Thought I'd stop by and let my fellow HVJ'ers know how I'm doing. In a nutshell, back to normal. Even after a year, I continue to read everyone's journals and can relate to pretty much every one at your respective stages of the game. So for those pre-surgery, it's the waiting game with delays, postponements, and a general feeling of anticipation; just wanting to get this whole thing over with. Then the week or so just before surgery how it all feels a bit surreal and scarey, then at the 11th hour I felt at peace with all that was about to happen with full confidence in my surgeon and the cardiac care unit staff. Not much of a choice at this point. Might's well hold on and enjoy the ride. Can't say I remember anything in CICU but do remember being in Stepdown thinking I was in a university dorm and everyone seemed to be partying loudly and they had no consideration for me just having OHS and trying to get some sleep. Then every time I woke (which happens alot at that stage), I saw those pink paint splotches on the yellow hospital privacy curtains. I knew I was hallucinating and as time went on those splotches would fade quicker each time. And one of my friend's white eyebrows and mustache were moving all over his face just like a few caterpillars who had lost their way. I even laughed about it at the time so was completely in tune with what was happening. The research I did, including Adam's book and this website along with another I frequent http://www.valvereplacement.org/forums/forum.php really made the whole ordeal much easier to deal with. The element of surprise is taken out of the equation, I suppose in most cases but even just knowing what could be expected helped from a psychological aspect. The knowledge gained from everyone's experiences makes recovery much more tolerable and the comradery amongst the HVJ'ers amazing, to say the least. The only advice I can offer has been said here many times before: the waiting part is the worst; stay ahead of the pain, take your meds on cue; and expect a two steps forward and one step back recovery; don't overdue it and be patient. And you will do fine... Take Care and Best Regards to all....
Wow... At this time six months ago, I was "on the table, under the knife" and possibly even avoiding that proverbial bright light....
Time flies ... Physically, I am feeling close to normal (whatever that may be). Went back to work on a gradual return program after Labor Day then full-time Oct.03rd. Have been going to cardiac rehab at the gym twice a week doing 45 minutes cardio (treadmill and stationary bike) then weight training and stretching exercises for another 25 - 30 mins or so. So far, haven't lost much weight but overall feeling much better and increasingly stronger. I like to think muscle is heavier than fat. So nice not being out of breath all the time. Trying to eat right but that's a bit of a challenge. My last echo (Aug.15th) showed a marginal improvement in my Ejection Fraction (EF) to between 45 and 50% from the previous 40%. My AVA is "normal". No more pain and minimal discomfort (limited flexibility in my left shoulder). My incision barely noticeable. My new horsie valve seems to be working fine, other than occasional cravings for oatmeal, sugar cubes, apples or the sudden urge to trot. Now we are back into our retirement home construction (completion) project after about an 18 month sabbatical.
Psychologically, not doing as well. Not as "sharp" as prior to surgery. Remembering the many passwords that seem to expire every other day yet you're not supposed to write down; and the ever changing processes and getting another wave of newbies on board is very often overwhelming. Spending so much time fixing up the screwups when I was off and trying to stay on top of things is more of a challenge now. Just because you may appear normal, you are expected to be 100%, if not "better" than pre-surgery. Not the case. Now having issues with my heart rate fluctuating (arrhythmia) down to the mid-30's then bouncing right back up to the mid 80's. CHIP cardiologist suspects bradycardia. Back to the Royal Vic for a Holter monitor to wear on Nov.24/25th to confirm. Might need a medication adjustment or possibly a pace maker (minor surgery).
Thanks again to my surgeon, medical staff at the Royal Vic CCU and CICU, CHIP cardiac rehab personnel, family (especially Lydia), friends and fellow HJV'ers for all the support. Best regards to all on the same or similar journeys. "Once a heart patient; always a heart patient."
