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John Lund

Loudon, Tennessee,

United States

 

My Diagnosis

Mitral Valve Regurgitation

 

 

 

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One and a half Years

March 14, 2013

I am amazed at the passage of time. I did not realize it had been a half year since I had last posted. Some people had asked me to update my journal a while back and I never got around to it.

My surgery on September 14, 2011 seems such a long time ago. An event that was such a big part of my life is becoming a somewhat fading memory.

I have seen other updates from people who had surgery early last year who are now posting their own anniversary journal updates.

I recently had checkups with my cardiologist and personal physician. The cardiologist said my heart was doing well, and the physician was pleased with the results of my blood chemistry tests. Thanks to medication and significant changes in my diet based on previous test results and counseling with a dietician, I have lost weight and made significant improvements in my cholesterol levels. The blood analysis was by Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. and is much more extensive than the normal tests and allows a match with medication and diet.

I still have a tendency to over do things when feeling well and have been dealing with cold/sinus issues for several weeks, but seem to be coming out it now.

I went on a very enjoyable cruise with other people from the dance studio back in January. The cruise ship was the Norwegian Epic and it is quite impressive. Emily, my instructor, and I participated in a dance competition in Augusta Georgia in February, and this month I am participating in a group dance (K-town Westies) in a local dancing with the stars event in Knoxville Tennessee. I am also enjoying my time with my children Johan and Maria, although due to our respective schedules, it has been limited recently.

I have cut back on my exercises due to my schedule and also being a bit under the weather as mentioned above. I have also cut back on my work which has been a big change. I do not believe that I have worked a full 40 hours in a week yet this year. My co-workers made a point of telling our new boss that my work habits have changed significantly since the surgery, at least in regards to the amount of time that I work. I do need to get more rest/sleep time in to give my body some quiet recovery time.

The surgery was a very traumatic experience and getting ready for it emotional and psychologically was difficult and there were difficult days during the initial recovery, but overall, I consider myself very fortunate to have had it. My surgeon and his staff were great as is my cardiologist and physician and their staffs. The hospital staff was also top notch. A couple of neighbors actually work in the cardiac area of the hospital.

I am fortunate in that my physician actually practices what he preaches in regards to diet and exercise.

I still worry about heart issues from time to time as there is a genetic tendency for them in both sides of my family, but I am very thankful for all that has happened in the past year and a half since the surgery and also the time before the surgery.

Those of you preparing for surgery or in the initial stages of recovery have a lot to look forward to as you proceed.

Last, but definitely not least, I really appreciate all that Adam Pick has done for this community!! He has made this a much easier journey!

Thanks,

John

First Anniversary of Surgery on September 14, 2011

September 14, 2012

Unbelievably it has been

1 Year
12 Months
52 2/7 Weeks
366 days

since my open heart surgery for a mitral valve repair and a maze procedure on September 14, 2011. Not that I am counting.

I did not post on my 11 month milestone, I did not even think about it until late in the day, so decided to let it pass.

For those of you awaiting surgery, or who are in the initial stages of recovery, a year may seem to be a long time, but it will pass quickly. I remember in the early days reading Adam’s book and posts from people who had reached the one year milestone and thinking that it would be a long time before I would get there; however, it seems to have happened very quickly now.

I had a great surgeon to perform the surgery. He was supported by a wonderful nurse. The staff at the hospital was terrific and did a great job taking care of me following the surgery.

I had initially been concerned about getting through the first 6 weeks after the surgery, due to the limited ability to take care of myself. However, I was able live with my son and also have my daughter help me during that time; so that worked out very well. It was difficult at times and there were some issues, but nothing major. It was actually a great time since I could spend it with them. I also received a lot of encouragement and support from other family members, various friends, some unexpected, and people I met here in the journal, not just during the initial recovery, but in the weeks and months that followed.

Other than a slightly elevated cholesterol issue, I am doing well medically. My cardiologist said I could do whatever I wanted. The mitral valve is working well and the maze procedure has resolved the atrial fibrillation issue. I am still on baby aspirin, 12.5 mg of metoprolol twice a day, and a cholesterol medication. I am going to a health coach who is helping to do better in regards to my diet. I have had a detailed blood analysis and she is helping me with that. I did not know there were so many types of cholesterol, good and bad. It turns out that there is a growing opinion that sugar and fructose can also contribute to heart disease.

Overall, I am doing well. I was exercising regularly and actually had gotten to feeling better physically, emotionally, and psychologically than I had in a long time. However, I have been dealing with some sinus, throat, and lung issues that have slowed me down for several weeks now, so I have cut back on my exercise program. My doctor said it would just take some time to get over them. Probably made worse by my activity level; trying to do too much and not pacing myself.

I work at a nuclear plant that has shutdown for a refueling operation, so I get to work a lot of overtime for the several weeks that is required to do that. I will restrict my other activities for a while so I can get some rest.

I have continued with my dancing. I participated in a small competition (Knoxville Dance Challenge) at the studio this past weekend and had a very good time. Contrary to my conduct at the competition in June, I behaved well for the most part at this competition. It was my third competition this year. Fortunately, my dancing is improving although a bit slowly in my opinion.

I guess that is about it for now, thanks for all the support, and best wishes to those in the early stages of this journey!

John

314 Days Since My Surgery September 14, 2011

July 24, 2012

I could not do whole weeks, or months, so chose to do days.

This is a somewhat late update on the Bama Ballroom Classic competition I went to in Birmingham Alabama the weekend beginning July 13th.

But before I get into that, I will report that I went to my cardiologist on July 6th. He listened to my heart, and had an EKG performed. He said my heart sounded good and that I was in a good sinus rhythm, i.e. no atrial fibrillation. He asked about my dancing, he is very happy I am continuing with that, and wished me good luck in the upcoming competition that I told him about. He said there were no restrictions on my activity in regards to my heart. Although he did want me to continue with the metoprolol tartrate 12.5 mg twice a day, and pravastatin 40 mg twice a week and to come back in 6 months. I had hoped to be able to stop taking them.

As a side issue, my regular doctor had a detailed laboratory test run on my blood by HealthDiagnosticLaboratory earlier this year, and I now have a health coach to make sure I am eating the right food and getting the proper supplements. I also received a lot of reading material from her. So, things are going well in the area of my health overall, I just need to listen to my body and not overdo it, which I still do from time to time.

A few weeks back, I was exercising and realized I had not felt that well in a long time, and ended up overdoing things that week. Last week, I had to put in some long days at work, and I am recovering from that a bit this week.

In regards to the competition, I behaved much better overall than I had at the Rocky Top Dance Challenge competition last month. Still got a bit frustrated during the day, but did not fuss about it, just got quiet and kept it to myself. I did fuss at Emily for not sitting next to me at dinner, I did not expected her to, but I fussed anyway. Another student then asked me if I was a high maintenance student, I did not respond then, but later admitted to her, another woman who had been at the dinner table, and Emily that I was, but added that I was worth it. The other student laughed, I do not think Emily did though.

I received first place in all of my entries as I was the only one in my category/age group for those entries. However, you can still receive a second or third place if you perform poorly, so a first place does mean something, even when you are the only one. One of the judges told me I had done well, another instructor told us that we had “danced well, really well” after one of the dances. Overall, I danced better than I did at Rocky Top Dance Challenge and received several compliments, including from people I did not know. I did have a false start in a Tango which surprised Emily as I normally do those well, and was a bit off rhythm in some other dances early on, but did better when I danced them again later.

A friend I have known for a while was there briefly, but I did not get to see her. She sent me a message the following day to say that she had seen me dance, but could not stay. I had gotten a new shirt to wear for my rhythm dances, but I do not have any pictures of it. I have asked Emily to give me some from the ones she and Jeremy took during the competition.

I did get to meet some nice people and also visit with some people that I had met before at other competitions. I helped take up the floor and light system after the competition was over, so that made for a long day!

That is probably all of the competitions for a while. I will miss the opportunity to go to competitions in September and October due to an upcoming refueling outage where I work. There is a comp at the studio I go to in Knoxville, Academy Ballroom, in August, but I am not sure I will participate in that. I need to pay off some of the bills from the previous comps and other incidentals now.

So, I think that is all for now.

Best wishes to those preparing for surgery, and to those recovering from surgery.

John Lund

10 Months Since My Surgery and at a Dance Comp

July 14, 2012

I will not post much today since I am at a comp and using my cell phone.

I just wanted to mark the occasion. Update when I get back home.

John
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Rocky Top Dance Challenge 2012 Videos

June 23, 2012

For those who might be interested, some of the dances for the competition are on YouTube.

Search for Rocky Top Dance Challenge 2012, I think there are 22 videos. Emily and I are on Rockytop 2012 2, Rockytop 2012 7, and Rockytop 2012 i.

2 contains the Smooth dances Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot.

7 contains the Rhythm dances Cha Cha, Rumba, and Swing.

i is the Showcase dance which starts with a Tango and Switches to a Samba.

You might enjoy viewing the other videos, there were some really good dancers at the competition.

We are planing on going to the Bama Ballroom Classic comp in Birmingham which is July 14th (which will also be the 10th month anniversary of my surgery).

John

My First Dance Competition Since My Surgery

June 19, 2012

I went to my first dance competition since my surgery last weekend. (The good, the bad, and the ugly story.)

Emily and I did a Tango - Samba showcase that went well at the Friday evening party. We had spent a lot of time working on it and I had reviewed a video made during our last lesson many times during the week leading up to Friday. When I first saw the video, I was about to cancel the showcase as I thought I was hopeless, but after reviewing it again later decided there were things I could do to improve my performance. Having the video to review really helped. There were some rough spots during the actual dance, but Emily helped me through them. I would not pass as a Samba dancer, but the audience and other showcase dancers really liked the performance and Emily was quite happy with what I had done.

The competition on Saturday was a very good competition. Emily and her fiancee, Jeremy, hosted the event and did a very good job. According to many people, I danced well. The next day, one of the judges said I had improved over the time she saw me last year which was great to hear.

Unfortunately, I forgot that I should be happy just to be dancing and doing well and enjoying everyone else’s performance as well as my own dancing with Emily. I also behaved poorly and that reflects badly on me as I explain below.

We did the Smooth dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz) in the morning as single dance entries and I felt good about what I had done. No problems with getting short of breath or a lack of conditioning. However, there was a three dance (Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot) entry in which the men and women were grouped together and competed in their respective age categories. The judges placed me in third place with two women ahead of me. I became very upset as I thought I was better than that! I fussed a lot with Emily, as if she did not have enough to deal with, without me causing problems. Other people probably realized I was very upset as well, including possibly, unfortunately, one of the ladies who placed above me and has been very kind to me and supportive of me during my surgery and recovery. Instead of being thankful just to be able to dance, I let something that was out of my control put me in a bad mood.

That continued into the afternoon when we were dancing the Rhythm dances (Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, and Mambo). Rather than preparing for those dances mentally, I had continued being upset about the placement in the morning session. As a result, I did not do as well in them the first time I danced them as I should have done. So, I pretty much let Emily down. I did do better the second time we danced them. We also had a three dance (Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing) entry in the afternoon. One of the women from the morning did not participate and I ended up placing second. I was a bit ugly about that and told Emily I had expected that and took off the ribbon I had been given. That hurt her and she asked me to put it back on; which I did. Shortly thereafter she had the photographer take a picture of her with two other students who had competed with her as well as me. This should have been a great day for her, but I ended up being a problem. I will give her credit in that she was gracious and kind to me and let me blow off steam, but it was still unkind of me to do it.

We did have 6 more dances (the same as in the three dance entries) that we did again in the evening. I was doing somewhat better with my attitude by then. I did mess up the Foxtrot by mixing Tango movements into it, something I do from time to time with either dance. I ended up calling it a Tangtrot. The last dance was a swing, just before we started it, Emily said to just have fun and enjoy it. I relaxed and just had fun dancing with her, I think she enjoyed that as much as any of them.

It was great to get back into competitive dancing, I felt great doing the dances, no heart or conditioning issues, but my attitude was terrible a good part of the day. Instead of being thankful for being able to dance, and dance better than I did last year, I let something that I could not control upset me and cause problems for Emily. I really appreciate the way she handled dealing with me and explaining that judges look for different things and that I should focus on how I was doing and whether or not I was improving and dancing well and not let the judges decisions affect me. I just wished I had behaved well in the first place.

Lesson learned, I will behave properly in my next competition (I promise Emily!! The folks here are my witnesses!).

I was also fortunate in that my son, Johan, came to the Friday night party and saw the showcase, and that my daughter, Maria, came to see me dance for the first time Saturday morning. Those were the best parts. Fortunately, she left before she saw my bad attitude, although I did tell her about it today.

John
PS; I did attach some new pictures (left the existing ones), as can be seen, the scar is barely noticeable.
They also show some of the reasons I enjoy dancing so much!!

9 Months Post Surgery

June 14, 2012

Wow, this month has gone by quickly. I saw Janis Kielbasa's fifth month post yesterday, her posts are always a great read, and remembered my ninth month was today. I had been concentrating on other things as described below and sort of forgot it somewhat, although it is really still in the back of my mind.

This will be a shorter post. My life has gotten even busier because I have been preparing for my first dance competition since my surgery. I have the final lessons this evening and then will be performing a "Showcase" dance with my instructor Emily Friday evening and then participating with Emily in a competition this Saturday. Emily is a great dancer and also very good looking; so I can make mistakes and nobody notices.

