Although during your hospital stay, all you probably think about is going home, when the day comes, it’s a big step.
I spent 15 days in hospital, hooked up to monitors most of the time, with nurses always close by. I missed home terribly but I felt safe in hospital.
It is common to feel a little vulnerable when you are first taken off your heart monitors. I certainly found the constant, steady beeping quite comforting and was alarmed when I no longer could hear them. Rest assured that when you are taken off your heart monitors (if you’ve been on them) it will be because the doctors feel you are recovering well and your heart is back to a nice, steady rhythm.
Leaving the hospital
Being in hospital affects people in different ways. I found that although I missed home terribly, I felt safe and looked after in hospital. When the day came, that I was allowed home, I found it more emotional than I could have imagined.
I remember walking through the reception of the hospital which led me through the first set of double doors. I walked through the doors and then stopped, feeling glued to the spot. I looked forward at the second set of doors that led to the outside world, fresh air, my children, my life… And then I turned and looked backwards at the door behind me which led back into the safety and security of the hospital. I really didn’t want to go back inside, but I was terrified to go forward. I realised that my life had changed and I was unsure of what the future held. With the kind words and strong arms of my husband around me, I was able to move past that point and breath my first fresh air for two weeks. This was really the beginning of my recovery proper.
Hospitals are supposed to ensure that your discharge runs smoothly. Ideally it is best if you can be back home before lunch, so that you have the afternoon and evening to settle in, before night-time. However this isn’t always possible to achieve. If you would rather not arrive back home late at night when its dark, make sure you discuss this with your nurse on the ward so that she can try to arrange your discharge accordingly.
In hospital you will have spent the majority of your time in bed, and as frustrating as this may have been, it was also necessary to ensure that you relaxed.
So, it’s normal to worry or feel anxious when you leave hospital and go home. Make sure that you talk to the hospital staff, the cardiac rehabilitation team or your GP about what you should be allowed or encouraged to do. Everyone is different and you must get advice that is relevant to you. Your family or people close to you may also feel anxious about your recovery and they might like to be present when you talk to your doctor about being discharged, just so that they understand what will be required – if anything.
Recovery time varies greatly depending on your age, your heart condition and the treatment you have had. People who are older, or who have been particularly unwell and have other conditions, may find it takes a little longer to recover.
In the first few weeks after you come out of hospital, you are likely to have good days and bad days. But as time goes by, you should improve steadily and gradually feel better.
When you get home, it’s easy to get straight back into the same old routine as before, but you need to remember that you are still in recovery from a major heart trauma. It won’t be like this forever, but certainly to begin with, you still need to rest up and listen to your body.
Keep taking the pills
While in hospital, the nurses will be administering your medication everyday but they may not have had time to explain all the pills to you. If you are unsure about anything, ask one of the nurses to come and talk with you when she has a spare 10 minutes to explain what each medication is for and when and how you should take it. Make sure you understand this properly and if you don’t understand, ask again! Write it down if you feel it’s too much to remember.
This will be your first ‘mixture’ of medication. It may be that in time you feel you need to change some medication if it is causing unwanted side effects.
I suggest that you keep a note book close to hand and jot down any unwanted side effects you are suffering and give it at least 3 months to see if these side effects settle down. More often than not your body learns to tolerate the medication but if after 3 months you are still struggling with some of it, discuss it with your GP or Cardiologist. There are usually alternatives you can try.
NEVER stop taking any of your heart medication without consulting with your doctor. It’s very important that you take it regularly as instructed.
A note on taking pills
Before my heart attacks, I never took so much as a Paracetemol, apart from during childbirth. (My idea of natural childbirth with doing it without my make-up on!)
So, when I was handed a big plastic bag full of pills, on my way out of the hospital, I was not happy!
One day I was standing in the playground waiting for my little ones to come out of school and I got talking to one of the other mums. I very rarely moan (honestly!) but I admit I was having a grumble about all these pills I was taking. She turned to me and told me I was crazy! She was a diabetic and her pills kept her alive. She said that she was thankful everyday for her medication that allowed her to live a normal life and keep her diabetes in check. Mrs Diabetic was right. From that moment on, I have learned to love my pills and never had another negative feeling towards them. Me and my pills are now the best of friends. They keep me alive.
To help taking your daily medication easier:
- Buy 4 weekly pillboxes that allow you to sort a weeks worth of pills into the correct day and time sections.
- Sort your pills once a month upon collection, into your 4 pill boxes. Then throw all the packets away. Now you don’t have to think about what you are taking each and every day, you simply open your daily compartment …and you are sorted!