Tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of my aortic valve replacement surgery. I find it amazing not to have to think about my heart at all. My cardiologist said that the thickening caused by the faulty valve is lessening each year. In other words my heart is slowly healing. My stress test was excellent. I am thankful for each day I have as a gift from my heart valve surgery. I am 77 this year.
Time goes by so fast I have trouble remembering what year I had my aortic heart vale replaced. Had to come to the forum to check.
It was five years ago on September 24th, and I am grateful to be here, be healthy, and enjoying the life I would not have had without my surgery. Best of luck to all of you going through this now. Hard to believe, but someday it will be so far in the background, like me, you will have trouble remembering the date.
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my heart valve surgery. I'm 75 now and the memory fades each year so that I had to get on this web site to remind myself when it was. I go to the cardiologist twice a year. Last series of tests showed the heart muscle returning to normal size. Thank God.
Just touching base to let all of you who are anticipating heart valve surgery or who have gone through it. It's two years for me now, and it has turned out to be the best health decision I (and my doctors) could have made. Except for the fading scar, I can just about forget it. I'm now 73 and glad to be alive. I have way more energy than 5 years ago and no residual side effects.
Best of luck to all.
A quick visit to encourage those of you out there who are still worrying either pre-surgery or just having had surgery. It gets better all the time. It's now 17 months for me, and I seldom think about it anymore. I never though that at age 72 I could regain so much energy, but the surgery did that for me. It wasn't immediate. It was gradulal, but someone commented to me the other day, "Where do you get all that energy?" I hadn't thought about it, but the comment was accurate. My energy had been decreasing for years, and now I am going gangbusters.
I only have had one reminder of the surgery. A few days ago I overdid typing on the computer while sitting in the same position and got a backache. Then it seemed like my arthritis kicked up, so I did something I hadn't done in a year. I took a pain pill. The next day I had an ocular migraine. I'm sure it was an aftereffect of the pain pill. That made me wonder if the reason so many of us got ocular migraines in the few months after surgery was aftereffects from having taken pain pills.
Any information on that?
Well, it's actually 52 weeks today and not a year until tomorrow. What can I say except that I thank God every day for my life's having been saved with this remarkable surgery. The sternotomy scar has faded except for the small section below my bra which developed a touch of keloid. The part that shows has almost faded completely. I am in no pain, have tons of energy, and am doing more than I could dream of before this surgery.
To those of you considering a sternotomy, don't fear it. It ends up not being a big deal, and within a short time causes no pain. As Ruth Howell said in her recent post, the backache that we all get is worse. It's also unavoidable since to operate on your heart they have to pin you to a table for hours. But since they let you have painkillers for it, and it stops completely soon enough, so it's well worth the occasional killer backache to have a new life.
We just came back from my 55th HS reunion. Each year they read the people who have died since the last reunion. About 25% of my class has passed on since we graduated, and I sure was glad not to be on that list.
Aortal valve replaced 9/24/10 at Florida Hospital South in Orlando, FL. Surgery by Nayer Khouzam. What a wonderful surgeon. Cardiologist Robert Boswell. An even more wonderful doctor.
Best of luck to all of you. God bless and hope that your surgery is as successful as mine.
Here it is, 7 months after surgery and a week after my 72nd birthday. I am so glad I had a full sternotomy right off the bat at my local heart center. The full sternotomy gives the surgeon a good view of everything, and the healing process really isn't onerous. I know several people in the "zipper club" and the incision is something you don't thnk about after about 3 months.
If it weren't for the updates I get on everyone who's still recovering, I wouldn't think about the heart surgery at all. Those of you who worry about the size of the incision, as long as you're in a good surgeon's hands, it's a not-to-worry item.
Best of luck to all of you in recovery, and prayers and positive thoughts to Ruth. Oh heavens. Of all people to have to go through complications. Although I know all of you just from the web site, I feel close to you and worry about you all. Ruth's story is devastating. I know she's not religious, but I for one, am praying hard for her. Please, God, help this woman through this.
Age 28. Bought first house. While hanging curtains noticed windows needed cleaning. Cleaned every window in the house inside and out even climbing ladder to get 2nd story windows. While cleaning noticed that the wood frames around the windows needed repainting inside. Bought paint and did every window in the house.