I will be getting lots of dancing this weekend, especially when I add in the social dancing that will occur in addition to the other dances. This is a great way to celebrate my ninth month anniversary!!

I will follow up with a post after the competition and add some new pictures as well.

As I said last month:

Best wishes to those just starting out on your journey!!!!!

Fortunately, heart surgeries can have great results.

John

Eight Months Post Surgery

May 14, 2012

Eight months already! Before the surgery on September 14th, I thought the six weeks after the surgery in which I could not lift more than 10 pounds was going to be a long time. Later, still early in recovery, I read that I could not pull start a lawn mower for three months. Fortunately, it was winter at the three month mark and I did not need to mow. Also, a very kind neighbor had mowed my yard last fall after my surgery; so I had a nice break from mowing; that ended in March. My old mower broke down, so I “had” to get a new bigger zero turn radius mower which allows me to mow the yard more quickly and less often since it cuts better than the old one did.

I am back at work, actually have been for a while. I have a new boss, he has taken over the administrative duties I had been handling which allows me to work on technical issues now; so that has made things easier for me at work.

I am spending time with my children, Johan and Maria, trying to keep up with my exercises, also doing house work and yard work, and fortunately back into dancing.

I am currently getting ready for a dance competition the weekend of June 15th and 16th. My instructor, Emily, and I will be doing a showcase dance Friday evening and several competitive dances Saturday. My scar is healing well and is not that noticeable now, so I should be able to wear my regular Latin/Rhythm outfit or something similar if I get something new, see my photos. I will be competing in the American dance style rather than the International dance style, so I will not be wearing a tailsuit. I will miss the International dances; but I am enjoying learning more of the American style dances, and that is helping my social dancing, which is mostly the American style in my area. I will provide updates on the competition afterwards.

Overall, I am feeling good, my heart and chest are feeling very good, except when I over do the exercises; which I have done this past week. I still have a tendency to overdo it when I am feeling really good and have to back off and recover for a few days.

I had gotten into a workout routine before a trip to Florida, but that was interrupted when the Livewell center at work was closed for remodeling and also by the trip. The Livewell center is open again now, and much better than it was before, so the temporary closure was well worth it. So, between the yard work, exercises, and dancing, I am getting a lot of exercise. I continue to record my blood pressure and pulse in the morning and evening on a daily basis for the most part. I also continue to use the Voldyne.

In April, my son, Johan, and I made a road trip to Florida to visit my mother, brother, and other relatives that live down there. I actually grew up in Florida. We had a great road trip. I celebrated my seventh post surgery month while I was in Florida.

When I got back from Florida a group of us from the Knoxville dance studio, Academy Ballroom, went to Atlanta to participate in the grand opening of a new dance studio, Dance Tonight, that some friends were opening. Things have settled down a bit since then.

I guess that is about it for now, just wanted to commemorate my eight month with a post.

Thanks for all of the support and encouragement I have received here. It is great to see so many doing so well with their surgeries.

Best wishes to those just starting out on your journey!!!!!
Fortunately, heart surgeries have great results.

John

Good News

March 15, 2012

Heather, one of my favorite nurses, called me today and told me that my liver functions were normal now and that they would continue to monitor it. So I was very happy to hear that.

I did complain because I did not see her yesterday. She said she was there and that I should have asked for her and to do that the next time I came in.

It may be that my liver got overworked handling all of the drugs and chemicals from the surgery along with the new medication, or maybe the supplement I was taking to "help" my liver deal with all of that caused some stress, or all of the above. I did stop the supplement after the previous blood chemistry analysis. But things are under control now.

I am somewhat rested up now, so will get in some moderate exercise and dance practice this evening.

John

Sixth Month Milestone - Unbelievable

March 14, 2012

It is hard to believe that I had my heart surgery six months ago, it was even on a Wednesday, which is the same day as the Sixth Month Milestone, thanks to this being a leap year. At the beginning of my recovery, I thought six weeks would be a long time, I think my son did also as I was staying with him; however, they went by very quickly, although it did not always seem that way at the time and Johan and I ended up getting along very well. So, those of you just starting your recovery, don’t despair, time will pass and you will be at your sixth month milestone before you know it.

Fortunately work has slowed down a lot the since the inspection wrapped up on March 2nd. There were some busy days last week, but I also took some time off to get some much needed repairs made on my Jeep. I actually took off all of Friday. I had recovered enough to resume dancing last weekend; although I overdid it a bit. I went to the group class and dance party Friday evening. Then went back for a lesson with my ballroom instructor Emily at 10:00, which we followed with two coaching sessions with Susie Thompson, another instructor/coach. I wrote down some notes afterwards, went out and did some shopping, went back to the studio and was able to get another dance lesson with Lisa who teaches West Coast Swing. I had an added benefit in that her husband PJ assisted us during the lesson and helped me understand some things about dancing in general a lot better. I wanted the lesson with Lisa as they were hosting a group class and Swing party that I went to Saturday evening.

Needless to say, I was pretty tired Sunday, staying up too late on the day we went on Daylight Savings Time did not help. I have been a bit tired this week, it takes me several days to make the time change adjustment in the spring as I don’t sleep well. Fortunately, I did sleep better last night and felt better today. I slept in a bit as I had to go to the doctor’s office this morning. That was so he could have another blood sample drawn so they could check it and see how my liver is functioning now as there were some issues when I had my annual physical last month. So, I am a bit anxious about that.

With my first dance competition coming up in June, I will need to get in a lot of lessons and dance practice in order to be ready. So that is becoming more of a priority now.

They have shut down the Livewell Center at work for remodeling, so that will not be available until some time in April. The remodeling and equipment upgrade is definitely needed, but now I will have to come up with other ways to exercise at home until it is reopened.

It is great to have gotten to my Sixth Month Milestone. I can still see progress over time, although it is not as noticeable. My strength and stamina continue to increase, walking up stairs is definitely getting easier. However, I do still need to remember to be careful, try to get adequate rest and definitely listen to my body.

I definitely appreciate and value the help I have gotten through this website and the opportunity to post on it.

Take care,

John

Finally, Some Rest and Recovery and a Little bit of Dancing

March 4, 2012

The five week long inspection at work finally ended last Friday. The last week did not go easily. There were issues that kept several of us working late during the week in order to get things wrapped by the last day. The previous weeks had taken their toll and I was running low on energy going into the week. That on top of issues with my Jeep made for a tough week. My son was busy last Monday visiting a friend, so I was able to go home earlier than I would have, which was a bit of a relief. Tuesday was a long day, I finished up at work around 7:00, so skipped my workout and went home to rest. Wednesday, I did get to leave work early and visit with Johan and go to the game center. I got home at a fairly reasonable time.

Thursday, an issue came up around 3:00 that needed resolution. One of the inspectors was not happy with my response to one of his questions, it was upsetting because I had provided that response Monday morning, and Thursday afternoon was a bit late to learn he was not satisfied. Another co-worker and I ended up working late to provide a supplement to my previous response. That and a short discussion satisfied him, but I did not leave work until 6:30, so skipped another workout. We did finish up Friday morning; the group who had worked on the inspection was treated to a lunch for our efforts. Many of us then went home after the luncheon.

I had a nap when I got home, then headed up to Knoxville. I went to Johan’s place to load up the recliner that had been loaned to me for use during my recovery so I could return it. We then ordered pizza for dinner. Afterwards, I went to the studio for the dance party. There were not many people there, but I got to dance some and visit with the people who were there. Several folks had gone to Asheville to see a competition there. I think there were also some students competing there. I would have liked to have gone, but knew I would be too tired to go and needed to stay home and rest. I also think the threat of storms kept people from coming to the studio. Unfortunately, there have been some bad storms in our area recently.

Saturday morning, I returned the recliner with many thanks. It had been a great help during my early recovery while I stayed with Johan. Later, I got ready to go to the health club to work out, but decided I was too tired and not up to the drive and workout, so I stayed home and other than some walks took it easy.

Sunday has been a stay at home day, catching up on some chores, reading, and getting lots of rest. Something that has been lacking for a while.

I am taking Monday off from work, thanks to comp time I accumulated during the previous weeks. Not exactly restful as I need to get new catalytic converters installed on my Jeep and will do that in the morning and also get my cat checked out. I also plan on getting back into the workout routine; it is too easy to find excuses for not exercising.

I was glad that I could work as much as I did the past few weeks, but definitely did too much. I have really appreciated being able to have a bit of rest and recovery this weekend; even if I missed out on the trip to Asheville.

John

A Week Without Dancing

February 26, 2012

Well, I am definitely back to work. The previous week had been busy, as I mentioned previously, I ended up working around 60 hours and was too tired to go to the Friday night dance party last week. But I did get in two dance lessons that Saturday. I had worked Sunday, mainly because Monday was a holiday, and my son works Sundays and has Mondays off, so I could spend some time with him. Otherwise I would have worked Monday and had a two day weekend.

So working Sunday was not really bad as I had Monday off and half a day on Tuesday due to a doctor’s appointment. I did chores around the house Monday, went and exercised in the afternoon and Johan and I went and saw the 3D version of Start Wars I Monday evening; definitely not the best one in the series. My plan for the week was to get more sleep, do my exercises, and hopefully not work as much. I did get in another visit with my son on Wednesday and we went to the game place later in the afternoon.

My plan held up well most of the week. I planned on going to the dance party Friday evening, having two dance lessons with Emily Saturday morning, going to a West Coast Swing group class in the afternoon, going out with friends for dinner and then going to a swing party Saturday evening and resting up a bit on Sunday.

Alas, that was not to be. I reported a potential problem Friday afternoon at work. It was quickly escalated and we were asked to perform an evaluation of the problem to determine its effect on plant operation within 24 hours. I ended up working until 8:00 pm Friday evening. I did not sleep well that night, and ended up getting up a little after 3:00 am and going to work at 5:00 am. I had gotten some donuts Friday evening on the way home to bring in for those who would also be coming in to work on the evaluation with me. It ended up being a long day; as we did not finish up and get to leave until 7:00 pm. It made it longer because I was also thinking of all the dancing and socializing I was missing. I got home, watched a video, dozed in the recliner and went to bed.

Sunday has been a chore day, I also went and exercised for a couple of hours and did some shopping, I would have liked to get in some dancing, but really did not have time. I am chilling out now, looking forward to another week, hopefully not as hectic.

Having said all of the above gets me to the point of realizing how far I have come since my surgery on September 4th. I still have a way to go in my recovery; but, I have come a very long way already to be able to do what I have done the last two weeks. I really do have a lot to be thankful for, my surgeon, cardiologist, and all of the medical personnel have done wonders for me. I have greatly improved my relationships with my children, made new friends here in the Heart Valve Journal group, and improved relationships with people in the dance group and at work who have been very supportive of me. My management has been especially supportive in letting me set my pace for returning to work during my recovery; although that has changed a bit now, I could still take off if I needed to do so.

Anyway, the recovery journey continues. I am going to rest a bit now!!

John

Definitely Back to Work

February 20, 2012

Not really a post about heart valve issues as much as life in general.

I finished off the last work week by working 10 hours on Sunday. That resulted in me working around 60 hours last Monday through Sunday. As I noted in previous posts, I missed out on most of my regular social activities and a special event as a result of the work effort.

I normally would not have worked Sunday, but I have today off thanks to the Washington's Birthday Holiday. I also have a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning, so I will miss at least half a day there, so I do get to have some time away from work this week. That was why I worked Sunday, as we have a big inspection going on at work and I needed to work to try and resolve some issues that have come up. I worked Sunday rather than Monday as my son has Monday off and we can get together today. It was a good quiet day at work and I got a more done than I would have during a regular work day.

I did miss out on one of my exercise sessions last week, but I think my body appreciated it as it felt better in the workout I had Saturday. I also had two dance lessons Saturday, one with Lisa in the West Coast Swing, it was a very good lesson working on basic steps, although we also worked on an intermediate level move, so I felt really good about that; just wish I could dance WCS more as it is a fun dance. My lesson with my ballroom instructor Emily was kind of a break through lesson. We worked on the International Rumba. It had been a long time since I had danced it, and I struggled a bit at the beginning. However, I felt more comfortable as the lesson progressed and was moving better and actually had an "Ah-Ha" moment when it actually felt like I was dancing with Emily due to an improved interaction between us; so there is hope there as well. I did some grocery shopping on home and then just kind of collapsed, dozed while watching TV and decided to go to bed.

Today is sort of a rest and recovery day, although I may squeeze in a workout before getting together with Johan.

It is a bit of a challenge when you get to feeling better to NOT DO TOO MUCH!!

I heard back from my Doctor's Nurse

February 17, 2012

I did hear back from another one of my doctor's nurses Thursday. He is getting quite a collection. She is also very nice and pretty, so I am doing well in that area. If I have to keep going to the doctor, it is good that he has nice nurses. I went for years without going to a doctor, but things have sure changed since I turned 60.

