Coming up on my second year anniversary! My husband and I are going to San Diego to celebrate. Things are going well. Heart sounds fine, no major issues. Still take meds to regulate my cholesterol and blood pressure, but otherwise nothing needed in terms of a-fib or anything along those lines. Mentally/emotionally I still have little moments in which it freaks me out that I have cow and pork tissue holding everything together and it still isn't terribly comfortable to sleep with anything pressing on my chest. I don't "worry" about having to have the surgery again, but because I was in the 59-60 range, there is a good chance I will at some point and on occasion it gives me a little twinge of fear - but not much and I push back on it pretty quickly. I am more concerned that I remain overweight and that I do not make time for effective exercise or enough sleep. That isn't being very responsible to myself or my family and frustrates me. I've been given a wonderful second chance and I'm unhappy with myself when I don't take the best advantage of being as healthy as possible. I think it is a weird form of "denial" - but it actually just "denies" me the option of being happier and less stressed. I will keep trying to do a better job on that front. For those of you with mechanical valves, I met a lovely lady during my recovery period who is 70 and had her aortic valve replaced with a mechanical valve over 25 years ago. It hasn't missed a beat! Encouraging - right? :-)
Advice to the "newbies": get all the rest you can - and all the exercise you can - during your immediate recovery period. Once you get back to work, or even your normal routine, it is easy to stop taking care of yourself as you should. You will be glad for every step you took in recovery. Don't let fear or anxiety get the better of you. Talk with friends, family, keep a journal, share here on the site - anything but mulling it over in your own head too long. This is a blessing and a new chance to live longer and happier than you might otherwise have enjoyed. We need to make the most of it! Hugs to all those who helped me through that decision time and recovery! You blessed me more than you can imagine and I think and pray for each of you often!
Hugs and much love to all!
Sherry Bradford (avr and stem repair - 10/22/2012)
Overall feeling pretty well. A few weeks back I fell REALLY hard onto my chest. Tripped coming down stairs and hit my chest on the hard edge of our couch. It was excruciatingly painful - so bad I was close to throwing up. But the incision area held just fine. I stopped my fall partly with my wrist and fingers on right hand and they hurt pretty bad until just this week. My chest was black, blue and green, and VERY sore for a couple of weeks. But now the bruising is almost gone.
Though my chest is fine, I haven't felt well since the fall. I don't think anything is hurt deeply. I think it is likely just some deep bruising, like the aftershock of a car accident. I had back surgery a few months before my heart valve replacement and they went through the front of the neck. I jarred that area pretty hard as well. I think it just takes time.
So all that detail to say: the incision area is just fine! No more worries that it will somehow come apart. It is likely tougher than it was before the surgery with all the glue and wires!
I am still struggling to get into a regular exercise pattern. But overall, I am doing very well. I think about my repaired heart every day. Sometimes I am concerned about the choice of a tissue valve and wonder if it is going to mean I have to go through all this again sooner rather than later. But most of the time I am comfortable with my choice, knowing that science moves forward and that I am someone who really dislikes having to think about remembering meds and fussing with frequent tests. I know I would not have been good at taking care of a mechanical valves needs. I am so grateful to live in a time in which both options are available.
I have had lots of baseline tests for old ladies over the past few months and all came out good. So hopefully I still have time to get that exercise routine going so I can come back and write about other milestones.
Prayers and virtual hugs to all those who are preparing for surgery. Congratulations to those who have come out on the other side. Work hard on breathing, walking and rehab and you will feel well again soon - and even better than just well! Life is precious and sweet and full of wonderful moments. Enjoy them all!
A year ago I was trying to catch some z's the night before my surgery. I had my tests earlier in the day and all was go! I slept better than I expected and then the next few days were quite a blur. But I remember the joy of being alive after the surgery fog lifted and have been so grateful for each day since.
Physically I am doing well. I have to take blood pressure meds due to the increased blood flow. My memory issues are largely resolved. I struggle for some words, but it seems to be pretty consistent now with just my overall distracted nature. No more vertigo after my one treatment. Still have pain in my incision area and general tenderness, but overall has healed beautifully. I cannot sleep on my stomach as I used to, but do well on my side with a pillow for support.
My job has been pretty stressful and that takes a toll on me physically. It mainly impacts my ability to get good sleep. It also wears me out which leads to less exercise. So that is a vicious cycle I have to overcome. Not exercising makes me feel less well, which leads to poor sleep, and round and round!
My strongest advice to anyone going through this, no matter your age, is increase your quality exercise and sleep time. It makes a huge difference in the quality of life.
I am so grateful to this site, my husband and son, and numerous friends who have been incredibly supportive this past year. The doctors and nurses who helped me get to and through surgery were awesome and I feel so blessed to have terrific insurance to help cover the costs.
I hope I live another 20 years or more. Don't really want to go through this again - but would do so in a heartbeat! Haha! Hopefully I will be amazed by the inroads in the surgery and recovery if/when that happens!
Take care sweet ones going through this now! It is worth every bit of the struggle. You will feel better and life truly is good!
Tomorrow will be eleven months since my aortic valve replacement and ascending aortic repair took place. Overall I am doing well. I continue to try to find a way to get more and consistent exercise into my schedule, but I do get some and will continue the fight on that front.
Last Saturday we brought a wonderful rescue pug into our home and he has so livened my heart! I had missed my English Bulldog desperately. She passed in January after 12 lovely years with us. Mr. B is a joy. He is 8 years old and has quickly claimed the house, yard, and my heart!
Speaking of my heart, most pain in my sternum is gone. I have been having sharp little pains today in my chest. If I don't record on my year anniversary, you will know I should have had them checked out. (Sorry - heart patient gallows humor! :-) ). Truly I think it is likely stress pains from an extended teary bout yesterday. Sometimes I still have those, usually when I have gone too long without exercise to work out stress. As life will do, it continues to throw stress up like the mud from wheels escaping a soggy hole. One of my fantasies as i recovered from surgery was that I would put all stress into perspective and be the calm in the storm thereafter. Turns out I am human! But the good news is that the blues from the surgery have slowly faded into the past and overall I am happy again.
I hope and pray that each of you going through surgery and recovery will find the great support and strength this site afforded me and those who were going through around the same time. Each new wave of folks builds a new chapter into this community. It has become an awesome place to learn, relax, grow, share, and face the future. Hugs to each of you!
Hello to my heart valve fellow travelers! I am coming up on my 10th month anniversary. Things are going very well. I wish I could get some weight off, but I am walking more and even jogging a bit on my treadmill. I actually break into a sweat but am not short of breath for quite awhile. That is so exciting! Today have had low blood pressure all day. Not sure why but I will see my cardiologist in a couple of weeks and if it persists maybe I can drop down to a lower strength BP med. that would be nice. But honestly, none of my meds have been problematic (other than cost! :-)).
My depression seems to be a thing of the past. I have a lingering feeling that I am especially fragile or vulnerable in some way and that I may not live very long. That is disconcerting but I think it is a completely normal reaction to having this type of surgery. But I don't let it get to me. I just keep making plans and doing as much as I can of things I love and ask God to take care of those worries and feelings. Not a thing I can do about it anyway so not going to succumb to fear paralysis!
For some reason I have been especially missing my bulldog this past week. Has brought me to tears several times. I lost her in January and this hasn't been any kind of "anniversary" or anything. I just miss her unconditional acceptance, her silliness, and her sheer joy when I would come home. Curt loves to see me too, but his reaction is definitely more subdued than was hers! :-). Hug your sweet animals! They are a special treasure.
I have many of you in my prayers as you move toward surgery or through recovery. I don't comment as often on posts because I see a new group of folks are doing so and that is what makes this place so amazing! As each one shares of their experiences, we all grow and learn, are comforted, given hope, and prepared for some of the inevitable ups and downs. Hugs to all of you!
Coming up on my 9th month! My depression has lifted CONSIDERABLY (there is hope, folks!). My memory issues are still a bother, but I work in a demanding job and so far no complaints that it is interfering with my ability to function well in that environment. I can tell - and I know that those who know me very well can tell - but overall I can see improvements and I am very encouraged.
I find that I am looking much more seriously at identifying ways to do more of the things that I find useful, hopeful, creative, joyful, etc. I am keenly aware that, although I hope to live another 20 years or more, none of us have any guarantees about length or quality of life as we cross the 60 year threshold in general and more specifically when we have been through such major surgery. It's just an extra strike. But it is NEVER a bad thing to take a closer look at whether we are living a fully present/fully conscious life. Every day is very precious, every sunset a joy and every sunrise a sweet promise!
Now - about that vertigo issue! My vertigo started several months ago "out of the blue". I literally woke up after a very deep midday nap and when I stood up was very dizzy. I found every day thereafter that if I looked up high (as when looking at the top shelf at a grocery store, for example), I would get progressively more dizzy until I lowered my head. At night - EVERY night - when I would lay down the whole room would start to spin and it literally felt as though I were on an amusement ride.