Age 40. Relocated to a different state and bought house. While hanging curtains noticed windows needed cleaning. Cleaned every window in the house inside and out. Noticed widow frames needed painting. Bought paint. Told hubby to paint them. He didn't. Hired a painter. Eventually they got done.
Age 60. Finally could afford dream house. On huge protected lot, so no curtains needed on windows, but noticed windows needed cleaning. Cleaned all inside windows. Hired someone to clean outside.
Age 72. Downsided to more manageable property when widowed a few years ago. Today changed curtains only in bedroom and bathroom which have french doors (tiny panes of glass). Washed curtains, dried them and while re-hanging them noticed windows needed cleaning. Got through one door. Noticed they needed repainting. Gave up after one door. Put note up for cleaning woman to wash other two french doors. Called handyman to paint doors.
Ah, how times have changed....me.
Today is the 6 month anniversary of my surgery. I wish for all of you that are waiting that you may have successful surgeries soon, and for all of you who are just starting to recover, that you may soon reach the 6 month mark and begin to not think about it anymore since life becomes so normal.
Fifth anniversary of aortic valve surgery today. Got blood test results. All great except vitamin D (and I live in the Sunshine state) so have to take 2000 iu a day.
Feeling is returning to my toes due to the renewed blood flow to the whole body, so peripheral neuropathy has improved as a result of the surgery.
Re-joined the Y to get it further moving. They were happy to see me back.
Onward and upward we fly!
It's almost 5 months since my aortal heart valve was replaced. Saw the cardiologist today and he said, "I now declare you normal." Good. I was worried I'd be classified as abnormal.
Kidding aside, he said all my tests are now normal. My heartbeat is solid and steady, all peripheral symptoms are gone, my blood pressure is 120/65, etc.
On the other hand he also said this: the EKG does not change quickly after heart surgery. It takes 5 years for the heart to repair itself and the EKG will change only very gradually each year.
Scar therapy. He said to use a steroid cream on the scar to prevent the scar tissue from building up. He suggested a cortizone cream that you can buy in any drugstore. (Servant Girl and Patient, please note).
He also said that people who've had their hearts repaired should see their cardiologists every 4 months even if they have been declared "normal."
Happy healing everyone. This was good news to get on Valentine's Day, and I hope everyone on this list is declared "normal" in the months to come.
There are a lot of people who report difficult times after surgery. We all have our stories, I as well as everyone else, but here's how I put it all into perspective.
Three years ago, being widowed, I met and married a widower. He had been in Vietnam in the full battle part of the war during 1968 and 1969. A lot of people don't realize that Air Force people are not all pilots, and many of them are on the ground during the war and facing the enemy. My husband was one of those. He was an AF major responsible for other lives as well as his own.
A week after we were married, I woke to hear my husband shouting in his sleep, "Close the gap, close the gap! Watch the machine gun!" I woke him up and asked what was wrong. He mumbled something, shook his head and went back to sleep, tossing and turning.
In the morning I asked what it meant. He said that on that day his group was overrun and a lot of his men were lost. Later in that the long battle, my husband was also hit and spent months in the hospital having his body rebuilt. Yet, when he has one of those nightmares, it's not the hospital stay, not the pain of the surgeries, not the pain of the skin grafts, and not the the pain of the injuries that cause it. It's the horror of the war.
Has there ever been anyone going through heart valve surgery who says, "It was so awful I wake up having nightmares reliving it." The answer is "no." Yet many war vets have recurring nightmares the rest of their lives.
So I reason that the experience of heart surgery is not so bad as to give one nightmares. Sure it's no walk in the park, but it's not war. It makes our lives better. It doesn't give us recurring nightmares with the horror of it.
So take heart. (pun intended) Heart valve surgery is no picnic, but it's the kind of painful experience that fades with time. Sort of like the pain of childbirth but with no baby to bring home. :-)
Hope this helps some of you still worried about the surgery and others who are on the mend. Happy HEART DAY (Valentine's) to everyone.
