Episode 46

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Published on:

16th Apr 2024

Your Guide to the First 24 Hours After Open-Heart Surgery from a Respiratory Therapist -46

What does it feel like 24 hours after open-heart surgery? In this compelling episode of The Heart Chamber Podcast, Cheryl Ilov strips the mystery away, providing an intimate narration of the OR's intense atmosphere. From the beep of the monitors to the whoosh of the ventilator, Cheryl guides listeners through the process as if they are right there in the room. Host Boots Knighton offers a heartfelt perspective from the patient's side, revealing what it's like to wake up amidst a forest of tubes and wires. This episode is a rare look behind the curtain of medical advancement and personal transformation. Sit tight as we prepare to take you on a journey that beats with the rhythm of raw human emotion and technological marvel. Don't miss this episode of The Heart Chamber—it's time to be audaciously heartstrong.

A Little More About Today's Guest

Cheryl Ilov is a former respiratory therapist and critical care specialist, with extensive experience in the cardiac care units. After spending almost 20 years in the field, Cheryl earned her master's degree in physical therapy and spent 18 years in private practice. She is also the author of two books, a podcast host, and a second degree black belt in an ancient Japanese martial art called Ninpo Tai Jutsu.

How to connect with Cheryl

Website: http://cherylilov.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cherylilovvitalityconsultant/

Instagram: @cherylilov

How to connect with Boots

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @theheartchamberpodcast or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript

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Boots Knighton [:

From respiratory therapist to ninja. Yes. I am bringing you today a real life ninja Cheryl Ilov. But before she became a ninja, she was a respiratory therapist and critical care specialist in the cardiac care unit. After spending almost 20 years in the field, then she earned her master's degree in physical therapy and then spent an additional 18 years in private practice. But then after all that, she decides, hey, I'm going to turn into a ninja. Now she calls it a second degree black belt in an ancient Japanese martial art called Ninpo Tai jujitsu, but we know that she's a ninja.

Boots Knighton [:

We'll just call her a ninja. Cheryl and I have become fast friends. This is part of the fun about having a podcast is you get to meet so many interesting people. So I present to you my conversation with Cheryl Ilov Welcome to the Heart Chamber, Hope, Inspiration, and Healing, conversations on open heart surgery. I am your host, Boots Knighton. If you are a heart patient, a caregiver, a Heart care provider, a healer, or Heart just looking for open hearted living, this podcast is for you. To make sure you are in rhythm with the heart chamber, be sure to subscribe or follow where ever you Heart listening to this episode.

Boots Knighton [:

While you're listening today, think of someone who may appreciate this information. The number one way people learn about a podcast is through a friend. Don't you want to be the reason someone you know gained this heartfelt information? And if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram, 2 different places, at Boots or at the Heart chamber podcast. You can also find me on LinkedIn as well as Facebook. But enough with the directions, without further delay, let's get to this week's episode. Cheryl Ilov thank you so much for your willingness to come on to the Heart Chamber podcast and share your experience as a respiratory therapist now turned ninja. I was so lucky to meet you through your podcast. And there's so many pleasant surprises I've experienced since I decided to embark on this journey.

Boots Knighton [:

One of them is meeting all these people around the United States and the world. And you are just a treasure. So thanks again for saying yes today. And, you know, listeners, I'll have all the ways you can find Cheryl. She's written books. She's a complete and total badass. And it is really, really incredible to hear her entire story. But for today, we're gonna focus in on the respiratory therapy part because we heart patients more than likely will be intubated during our surgeries.

Boots Knighton [:

And I have been trying to find someone like Cheryl for a while to explain to us what this whole process is, what it's about. And so, Cheryl, thank you so much again for your generosity and spending some time with us.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Well, thank you so much for having me on the show, Boots. I really appreciate it. I just love talking to you.

Boots Knighton [:

Well, walk us through how you even got into this job, this career. I mean, there's always different careers out there in the world. Why respiratory therapy?

Cheryl Ilov [:

Oh, it's a crazy story, but, actually, I am number 3 out of 5 children. I have 4 sisters. And when my mother had 3 little girls in 4 years, my 2 older sisters and myself. So we grew up, you know, very, very close in age. And my dad was Eastern European. He's an immigrant or was an immigrant. And, you know, my mother started talking. She never went to college.

