Yes, it was 5 years ago today I received my new aortic valve (pig) and aneurysm fixed. Some ways it feels like last week and some ways feels like it was someone else. I go through my time now not really ever thinking about it but it is always something I am aware of. Nothing physical, other than the faint scar on my chest, but it's now mostly a mental awareness. I still keep researching heart valve replacement advancements...wondering what I may need to go through again whenever this pig valve finally wears out. My hope is that I am still many years away from that time. Whenever and whatever it may be, I will accept that and plow through the process knowing I've been there, done that and life is great! Suck it up for a while and plow though the healing. The human body is an amazing thing...
It is interesting...the mindset pre surgery versus post surgery is so very different...even now, 5 years later. I actually prefer and enjoy the post-surgery phase more. It's a more peaceful, appreciative reality....hard to really explain but I'm sure most of us "has beens" understand.
Anyway....congrats to all of you going through the process now...you are all stronger than you may realize and we all are here for you. I cannot thank Adam enough for his vision and strength in producing this forum for all of us. What a total blessing to every one of us in this unique club.
Just another has-been posting on his 3 year surgery anniversary. I posted a year ago on my 2 yr anniversary...and everything still applies. My annual testing continues to be great....I simply could not be doing any better. Probably in the best shape in my life, family is awesome and the sun is shining! What more could anyone ask for?!
For the those in the middle of their journey, stay strong, be confident and positive. Before you know it, you will be posting these annual updates like me...life is good!
Wow...its been 2 years since my surgery. All I can say is "amazing". It mostly feels like a dream and never actually happened. Simply incredible how we get back to our "normal" routines and activities. BUT it now feels enhanced on the genuine appreciation of being fixed and blessed in so many ways.
My celebration of this anniversary was simply to enjoy time with my family at the lake. The weather is/was fantastic. Played golf with my boys (they both beat me), went fishing (my wife caught much bigger fish), hit golf balls off the dock, ate a very nice dinner, played some board games (I lost).....BUT what a fantastic day!! I would not trade it for anything...truly a wonderful day.
My doctors all say I am doing great and will undergo routine testing from here on out until my pig valve decides to start calling it a day...hopefully many years from now. Until then I will continue enjoying life to the fullest as best I can.
I have not posted on here in over a year, but still will poke around and try to offer some advice or words of encouragement to others going through their own journey.
My best advice would be to be positive and confident....attitude is really the only thing we can control. Yes, it stinks to have to go through this, but this bump in our road is temporary...lets get it behind us with strength and let our loved ones see our positiveness.
It has now been 10 months since my AVR via full OHS. It is just hard to believe where I was about a year ago, what took place and where I am now. I have actually been back to my old self for many months and am enjoying an incredible summer. Saw my cardiologist on Friday and everything is looking as it should...."see you next year". Appears I will just be doing the routine follow-ups from now on, unless something gets out of whack.
For everyone getting ready for their big day, just know the hard stuff will be over soon and it gets alot better very quickly. Before you know it, you will also be looking back like me and wonder..."did I really have OHS?".
So, for all you pre-surgery runners, baseball players, kayakers, dancers, hikers, swimmers, golfers, bikers, yoga-ers, basketballers, ski-ers, cliff jumping-into-lakers, .....you will need to take a little break from all this fun, but soon after your surgery, you will be back doing what you love, knowing you are fixed.
Just returned from my 6 month post-surgery visit w/ my surgeon (actually almost 7 months) and he just confirmed what I already knew....I AM DOING GREEEEAAAAATTTTTT. CAT scans, blood pressure, pulse all were perfect!!! No restrictions whatsoever..."go live life and have fun"...ok, will do.
Honestly, its like I have never had the surgery. The only reminder is the scar (which actually healed way better than I could have imagined) and being able to feel some of the wires on my sternum. Does not hurt, just weird. Doing everything I want to do and more.
Fully healed sternum: yep
Fully healed heart: check
Back to doing everything you want: heck yeah!
Having fun: yes sir
Smiling alot: always
An official Has-Been now: you're dang right I am!!!