I just got this note from a friend of mine. It involves an experimental heart valve and a procedure developed in Europe and being tested in the US. When this is perfected, very few people will ever have to have sternotomies again. The valve is inserted into the heart through the same process as cardiac catherization. Right now the procedure is only being done on very high risk patients. There are many other procedures they're experimenting with which were developed all over the world and are being tested here.
Here's my friend's note:
"From Sally: My 92 year old dad came home from the hospital Tues. night - just 5 days after experimental heart valve replacement. He's almost back to his old self."
What's remarkable about Sally's dad's surgery is that it's being done on people who are way too risky for normal heart surgery. It's truly an amazing process.
Interestingly, Sally's going to need aortal valve surgery herself and will have to go through the full procedure we all had to go through because she's not at risk enough for this trial program.
Anyone interested in learning more about this clinical trial can check out the Edwards Lifesiences website.
Here's the main Edwards website: http://www.edwards.com/default.htm
And here's the partner trial web site:
Here it is, 4 months since surgery, and I can't say just how normal I feel--totally--as the kids would say. No restrictions, no fatigue, no pain, and a remarkable new feel about life.
Before I had the surgery if I thought of something new that needed doing, I'd avoid it. Now it's gangbuster and let's get it done.
Also, I'm having a ball with my new iPhone. I don't make a lot of calls, but I love all the other things it can do like keep my to-do lists, shopping lists, calendar, check email, etc. It's a hoot!
Hope you all are doing as well.
Research about heart surgery related to kidney problems
Journal posted on January 13, 2011
Well, gang, it has taken me a few days but I've found this encouraging piece on the internet. It's from Duke Medical Center, so I think it's trustworthy.
"the researchers said, since one out of every 12 patients who undergo heart surgery suffers serious kidney impairment. While most cases of this kidney injury are transient..."
In other words, yes, it's possible to suffer kidney damage during heart surgery, but for most people it goes away. It also seems (long article version) as if those who will have the most serious problems do so before leaving the hospital, so I conclude that I'm OK and things will get better as time goes on. Will update everyone after specialist visit on Monday.
I lost a kidney to a giant tumor 29 years ago. As recently as this past summer my kidney function was better than just good. The doctors all said they'd like their patients with 2 kidneys to have such good creatinine levels.
Today I went for an MRI because my cardiologist was concerned that I had a lot of blood in the urine for the short time I was on coumadin (3 weeks).
I've had microscopic blood in the urine ever since I lost that kidney and they never could figure out what caused it.
OK, now what happened today. The technician said she couldn't do the part of the test with contrast because my creatinine was 1.8. Last summer it was .74 and the cutoff line for contrast is 1.6. I was stunned to say the least.
So, my question is, does anyone else out there have one kidney, and was their kidney function messed up 3 1/2 months after the surgery?
I'm guessing it's all the post-surgical meds they have me on until the heart stabilizes, but I won't know for sure till I see the kidney doctor next week.
Anyone else who's had to deal with one kidney through this, please let me know.
My 3 month checkup was delayed due to the holidays (would have been Dec 24th) and my husband's foot surgery.
Saw the cardiologist yesterday. He said:
- Although we see a tremendous increase in our quality of life, progress,etc., in the first 3 months, usually you're so glad to be getting back to normal that you think the 3 month results are "normal."
- He said the 3 month results are JUST THE BEGINNING. The heart continues to improve after that. Actually, by 6 months, we'll wonder how we thought 3 months was so terrific because we'll feel twice as good.
- He said the heart continues to heal for 5 years. Once the repairs, new valves, etc., have been done, the damage that those problems caused the heart begin to recede. By the 5 year mark, the heart will have recovered from most of its damage of things like aortic stenosis,thickening of the wall, etc.
- Despite that, he cautioned me not to lift heavy things or push furniture around (guess he knows me well!) until the 6 month period has been reached. It takes that long for the sternum to heal.
- If I develop coughs, don't assume it's a cold. There are vestigial fluids that remain in the heart area for 6 months, but happily taking ibuprofen for a couple of days will make them go away.
- He said if you have artificial joints (Mine are knees) there may be some fluid retention there. Ibuprofen again, but if they are uncomfortable, see him about it.
