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This is written for Women, whether you are having the operation (or looking after someone).

You will have a scar 6 – 10 inches long running down the middle of your chest and for some people there may be longer scars on one or both legs from just below the knees to the ankle. You will not be able to drive for upto 8 weeks, you need to sleep sitting up, you cannot make a cup of tea or coffee because you cannot lift a kettle. You are going to be in a lot of pain and discomfort and this could go on for months (or not).

REMEMBER this is NOT medical advice

So I am going to give you my shopping list and things to do:

To do list:
Get someone to clean and iron for when you come home you will break your ribs again if you do it too quickly. If you have a garden and it’s summer either ignore or give the responsibility to someone.
Have the numbers of people who will act as taxi drivers and the number of a taxi firm.
You will need some cash for things, so visit a cash machine.
Make sure you have a phone one that has credit and does skype/FaceTime and email/whatsapp is best. Learn to use it and remember the charger.
Get waxed everywhere, it makes stitches, stickers, bandages much less painful to remove.
Make sure you have stocked up heavy goods at home.
Fill the freezer ( more advice in later blogs).
Change the bedding
Organise a list of friends, family and relatives to visit, help,etc
Sort out your clothes so that they are easy to locate and easy to put, choose the bigger loose comfortable stuff. Shirt type tops dresses are best as easy to slip on.

Find or buy and put in a safe place:
A thermometer, paracetamol, ibuprofen gel (tablets not recommended), cream for babies bottoms,pen, paper, post it notes, baby wipes or facial wipes, antiseptic gel, tissues, favourite perfume, some personal care treats.

I used a couple of 500ml mineral water bottles for drinking as jugs were too heavy. I kept one in the fridge the other by the bedside, add a few pieces of lime or lemon rind, it makes it really refreshing.

Vitamins: vitamin C (500mg minimum), a general multivitamin, vitamin E capsules, take them if you believe. The Vitamin E capsules can be squeezed and the oil used on the scars, better than Bio-oil in my view and the recommendation of Plastic surgeon.

Pillows:  you are going to need three or four so make sure you have them to spare just for you. I also used a V shaped pillow to keep me supported. There are many available choose the one you like. This is not the one I bought just an image.

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BRAS

This is a nightmare, they tell you to buy a soft bra, I bought a masectomy bra, sports bra, wireless bra – DO NOT WASTE MON£¥. If you have great mammory glands not an A/B size you need to take care in choosing your support. My absolute favourite is GENIE type bra or equivalent from ASDA(Walmart) or other stores I paid 6.99. Or look for tops with support, never for work for my size but you may be OK. Get a size larger because your weight will go up initially due to the fluids in the operation, then You will lose weight. Anything too tight is painful, since I could not get a painless bra and other complications I ended up with red sore places under the breasts – baby bum (bb) cream worked a treat! Soaked soft dressings in the freezer also helped ease redness and heat in he wound or frozen peas in a plastic bag and then a sock all worked.

Packing for Hospital
There are two stages to this process before the operation and after – admission & recovery.

Admission
No jewellery, no nail polish, had you hair dyed and cut, all waxed and threaded, been to the dentist. Now packing – the wash bag toothpaste, brush, floss, hairbrush, hair ties, face cream, lip gloss or a small tin of Vaseline, body lotion, wipes, small pack tissues, roll on unscented anti perspiration, baby wipes, small bottles of body wash, conditioner, shampoo. You need flip flops and or slippers, the former to avoid getting foot fungus, so many people complain I thought I would tell you.

Clothes: night clothes any 2 sets, underwear 3, socks, set of day clothes and a shawl.

Food: a late night snack, drink of your choice.
Medicines take them with you.

Entertainment
I took my ipad and phone, little bit of cash and credit card. Check the credit of minutes on your phone I racked up a £300 phone bill and T-mobile never warned me or told me madam you are well over your limit. Buy a package of extra minutes or do missed calls. As my daughter said it was a small price for your sanity!
I had loaded it with Apps, books,and games. I bought wifi when I got there!