Cheryl Ilov [:

She finished high school, but back in the day, I'm a baby boomer. So my mom wanted all of us, the 3 of us, to go to college. And my dad said, no. They don't need to go to college. They're girls. They're just gonna get married and have children. And my mother was just devastated. And but she kept pushing it.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And one day, he came home from work, and he says, you know what? I think they should go to college. And she says it was thrilled and said, well, what changed your mind? And he said, well, just in case they end up with, I'll just say a loser, but he used another word. You know, it was a real jerk. Then they would be able to take care of themselves because they would have an education. If she didn't care, okay. Good enough. That's good enough for her. And then she was trying to figure out, well, what are they going to do, with a college education? It was like they have to go into either teaching or nursing because those were the only 2 professions my mother knew about that were feminine professions and also professions where once we got married and Heart having children, that we would be able to work part time to still have somewhat of a career.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Interestingly enough, the 2 old out of the 3 of us, one is a teacher. She's still teaching. 1 went into med tech, and I ended up in respiratory therapy. And how I ended up in RT, back then in the day, it was actually called inhalation therapy. That's how long ago it was until finally they realized, oh, well, you exhale too. So it's the respiratory system and that it ended up being respiratory therapy. But my sister, the one who was going to college to be a med tech, was just a year older than me, and I followed in her footsteps. I did everything that she did.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And she came home one time and looked at my mother and said, mom, Cheryl is never gonna be able to make it as a med tech. She cannot do this curriculum. It is too hard. She's not smart enough. But there's this new profession called inhalation therapy, and one of my friends says it's not nearly as difficult as medtech. So that's how I ended up in the respiratory therapy program. So our program was a 4 year program, 2 years at the local college. So I was living on campus, but 2 years there.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And then we spent 2 years at this huge teaching hospital in the middle of Pittsburgh. So I did not see my first patient until my junior year of college. I had no idea what I was getting in to. I think my mother and my sister probably thought that respiratory therapy or inhalation therapy, I would just go around handing out oxygen masks, kinda like the flight attendants on, you know, an airplane. So there I was, 19 years old, in critical care, going, I did not sign up for this. I have no idea what I'm doing. Some of my classmates, there were only 20 of us that ended up going down to the hospital, and some of them had a little bit of experience in RT, but mostly just giving respiratory treatments, the breathing treatments. So none of us were really quite prepared, you know, for critical care, the ventilators, the whole shebang, and we clung to each other desperately and, you know, kind of, like, went through this process together.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So when I realized what I was supposed to be doing and I was going to be in charge of life support equipment, plus all some of the other unpleasant things, I couldn't go to my parents and say, hey. Chamber my mind. I don't wanna do this because they already invested 2 years into my education. And the prereqs that I had done my first two years, the only other way I could use them would be to go into nursing, and that was just as bad, so I just stuck it out. And I was a respiratory therapist for a little over 17 years.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. I'm just processing all that for you, because I'm just thinking that the amount of trauma you were exposed to at such a young age and, I mean, no one at 19 years old has the skills to process that. That's a lot. But you stayed in it for 17 years. Like, eventually, you probably got to a point where you could make your own grown up decisions, as my husband and I like to say. What kept you in it for as long as you stayed?

Cheryl Ilov [:

Well, there was definitely a period of adjustment, and there was a lot of trauma. And thank goodness my classmates and I, you know, we had we would, like I said, cling together, and so we would support each other doing some of these things that we experienced. And we also there was a local bar right around the corner, so we were there a lot. And that's kinda how we you know, you adapt and you learn. And there's something about cardiopulmonary. It was so fascinating. And, you know, I was never a really good student growing up. I couldn't care less.