- But the best news I got was when I asked this question: Is there ANYTHING left that's wrong with my heart? And he said, "Other than the fact that you've just had heart surgery and it takes several months for the body to mend, the answer is NO! Your heart is fine, and you'll really begin to realize it in the next 3-6 months."
Happy New Year to all on the HVS list. Let's hope that 2011 sees us all recovering to new levels and that all the people who discover that they need new valves find this site to help them through the process.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to those of you who just celebrate the season or any other holiday. The phone has been busy for hours this morning with greetings going back and forth.
Hubby is right now talking to his son in AR. Isn't modern "unlimited long distance" wonderful? Hubby is now in 3rd day of recovery from foot surgery, and he's more able to do things for himself so I don't have to wait on him hand and FOOT! (sorry, I coudn't resist.)
Since I had my 3 month anniversary yesterday, I'll taper off on posting unless something momentous happens. However, I've flagged a lot of journals to hear how my heart-valve pals are progessing.
Peace and love to all no matter which religion you worship and also to those who don't.
I'm cheating again and writing a few hours before the actual anniversary.
To those of you in the early stages who worry if you'll ever feel normal again, I'm sending this encouraging update.
Three months ago I had an aortic valve replaced through a full sternotomy. My husband did most of the housework, cooking, etc., for a couple of weeks. (Must confess I milked that.) Today my husband had a repair done to his foot--surgery that will keep him off his feet for a few weeks. Now I'm more than well enough to be his full time caregiver until he can get back on his feet--no pun intended.
I couldn't have done this 2 months ago, but today I'm not only feeling normal but have more energy, strength, and stamina than before the operation. The top of the scar has faded so much that even when I wear V necks, people don't notice. There's no pain anywhere--not chest, not back. Life is good. Thank God.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Hanukkah ended a couple of weeks ago, and that's why I'm not saying "happy" that.
Well, it's 12 weeks today, and next Friday will be exactly 3 months since my surgery. I'll write then, and after that I'll do a monthly update, but in the meantime, I'll read the journal postings to keep up with all of you.
The most amazing part of all of this is I still can't believe I had a heart problem! Of course, I KNOW I did/do, but the "Oh, no, not me" feeling persists. Strange! If I didn't have that pink line to remind me, I still wouldn't believe it.
Did anyone else notice this on their scars? The top part of my scar has almost completely faded, but the bottom part is still pink. I wear V-necked T-shirts, and it's hardly noticeable there, but the 3 drain holes and the lower part of the incision are still bright pink.
To all of you awaiting surgery and all of you who are patiently waiting for things to improve in the early stages, here's a note to cheer you up.
It really gets better fast. It's 11 weeks for me today, and unless I stand in front of the mirror and look for the scar, I forget that I had surgery.
Best of luck to all. Merry Christmas. Hanukkah is all over, so I haven't included that message here.
For those of you who don't celebrate either holiday, we're all looking forward to the New Year.
Keep getting healthier.
Saw the orthopedic surgeon today because my knees, which were replaced 5 years ago, seemed swollen and hurt somewhat.
He said that if you have artificial joints and then open heart surgery, it's six months to a year before your body releases the fluids around the artificial joints. So even though I'm 10 lbs below my pre-surgical weight and don't seem to be holding fluid in my ankles, feet, or anywhere else, my artificial knees are holding the fluid. Odd. But he said it's typical.
...after working all day to finish a holiday quilt for a great-granchild, helping hubby put protective cloths over all the plants because of the impending freeze, making supper, walking the dogs, and doing 3 loads of laundry you discover at 9:15 PM that there's a leak under the kitchen sink which has created a huge mess, caused stuff to stick to the shelf, and created rust rings around some cans. And then you still have the energy to clean it all up before watching the 10 PM news show!
Now that's what I call recovery!
Hope you all are doing well.
I have now heard this from two different people from Germany. Both now live in the US and have family in Germany who have had heart surgery. Both INSIST that this is the way heart surgery patients are handled in Germany.
First: They go to the hospital for surgery. They are kept in the hospital doing followup therapy and care for 18 to 21 days. THEN they are sent to a rehab facility which is like a spa FOR THREE MONTHS for physical rehab, diet advice, etc! Their spouses are sent with them since it's considered important for their spouses to understand the full procedure and help the spouse to recover. All this is at government expense!
