Nurse Julie Asks About Aortic Valve Surgery, Symptoms And Female Scars For Her Daughter

Something wonderful comes over me when I receive a thoughtful email from a loving caregiver.

Since I was/am an aortic and pulmonary valve replacement patient, I can directly relate to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that caregivers encounter as they collect information on behalf of their family and friends.

So you know… Sometimes I can email back-and-forth up to 30 times with nervous caregivers as their loved ones prepare and recover from heart valve repair and/or heat valve replacement.

That said, I thought you might like to read a recent email exchange between Julie and myself. Julie’s daughter has an aortic aneurysm and a leaky aortic valve. Here is what she writes:

Hello Adam-

My eighteen year-old daughter is scheduled to have open heart surgery in Gainesville, Florida. I am a nurse and know far to well the risks that or of the things that could go wrong.

I’m trying very hard to ignore the negative possibilities and concentrate on the improved health after surgery. Only thing is… She really isn’t having any negative health issues at the current time. I didn’t want to wait until she is sick to have surgery. She has a aortic aneurysm and a leaking aortic valve. Both of which will be corrected in the surgery. But, now as it gets closer to the surgery date I’m having second thoughts. What if this is the wrong thing to do??

One of my biggest concerns, outside of her dying from surgery, is that she or I will devastated by the surgical scar. I really thought maybe if she saw some pictures of healed patients she would be more prepared. But, I have found very few pictures. Do you have any suggestions or a collection of pictures sent to you by patients that you could share?

Looking forward to your suggestions and comments.

Thank you! Julie

MY RESPONSE TO JULIE:

Hi Julie,

Thanks for writing and sharing you and your daughter’s story.

Given your concerns about timing, I have to ask… Did you get a second opinion? That is sometimes a critical misstep during the diagnosis process. I know some patients that get triple opinions to avoid diagnostic errors / mistakes.

As for pictures of female heart surgery patients, here are a few you can share with your daughter. As you can see, the scar heals up quite well.

Woman With Heart Surgery Scar After Operation In The Hospital

Also, you may want to use Mederma to help the scar heal. As shown below, my scar is barely visible these days!!

Please let me know if you have any questions. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your daughter.

Keep on tickin!

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 HeartValveSurgery.com.

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.

  • Sean R

    I have three comments:
    1. The picture of the female patient shows that her incision was glued. Mine was stapled. The staple holes leave another set of scars, but they are supposed to fade nicely (mine still show, 3 months post-op). So you might want to ask, just to be prepared, how the incision will be sealed – glue or staples.
    2. I saw a LOT of variation between patients in the appearance of the incision while I was in the hospital. Mine looked very pretty compared to some others! That tells me that some doctors are more careful than others. So you might want to express your concern and ask the doctor what can be done to minimize the scar when he/she closes you up.
    3. Just as bad as the sternotomy incision scar, for me anyway, is the three scars below the sternotomy where tubes were inserted and removed a couple of days after surgery. Mine were not sutured, and the scars look worse than the main incision. So you might ask the doctors if you could have them closed up with stitches when the tubes are removed, so scarring will be minimized.
    Good luck!!! I’m 15 weeks post-op (aortic valve replacement-bovine tissue- plus aortic root aneurysm repair), completed 12-week cardiac rehab program, am back to my old (strenuous) exercise program, and feeling GREAT! It’s like it never even happened – except for my lovely scars, which are becoming a source of pride rather than embarrassment, btw.

  • Bee

    Regarding the woman who is concerned about the scar…

    I would ask that a plastic surgeon be present to help close. My scar is already starting to blend in nicely. It is a lot straighter than the one on the first woman pictured in your latest e-mail. I believe one crew opens, the surgeon does his thing and then another team closes.

    Thanks!

  • J. Clay Barcus

    Hey…I agree with Sean R.
    1. I was glued…much better results I think than stapled. And I agree with the lady in the photo…use the Maderna to reduce the scar tissue. It really works…not cheap, but not too expensive either, it works. I kept rubbing the stuff on throughout the day. Also stay out of the sun or use sunblock until it heals ( I got a med. size tube at Walgreens I think for $26 on sale…get the name brand)

    2. The drain tube scars are each a penny in size. I have five of these, I think if you are tell the doctor up front to take care…you want small scars they will do a better job. If you connect the 5 dots it forms a smile on me…LOL! Tell the surgeon an ugly scar is a deal breaker…you want small pretty scars. Make sure he passes that information on to the resident or assistant closing you up.

    3. Once you go through the surgery you will realize as Sean says the scar it’s more like a badge of courage…Congrats…you belong to a select group of people in the world that have been through something that not everyone gets to go through and lives to tell the story…it wasn’t your time to go.

    I had my aortic valve replaced with a lovely 29mm porcine (pig) valve, the day after Labor Day…you’ll be just fine. Remember the children’s story …this little piggy went to the market…this little piggy stayed home…well this little piggy saved me and I squealed all the way home! LOL. I’ll say a prayer for your daughter and you.

    Clay in San Francisco

    P.S. I’ve been told my scar is sexy…by more than one person.