Recovery

Pack a larger back with night dresses or pyjamas that open to the waist, I had five kaftans made with zips down the front in soft cotton, the best thing ever, i lived in them. For day wear loose easy to slip on soft tops and joggers. Good walking shoes. Get them to bring in things that make you feel good.

For food anything high in potassium as your levels will fall dramatically, dates, bananas also prunes, linseed to make your bowels move ASAP you are out if intensive care! Dry biscuits if you have nausea.

Bed Sores
When my bottom and bottom of my spine began to get sore I got an air mattress, a special cushion and a swimming ring. The first two came via the district nurses, the latter I bought. I also used the bb cream. If you let the sores actually develop it will take a very longtime to recover, so take early precautions.

I was rarely hungry and I only wanted sweet or spicy food, for the first time in my life I got told eat anything, but you need nutrition & protein to mend and recover. So here is

Chicken Biryani

800g – 1 kilo of chicken pieces on the bone
1 tablespoon each of ground ginger and garlic
1 teaspoon ground cardamom green
Juice and rind of a lime
Salt to taste
2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli, if you do not have mix cayenne and paprika
Mix together well
Leave to marinate for an hour

Now add:
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon each of coriander & cumin powder
500 ml yoghurt
Piece of cinnamon
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato purée
Optionally add fresh coriander stalks and chopped green chillies. Leave to marinate again for as long as you can overnight is good.

Rice:
Basmati rice only otherwise make Paella.
Soak 2 cups of rice in cold water
When ready to cook fill a pan of cold water add, salt, 2 bay leaves, 4 cloves black, teaspoon pepper pods, cinnamon stick,2 brown and 4 green cardamoms. 1 tbsp toasted cumin or caraway seeds. If you do not want these spices in the rice put in a piece of muslin (bouquet garni)
Bring to boil add drained rice and cook for about 7min take. Couple of grains out, press down and if no hard bits drain immediately, if not give a minute more try again. It must not be totally cooked.

Make a purée of 2 large onions or use eazy onions can, 1 inch ginger 4cloves garlic, 2 green chillies, some coriander stalks and mint leaves if you have.
Now take a large casserole or pan with a tight lid, add a teaspoon of coconut oil
Add whole spices: bay leaves, cloves, cumin, cardamoms
Fry until they sputter, now add powdered spices – 1 tbsp garam masala,1tsp each turmeric, chilli powder salt to taste.
Stir fry for 30 seconds. Keep heat high add onion mixture stir well for 3-5 minutes, now add chicken pieces a couple at a time, until all in now add remaining marinade, stir well. Cook for 5 minutes, add some of the rice water or stock about a small cup full.

Now layer half of rice on top, sprinkle with garam masala, roast onions, herbs. Now add another layer of rice, spices onions and herbs. Over the top you can add saffron dissolved in 4tablespoon warm milk. Put on a tight lid.

Cook on a very low heat if possible put a griddle pan under the pot and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Check chicken is cooked. I have left it in a low oven for an hour at 140C. Eat with plain yoghurt.

To serve decorate with herbs, roasted onions, boiled chopped eggs. I also do a chunky salad of red onion, tomatoes, cucumber & lemon juice. Seasoning to your taste.

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I was looking back at updates I provided to family and friends  and I noticed that every time I left hospital I was convinced it was the last. Every operation has it’s dangers and there are risks of complications. A CABG is a bigger operation so carries greater risk, in the coming I am going to go through some of the complications.

A week after my second admission to hospital I completed the walk from my home to the ASDA store over a mile away. This walk is significant it is my test walk, and I completed it in under 30 minutes and I got through the incline without problems. I felt that this was going really well, my HEART was well. Before my operation I had reached the stage that I had to stop about five times up the final incline and I was totally exhausted.

