Namine is tucked into her bed, in her own room, here in the ICU. Her numbers look good, and doctors are optimistic about her postoperative recovery. Jessica and I are settled into our own little corner of the room, and, with Namine sleeping, are starting to relax a little. Maybe.
The number of tubes coming out of Namine’s chest is shocking, to say the least. She hasn’t had heart surgery since 2009 (although the ease with which I can say that should also give you pause), and we’re certainly not used to seeing her so. But we understand their necessity, and the drainage tubes are doing their job. What we haven’t seen before are the pace wires leading to her heart. It was a shock (pun intended, and I’m not sorry – with a day like today, I’m going to find humor wherever I can) to us when the doctor told us that Namine had a heart block in the OR, thus the pace wires.
A heart block, as it was explained to me by the ICU floor doctor, is basically an interruption in the electrical flow of the heart’s function. During the process of open heart surgery, the doctors can inadvertently knock the heart out of rhythm; the result is a heart whose beats in the top and bottom chambers are out of sync, or a heart that stops beating altogether momentarily. The pace wires, and the external pacemaker itself, exist as a precaution and, in Namine’s case, definitely came in handy mid-procedure. The pace wires and pacemaker will remain post-op for a day or two, in case they are needed once again. So far, though, they haven’t been; Namine’s heart rate is all her own, and has been since being brought out of the operating room.