And it's not just heart disease that's treated this way.
Bea (not her real name) A German-born woman I met at the quilt guild luncheon yesterday told me that her mother (in Germany) got really upset when Bea had a hysterectomy in the US and went home after 2 days. Bea's mother insisted that she needed to be hospitalized for at least a month to be sure she was out of danger! Bea reassured her mother that she was fine, but her mother called her daily for a month to be sure she wasn't in danger.
Bea said that her sister recently had heart valve surgery in Germany and was hospitalized for 3 weeks. When the sister was sent to the rehab facility, she and her husband were put up in a small suite which had a sliding glass door overlooking the woods. Bea said that her sister could not open the door for more than 2 months because it was too painful to her chest. Bea said it's been 6 months now and her sister is still not back to normal although she was returned home after the prescribed 3 months of rehabilitation, diet instruction, etc. However, the family is not overly concerned since she's doing as expected by their standards!
I tried to find a description of German heart care procedures on the internet, and there are several that describe how advanced they are using stents to open valves (!) and in some cases, robotics, but I couldn't find anywhere that it describes the followup rehab care. I did ascertain that people who have heart surgery in Germany are kept in the hospital for 18 days, though.
I think of all of us on this journal site, some who went home after 2 days, some who flew to Cleveland and then flew home within a few days. I see how most of us wanted OUT of the hospital even though we got excellent care.
Oh heavens! I felt like a laggard staying 6 days!
Does anyone else have information about the German procedure of caring for heart surgery patients?
Well, it's a couple of hours before it's truly 10 weeks, but I'm sure nobody will mind. I'm going to a quilting guild Christmas luncheon tomorrow and won't be back till mid-afternoon.
Oddly, it's not my heart or back that troubles me anymore. It's my knees. I had a double knee replacement 4 years ago, and since the heart surgery, the left knee has been swelling and giving me troubling twinges. I have an appointment with the orthopedist to check on it next week. The day after the surgery both knees looked like watermelons. As all of you know, they sort of superhydrate you with an extra 20 lbs of fluid for the surgery, and all the extra fluid seemed to gather in my knees--well, maybe that's a little exaggeration, but it seemed so. The 20 lbs went away quickly (that was so weird to suddenly weigh so much and then so wonderful to lose it all in 2 or 3 days). However, the left knee still seems to have some fluid in there. Odd.
By the way, I read an article and saw a video that said that the people most likely to have minimally invasive heart surgery are people without too much chest tissue. Anybody know if that's true?
Obviously it doesn't affect me at this late stage, but I do remember the surgeon saying that he had to do the full sternotomy because my chest cavity was so large. (I could hardly be accused of having a "big chest" otherwise!)
For activity I'm still at the run-around-after-the-animals stage. I don't see my cardiologist for a few weeks to ask him about cardiotherapy. I'm also not eager to exercise. LAZY!
However, I have been hard at work qauilting holiday presents--both Hanukkah and Christmas. Every grandchild under the age of 15 and every great-grand will be able to snuggle under a "grandma original." And I've gotten a lot of exercise walking around fabric stores!!!!
Today marks nine weeks since my surgery. As I was running (well, driving) around doing errands today I realized that life has pretty much returned to normal. The only problem I have is that if I have to dive a long distance, the backache presents a problem.
My neighbor's 94 year old father died and the funeral was held Monday in a town that's about an hour's drive away. By the time I got there I needed ibuprofen.
I also discovered that when I have to do these things late in the day it just about wipes me out. I had to think of creative positions to keep changing the seat settings in the car because the backache got so bad on my way home at 5 PM. I'd been out of the house since noon, and by the time I got home at 6 I felt like an invalid. The next day I didn't do anything strenuous and recovered completely. In fact, I was able to make Thanksgiving dinner yesterday without suffering from exhaustion.
Other than that, life has returned to normal. We did have one sad thing happen. Our 20 year old Siamese (not the sewing cat) died during the wee hours of Monday morning. We'd been getting little sleep for a few days cradling him and loving him as we realized he was going. Perhaps that lack of sleep made the funeral trip harder. If I'd slept the previous 2 nights, I might have better tolerated the long drive and 6 hours away from home.