A Test Walk – this is a walk that tests your heart and you do regularly, it needs to include an incline or inclines, my route has a couple of gentle inclines and one though it is not very high it goes on for more than 200 metres. The target pace is one that gets me there in about 20 minutes, and I know that I can complete the inclines without resting or loss of breath if all is well with my heart and lungs. I always kept a record of the time and performance on the test walk.

Obviously a two mile walk may be too easy for some and too hard for others, choose something you will do regularly all year round.

A week later I was having problems walking at all and I was in an agony of pain, again! Complication 1 – allergies or side effects to medication
Complication 2 – pleural effusion, fluid build up in the lungs,

Symptoms of Pleurisy

Pain in the chest
Pain in the muscles of the chest
Persistent cough
Fever & General malaise
Pain is worse on inhaling and exhaling deeply or coughing

I always thought pleurisy was a complication of tuberculosis and kills poets, novelists Catherine Medici, Benjamin Franklin in history, what was I doing with it in this present time? So I cannot breathe, cannot walk and I am doubled over in pain, hand me that paracetamol and tromadol NOW!

The Cure – if pleurisy is not severe just painful take diuretic tablets and painkillers. You cure it by deep breathing and coughing. So to cure yourself you have to cause yourself lots of pain every hour by taking six deep breaths and coughing up anything that will move out. Masochism, I went to see a physiotherapist who used to torture me, she made me breath properly! Stand straight! Walk fierce! She also said I did not breath correctly, it’s true. I also had massages sitting up, and used steam with olbas oil. I chose not to use diuretics, probably a mistake, but I was wary of medicines after my latest experience.

There are different types of breathing- to learn more read yoga books, watch videos, read self help improvement volumes and writings to get the technical words, this is my experience. Breathing correctly is an important skill that I had to learn and practice.

Breathing 1

To breath without pain, breath in the stomach.
The stomach goes out as you breath in and goes in as you breath out. How did I do it so wrong and not notice? This type of breathing was the only way to reduce the pain of pleura friction. I used to put hands on my stomach and watch them go up and down.

Breathing 2

To clear the lungs of the fluid and push it upwards, breath deeply fill every bit. First empty the lungs breath out, do the last hoo to,get the last bits. Now breath through the nose fill the stomach, get the lungs full,the rib cage should come out. Now the sternum ( The scar area) your breasts should be pointed, juste when you think no more. Do a last couple of sniffs to get more in. Now breath out through the mouth, regulate the flow let the air come out, keep going pull in the stomach as if you are going to get in to a pair of jeans that are too small. Empty the lungs pull in that rib cage, now just as it feels like it’s done do a couple more hoo, hoo, out for those last bits of air. Do not let the shoulders rise, they actually increase lung capacity, but it feels like it. Breathing in front of a mirror helps.

If you feel phlegm cough to get it out, look up, controlled coughing. Or take a deep breath and let out in a controlled huff sigh

Breathing 3
Inflate the lungs. For this exercise I am trying to open the lungs only. So I put my hand on each lung rib cage so I can feel it move. Breath out, pull the stomach in, now breath in through the nose, do not inflate the stomach just feel the burn as you open up the lungs, start at the bottom and then fill to the top. Sounds simple but when it hurts where the pleura ( lung lining) rubs and causes pain you only breath in The top of the lung.

I also walked regularly through the day, sometimes for only 5 minutes, other times much longer. Walking was the only way I could last waiting for the next dose of painkiller. Things seemed to be improving, the length and distance of walking was improving slowly. After a time it seemed like I would get periods without pain. Surely I was getting better now?

My appetite was severely reduced I wanted highly flavoured food, sweet, spicy or sour. So the recipe I liked was Tom Yum Soup – vegetarian or chicken not prawns.

Quick Tom Yum Soup

Bouillion soup powder or stock cube, litre of water
Add finely chopped:
ginger or galangal 1 inch
3-4 garlic cloves
1-2 stalks of lemongrass
2 chillies
4 kafir lime leaves
Many times I added frozen garlic and ginger and bottled lemongrass to make it quicker and as it was painful chopping.

