Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
I wear my scar proudly. I know a lot of people, my mother-in-law, for instance, would prefer that I hide it behind a high collar or a scarf, but I'm not ashamed of what I've been through.
In the beginning, my family treated me like a fragile thing. I was cherished and pampered in all the right ways. But as my body started to heal on the outside, as I've been able to stay awake longer, walk longer distances, do more around the house, eat a bigger variety of food, work, drive, and generally live normally, everyone around me has reverted to treating me as if my dissection never happened. In some ways, it's a good thing. For someone as independent as I was pre-surgery, having to rely on others to do things for me was really tough. The truth is, though, I was profoundly changed by my dissection, not just because I had a nifty little stroke to go along with it, but because, among other things, I feel the strong hand of mortality nipping at my heels.
It doesn't show on the outside, but I have a harder time processing information. It takes a bit more focus and concentrated effort, especially a few hours after I've taken my meds. I often have trouble coming up with the right words and sometimes that means my message will be misunderstood. I used to be the queen of multitasking, but that's a thing of the past now, and if I don't make lists, I'll forget even the most obvious things. Being completely absentminded, I'll forget to do things seconds after being asked to do it. I even need an alarm to remember to take my meds.
I make mistakes in my work and forget to pay bills on time so I have a complicated set of checks and balances to make sure I don't mess up too much. We own our business so I'm able to make my own hours, but it's still a challenge to keep up.
I also find that I'm not able to handle stress very well. Over the past few weeks, I've been tasked with moving my 88 year old mother into a care home. She went, kicking and screaming, and ever resentful because I'm unable to keep her at home. Finding her placement and getting her household goods moved was quite difficult with my kids starting school again and meeting with the bank to refinance our house. Frustration over my inability to cope with this heavy stress load has reduced me to tears several times. My husband makes a big deal to me about not lifting heavy objects, but he and everyone else seems to forget that what I really need is emotional support.
Yesterday, mom and I had an argument. She was being ornery with the staff and I asked her to be nicer to people instead which, of course, made her angry. "I'm going to die soon anyway. Why should I have to be nice?" she said. Well, because every day is a gift, I wanted to say. I'm only 47 years old and doing everything I can to still be here when my youngest daughter graduates from high school (she's 12 years old now) so my mom's point of view confounds me.
But, I don't know how to get the people around me to understand that I'm different on the inside and that my normal is so far from what I used to be. Nobody wants to hear that, even though modern medicine will probably keep me alive for a long time, that time is relative and conditional based upon how well I take care of myself. Even though my surgery is something in their past, I live with the effects of it every single day. I know they say the psychological effects of a life threatening illness are long lasting, but I really never expected this.
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