Picture of our sweet Thumper under photos.
Today I was sewing some quilt blocks. My smallest cat loves to "help" me sew by rolling onto her back and squirming under the hand that I use to feed the fabric under the needle. She is adorable, but this could result in a paw getting stitched! I had the machine set to a level even with the table and figured that if I raised the height to the highest level, 6" higher, she wouldn't be able to reach it while lying on her back. I PICKED UP THE SEWING MACHINE in order to release the lock to raise the height. In a flash I realized I had just lifted 35 pounds. I put it down quickly, but I had a moment of panic when I realized I could have torn out my incision! :-o !!!. Luckily I didn't, but I promise to be more thoughtful in the future. See photo of cat under Photos.
Last week I decided to take mind over matter and force myself into a schedule hoping my "oomph" would come back. Since then I've been able to be quite productive with my quilting. I learned that I have to take breaks because if I sit at the sewing machine too long, both my back and chest hurt, but working an hour and then reading a half hour seems to work.
I seemed to get some kind of little bug earlier this week which made me slightly headachy, joint-achy, and tummy-achy for two days and I thought I was imagining it (or having a relapse) until hubby got the same symptoms a couple of days later! Both of us are fine now. Otherwise, all systems are go.
Hope everyone else does well.
By this time I would have expected some of the oomph to have returned to my life. I gave this some thought yesterday as I was trying to update my journal. I didn't seem to be going anywhere--not advancing--although I have no complaints about pain (except occasionally that pesky back problem), yet I seemed just to be standing still.
So this morning I decided that if it wasn't going to happen naturally, I was going to have to take charge and make it happen. I got a good night's sleep and set myself a schedule. So much time to read the paper and eat breakfast, then project time in my sewing-knitting-computer room, then break for a shower, etc.
I feel so much better and more positive. Have to call the cardio this week and ask when I'm supposed to go for rehab. Seems to me it's about time.
Unlike many of you, I haven't joined an exercise or a cardio program although I worked with a personal trainer before the surgery (which my cardiologist told me was the worst thing I could have done for aortal stenosis).
Anyway, 6 weeks and 1 day post surgery has me living a totally "normal" life. Driving myself, I met my best friend for breakfast at IHOP and we sat and talked for over an hour. Then I went to the supermarket and bought groceries, kitty litter, etc., took it home brought it in (in small batches, of course) and packed it away. Then I washed the 20 year old cat--fear not, he's used to it and doesn't fuss and has a bit of a problem which requires regular baths. Then I did the laundry enjoying the suddenly cool, dry weather and hung the sheets over the pool fence to dry in fresh air. I remembered that I had some hamburger in the fridge, so I made a meatloaf for supper and stuck it in the oven. I took a rest mid-afternoon to read a bit, then I worked on a quilt for hubby's great-grandson, one of three I'll have done for Christmas. They are kid-sized, and I got one done before the surgery and am finishing the second today.
I served dinner to my husband when he got home from teaching, and we then vegetated in front of the TV watching several Florida-based football games.
I don't walk for long distances, but we have 10 pets, and 6 of them are constantly wanting to go out to the yard or come in from it. The porch door is about 50 feet away, and I find myself going back and forth to that door dozens of times a day, and of course we walk the 4 dogs at night.
This is as close to normal a day as I had before the surgery (except for working with the trainer). I know a lot of people run off to other cities to have their surgery, but I am grateful to the team at Florida Hospital for bringing me through this so marvelously. I can't imagine a better result anywhere else.
And for those of you who worry about the size of the incision, I have a median sternotomy--the long type--which stopped hurting about day 4 and only occasionally gives me twinges for which I take Tylenol. Actually, it's the back pain which most often makes me head for the Tylenol bottle. I've had a back problem off and on for years, and this flareup will most likely be temporary.
I owe my life to my cardiolgist, Dr. Robert Boswell whose staff badgered me to go in for annual tests and to Dr. Nayer Khouzam, the surgeon who gave me so many choices and let me choose which type of valve I wanted (bovine) and then who was the most delighful caring, sweet guy during recovery and who is adored by all the nurses as well since they most often choose him when they need thoracic surgery.
