Part One| Part Two| Part Three
By: Jean Johnson for Heart1
“Jan was in the middle of some interior decorating jobs, so Tammy stayed 18 days and took care of me when I first came home after the heart surgery,” Olive Blackwell said about her daughters’ assisting her. “My insurance coverage also provided a housekeeper, and a nurse came from the hospital. They sent out a mental health evaluator too. Apparently they worry about depression and even suicide. But he said I was in great shape and not to worry even though I do get depressed because I can’t do what I used to.
“I want to work in my yard,” Blackwell said with clear emphasis, speaking six weeks out from her surgery. “I want to do stuff, and I can’t yet. I get tired.
|Be prepared to have a successful home recovery:
Make careful plans for having enough help at home after major surgery.
Consider a short term stay at a nursing home if the situation is warranted.
Try not to overestimate the energy you will have during the recuperation phase.
Try not to underestimate the help you will need.
Remember that sleep is medicine and a powerful ally in the healing process. Listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.
Stay hydrated, flushing your system with eight glasses of water daily.
Stay well nourished with homemade soups (made ahead of your hospitalization and frozen) and fruit smoothies to which soy protein powder can be added along with wheat germ, oat bran and other high-powered foods that promote healing.
“But I want to do it yesterday,” she goes on with a chuckle. “I have no patience, and that’s probably the Norwegian in me.
“They said I’d start feeling better by two months and in three, I’d be back to where I would really feel good, so I shouldn’t complain,” she said, “Even the nurse told me, ‘You’ve got to be patient. You’re going to have these days when things aren’t so good.’
“Like Saturday I was supposed to go to an open house, and I wanted to go in the worst way, but the stitches in my leg – they were healing beautifully, and then they got sore and inflamed. So no way could I go and enjoy myself. I did go over to Jan’s on Father’s Day. She had 20 people. But I didn’t stay too long.”
It was when she first got home and all the family was over at her condo that Blackwell will always remember. “Everyone was out on my deck where my garden is, and I’d been asleep and just got up and was coming into the living room. That’s when Justice came in through the sliding doors that go out to the deck. Her eyes got big like only a seven year old’s can, and she hollered to everyone outside, ‘Grandma’s unplugged!’”
Blackwell’s face softens into a smile at the memory. “She was so darling. The last time she’d seen me, I was still in the hospital with all those IVs and everything.” Blackwell also talks of the friends that stood by her during her recuperation. “Lenore – we’ve known each other for years – she came the afternoon Tammy left to be with me because my other friend Vi – our husbands used to work together so we go back 35 or 40 years and went to Europe together – didn’t get here until later in the day from Eugene.”
Vi stayed an entire week until Blackwell felt well enough to start living independently again. “Of course, Jan is here and can always come if I need her. Her husband is great too. He brings me produce from his business. Great watermelon and cantaloupe, and I had honeydew that was really yummy one day.”
It’s good that Blackwell will eat the fruit and vegetables her son-in-law brings, because she lost 15 precious pounds while she was in the hospital. “I know, I need to eat, but everything tasted metallic there and for quite awhile after I got home. Food is tasting better, but I still don’t have a good appetite.
Having Justice over for the day recently helped some, though. “It was the first time she got to stay since the end of April, and I missed her so much. She made her favorite breakfast. It was pancakes and eggs, and all I had to do was break the egg since she can’t do them yet without breaking the yolk,” said Blackwell. “Other than that she did the whole thing by herself. Her pancakes were great. And she even washed the dishes.
“I’m feeling good enough now to keep her Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that works out well with her summer school schedule. It’s better for her too, since I know she gets tired,” Blackwell said. “After we ate, I told her, ‘Well, Justice, honey, I’m tired. I’m going to go lay down. Do you want to put a movie on?’ But she said no that she’d lay down with me and read me The Cat in the Hat. She did read for awhile, but then she fell sound asleep. She needed to rest.”
After five weeks passed, Blackwell was also able to start driving. “That was great. I could get out to the store, you know. It’s funny how you miss doing that – all those every day things we take for granted.”
Taking life for granted, however, is something Blackwell doesn’t do these days. “Yes, I’m glad I’m still here, even if things do get discouraging. Everyone has been so great. That’s made all the difference. My wonderful family and all my friends. They are why you go on, and I’m especially glad that I’m feeling good enough for Justice to start staying with me some. I know I’ve said it before, but I really did miss her. We’ve been together since she was born almost, and that’s seven years.”
With any luck at all, Justice and the entire Blackwell crew will get ‘Grandma Unplugged!’ around for at least seven more years. After all, as Blackwell put it, “my heart is mended now, and I’m feeling better all the time. We’re even going down to Jan’s beach house for the Fourth of July which will be great.”