The nurse tried to assure me my liver was doing well, they just wanted to check on it due to the results of the last chemistry analysis, which is not that reassuring. She also said they wanted to keep me on the Pravastatin Sodium, since I had a small artery that had some blockage. The surgeon had left it alone due to its small size when he was repairing my valve and do the Maze procedure. Therefore, I will continue taking the medication, however I have stopped taking the Co-Q10 Ubiquinol on the chance it might have been aggravating the situation. That was also the suggestion of another HVJ member; although I had decided that before reading her suggestion, it was good to have the concurring opinion.

In another area, I am following some of my own advice. I have worked nearly 50 hours this week, which made for a difficult and tiring week, so cut back on my other activities. I was not able to go to the role playing game with my son this Wednesday. There was a Dancing With the Stars here in Knoxville this Thursday which I had wanted to see but did not, and I did not go to the dance party this Friday, as I was a bit tired after all the work. The most work in one week since the surgery. Anyway, I have spent most of the evening today in the recliner dozing off and on while "watching" TV, so it was good I stayed home. Time to get ready for bed now.

I have an appointment on March the 14th for a follow up blood chemistry analysis; so more to come on that.

A Bit Frustrated and Disappointed

February 14, 2012

This day ended up being a bit frustrating and disappointing.

The frustrating part was being at work nearly 12 hours which included a 30 minute lunch. What made it frustrating is that I have normally performed my exercise sessions after work on Tuesday and Thursday since returning to work more or less full time this year. After finishing up at 7:00 PM, I skipped my workout and just came home. There might be an upside though, in that my body will get some extra recovery time.

The disappointing part was news from one of my doctor's nurses, not the beautiful one I mentioned in a previous post, with some of the results from my exam last Friday. She said my HDL and LDL values were good, but the values for my liver function were questionable and they wanted me to come back for a retest in 4 weeks.

After my heart surgery, the surgeon put me on a daily dose of 40 mg of Pravastatin Sodium to control cholesterol. I had not been on it before the surgery. Since I learned it could cause liver problems, I discussed the situation with a person at a health food/supplement store and got some reduced form Co-Q10 Ubiquinol as it was supposed to help my liver handle the medication.

I had a blood analysis for my appointment with the cardiologist on January 13th. At that time, my HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and cholesterol were all well within acceptable limits. I expressed concern about the Pravastatin Sodium and he told me to cut back to a dose of 2 tablets a week one each on Monday and Thursday rather than daily.

Anyway, I tried discussing the situation with the nurse, she said they had not tested for cholesterol, and she soon cut me short and transferred me to the appointment scheduler. I told her that I still wanted to talk to the nurse. I told the nurse again that I would like to get off the medication, and pointed out that I had not been on it before the surgery and that my cholesterol levels had been excellent in January, they had a copy of that chemistry analysis. She then told me she needed to discuss the issue with my doctor. So far, I have not heard back. I am debating stoping the Co-Q10 Ubiquinol to see if that was contributing to the problem whether or not I get to stop the Pravastatin Sodium.

Hopefully a minor issue, but a bit disappointing, I just have to wait and see.

John

5 Months Post-Op --Happy Valentine's Day

February 14, 2012

It is hard to believe that 5 months have passed since I had my surgery on September 14th. I kind of like that it falls on Valentine's Day; it makes it a special day for me; especially as I look at my heart pillows (somehow I was given two of them while at the hospital) and think of what I have been through recently and how blessed I really am to be where I am now.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

I Had to Slow Down a Bit

February 13, 2012

Well, I found out that I still should not do everything that I want to do or even feel like doing. As I said in the previous post, I had a great week from January 30th through February 5th, when I felt really good and did a lot more than expected; and it turned out, more than I should have done. I was worn down by the end of the week and backed off on some of my activities last week. My activities were pretty much the same; just a lower intensity and I tried to get more rest. Fortunately, I was able to spend time with my son and daughter during the week.

I ended up only going to work 4 days last week, as I had a doctor’s appointment Friday for my annual physical exam. The doctor’s office is in the opposite direction from my home as work, about 25 miles to each from my home, and the appointment was kind of mid-day, so I took the day off. The initial results of the exam were good. Although I am waiting on the results chemistry analysis. They took extra blood to run some more sophisticated tests. I was surprised I had to go back in 6 months rather than a year this, but it is because of my new medication. I hope I can get off some of it as time goes by. I don’t really mind going back though, as the doctor’s nurse is a beautiful lady, and I told her she was; so I don’t think she will mind seeing me again. In fact, she was very nice and said to stop by and see her anytime. Kind of makes an “senior” feel good.

I stopped by the cardiac rehab center afterwards to visit the staff and some of the patients I had gotten to know while I was going there. I was pleasantly surprised to meet another heart valve surgery patient and her husband. She heard my name mentioned by one of the staff members and asked me if I was the John the dancer. I was somewhat surprised, but said that I was. She said she and her husband had been enjoying reading my heart blog on the internet. It turned out her surgeon was in the same surgical group as my surgeon. I did not get to talk with her much, but had a good conversation with her husband.

I did go to the dance party Friday evening, I had a good time, but did not dance as nearly as much as I had danced the previous Friday, I just did not feel as energetic. I had a dance lesson with my Ballroom instructor Emily on Saturday and then went to a birthday party some of my friends were having for their daughter. Then I went home to rest.

Sunday, I did my exercise routine as I had on Tuesday and Thursday. I am making a big effort to continue to get in three exercise sessions a week.

So lesson learned, pace myself, even if I feel like doing more.

Getting Better

February 5, 2012

Last week was a great week. Wednesday, the 1st of February marked the completion of the 20th week after my surgery.

I actually worked Monday through Friday last week and got in slightly more than 40 hours thanks to an ongoing inspection at work. That was the first full week since the surgery. I was rather tired by Friday afternoon though; so I went home and had a nap before going up to the dance studio.

The 7:00 group class had just gotten started when I got there and I was asked to join it as there were more women in it than men, so I started off with the group class. During the following party, I surprised myself and others who knew about my surgery by dancing most of the dances, including the faster Viennese Waltz twice, and a Quickstep once, in addition to Swings, Hustles, Cha Chas, a Samba, among many others. It was the most I had danced since the surgery and it was great!

I started off slowly Saturday morning, but had a dance lesson with Emily at 11:00. She asked how I felt after all the dancing at the party and I told her I was a bit sore, so she started off with working on a Rumba, and then we worked on the Swing a bit. I was tired by the end of the lesson which is an indication I still have a way to go in my recovery. I used to do two lessons on Saturday after the dance party on Friday evenings.

I do credit the continuing exercise with really helping me get better. I try to walk, or do something else to get exercise every day; but I specifically have three days a week during which I do 45 to 50 minutes plus of cardio exercise in which my heart rate is elevated to the ‘Health” range, 60% to 70% of my maximum heart rate, and try to stay in the 65% to 70% range for the most part. (I figure that is high enough for now.) I also follow that with about 30 minutes of strength exercises. I feel that has really helped my heart’s condition improve as it recovers from the surgery and also my overall physical condition. It also seems to have improved the regularity of the heart beat as well.

I will say that today, Sunday, has been a bit of a rest and catch up day, but I am getting ready to go to a Super Bowl Party now.

Next week will be a bit easier as I have a doctor’s appointment and meet with my income tax preparer, so I won’t be working nearly as much this coming week. I also have to get set up with Medicare as 65 is approaching quickly.

Another 4 Day Work Week Interrupts My Personal Life

January 29, 2012

As noted in my last post, I planned on working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday this past week, which I did. That worked much better than working 4 days straight as I did the previous week. I was still tired at the end of the week, but not as bad as the previous week, partly because I slept better as well and maybe was more used to going to work.

It was a busy week though, still getting up at 5:00 to be at work at 7:00. The work day ends at 3:30, but I worked over Monday and Tuesday close to an hour on the average. I also went to the plant’s Livewell Center on Tuesday and exercised and worked out there about one and a half hours.

Wednesday, although I did not go to work, was still a busy day. Unbelievably, it is also the 19th Week since my surgery. I went to the post office, got a haircut, took my dance instructor Emily out to lunch to talk about the upcoming dance season and lessons, among other things. We had been talking about starting on a showcase dance for their comp in June. I mentioned that I had thought about the type of dance, was not really sure, but was thinking of doing a Samba. Emily replied that was the dance she had been thinking of doing, so that is settled. Now to determine the music and outfits. I definitely need to get in better overall condition for that, but that gives me some additional incentive to keep up with my exercise program. (Note - I have put in some new dance pictures at the request of one of our blog members.)

After our lunch, I took Johan out to eat before we went to the role playing game; got to eat a lot on Wednesday. I invited Maria to join us, but she already had other plans. Johan and I went to the RPG, and when that was over, I headed home. I decided I was too tired to go to the West Coast Swing dance class and the party at the studio, partly because it would keep me up too late.

Thursday was pretty much a repeat of Tuesday. By the end of the day Friday I had had enough, I pretty much finished up and left by 3:30. I went home, had a nap, and then headed up to Knoxville to go to the dance party. I had not been all month and wanted to go at least once before the month was over. I stopped and took Johan out for dinner at Mooyah’s, great hamburgers, returned him to his apartment and then went to the dance party. I had a good time and danced quite a bit; but definitely need to warm up before I try the more energetic dances. Emily asked me to dance a Quickstep before I had warmed up, and I tried it. We made it around the floor once and I said I had done enough and had to stop and catch my breath. She said I had done well as long as I was able to dance. Later on, I was able to do the faster dances. I had a good time, but turned down an opportunity to go out with a group afterwards to get something to eat as I would be up too late and needed to get home. I had to be back in Knoxville at 11:00 AM for a lesson with Emily.

Saturday was a good day, I had a good lesson with Emily. We worked on the American Rumba; one good thing about the parties, is that she can learn the areas that I really need to work on in the lessons either by watching me, or dancing with me. Afterwards, I went to the health club for my exercise routine. I tried some new exercises, and can feel it today as my chest muscles are complaining a bit. Then went to the grocery store and then home. I was pretty tired by then and took it easy Saturday evening.

Today, Sunday, I have stayed home to rest a bit and catch up on some of my chores. I need to get my tax info together and also learn about Medicare, it is a bit confusing. I am still covered by my employer’s health insurance plan, but need to sign up for Medicare as I will attain the magic age of 65 in April.

In summary, I got through a busy week fairly well. I am keeping busy, but trying hard not to over do the activities and make sure that I get adequate rest and nourishment. This coming week will be tougher at work as we have a big inspection of our design activities going on, so I am not sure how that will go. Our Engineering Director also told the group I work in that we should work overtime to keep up with our ongoing work. I will do what I can. I am not really complaining about working, I like the people I work with and what I do, and the pay does take care of the bills and lets me continue dancing among other things.

Back to Work Sort of

January 22, 2012

Going back to work last week was more challenging than I expected when combined with other activities, even though I only went for 4 days, thanks to the MLK Holiday. I did leave a couple of hours early on Wednesday, but stayed late or worked through lunch to make up for it on other days. I also did my cardio exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. Getting up at 5:00 AM or earlier and a few sleep deprived nights combined with the other activities did take their toll. By the end of the day Friday, I was worn out.

I went home Friday and had a nap in the hope of rejuvenating myself enough to feel like going to the dance party Friday evening. No such luck, so I decided to stay home and rest up, and do a few chores around the house.

I had scheduled two dance lessons for Saturday; one with my Ballroom dance instructor Emily, who is dancing with me in the two photos I have posted in my blog, and the other with my West Coast Swing dance instructor LIsa, who is not pictured. (That is another reason I stayed home Friday evening, as I wanted to be more rested for the lessons.) The Ballroom lesson was the first lesson I have had with Emily since the surgery. We had a very good lesson, working on the International Waltz and the America Tango. I have lots to work on, I have forgotten somethings, and gotten a bit sloppy in my dancing while dancing socially. Part of it is also that physically I have not been able to do as much. By the end of the lesson with Emily, I was pretty well worn out. I had forgotten how much effort is required to maintain the correct dance frame and posture while dancing. I hope to be ready to enter a competition in June.

Fortunately, I had a break before I had my lesson with Lisa. I actually went and had a massage, so felt a lot better by her lesson time. It had been over a month since I had a lesson with her, so we refreshed what I had been working on, and then she taught me some new material. I also learned that there was a swing dance party at a local club, I thought about going to it, but after a long day, decided it was best to go home. I am trying not to over do my activities.

I did go to the health club today (Sunday); I was pleased that my heart rate was lower this week for the same activities I had completed at the health club last weekend. The problem with going to the health club is that it has so much equipment that I want to work on, but know I need to limit it now. Anyway between the three exercise sessions, the walking, and the dancing, I feel that I have had plenty of exercise the past week.

This coming week, I plan on working Monday and Tuesday, taking Wednesday off, and working Thursday and Friday. I don’t feel like I am ready to do five days yet.

This makes me long for the days of semi-retirement I enjoyed earlier in my recovery.

Long Day Follow-up

January 19, 2012

Most of this will be repetitive to some of my recent responses in my guestbook.

The day after the Long Day started off well, if I ignore waking up around 2:30 and pretty much not sleeping anymore until I decided to get up around 4:30.

I still felt pretty good in the morning although a bit tired while at work. My legs felt great initially, the exercises have really helped strengthen them and it was fun walking around.

The nurse at the cardiac rehab center called me to see how I was doing and ask if I needed anything. That is a great place to have rehab.

Around 1:30, I left work to get with my son Johan. I was beginning to feel pretty tired on the drive up to his place, which is about 50 miles from where I work; the lack of sleep was catching up to me.