No one wants to face open heart surgery, but if one must, I would hope they have the kind of medical team that practices at Florida Hospital and the kind of recovery that I'm experiencing.
Tomorrow will be six weeks since my aortal valve surgery, but today I realized with a start that it is November 4th. It's a major anniversary for me. On Nov 4, 1981, 29 years ago, I collapsed at work and was rushed to the hospital near death. I had a huge tumor on my right kidney which ruptured and I was bleeding to death internally, and no one knew why although I stabilized after a couple of days.
After several weeks of tests (CT scans were rare then and MRI's unheard of) a cardiac cath showed the tumor which was 6 pounds and had attached itself to the liver bed, displaced my liver, wrapped around the inferior cava, and was wrapped around the duodenum and colon. It also consumed half the kidney. Using surgical procedures which were extremely innovative at the time, a kidney specialist and a liver specialist combined their skills to save my life and remove the tumor and kidney.
That surgery was far more extensive and dangerous than my valve surgery, and today I was reminded that we can overcome great odds with the help of our medical professionals and the grace of God.
The scar from that surgery extends around my body cutting me virtually in half, but after all these years it's just a faint line. Remarkable. Although I doubt that I have 29 years left (that would make me 100), it's encouraging to realize that this heart surgery further extends my life, and compared to that trauma 29 years ago takes 2nd place.
With encouragement to all of you who've been through heart surgery or are going through it, next year and the succeeding years will make this all a faint memory.
I'd like to thank everyone who posted to my guestbook. So many good wishes. I'm also intrigued by who has such a small incision that the family call it the "blow hole." Where was that surgery done! Remarkable.
Saw the cardiologist today and the pericarditis is no longer apparent. Also, driving myself around again is wonderful.
Oddly, I still have a murmur despite the valve replacement. I've always had a murmur which got worse as I got older, and I thought it would go away after the surgery, but it didn't. Cardiologist said that there's still turbulence in that area but he's not worried. I did get anemic due to all the blood in my urine as a result of being on coumadin for a month, and he wants me to see a urologist--but not for six months since any invasive tests such as they do when they look inside the bladder can inadvertenly involve the heart. I have just one kidney (lost the other 27 years ago), and having urinary bleeding was really draining me, but without the coumadin I'm recovering. My color has improved as has my energy and stamina.
I still have a backache if I spend the whole day out of the house, and the surgeon said it is an afteraffect of the process that they put us through when they crack open the chest.
By the way, I was looking at other journals (especially Duane's) and noticed the progressive photos of the scar. Now interestingly, we women can't show that! Nevertheless, my scar is coming along very nicely. It hardly shows when I'm wearing v-necked T-shirt although the lower part is redder. I have the same three holes in the abdomen that Duane has, so I guess that's standard operating procedure. I was actually pleased to view Duane's scar since he had Dr. Accola who is famous and I had Dr. Khouzam who is extremely well known but not famous. Both scars look alike, and I can't complain about how I've responded to the surgery.
The scariest thing I did was drive my husband for a prostate biopsy last week--5th week anniversary of my valve surgery. I'd been having dizzy spells and begged to go off two meds (Tenormin and Coumadin) which I did three days before the drive. Fortunately, the dizzy spells subsided when those two meds got out of my system. Still, driving hubby for a biopsy meant I had to get into the driver's seat for the first time since surgery. I was scared that I wouldn't have the stamina to last through the day since while on those meds my stamina was really low. However, it all went well. The doctor hinted that my husband's news would be good in a week, and I got through the scare of taking care of my husband just 5 weeks after surgery instead of him taking care of me.
As a caution to people who don't feel steady improvement, read up on your meds. Sometimes they give you meds to protect you against conditions that you, in particular, don't develop, and then the meds work against you. For example, high BP is relatively common after valve surgery, so they put me on Tenormin which is a beta blocker that controls BP. However, historically I've always had low BP, and after two weeks my stamina deteriorated and I got light-headed and dizzy. When I researched the meds, I suspected it was the Tenormin. The doctor agreed I could go off it, and within 2 days the dizziness subsided.
