Keith’s Recovery Tip: Do Everything With Both Hands!

Here’s a great recovery tip from Keith about using both hands after open heart surgery. Keith writes…

Hi Adam,

We have traded emails several times before. I have mainly asked you for contacts of other patients (like myself) who needed heart valve replacement following radiotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I had my diseased aortic valve replaced exactly one week ago now (with a bovine valve) at the Mercy Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. I came home after five nights and I’m surviving on just 4 paracetamol a day!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book. Your experience, research and patient stories helped prepare me for the surgery and the recovery. So you know, I was really concerned about the day-to-day challenges during the early recovery.

Well, one week into recovery, I would like to echo your thoughts with my own recovery tip for your readers. Here it is, “DO EVERYTHING WITH BOTH HANDS TOGETHER.”

Whether you are opening the fridge door or flushing the toilet, use both hands and both fingers together. This will ensure that the movements within the sternum and rib cage are symmetrical. For me, when I tried to do something with just one arm, the whole rib cage became twisted. That is when I would experience pain.

I hope this helps! Thanks again for your heart valve surgery book and your blog.

As you say… Keep on tickin!

Keith Ebden
New Zealand

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

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  • Dave

    I couldn’t agree more Keith.

    Although, I had surgery six months ago, you just brought back some memories I would like to forget – opening the fridge after heart surgery was a doozie for me too. 🙂

    Like you, I became a fan of the two-hand approach. Now though, I’m doing very well as my sternum has healed.

    Thanks for sharing,

  • Roberta

    Hello,What a timely post to read about using the suggestion of using both hands post-surgery! I just got home an hour ago after AVR and will definitely keep this tip in mind.

    Many thanks!

  • Thalia Faunt

    Thanks so much for this advice I will remember it. I am set down to have the Ross Procedure done for my Aortic Stenosis on 2 March 2010 at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond, Victoria, Australia performed by a Peter Skillington. It’s not until after the surgery you really need this sort of practical advice regarding the recovery.

  • anna

    hiya, can i just say how right you are. i had my surgery done on the 21/7/09. i had a AVR and was very sore for months after. i even had to wear the chest band again cos u think your ok but you’re really not. im still very sore but i find it much easier when i use both hands. should have done that from the start. thank you. ANNA

  • Steve McDonald

    Not to sound wierd or anything, but there is one thing you have to do after going to the toilet and I think it is near inpossible to do with both hands. I’am thinking one must just have to handle the pain, your sternum will twist for sure.

  • Steve McDonald

    12 days and counting to my AVR AT Mayo. Are there any other suggestions, advise….etc How about keeping a positive additude towards the who thing. Sometimes I feel like my brain is ready to explode from all the thinking about work, is the house ready for winter, being vertually helpless for acouple months. I am very independent, a do everything type of guy. So this is a very hard situation to be in.

  • Robert S. Holland

    Thanks for the tip Keith. I’ll be having my aortic valve replaced probably next week.
    Thanks to Adam also for your very informative and helpful book.
    I’m prepared and feel very confident about my upcoming surgery
    thanks to your book and this blog.

  • Thomas

    Hi Adam I am 66 years old and going to have my aorta valve replaced soon, the one thing I am so afraid of is the pain after the surgery and the chance of not recovering to be able to do the things I use to do. I will keep you informed after the surgery.
    Your book has helped me to understand the procedure and has helped releive the some of the fear.

  • Jennifer

    I am 13 days out from aorta valve replacement surgery. I am healthy, have always been healthy, and this level of medical of intervention has knocked me on my butt for sure. My question is whether anyone ever had any arm pain following the surgery. My left arm feels like there is a blood pressure cuff attached to it, feels like it is asleep, with some tingling in my fingers. I have been to my cardiologist who reassures me it is nothing with my heart, just a problem stemming from the surgery itself – probably muscle related, and subscribed one more prescription of a muscle relaxer. I feel better every day except for this arm – which is not as painful as it is uncomfortable. I appreciate your blog.

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