Monday, July 02, 2007

Some Hearts (Making the Most of Second Chances)

Six intravenous drips, a four-lumen Swan-Ganz catheter with an Intrajugular Catheter with sheath intact, a central venous pressure line attached to a Heparinized normal saline, two chest tubes, one of which is attached to a Gomco pump, the other to a water-seal one-bottle drainage, one pericardial tube, two Jackson-Pratt drains, a set of Pericardial wires, a Central/Midline Thoracic dressing reinforced with Transparent Tegaderm Occlusive Dressings, four leg/thigh dressings s/p vein stripping, a Foley catheter attached to a drainage Hospicare bag, and two peripheral venous access. Everything in one patient. Perhaps by now medical professionals who have read the aforementioned contraptions must have thought of just one thing—OPEN HEART SURGERY—and taking care of patients who just had one is sort of experiencing a living miracle—the miracle of the beating heart.


I almost curse our Charge Nurse when he assigned me to admit a post heart surgery patient (s/p Emergency Pericardial Exploration with Extraction of Hematoma sec. to Pericardial Tamponade s/p 4-Vessel Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, s/p Saphenous Vein Endoscopic Stripping) while I was taking care of an intubated patient whose care necessitates more than one primary nurse. With conviction and composure and fear and anger, I meticulously admitted the patient to the ICU suite giving her the excellent nursing care deserving of a patient whose heart was stressed beyond its capacity.

The heart is such a spectacular organ. It undergoes a tremendous amount of stress throughout its entire lifetime, oftentimes enduring too much pressures and pains it does not deserve at all. Too much heartaches, too much pains, too much rejection, too much denial—everything too much to endure. The only thing that gives solace and comfort is the fact that despite these hardships, the heart has the incredibly pristine ability to restore itself, within the limits its capacity can carry.

Working with post-heart surgery patients is such a joy to the spirit. Not all people who undergo heart surgery survive their intra-operative course, more so of achieving a post-operative life regaining full health potential a
nd capabilities. Much of them do not even reach surgery while some other dies while on the operating table. And only a very few people are given the second chance to live.


The heart has its own way of mending itself.
It is a tedious process as the (cells of the) heart are but few of the body structures not capable of regenerating. When the heart cells die, they are forever dead. And no amount of nitroglycerine, trimetazidine, aspirin, or nifedipine could revive an ischemic heart.

But the heart does stretch beyond what its capacity can reach.
It might be fragile, but is nevertheless flexible. It beats on its own, without being commanded on. It might skip a beat, increase its pace, fibrillate by itself, or not beat at all, without our influence or control. Sometimes, despite being a man of science, I could just not defy the fact that maybe there is truth to the adage that the heart has a mind of its own.

I’m not a heart surgery survivor, nor am planning to have one in the immediate future, but in my melancholic times, a visit to the Mended Hearts Organization is but a balm to the hurt. Mended Hearts, as the name implies, is an organization where people with heart diseases are brought together despite their health conditions and celebrate the meaning of their life and existence in the face of a heart condition.

In one of the issues of their journal aptly entitled Heartbeat, heart surgery survivors express their opinion regarding their hospitalizations and the comment of a patient who survived a heart attack moved me and my spirit. She stated:

“I realized that no matter how much I worked or how much I made, it wouldn’t change anything of importance in my life. It’s the people I care about that matter. Things don’t make you happy. It’s what you give away that counts, not money, but yourself and your time. (1)

Being a nurse who takes care of these persons is such a huge privilege. Despite the spiralling costs of such procedures, perhaps all of us know that the gift of life can not measured nor bought in pecuniary terms. Interacting with people whose broken hearts have been mended gives one a sense of nostalgia and fulfilment. It is what we give away that matters. It is what we selflessly offer that counts. It is what we sacrifice that is important. And what we are is what really counts.

Hearts are not meant to be hurt—both physically and emotionally. And as owners of our hearts, whether lonely or not, it is our responsibility to take care of it by living a healthy lifestyle, leaving weighty burdens and heavy baggage, and listening to it every once in a while. Because we only have one, and that is a reason enough.

There are times when I wish and pray that I could be of help to others with the work that I do and the things that I write. And I hope that time will come and someone will tell me…

“Everyone has a purpose on this earth, and I think you have found yours.” (2)


Mended Hearts is a national nonprofit organization comprised of people with heart disease, their families, medical professionals and other interested parties. It provides educational information, and individual and group support to recovering patients and their families. You can visit Mended Hearts at this site: (No promotions implied).


(1, 2) From Connie Butler’s What Counts is What You Give Away. In John Caswell’s Making the Most of Second Chances, Heartbeat (Mended Hearts Official Publication), Spring 2007, p. 8, 9, 11. Heartbeat Magazine image from the Mended Hearts website. All Rights Reserved.

The posted images are copyrights of their respective owners and the author does not, in any way, claims the ownership of the aforementioned images. The original links are posted respectively for reference.

1 comment:

Phoenix said...

Hi Ruff, you are officially my idol. I've been catching up on my reading with your posts here especially with the ones related to Nursing like this one, and I must say.. Bravo!

I have always said Nursing was not for me, but seeing how its done and its effect on people... parang it gives me a sense that I'm doing something not just for money or for myself but for others.

Inspired na ako for this sem hehe! Thanks = )