I visited with my Family doc who thought it might be an inner ear issue. He wanted me to rule that out first. I went to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. After a few minutes he told me he was almost certain of my issue. He performed a very simple set of head tilts to confirm that I had BPPV. He then performed another set of very simple maneuvers of my head and my vertigo was GONE! He said that about 80% of patients with BPPV have a positive outcome from the maneuvers he performed. If it recurs then he asked that I come back to see him, but he said if I got through about 10 days without it coming back it probably was gone for good.
I know a LOT of folks suffer with vertigo post surgery. This is a particular kind of vertigo and certainly is not anything folks should self-diagnose. But if you have vertigo with similar symptoms as those I have described, I do encourage you not to give up hope but to consider asking your physician whether or not you should be further evaluated for BPPV. It is truly a blessing to be able to look up and to lay down without suddenly feeling nauseous and like I might black out!
Hugs to all of you who are recovering and to those who are facing surgery! You are in my thoughts and prayers. This is a challenging recovery process - and very personal to each individual. I hope that you will tell your stories and reach out to others to encourage them. This site is such a huge blessing in helping each of us get through the process. And it continues to grow in value as each person adds their experiences, advice, encouragement, and collective hope for a blessed future.
If you haven't seen Adam's post on the Edward's study, be sure to take time to read. The good news is that their study of a particular bovine valve showed it had a 17 year lifespan. That is very encouraging news for those of us who have bovine valves or are considering one. We knew, going in, that we might be lucky enough to live so much longer that we would need a replacement valve. Personally that would be awesome in my books if I got 17 years instead of the 10 a lot of folks predict. But who knows? Every day is a gamble; those of us who have faced this kind of surgery have had that shoved in our face but it is true of everyone. We just didn't have to believe it really applied to us. But now our very heartbeats remind us of our mortality.
Life at eight months out is better than six months out. My depression still pops up but is much much better; down times are less severe and less lengthy. Exercise helps. Enough sleep helps a LOT. A lower fat diet helps too. My memory issues are slower to recover but I do see progress. I have stopped worrying about it so much since there is not a lot I can do to fix it. I take more notes and try to just keep moving forward. Again, sleeping enough helps a lot with this also. My work is very demanding and that actually helps. It is embarrassing to forget names and simple terms but having to work out problems helps me keep exercising the few brain cells that do still fire correctly!
My incision area hurts from time to time but nothing an Aleve won't handle 90% of the time. Sleeping on my side for very long - either side - isn't possible yet. I feel like my sternum is going to fold in half. But it doesn't interfere with my sleep.
I sometimes feel very fragile and emotional. It comes on when I am tired and achy and I start worrying about whether or not I will die suddenly. It is silly but normal for heart patients. I hope that will slowly fade too. There is a lot to be said for being at least a LITTLE oblivious to our own mortality!
Prayers for everyone on the way to surgery and on the road to recovery! It is worth the wait and the pangs of recovery. Life is good.
My mood has definitely lifted compared to the last few months. There are hard days, but overall I am feeling less depressed. That is a good feeling.
I still have vertigo when I look up and scheduled visit with my GP to see if I can ignore and it will get better or if need more tests. Hopefully we can just do wait and see. I definitely do not want any more surgeries for awhile!
Going to the dentist tomorrow for first time after surgery. Have to take antibiotics beforehand so have timer set. Why a timer? Because my memory is really causing me some issues. Very frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. I get frightened sometimes but there isn't anything to be done. I had to have the surgery or die. I would rather have some memory issues.
My incision really hurt yesterday and today. Not sure why. Used heating pad and took a hydrocodone and it was tolerable.
Hurt my shoulder lifting hand weights so will have doc look at that. Remember Rosanna Rosanna Danna from Saturday Night Live: "If it's not one thing it's another!" I don't go around detailing all these aches and pains with others. I just list them here in case it helps someone out there wondering if they are alone with one pain or another.
I still feel lots of anxiety about not recovering to be me again. I am not ready to say this is the new normal. Still fighting for more. See lots of promising postings out there from folks further along than me. Sometimes I get really afraid that I will die before I get back to feeling myself. But I don't stay in that spot for long. That's something none of us know or control.
Hugs and prayers for those whose dates are set and for those in recovery. Post so others can learn and be comforted by your progress! Life is good!
Well made it past the six months mark and still kicking!
I want to give another round of thanks to Dr. Raul Villalon, my family practitioner who first did all he could to get me to take the heart murmur more seriously and get it checked. To Dr. Raul Santos and staff who took great care in my diagnosis and gave me the news straight up and with great compassion. To Dr. William Ryan who stood over my opened chest for hours to repair the damage. To the wonderful folks at the Heart Hospital of Plano who helped me through those early days with such grace and mercy.
To my sweet husband who was a rock for me. And to friends and to my precious son and daughter in life who encouraged me through recovery and throughout this unusual and unexpected journey to find myself. I am not there yet but I take great hope from those who have gone ahead of me and in the bits of light I see from time to time.
To those who are waiting for surgery I want to tell you that you must have courage. There is often no other recourse if you want to stay alive. That is the way life is every waking moment but we seldom experience it in such a clear way. It takes courage to move ahead. Not valor - the kind of courage we see in our service men and women. That courage is a kind of self sacrifice that overlooks self preservation. But don't kid yourself.
It takes COURAGE to face the uncertainties of surgery and recovery. You may not think you have enough. But you do. Each time you get up and move around after surgery you are expressing courage. You are actively fighting back and seeking the way home to life again.
Life at six months post surgery is better than life at four months post. There are struggles and sometimes I fear I will never be truly me again. I am not certain what that means. Who WILL I be in the coming months and years?
But there is no going back or changing anything that has happened. Hope looks forward and I have always been blessed with hope.
This I know: Exercise as much as you are allowed and can handle. Find ways to challenge your brain to keep it healing and adapting. Eat well and sleep as much as your body requires. Find things that make you laugh. I use videos of silly dogs and cats. Find your way to your new normal before making drastic changes that may saddle you with consequences or regrets. If you need to be alone or with people, busy or quiet, walking or sitting, whatever it is find the courage to say so and do it. This is not the time to be too worried about what others want or think. Those who love you will understand and those who don't just have to deal with it however they can. When you feel better, do what makes you happy and what brings you joy. It will make those who love you very happy to see you so. Reach out to others for help. It also helps them. You will be back on the giving side again. Be a receiver for now.
I spent the last three days at a seminar by Shara Reiner. She paints these lovely fun, quirky flowers that are bright and cheerful and full of color. She also paints these odd little angels with strange faces. It was such a lovely time. I was completely exhausted each day and on Saturday I came home and went so deeply asleep my husband had a hard time waking me up. It was completely draining. And I feel awful today - but I'm only thinking of the last three days and not going to focus on how awful I feel right now. I woke up terribly dizzy and it has stuck with me all day. If it keeps up, I'll have to see the doc. But for now, I'm looking at the fun and lovely things I painted. I'm not particularly talented at painting, but I truly enjoy it. We did some mixed media and that was a wonderful experience.
I'm going to start a blog of my own. I have so enjoyed writing here and will continue to do so. But I also want to explore some other aspects of my life beyond this surgery and recovery. Right now it is like the capital "A" of my life and everything I see/do/feel/think seems to come back to it. If I feel a pain in my chest, it is never just mild indigestion, it is always a fear of something geing wrong. I think it is normal to feel this way after such a huge event. But it will be nice when it fades a bit from the forefront of everything.
I'm coming up on my sixth month post surgery. I had hoped it would be a defining turning point but I think it will be more of a non-event. I was reading that the average person takes between 9-12 months to recover from this surgery. I am always right at the top of the bell curve on everything medial so I'm expecting my 10th or 11th month to be when I actually notice a difference.
I just want to send a word out to those folks who worry that they are not being "grateful" enough if they are not 100% thankful for where they are right now. It's OK! We can only feel what we feel. God knows us a whole lot better than we know ourselves and He knows all the things that we have to add with an asterisk* to our comments. You know what I'm talking about: I feel like crud - but *I am really grateful that I got such great medical care; or I feel depressed that I cannot participate in my own life at the level I want to right now - but *I feel really blessed when I compare myself to others with "real" issues. You name it, I know we have said it to ourselves or friends or family. It's really OK to say we are not where we want to be at this point in time. We ARE grateful. We ARE blessed. We ARE so very very happy to be alive. And God knows this about us. Don't be afraid to admit to yourselves or to those you love and trust that you aren't there yet. There is no use in pretending. If they love and care for us - they can see it.
All of you who have been down this trail ahead of us: THANK YOU. Thank you for posting as you begin to feel better - it gives us hope too! Thank you for posting as you begin to get back your interest in things that you feared would never return! Thank you for posting about renewed energy and hope for the future! Don't ever underestimate how much those posts mean to those of us coming up from behind. We need to hear from you - six months, nine months, a year and more out. Please keep that light shining for us!
Hugs and blessings to everyone waiting! It is hard to recover - but there are people to help along the way and lighten the load. Hugs to those who have just had their surgery and are on the way. There is no script for all this - just take it a day at a time.