Cheryl Ilov [:

I mean, I made fairly good grades enough to get by, but I was always the kid looking out outside out the window wanting to be doing something else, wanting to do something fun, something exciting. And so I never was that interested. But by the time I got to that 3rd year of college, so we were doing our clinical work along with more advanced book work and didactic work. It was absolutely fascinating. I mean, I made the dean's list for the first time, and everyone shocked my parents. But I love the cardiopulmonary system, and then I got used to, you know, what I call the blood and guts and used to being on the floor and working with people. I'm a people person, so I really liked being able to comfort people, especially when they were scared, and they were always scared. I was scared too, but I couldn't, you know, let them see that.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So I really enjoyed it and ended up being, you know, a supervisor once I moved to Denver, was in a management position, became a critical care specialist as well as a clinical instructor.

Boots Knighton [:

That's quite the metamorphosis, considering you weren't smart enough to be a nurse. Mhmm. And I'm putting that in air quotes for the right? So that is an incredible story in and of itself worthy of its own episode. Just it's amazing how we humans can grow and change and evolve and turn a really, I dare say, toxic situation into something really beautiful, profound, and impactful. So I applaud you for that.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Thank you. Thank you. And I got an awful lot of joy. I got a lot of satisfaction being the one as a respiratory therapist even in the emergency room. I was always the one at the patient's head because, you know, airway, and being able to talk to them and keep them calm and to be able to give them some comfort in a very scary time.

Boots Knighton [:

Well, let's switch to the technical side for all of us heart patients then. Thanks for the backstory. I think backstories are so important. As a heart patient who has now, you know, been through heart surgery and extubated, No, thanks. It was my least favorite part of the entire experience is if I had any favorite parts. I had you on to help us understand this whole process. So can you take us to a 20 minute medical school? Just the whole picture, the process, what to experience what to expect as a heart patient?

Cheryl Ilov [:

It's been quite a few years since I had done it, but let me take you all the way back to because I'm not sure how they do it now. But even up to the point when I was leaving respiratory therapy and going to a different field, physical therapy, but, we would do pre op. So we would go and we would talk to the patients the day before their surgery. We would explain to them every single step of the way what was going to happen. Go into the OR. You know, they'll put you to sleep. They will put you. And by this time, they've already heard about the heart lung machine.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And, you know, then you'd have the ventilator in the OR, so that's breathing for you. Because, basically, you are in a state of, I don't wanna say coma, but it's almost like a pseudo death state, which is completely under control with your medical team, the surgical team. They're usually fantastic. So once the surgery is completed, you know, you're all sutured back up and you go to the recovery room, you'll go to the recovery room on a ventilator. Again, controlled situation. You have people taking care of the anesthesiology team will be checking on you, making sure everything is fine. And then as soon as you are stable enough, then they send you to the intensive care unit or cardiac care unit or the, you know, the surgical cardiac surgical care unit. So there you Heart, and thank goodness things have changed in the old days when I was just getting Heart.

Cheryl Ilov [:

You were in, like, this big bay with all these other patients.

Boots Knighton [:

Like a stadium.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Pretty much. I mean, you're in, you know, this, like, 9 beds just maybe a little curtain between you and the person beside you. So at least now you're in a private room. And it is really kinda scary because you cannot talk because you've got the tube in your throat. And, you know, a lot of times you're restrained, so you don't accidentally start pulling at the tube or any of the other things that you're hooked up to. You're being monitored, Knighton, And even if there isn't a nurse or respiratory therapist or physician in the room with you, we Heart constantly monitoring you from all of the equipment at the nurses' station. If something even us very small, slight abnormality, alarms go off, the team comes running. So you're never really alone, even though it might feel like that.

Boots Knighton [:

May I interrupt and ask a question? What abnormalities could come up?

Cheryl Ilov [:

Oh, let's say if the ventilator starts alarming, maybe if, you know, you maybe start coughing a little Boots, something so small as you start to twitch, and we're watching that on the monitors. And constantly your heart monitor is being, you know, recorded and shown at the nurses' station. So one time I was, just grabbing a patient's chart, and I went to flip through it. And I happened to look at the monitor, and I said to the nurse, is this a normal EKG? It doesn't look like one. And it wasn't a heart patient, but it was just the critical care. And, of course, you know, we all went running and the patient was fine. So, you know, your team is not leaving you alone. They Heart constantly looking and watching.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So just wanted to, you know, reassure your listeners that you are being watched even though you don't know it.