We got something to eat at an Olive Garden and then went to play a role playing game. This is something I started doing while I stayed with him during the initial stages of my recovery; although I really don’t know what I am doing and he helps me a lot, it is fun.

I had also planned on going to a dance class and party at 8:00 after the game was over. However, by then, I was physically and mentally tired. My legs were also telling me it was time to go home, rather than go dancing. This was the first time I had worked two days in a row and I had also exercised three days in a row; this was more than I had done since before the surgery.

So, I decided it was better for me to listen to my body and to go home, which was about a 35 mile drive, and take it easy and get to bed earlier than to go to the dance class; especially since I planned on working Thursday and Friday. Today I am very glad that I did.

This kind of makes me long for the days of semi-retirement when I rehab and work on separate days; that was definitely easier.

Long Day

January 17, 2012

I got up at 5:00 so I could get ready and get to work by 7:00. Commuting to work is a 50 mile round trip half of it on small country roads. I stayed until 4:00. I was busy most of the day, fortunately, I have a desk job. I did make a point of getting up and walking around frequently while at work.

After work, I went to the Livewell center at work to get in my exercise. The cardiac rehab nurse said I should have 45 to 60 minutes of continuous cardiac exercise for maximum benefit. I spent 20+ minutes on a treadmill, 15+ minutes on an elliptical machine and 15+ minutes on a life cycle. I tried to keep my pulse within the healthy level of 93 to 108 bpm (for a 64 year old), mostly between 100 to 108 bpm using my heart rate monitor. (That was the range they had me work at in rehab; I want to keep it there for a while to build up my heart some more before I try for a higher pulse rate.) After that, I worked with some dumbbell weights and then cooled down. When I finished, I left and got home around 6:30.

At home, I cooked a quick dinner, mostly vegetables, fixed my lunch for tomorrow, and decided to post this before cleaning up the kitchen and doing my other activities.

I was invited to go to a comedy club this evening, but declined as I was tired, it would be another 50 mile round trip, and keep me up too late.

The semi-retirement I had during my rehab looks very good right now.

The Mechanic and The Heart Surgeon

January 17, 2012

A mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a Harley motorcycle when he spotted a well-known heart surgeon in his shop.

The surgeon was there, waiting for the service manager to come and take a look at his bike.

The mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey, Doc, can I ask you a question?"

The surgeon a bit surprised, walked over to the mechanic working on the motorcycle. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, "So Doc, look at this engine. I open its heart, take valves out, fix 'em, put 'em back in, and when I finish, it works just like new. So how come I get such a small salary and you get the really big bucks, when you and I are doing basically the same work?"

The surgeon paused, smiled and leaned over, and whispered to the mechanic...

"Try doing it with the engine running."

__________________________________

After I posted this, one of my co-workers, I am in a group of Mechanical Engineers, made the comment that the heart was actually stopped while the surgeon worked on it.

I pointed out that this was a simplified description. Actually, before the surgeon could work on the heart, he would have to connect an auxiliary heart in place in parallel with the heart to keep the body functioning while he took the main heart out of service to work on it. And that he would have also have to get the main heart back ready for service before he could disconnect the auxiliary heart. He also has a limited amount of time to do all of this!

It is Off to Work For Me (Semi-retirement days are over)

January 17, 2012

Between the initial recovery after my surgery, the 36 days I went to cardiac rehab, the three weeks after Thanksgiving that I only worked two days a week, the two weeks of vacation at the end of last year, being out sick the first week of this year, and working two partial days last week while I finished up cardiac rehab and had a dental appointment and an appointment with my cardiologist, I feel like I have been semi-retired, and actually enjoyed it.

I was very fortunate during this time to get to spend time with my children Johan and Maria.

I was also very fortunate in that my supervisors and bosses at work were willing to let me do this.

This has been a great recovery time for me.

However, those days are over, and it is time to return to work on a regular basis starting today. Thanks to the MLK Holiday, I had yesterday off and was able to spend time with Johan and Maria.

Also time to get back into my ballroom dancing activities.

Got to get ready to go now!

John

4 Months and Counting

January 14, 2012

It has been 4 months since I had a Mitral Valve repair and a Maze procedure to treat Atrial Fibrillation on September the 14th. The long days in the beginning have been quickly absorbed by the 4 months.

This past Wednesday, I finished the cardiac rehabilitation program. As I posted earlier, my work capability has increased significantly; in addition, I lost over 3 pounds of fat and gained over 5 pounds of muscle since I started in on October the 7th. The nurse who had been monitoring me said my heart had done well overall with only a few irregular heart beats. The rehab center nurse ordered a blood chemistry analysis which was for my cardiologist as I was to see on Friday. The nurse said my blood chemistry was excellent, the cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels were all well within acceptable levels, thanks to the medications and exercise.

During the appointment with my cardiologist, he listened to my heart, said it sounded good, reviewed an EKG and said I had a good sinus rhythm of 64 bpm without any fibrillation. When he discussed the blood chemistry report, I asked about the medication, he said I could cut back on the pravastatin sodium (40 mg) to two days a week, Monday and Thursday, but he left me on the metoprolol tartrate (12.5 mg twice a day), and 81 mg aspirin (once a day). I have kept daily records (morning and evening) of my blood pressure and pulse during my recovery and gave a copy to the cardiologist; he said they looked good. The cardiologist asked me what I thought of the cardiac rehabilitation program and I told him it had been very good and kept me from doing more than I should have done.

I still get tired easily, partly/mostly because I am not sleeping very well, nothing to do with the surgery, and I am still struggling with the sinus issues from a week ago. That and the fact that I had good exercise sessions on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Probably too much, as I decided not to go to the dance party at the studio Friday night, so I could rest and get to bed earlier. I also have to warm up to activities like walking fast, climbing stairs, or dancing, otherwise I get short of breath, it seems to take longer now. I think that may be partly due to the medication which is to slow my heart beat and lower my blood pressure. Once I have warmed up, I am fine. I hope it gets better as my overall condition improves.

Overall though, I feel good, and look forward to continued improvement. Many thanks to ALL who have helped and encouraged me thus far; especially my children Johan and Maria.

John

14th - 17th Recovery Weeks, FINISHED CARDIAC REHAB PROGRAM

January 12, 2012

14th Week:

The 14th week was busy; I went to work on Thursday, the last work day of the year for me. I continued my rehab schedule of Friday, Monday, and Wednesday, I skipped the Friday night dance party and spent the evening with Johan. Saturday night, I went to the Dance Showcase at the dance studio to watch various students perform their Showcase Dances with their instructors. I also got to dance some in the social dance times between acts. I also had a West Coast Dance lesson on Sunday. In addition, I got ready for a trip to Florida to see my Mother, brother and his wife and family and other people. I normally drive, but decided to fly this time as I did not feel up to the drive which is nearly 800 miles one way. I flew down on a Wednesday to be there over Christmas. I rented a car while I was down there. I felt good during the 14th week and felt like I was making good progress in my recovery.

15th Week:

The 15th week was spent in Florida visiting my family. Overall it was a good visit. I did lots of walking and climbing stairs for my exercise. The place where my Mother lives has a small fitness center, but it is not set up with much equipment and was locked, so that did not really matter. The only problem, was that I was getting tired by the time I left and feeling a bit worn out. I flew back home on a Wednesday, the flight was delayed over 2.5 hours; so I got to sit in the terminal for quite a while, longer than the actual flight. My son picked me up at the airport and brought me back to his apartment where I had left my Jeep. We got something to eat, then I headed home in time to go to bed at a fairly decent hour.

16th Week:

The 16th week began with me getting what I thought was a cold, the result of getting tired and run down in Florida. I ran the necessary errands on Thursday (Dec 28th), but tried to take it easy. Friday, I felt worse, and decided to skip the Friday night dance party.

Saturday was more of the same in regards to the cold, but I went up and visited Johan, we went out to eat, and after resting at his apartment, we went to the New Year’s Eve dance party at Academy Ballroom, probably a mistake. We had a good time, but staying up late and mixing with other people, some who were also sick was not good. I spent the night at Johan’s, and then went home on Sunday.

I got worse Sunday and Monday, by Tuesday I was really sick and stayed home from work. On Wednesday, I called and cancelled my rehab session (the nurse said to check with my doctor if I did not start getting better), and stayed home again hoping to get better, I was a little better, but not much. No fever, just lots of sinus issues and coughing. Fortunately, my sternum had healed sufficiently, so that was not an issue, although my chest still hurt from the coughing

17th Week:

The 17th week began with me feeling somewhat better on Thursday, although still sick, so I told my bosses that I would not be in to work again. I called to get an appointment with my doctor. He was busy, but I was able to get in and see the nurse in the afternoon. She stated that I had a viral infection and recommended Benadryl, a saline solution for my sinuses and more rest. I did some grocery shopping on the way home; but made two mistakes, went shopping when I was hungry and went to a big store which has lots of goodies.

I stayed home Friday and Saturday, gradually feeling better, went grocery shopping briefly again on Sunday, but rested otherwise.

Monday I felt well enough to go to the cardiac rehab center. I did better with the exercises than expected after being sick for a week. The exercise physiologist checked my body mass since it was my next to last rehab session and they wanted to see if I changed much from the initial reading at the beginning of the session back on October 7th. He was very happy to learn that I had lost 3 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of muscle; something I was very glad to hear. He also told me I would have to start wearing a muscle shirt (probably won’t happen). I later him discuss the results with the personnel at the nurses’ station. After the rehab, I spent the afternoon with Johan and went home after we had dinner.

Tuesday, I went to work for half and day, then went to the dentist’s office for cleaning and a checkup. I had to take some antibiotics an hour before the cleaning based on my cardiologist’s request. Fortunately, no followup dental work required this time.

FINISHED THE CARDIAC REHAB PROGRAM!!!

Wednesday was a big milestone; I completed my 36th and last cardiac rehab program exercise session which I had started on October the 7th. I was given a nice certificate signed by the staff at the Parkwest Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. My main nurse said she was very happy with my exercise progress. My MET(?) rating (which indicates work/exercise capability) had nearly tripled, she said it was high enough that it indicated I could dig ditches. I need a bit more muscle strength before I attempt that. (See my post about Benadryl below on January the 11th for what happened during the exercise session.) Afterwards, I got with Johan, had something to eat and then went to the Role Playing Game with him. Spent the evening posting in the heart valve surgery journal.

The cardiac physiologist said I needed to keep doing the same type of cardiac exercises, the nurse recommended continuous exercise periods lasting 45 to 60 minutes for maximum benefit in reducing cholesterol and maintaining good HDL and LDL levels.

John

No More Benadryl for ME

January 11, 2012

I was sick most of last week pretty much from the 2nd to the 8th (Sunday to Sunday) with sinus issues and lots of coughing and sneezing. Fortunately, my sternum was sufficiently healed that it was not an issue. (My surgery was September 14th.) I skipped work and rehab sessions. I went to my doctor's office on Thursday (the 5th) to get checked out at the suggestion of my rehab nurse. I was told that I had a viral infection and that taking Benadryl and using a saline spray would help alleviate the systems. So I took Benadryl a few times last week and did lots of spraying. I also took half of a Benadryl tablet this morning to clear my sinuses. I had asked if the Benadryl would affect my other medications and was told it would not.

I got back to going to rehab this week on Monday and today, and work and the dentist yesterday. I have been wearing my heart rate monitor during exercise recently and noticed that my heart rate today was about 20 to 30 beats above what it had been for the same exercises on Monday; plus I noticed some irregularity at times which was unusual.

When I finished, I talked with my nurse and she said she had noticed the increased rate and irregularity and asked if I had taken my medicine this morning. I told her that I had taken the medicine and that I had an Irish breakfast tee, something new for me, heard some upsetting news just before rehab, and had taken some Benadryl that morning. The Benadryl caught her attention. She said that it could increase my heart rate and blood pressure, and that I should not take it. So, no more Benadryl for me. I normally don't take that type of medicine, but it had been rough last week and seemed to help.

In a way, I am glad I took it this morning, as I quickly learned how it could affect me. I did not notice that last week, but I had not done any exercise and that might have kept anything from happening. Things seem to be settling down a bit now.

John

13 Weeks / 3 Months Into Recovery

December 15, 2011

I have now completed the 13th week / 3rd month of my recovery period since my surgery on the 14th of September. It is difficult to believe 3 months have passed. At times, time seemed to pass very slowly, so it is something that it has now been 3 months. Overall, this has been a good week



I have completed 30 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 24 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. The classes were very interesting and informative. They helped me understand heart issues, diet issues, exercise issues, lifestyle issues better and what I should do to improve my health.

The cardiac rehab personal surprised me when they increased my exercise levels, with one exception, last Friday, the 9th of December; as I had stayed on the previous routine for two weeks, but they were changed after only one week this time. Three of them were extended from 8 minutes to 9 minutes and the speed on the treadmill was also increased, as well as the level and resistance on the elliptical machine. The time on the arm ergometer was reduced to 5 minutes and the resistance was also decreased. I think part of that was due to time restrictions in rehab, as we only have an hour. The total time on the equipment was still 32 minutes. The resistance might have dropped to lower my heart rate while on the machine. Also, they finally started me doing some arm exercises with free weights; very small free weights, but still free weights; so I was very happy to be doing them. So, between the warm-up time to get the heart rate up, the exercise time, and the cool down time, plus some talking, the hour is pretty well filled up.