Today I am plain sick of trying to be strong, put on the happy face, apologizing for feeling crummy and grumpy. I just want to lay down in the middle of the floor and flail and wail! That's me in this moment. My port holes feel like tubing is still stuck in there (it isn't). My wrist, where the large IV was put in aches. I feel "not me" and am just sick of it! I am tired of napping and sitting. I am tired of not sleeping well. I am tired of checking my blood pressure. I am fed up with dreaming that my heart has stopped and no one but me knows it! Or the one where the surgeon is operating on me and I am watching - wide awake and asking "Is this normal?" I am frustrated that things still hurt, that I think of things I used to do and they seem like another person. And I want her back.
It isn't always like this. But sometimes it is. I don't like it. I don't like myself like this. But there it is.
I have a Quaker Parrot named Pickles. I originally got her years ago to keep our cockatiel, Peachie, company. After her arrival, I finally got up the courage to get my long hoped for English Bulldog, Pumpkin. Yes, all food names. No deep-seated psychological issue involved. They each were the color of the food for which they were named.
Peachie died a few years back. She literally flew into our lives and yard so we did not know her true age. But we think she may have died at about 18-20 years old. Pickles missed her for some time and would call her name. She still talks about her to this day, reminding us that "Peachie is a pretty bird."
Pumpkin died in January at the age of eleven. She would have been twelve in May. I miss her like another part of my heart was cut out but not replaced. I want her back so much. Pickles continues to call for her verbally, like the echo of my heart.
Over the years, Pickles has become what is known as "cage-dominant". it is a common problem and means she would no longer let us hold or stroke her or remove her from her cage. she would come out when she chose, but rejected us completely. Quakers have a wicked-hard bite which draws blood so it becomes a circular avoidance issue.
Today, I moved Pickle's cage to a different part of the room. I could see the fear in her eyes. After letting her sit in the new area a few minutes, I put my finger in the cage, told her to "step up" and she DID. That 10 foot move changed her pattern and surroundings just enough that she could allow herself to be picked up. I had her do this over and over and each time she was more confident and relaxed. Right now she is sleeping hard. Sound familiar?
This past week, I started riding the train to work. I also started getting up at 5:00 am. I get home at 5:00 pm and I have been able to EXERCISE! Although tired, I am feeling so much happier! These two changes in my routine have given me hope that I can gain back my peace of heart/mind and my strength. I was actually surprised at how easy it has been to make the change. Always a night owl, this new timing has been energizing!
Change is tough. It is easy to get mentally "cage dominant". And some changes, like the loss of loved ones, home, or health is really really tough. But making a necessary change can open doors to new insights, new people, renewed energy, new experiences, hope, a future of possibility.
Hoping and praying for those on the eve of surgery that you can quiet your anxiety and know that afterwards life is going to be different but with the greatest possibility of being much better than before. Embrace the possibility of this wonderful upcoming change! Step up!
My blood pressure is finally stabilizing! Yahoo! It is right around 112/80 - sometimes a bit more and sometimes a bit less. Still a bit higher than before surgery but definitely better than 155/105 - one of my worst readings ever.
Last week was one of the roughest for me since about my seventh week post-op. I felt terrible every day, couldn't get enough sleep, was weepy and very depressed. But last night and today I slept a LOT and wow what a difference! I used to be able to be up all hours of the night, sleep five or six hours and be fine. But when there is a lot going on, and especially stressful things, everyone needs more rest. Not just those of us who are on this journey. I need to stop underestimating the power of restorative sleep and just embrace it as life-affirming and valuable.
I've gotten some additions to the Top 10 unexpected benefits of valve surgery. You all are such a hoot and I love coming to this site. Your stories inspire, encourage, and motivate me. Hugs to all and hope these make you giggle!
1. Hair doesn't grow on the scar tissue. At my age it grows just about every place else so this is a nice plus.
2. High fives from perfect strangers who happen to see the top of the scar when wearing a lower neckline. They are thrilled to meet another person who has been down the same trail as themselves.
3. You are a shoo-in for most "scar smackdwns" - in quantity of scars if not quality!
4. Everyone gets a new birthdate! from Aida and Steve Bond
5. If you have a mechanical valve, you no longer have to feel for a pulse, If it is quiet you can hear it! from John O'Neill
6. And from my "lesson" this past week - it gives you a TERRIFIC excuse for a nap whenever you need one. Whose going to tell a heart patient no to that request?!
Have a great evening and Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow!!! We have truly found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow through this live-saving surgery!
My blood pressure continues to go up and down throughout the day - but the overall pattern is definitely getting better. Same old tune on not working out enough. I'm very very discouraged with myself on that front. My husband is doing a great job of helping me with the DASH diet. My pain is really only a bother now if I overdue significantly by lifting, driving, sitting still too long. Since the HBP diagnosis I have struggled quite a bit with depression and being unexpectedly teary. It is aggravating and I will be glad when it stops.
Fatigue and any additional stress seem to play a big part. Days when I get enough rest are definitely better than when I don't. Sleeping in bed still hurts sometimes and wakes me up. After a few nights of that I usually head for the recliner for a night or two and that helps.
Stress is a little tougher to manage but I try to take lots of deep breaths, move around a bit, remind myself that lots and lots of progress have been made. The fatigue and the stress play off each other so keeping both to a minimum really helps a lot. I go out and read the other "newbies" entries and it reminds me of how far along each month takes us toward full recovery.
I have put a note on my computer with the date of my 6th month anniversary (4/23) so I can look forward to feeling better. I know it won't be perfect at that point - but it reminds me that I'm still healing. Once I hit 6 months, I'll put up a reminder for 9 then 1 year because I know that I will continue to do better and better as time passes.
To make myself laugh, I've been thinking of the top 10 unexpected benefits of valve surgery. I don't have all 10 just yet - but have a few:
1. Hair doesn't grow on the scar tissue. At my age it grows just about every place else so this is a nice plus.
2. High fives from perfect strangers who happen to see the top of the scar when wearing a lower neckline. They are thrilled to meet another person who has been down the same trail as themselves.
3. You are a shoo-in for most "scar smackdwns" - in quantity of scars if not quality!
Prayers to all for a wonderful evening and speedy and uneventful recovery!
Went to doctor on March 5th (my 60th birthday!) and my blood pressure was good. When I take it at home in the morning and evening, it is still high - but better than it was. So I think the meds are starting to kick in. I hope I can stick with just the 20 mg and not have to take more. No bad effects other than a tiny bit of digestive discomfort. Can definitely live with that. My heart is pounding really hard these last few weeks. But I think I am just being especially sensitive. I've been able to hear it very loud and clear since surgery - so that is not new. But it just seems to be "working harder". Again - I think I'm just being overly sensitive because I'm aware of the HBP now. I hope my numbers start falling more in the normal range throughout the day soon. That will definitely help me feel less concerned.
Stress is starting to get better as I get more determined/feel less guilty when I have to admit I just cannot take on one more thing or when I need to get up and move around a bit. I took my hand weights to work and now I can stand up for a few minutes and just do a few repetitions and feel better.
I am starting to paint a bit more, crochet, get the house in order. I am able to do things like housework or walking with more intensity and less fatigue. Each of those feel so great as I have less fatigue. I'll have to watch my night owl habits and not stay up too late because I can definitely tell when I'm not getting enough rest.
For each of us who have gone through this surgery, I pray that we will heal and be able to return to a fully active life. I hope our lives are blessed by these lessons in patience, hope and persistence. And I pray that each of us will have many more healthy years ahead of us to enjoy the sweet rewards of this hard-earned recovery!
While I am a skeptic about much of what I read on the Internet (being considerably older than it is...), I still troll for lots of information in regard to my recent surgery and recovery. Of course I am grateful that led to finding this site and Adam's book. But sometimes I think I can research too much and just make myself afraid and depressed. Like coming across the statistic that survival rates after aortic surgery average seven years. Sounds pretty bad until you dig into the actual study and find that most people who had surgery until in very recent years already had some significant symptoms or other health issues. And the study itself is now more than 7 years old. Lots has happened in those seven years.
But one thing that does turn up pretty frequently is the shortened lifespan of valves under pressure from hypertension. And that scares me. I don't want to go through this again in a year or two. It makes me worry that I made the wrong valve choice (relax, newbies, there isn't a "right" choice - just recommendations).
One recent study about hypertension in particular makes it pretty clear that regular exercise CAN help lower blood pressure. So this is now truly a critical need for my recovery. It isn't an option and it isn't something I can delay while I take care of other things. Like any other med I have to take, I also need to "take" my exercise.
Folks, if you can, and for as long as you can, get cardiac rehab on your "must do" list for post surgery recovery. I had to stop much too soon and I believe this is partly to blame for my fight right now. It can take up to four weeks for these meds to show a positive result. We doubled the dose after the first week showed no change. Fortunately, I don't seem to have any negative reactions to the meds. But it is scary for me since many members in my family history died of strokes - frequently a side effect of HBP. But my biggest fear is harming my newly mended heart. Overall pain has gone down immensely. Fatigue is getting better. Now need to get over this hurdle and keep pushing toward a long and healthy future!
My prayers to all going through surgery soon. I won't say waiting is the worst any longer - but I will say that afterwards you feel like you finally have something you can "do" that can truly make a difference. Every nap, walk, glass of water, and healthy food you eat will yield amazing results in those early weeks. The blues or even dark days of depression may come, but if you continue to fight back with healthy habits, things WILL get better.
