How To Prepare Yourself For Some Frustration… Before, During And After Surgery!
Many patients and caregivers say that heart valve surgery can be similar to a roller-coaster. There are emotional and physical “ups”. And, there are emotional and physical “downs”.
Looking back on my surgery, I completely agree with that roller-coaster analogy.
In addition to the fear… In addition to the uncertainty… In addition to the doubt.
I, like many patients, experienced waves of the “F” word. Ahem! Not that “F” word. The “Frustration” f-word.
I was frustrated with my insurance company. I was frustrated with my first cardiologist and his horrible bedside manner. I was frustrated with the heart surgeon selection process. I was frustrated with the valve selection process too.
I was even frustrated with my own heart.
“Why can’t you fix yourself?” I’d think to myself.
As you can read in my earlier blogs, I’m not a complainer. I think heart valve surgery is a medical miracle. However, that being said, I am writing this blog to prepare patients and their caregivers for a little (hopefully not a lot of) frustration.
Here are some simple steps to avoid the frustration…
1. Remember to ask questions and stand up for yourself or the patient you care for. Earlier, I have written about ‘Asking Your Genie‘ and it is totally true. Knowledge is power. Curious questions are the stepping stones to negating frustration . As Jackie Pancoat, writes in “The Best Piece Of Advice” chapter in my book, “Ask Questions!”
2. Accept RIGHT NOW that you can not avoid the frustration. Trust me, frustration will appear in your life relative to heart surgery. Maybe you will be frustrated with the recovery? Maybe you will be frustrated with the pain? Maybe you will be frustrated with yourself? Maybe you will be frustrated with your caregivers? If you can acknowledge it and accept the frustration your life will be much easier.
3. Talk openly about your issues. The worst thing you can do is keep everything bottled up inside. Find someone who will let you vent any bit of frustration you can find. I used to tell Robyn (my wife), “I need five minutes to vent. Are you okay with that?” Robyn, being the saint she is, would sit, listen to me and nod her head. Believe it or not, after those five minutes of venting, I felt a whooooooole lot better.
So you know, it is now two years after my heart valve surgery and I’m still experiencing frustration.
Just today, I had to follow-up with my cardiac surgeon for part two of my annual check-up. It’s been over a month since I first requested the appointment. Yes. A month! Still, no appointment.
That doesn’t make Doctor Starnes a bad guy. However, his staff could really learn a thing or two about following up with his patients and planning appointments properly.
What did I do?
I accepted the frustration. I laughed it off with Robyn. Then, I called Dr. Starnes’ office. I complained politely. And now… I have my appointment! And, many years later my aortic valve replacement is doing great!
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.