I went to work work again last Thursday and stayed the whole day. I actually worked more this the time, getting there around 7:00 AM and not leaving until 5:00 PM. There were still breaks for conversations and watching a video, but overall, a mostly productive day. I did stop in the Live Well center to work on the arm ergometer I had seen there a while back, but it was not there, so I headed home, as I was rather tired and did not feel like doing the other exercises. I had a quiet evening and got to bed at a decent time.

On Friday, I bought a pedometer that I learned about in rehab, and I went to the rehab exercise session. After the rehab session, I met Maria for lunch and got to talk with her a bit. In support of my decision to take it easier, I then went home and had a nap. Later, I stopped by Johan’s place and got some mail, and then went to Academy Ballroom for the Friday evening party. I am still cautious about the dances and how many of them that I dance. A friend of mine from work showed up; he had been talking about starting to dance again, so it was good to see him there. He had actually taken a private lesson from Lisa before the party. He was going to invite me to go have a beer afterwards, but then remembered he did not have any money. It did not matter as I am not drinking much now anyway. Some kind folks also invited me to join them at a restaurant afterwards, but I declined and went home to go to bed; although I fell asleep in the recliner before finally making it to bed.

Saturday, I puttered about home, worked on paper work, household duties, etc. I did not got for a walk, as I had a dance lesson with Lisa at 5:00, and was staying for the Swing dance lesson and party at Academy Ballroom Saturday evening and figured I would get plenty of exercise. I did not get as much as I expected as the men out numbered the women by more than 2 to 1, so the women got plenty of dancing, but we men sat around a good bit. Usually there are a few more women than men. Fortunately, there were some good snacks. My friend from work also showed up for a lesson and stayed for the dance class and party.

Sunday was fairly quiet, although I did go on a 90 minute walk; it felt better than the long walk last weekend even though it was a bit longer; so I felt good about that. I went grocery shopping, did some cooking, odds and ends, and did some journalling. Johan had asked me to start writing down information about my life.

Monday was a rehab day, then I spent the afternoon with Johan getting something to eat for lunch and running around doing some errands. We then joined Maria and her boyfriend Joey for dinner. I had a good time, but all this eating out is having some detrimental effects. I also started using my new pedometer to keep up with my walking during the day.

Tuesday I went to work, ended up staying long to help answer some questions that were asked by a group of inspectors reviewing some of our designs and procedures.

Wednesday was back to rehab, the 30th session; so only 6 more to go. The rehab group had me listed at number 29 for the second time, so I need to get the count resolved. One of the exercise physiologists asked me about my workout on the arm ergometer; apparently the nurse had asked him to check on it as my heart rate was too low. I told him that the time had been reduced from 8 minutes to 5 minutes and the resistance from 20 to 15 watts last Friday and showed him the exercise ticket. He said that was a mistake and told me to increase the time and resistance. I then got with Johan for lunch, rested at his apartment for a while, then we went to the store where we played a game with some other folks. Afterwards, I went to Academy Ballroom to visit with folks and participate in a West Coast Swing dance class.

So, that concludes my 13th week / 3rd month of rehab. Overall, I am feeling good, but still have a way to go in my recovery in regards to improving my conditioning and endurance and strengthening my muscles. I am currently using 5 pound and 8 pound dumb bells for my standing vertical presses and curls respectively, and my arm and chest muscles are a bit sore.

I will probably stop my weekly updates now and add to my journal on a less frequent basis since the change from week to week is not as significant as it has been. I will continue to check on other heart valve surgery patients posting on this website as it has been a great help to me to read about and hear from others who have similar issues with their heart valves.

Again, I greatly appreciate the help, support, and encouragement from all who have posted comments on my page, or sent me e-mails, cards, called, etc!

John

12 Weeks Into Recovery

December 8, 2011

I have now completed the 12th week of my recovery period. Overall, this has been a good and eventful week. This week started off well, probably too well, as I seem of have done a bit too much at the beginning while I was feeling better than expected.



I have completed 27 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 23 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. The remaining class is scheduled to be presented the 9th of December. 

After having the same exercise levels for two weeks, my exercises were changed last Friday, the 2nd of December. All 4 were extended from 7 minutes to 8 minutes and the slope on the treadmill was also increased, as well as the level and resistance on the elliptical machine. When I told that to some of my co-workers, one of them laughed and said that was more than he did.

After Wednesday’s exercise session, I told my nurse that the treadmill was working me the hardest, then the stationary bike, and the elliptical and arm ergometer were about the same. She told me that based on my heart rate, the arm ergometer was the toughest, then the stationary bike and elliptical, and finally the treadmill had the lowest heart rate. That may be because I do a fair amount of walking on the other days. One of the exercise physiologists told me I was doing very well and told my nurse that he thought I was ready to start doing some arm exercises with the free weights.

I went to work for the second time last Thursday and stayed the whole day. I actually spent more time actually working than on Tuesday. Overall, the day went well and I got to see more of the people at work.

On Friday, I went to the rehab exercise session, I had already had the class, so did not need to attend it again. I had asked if I could come in and exercise during the class time, which was earlier, and was told I had to come in at the regular exercise time. After rehab, I went to the Apple store to get my laptop computer checked out and fixed, I had let it slip to the floor while at Johan’s place and the the top needed to be realigned; they also checked out the DVD player which was having trouble with some of the DVD regions; it needed to be officially set to Region 1 (North America). I got together with Johan in the afternoon, and then went to the dance party Friday evening. I danced more dances, and a few of the slightly more energetic dances, and stayed too late after the party and was very tired on the 35 mile drive back home.

Saturday, I puttered abound home, went on a 4 mile walk that took about 82 minutes, watched some football and a movie, worked on the computer, and stayed up too late again.

Sunday was more of the same, although I only walked 2 miles and got to bed at a better time.

Monday, was back to rehab, and then I went to my first private dance lesson since I had the surgery. The lesson was with Lisa, who teaches West Coast Swing, rather than Emily, who is my regular instructor in the ballroom dances. Emily is the one in the pictures of us dancing. I had a very good lesson with Lisa, I asked her to go over the basics with me as they needed some, a lot of, work as I was off with the timing and movements. After the lesson, I got together with Johan, and we met Maria for dinner Monday evening.

Tuesday was back at work for the full day, I was tired as I had not slept well, but the day went well for the most part; however, it caught up with me after I got home.

Wednesday was back to rehab, after another sleepless night. After rehab, I drove back home as I had forgotten my dance shoes, then back to Knoxville to meet with Johan, have lunch/dinner and then we went to the role playing game. After the game, I headed to the dance studio for a dance class. I stopped at a store near the studio to get some supplies, and while there decided I was too tired to go to the dance class and decided to go home as I would out be too late if I went to the dance class. Overall, I drove about 140 miles that day and was worn out when I got home.

The 12th week was another good week, but the increased activities, the increase in my rehab exercises, going to work, and some sleepless nights have taken their toll. It has made me realize that I still need to be careful about what I am doing and listen to what my body is telling me, and to be careful about what I do, even if I am feeling good. (I should do that not just in recovery, but all of the time.)

I guess that is about it for now.



John

11 Weeks Into Recovery (Hard to Believe)

December 1, 2011

Well, I have completed the 11th week of my recovery period. Overall, this has been a good and eventful week. It included Thanksgiving, lots of food for a few days, going to a dance party, starting back to work and a dance class among other things.

I have completed 24 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 23 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. We had a rehab exercise session the day after Thanksgiving, but no class. I have one more class to complete, but it won’t be presented until the 9th of December.

My exercise levels have not been increased since they were increased on the 18th of November. I guess they are letting my endurance improve before increasing any of them again. They have gotten easier for the most part, so I anticipate some changes soon. The stationary bike works me the hardest, the resistance was increased the most on that one. The treadmill is next, then the arm ergometer, and finally the elliptical machine which kind of serves as a cool down at the present, although I increased the number of steps per minute in the last workout session.

Johan and I were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner with the families of some friends we know from Academy Ballroom. (Maria was invited also, but had other plans and could not attend.) There was a lot of good fellowship and food provided. So, we snacked until dinner was ready and then had dinner. We also got to take some food home. During the rehab session on Wednesday, we were given a goal of having the same weight we had on that Wednesday on the following Wednesday. Good thing it was not the Friday after Thanksgiving, as I would not have qualified. If we did maintain (or lose) the weight, we would be given a Parkwest T-shirt.

I did some chores and rested during the day Friday after getting up early to go to the cardiac rehab exercise session, and then went dancing Friday evening at another dance studio, Absolute Ballroom, as Academy Ballroom was closed since the owners were out of town going to a competition with some students. I had a good time, there were some other folks from Academy who had gone there as well. I also met some new folks who were very nice. There was a good crowd there, around 60 people, which surprised me, as there had not been that many when I had been there previously, and it was the day after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, I went to a to another Thanksgiving dinner at the neighbors, the ones who had mowed my yard and looked after the house for me while I was staying in Knoxville with Johan. Once again, lots of good company and food, plus a to go package when I left. I went for a much needed 70 minute walk afterwards. Then stayed home and rested.

It rained all day Sunday, so I stayed in and tried organizing some more paper work and other things and watched TV and DVDs.

Monday was back to rehab the sessions and classes. Johan and I got together during the afternoon, and then I went home and prepared for my first day of work on Tuesday and tried to rest and get to bed a bit earlier. I have already posted an entry for the first day back at work. I will add a comment that when I was driving on the access road to the plant Tuesday morning, I had the thought, that the past 11+ weeks seemed like just a short period of time since my last trip on the road on September 11th.

Wednesday was back to rehab sessions and classes. I actually had lost some weight, so I got a T-shirt. Several other folks had also been successful in maintaining their weight and qualified for a T-shirt as well. I got together with Johan again in the afternoon, went out to eat, ran some errands, went and visited a man we had met on Thanksgiving and he gave us a tour through the clock repair shop where he worked which was quite interesting. We then went to a D and D role playing game, something we have been doing for a while. I left from there and went to the dance studio, Academy, for the first dance class since I had the surgery. It was a class in West Coast Swing and I really enjoyed it. One of the teachers said she was surprised I had remembered the moves as well as I did. I scheduled a private lesson with her for next week after the class. I enjoy the WCS, and it is a good dance for me to start with during my recovery. I will resume the ballroom dance lessons next year when I am more fully recovered I then went home and got to bed.

I am very pleasantly surprised about how well I handled the increased activity of the past week. As long as I paced myself, I felt very good, actually much better than expected. I still need to take things easy, and start my walks and other exercises and activities slowly and give my body a chance to warm up to the activity. I get very winded climbing stairs if I have not warmed up properly before hand, which may be why the exercise physiologists don’t have me doing step exercises at the rehab center. I am also doing better mentally, as I am reading more and watching TV less. Early on, I just did not feel up to reading much at all.

Thanks again for the support and encouragement. It was great to see some of my friends at work when I was there on Tuesday. (I seem to have gotten a bit long winded in my writing this week; but, to me, that is a good sign and a reflection of my increased activities in various areas and improvement in my overall condition.)

John

First Day at Work - November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011

Today was another milestone. It was my first day back at work. My surgeon had released me to return to work on November 28, 2011, which was a Monday. Since I was scheduled for cardiac rehab on Monday, I delayed my return to work until Tuesday. Due to the location of my job, and the location of my cardiac rehab center, and the location of my home, I would have a round trip of approximately 100 miles to get from my home to work then to cardiac rehab and then back to my home and I am not ready to do that plus work half a day. The cardiac rehab center and my place of employment are in opposite directions from my home.

I got up at 5:00 AM so I could get to work by 7:00 AM. Since I had been out for surgery, I had to report to the Medical Office and show them the surgeon’s release to return to work and give them an updated list of medications and supplements. Since my work place has restricted access, I had to report to the Badging Office to get clearance to return to my office. I updated my paperwork and got restricted access to my office until my background review could be completed. (I have to be escorted by a person with full clearance until that is completed.) I then went back to the Medical Office for drug screening. Once that was completed, my boss escorted me to my office and then had a coworker serve as my escort. During the work day, several other coworkers served as my escorts.

I was welcomed back by my coworkers and my bosses, it was good to see them all, talk with them and catch up on some of the news and tell them some of what I had been doing. Many already knew because they had been reading my blog. Fortunately, I had been able to review my office e-mail while I was at Johan’s place and my home; so I was current on my office e-mail. I will be resuming some of my responsibilities, but due to my cardiac rehab schedule, I will only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a while; so my help will be minimal. I won’t get back to full time until January of next year. Fortunately, I do have enough leave to allow me to do that.

Today was not that productive, I reviewed the status of some items, talked with the unfortunate person who had assumed most of my responsibilities during my absence, who was happy to see me back even on a part time basis, and actually provided an answer to a question that my boss forwarded to me from another organization.

I stayed for a full day, I had planned on going to the live well center to get some exercise after work. However, between the walk from my Jeep to my office, a lunch time walk with a couple of friends, and the walk back to my Jeep, plus the side trip to the Medical and Badging offices, I had gotten plenty of exercise. So, I decided to pass up going to the live well for exercise. When I got home, I was really tired, and ending up napping a bit before writing this update. That provided further evidence to me that I do not need to try going to work and doing the rehab on the same day, at least not now.