This past Friday I had followups with my cardiologist and primary care physician. My blood pressure had shot up quite high in both systolic and diastolic. This is a concern because continued high blood pressure shortens the life of the biological valve and can cause it to malfunction.
We had some high levels of stress going on the past few weeks and especially last week. They told me stress is a factor for high blood pressure. Also, just the increased blood flow itself, salt intake, lack of exercise and being overweight are all factors.
So I am on an ACE inhibitor and an increased level of Cymbalta and have two weeks to get the numbers under control or we will have to look at additional options. I am immediately further reducing my salt and sugar intake, starting on the DASH diet (which is pretty much how we eat anyway), and getting in 30 minutes minimum daily exercise. I am also working with my Managers at the office to change some approaches to my work that were feasible four or five years ago but just no longer possible - and were likely never that good for me. I really do make things harder on myself than I need to which leads to stress. I hope I can learn to do better in that area in this last third of my life.
I have never had high blood pressure so this is all new to me. I didn't realize the better valve opening size could cause higher blood pressure. It is counter-intuitive in some ways. It scared me because my doctors were so immediately and seriously concerned. They are both pretty calm and easy going. But they made it really clear this is something that has to get under control right away. Taking readings several times each day and hopefully will see improvement right away. Will keep you posted on how this works out.
In many ways I am always shocked when I add up the time - and so little has passed by. It seems like ages ago that I was worrying about my surgery, then having it, then home for recovery! It seems impossible that I haven't yet hit the "magic" six month mark! I put that in quotes because everyone tells me recovery will change significantly at that point. But I am not holding on to that too tightly. You see, each of us recovers in a different way depending on so many different factors.
I was blessed that I did not have too many symptoms before my surgery. They were there -especially as I look back. But frankly I had felt bad for so long that I didn't really notice it was getting worse. Now I know MUCH more about feeling better!
I was also blessed that there wasn't a lot of drama going on in my life to add stress. There was some -but many people have terrible issues going on in family, work, etc. Had my surgery been needed two years ago, my recovery would have been fraught with additional stress. It makes a huge difference in recovery.
And I am blessed with good insurance, kind people at work, and friends and family who are close, mobile, and caring. Many people face isolation, distance from family and friends who are unable to travel easily. This makes a big difference in recovery.
And for whatever reason, I am a born optimist. Everyone feels some depression when facing and recovering from major surgery. And i did (still do) have periods that were dark with the fear that i would never be "me" again. But people with an optimistic slant on life have an advantage. That DOES NOT mean that being depressed will ruin your recovery, but it makes it tougher on you and those caring for you.
In four short months I have gone from not being able to walk down the hospital hallway to walking a fast clip for over a mile. Now that is laughable to those amazing folks who were back doing half marathons in that same time period. God bless them that they are doing so well! But I am an average person medically and I think most folks are clustered around my level at this point in recovery. Would I like to be further along? You bet! But I am also grateful to be THIS far along!
I am back at work and probably doing a bit more than I should be at this point. But again, I really was fearful that I would never be able to work well again. I am, and I can just fine, thank you very much. My struggle is to not fall back into pre-surgery stress and coping mechanisms. I want more from life now than work, work, work.
I just returned last night from the longest car drive since surgery. My husband and I drove to Tulsa. I drove about 200 miles and then turned the rest over to him. I hurt head to toe today - but I know it will not kill me and I will feel progressively better as I rest today. Just driving to work made me hurt this bad a month ago.
Every day is better. There are little bumps along the way, but overall my quality of life continues to grow and emerge from the point of surgery forward. It will for you too. Have faith in your body's pace of healing. Push yourself a little, but respect the need to rest and recoup. Draw those deep magnificent breaths of air and give thanks for each one! Life is so precious, so very much worth living!
This post is mainly for me. Sometimes writing things out is a form of stress relief for me and I need it right now. Once again I am working through lunch and foregoing my daily walk and evening exercise because I am stressed out wanting to get everything done at the same pace as preop. Well, I am getting it done, but I am shooting myself in the foot at the same time. If I do not devote time to physical activity and stress relief, I am going to be back on this post reporting worse problems. No one but me is doing this to me. At nearing 60, I don't want to miss this lesson. I don't have to do horrible hard physical labor at my job and my home has most modern conveniences so I am blessed that I have choices to make that most of the world would give their eye teeth to have as options. Shame on me if I can't figure this out and make it work!
Passed my three months post-op this past Tuesday! Overall things are good. I have been surprised by more pain than I expected at this point. After 90 days the average sternum should be reknitted but evidently that doesn't mean all the other tissues are finished healing.
In reading other posts, I see that the range is pretty wide for when this healing occurs and the pain becomes more of a thing in the past than an everyday reminder. I won't wish away the next three months but won't deny I am looking forward to less daily pain.
I try to stay off hydrocodone for this stage. Sometimes it is still needed, but sometimes Aleve will do the trick. Sometimes a moist heating pad works best of all.
My husband and I are hoping to go on a couple of vacations this year. Short but to fun places. That comes straight from this experience. Life is unpredictable. We have to face each day as if more will follow because otherwise we would go nuts. But we also have to live mindfully that the days are numbered for each of us. None of us are guaranteed our next breath.
That realization can either scare us into being frozen by fear or into being stupid and self centered. Or it can help us live a life that is true to our core values. It can help us live thankfully for the gifts we receive each day. It can help us live hopefully that we might help another on their way with kindness and generosity. This life we have been given is so precious and I am so grateful to have it - even with the pain and fatigue and uncertainties included! They seem awfully insignificant when compared to the joy of being alive!
This week was a huge challenge for me at work. It was one of those where you barely have time to stop for a bathroom break! But I got away from my desk every day for lunch. I did not get as much walking in terms of my walk at work or at home, but did get in some. I so wish I could have stayed off just a bit longer and gotten in more rehab. But I am very grateful for my job and for the rehab I was able to get. Try to get as much as you can! It really pays off!
Walking up the stairs in my home now is nothing! It used to make me winded to go up even once and now I don't even think about it! Yay! I get through all my laundry and cleaning at least one room without too much discomfort. I have to take breaks, but less than a few weeks ago. I cannot stay up late in the evening like I could before surgery. Body just insists on adequate sleep while healing. That's a good thing.
My sweet husband has a bad back that goes out on him sometimes. It chose yesterday to act up. So I was able to fuss over him and get cold wraps and heat wraps, meals and such. He even slept in one of the recliners in the front room, along with me in the other. Although I hate that he was hurting, I was truly grateful to help him for a change.
Our loved ones sure draw the short straw in this situation! They go through all that anxiety of the waiting and surgery and ups and downs of recovery, and I think they are a bit overlooked. We get the encouragement, cards, support, attention and cheers, and they give, give, give. I don't know how I could have gotten through all this without the love of my husband, son, and many sweet friends. I pray God will bless them as much as they blessed me (and continue to do so)!
The commute and sitting and talking at work still make my chest very sore, but it is tolerable if I get enough sleep. It is frustrating but I do have to devote part of my weekend time to napping. Some folks love to nap but I find it irritating to have to stop what I am doing. But man does it feel great when I wake up!
Life is so precious. I feel so blessed to have come this far so quickly and without a serious bump in my progress. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you waiting and those in recovery. Some parts are difficult, but it is so worth every bit of effort!
Today I had the great joy of going to paint with one of the clubs I belong to. When leaving the painting session, I saw a piece of a jigsaw puzzle laying printed side down on the very wet parking lot. It wasn't an edge piece, but one of those that fits somewhere on the inside. I felt a pang for the person who lost it. Nothing is more frustrating than getting a puzzle done and finding you are missing a piece.
I thought how similar that is to working our way toward this surgery. We are shown the "picture" of our broken hearts and told what needs to be done to make it whole. Then we take that handful of facts and are left to put the pieces together to make that picture unfold.
We start with the edges: finding a qualified surgeon, getting insurance lined out, getting paperwork done, tests scheduled, hospitals contacted. Then we move to the inside and start trying to manage keeping our nerves together. We create our Advanced Directives, wills, inform our families. Arrange for child care, elder care, pet care. We consider which type of valve is best for us.
As the big day approaches, and the picture becomes more defined, we get the nagging feeling we are missing a piece. We hope it is one that won't matter; maybe it will be just one of those toward the edge that we could cover with a frame and no one would know. But in the late evening hours, we fear we are missing the central piece; the one that ties everything together.
For those getting ready to undergo this adventure, I want to encourage you not to fret that you are overlooking something that will somehow sabotage your surgery or recovery. You are not. I think what is missing is that we want 100% assurance everything will be ok. Of course no major surgery has that guarantee. But take "heart" that this type of surgery is improving even as you read these posts.
Advances in anesthesia, surgery procedures, the various types of valves, even the management of Coumadin regulation are all continuing to improve. Your surgeon didn't get his or her reputation as an excellent surgeon by screwing up!
The chances of not surviving this surgery are about as low as any major surgery could be. In fact, I face more odds of dying in my daily 45 mile commute than I did under the surgeon's knife.
