While the decision about the hospital was another important puzzle piece in my favour, in my state, I could not have cared less and realised only when I was told after the operation how lucky I had been that I had ended up in this particular hospital with a special heart surgery unit. This, together with the many other events and decisions taken that day, saved my life against all odds.
Before being loaded up to the ambulance car, the 2 lady medics had to carry me down the 3 flights of stairs on the stretcher as our in-house elevator was broken that day. I still remember that I felt bad for them having to carry me down all these stairs – however better for me than possibly getting stuck in a broken elevator when time was apparently of the essence for me!
Waiting in the ambulance
The experience riding in the ambulance later seemed totally surreal. It did not start moving for what seemed to me a long time. I now know that there still were intense deliberations going on as to my condition and to which hospital I should be taken. I was in a different state by then, quite happy to let people take care of me. I did not have much of a worry about myself or anybody else at that time. I remember being rather cheerful and smiling, without fear. The pain in my jaw was bearable and I was not able to realise the full extent of my situation. This might have been due to the medication but I am not really sure what I was given. My state of floating and feeling comfortable continued and might also have been caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain. The medics reassured me repeatedly and made a calm impression of being in control so that I felt secure and well taken care of.
I remember how we finally started the trip to hospital. I could see through the rear car windows as I was lying on the stretcher facing the back. We took the autobahn toward Zurich and I was observing the route we took, thinking that I knew it from driving in this direction myself sometimes. I could see us moving through a short tunnel with cars driving behind us. I continuously felt as if being in a time warp and as in slow motion, without fear or much pain.
Team is ready for me
When we arrived at the hospital, I was wheeled through big doors, legs first, into a room with lots of medical machines and lots of people around, apparently already waiting for me. They were standing there and as soon as I arrived, they became busy, asking me questions and getting me undressed. Undressing me was done very efficiently and at the same time very gently and I was amazed on how they were able to get my top, skirt and everything else off without me sitting up so quickly! I was told where they would keep my belongings, including a necklace I had been given by my daughter when I had visited her in Australia. I was wearing that day. Then they put a hospital gown on me and thereafter, I was gone.
I suddenly come back to consciousness. What is going on? Where am I? I seem to be in a hospital bed and hear people speaking. I open my eyes. I notice I am still attached to the intubation tube. Someone says: ”Oh, she is awake already, she needs to go back to sleep”. – Darkness again.
I wake up a 2nd time. This time they want me to stay awake. They seem to be happy to see me awake. The intubation tube is gone and I can try to speak. There are nurses and perhaps doctors around me and there are a lot of machines I am attached to. This must be intensive care – I know it from films.
I have no emotions, no particular feelings and also no pain.
After a while, I become more aware, a nurse asks me specific questions – I remember and can answer. I can speak German again and can say the works that I had had in my head but not able to voice before being taken to hospital. This seems to be a good sign but not really a big deal for me then. At some point later, my youngest son is allowed in briefly, I remember this now. I am awake but cannot say a lot, my throat hurts and I am tired. He says something about me being all swollen up. He also takes a photo with his mobile phone. Yes, now I notice my swollen hands. He says that I am swollen up everywhere but a nurse reassures me that it will go away again. Oh, wow, I think, how did this happen – but who cares – no emotion from my side, there is a total lack of any feeling.
In fact, I had about 15 kilos access weight on me – all retained fluid from the operation.
I am very hazy about whether I felt anything while still in intensive care. I was also not really clear on what was going on and I just accepted the situation as it was.
Doctors came by to tell me about the operation and what had happened but I was not really interested at that point. I could not concentrate and could not really apprehend what they were explaining and that I had had a life- saving operation. I just did everything I was told. I had tubes and drainages coming out of my body in various places.
The extend and outcome of my operation was not certain at all during the operation and shortly afterwards. After the operation, my son was given more detailed information about the extent of damage to the aorta and about my condition. The shock for him was deep. At his age, he had naturally not contemplated about death and had previously never given it any thought. During that time, with me in intensive care, he realised how quickly life can change and what it would mean to him in case I would die. The surgeon took the time to give both of my sons detailed information on the phone on loudspeaker so both could listen at the same time and ask questions.
This was a lot of information for them to process and both seemed to have gone into function mode only at that point to avoid having to deal with the total emotional impact all at once. I am not sure how well they were able to deal with the news emotionally and to what extent they were able to comprehend the facts and the continued danger during the first few days. It did help both to stay in contact with each other during that first few hours after my operation.