This is another step forward in my recovery. I felt good while I was at work and during the walks, but it turned out to be a tiring day.

10 Weeks Into Recovery - Happy Thanksgiving (USA)

November 23, 2011

Well, I have almost completed the 10th week of my recovery period (I am writing this early in order to post it prior to the USA Thanksgiving). As noted previously, adjusting to the longer commutes to get to the rehab center, to go shopping, and to see my children has been challenging , but I am adjusting. This week has also given me more time to adjust to the transition to my work schedule; but I have not done very well with that. It will be a bit of a shock to my system to get up early enough to go back to work on the 29th, which is rapidly approaching.

I will have completed 21 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 21 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program by the time Wednesday, the 23rd, is over.

My exercise levels were increased last Friday. The time duration on the treadmill, stationary bike, arm ergometer, and elliptical machines was increased from 6 minutes to 7 minutes (still a long way to go, but I am progressing). The slope on the treadmill and the resistance on the arm ergometer was also increased. I was able to do the treadmill this week at the same slope and for a longer time than on the 11th when my high heart rate had required me to go back to a lower slope. As noted previously, I bought a new heart Polar heart monitor to wear during my walks and exercises away from the rehab center; although I have not worn it yet. I set it Tuesday night, so I can start wearing it now. I have increased the walks on the other days to over 60 minutes, except on Sundays which was about 30 minutes as a recovery day. I have had to dodge traffic from time to time.

I did go dancing Friday evening at Academy Ballroom and Saturday evening at Cotton Eyed Joe’s. They had a pot luck buffet at Academy Ballroom, so I got some good food as well as dancing. I had fun at Joe’s, met some friends (Jim and Betsy, and Dennis and Julie) there and saw some others that I had not seen in a while and got to dance West Coast Swing and a couple of other types of dances. I left early to go home and rest.

My days at home have been fairly unproductive, other than the walks and basic chores and going to the Food City in Loudon, I have not been up to doing much, probably because the days I go to rehab are fairly busy, as after the rehab, I run errands, visit with Johan, and generally keep busy. Johan and I were going to meet with Maria Monday evening, but she was not feeling well, so we were not able to do that.

That is about it for now.

I hope the folks in the USA have a very Happy Thanksgiving! I know that I have a lot to be thankful for this year, the support of Johan and Maria, my mother and brother and extended family, and my friends at work, in the neighborhood, and the dance community!!

John

9 Weeks Into Recovery

November 17, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 9th week of my recovery period. As noted in the posts I have already made this week, it has been rather eventful, what with the move back home and all that has entailed. I had been thinking of starting back to work the week of Thanksgiving; but I am very glad that Dr. Stouffer said to wait until the week after Thanksgiving. Adjusting to the longer commutes to get to the rehab center, to go shopping, and to see my children has been challenging. It also gives me a bit more time to adjust to the transition to my work schedule. I also seem to be dealing with some allergy issues. In general, I feel o-k, just don't have a lot of stamina and endurance.

I have now completed 18 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 18 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. My exercise levels have remained pretty much the same. The resistance level on the arm ergometer went up a level with the same 6 minute duration. I can tell that it is affecting the muscles as they are a bit sore. Still no weight exercises. They initially increased the slope on the treadmill last Friday, but cut it back when my heart rate went up to 140 bpm. The nurse who monitors me (and others) left her station and came over to tell me what was happening and reduced the slope. They want the want the heart rate to stay below 115 in my case; i.e. 30 to 40 bpm above my resting heart rate. I bought a new heart Polar heart monitor to wear during my walks and exercises away from the rehab center. I have kept the walks on the other days about the same amount, just walking around my neighborhood now and watching out for the occasional traffic.

Tuesday was a rest and recovery day for the most part that I spent at home; trying to get used to doing things around the house again. Wednesday was a rehab day, I also went to downtown TVA to do my annual ethics training which had to be completed by the 18th (No more e-mail reminders from work on that now). I happened to see my friend Steve out walking when I pulled into the parking garage and we got to talk a bit. After the training, I spent some time with Johan, went to a role playing game meeting with him and then went home.

That is about it for now.

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

Two Months Since the Surgery

November 14, 2011

While I was driving around today (Monday), I realized it is now two months since I had my surgery on September 14th, time is flying by quickly. I feel good overall, but was tired and a bit short of breath at times this afternoon. I did well in the rehab exercises this morning, still pretty low intensity, but I think I did too much this weekend getting moved, and then getting things cleaned up and straightened up at home and visiting with my neighbors.

I picked a great weekend to come home. I saw my neighbor Tim on Saturday. He had taken over the primary responsibility of my lawn care during my absence and I thanked him for all he had done and talked with him for a while. He mentioned that some other neighbors were having their fall bonfire that evening and that a lot of the neighbors and other people would be coming over for the big event. This is not a normal bonfire, it is a log structure built especially for this purpose.

After I talked with him, I went back home to rest and do some laundry. I fell asleep while watching TV and then the commentary on the movie LOVE N’ DANCING as I was so tired (see previous post for comments on the movie). (I had actually slept well Friday night, went to bed around 11:30 woke up briefly around 4:00, and then slept until around 8:15.) It turned out that Rex and Rachel Jones are both in the movie itself, as well as the instructional extra, which I learned by listening to the commentary on the movie by the main actors and reviewing the credits.

Fortunately, I woke up in time to get to the party, see a lot of friends and neighbors and other people I did not know. Also a couple of newborns that had arrived while I was away. I did not stay very late as I was tired, and came back home to rest.

I also decided to get my cat Saturday morning, which I had inherited, from the veterinary office where I had boarded her. I paid a pretty good fee for boarding her since September 13th. She forgave me fairly quickly however.

Sunday, I continued with getting things settled at home and realized I had left a couple of items at Johan’s apartment. I went for a 45 minute walk in the afternoon, and then went and spent the evening at Tim and Heather’s place as they had invited some people over and we enjoyed some wings from the Wild Wings Cafe. I spent a lot of time standing up while there, so between moving on Friday and all of the activities Saturday and Sunday I was pretty tired Monday. A poor night’s sleep Sunday night did not help either.

Monday, as noted, I went to the rehab, and then spent the afternoon helping Johan get his car serviced, going to eat, and running some errands which further sapped my energy. I took it easy when I got home and watched most of Dancing With the Stars. It made me more anxious to really get back into dancing.

Fortunately, I should be able to stay home and take things easier this Tuesday.

Home Alone and Feeling a Bit Blue

November 11, 2011

Well, the big day arrived; I have moved back home after living with Johan since September 20th, the day I was discharged from the hospital. It was a bitter sweet event, as I am very glad to be able to live on my own again, but I have really enjoyed Johan’s company while living with him and being closer to Maria, while I lived with him.

However, I return to work part time the week after Thanksgiving and it is time to start getting back into that routine, which is considerably different from the daily routine I had while living with Johan; since he works the 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM shift and I work the 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM shift.

Johan and I went to the rehab session this morning, ran some errands, then loaded up my Jeep with my stuff and we headed to my house. He followed me to make sure I got home and everything unloaded safely. We went over to Loudon for dinner at the Chinese restaurant, filled up his gas tank, and then he dropped me off and headed home to some well deserved peace and quiet.

I owe my neighbors a BIG THANK YOU, as my yard was freshly mowed and looked great. I called some of my neighbors to let them know I was actually, back as I had been delaying the return for a couple of weeks and also let Maria and my brother and mother know also.

I then partially unpacked as I was restless and then was finally able to settle down and watch a movie. I did not go dancing this Friday as I had gone to bed at 12:30 the night before and woken up at 4:00 and pretty much stayed awake after that thinking about my time in Knoxville and moving back home today. So, I am fairly tired.

I watched LOVE ‘N DANCING, which is a movie about people competing in the West Coast Swing dance. The WCS is a fun dance and I enjoy it a lot. I have had group lessons in it and may take some private lessons also. The disc also included a lesson by Robert Royston, and included Rex and Rachel Jones providing demonstrations. Those of us in the dance community know of them. It was a surprise to see them in the video, Rex looked a bit different back when the lesson was made due to the length of his hair, Rachel looked good as always. Rex and Rachel were in the country dance community and have switched over to the ballroom dance community.

Well, it is now 11:00 PM and I need to wrap things up, take some medicine, and get to bed. This will be the earliest I have been to bed in weeks, probably since before the surgery, excluding the days in the hospital, when I was in bed most of the day.

8 Weeks into Recovery

November 10, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 8th week of my recovery period. For the most part it has again been a quiet uneventful week.

I have now completed 15 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 15 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. One of the leg exercises was removed from my exercise routine, but the endurance levels and time on the remaining exercises and the ergometer for my arms has not been increased. It turned out that the existing levels, and probably my walks, have caused my heart rate to increase and I was told that they would maintain the same exercise levels until my heart had adjusted to the current levels. My heart rate was a little lower Wedensday so maybe the exercise levels will be increased in the coming week. As I was told by one of the staff members, the heart is like any other muscle and will take time to recover from the surgery. They intentionally keep our exercise levels low to keep from over stressing the heart while it is recovering from the surgery. Overall, I am feeling better this week and have had 45 to 55 minute walks. I just need to be more careful about my activity levels.

I did did to the dance studio again on the 4th of November. In addition to the Rumba, I managed to do some Waltz and Foxtrot dances and one very slow Swing dance. Nothing that was fast or required a lot of energy, but it was good to do more dances and see more people.

I have driven my Jeep enough now that I feel a bit more comfortable driving again. I am driving to the rehab center now. Johan still goes with me to keep an eye on me and help out if needed.

As I noted previously I met with my surgeon, Dr. Chadwick Stouffer, on November 3rd. As expected he discharged me and returned my care completely to the cardiologist; although he said to contact him if I have any other questions.

I still plan to move back to my house the end of this week and then begin to resume my normal activities including getting ready to return to work, which will be the week after Thanksgiving. I have very mixed feelings about moving back. I am very glad and fortunate to be able to do so; however, I have really enjoyed my time living with Johan during my recovery and getting to see Maria on a regular basis. Both have been a blessing to me.

That is about it for now.

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

My Surgeon

November 10, 2011

Dr. Chadwick W. Stouffer is a member of the East Tennessee Cardiovascular Group in Knoxville Tennessee.

I initially met Dr. Stouffer after my cardiologist, Dr. Michael Underwood, had performed cardioversions and a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). During the TEE, the cardiologist learned I had a leaking Mitral valve. He arranged for Dr. Stouffer to meet with me and my son before I was discharged from the hospital. I was disappointed with the news about the leaking Mitral valve, but was impressed with Dr. Stouffer’s demeanor and the discussion we had concerning the treatment.

In a followup meeting at his office, Dr. Stouffer discussed the various options; valve repair (which he believed was appropriate), a replacement tissue valve, and a replacement mechanical valve. He took the time to discuss the questions I had concerning the surgery, his background and experience, and the risks involved with the surgery. After the appointment, I felt confident with deciding to have him perform the surgery. He told me the dates that were available and after making arrangements for getting ready for the surgery and my care after the surgery, I selected September 14th.

The surgery was performed at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville Tennessee. He was able to repair the Mitral valve and stop the leak. He also performed a Maze procedure to treat my Atrial Fibrillation. The surgery went well, and I received excellent post operative care from the staff at the Parkwest Medical Center. I was discharged during the 7th day.

My subsequent recovery has proceeded well, I am now in the 8th week of recovery when I write this. I have had two followup appointments with Dr. Stouffer during which he took the time to answer all of my questions and concerns that I had about my recovery. His nurse, Rebecca Bruer, has also been available by phone to answer any questions that I had during the recovery period and has very helpful. The office staff were all professional and courteous. Dr. Stouffer has released me to the care of my cardiologist, but said he was available to answer any other questions I might have.

Overall, I am very thankful to have had Dr. Stouffer perform the surgery. Discussions with other health care professionals have determined that he is a very capable surgeon and that I was fortunate to have had him perform the surgery.

If you would like additional information about Dr. Stouffer, please refer to the web site: www.etcvsg.com/surgeon_stouffer.html

Follow up visit with Surgeon

November 3, 2011

I had my second follow up visit with my surgeon, Dr. Chadwick Stouffer, today.

I gave him the information provided by the cardiac rehab center containing the data from my exercise sessions, including blood pressures, pulses, weights, EKGs recorded during the different exercises, and the blood pressures, pulses, weights, temperatures and Voldyne breathing exercises that I keep personally.

He said I was doing well, that the incision had healed well, and that the sternum had closed and healed properly. He also said that the heart and lungs sounded good when he listened to them.

I asked about atrial fibrillation and he said I was fibrillating when he listened to me. He said that it was common for fibrillation to occur after open heart surgery, even if the person had not experienced fibrillation prior to the surgery, due to the effect of the surgery. He said it would be 4 to 6 months before we would know if the maze procedure had resolved the fibrillation issue. He said that the repair to the heart had resolved the concern about clots forming which resolved the concern about the potential for strokes occurring as a result of the clots; which is a big relief.

He said the mitral valve repair should last a long time. The repair of the mitral valve is more durable than a tissue valve replacement. It is also better than a mechanical valve replacement since I would have to be on the blood thinner coumadin if I had a mechanical valve.