For all you pre has-beens, keep pushing and get yourself fixed and on the road to recovery. Soon you will be acting a fool like me!!
A setback? Well...sorta...maybe...uh....not really...I guess
Journal posted on March 6, 2012
Was playing basketball w/ my teenage boys in the driveway a few weeks ago. I was coming down, one son was coming up and I took his shoulder square into my ribs....crack goes the rib...about 2" from my sternum. Felt like I got kicked by a mule. Yep...it was cracked and sore as heck...sneezing/coughing, etc hurt alot.
BUT....my sternum took the shot and held up like a champ!
Morals to this story?
1) 4 months post full sternotomy and it is fully healed!
2) 4 months post OHS and I am playing full contact basketball (it gets rough in there)
3) I am still the king of the driveway....undefeated!
It amazes me that 15 weeks have flown by since my OHS. Things could not have gone any better so far. I am doing everything I was doing before and more. I saw my cardiologist on Friday and everything looks great. Just routine follow-ups from here on out...same w/ my surgeon. Only taking beta-blocker (metoprolol 1x/day, along w/ baby aspirin).
All I have to offer everyone is encouragement and advice from my experience. Sure, there are challenges along the way...pain, night sweats, tiredness, limitations, etc...but to me, it is all part of the process. Some times you just gotta fight through it, keep a positive attitude and be patient. Like my doctors/nurses kept telling everyone in ICU..."you just went through major heart surgery, you are going to be sore".
To those getting ready...Jeff, Nancy, Jimmy, Linda, Paul, Chris, others...I was in your shoes just a few short months ago. You all can/will do fantastic. Having a great attitude and being informed is 90% of this journey. To me, the surgery was like a giant, ugly gorilla following me around 24/7. You will go in for your surgery and in an instant, it will be over...and the gorilla is no longer there. So keep doing what you're doing and go get 'em!!
To Mitch, Robert, Kelly, Claire, Tameika, others....welcome to the other side of the mountain. These early days post surgery are the toughest. I promise you that is gets better. Keep pushing and concentrating on getting yourself a little better each day. Before you know it, you will be part of the "Has Been" club....like Janis, John and myself.
May I suggest my favorite song to everyone...pre and post surgery....Bob Marley - 3 Little Birds. It got me to surgery and through the recovery days when I was tired/sore ...it helped push me out the door to walk.
Don't worry, about a thing...'cause every little thing is gonna be alright.
Hard to believe but 2 1/2 months have passed since OHS. Alot has taken place in that time; recovery, rehab, work, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, weddings, parties, birthdays, travel, etc, etc.
I completed my rehab last week (6 weeks total) and am very pleased. It not only gets you back to physical activity but also provides confidence that your heart is ok. By the last week, I was back to running/elliptical for 40 min, along with weight lifting. The only discomfort I have now is some numbness on my chest and when I twist too far. Both should resolve soon and can't wait to swing hard at a golf ball again...can't let my boys outdrive me just yet!!
I will not lie, I put forth alot of effort in my recovery...pushing myself from the outset, through my rehab and between sessions. There were some early days when my tank was below empty but made myself do the long walks, stretches and exercises...I am certain this helped get my stamina back much sooner.
I know I am very fortunate that I did not have any real complications. I continue to keep my fingers crossed.
Am I back now? Is the old JH back? Nope....the new/improved version is here now!!
So as I venture into 2012, I am confident this will be special year for my family and I. We are truly blessed and I am one lucky guy!!
Had my echo today and cardiologist says my new valve is working great and repaired aorta looks fine! That is what I have been waiting to hear! Don't need to see him again until my 6 month check-up. Big big thanks to my surgeon, Dr. Ganzel, he obviously did a wonderful job and I am forever grateful to him.
Rehab is going well. I feel myself getting stronger with every session. I am also doing some exercising on my own, but am following the conservative approach they preach. They will allow me to do some easy jogging tomorrow, so of course I went out and jogged a little tonight. Definitely not in running shape but felt nice to breath a little hard again.