The missing piece in this big puzzle is very, very small! Ask for support from friends and family, pray, and don't let that missing piece cloud your view of the beautiful picture being created: your renewed life with a healthy heart!
One of the things I wanted to try to keep going when I returned to work was my exercise routine. I vowed that I would NOT sit at my desk for hours on end without walking about, would not eat at my desk, and would exercise when I got home and feed my soul with more than a steady diet of TV. Well, the past five days have seen all those plans fall apart.
On Saturday I was so exhausted from my first few days back at work I mainly sat around. On Sunday my beloved bulldog passed away and I spent that day and the next crying so much I thought my wire sutures were going to come through to the surface. I did work from home on Monday, and my memory was ok - I was just very distressed. Tuesday I was back at work and did get in one walk. But in the evening, coming home and not seeing my sweet dog at the door was awful. Our kids came by and we went through photos and got together toys and such for their puppy and that helped a lot. Today we had a major rollout and I worked a 12 hour day almost nonstop, ate lunch at my desk and no walking and more sadness at home.
The "good" news is that today proved out to me that my mental functions are coming back strong. I am going to be fine in terms of work.
So this has been a tough week. But tomorrow I will walk. I will work as efficiently as I can and for a reasonable time. I will "be present" for family and friends, I will feed my soul and encourage others as best I can. Life is rich and full and I want to live it and not just survive it.
As I have shared before, I was really nervous about returning to work. I was frightened that my stamina and my mental function (memory) would be too poor for me to do a good job. As it turned out, both were put to the test, but neither ended up as bad as I feared.
First, the stamina. I tried really hard to get to bed on time each night. I did not struggle with feeling sleepy at all, but I could tell I was stressed because my blood sugar acted up. I would get ravenous about 10:00 and again in the afternoon. If I delayed in getting something, I felt physically sick. But as long as I had healthy snacks and a good lunch I could keep going just fine. I work at a computer most of the day and had to be conscious of my posture to keep my chest from hurting. My commute takes nearly an hour in crazy traffic. Had to clutch my heart pillow pretty tight to keep my chest from hurting too much. I plan to start taking our rail system next week which should be better.
Each afternoon, a friend at work joined me in a quick walk indoors. That helped relieve both mental stress and feeling physically stiff.
One unexpected thing that was both joyful and tiring was meeting and greeting everyone. I loved that and laughed and talked a lot. But it is tiring and eventually made my incision hurt. So take along your pain meds even if you haven't used any in awhile!
Now, the mental. First day was emotionally stressful for me on that front. Common terms were difficult to recall and I was terrified I had forgotten my actual work. But as the first day ticked along, my confidence improved. By the second day, I felt better still. I am definitely taking more time to get things done, but I am not sure most people would know that if they were just looking over my shoulder. Today was better even though I was much more fatigued overall. I am not 100% by any stretch. But with the progress I have seen in three days, I definitely feel encouraged that I am eventually going to get to 100% or awfully close.
This post is already very long so I will save some things for another time. I will just close by encouraging everyone to do all they can to get in SOME rehab before returning to work. If formal rehab is not possible, work with your doctor to devise a home plan. No special equipment is needed. Work in as much walking and eventually some light weight lifting (canned goods from the pantry are a good starting weight). Be sure your doctor approves and if you are doing this at home try to have someone with you - especially the first few days. You don't want to fall down if you get dizzy and not have someone there! Anything you can work in will make a positive difference!
Hugs to all those waiting! It is maddening - but once over, your time will speed up as you move through recovery. You will do great! To those in recovery - God speed you on your way to a healthier life ahead!
Yesterday was my last day in the Cardiac Rehab program at Medical Center of Lewisville. They were terrific and the few weeks there helped me regain a good deal of my stamina and strength. I know I must continue the good work started there by exercising at home, but I will truly miss the comraderie and encouragement I received and could give others while there.
Along with exercise, the rehab offers nutrition education and also monitors mental health. It is well known that cardiac patients often encounter bouts of depression and the rehab folks give mood indicator tests throughout the time in their program. My last test indicated I was still a bit "down". I know that once I get back to work and over my jitters about that I will feel very relieved.
I have worked all my life - since the age of twelve - and I am afraid it "defines" a good deal of my self perception as "worthy" or " unworthy". That is actually not a good measuring stick because of just what I am going through now. Sometimes life takes work away - either through illness, the economy, retirement, needs of others, etc. Tying my value to that is a sure recipe for depression. And add in the inability to do much of anything else and feeling helpless in some situations, and a person is guaranteed to feel sad and somewhat worthless.
There is a lesson in this and my prayer is that God will not let me miss the opportunity to "get it". I cannot make myself not feel what I feel, but I can keep it in perspective. Of course I am not "worthless". At my weakest, I can still be grateful for what I do have and can do, for surviving, for the love of friends and family and so much more. I can also offer prayers for those in need and can offer an encouraging word. I can accept the support and kindness of others - which is a gift both to me and to the giver.
If someone is experiencing a deep depression in which they cannot muster any sense of self value, joy in anything, a feeling of helplessness and low value, please reach out to your family and friends and ask for assistance in finding a professional to help. Talk to your rehab Team. There is no shame in needing help. A cardiac event changes you mentally and physically and sometimes those changes are overwhelming. There is help available. Each of us has been given a chance for continued and usually vastly improved life. Don't let depression rob you of that joy. I am keeping an eye on myself and if my outlook does not vastly improve as I return to more normal activities, or if it should take an unexpected downward turn, I plan to reach out for more structured help. Life is so precious!
Happy New Year to all and many prayers of healing to those in recovery. Those of you waiting, don't waste time worrying!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas! Our son and daughter in law came by for dinner and gift exchange. It was such a delight! I laughed so much my incision area hurt. It was wonderful!
We had a bit of a white Christmas but in true Texas style it is already turning to ice instead. Those commuting tomorrow may have a rough morning. I don't mind that I will be home through that for just a bit longer!
To all anticipating surgery, do your best not to worry. It is wasted energy and doesn't change a thing. To those who have had their surgeries, do your best to move around as much as your body allows. Get into rehab if circumstances allow and stay with it as long as you can - you will be so glad you did!
Hugs and prayers to all and wishing you a Happy New Year!
Today was nicely normal. I did too much moving yesterday so got up slow. But gathered speed as day went forward. My husband gave me an amazing Christmas gift. He built a longgggggg table in our computer area so I could get all the computers and printers contained in one section of the room. It has shelves underneath and is just the right height so I can work comfortably! The room is much more open now.
So after rehab yesterday, i spent the rest of the day pushing the machines around and crawling on the floor to plug everything in. Getting down is not hard, but getting up without putting pressure on the chest by pushing off with arms is a challenge! But I got it done and even printed a few prints for my hubby on his new printer. So my brain at least remembered how to set that up! :-)
Tomorrow we will be married 36 years! I don't know where all that time went! I am so grateful to know this wonderful man and that we are still in love after all that time together! Hopefully this surgery means we won't have any heart troubles on my part for several years. I know we won't have another 36 - we married too old for that barring a crazy miracle. But we will sure have fun trying to get that many more together!
I will likely begin to wind down my entries now that I am at 8 weeks and most of my aches and pains are just the normal ones of healing. I will let everyone know how it goes starting back at work, and other milestones or if/when something occurs I think will be of help/interest to those going through valve surgery. I will keep reading posts and offering any help I can - and especially prayers.
This community is amazing and I have been helped through some scary, tough times by those who have gone through this ahead of me. I will forever be very grateful for their wisdom and kindness.
Merry Christmas to all who have made and are preparing for this journey - and a blessed and Happy New Year to you and your families!
Did some fun things today but for some reason this evening I am all down and depressed. My recovery is going along well, and I am grateful. I think I am just weary of not being able to be "me". I start something and get tired or start to hurt and am reminded "not yet!" But in just a couple of weeks I will be back at work and trying to maintain my exercise routine in the evenings and on weekends and not get exhausted - when I was coming home exhausted before surgery. I just cannot fall back into old routines of not taking care of myself. I have to find a way to get through the day sensibly, accomplishing what I reasonably can and making time for healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. If this experience teaches me any lasting lessons it has to be how precious each day is and that they need to be lived as consciously as possible.
Took a nap this afternoon so now am having hard time getting to bed. thought i would do a quick post. i have been reading the postts of several folks who have just been through surgery and you are in my thoughts and prayers thatt all will move forward well and quickly!
Next Tuesday marks eight weeks from my surgery. I can definitely see lots of improvement in that time. Last couple of weeks have been pretty painful around my incision but I am certain it is the increase in activities that involve my arms and also bending more, rehab work with weights, and driving.
I still cannot sleep on our bed without waking up in really bad pain. i think that is because it is high and I strain more to get settled, and to get up and back in during night. Super grateful to still have use of loaned recliner! I also have to really watch myself because I forget sometimes that I still cannot push or pull much without causing pain. Working around the house it is always tempting to carry something just a tad too heavy or go up and down the stairs too much.
I have started doing crossword puzzles to help me find words in my head better. That has been fun. I made about half of my Christmas cards, but gave myself permission to buy the other half so I wouldn't wear out.
