Sunday, August 8, 2010

I'm So Glad My Wrists Hurt

People have asked me recently what actually hurts – when I say I’m having discomfort, what do I mean? Good question. It never occurred to me that one might wonder such a thing. Now that I’ve bid adieu to the majority of the pain, I’ll share with you my physical experience from the last two and a half weeks.

The first and worst symptom I felt was nausea, which is apparently typical after being under general anesthesia. I vomited twice the day after surgery. The first time was against all odds, since I hadn’t consumed anything in over 36 hours and had breathing tubes down my throat – that was a bit alarming for me but at least convinced the nurses I was ready to be extubated. The second time was after I drank my first cup of water – like magic, it was instantaneously back in my cup. I spent the next two days being as still as possible and ingesting as little as the nurses would allow. During this time, I also had the pleasure a catheter sticking out of my neck, two tubes (with diameters the size of dimes) emerging from my chest to drain fluids and four external pacing wires in case we needed to give my new heart a boost.

Once the tubes came out and the nausea subsided, the chest pain began, or at least I began to focus on it. Since a heart transplant involves a sternotomy (the sternum is cracked and propped open during surgery), one’s chest is very uncomfortable thereafter. Not only did I experience pain at the incision site, but most of my chest was also covered in tender bruises from the operation. Additionally, a patient is encouraged to breath as deeply as possible and cough as much as possible after surgery to clear the lungs of fluids, and as you might imagine, it is quite uncomfortable to do either when your chest has recently been split open and rejoined with the equivalent of the twisty ties you might use to close up a loaf of bread.

Toward the end of my hospital stay, when I had started eating more solids, I started having really bad indigestion. This is a typical side effect of the steroid I’m on. Previously I would have considered indigestion an uncomfortable nuisance, but this indigestion was quite painful. I now have much more sympathy for those who experience this regularly, as I felt like there was literally a torch burning a hole in my chest. I’ve since increased my dosage of Nexium, which has helped immensely.

My final source of discomfort is my poor wrists. I have maybe the world’s worst veins, which is problematic when undergoing a heart transplant because lots of IVs are required. In order to access my veins, nurses literally had to beat my arms on a repeated basis, which left serious bruises, a few of which are still present two and a half weeks later. The good news is I only notice my wrists hurt when none of the above [more severe] symptoms are present, so I try to be thankful for these times.

As for a status update, I continue to feel better every day. I’ve been walking up and down multiple flights of stairs for exercise the last three days and am taking longer and longer walks outside in the evenings. My last biopsy showed mild organ rejection, which we are treating with increased dosages of my immunosuppressant medications. The meds are causing headaches and numbness in my hands – a welcome substitute for organ rejection. Included are some pictures from today – starting to heal!


  1. You are incredibly brave and just an amazing young woman Andrea! May you continue to get stronger and feel less and less pain. We keep you in our thoughts and prayers each and every day!
    Hugs to you and your roomie!
    Bob & Melanie

  2. Aaahh--quit complaining!! Seriously, you have come such a long way and with very little complaining.I know this has been an incredibly scary journey for you, but I see you becoming stronger and more confident every day. I know you are eager to start your cardio rehab and taper your immunosupressive meds so that you can once again join all of your friends in the real world. As I wish all of this for you, I know that my days as your "roomie" are numbered. You have tolerated my presence well, but I know you are eager to be independent, and I will celebrate that achievement with you. In the meantime, rejoice in the wrist pain!

    Much love---Mom

  3. You are a rock star!!!! I'm so happy to hear your new heart is doing well and that you are really beginning to heal. I pray everything continues to go as well as it has. Hope to see you sometime soon!

  4. Viewing the chest photo , one should note that Andrea asked about scar cream before hospital discharge. With a straight face, her surgeon said"it's a little early for that". GO you girl!

  5. You are amazing - so strong and tough! All the O'Sheas have been thinking of you constantly these last couple weeks. Our pictures from the lake were actually taken over the days following your surgery, and we just kept talking and thinking about you the whole time. Luckily we got to talk to your mom on a regular basis, so we've been keeping up with your amazing progress. Keep it up! We love you!

  6. Hey Dad,
    The expression is "you go girl". People like us should never risk trying to be cool. We should stick to limericks that start with "there once was...". Take Care
    P.S. Mom, we are looking forward to your being home as well.

  7. Thank God for wrist pain! : ) I'm so happy to hear that's becoming one of the more uncomfortable things you have to deal with.
    Re: scars- I think your scars look completely cool. Like tattoos, but for tougher people. : )

  8. Is it weird that I have been telling everyone at work to check out the topless photos that you posted on your blog? Or is it weirder that they all rush out of the conversation to get online? I know you never thought we'd be having this conversation, but boy am I glad you're around to have it. Cheers to bruised wrists & small victories everyday. Much love xoxo

  9. You're simply amazing! I'm as equally impressed with your family and friends though, some of these comments are hysterical! You've got an awesome support team :)

  10. Andrea! Looking good. You are one tough cookie.

  11. I remain in awe of you!

    I also remain shocked at MF's sense of humor, she really did become you at some point in the past year