I am truly amazed at how good I feel now, less than 2 months after my surgery. I want everyone who may read this and is needing surgery...do not stress too much...you can do this and you will be on the road to recovery quickly. Stay positive and push yourself some. You will lack energy for a while but get up, get dressed, go for a walk and breath deep every chance you get. Always remember that we are the lucky ones.
Started rehab this week and I finally broke a sweat!! Had not done that since surgery (except for night sweats). It felt great. Got to spend some time on the elliptical, treadmill and lifted some light weights. My repaired heart cooperated fully! Was told I will likely be discharged by the end of the month. Will gradually increase the intensity of the workouts.
Saw my cardiologist yesterday and he was very pleased with my progress. Backed off the Metoprolol a bit. Still gotta have a couple tests next week, so still crossing my fingers they go well.
Doing everything I was doing before surgery and it is so nice. My chest is still a little stiff/sore but only if I twist too far or bend the wrong way. Heck, I threw frisbee with my boys today!! How cool is that?!
It has been 6 weeks since my surgery...I really don't know how I could be doing any better. I start my rehab tomorrow and am looking forward to it so much. My walks have been great but am now looking forward to getting more back to my old self...running, biking, lifting weights, playing basketball, golf, etc.
I only take Metoprolol and baby aspirin...no more Tylenol. I still have some ache/stiffness in my sternum but know it will probably take a couple more weeks to fully heal. I have been back driving and working at the office for the past 2 weeks and it has gone great. I am essentially doing everything I normally do, except for exercising.
I know something could humble me at any time, but I really have not had a down day yet...even after overdoing it a few times. I worked in the yard yesterday raking/blowing leaves, drove 3 hours from our family get-together, helped cook/clean, stayed up talking and really did not get overly tired. I sleep 8 hours at night (in the bed now) and get up feeling great.
I see my cardiologist on Friday for the round of tests to see how everything is working. My surgeon will see me again in 6 months for routine check-up.
It's now 5 weeks post op. This past week I was released to drive. I went back to work on Monday (desk job) and worked everyday, a full week. I actually did a lot better than I thought I would...did not get too tired. Basically was back in the normal routine...taking kids to school, working, picking up kids, going to dinner, visiting friends/family...everything. Also did about 3 hours of yard work on Saturday, but made sure to take it easy. I believe all of this is helping get my stamina back, as I am not as tired in the evenings.
Am I overdoing it? I start rehab in about a week and can't wait to get started. Everything has gone great so far. I am a lucky guy.
Well, it's now been 4 weeks since my surgery. Hard to believe as it seems like yesterday I was stressing about the surgery, which valve to get, etc. I may sound like a broken record but I am feeling great...a little better every day. I got the green light to start driving and I did so today. Was a little stiff but otherwise no problems at all. Have been out to dinner, lunch, church and grocery. Getting back into the normal routine again.
Only meds I take now are Metoprolol, baby aspirin and Tylenol mainly for back stiffness. Will try going back to work tomorrow and see how long I last. Will start rehab in 2 weeks. I feel great.
It's the end of week 3 and I am continuing to get better. Saw my surgeon Thursday and was told I am doing great...will not see me again for 6 months. Weaning me off the Bumex and potassium pills. I still have a little elevated heart rate so I had to increase my Metoprolol a bit. Found out I will have to take that forever...first time I had been told that, plus a baby aspirin. I am still taking Tylenol for mostly the stiffness and the pain I have in my mid back, from my posture. My incision does not hurt (unless I cough hard...ouch!) or move the wrong way.
I am walking about 20 minutes, twice per day and being more active around the house...washing dishes, folding clothes, light cleaning, etc. Doing some work on computer from home and some conference calls so slowly worming my way back into work.
Took my first "outing" today...walking in the park and then to bookstore. Starting to feel a little more "normal" and expect it to continue to get a bit better each day. Start cardiac rehab in a few weeks, start driving, working, etc,...so I am getting there slowly but surely.
Nearing the end of week #2 and I am feeling great. Really in no pain at all ( as long as I don't move the wrong way or cough too deep), and sleeping well. Met with my cardiologist yesterday and everything looks great. I do have a little elevated heart rate but he believes it should resolve itself soon. I did develop a rash in the areas where they prepped me before surgery...anyone else get this? It itches but not that bad...just a little annoyance.
