Joanne’s Incentive Spirometer Trick

If anyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, it might just be Joanne Harris.

Over the past few months, Joanne and I have emailed back and forth regarding her heart valve surgery. Joanne had a mitral valve repair with maze procedure. She suffered from mitral valve regurgitation (leaking heart valve).

Patient, Joanne Harris, Using The Incentive Spriometer After Heart Bypass Surgery

Anyways, I recently received a note from Joanne that really shows her incredible attitude towards her cardiac bypass surgery, her broken sternum recovery and her innovative ways to trick the incentive spirometer used to defend against fluid in her lungs.

Here is Joanne’s email:

Hi Adam,

It’s been so nice corresponding with you during this mitral valve repair maze procedure rollercoaster. I’m home now and 11 days post-op. What a difference even one day makes in recovering!

Here are a couple photos — the only 2 we took in the hospital. First one shows me (with bad bed hair) looking out the hospital room window, and right past the palm trees is The Las Vegas Strip. I had a really good view of it.

Second pix is my incentive spirometer trick — where I realized that if you plug up the little hole down low on the side, you can “blow” 4000 quite easily. My respiratory team didn’t think it was so funny, but my family and I laughed every time. It sure beat struggling for 500.

My love to you and encouragement to all your many readers. Your heart valve book was incredible!


Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Leslie

    Joanne, bless your heart. Literally. 🙂 I will give that spirometer trick a try, even though I am about 3 months out now and had minimally invasive surgery. I still give the spirometer a twirl now and then. I am up to 2000-2500 on my best tries, but my first try after surgery I was about 500, like you. I too had mitral valve regurgitation and they also fixed an atrial septal defect but I didn’t have the maze. I assume you had atrial fib? I am on the King of Hearts monitor this week to see how my rhythms are doing. It is strange – I was recovering well and then in the last few weeks have felt tired again and think I was doing too much too soon. So it’s always good to take your time in heart surgery recovery. Hugs to all,

  • Cindy Meurer

    Hi, all! I am new to this website but am enjoying it so far. I had a mini aortic valve replacement on April 8. I have been feeling great but think that I might be overdoing it. Is going too fast during recovery a common problem? I certainly don’t want to mess up the healing I’ve had so far. Any advice will be appreciated. Cindy M.

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