Boots Knighton [:

Let's go to the very basics here. Sure. What is the point of having a tube down one's throat? Why did I have to have a tube down my throat? I know why. But for the listener, like, the basic ABCs of this. For the ventilator.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Because you have received so much medication. You have undergone, as you said before, a serious traumatic Surgery. And think about it. Somebody was touching your heart, and that's a pretty serious thing. And you don't just wake up like you would if it was a tonsillectomy or a bunionectomy. It takes time, and it takes time for your heart to recover from that. It takes time for your heart and your lungs to get working again in an efficient manner on their own. And that's what the ventilator is for, is to make sure that you're being oxygenated.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So we wanna make sure that, you know, you're getting the appropriate amount of oxygen. It is being delivered to your tissues appropriately. You constantly have that little pulse oximeter, and thank god they came up with a pulse oximeter because otherwise, we would just be taking blood gases, which was pretty brutal. Everything is being monitored, and you're in such a deep sleep at this point. So as you are starting to become a little bit more awake, a little bit more aware, and we're checking your vital signs, then we start to do what we call, I don't wanna say pulmonary functions, but we're starting to see what you can do spontaneously on your own. So we have different flow meters. Again, I haven't done it in many years, so things may have Chamber, but we're testing to see, okay, if you can breathe on your own. So, again, the the respiratory therapist is there the entire time talking you through it.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Okay. You know, we're just gonna see now In the old days, we use those meters. I think now you can do it through the ventilator. You know, we're gonna have you breathe on your own. I'm with you, and just see they're measuring the amount of air that the patient can inhale and exhale. And, of course, we're, again, still monitoring the oxygen levels. And then we have them take the biggest deep breath they can and blow it out. And it's like, okay.

Cheryl Ilov [:

I think we're ready to be extubated. And then, of course, you know, we connect, with the the either the surgeon or the anesthesiologist, and then they give the order to go ahead and extubate.

Boots Knighton [:

I'm remembering all this. I remember waking up and having my arms attached to the railings, and that was so shocking. And I had the meeting the day before with the RT, and she walked me through the whole thing. But no amount of pre meetings can really set you up for a calm experience.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Right. Exactly. And, you know, I mean, I've woken up or woke up from anesthesia before. And just the first thing I did, I mean, I was trying to pop out of bed and just, you know, basically lay on top of me. You know? Because I woke up Knighton. And it is, I think, not an abnormal reaction. And you're right. You can hear this all day long.

Cheryl Ilov [:

You know? Oh, and just, you know, trust us, and, you know, we'll talk to you. And it's like, screw

Boots Knighton [:

that. You know, my surgeon, bless his heart, he was so patient with me because I was, like, flipping him off. Well, I knew I had to throw up. I immediately was sick to my stomach, and I had this tube down my throat. And the only way I could get their attention was I was, like, you know, strapped to the bed, and I'm, like, flipping them off like this. And my husband, the nurses, and the surgeon was right there. And it was, like, the only way that I could think of to let them know that I was in a world of trouble.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Wow.

Boots Knighton [:

And he was like, don't worry about it. My feelings aren't hurt. He said, the number one thing that humans need to do to stay alive is breathe. And you knew that you were about to throw up, and your breathing was compromised. He's like, I get it. So

Cheryl Ilov [:

Boots and technically, really, I'm getting into the respiratory therapy head that still is in there very, very deep. Technically you would still be breathing around throwing

Boots Knighton [:

up. Okay.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Because the tube was there. The tube actually has a balloon around it. Oh. So there's, like, a a we call the cuff. So even if you threw up, there would be no chance of you aspirating because one ever

Boots Knighton [:

told me that. You Heart the first person to tell me this.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Can you believe that? So yeah. So if you have to throw up, I mean, and throwing up is the most unpleasant thing I think that a body could do. You would be fine. And that cuff is around, you know, your trachea keeping it sealed against the vomit would not go down, and you would still be getting the same amount of air exchange. It's just throwing up is so unpleasant anyway. Throwing up with an endotracheal tube in place, I think, would be absolutely horrific and terrifying.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. Well, then I proceeded to throw up 25 times after I was extubated, though. So at least I had that going for me.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Knighton. Jeez. It's those little things that get you through. Small blessings.