Feeling pretty good. Walking 2 - 4 miles a day, spending time in the paddle boat with Lydia and swimming in the lake. Won my battle with SunLife; they agreed to cover all submitted claims and the CHIP Rehab Step Up ($20) and Home Exercise ($720) programs. Persuasive Letter Writing "101". Proof positive, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Had a stress test at CHIP, in bottom 5 percentile. Lots of room for improvement. Maximum heart rate of only 100bpm's due to APO Bisoprolol (betablockers). Bought a Polar FT1 Heart Monitor and registering between 79 and 85 on my walks. Next step will be on the bike. No longer on Plavix, only on ASAphen, Crestor and APO Bisoprolol. Follow up ECHOcardiogram slated for Aug.15th with cardiologist. Hoping my EF is above 40%. Sternum still aches and cramped in the morning and it still hurts to sneeze and cough but getting there. Using Bio Oil on the incision.
Feeling better daily. Started the CHIP "Step Up" preliminary cardiac rehab program last week ( 4 x 2-hr sessions with basic stretching exercises + lectures by cardiac nurse, psychologist and dietician); final session Thursday. Finally sleeping in my own bed (longest time I've ever spent on the couch/recliner). Pain is downgraded to aches, discomfort and tightness which progresses during the day. Have determined my time limit for doing things such as driving up north, shopping with Lydia is two hours max; then I need to head home for a nap. Will check my fishing endurance soon when I can cast without risk. Really not impressed with SunLife Group Health Insurance. I have filed claims for my Heart Hugger Sternum Support Harness ($160), disability form completed by surgeon ($75.) and Hospital Bed Rental for one month ($200.)... all rejected. Why have I been paying +/- $70/pay ( $1820/year) over my 37-year working career or about $67,340 total; to be rejected on claims when I finally need them? They've already rejected my "Pre-Determination" for my Cardiac Rehab Program" ($20.) Time for some negative publicity, SunLife Assurance Company of Canada Ltd... I must be feeling better: I am ready to go to battle. "On Guard, SunLife"!!!
Just back from my first follow up with my cardiologist. I now have medical clearance to drive (sshh). Doc says all looks good and the pain will subside slowly over time. Down to only two extra strength Tylenol at bedtime and maybe one or two at 03:00 AM. Still sleeping in the recliner in the city house but when up north, I can tilt to one side which gives my numb-bum a break. My cardio has eliminated Plavix from my meds list and strongly recommends the CHIP Cardiac Rehab 12-Week Program on Atwater. I will call to get that set up tomorrow. Next cardiologist appointment will be for a follow up ECHOcardiogram; he says my sternum is way too fragile/sensitive for the ultrasound transducer's pressure and would prefer to wait two months (Aug.15th). He wants to see an improvement on my Efficiency Fraction (EF) to at least 50% (previously at 40% prior to AVR). No murmur apparent on stethoscope; all sounds good. Incision healing well and all looks normal. He said feeling like a punching bag is normal at this stage of recovery. It is a 8 - 12 week recovery to experience a pain-free day or two. Be patient... a major personal weakness.
I think my recovery is on schedule. Still sleeping in my recliner but only taking one Oxycodone at bedtime and that normally gets me through til 04:00ish (coincident with my bladder). One extra strength Tylenol at that time, is good for two more hours sleep. Ribcage and back still painful to cough (no sneeze yet). My incision looks perfect; my surgeon could have a secondary career as a seamstress. I can feel the nerves mending; every so often I feel a sharp tingly feeling along the line. A little swollen on the top end and the two drain holes have scabbed up nicely. I am trying to get two 20-minute walks in daily but look forward to a nap after each. I am out of a few of my meds so will walk to the pharmacy this am; only the start of week 4 so still no driving. Will give that a shot Thursday with the Commissioner's permission, of course. Next appointment with cardiologist is June 14th. At times, my eyesight seems out of focus but had read somewhere that is normal so will wait six months before seeing my optometrist. I sometimes lose control of my speech; my lips won't pronounce the words I am trying to get out and quickly lose my train of thought and what I was trying to articulate. Could be "pumphead" or maybe related to when I coded blue on the table. Will mention it to cardio at my next appointment. That's it for now...
I can see today will be one one those "one step back" day as I suspect I overdid it celebrating Lydia's big 50 up north. Maybe it was a little too early for water skiing... Not..