I asked about the shortness of breath when walking up stairs or hills. He said that was to be expected and that as my body continued to heal it would be able to deal with that better. He said that improvements in conditions following valve repairs, other than possibly some aortic valve repairs, took a while to be noticed since the heart was recovering from the surgery.

I mentioned being very conscious of my heart and feeling it beating both strongly enough to keep me awake and feeling it most of the time when it was beating more easily. I mentioned the “angry” heart comment and he said that the surgery had made me more conscious of my heart. I told him about my surprise last week when I realized I did not notice it beating, which has pretty much continued. He said that as that was because my heart was healing from the actual surgery and I was getting used to it.

My chest and arm muscles are weak due to the restrictions on activity, and hurt when I move my arms certain ways. He did say I could start doing exercises to strengthen them; just urged caution. He encouraged me to continue the rehab sessions.

I said I felt really good at times and then felt tired; he said I needed to be careful and not do too much during the good times.

He said I could return to work on November 28th, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. Due to the amount of time I have been out of work, I will need to have my security clearance updated so I can resume my access to the work site. Therefore, I will need to find out about getting that done.

I tentatively plan on moving back home on November 11th more or less. It has been great being able to stay with Johan during this phase of my recovery. He has been great company and a tremendous help in getting me to the doctor’s appointments, rehab sessions, shopping, and providing me a place to stay. Getting to spend more time with him and Maria, who has also helped me by updating my blog when I could not do it and communicating with various people and helping me with shopping or doing it for me and taking me out on occasion, has been a great blessing.

Dr. Stouffer said he did not need to see me again, but if I had any questions that I should call to get them answered. I told him I had an appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Michael Underwood, in January. The cardiologist wanted to see me after I finish the cardiac rehab sessions which will continue into December. I feel that I was fortunate to have Dr. Stouffer perform the surgery, my experience with him has been excellent, and I have heard very positive comments about him from numerous people in the health care community.

7 Weeks into Recovery

November 2, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 7th week of my recovery period. For the most part it has been a quiet uneventful week.

I have now completed 12 of the 36 cardiac rehab sessions and 12 of the 24 classes provided in conjunction with the rehab program. The classes have been very informative and beneficial. I did start working with the arm ergometer on the 2nd of November rather than the 28th of October as I expected last week. I was told today that they would would cut out one of my leg exercises and increase the endurance levels after today since I was doing well with them and starting on my arms. My legs are feeling better and stronger thanks to the rehab sessions and the walks, now greater than 35 minutes, that I am doing.

As I noted in a previous post, I did manage to start doing some dancing at a dance party on 28th of October; and I really enjoyed getting out and seeing the people at the dance studio and getting to do some dancing, even if very limited.

In general, my strength and stamina has continued to improve, although I have a long way to go, as I still tire fairly quickly and get short of breath when climbing stairs and hills. My heart has settled down quite a bit from the earlier weeks in my recovery.

I have driven my Jeep some more for short periods of time, but Johan has continued driving me to my rehab sessions and for other drives; I think he is being protective of me. I plan on picking up more of the driving next week.

As I noted previously, I will meet with the surgeon, Dr. Chadwick Stouffer, on November 3rd, and expect he will discharge me and return my care completely to the cardiologist at that time; although that is just a guess. I have reports from the rehab folks and also my personal records that he has asked me to keep to show him. Hopefully, I will not need him again.

I expect to move back to my house at the end of next week and then begin to resume my normal activities including getting ready to return to work, depending on what the surgeon says.

That is about it for now.

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

First Dance Party - October 28, 2011

October 29, 2011

Well, I finally made it to a dance party; 6 weeks and 2 days after the surgery. Academy Ballroom had a Halloween Party on October 28th, and Johan and I decided to go to it. I came close to backing out, but we put on our costumes and went to the party in spite of my reservations. (Two pictures added; I don't know why the orientation is wrong on the one, it has happened before)

It was good to see a lot of folks that I had not seen since before the surgery on September 14th, and get to catch up on some of what has been happening.

I even got to dance several dances, but I limited them to Rumbas which are slower and don’t require a lot of floor movement. But, it was good to be dancing again; it was a little awkward at first, but I got to feeling more comfortable the more I danced. I did sit down a lot and walked around and visited some. I was tempted to try a couple of other slower paced dances, Waltz and Foxtrot, but there is more floor movement with them; and I decided not to do them.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant with a group from the studio and ended up having a good time there as well.

This was the first time I have been out since the surgery. I really look forward to continuing my recovery and resuming all of my dance activities.

6 Weeks into Recovery

October 27, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 6th week of my recovery period. Overall, it has been a good week.

Tuesday night when I went to bed, actually Wednesday morning, as I have gotten into the habit of watching the first part of the Jay Leno show, I had an unusual experience. [Johan does not get home from work until after 11:00 PM four nights a week, so I have gotten into the habit of staying up until later.] My heart was quiet; i.e., I really did not notice it. I have mentioned previously that I was very conscious of my heart and the way it was beating. It has actually kept me awake at times as it was beating so strongly. As I read in another patient’s blog, the surgeon told her “. . . the heart is "angry" from being cut on and repaired, and it will take a few months for it to quiet down.” This may have been something I should have discussed with my surgeon, but apparently it is not uncommon. Anyway, the quiet has continued for the most part since then, with only a few periods when I have noticed anything about my heart rate.

I did have my first followup visit with my regular cardiologist last Friday. He said he and the surgeon have been discussing my case when they talk with each other. He had an EKG run and the initial results indicated my heart was fibrillating. He listened to it and said the heart sounded like it was in normal rhythm and had a more extensive EKG performed and actually worked with the machine to get a better understanding of what was happening. He determined that the rhythm was acceptable, so he will just keep monitoring me to see what happens. I go to rehab 3 days a week and things were going well this Monday and Wednesday. The electrical system in the heart is quite complicated and it is amazing it works as well as it does through the years; especially considering the things we do to it with our diets and lifestyles.

Since I have now completed my 6th week of rehab, I have reached another milestone. I can sit in the front seat of an automobile again, since I have healed sufficiently to be subjected to an air bag opening in the event of an accident. That also means I can drive again. I actually did that for the first time this past Sunday for a little bit. I got into my Jeep Liberty and started it up, the first time since the day before the surgery, which was September 13th. I was very pleasantly surprised when the Jeep started up quickly the first time I tried it. I then proceeded to drive around the parking lot for a bit and then briefly got onto regular roads before returning to the parking lot and shutting the Jeep down. I had a more ambitious trip Tuesday evening, actually went to a mall and a grocery store and did some shopping. Johan is still driving me to the rehab center, but I get to sit in the front seat now. I will start doing the regular driving next week.

My temperature still runs into the 99+ degree range at times, but has been registering in the 98 degree range more this week. My chest is still a bit sore, but some of that is due to the breathing exercises. I have been able to increase the volume I inhale slightly this past week, so I am stretching things a bit more while doing that. My blood pressure has been running a bit above the recommended range at times, just need to remember to chill out and breath properly as that can drop it back to an acceptable range. Also the exercise will help. During the classes and session with the dietician, I have learned my diet is not nearly as good as I thought it was, so I am working on that also.

The incision looks better than I expected. I learned by personal experience that the longer the surgical adhesive is left on the incision, the better it heals as I left about half of it on until this past week, since it was adhering well. After that, I started using Mederma on the incision to help reduce it, but stopped because it was irritating my skin. Mederma is something I learned about on this website. A co-worker had told be about another product, Aquaphor, and I will try that. I will try Vitamin E if that does not work. My surgeon had said it was acceptable to use any of them to help reduce the scar from the incision.

The rehab folks increased my workout times and levels slightly last Friday, still very short and low compared to what I could do prior to the surgery, but really about all I want at present. After the workouts, I feel like I have had a good exercise. They will be increased again this Friday, and since the restriction on lifting anything more than 10 pounds is removed, I will actually start doing some arm exercises using equipment that works a bit like a bicycle for my arms. I think there is one in the Livewell at work.

My strength and stamina have improved this week, I have been much more active, my walks were 30+ minutes during the 6th week. Now, I think I am in the range where I should be walking 35 to 40 minutes at a time for my exercise outside of rehab.

I visited my fellow patient at Parkwest Medical Center after my rehab sessions again last Friday and this past Monday. He was doing well Monday and expected to be discharged Tuesday. He said that my surgeon had been in to check on him since his surgeon was out of town at a conference and that he had mentioned to the surgeon that I had been talking to him about the surgical recovery process.

I guess as I continue my recovery, I will have to start returning to my normal activities, move back home, and even consider going back to work. The rehab process will continue, I have had 9 sessions, with 27 remaining; so they will last into December. I expect to start my return to work by the middle of November. I meet with the surgeon on November 3rd, and expect he will discharge me and return my care completely to the cardiologist at that time. Hopefully, I will not need him again.

Johan and I actually went to my house last Friday to get a few things that I had not brought up with me when I first came up. The yard looked good thanks to my neighbors. We did stop and visit with one of them before returning to Knoxville.

As I have mentioned previously, although difficult, this experience has been good, in that I have learned more about myself, but most importantly I have gotten to spend time with Johan and Maria. I actually went with Johan and participated in a role playing game with him and some other players Wednesday evening. I had reservations about doing that, but actually enjoyed the game and the interaction with the other players. Wednesday was his birthday, so we met with Maria afterwards for a late dinner.

I guess that is about it for now; not long until I can start dancing again!!

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

5 Weeks into Recovery

October 20, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 5th week of my recovery period. This week has been a bit frustrating. As far as recovering from the actual surgical procedure, that has gone well. The discomfort and occasional pain due to the operation itself have been reduced significantly this week. Coughing/sneezing are a lot more bearable now, still uncomfortable, but not nearly as painful. I can also breathe somewhat deeply much more comfortably.

The frustrating part is that I have had no energy or stamina and tired easily during the 5th week. During the 4th week, that seemed to be improving, but I think I overdid it near the end of the 4th week and had to back off on the amount of walking and other activities that I did and allow more recovery time for the activities that I did do and that seems to have helped. A lack of an adequate amount of sleep probably did not help. My temperature is still in mostly in the 99 degree F range, although it was 98.6 when I took it Wednesday evening.

I have continued going to the cardio rehab classes and exercises; I had my 6th session this Wednesday. I felt a little better after the class on Monday as it was about the various surgical procedures used to treat heart diseases involving blocked arteries and heart valve issues. The instructor said that people that had heart valve surgery had a more difficult time recovering than those that had stents implanted or bypass surgery due to the more intrusive nature of the procedure. So, I just need to be more patient. I do feel a bit better today, so I think being a little less aggressive in my walking and allowing more recovery time and sleeping a bit better has helped this week.

During Wednesday’s session, the exercise physiologist stopped by while I was getting started on the stationary bike and increased the work out level. She said that she was going to review my exercises and increase the exercises for Friday as she thought I was ready to increase my workouts to a higher level, that made me feel good and I told her that I thought I was ready for it.

I do have an appointment with my cardiologist on October 21st. The nurse at the rehab center printed out the EKG and other reports showing my performance during my exercise Wednesday for his review on Friday.

I am adjusting to the different performance of my heart since the surgery. I had gotten used to the way it performed prior to the surgery and it is quite different now since the mitral valve has been repaired and the maze procedure was performed to treat the A-Fib (During Monday’s class, we were told that the maze procedure did not always completely resolve the A-Fib, but that it did reduce its intensity, not that I really noticed it before). Going through my heart issues the past 2 and 1/2 years has made me much more sensitive to what my heart is doing (probably too much so).

Thanks to this website, I have met another heart valve patient who has had an operation involving his mitral valve at Parkwest Medical Center. He had e-mailed me asking for details about my surgery and subsequent recovery prior to his surgery as a result of the posts in my blog and we have exchanged several e-mails since then. He had his operation this past Monday and Johan and I stopped by to visit him Wednesday. We also got to meet his wife and daughter who were there helping him. All three were very nice and it was good to meet them.

Well, now that I am in my 6th recovery week, I can look forward to starting to drive again and when riding as a passenger sitting in the front seat rather than the back seat. Sitting in the back seat is required prior to then in case there is an accident that results in the air bag discharging which would not be good for the healing of the chest.

Once I feel comfortable driving and my stamina and energy levels are better, I will be moving back to my house. It will be a big adjustment in reverse as I have really enjoyed getting to stay with Johan; he has been a tremendous help during my recovery period by being good company and helping me and chauffeuring me around to various places. It has also been good to be close to Maria and be able to spend more time with her; she has also helped out at critical times during my recovery. It has been great getting to know both of them better.

I also have to give thanks to my neighbors at home. They have taken over the yard work, looked after my place, and made it much easier staying away knowing that my home was being taken care of so well. I talked with one of them Wednesday evening and she said they would continue to do so even after I returned home for which I was very thankful. I am sure the place looks better now than when I was taking care of it.

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

4 Weeks into Recovery

October 13, 2011

Well, I have now completed the 4th week of my recovery period. Overall, I am doing better, my strength and lung capacity are improving somewhat and my heart rate is approaching the rate that I had before the surgery; it had been much higher in the previous weeks after the surgery. My blood pressure is good, my weight is fairly steady, somewhat less than before the surgery, my temperature is still somewhat elevated. I keep a daily record of blood pressures and pulse (morning and evening), weight, lung capacity (via the Voldyne), and temperature as required in part by my discharge instructions to observe trends in the various areas.