My husband has had a bad cold this week. He is on the mend and I am just praying I can dodge it. Don't want to have any coughing fits right now! Our sweet old English Bulldog has been really sick also, but she had a good day today and I think has turned the corner. So the house has been a big sick bed this week - but improving!
Well, have to try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will have to push through and avoid a nap to get back on a better sleep cycle!
Starting last weekend, my chest started hurting more than it hurt when I first came home. It wasn't the incision so much as the surrounding muscles and under the incision. Not sure how to better describe it. I went to rehab Friday even though I hurt and got through everything and by that evening things started feeling progressively better. If it wasn't better this weekend I was going to call the doc to just be sure it was normal. I thought the really painful part was over so was a bit discouraged.
I don't know for sure, but I think it was driving and the arm work just tapped those areas that were healing and made them hurt. At any rate, I am back to sore and just little bouts of real ouchy pain so feel back on track.
Went on a search of the site and web for memory loss after heart surgery and scared myself. In my 30s and 40s I had an amazing memory. As I have gotten older, it is less stellar. But after surgery I really had some difficult moments finding the right words for sentences and I could not remember the names of spouses of coworkers nor their children's names. It really scared me a lot because I need a clear mind for my work plus who wants to slide into dementia anytime - let alone at 59.
Well, what I read scared me more at first. I guess it is good to know about certain issues, but this is one that even the experts are still debating. More important - what choice do you have when your valve is failing!? So after worrying a bit, I decided that there really is no point. The surgery had to be done. If these memory lapses are going to continue then I will just have to write more down and figure out a way to move on. God did not lead me through this just to drop my hand when I need His help to continue forward! He still has control and He still knows the way forward even though it may not be clear to me.
I return to work right after New Year's. I am nervous but also glad. Truth is I am blessed with liking my job. Like most folks, I sure wouldn't mind winning the lottery and doing other things I enjoy, but since work is something I must do, it is a special blessing to do enjoyable work with good people at a good company. I like to do card making and came across a great stamp the other day. It says "What I'm looking for is a blessing that's NOT in disguise!" Isn't that the truth!? But friends, pets, this site, sweet family, and honorable work are that kind of blessing! May each of you receive undisguised blessings in the coming days!
Yesterday and today have been down days. I figured Tuesday would be down after doing too much on Monday. I took it easy but I couldn't get to sleep on Monday night and again on Tuesday. So today is another down day. Had to skip rehab. Back hurting and chest. Will do some walking later just to get some of my workout in. Not getting enough sleep is the worst part. My mind is going 100 miles an hour when I should be winding down. Aggravating to be low two days in a row but it is just going to happen sometimes. I have been doing more reading and planning lately so maybes that is why I can't sleep. Brain is exercising too! Haha!
Reason for this post is just so folks know it isn't always a straight line to recovery. There are little side trails and bumps along the way. I feel very fortunate that mine have primarily been little ones like this. Frustrating but relatively minor in the big scheme of recovery!
Last week I was given the Ok for short drives in light traffic. Curt went with me on my first few drives as I was concerned about my ability to control the car and moving around to view traffic well. As a result of just a few trips, my chest and shoulder really hurt all weekend. Amazing how inactivity and having your chest cut open can make you tender! :-)
But today, I drove MYSELF to rehab and we got started on my arms. Raising my shoulders hurt and so did holding my arms out to my sides and over my head. But NOW I know that means that the rehab work is going to help. How do I know that? Because that darn recumbent bike which used to make my incision hurt didn't even phase me today! So I was hurting but happy when I went to my next adventure - lunch with a friend.
After lunch (which may not sound like much but talking and laughing make my chest hurt), I drove to my favorite store - JoAnns! BSD (Before Surgery Days), I could walk the aisles for several hours. Today, one was more than enough and I headed to the grocery store.
By the time I finished getting the items for hubby to fix supper, I was ready for bed! I seriously did not feel well at all physically. But mentally I felt great. My husband has been wonderful about taking me anywhere I wanted to go. But sometimes you just want to wander through a store at your own pace without being concerned someone else's time is being impacted. Now that I have experienced this, I hope I can be more sensitive to folks who are dependent on others for rides various places. If they are able, I will be more sensitive about dropping them off and arranging a pickup time so they can have some personal freedom. A friend of mind often prays that she "not miss the lesson" when God walks with her through various situations. This is one I want to remember! And also that I seriously goofed in terms of doing too much and I will be more careful in my future planning. I need to stop at tired and not push it to feeling sick!
One last thing. At rehab they go over your initial information again after several sessions to gauge progress, reset goals, etc. While waiting to make sure my heart rate was stable, I could overhear the session next to me. The person was a feisty octogenarian who walks way faster on the treadmill than i do right now. She was being asked if she still smoked. She said yes. They asked how much she smoked now after several weeks of rehab work. She said "How much did I start at?" The therapist looked it up and told her. She responded, "Well, then that's how much I smoke now!" I could tell from the therapist's expression she was expecting a lower number and I had to quickly look away so I didn't burst out laughing! I am sure that feisty gal's numbers are skewing all the stats they collect on us!
Have a great evening! Don't overdo it, and don't waste one minute worrying if your surgery date is coming up! Save that energy for your rehab work!
Dr. Ryan and his staff were very happy with my progress! I have the go-ahead to start raising my hands over my head and using small hand weights between 3-10 pounds, which means they are going to push me harder at rehab! :-) I can start driving "short distances in light traffic" which means not much in the Dallas area haha!
I got to see a nice clear X-ray of my lungs (which look lovely) and also the wires that lace up my sternum. I can't think too much about the specifics of what was actually done to me or it weirds me out. So seeing the wires was a tad freaky - but also oddly reassuring. When I sneeze it hurts like the dickens and it is hard not to think "something's got to give". But the X-rays make it clear my sternum is laced up like a bionic Christmas turkey and it would take lots more than a sneeze to cause real damage!
We also visited the fifth floor of the hospital to drop off a thank you to the wonderful folks who cared for me. It made me get all teary to see the halls that I could barely navigate while there, and to hear the noises of the monitors. I have come a long way since 10/23!
They were not too worried about my anemia or fatigue and said both are pretty normal. The anemia has gotten much better from when I was in the hospital. They want me to call my GP and schedule another check of the numbers in a couple of weeks. They said healing is tiring and to just keep doing what I am doing with my cardiac rehab, resting, taking iron and I should see a continuing improvement. Lots of folks here on this site and friends who have been through this in the past have encouraged me that it will keep improving. So passing that encouragement along to those who, like me, keep wanting to somehow speed this up. It will happen and we just need to keep "moooooving" along (as Linda would say) or keep on clicking as others might say!
Hugs to all! I don't recommend this journey to anyone BUT the weak of heart. And if you are, hope you will draw courage and strength from the many folks on this site, and Adam who started it all!
Plugging along! Have my first post op visit with my surgeon tomorrow and cardiologist next day. I am concerned about my fatigue and wondering what part post op anemia is playing. My GP was concerned that my numbers were still low after three weeks of iron supplements (a complete misery to the digestive track, by the way!). But I think my heart itself is doing well. Not sure why I feel so nervous about seeing Dr. Ryan tomorrow. Probably a knee jerk reaction since every visit to a doc in past few months has ended up leading to a surgery! Haha!
Having a lot of trouble getting to sleep once I go to bed. I am tired but once in bed I just toss and turn - sometimes for a couple of hours. I am not in pain, although there is still discomfort in incision and drain holes. I have to find a good way to lay my head so the sound of my heartbeat is not too loud. But then it just seems I cannot go to sleep. I am going to try not taking an afternoon nap and just sit to rest instead. But there are some days when if I do not nap I just feel sick. Oh, well, small potatoes overall!
Rehab is going really well. I feel very good during the exercise. Tired afterwards - some days more than others. My appetite is returning to normal but I have to watch the portions. When I overdo I feel awful. Eating sweets and carbs is different now. Tolerance lower than before. I think the healing process just causes all sorts of little mini-changes that morph as the body heals.
Did my first craft today and made some small cafe curtains I needed to place between the legs of a table (to cover the things we have underneath). Took me twice as long as normal to complete but I got it done! Getting back to my painting, crafting, and drums are signposts to being back to normal so this was an exciting development. Silly, I know, but made me very happy to get them done!
I will be looking at posts later to see how folks are doing, but prayers going out now to those of you that have just had or are coming up on surgery! We are very blessed that these surgeries have grown to become as safe and effective as they are. Because of each of us, the future will be even brighter for those who come later!
It hasn't yet been 30 days since my surgery, so I know my expectations are getting the better of me some days. Yesterday I was able to be very active and get a lot done, today I slept or sat in the recliner most of the day. Around 4:00 my husband encouraged me to get up and go with him to the store so I could get some walking in. I felt better after, but spent rest of evening just watching TV.
I keep expecting things to "level out" so that I can better predict my energy level. I start thinking I am being lazy and just need to be more active no matter how I feel. My husband tells me that it is constitutionally impossible for me to be lazy. He also reminds me someone split my chest open, cut open my heart and replaced part of it over a four hour period then wired and glued me back together. And all just a few weeks ago. A low day should be expected from time to time!