Boots Knighton [:

I need to take a side trip with you. Sure. You mentioned when the patient is under, you said almost like a coma like state, mere death?

Cheryl Ilov [:

Mhmm.

Boots Knighton [:

So I had someone ask me the other day, and this is a question I've just not been able to answer. And I'm not even sure you can. But I was being interviewed on another podcast, and the fellas asked me if I died, if I was dead.

Cheryl Ilov [:

I mean, that's a really interesting question because yes and no. Physiologically, you know, you are being kept alive. Your brain is still functioning. Knighton.

Boots Knighton [:

Because that's what signifies death is when the brain is no longer being oxygenated. Right? Correct. Okay.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Your heart has been stopped. So you had no heartbeat, and that's the function of the heart lung machine. Because the blood is being shunted from your body into this machine, which takes care of the oxygenation, removing the carbon dioxide, you know, to keeping the blood clear functioning the way it should be. So, you know, in some ways, yes, and in some ways, no.

Boots Knighton [:

How about in the ways, yes? What ways was I dead?

Cheryl Ilov [:

You know, that's a really tough one that I cannot answer because what is the definition of death? I would say that you were taken to the edge of death. Does that help?

Boots Knighton [:

I can't remember exactly how I answered the question, And I know other heart patients have this question. I will say I've changed so dramatically as a soul and as a human body since my heart surgery that, surely, something shifted. Right? Like, another woman I just interviewed, fascinating interview. And she explained just how, like, our heart chakra, our energetic center is opened up. And it's just this this question I continue to sit with just because I'm just one of those minds where I need to know. Yeah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

When you put it that way, I would have to say that, yes, energetically, you were dead from that kind of a standpoint.

Boots Knighton [:

And I would say that feels correct to me. Like, it feels like yeah. And especially because for many weeks after my heart surgery, I was very disassociated. And it was like my soul was just kind of following me from behind, trying to figure out, like, so we are alive. Oh, okay.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So Mhmm. Again, I mean, your heart energy is so strong, and your spirit, you know, and I talk about spirit from, like, the martial arts aspect of it because I never really understood it the way I do now. But it is actually you know, I'm not even sure if there's a difference between spirit and soul. I I'm still kind of going back and forth with that.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. Same. It's like a plate of spaghetti that I threw up against the wall. I'm trying to understand it all. It's and I I know I've radically accepted now that I may never know. And I'm kind of okay with it. I'm just such a scientific mind. The deafening is still with me.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Yeah. I'm I'm more scientific the way you are. I'm more, you know, okay. Just the facts. I don't do woo woo. It, you know, took me a very long time to even accept a lot of these alternative, you know, modalities. And when I did, it was like, oh, there really is something here.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. Yeah. So getting back on track. So it's time to extubate. My husband, thankfully, took so many pictures of this whole experience. And so, definitely wasn't my best look that day. The picture showed just all these different, like, tubes and wires. I mean, it wasn't just the tube coming out of my mouth.

Boots Knighton [:

Correct. I did not get any coaching on that. And so I remember it was really overwhelming to see all the different things coming out of my body. Can you walk us through that?

Cheryl Ilov [:

So, above and beyond the endotracheal tube? Yep. Wow. You've got a ton of different IVs going in you. You've got a lot of different, you you know, needles in you, the monitoring devices. It's been so long I'm having a hard time even remembering, but there is a ton of hardware involved in this because you do have it's not just the ventilators. It's the ventilator. It's, you know, the EKG machine. It's the oxygenation that we're monitoring.

Cheryl Ilov [:

We're monitoring every single thing on you. I think that if anybody would see this prior to surgery, it would really freak them out, or it might reassure them of, look. This is how closely we are watching every single body function. You you got a catheter in to, you know, drain your urine. You know, there's all yep. All these things that you're really not even prepared for.

Boots Knighton [:

Mhmm.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And even like you said, intellectually, if somebody explains this to you, it can't prepare you. When I was a brand new respiratory therapist, and now you have to imagine even still I was a student, heart surgery was not nearly as effective, efficient, and successful. Now, you know, I mean, people would be in the hospital if for like 2 weeks, at least now you're in and out fairly quickly.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. And Eva is just miraculous to me.