The daily exercise routine for the 4th week involved having two 20 minute walks a day. However, during the week, I increased the time to 25+ minute walks up and down steps and hills.  I had three rehab sessions this week which have been very low level workouts (there is an hour class on various subjects and then the workout). (There is a new picture from the rehab center, it loaded strangely.) This will be typical for a total of 12 weeks; although the workout levels will increase as I progress.  My chest is still a bit sore, but not bad; part of the problem there is the hair is growing back and is a bit prickly.

I checked with my nurse at the cardiac rehab center yesterday about the walking level during the 5th week. She said that I only needed to do one 25 minute walk each day. She said that they only required one walk because of the amount of time involved and that it was hard for people to work in two 25 minute walks. I asked if it was o-k to do two 25 minute walks and she said it would be acceptable. I basically don’t have much else to do and it is good to get out and walk around a bit, so I will continue with the two walks a day. The nurse also said that my rehab workouts would be evaluated and probably increased next time. I can’t do any arm exercises until after I have completed the 6th week of my recovery due to the restriction on how much I can lift until then (< 10 lbs.).

The 4th week of recovery seems to have been a good recovery week overall as far as improvement during the week is concerned.  Although I do have to be careful about what I do; I felt good on Monday (went shopping at a small store, walking around Westtown Mall, and shopping at Wal-Mart, rode the cart, after my rehab) and Tuesday (going out to eat with Maria and a late evening walk after the rain which wore me out) and ended up doing more than I should have done and ended up being very tired on Wednesday, so today (Thursday) is going to be more low key and a recovery day.

My recovery is slower than I had expected, but then I have to realize what the surgery involved and that it was a major surgery.  Overall things seem to be going well, if slowly, and my surgeon and the rehab folks indicate I am doing very well.

Thanks for the continued interest and support!

John

Had an Appointment with the Surgeon Today

October 6, 2011

I had an appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Chadwick Stouffer, today.

He had my blood chemistry analyzed, had chest x-rays performed, had an EKG performed, looked at my incision, and listened to my heart and breathing and said everything was looking and sounding good!!

My next appointment with him is on November 3rd, but he said I could start driving in a week or two if I felt up to it, rather than wait until I saw him again to get clearance to drive.

I start the cardiac rehab tomorrow. I feel pretty good, just tire easily and don't have a lot of stamina, but I have plenty of time to work on that.

3 Weeks into Recovery

October 5, 2011

Well, the third week of my recovery was a relatively quiet week. Actually, from September 24th through October 2nd, I did not go anywhere, but stayed at Johan’s apartment. Johan and Maria got whatever I needed for me during that time. I basically ate, slept, watched TV, and read, actually a pretty good situation and a nice change from my normal routine prior to the surgery. I was too tired to do much else and going out took a lot of energy out of me, so it was a good recovery period. I still experienced some soreness and had to take things very slowly. However, the soreness has lessoned quite a bit over the course of the 3rd week of my recovery. My hair is growing back from the whole body shave and that is a bit uncomfortable.

During the 3rd week, I changed my walking to the recommended two daily walks of 15 minutes each around the apartment complex and have done well with that. The complex is on a hill, so I do get to climb up and down stairs and the hill itself, so that adds a bit more exercise to the walk. The walks change to two 20 minute walks a day during the 4th week of my recovery. To avoid being completely useless, I do clean up the dishes and kitchen for the most part to avoid being a complete burden to Johan.

The one area of concern occurred last Friday as I felt a bit light headed. I called the surgeon’s nurse, Becky, and talked with her. My blood pressure and pulse were o-k, so I just took it easy and things cleared up on their own. She told me to continue taking the additional medicine the doctor had prescribed for me on September 23rd.

I did go out to the credit union and went shopping at Wal-Mart (rode around on the cart again) with Johan on Monday, also went to the laundry to clean up some clothes (Johan took the laundry to the laundry center as I can’t lift more than 10 pounds), so that was a busy day.

I did go to the cardio-rehab center on October 4th, which was Tuesday. It was a get acquainted session in which the program was explained to me and I answered a bunch of questions about my health history and goals for the program. There will be 36 sessions and the normal schedule is 3 days a week. There is a class that discusses health and life style issues, which is followed by an exercise period each session. I start the actual rehab sessions this Friday.

I go to the surgeon, Dr. Chadwick Stouffer, on Thursday for a followup exam. I go Parkwest Medical Center before hand so they can run some tests on me. So I am anxious to see how that goes. I have not seen him, or any other of the doctors in his group, since I was discharged from the hospital on September 20th, although I did see his nurse when I went to Parkwest Medical Center on September 23rd.

I did start reviewing my office e-mail at work this week, partly out of boredom and also to see how things are going at WBN.

Well, I think that about wraps up the 3rd week of my recovery and provides some information on what lies ahead. Overall, I feel a lot better now at the end of the 3rd week of my recovery. Still limited energy, but overall feeling better.

Thanks again for the cards, messages, and various forms of support during this time.

John

2 Weeks into Recovery

September 29, 2011

Well, yesterday completed the second week of my recovery. Nothing significant; my breathing has been improving since the shortness of breath issue last Friday. The beginning of the 2nd week was a bit more difficult than expected, but things got better as the week progressed.

I am continuing with my walking program, actually moving from three 10 minute walks a day during the second week to two 15 minute walks a day in my third week. I am in a nice area for the walks and can manage the steps better now. I continue with inhaling through the Voldyne, my lung capacity has improved slightly also. The discomfort is less, although my chest is still sore especially when I inhale deeply, but getting better. I also do some very basic leg exercises. My first visit to the cardiac rehab center is next Tuesday. Before I had the surgery, a wise person told me to obey the instructions I would be given for my recovery. It is sometimes tempting to try and do more walking, etc. but that would be a mistake.

I am below my pre-surgery weight now, not much of an appetite.

It is good being with Johan he is being very helpful and running errands for me. Maria checks in on me and also runs errands for me. I pretty much stay at Johan's place as it is too taxing to get out right now.

In some ways, the surgery seems like a long time ago already; but I have lots of reminders.

John

Transition from Hospital and Other Comments

September 26, 2011

The move from the hospital to Johan’s place last Tuesday was challenging. Johan picked me up and brought me here and then had to go to work. Maria stopped by after work and took me shopping for groceries and medicines. The recommended activity level at that stage of recovery is a minimum of four 5 minute walks during the whole day. I did that in my trips from the automobiles to Johan’s apartment, which also included about 12 steps. I chose to ride one of the electric carts at the grocery store. Maria kindly carried the groceries in and put them away. So, by the end of the day, I was pretty well worn out. On top of that, I was now basically responsible for my feeding and medication rather than having the wonderful staff at the hospital take care of it for me, with a lot of help from Johan and Maria.

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty much recovery mode from Tuesday’s endeavors and adjusting to living with Johan, which is a big adjustment for both of us. Fortunately, it is going well.

Some firsts are:

Completed the first week of my recovery on Wednesday, probably 5 more weeks until I can drive and 3 months until I can fully resume all of my normal activities from what I have read,

Had my first shower since the 14th on Thursday,

Had my first facial shave since the 12th on Thursday, I could not shave the day before the surgery to avoid the risk of open wounds (I had a pretty much full body shave from the neck down on the 14th prior to the surgery)

I took some pain medicine Wednesday and Thursday nights to help me sleep, otherwise, I am not taking any and doing o-k; a bit sore, but bearable.

I had a breathing issue last Friday. Around noon, I was having trouble catching my breathe, I called the surgeon’s nurse, Becky, and left her a message. Johan ended up taking me to Parkwest Outpatient to have x-rays taken of my lungs, which fortunately were clear. I met with the Becky at the hospital and she phoned in a couple of prescriptions, a diuretic to get rid of excess fluid and potassium to replenish it. Johan and I got the prescriptions filled and did some shopping on the way home. So the activities on Friday were a bit taxing as well. My breathing is better, but still not back to normal.

I am settling in to a new routine, and will begin cardiac recovery on October 4th. During the second week of recovery, the recommended activity is three 10 minute walks a day, during the 3rd week of activity, the recommended activity is two 15 minute walks a day, and the the 4th week the recommended activity level is two 20 minute walks a day according the cardiac rehab information. I normally do two 15 minute walks just going from my Jeep to the cubicle at work. The lack of activity and sleep are pretty much my biggest issues now. I am still sore, but it is bearable. The first week was about what I expected, the second week a is a bit worse than I had expected.

Current exercise involves walking and inhaling through a Voldyne with which I slowly inhale and raise and disc in a chamber to practice increasing the capacity of my lungs. I will attach a picture of it.

Saturday and Sunday were pretty much days of rest. I did have a nice visit with a friend on Saturday.

Johan and Maria have been a big help in taking care of me.

Thanks again for all of the kind words of support and encouragement in the various messages in my guestbook and other media, I greatly appreciate all of the support and prayers on my behalf.

John

6.3 Days

September 20, 2011

Well, I left the hospital today at 1:30. They kept me a bit longer to get my potassium and blood sugar levels back into an acceptable range. Open heart surgery apparently affects both significantly. It also results in a major increase in fluid levels. My weight went up nearly 20 pounds due to fluid retention. I am still about 6 pounds above my normal weight. Flushing out the fluids also flushed out the potassium. I had a lot of potassium IVs and supplements the past few days. Potassium is needed by the muscles. The doctor said the surgery went well, he repaired the mitral valve and performed a maze for the A-Fib. He said the clogged vessel was too small to repair and had little impact on the heart

I am still very tired and a bit sore, although I can move better than I had expected. I was a bit reluctant to leave the hospital as I received excellent care while there, and now I am out with my son Johan. But, it is good to be out and feel a bit more normal now. I am typing this while sitting in a recliner loaned to me by a friend. It is taking a while to get my typing coordinated again.

The recovery will take a while, and it will take time to adjust to new sensations. I will start cardiac rehab on 10/04/2011.

Thank you for all of your support, thoughts, and prayers.

John

Going Home

September 18, 2011

Posting one more update on here before Dad takes back over. He is doing really well and it looks like he will be getting to leave the hospital tomorrow. Thanks again to everyone for keeping him in your thoughts!

Maria

Visitors

September 15, 2011

Just so everyone knows, Dad is allowed to have visitors. Visiting hours are 24/7. If you would like to visit just email me and I will give you his room number. My email is maria.nicolina7@gmail.com

Maria

1st Day After Surgery

September 15, 2011

I'm updating this for Dad again. He is doing really well. He has been moved out of critical care and into his own room. The doctor says he is recovering really well. I saw him a little while ago and he was sitting up eating. Thanks again to everyone for your well wishes, I told him he was getting lots of them and that seemed to make him feel better! I will post again tomorrow with another update!

Maria

Surgery Day

September 14, 2011

I am writing this for Dad because he asked me to keep everyone updated with how he is doing. The surgery started around 9:30 this morning and lasted until a little after one. Everything went really well, and the doctor said Dad should make a good recovery. I just saw him about an hour ago and he was just beginning to wake up from the sedatives. I spoke with the nurse and she said he should be breathing on his own in the next few hours and that he will be transferred out of critical care tomorrow. Thanks everyone for keeping him in your thoughts!

Maria

Recovery starts tomorrow on 09/14/2011

September 13, 2011

Well, I have completed most of the pre-surgery preparation. We will finish up this evening and head to the hospital in the morning. I need to be there at 5:30, and the surgery is currently scheduled for 8:30.

So this time tomorrow, 4:48 PM, I should be in the beginning stages of recovery.

My sincere thanks for the many kind words, offers of support, and prayers, I have been blessed.

One of my children will continue to update this journal until I am able to resume the updates.

3 Days and Counting

September 11, 2011

I spoke with my surgeon's nurse, Becky, on Friday and got some clarification on my pre-surgery instructions.

I went to the regular Friday night dance party at the Academy Ballroom in Knoxville Tennessee on the 9th. I got to visit with friends and get in many dances. My dance instructor, Emily, gave me a get well card afterwards that had been signed by many at the studio and had many kind and supportive comments.

On Saturday, I had my last ballroom dance lessons with Emily before the surgery. Fortunately, I have been able to continue dancing. I feel that dancing has been a big help to me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I started ballroom dancing in January 2008, partially inspired by Dancing With the Stars, and have met many fine people and become friends with them.

I went to the office today to finish up a few things to the surprise of Ben, another person who was there. I will spend Monday and Tuesday finishing up preparations for the surgery on Wednesday and spending time with my daughter Maria and my son Johan.

I also need to let my neighbors know the surgery date, as they have been very helpful in offering to take care of my yard and look after the house during my recovery period.

My co-workers have also been very helpful and supportive, even assuming some of my responsibilities during my absence.
jfl, 09/11/2011 (It is hard to believe it has been ten years since the terrorist attacked the USA.)

Open Heart Surgery

September 8, 2011

I have provided background information in the story section above. Click on the link "Read John's Story", or click on the "My Story" tab above.

My surgery to repair a Mitral Valve, perform a maze to treat Atrial Fibrillation, and a bypass is scheduled for September 14, 2011 at Parkwest Hospital in Knoxville Tennessee.
jfl, 09/08/2011

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