Or maybe even something psychological knowing my magic blue pills will be gone after taking the last two tonight at bedtime. Great weekend up north and well worth the pain today. Victoria Day weekend is always the first main gathering of family and friends with those big plans for just about every weekend between May and September. At 03:00 AM Sunday, while trying to sleep, I heard someone walking on the treadmill 12 feet away. No one was there; it was 03:00 AM!!! Not long to realize it was my Medtronics ATS 3f stentless equine tissue valve. Just had to wake up Lydia for a listen. Confirmed... but cool. Feeling a little hungry, I got up and had a bowl of oatmeal... Not... but did put two sugar cubes in my coffee two hours later.
Feeling pretty good. Staying ahead of the pain really works. Incision is healing well; no apparent infection. Taking my temperature twice a day. It's getting itchy, to the point I wake myself up during the night geting a quick scratch in, unknowingly. Weird (scary) feeling scratching a staple zipper. Staples will be out at 13:00 today ot our local CLSC in Vaudreuil. If any hurt coming out, I hope it's the last few and not the first. Even water pressure along the incision feels so great and soothing. Doing my 20 minutes of easy walking daily. Monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure daily at 10:00 AM ; looking good and consistent so far at 110/78 with a resting heart rate of 73bpm's. On our way up north for the long weekend this afternoon; RJ will be driving and my passenger side air bag turned off and I will have my red heart pillow between my seat belt and my incision. Happy first long weekend (whatever it may be called in your particular neck of the woods). Lydia's birthday weekend; she deserves to let her hair down and catch up on some sleep and down time.
So we checked out of the Vic at noon yesterday and made our first stop at our local pharmacy to get all Rx's in order. Had to get one of those organizers; with the many pain killers, pills to do this but cause that and more pills to fix what those other ones caused and two respiratory puffers (the ex-smokers' head rears itself again). Had a tasty but nutritious birthday supper with immediate family only one missing was Josh in Edmonton. Will see him and Amber in August. Lydia has returned to work this am but RJ remains here until the 27th. My Mother, Sister and Brother all dropped by for bday cake. Was an exhausting day and probably overdid it and paid the price in pain all night. Sticking with the plan. I have rented a hpspital bed but have to do a little fine tuning to the hardware and getting a routine to stay ahead of the pain (easier said than done). Ex. 1 - 2 tablets every 4 - 6 hours. Will call the local CLSC - Vaudreuil today to have the staples removed Friday. All looking good so far. Took a few strolls up and down the driveway yesterday afternoon and targetting the mailbox today. Still can't put on shoes, my Barney Rubble (Hobbitt) feet will not permit as of yet but my diruretics should continue to address that. I am down to my pre-surgery weight but that was probably about +30 lbs. I have already lost about 25 lbs since my surgery. Anyhow, thats' about it for now. Wishing all those of you on the same journey the best of luck for a textbook surgery and recovery; and again many sincere thanks to all who have made mine as seamless (pardon the pun), as posible.
Well here I sit, still in the Royal Vic (aka MUHC) on my 56th birthday with 56 staples in tin soldier formation down my sternum. I will look for chocolate birthday cake and ice cream on today's menu. I'm due for a treat. Keeping my fingers crossed I'm outta here at 11:00... Thank-you all for the continued support (family, friends, hospital staff, et al.).
Two residents c/w entourage see me at 08:00; both great guys but a little too conservative for my liking. Bottom line is to shed another few pounds, more clearing of fluids (lasix) and lungs and more exercising (stairs). Looks like I'll be in here another few days. Ten minutes later (08:15), Dr. Benoit strolls in looking like he's had a well rested weekend and asks "what are you still doing here?". This place is for sick people; not me. I can take water pills at home and wee-wee in my own potty. I'm outta here later on today....Woo-Hoo... I can taste that birthday steak already..... Later.....
