Lisa’s Mitral Valve Repair, Blood Transfusions and… Christmas Shopping

This email just came in from Lisa, a registered nurse from Colorado, who had mitral valve repair surgery less than two weeks ago. I thought you might appreciate reading about Lisa’s experience, her attitude toward heart surgery and her early recovery. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Adam,

I had my surgery on Thursday, December 11th and things went pretty well. The surgeons were able to repair my mitral valve, which should last 20 years or so before any additional work may need to be done.

Lisa Darr – Mitral Valve Repair Patient / Nurse

I still have some prolapse and regurgitation, but as an active 35-year old patient, I was really fearful of having a valve replacement.  I lost a good deal of blood in the surgery and was given transfusions.  A special “Thanks!” goes out to all those who donate blood. As an emergency room nurse, I have great confidence in United States blood banks even though I have seen some studies which suggest blood banks can be risky.

Due to continued blood loss post-surgery, I remained intubated for 7 hours after surgery (just in case I needed to return to the OR to stop the bleeding). What a miserable experience for me and my family, I was conscious and unable to communicate, constantly choking on the vent tube and unable to open my eyes because they were caked shut with goo.

My family took turns holding my hands, comforting me in my struggle – while struggling themselves to hold it together.  I spent that night and the next day in the intensive care unit. Then, I was transferred to a telemetry floor which was rather uneventful.

Since then, I have been recovering well. I was sent home from the hospital this past Monday, only 4 nights in the hospital! I think my recovery has gone more smoothly than yours. I have had some pain. But, I went Christmas shopping with my family on Saturday, only 9 days after the mitral repair. As you suggested, I am to begin cardiac rehab very soon.

Dr. Joseph Cleveland - Colorado Heart Surgeon
Dr. Joseph Cleveland – Lisa’s Heart Surgeon

I would like to thank Dr. Joseph Cleveland and his surgical team at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) and all of my MDs at both UCHSC and Denver Health for their work and continued follow-up on my case.

Female Sternum Incision Scar

FYI, I saw your blog about incisions that are glued or stapled. My surgeon used dissolvable sutures. I have a long but very tidy mid-sternal scar about 6.5 inches long.

Thanks again for your heart surgery book, your blog and all that you do for the patients and caregivers out there!

Lisa Darr
Registered Nurse

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.

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  • Barbara

    Thanks for all of the comments. I have a TEE Jan 9 and then to the cardiac surgeon to discuss the repair/replacement of my heart valves which are leaking. Knowing what is ahead is helpful to me, and I appreciate all comments. I’ll add mine after the event.

  • jl

    Dear Barbara, although I had surgery for a congenital heart defect, I hope that I can share some notes on what I went through. My surgery was just nine days ago, and I believe that it is very important to meet with the physical therapist. Please do the breathing exercises with them and if you have any questions regarding getting into/out of bed or walking, please do not hesitate to ask them.

    I had quite a difficult time breathing in the hospital and once I dedicated myself to the spirometry breathing exercise, I felt better.
    I believe that if I can get through the surgery and begin healing enough to send you this note, then you most definitely will make it through this challlenging experience. Its challenging but not impossible to heal from heart surgery. I wish you and your family the best.
    Happy Holiday.

  • Candace

    Hi Lisa, and thanks for the info and pic. Sorry for you and fam/issues with blood loss, no doubt causing additional fears for all. God Bless, and thanks for families and grand friends! I’m pleased the remainder went well for you, thus far. I believe diet and health are so conditionally helpful in their own right as– in a small amount of life that we CAN control! Best wishes for you and your fam.
    I have very little fam, but a pretty strong friend base, most gratefully, and,
    am waiting for hear from Cleveland Clinic Financial Dept tomorrow.
    Thanks for your bravery and update for those of us in the up- and coming- and-
    I’ve been in various forms of health care for 27 yrs.- and it’s always a learning
    experience no matter what side of the fence your on.– Makes us all more helpful- Ideally,— or there’s something wrong! Best Wishes Lisa and Co…!

  • Marilyn Coltrane

    So glad to have discovered this site. have been following WomenHeart and it has been helpful, but most there have had heart attacks, not valve problems–and I hope the issues here are different. I like the more positive attitude I see. I am scheduled for robotic mitral valve surgery on Jan 8th after a long process of diagnosis in the summer and fall. My case is unusual in that I am 71 and in spite of good medical case, the problem was either not noted or did not exist umtil resently. I have had separate cardio-cath and TEE and was told tht I had remarkably clear arteries for my age. I have always been careful about my diet–a little lax about exercise–yoga and some walking, but plan to do cardio rehab as soon as I can. Will see the surgeron for pre-op stuff tomorrow. Any ideas about what questions should be high on my list? Tnamks for your help Marilyn

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