intense pain is a part of the recovery process".

I'm not sure I agree with this. No two recoveries are exactly alike, but the overall impression I get is that when you consider what a massive operation a bypass is, there's surprisingly little serious pain involved. By that I mean the kind of pain that prevents you holding a conversation or performing simple mental arithmetic, I didn't experience any pain like that, and I don't think any of the other patients in the ward did either.

There's quite a lot of discomfort, fractured sleep, soreness, tenderness, and general unpleasantness. But surprisingly little actual pain.

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He's never had anything hurting really in his 67 years on this earth (apart from angina which resolved in minutes with drugs). He's bound to react to hurting differently I think. I just get on with daily pain!!! Your post has been really helpful xxx

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What You’ve been told is true individual recovery periods and pain levels can vary dramatically different between individuals. There are going to be a mixture of good and bad days but even on the bad days you and your husband need to look for something positive to focus on I can’t stress how important a positive attitude is towards recovery it’s better than any medication. If you don’t stay positive it’s easy to throw the towel in and neither of you want that. Take every day in isolation and set little goals . Someone advised me to buy a “ V” shaped pillow and prop myself up to sleep it worked great it supports your head yet restricts movement from side to side which causes the pain initially. He needs to do everything the nurses tell him to do even when he doesn’t feel like he doesn’t have the energy or fears it may be painful as they’ve looked after 100’s or 1000’s of patients in his position so they know best. Talking about how you feel and being honest and not bottling things up is massive so you need to encourage him to talk.

I hope he recovers well and I wish you both all the best going forward.

Pete ❤️

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Thanks so much Pete. I'll get a V pillow for him. He only had his op yesterday so there are good times ahead I'm sure. He does tend to bottle things up but I'll encourage 'sharing'!! We've been married for 47 years so i think I'm owed that!! Thanks for your good wishes. I really appreciate your support xxx

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Your welcome I’m 7 weeks post op and just been to one of the cardiac rehab classes it’s definitely worthwhile so make sure he goes you usually go after about 6 to 8 weeks after your op prior to that a daily walk is required short to start with then a gradual build up prior to your rehab classes and deep breathing periodically throughout the day helps keep your lungs working

Pete ❤️

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The pillow was great for my husband! Good advice!

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When home don't be tempted to stop taking the pain killers until Cardio Nurse advises. The worse pain for me was first time I sneezed, felt like someone had run a sword through my chest. Best of luck to your hubby (and you)

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Thank you so much. I'm a bit overwhelmed with all the kindness you and others are showing. I'll keep you posted on developments which I'm sure will be positive xx

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You will get through this. My husband now 2 months on and I echo all your concerns! You will be so concerned at the moment but he will be standing straight and walking with his shoulders back I can assure you.. week 7 was our turning point when work colleagues told him he was back to as before, but he has walked religiously and now 12000 steps a day. Raise ALL concerns with the wonderful cardio teams in the hospital, encourage lost of rest (catnaps! the norm) I just keep thinking how lucky we have been! I have never done so much home cooking ! But to watch him recovering so fast it has been worth it! but I remember seeing him at first and it is worrying and you can be overwhelmed but it is a journey and you will get there! take lots of care of yourself as well! Xx

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Hi. Thank you so much for your lovely post. He came out of the ICU last night and is now in the step down ward which is much quieter. He was very croaky and thirsty but felt sick. He has done surprisingly well drinking. A male nurse came while I was at the bedside and explained how he's likely to feel. Hubby didn't really listen to me when I tried to tell him why he felt so crap but the lovely male nurse echoed exactly what I said. They put him on stronger pain killers so morphine and codeine. I know from my own experience, if you can't eat, this type of drug makes you feel lousy but actually conquers the pain issues. I'm visiting in a little while so I'll report back. Once again, thank you for your kind help and support xxxx