I am very happy with my progress so far and am looking forward to continuing to get a little better each day. Life is good!
Developed a couple minor complications that I have had to f/u w/ the doctor about. Still waiting to see what, if anything, I will have to do about them. Yesterday was a very long day and a not a good night of sleep. Anyone else get night sweats?
I have actually stopped taking my prescription pain med and am just taking Tylenol. Seems to be managing the pain ok for now. Getting my walks in and my breathing exercises are showing daily improvement.
As bummed as I was last night, I am feeling much better about things today. I got a long nap in this morning and spent the morning just haning out w/ my wonderful wife in the beautiful sunshine. My wife has been incredible...she is truly an angel.
Hopefully, this week will continue to come along and will get a little better each day.
I just looked at some of the pictures taken of me in ICU....dang....I looked rough!!
I made it through surgery on Monday from my aortic root replacement and AVR (Medtronics freestyle tissue valve). My breathing tube was removed within a couple of hours and I don't even remember it. My chest tubes were removed in ICU (I do remember that). Made it it to my room early Tuesday morning. I did so well, they released me Friday morning and have been home since.
No complications so far. I am doing well with my breathing exercises and walking regularly. Taking a shower is still a bit of a challenge (get very tired).
I want to thank everyone that have offered their support and encouragement...it is making my journey that much easier.
Terri and Bill...so glad to hear about your good progress. See...I told you we could do this! Continued thanks to you Eric!
Will be checking in often.
Decided today to go w/ a tissue valve. After reading Dr. Gillinov's responses to various questions, learning of a fellow journalist's reasons for getting a tissue valve...then meeting w/ my surgeon this morning, it confirmed my decision. It is really a lifestyle choice.
I have my pre-op stuff on Friday and then surgery is early Monday morning.
Everyone has been told and we should have plenty of help next week and beyond. Its very comforting to have a large, supportive family and just as large/supportive group of friends.
Still hard for me to believe I will have to do this...but I guess I am as ready as I will ever be.
Ok, I am now just 2 weeks away from the surgery. I find myself thinking about it all the time...what kind of valve? how will I react to recovery? am I as strong as I think I am? when to let everyone know? etc, etc.
I finally told my father over the weekend when he was here on a visit (he lives out of state). I hated telling him, as I don't want him or anyone to worry about me. He was reassuring and let me know he was here for me. I absolutely dread telling my mother. She has enough to worry about right now and this news will really upset her. My sister will be upset but will be fine. I don't want to let anyone at work know, as I don't want the 1,000 questions that will come with it.
Perhaps I am just being selfish or stubborn, but I want as few people to know about this as possible. Everyone will eventually find out, of course, but let me get to the 17th, get the surgery completed and on the road to recovery.
Thanks to those that have reached out, it means alot and has been very helpful. Special thanks to you Eric.
First, I found this site by accident while searching around the internet looking for as much info as possible regarding my condition, the surgery and recovery.
I have had all the tests completed...CT scan, echo, TEE, x-ray and cardiac cath. My bicuspid valve is still hanging in there and functionally well...its just the aortic root is getting bigger and my surgeon feels its time to fix it. He says you don't fix one w/out fixing the other...makes sense to me. Luckily, I don't seem to have other issues...I guess this is enough.
Due to my age, mechanical valve is recommended but I hate taking any kind of drug, so the thought of being on blood thinners the rest of my life is not appealing. However, having to likely undergo a 2nd fix 10-15 years from now does not appeal either. I am struggling w/ this decision and I have to make it soon. If anyone happening to read this can shed some personal experience on blood thinners, would love to hear it. I read all kinds of good/bad stuff about it.
I am still a little hesitant about this journal thing, because I am not the kind of person that tells my personal info and in fact, have not told anyone, other than my wife/kids.
I have ordered the book and cannot wait to get it. Knowing me, I will read it cover-to-cover the first day.
Oh well...alot of stuff to think about and even more things to get organized beforehand. Meet with my surgeon again next week.