I know he is right, but it is hard not to be frustrated or sad and even a little angry. This is really hard since before surgery I was working in a very fast-paced workplace with the need to multi-task and problem solve as quickly as possible. On these low days, it scares me to death that I won't get back those abilities.
Another thing I have noticed on these low days is that I shuffle around like someone much older. I get very protective of my incision area and the sound of my heartbeat is so pronounced I can barely think around it.
So on these low days, I am going to try to focus on standing up straight and dropping that shuffling walk. I am also going to try to do one thing and one thing only so i give it my full focused attention. If I get something else done, that is great, but I will get one thing done and I will remind myself that is something to be proud of at this stage in the recovery game.
I don't know what I will be like in another four weeks, but from reading your posts, I know that I will be doing much better than just under 30 days out. And I truly am not doing too shabby right now. Even though a low day, I did manage a shower, dressing, fixing my own lunch, watering my orchids, sweeping the living room, and gathering the dirty laundry. Oh, and painted my nails and ordered several Christmas presents so they will arrive in plenty of time! And I did take that trip to the store and the post office with my husband. Two weeks ago that would have been a pretty amazing day!
Life is so precious and I am so grateful to have more of it ahead of me to spend with those I love. A low day here and there is not going to change that. Prayers to any of you who are experiencing low days that they will be few and that your continued recovery will be obvious to you and greatly encouraging.
It is so good to be alive! I am often frustrated by how little I can do before resting, and how scattered my thinking is right now. But I think all that is normal for recovery and I am trying to take the good advice of my husband and those on this site and cut myself some slack.
Today in rehab a "newbie" showed up. He is older than me and is using a walker right now. But it was wonderful to see him on the treadmill walking for 7 minutes. His determination and motivation were so encouraging. Made me very grateful for the good results I am seeing in my workouts - even though I have a long way to go too! I will never ever take walking at any pace - but especially briskly - for granted again!
Happy Thanksgiving to all and I pray that those recovering will see continuing progress to encourage them and those facing surgery will be at peace knowing that life is worth this hassle of recovery!
Second rehab today and they pushed me a little harder. Just a little though. The bike hurts my incision but everything else was ok - just tiring. But I read somewhere on this site that eating some protein right after would help. It really did! I haven't crashed yet and it is nearly three hours after class! I am tired, but not completely wiped out!
I decided to be sensible and just do Monday and Wednesday next week and then walk on my treadmill over the holiday to keep on track. I thought three days in a row might make my incision way too sore. They thought that was a good plan also.
I am so grateful for the rehab! I can see that this is going to move me forward faster!
Hugs to everyone and prayers for good recovery and safe and effective surgeries!
I am wiped out! Started the day at 8:00 and actually woke up with my sternum hurting. It is sore like someone has been pressing on it too hard. I started sleeping in bed this week but sometimes I wake myself up because I have moved into an awkward position. I think that may be the problem so back to recliner again tonight.
I went to rehab and did about 8 minutes on a treadmill, a reclining bike, then some step work and warm ups and cool down. Even though I was hurting, the movements felt very healthy and healing! But after I got home and had some lunch, I lay down and didn't wake up until nearly 4:00. I have been pretty much sitting for the rest of the day. I get up and move around, but I am exhausted. So one hour workout with 10 hours rest doesn't sound good. But I know it will get better.
I am sure my anemia has a lot to do with the level of fatigue. Will talk with doc about that but until then keep plugging away and doing the right things.
My incision still has a ways to go to be healed - especially at the top and end of the cut. But the other "holes" are pretty much healed and only the two that were the drains have a little more healing to go.
Guys, you can stop reading here if you want; I have some things to share that primarily impact the ladies.
1. Tried wearing a bra few days ago and it really hurt. Tried again yesterday and same result. It was super soft but still pressed on the incision area (which is probably part of my pain today as well). So I am just wearing layers until things are healed. I am a medium gal so it is likely obvious to anyone really staring, but at my age I doubt that involves many! :-)
2. The shave has finally grown long enough in various places to stop being a misery. I actually was very uncomfortable for nearly a week in some spots. I recommend a product by Lanacaine that is an anti-chafing product. It goes on like a lotion and makes a nice barrier so skin doesn't rub against skin. It also helps keep "stubble" from irritating where it touches.
3. Even with all the fluids, my skin has become papery dry. Especially my feet. Using tons of lotion but I think the lacik has a bit to do with it too. I am off the potassium and magnesium but back on occasional lacik.
That's all from me this evening. My workouts are Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Next week it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday because of holiday. Will be interesting to see how I manage three days in a row! Hugs and prayers to all in recovery and to those waiting, as many have said so wisely before: it really is hard but do your best to try to enjoy that time and not fret! Surgery will come and go and you will be on your way to recovery so fast!
Caroline, another recovering patient, noted a few days ago that the life of a recovering heart patient is boring! That made me laugh because it is deliciously true! Each day we move around a little (or a lot), rest a little (sometimes a LOT), watch TV, maybe read a little. Take lots of pills, drink lots of fluids, eat, go to bed, and start all over again. It sounds awfully dull. But it feels really good!
Those going on with normal life and looking on may not see much going on, but it sure is amazing on this side! I probably already mentioned this but it is special to me so going to note again. A few days ago I experienced something I have not felt in years. I woke up and I did not have a low grade headache, I took in a deep breath and I felt RESTED. As far back as I remember I have always started the day feeling tired. It never mattered if I went to bed early or late! I know this is a result of getting more blood flow and I am so grateful. If this were the only improvement, I would be happy. But I am expecting more!
Every day I see improvements in my stamina, how stable my sternum feels, etc. I am loving having lost about 15 pounds, but I know that will pile back on if I don't take care. No dieting for now, but will be keeping an eye on the treats I have been allowing myself. :-)
Enough of me! Next week I will start rehab and let you know how that goes!
Before closing, for all the men and women in our "heart valve ranks" who have served our country, I want to say thank you for that and I wish you a very happy Veteran's Day. Your service is greatly appreciated!
Went to my GP today (Dr. Villalon) and he was very impressed with the incision and other "holes" and said it was one of the nicest, cleanest incisions he had seen! He predicts I am going to continue to feel better and better and would be shedding the extra meds soon. I was so elated after our visit!
We went to our fav breakfast place (Le Madelaine's) and then I rode along while Curt ran a couple of errands. It was probably just a bit too much. I sat down to read some journal entries and started to cry. It just feels so good to be alive and getting around a but like a "normal" person made me realize how emotional all this has been. I guess I have been holding in a bit. Feels good to cry from happiness and gratitude,
It won't be tomorrow or even next week, and I can't yet think about it clearly to form specific plans, but I can begin to see myself "rejoining the ranks" and getting back to work and other activities. That is a very good thing!
I am writing thanks and doing some filing as my big tasks today. Goal is sitting up and being focused for at least three hours straight. Gets my brain out of storage and strengthens my back, and improves stamina.
This is a beautiful day to be alive. I am so grateful to be here!
Woke up after sleeping through night for first time in quite awhile. Amazing what uninterrupted sleep can do!
We (Curt and I) are so blessed by the care and attention of our sweet friends and family! We have had wonderful meals, notes, prayers that have sustained us and nurtured both our bodies and souls! Thank you all so much!
Thought I would share a couple of things that might be helpful to someone going through this.
I have shoulder-length hair. Looking back, I wish I had cut it to chin length. It would have been much easier in the hospital and now. It is tiring to shower and shorter hair would have sped things up. Hair grows back!
Take a good Chapstick to the hospital. You will use it a lot!
Pack a few salty snacks in your bag. Follow the rules, but a few pretzels will not hurt and it may make you feel a little better when eating the largely unsalted hospital fare. Sugar tasted AWFUL to me until just a couple of days ago, and sweet snacks were all I took with me. I don't think anything tastes worse than chicken broth with NO salt. If I had taken a few pretzels I could have dropped them in the soup to help add a touch of salt.
Keep using the spirometer. Three times a day at least. I was just using once last few days and now having to build back up. It really helps.
A damp wash cloth with a dab of lotion will get off some of those remaining bits of tape residue without irritating your skin. Keep the lotion away from the incision site though. You can also use Hibiclens on the tape residue but have to scrub a little more. It feels really good to get that last bit of gunk off!
Don't be afraid to take your pain meds. Most days I have only needed one or two. Yesterday I had to have four. I was a lot more active and things are healing and hurting. I imagine it will be one or two again today. Knowing I can be a bit more active as i feel able and have relief on hand if it hurts more than expected gives me the confidence to try. This kind of pain management isn't going to lead to addiction. Take the meds!
Take care! Those of you waiting - enjoy this time and don't let your thoughts turn to the morbid. You will do fine! And. Those of you in recovery I read your journals and am so encouraged to keep trudging one! Those of you having surgery this week are in my thoughts and prayers. First few days are a blur and then you will start your new heart healthy journey!!