Add to the liquid and set to boil for at least ten minutes.
Now add vegetables of your choice or what you have finely chopped: carrots, broccoli, pak choi, mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, mangetout, capsicum. Again I added chopped stir fry packs to spees things and I did not have energy

Let them cook for a couple of minutes.

Now add tofu or cooked chicken.
Now add flavours : juice of 2 limes, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soya sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce
Taste and adjust to your personal taste.

Chopped: bunch of Basil leaves, coriander. Keep some for decoration.
Put in a bowl and enjoy.

After an operation we are momentarily disorientated uncomfortable and yet happy, euphoric – relief at waking up. But more importantly to note we are full of anaesthesia such as morphine, all very happy drugs. As they leave our system they cause withdrawal and bring us low and may make us tired, negative and even depressed.

I was connected to tubes, ports, machines, catheters and looked like a good candidate for Victor Frankenstein experiments. Most patients have both legs covered in bandages and another covering the whole of the sternum join about 8 – 12 inches. Time is a myth, you sleep you throw up, you throw up and slowly you come out of the stupor to true wakefulness. That is when the pain kicks in –

do not be a hero, take the pain killers!!

When it’s safe you will come out Intensive care unit into a surgical ward, where they look after you, remove the appendages over time and then get you performing routine bodily functions. Tick them off : drinking, breathing without oxygen, urinating, emptying your bowels, eating, coughing, burping, sneezing, laughing and last but not least walking. I tell you the last five hurt. They will give you a rolled up towel to press to your chest, some of us hold onto it like a babies blanky, but it is an amazing low tech device to stop you from breaking your sternum again. Do not open doors, hold your towel, when you want to cough or sneeze press towel to sternum your ribs need to rejoin, do not pull them apart, use the TOWEL.

The rule: drugs are not offered unless someone with knowledge and experience feels you need them. So if they say would you like a laxative say YES please fast! Being constipated after and before an operation can be excruciatingly painful and dangerous. Do not think “I do not suffer from constipation I do not need this”, just do it!

Eat bananas, your potassium level is very low. Take deep breaths and as soon as they allow walk. Have healthy snacks brought in or stored at home, you need to be eating well to recover, nutritionally rich foods. Nuts, seeds, oat biscuits, fruit are good. If you are diabetic or on warfarin check with the nurses.

You are in recovery and will be in grief this is normal, you have lost something important – the YOU, that lived that manic life, the healthy you, optimistic you and some of us find ourselves afraid. It is normal paranoia, it will go quickly, if you work with your body.

Recuperation (recovery), a period of physical and/ or mental recovery and can be as short as 8 weeks and as long as a year. I thought it would be the former not the latter.

I was walking well by day three and had conquered the stairs by day five, then before day seven I was on my way home. I am safe, home, it is just a walk in the park now, you have done it so many times before. Get well and live. Little did I know.

A Recipe? Really folks, I have just come out of major surgery! oh ok! What do I miss in hospital?

Tea, I hate the tea in hospital with a vengeance and when I am not well I like ginger tea without milk or sugar, sometimes a bit of honey! And always lemon.

Traditional Indian Ginger Chai for Two

In a small pan add two mugs of cold water
Bash one green cardamom, half a teaspoon fennel seeds, a clove and add to water. Some people like a couple black pepper seeds too. Wash ginger Then I peel and slice an inch of ginger add everything to the water, turn on the heat.

If you are not going to add milk add a slice of lemon peel. I bring to the boil and leave to simmer at least 5 minutes, look at the colour and smell. For me it’s ready I strain add honey and lemon juice.

BUT this is the traditional recipe:
So add tea of your choice a heaped tablespoon, let it come to the boil and give a strong colour at least 2 minutes now add a cup of milk and let it come back to the boil, now you want a rolling boil for at least two minutes for that authentic taste, the longer the boil the better the flavour. Strain and drink. It is hot take care!
Add sugar to taste