Cheryl Ilov [:

It's incredible. So if only, you know, medicine just keeps on the technology keeps on improving, getting better and better. So one of these days, you know, hopefully, we'll be able to do open heart surgery without as much of all of those tubes and invasion of your body. But for right now, it's just that's what helps keep you alive.

Boots Knighton [:

Or maybe we won't have to have open heart surgery at all.

Cheryl Ilov [:

That would be the best.

Boots Knighton [:

It would be. It would be phenomenal. I'm you know, I still have my a bicuspid valve. And I'm hoping, by the time that thing if it needs replaced, that it won't have to be another open heart.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Mhmm.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

I have 2 people that I know very well who one's a neighbor of mine who's in his eighties, mid eighties at least, and had an aortic valve repair. And we're talking to his wife, you know, walking the dog. Hey. How's he doing? Oh, great. You know, took him home the same day. I'm going, woah. Woah. Woah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Wait. Wait. What? The same day. The same day. And they went in through the febrile artery. Yep. Pretty sure that's how they did it all the way up and we're able to replace it. I mean, the surgery took, like, boom, boom, boom.

Cheryl Ilov [:

It was so fast, and it's just stunning. Mhmm. And he's fine.

Boots Knighton [:

It it's amazing, like, what we are really excelling at as a species right now and what really needs work at the

Cheryl Ilov [:

same time. But Right? I mean, the dichotomy is just incredible.

Boots Knighton [:

Like, we're we're still having wars because that, you know, solves things, not Yeah. But we're gonna be able to go through your femoral artery and replace a valve. Right?

Cheryl Ilov [:

Right. And other and other parts of medicine are still pretty, you know, archaic. Yeah. But, again, we'll just take a little wire and go up that femoral artery and replace a valve, and you're gonna be home in time for dinner.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. But, yeah, we're still gonna have our Boots squeezed once a year to check for cancer. So, yes, all these different wires. I really like how you said I'm gonna tweak your words a little Boots. I like the thought of, instead of being freaked out by all these different wires and needles and tubes and everything, Let's just be reassured.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Be comforted by it. Mhmm.

Boots Knighton [:

Because that's such a great reframe. I just love that so much.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Mhmm. And remember, your medical team really cares about you. At least most of them do. Our happiest moment is when our patients leave the hospital.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

You know? I mean, it's very exciting for us. Yeah. Well yeah. Yeah. Yeah. When they're walking out or while in the wheelchair. Yeah. That's why I stuck with it for so long.

Boots Knighton [:

And so, eventually, you made the decision to leave?

Cheryl Ilov [:

I did. Mostly because I wanted to challenge myself a little bit more. I wanted to get, further my education. I wanted to get a master's in something. And full that I was, it had to be something medical. I don't know why I thought that. But I ended up going into physical therapy. And the main reason why I left respiratory therapy was because I was losing my edge, and I knew it.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And I couldn't function the way I could before. You know? Reflexively just, you know, do everything I had and then deal with my emotions later. It was I couldn't do it anymore. And it was like I woke up one day and it was like, I can't do this because it's not just the cleanliness of the heart patient. It's all the other things that you have to deal with through the emergency room. You know, the the pediatrics, the the deaths, the dying, and I just thought that going into a PT would be a lot more life affirming. I was wrong, ended up opening my own practice because I didn't like PT anymore. You know? It was just not for me at that point.

Cheryl Ilov [:

So, you know, I had a nice career in in, respiratory, a lovely career. I had a really good one in physical therapy, had my own office for almost 20 Heart, and closed my office. And now I just podcast. I write books. You know, I beat people up at the dojo, and that's my life.

Boots Knighton [:

From respiratory therapist to physical therapist to ninja.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Mhmm. Yeah. Yeah. Who knew? You just keep showing up. And I don't know any other way.

Boots Knighton [:

Do the next right thing.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Sometimes it doesn't seem like the right thing, but it always works out.