It has been just one week and five days but seems longer. I have no clue whether I am where I should be, am behind, or ahead. Each day is so different. I wake up feeling terrible. As I move around and have coffee I feel a bit better. I try to do some little household things - helping where I can. A little laundry. Eat, doze, do breathing exercise (just once a day most days though I concentrate on it throughout the day. Bathe, feel whipped out, sit around watching tv waiting for bed. I go to bed, wake up three or four times for bathroom. Typically wake up hard around 2:30 am and move around a little, sleep some more, up by 7:30 then start over.
Food has tasted awful - especially sugar. Gets a bit better each day. Can't eat much without feeling stuffed.
My BP and weight seem good, temp is normal, pulse is high at 85-93, but my heart pounds so hard that sometimes it wakes me up. I have a mild headache each morning but a little heat wrap zaps that right away.
All my holes are healing and incision doing well. Couple of days of very very tender but pain still very low.
All that said, I am going to go back through and read some journals. I suspect I am making more progress than I realize, but I think I need to setup a little "schedule" so I can mark off accomplishments and be more objective. Hugs to each of you and prayers to those in recovery and facing surgery tomorrow! Don't fret! It will be over and you will be on road to recovery soon!
Thought we would be able to post progress but it was a busy and chaotic time. My hats off to those who wer able to do so.
First, thank you so much for your many prayers, thoughts, and good wishes. I won't say much today except God answered so many prayers unable to list them all.
Second, my husband is a hero with a huge capital "H". Impossible to get through all this without his amazing servant's heart!!
Third, if you are facing similar surgery, stop worrying about the pain. Everyone is different but as long as you communicate when and how it hurts your Med Team will get you through that. Worry most ( and don't really worry, just focus your efforts) on walking, talking (it might be harder than you expect) and controlling your water gain/loss and related potassium and magnesium, and breath as deep as you can every time you think of it. Do your breathing exercises without fail.
The surgery went great and I have a bovine aortic valve replacement and a porcine repair to the aorta that had become damaged due to the extra pressure.
Dr, Ryan and his staff were incredible and the folks who helped me at Plano Heart Hospital will always remain part of my praise life. They truly were angels who encouraged, cajoled, made deals with me (three walks and a bath or four walks - my "choice"), took care of me at my most vulnerable and also demonstrated the best possible professional care. I will be forever grateful.
We are home as of yesterday afternoon. Pretty difficult to get comfortable after all the beds, chairs, etc available at the hospital. We are going to get a recliner today. We waited to be sure we needed and we do. Trying to manage all the new meds, vitamins, water remaol pills, etc.
Have some pretty serious tongue and taste bud issues that are uncomfortable. But small potatoes in overall recovery. Better each day. I have some quite impressive holes, incisions, and needle marks and bruises. I do not remember the day of surgery at all thank goodness. Fatigue is ever present and eating or talking wear me out pretty quick. In fact, I need to close this out and lay down a bit then bathe and medicate!
Prayers for those in recovery and those facing surgery soon. You are going to do great!
The cath went well today and there are no blockages! The cath had me pretty worried. The nurses, techs and all the staff here were WONDERFUL!
NOTE For those who will be going through this, some details. Those not interested can skip this paragraph. All the normal stuff took place - drawing blood and inserting IVs, etc. The IV always makes me faint and slows my heart down. We got past that. Then a bikini shave in groin area. They do both sides in case they have issues on the right hand side. Then some happy juice. I was more or less awake but felt no pain. Could feel pressure at different times but that was all. Then to room where they removed one of the stints the use to get the cath tube going into vein. As they applied pressure that REALLY hurt. Suddenly my heart and blood pressure dropped hard and they had to jump around getting fluids and drugs to get both back up while the nurse maintained pressure. During all that they pulled out the second stint. Nurse said this is a vagus response and pretty common. She and the other nurse were great.
After that drama I had to lay fairly flat and right leg straight and still for about 4 hours. I dozed out quite a bit. Around noon I was much more alert and feeling lots better. Rest of day not bad at all. I hear I get a bath tonight and a "cabbage shave". No idea what that means but pretty sure it will not be on any spa list of fun things to do.
I want to thank everyone who commented on my Guestbook yesterday and today. Normally I would thank each of you individually but may get interrupted shortly for more tests and such. Found out I have to have a TEE, blood sugar tests, and a chest X-ray.
Thank you also for the text messages and emails and calls. I know I am sheltered in God's hands and I am hopeful tomorrow's procedure will be just routine for the physicians and staff.
All my love to my husband, son, daughter-in-law and my sweet friends - both known personally and through this site. Prayers for those in recovery and those anticipating surgery this week.
Made homemade bread today and it is so good! House fairly well cleaned, dusted the fan blades. Washed the dog! LOL! Hope I can sleep tonight. I was wondering what they would do if the cath won't stop bleeding tomorrow for awhile. Hope nothing happens to delay the surgery. No transplants unexpectedly popping up ahead of my procedure!! Still have to pack my little bag.
I don't want to be scared, but I am. Not a lot. Maybe apprehensive is a better description. Just want to be ok and get back to living. Sure love my sweet family and friends. Very blessed. Hope the cardiologist is getting a good night's sleep and Dr. Ryan is feeling great on Tuesday! :-).
We are home! Had such a wonderful time. Pumpkin and Pickles were both glad to see us and we are glad to be home. After several days of lounging, eating, and seeing such beautiful scenery, I can certainly appreciate the appeal of being very wealthy - haha!
Tomorrow I pack my little bag and get ready to go for the cath on Monday at 5 am. Then Tuesday is the surgery.
I am keeping busy and trying not to dwell on it. It will be whatever it is and when I walk up I am going to work very hard to get well and hopefully more healthy than I have been in a long time. Going to spend time tomorrow evening going through a lot of the updates I missed this past week. Prayers for each of you in recovery and those preparing for surgery this coming week.
Absolutely gorgeous day. One more day of rest then home to dust, do the wash, and get things ready. Having wonderful time with Curt. So glad we were able to work this in. So happy to read the many good recovery reports of so many folks. Prayers for those who are in recovery and those preparing for surgery tomorrow.
We got away today to have a few days of relaxation in one of our favorite parts of the country. Some calm time leading up to the crazy of surgery and recovery.
So I misjudged the time and we ended up scrambling for the airport. Made our flight with four minutes to spare before takeoff! Flight was good. A little bumpy but otherwise fun. The we landed!
First, my bag didn't make the trip. Because we arrived at the airport so late, it had to come in on a later flight. So we went to pick up the car. Credit card doesn't work. They didn't have what we rented but gave us a different car. Quite nice. We drive toward the exit and notice the light on showing a low tire. We stop and ask them to fix. They add air.
We drive about 25 miles and the light comes back on. We stop for breakfast, call and try to get the credit card issue ironed out, and then head back to turn in the car. No flats needed this trip! By the time we arrive, the tire IS flat! We get a second car, my bag shows up and we are on the road. FINALLY vacation really begins! LOL!
Had a lovely rest of our day. Our motel is ancient but pleasant. We are both exhausted but happy. Tomorrow the sightseeing begins in earnest!
Found out that I will likely have the full sternotomy. Thankfully I have gotten great information here on the site and even though I know it may be a rougher recovery - it IS doable!
My thoughts and prayers are with each of you in recovery and those having surgery tomorrow!
As some of the experienced traveller's on this journey have posted in my Guestbook, time seems to be speeding up now that the day is set. Today at work went incredibly fast! It is REALLY sinking in now that I can only get so much done before the surgery and I am going to have to let go and let the wonderful folks on the Team pick up and carry on. They are all ready and it is just me feeling worried about being a burden. But that is so silly and I need to let go of that because it just isn't true. The recovery time is going to fly by too and I will be back at work and hopefully feeling lots better almost before they know I am gone! :-).
I need to get up now and get some things put away so I can actually walk up our stairs without tripping on something when the time comes for me to tackle that!
My husband's grand niece and her friend are coming tomorrow for a couple of days while they visit UT of Dallas. That will be good to keep me outside my head while Curt is off at an art show this weekend. Their visit wasn't at all expected while planning this weekend so I have to laugh because God knows me so well and is protecting me from becoming lonely. Very very blessed. Thoughts and prayers to all who are in hospital recovering from surgery this week and those looking ahead to surgery next week!
Met with Dr. Ryan today and we are set for 10/23! So happy we could stick with original plans! He was super great, very patient, explained things well even though his morning had ended up very packed.
Penny was wonderful and really put us at ease while preparing the initial assessment. And when we went out to schedule, Tammy already had put me in the books! After talking with him, I are going with biological valve after all. That was my initial plan but then I thought my age might make that a problem with another potential surgery. But I went in with an open mind and hoping he would have a clear recommendation one way or the other based on my history and his experience. Basically his thought is that the overall lifetime risks for me are lower with the biological valve - even if a future surgery necessary. Honestly I think these surgery protocols are going to continue to improve radically because we are aging as a population and more will be needed. So I feel comfortable with this plan.
My cardiac cath is on the 22nd and that will show if any bypass work needed. May need a little work on the aorta as it appears a bit dilated but they won't know until they get in there.
Once again I was called a "young woman" which tickles me to no end!
Thank you everyone for your prayers and good advice about the date and the wait! It helps more than you can imagine!