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Your so welcome! You are a week of this bit of advice probably but make sure he takes his paracetamol at home regularly, our lovely cardiac nurse said it helps in healing process! no need to be a brave soldier! He will surprisingly be only on this hopefully which is amazing considering what our other halves have gone through! I felt like I was pushing the drugs on him (!!!) but it was such good advice and we used the branded dispensable fizzy ones which were great to take (bit expensive but worth it!!)let us know how you get on and ask for any help! we are like a big family! xx

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Everything everyone has said too, I am 8 months post bypass op and I can say that I didn't ever think early on that I would be pain free. The first few weeks are tough, can't stretch, can't lift, can't walk far, can't sneeze without pain. But your husband is alive and there are so many of us that are. It will get better. The first shower I had after the op I slept for 4 hours I was so tired. Let him sleep sat up for now, he will then be able to try sides and see how comfy it may be. Make sure he has a pillow, the staff may give this to him when he does his coughing and breathing exercises. I still hold my chest when I sneeze. I was lucky than most that when I came out of hospital some 5 days after the op I only took pain relief at night to sleep. But he needs to listen and take pain relief regularly. I think at about 6 - 8 weeks I started to feel a bit more normal. I had appointments with my GP and nurse (for wounds) the days after I came out of hospital, maybe you need to book these in as soon as you know a discharge date? Its very early days for him and I am sure once he is up and about and doing his exercises around the ward he will improve lots. Remember also he should be give cardio rehab at about 8 weeks. Take care and best of luck to you both xxx

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Hi Wiltsgirl. Thank you so much for your lovely post. He came out of the ICU last night and is now in the step down ward which is much quieter. He was very croaky and thirsty but felt sick. He has done surprisingly well drinking. A male nurse came while I was at the bedside and explained how he's likely to feel. Hubby didn't really listen to me when I tried to tell him why he felt so crap but the lovely male nurse echoed exactly what I said. They put him on stronger pain killers so morphine and codeine. I know from my own experience, if you can't eat, this type of drug makes you feel lousy but actually conquers the pain issues. I'm visiting in a little while so I'll report back. Not sure when he'll be discharged but I'll take your advice on pre booking a GP appointment. Once again, thank you for your kind help and support xxxx

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That's what we are all here for. I remember tucking into a salad the day after my op, I was starving! Not sure if that was normal. Everyone is different and deals with things differently. Big step that he is out of ICU, best of luck and keep us informed of his progress xx

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Thanks for your post. I too remember asking for a cheese cob and a pot of tea when I came round from an 8 hour spine operation! We're all different like you say.

He still can't eat but is now back on a ward after spending a day in a high dependency unit. He threw up big time (only bile but loads of it) after they gave him an anti sickness pill! He's drinking a bit now but has no urge to pee. He's been threatened with a catheter again so I guess he'll see sense and try.

I can't believe he's walking a bit now so I hope he'll go from strength to strength.

Thanks so much for your moral support. It really means a lot xxxx

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So much progress, yippee! I was sick once I think and the lungs can have a bit of gunk in them, the physio people should give him exercises to clear the fluid on the lungs. Onwards and upwards x

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Hiya. I'm afraid there's now a backward step!

Hubby developed an irregular heartbeat in the night so he's been moved back to the high dependency unit and is on a pacer.

Doesn't look like he's coming home just yet xxxx

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My heart beat changed dramatically after but was not irregular. He is in the right place. Wishing him the best and I am sure its just his heart saying 'I've had a trauma, give me some support' take care x

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Hiya. He's back on the ward now so that little glitch took no time to resolve. Apparently this is quite common and I'm sure his heart is saying exactly that!

He's not in much pain at all considering he's just having paracetamol. They took the sticky pad off the chest wound and it looks really cool (and straight). I'm sure the surgeon must have had a ruler to draw such a straight line.

I'm hoping he'll be back home soon - I miss his grumpiness!

xxxxxx

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After my 5x cabg was taken back to the ward where I felt awful Dr said there was air trapped in my stomach.He put a NG tube up my nose down into my stomach then rushed me back down to ICU. Thought my time had come. Spent 5 days there. Back to ward where I developed AF . Cocktail of drugs then home after a total of 6 weeks. As for pain I didn't care as long as I was home where I could concentrate on getting fit again.Help him by all means,but let him do as much as he can. All my love Wayne.

