Good Luck and try not to worry. I'm 2 years post op - Aortic Valve Replacement, now I'm ticking! Just remember that everyone's experience is different, for instance I had little to no pain. (The strongest meds I took was a couple of Tylenol.) As far as tips, I would STRONGLY recommend getting the "Incision Shield" or something like it, as sometimes the weight of blankets are too much and it's great for seat belts across your chest - you'll see. Get one of those grabber things so when you drop things you don't have to bend over to get them. I did get a power recliner but only used it a day or two. Move things like food, dishes, towels, etc lower as you shouldn't be reaching up for things. They won't want you climbing stairs so if your computer is in the basement like mine, move it now. Get used to sleeping on your back you'll be doing that for a few months. Get some slip on shoes. Plan on getting little to no sleep in the hospital, between the noises and nurses checking on you every five minutes. A big thing to remember when you wake up is that you will be intubated and that can be scary, having a tube down your throat, but don't panic and remain calm and it will come out faster. Looking back it was probably about a year before I was 100%. Good Luck and God Bless.
Had my AVR on 12-12-12 and a pacemaker installed on 12-17. On IV antibiotics as had endocarditis, and will remain on them for 10 more days. Felt so good after coming home that I walked over a mile during my third week of recovery. Zoltan will be getting back to normal in no time. Not to say I am 100%, but am quite surprised by the speed of recovery thus far. Mostly have had back pain, so make sure to have pain meds for that, even if just tylenol.
Make sure to have all insurance info ready to go when you leave hospital so scripts can be filled quickly...it is possible that some of the meds will need to be administered later that same day/night. Any riding in a car on bumpy roads or speed bumps might feel rough the first few days, so follow any advice regarding pillows under the seatbelt.
One final thing...wearing clothing that moves and rubs against the chest is a real annoyance while the incision heals.
Almost forgot my best tip. Take an eyeshade and ear plugs with you. Intensive care is a noisy place! Take a music player along also, it helps pass the time and is a great way to drift off to sleep.
I had the same condition as you and just had surgery on 12-15-12. I would recommend resting up before surgery, even mediating each day to find your calm center. You will survive this!
Don't let them overwork you at your job. This is not a vacation, where you can rest up afterward. You need to rest up in advance. Cut back your schedule, work from home, take vacation time before hand, if possible.
If you drink coffee, switch to decaf now. You don't need a headache and withdrawal symptoms after surgery. They won't give you caffeine in the hospital anyway.
The time in the hospital goes fast. Don't get psyched out by reading about every step of the recovery and dwelling on it. I fixated on the tube in my throat and worried about that because of my unnatural gag reflex. But it was over within moments of waking up and was really a non event.
Insist on pain medicines on a regular schedule. You have to ask for each pill, unlike all the other medicines. My doctor prescribed a pain pill every 4 to 6 hours and I insisted on getting one every four hours. I experienced no pain at all, which helped me get the rest and exercise I needed to recover. It is hard to remember to ask every four hours, especially when you need to sleep. An advocate, such as a loved one, is a big help. Do not let yourself get into pain and then have to try and control it. It is much easier to prevent a fire than put one out. You'll just lose precious sleep time while suffering needlessly. Do not let well meaning nurses tell you to try and stretch out the time between pills. That is appropriate later when you are tapering off of the medicine. Right now, you have a broken bone (your sternum) and pain is the enemy. Get your doctor on your side before you go in and insist on your right to a pain free recovery.
I had prostate cancer surgery a few years ago and it was much tougher to recover from it than from heart surgery. I was surprised. Nevertheless I stayed in the hospital a full eight days this time before going home. Don't let them rush you out the door.
Before you get home, get a power recliner. It is so much easier than using a bed. If you can't afford to buy one, rent it at a place like rent-a-center. You'll need a power recliner because you won't be able to use a manual one. You can't push, pull, or lift more than five pounds for awhile. Did you know almost everything in the world weighs more than five pounds? :-)
You look young and healthy in your photo. You probably will not suffer any of the complications that older people might. Don't worry too much. The surgery goes quickly and then you won't have to worry about it any longer. Oh no, what will I dread now?
Take care and the best of luck to you! Keep us posted and in a few weeks you can join the zipper club and start dolling out advice yourself.
Former aortic stenosis sufferer