  • Charlene

    I had an aortic root and hemiarch replacement 14 weeks ago. I am doing great. My scar is only 5″ long and is healing nicely. The doctor is very important. I to live in Florida, I chose to go and find the surgeon that did the least invasive surgery. Especially after the doctor told me that I would have a 12 inch scar. I have to admit I am a little vain. ๐Ÿ™‚ if you want to talk or email- charlenekw@aol.com

  • JANET COYLE

    I too live in Fla. and decided to go to Cleveland Clinic for all the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. Six weeks post op and scar is only 3.5 inches. Already starting to fade.
    Scar is the least of my worries – I AM ALIVE !

  • Margaret

    I had my aortic valve replaced 27 years ago. I’m now 39 yrs old and I had a total of 3 surgerys. You have to look hard to see my scar now days. However, it’s the drainage tube scars that you can still see. They pulled it to tight when closing them and one side looks like an extra belly button. It’s ok because I’m alive and well. Small price to pay….email-margaretreese@hotmail.com

  • fazilat

    i had my aortic valve replacement six months ago in U.K they normally use stitches that melt but i was told that being a bit on the big size bra wise they put stitches that had to be removed. M y advise would be that scars will fade its the early days that you really need to take care of i.e pain relief, a good bra and gradual return to exercise. good luck i will pray for both of you.
    fazilat

  • mercyturan

    Dear Julie: I am the mother of John Turan (RossProcedure, Shands-University of Florida, Gainesville, surgeon: Dr. Bleiweis, Mar 5, 2008) When you finish reading this, put his name on the search box so you can read the similarities—no symptoms, athletic all his life, second thougnhts, etc, etc, etc), and his wonderful outcome from surgery, now 9 months ago.

    That said, as Adam says, if you are at Shands and your surgeon is Dr.Bleiweis as well, HE WILL DO THE CLOSING. He assured us that the medical students, those hand picked and selected by him and his perfussion team, would only be there TO OBSERVE. He is a very compassionate surgeon, with a wonderful bedside manner,someone you think after meeting that you would love to have for a neighbor. He doesn’t have 300 Ross Procedures under his belt as some othe surgeons do (i.e. Maryland Heart Center; Mayo Clinic, etc) but he has more now than 9 months ago! This is why you have to be diligent with the search for a doctor that fits you, and only you and your daughter will know if he is for you.

    Now, it’s great if you can have a plastic surgeon there, but as an OR and ICU nurse myself, I kinda think that it is highly improbable and cost prohibitive to do that. Most of us are tight on our budgets, especially now with a recession, and also we want to conserve for some of the costs of surgery, hospitalization, meds, etc that inevitable will roll our way after surgery. My suggestions are: 1)get a second opinion, 2)talk candidly to Dr. Bleiweis, his PA and his nurse practitioner–they are both as caring and involved with his patients as he is. then mention you preocupation wih the scar (as an afterthought, it is the “least” of the concerns, but I agree it would be different with a girl. John’s scar was, at the skin level, sealed with glue, and I think this is Dr’s preference and depending on what has been done during the course of surgery.

    Please write me at mercyturan@gmail.com. I live 35 miles from Shands, in Ocala, Florida, know all the nooks and crannies of Shands Hospital, and have already helped another family whose son, Brian, had surgery there.
    I know where you can sneak a nap, where you can find a computer, where you can sneak a shower, and other quiet places in that very,very busy trauma care, regional hospital. I can also be here for you to cheer you both on and be part of your suppport team, to help you find a place to stay if you are far away from Shands and to pray for an excellent outcome to her surgery.

    Number 3) of my suggestions is: arm yourself with all the hope and faith that you can muster, it matters not that you have never done this before, surround yourselves with loving and caring people and with people who join you in prayer for everything to go well according to God’s will. And last, but not least, keep in touch with Adams blog, before and after surgery it was invaluable for us, it moved us from the fear mode and the why me factor to the let’s go live the rest of our lives abundantly as God intended us to do! YES, YOU CAN!!!!

    Blessings! Mercy, mother of John

  • lary biby

    Hello. Im a 45 year old male. I had an aortic graft done in 1981 when I was 17. The scar is about 16 inches long , starting right under my left breast bone and extending down past my belly button. The scar doesnt look bad , but it doesnt look good either. Then I had an aortic graft along with a left renal graft again in Sept 2007. They gave me a week or less to live then. I am without insurance , so I go to the community health center here in my city. Thank God for the physician assistant I had . She contacted Baylor hospital in Houston and the Doctors did my surgery for free. Anyway . Talking about the scar. It starts under my left shoulder blade and extends around connecting to my older scar. And this scar looks way better than the old one I have. They used surgical glue ( I dont think they had that back in 1981) a few staples and a few stiches. What im trying to say is , If the surgery saves your life , dont worry about it. It’s from something that saved your life . Its a battle scar. A kind of trophy. Sorry i rambled . All I’m trying to say is . You’re alive! It’s a scar. Big deal I just hope this makes everyone who reads this understand that it’s just a scar. Thats all.

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