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Hi Wayne. Good grief you did go through the wars and there's me griping over what seems to be trivial stuff!! I wish you all the best, and believe me, I will make sure he makes an effort. Thanks so much for your moral support. It means such a lot xxx

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Hi Wayne. Hubby developed AF last night and is back in the high dependency unit. I guess that'll get sorted out at some point xxx

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Intense pain is NOT part of the recovery process. I was given a button to press that would deliver more pain killer when it got too much for me. It is limited to avoid overdose etc. I was discharged with powerful pain killers to last a few days until I could see my GP for review and they would script more if required. You should speak to his medical team.

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Hi. He came out of the ICU last night and is now in the step down ward which is much quieter. He was very croaky and thirsty but felt sick. He has done surprisingly well drinking. A male nurse came while I was at the bedside and explained how he's likely to feel. Hubby didn't really listen to me when I tried to tell him why he felt so crap but the lovely male nurse echoed exactly what I said. They put him on stronger pain killers so morphine and codeine. He hasn't got a self doser but has got a button to press if he needs help. Initially he was on paracetamol which really didn't do anything. I'm visiting in a little while so I'll report back. Once again, thank you for your kind help and support xxxx

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I've not had bypass surgery, but have had aortic valve replacement, I think pain is one of those things that we all bear differently, I also think it's worse you as you are watching someone you love X and you feel useless to help X

If hubby has still got his drains in, I found them really uncomfortable and they caused me most of my issues.

Make sure his bed is working right, I found that because the foot end wouldn't raise, everytime I got myself comfortable I'd slide down the bed!

There is no normal, as we are all different X

Please speak to the staff, tell them of any concerns you have X

I wish you and your hubby all the best, and I hope he has a speedy recovery X

Please keep us updated x

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Hi. Thank you so much for your lovely post. He came out of the ICU last night and is now in the step down ward which is much quieter. He was very croaky and thirsty but felt sick. He has done surprisingly well drinking. A male nurse came while I was at the bedside and explained how he's likely to feel. Hubby didn't really listen to me when I tried to tell him why he felt so crap but the lovely male nurse echoed exactly what I said. They put him on stronger pain killers so morphine and codeine. The bed is OK but I'm with you on the sliding down bit! Hubby is very tall and the bed has got a gap from the end of the mattress to the bedpost. I'll ask them for a foam block today and raise the bed at the bottom! I'm visiting in a little while so I'll report back. Once again, thank you for your kind help and support xxxx

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It is good to hear that he has had is op and back on a general ward now - bet you breathed a big sigh of relief.

For me it was a long time recovering when I got home. Spent best part of 3 months sleeping (dosing fitfully) sitting up as I couldn't lie down. Had trouble walking then found out the stitching around my knee area was too tight so couldn't straighten leg properly. Got frustrated because things took so so long and ended up getting depressed about it.

One tip that is worth bearing in mind is a cushion or soft support to put on the inside of a seat belt when you take him home or take him out & don't do as my wife used to insist on - driving that close to the kerb you went down all the drains.

Is it worth it - of course it is - I'm only 20 years post op.

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Good point about driving over drain covers (or doing 60mph over speed humps!!). I'll try to behave when I drive him home but its a fair way from the hospital to home -well only a 65 mile round trip but I guess a lot of others travel much further. Sickness is the only thing bothering him now. The pain seems to be managed with just paracetamol. Might have been me suggesting a cocktail of morphine, codeine and paracetamol was just too much on an empty stomach! I'm sure he'll start eating soon - well I hope he will. He's just bringing the anti sickness tablets back up which defeats the object a bit! I'll let you know how he is tomorrow.

Thank you so much for your support and for making me smile! xx

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It could be the morphine that's made him sick. Even a small dose of oral morphine makes me really sick, but medical staff seem to either not believe it or just give it to you anyway! If/when I have mitral valve surgery I'm going to get 'No Morphine' tattooed on my forehead.

