My heart surgery’s over. It was just 19 days ago that I was on a table with my chest opened up to the eyes and fingers of surgeons but here I am, back at the computer with a mechanical part ticking away inside. I feel surprisingly normal, though it will take a while for my arms to be properly useful again. Right now they’re only good for drawing and typing (and Skyrim). In other words, I’m well and truly back to work and will be doing little else for at least 6-8 weeks.
Here are a few things about my experience that I won’t easily forget. If you’re easily scared, please read on.
I had horrifying visions and dreams in hospital. Mostly whenever I closed my eyes I had flashes of decaying faces with terrified expressions, or extreme close-ups of open, dead eyes or ruptured skin. Occasionally something beautiful but oddly disturbing would play. One of these was a sheet of floral fabric billowing slowly in bright sunlight, but a hellish choral soundtrack gave the scene a nightmarish ambience that I’ll remember for a long time.
These were always slow and clear, as if 1000 fps in 4k resolution. Just a series of slow motion scenes that sat behind my eyes, waiting for me to blink or doze.
My guess is that the drugs had something to do with this, but they weren’t nightmares and I never woke in fright. Even when I dreamed that I woke in a mass grave, my own face tightly surrounded by blood-drenched soil and other dead faces.
Even though I haven’t painted in many years, I find myself inspired to create a series of paintings, based on these images which are still vivid in my head.
The ICU staff were incredible, though I was generally uncomfortable and in quite some pain. There were tubes and needles hanging out of my arms, chest and neck. There were monitors and cables all over me so I could barely turn my head without pulling some device across the bed and setting off an alarm. My room in ICU had no windows, no TV, not even a picture on the wall. After 3 days I was ready to risk injury and punch through one of those walls to get out. Without my visitors (Jeanette, Mum, Dad) walking into the room every day with their familiar smiles and normal clothes, I would probably have started flinging food and singing loud, angry songs like some insane prisoner.
The nurses in ICU told me they had always referred to my room as the sensory deprivation chamber. Thankfully, once out in the ward, I had more freedom and I did a lot of walking.
My imagination has a life of its own but I’m not easily frightened. Even as a little kid, I was more fascinated than scared of what might be lurking in the dark. I always considered myself the scary one, rather than the one who’s scared.
In hospital though, I did something I never thought I’d do. A couple of nights, unable to sleep, I wandered alone through that huge maze of a hospital between 2 – 4am. The corridors, some of them easily 100 metres long were dark and empty, lit only at the ends.
Wandering out of my own ward, I felt invisible as I passed the nurses stations. The one or two nurses on each station peered into charts, or computer monitors and didn’t see me pass. I passed a security guard in one of the wide corridors and he didn’t even look me in the eye. I felt like a ghost as I wandered into areas of the hospital I shouldn’t have, all the dark doorways along the way gaping at me as I passed; the tiny red and green lights of monitoring devices sparkling within, sometimes the sound of a rattling breath, rising and falling, or the hot, heavy smell of a person who’s been in bed for too long.
All this time, I was wearing a wireless monitor that sent my vital signs to the nurses station. I was told those monitors only have a range of 30-50 metres but as far as I know, I set off no alarms on my long night walks.
Just down the hall from me in the same ward, two policemen sat guarding a room, drinking coffee and reading books. “Just like the movies, huh?” I quipped as I passed, and they both laughed. They were guarding a prisoner who they said had survived being stabbed in prison and was recovering from the surgery. The next day I saw them walking him in chains. The guy was monstrously tall. Easily 7 feet. I’d love to have made some witty remark to him but in my fragile state, feared being lunged at by a proper criminal, even if he was chained up.
Back to work
I worked hard to convince the doctors I was ready to go home. They wanted to keep me in for 9, even 10 days but thanks to all my walking and “enthusiastic” recovery, they allowed me to go home on the 7th day after surgery.
So here I am! It will be approximately 3 months before I can draw a longbow, dig a hole or climb a tree. Work-wise though, I’m almost back at full speed, ready to finish Dashkin and finalise the Kickstarter rewards. I’m extremely grateful for the patience of those waiting on their stuff, and touched by all the messages of support from people I know and even people I don’t.
If we all survive the apocalypse in 2012, I plan on making it a big year for BiteyCastle and Brackenwood.