Boots Knighton [:

I just wanna keep harping on RT, because that was the point. Tell us one of your most memorable moments and one of your hardest moments. Gosh. The memorable moments. It's kinda rapid fire.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Alright. I would have to say one of my most memorable moments was I was a student. A classmate of mine and myself had the run of the ER or yeah. The ER for the day. You know, it's like you hang out the ER so you can see things and learn things. And nothing was happening. This was that pit Pittsburgh hospital. It's like, yeah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Let's just go to lunch. And as we're leaving, one of those ER docs came up and says, hey. You might wanna hang around because we got some guy coming in who had his hand crushed between a car. You know, it was a snowy day in Pittsburgh. Isn't it always? And it's like, oh, yeah. It'd be nice to see that. You know? Because she says, a lot of times, it's like looking at the inside of an anatomy book. So we hung out, and they brought the patient in.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And he lifted his head and said, hi, Cheryl. And it was like, holy crap. He was somebody that I knew from the local mall in my hometown. He, you know, worked there, and I used to buy fabric from him. So to realize that what is it? Six degrees of separation or whatever they say and how close it is. It's like, I'm going to be running into people I know. Mhmm. And I think the hardest one, still gives me chills.

Cheryl Ilov [:

It was the day that I was like, I'm done. And that was a a baby that they had brought in through the ER. This was deep, obviously, at the end of my career, and it was a house fire. Aw. And, apparently, we were I was working on the baby, and there was another toddler or young child in another room in the ER. And it was that knowledge and understanding that apparently the parents went out to dinner and left with a babysitter. And the one of the kids was special needs who was on oxygen, and somebody had left a a lighter. And one of the kids started playing with it, and that was it.

Cheryl Ilov [:

And it's like, you know, an adult loses their focus for a nanosecond, and this is what happens.

Boots Knighton [:

Yep. And

Cheryl Ilov [:

it was like, I can't do it. I can't do it.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. That would have probably ended it for me.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Mhmm. I was done.

Boots Knighton [:

The Heart care system, I think, is at such an inflection point. And I hope that this podcast can get into the ears of all Heart care providers, too. And, like, we have these conversations with folks like yourself. I mean, I know you're not in it now, but, I mean, you put in a lot of time. You saw a lot. And my heart and my hat goes off to to all healthcare providers who can be there in we, patients, all of us patients' hardest moments. I mean, we all have a soul, and we all care deeply. It's a lot to ask of our nervous systems day in and day out.

Cheryl Ilov [:

It really is. And a lot of those images, I still I I they're very vivid even though it's been a very long time. I remember a lot of the names still. I remember some of the family still. So, you know, and and you learn to deal with it. But what really bothered me and still does is that we were given absolutely no support. Nobody thought, hey. Maybe our team needs a little bit of TLC.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Maybe they need some debriefing. There was only one incident when that did happen. So, yeah, it's really tough. It's really tough. You build incredible relationships with your coworkers, good and bad.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. I have just loved this conversation with you. It's shed more light on my surgical experience. I know it's gonna help so many other patients and their caregivers and medical teams. Thank you for being you, for showing up every day, and doing the next right thing.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Thank you so much for having me, Boots. I just love talking to you. You're just amazing. And, you know, so the listeners know I do have a podcast, and Boots, was on my show. And, oh my gosh, it's has it still hasn't aired yet, but I will let you know when it does. And I think you're gonna love the title. Oh. Yeah.

Cheryl Ilov [:

You wanna redo it now? Remember it right now. I will tell you. It's a very busy place in my head right now.

Boots Knighton [:

Well and y'all, I will like I said, I'm gonna link Cheryl's show, her website, everything in the notes. So thank you so much again, and you're such a blessing.

Cheryl Ilov [:

Oh, thank you. And so are you. I'm so grateful I got to meet you.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you for sharing a few heartbeats of your day with me today. Please be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast wherever you are listening. Share with a friend who will value what we discussed. Go to either Apple Podcasts and write us a review or mark those stars on Spotify. I read these and your feedback is so encouraging and it also helps others find this podcast. Also, please feel free to drop me a note at boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I truly want to know how you're doing and if this podcast has been a source of hope, inspiration, and healing for you. Again, I am your host, Boots Knighton, and thanks for listening.

Boots Knighton [:

Be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another episode of The Heart Chamber.

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About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
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