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Nice one Mary! I just remember morphine making me sick when I had spine surgery. Also causes major constipation!!!

He's back on the ward now so whatever they did to correct heartbeat worked well. He's actually eaten something today so it seems the morphine and codeine are out of his system. I've never seen anyone so excited about cottage pie and carrots!!

Thank you so much for your support. It really means a lot. Wishing you all the very best with your when/if mitral valve surgery xxxxx

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That's great news, hope he's home soon!

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Thanks Mary. I really appreciate your kind words xxx

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It's a bit theoretical, but apparently the part of the brain where pain is felt and where language is processed are the same. Pain can be distracted by talking, singing. Not as good as morphine in my experience

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Morphine and codeine sent hubby into a landscape of hallucinations and vomiting!!! I love the idea of singing and talking to help with pain. Takes your mind off things when your brain is actively doing something xxxx

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Glad he's out of the woods,soon be home now.He will miss the security of the ward so be prepared,but only for a few days.Good luck and love to you both.Wayne xxx

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Hi Handel

My you have collected some good solid advice.

As folks have said we are all different and our recovery times are different. Your hubby will learn very quickly what pace he can progress at. I still have discomfort 3 and a 1/2 years on from surgery, but it is easily coped with, it's not pain just discomfort if that makes sense !! I am sure we all have milestones in our recovery, my first one walking from HDU to the Ward my wife pulling my ( Ryanair Size Case ) and me walking holding hands with a young Physio in case I fell over lol. The backwards and forwards to ICU/HDU is a little concerning at the time as you think when you come round thank goodness for that I made it !! Then waking up in ICU gain thinking you have dreamt it all reason for going back to ICU was the same as your hubby Pacing problems

Another patient in the ICU was screaming that the staff were trying to murder him " Pouring Chocolate " through the vents to drown him, I am happy to report he survived I did see him in the Ward and he no recollection of the Chocolate incident.

Other milestones for me Showering, and going to the Loo sounds crazy but both things gave me a good lift . The showering really took it out of me and it still does !! I needed the suppository to help me along for the loo, as for peeing I think the catheter changes sensitivity which takes a couple of days to overcome. Just thought I would add my thoughts to an excellent thread

Best Regards

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Thanks Prada. This is all good stuff to know.

I visited him yesterday and stayed practically all day. Surprisingly, at 5pm, they said he could go home!!! 3 hours later (waiting for tablets to bring home!), we left. Padded him well with a towel to stop the seat belt rubbing his chest and drove the 30 miles home.

Annoyingly, he’s got to go to the doctors on Monday to have stitches out in his tummy (where the drains were) and then again on Thursday to have the 32 staples in his leg cut out (where they ‘harvested’ veins to bypass his blocked up arteries. I say annoyingly as there's nowhere to park and I'm going to have to insist on an appointment otherwise I'll be given the next available - usually 5 weeks next Christmas!!

He’s very uncomfortable and in pain but he’s so happy to be home. Hopefully he’ll sleep a little better tonight!!! We had about an hour!!!

Thanks so much for your support xxxxxx

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Excellent news Handel. I'm now four weeks post a triple bypass and there has been a constant stream of positive signs, I get the impression that I'm pretty typical in this respect. At first you can point to concrete signs of improvement every single day, after a while this slows down to every couple of days, but the momentum is still clearly there.

I'm off all painkillers now, sure there are still moments of discomfort, and sleep comes in two or three hour chunks, but I'm breathing much better and can manage 30 or 40 minutes of fairly brisk walking each day. Again, I don't think there's anything particularly exceptional in this level of progress.

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Hi Chappychap. Thank you so much for your update. So far, 5 days after the op, I am amazed at the improvements in him. He's only taking paracetamol in the morning and before bed but is on three other drugs as he developed AF the day after the op. Sleep is elusive but I think we had about an hour last night!! Hope that improves but it sounds like you were a bit like that. We went for a little walk today just to get out in fresh air. xxx

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