Well it's been quite the week. I feel like the "Yo-Yo" Man. Both physically and mentally. At least those pink paint splotches on those yellow partition drapes are gone and my visitors' eyebows (caterpillers) no longer distract me when trying to maintain a meaningful conversation. All the tubes and wires are out; only the pace-maker wires left but they can't be pulled until my platelet count increases to prevent excessive bleeding from the heart upon removal. Really don't want that, now do we. Been walking alot and coughing alot. Ribs and lungs feel like an MUCTC bus is parked across my chest with the rear wheels sitting TDC (top dead center).Pretty noisy here downtown at night. The sirens never stop. Today I will attempt stairs and maybe even a little pooh (sorry). Almost time for breakfast (rice crispies with brown sugar, orange juice, rubber scrambled eggs, cold piece of toast (brown - woo-hoo) and a cup of luke warm swamp water (defafe). Many thanks for all the support and well wishes. A la prochaine (my test). Everyone here really likes my Heart Hugger. It's like I'm a celebrity. Maybe I can be the Canadian National Sales Rep; a 25% Commission on all sales would certainly help my retirement. Oh ya, I hope RJ didn't gross anyone out with my zipper pics. Lydia counted 55 staples; I guess I got one year for every year of completed life. They should be fun coming out....ttfn...... Eric
Eric is now out of Step Down and in his room. He is doing very well and his pain is being managed by wonderful little blue pills. (No, not those ones) He is on a ventilator to help break up what is in his lungs and to help him cough. He has no more tubes or wires except for the pacemaker wires, everything has been removed, cathater, drainage tubes and the frankenstein thing is his neck. He is still very bloated and they are giving him something for that. He has been walking and doing his breathing exercises and sitting in the chair. His spirits are good (most of the time) but does not have much of an appetite. If all goes well we will be home on Monday. I have posted some pictures for your viewing pleasure. We will be thinking of you.
Eric was wheeled down to the operating room at 6:30 AM. He was brought into the CICU at 1PM. He is still there and doing well. He is although having trouble breathing on his own and is still on the ventilator. It seems to be doing most of the work for him. We are hoping after his next blood test he will be able to be weaned off of it and the tube taken out of his throat. Eric's doctor spoke to us after the operation and told us everything went well. He was very pleased how everything went in the OR. A little later the anathesiologist (?) told us that when he put the cathater and wire to his heart, the wire tickled his heart and his heart stopped for 60 seconds and they had to shock him 3 times. I can't wait to tell him that. he probably won't believe me. But apparently there is a red make on his side from the defibrulator.I was assured that this will not cause any complications and that they handled it immediatly. Eric is now awake but keeps dozing off. I was very surprised how calm he was when he woke up. I thought he would be grabbing that thing out of his throat. He cannot talk yet but is squeezing my hand. That is the best feeling in the world. Hopefully he will be up in his own room tomorrow and off the respirator. I can't wait to tell him all the funny things we were going to tell him when he woke up. He is very tired and he had alot of visitors but I am sure that made him feel loved. I willl keep you posted.
Not having heard from my surgeon since March 02nd, I called his office and left a message asking if surgery date is known. Receptionist returns call within the hour requesting my valve selection. I told her I would go with my surgeon's recommendation (Medtronics ATS 3f stentless equine pericardial tissue valve). She said "Surgery should be soon, won't be long now."
After two postponements, I finally had my consultation with my surgeon at 09:00 this am. He said "It's time..". In fact, I've been prioritized. While still in the office they slotted me in the pre-operative clinic right after the consult. Spent the next five hours giving more blood, interviews with cardiac nurses, anesthesiologist and chest x-rays. Looks like I'm "good to go" for the Bentall procedure to replace my calcified bicuspid valve with a tissue (equine) and graft my enlarged aortic root in the early to mid April.
Comments-conclusions: No significant coronary artery disease nor restenosis but segmental Lv dysfct with an estimated EF of 40% and a mean transvalvular aortic gradient of 30mmHg, CO ad 3,7 L/min and an estimated AVA of 0.77 cm2; enlarged aortic root with 1/4 AI; R radial and RCFV approaches.
Next consultation with Dr. Benoit de Varennes slated for Feb.23rd at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The waiting game continues....