Questions About Emotional/psychic RecoveryHello, I'm 33 and 3 years ago I had my aortic valve replaced. I almost didn't survive the surgery and my BP dropped to 50/30. At that time I received my first of 9 blood transfusions over a 3 week period. I had severe complications including significant pleural effusion and was never given any pain medication beyond percocet. While I was in the ICU I experienced bizarre hallucinations, which I've since learned is called "ICU psychosis." Two days after I was released from the hospital I was worse than ever with unimaginable pain and fever and I knew I was dying. Back in the ER they told me I had pericarditis and tamponade and my heart was shutting down. They immediately took me back to surgery to cut a window in my pericardium and place (more) chest tubes. (Is is just me or were the chest tubes the worst part??) This particular situation and accompanying surgery (thorecotomy) is one of the highest risk surgeries and survival statistics aren't particularly impressive but I was in too much pain to be concerned about that.
As a result of all this I had to drop out of my PhD program and move back home. I'll have to have my aortic valve replaced again in a few years, and it's possible that my mitral valve will be replaced as well.
Today I'm completely recovered...physically. Unfortunately my emotional/psychic recovery hasn't been as easy. I have PTSD from the heart surgeries and thoracic procedures, and significant grief and anger over the various changes my life course took as a result. I know PTSD and emotional changes are fairly common in heart surgery survivors, but information on the "psychic" aspects of the experience are more scarce. It's difficult to explain what I mean beyond saying that there is something fundamentally "different" about who I am, at a level deeper than my personality. I feel things differently and have a number of new sensory experiences that I'm sure some people would describe as crazy. (It seems sometimes I can see people's energy and it can be extremely overwhelming.) There are many other littler things that have also changed. For example I'm more sensitive to smell, I avoid all sweets, I see "shooting stars" in my visual field, and I've developed some sort of chemical sensitivity. In general I don't know this person I've become, and it's upsetting and alienating.
Has anyone else had any kind of long term recovery issues focused around emotional and psychic changes? I talk to family and my therapist about the PTSD and grief stuff, but people who haven't been through it themselves have a hard time understanding these other aspects.
Thanks everyone, and I wish you all healthy futures.
Febrile 31-35, F 4 Responses 0 May 23, 2012