Next was the Coumadin. I have a tissue valve, but it seems that surgeons these days put everyone on Coumadin after surgery. They even put my husband on it after hip replacement last Dec. (Oddly, 5 years ago when I had double knee replacements, they didn't put me on any blood thinners--same doctor.) I didn't respond well to the Coumadin. Normal doses did not produce the test numbers that indicate it's working and at the same time I developed a LOT of blood in my urine. I have just one kidney, and that scared me. Also, I got very pale and I'm usually not. The cardiologist ran some blood tests, and they came back that I was anemic. Usually my hemoglobin levels are very high, but they were extremely low. I flat out told the surgeon (who put me on the Coumadin) that I wasn't going to continue, and he agreed that obviously in my case, Coumadin was counter-productive. He wants me to take a full aspirin each day, but I am waiting until tests show that the urinary tract bleeding has stopped before I add any kind of blood thinner.
During my convalescence my husband did all the cooking and laundry, and after going off those two meds I felt well enough to take those back which I did--happily, and with no problems. No more dizziness.
For those of you who worry about pain, this is now 5 weeks plus 2 days and I am in no pain whatsoever that's heart related. I do have touches of arthritis at my age (71), but they are to be expected.
I thought that I would find myself watching a lot of TV after the surgery, but I haven't been interested at all in TV but have read an average of ten books a week. I treated myself to a Kindle and have downloaded a bunch of the classics because all my friends ran out of books to loan me.
Tomorrow I plan to get back to the sewing machine and finish up some Christmas presents for hubby's great-grandchildren.
Life DOES return to normal, and sometimes more quickly than you can imagine, so those of you still pondering and worrying about your upcoming surgery, take heart from my story. There have been ups and downs, but the ups have now taken the lead and I feel normal again.
Well, nothing goes absolutely smoothly. Today is Day 28--4 weeks after surgery.
Shortly after writing my last journal, I seemed to have a very dry throat. I had a craving for plain water and drank what seemed like gallons of it in one day, and still the throat was dry. The next morning I woke up 5 lbs heavier with badly swollen knees(they're artificial) and slightly swollen ankles. Trip to the doctor revealed that the tickle in my throat was not a dry throat but a sort of yeast or thrush infection as a reaction to tubes down the throat and antibiotics. A mouthwash/gargle helped as did a diuretic for a few days.
The other problem was a backache. I don't know where it came from, and I did mention it slightly last week, but it hit me so hard it brought me to tears. After not having had painkillers since about day 4, I suddenly found myself needing them desperately, and I sat on the edge of the bed, holding onto my heart pillow and just praying for them to take effect--which they did, eventually. I was careful the next couple of days, taking the pain pills whenever I felt a back twinge, but once again, I'm off the heavy duty stuff relying on Tylenol if needed. Usually that's late afternoon when I'm tired. Come to think of it, I should have expected a bit of backache problems since my spine isn't exactly straight (kidney surgery years ago healed leaning me in one direction slightly) but I've never had real back pain, just twinges, so I'm grateful this lasted just a few days.
The third little glitch was a cough which seemed to be caused by a little bit of phlegm left over. Ricola helped that.
MAJOR SUCCESS: Today I walked the dogs. That's a major success since I have to hold three leashes at once. They were thrilled to walk instead of being banished to the yard, and I'm sure the walk did me good as well.
Hope you're all doing fine.
Here it is 3 weeks out. Essentially I am in NO pain even though I have this huge incision running down my chest. I do get backaches though!
I would like to encourage people, who like me, worried about that huge incision. It is not nearly as bad as one could imagine. In fact, I had a kidney removed 27 years ago, and I remember that as a much worse experience.
Also, don't worry too much about getting the BEST surgeon. There is no such thing. If your cardiologist suggests a surgeon, that's probably an excellent one. Certainly check the surgeon out if you can, but usually you'll find that there's little information about those surgeons unless they are affiliated with one of the huge facilities like Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic. I went through agonies trying to decide what to do when I couldn't find a rating on any surgeon in my area. It turned out that the hospital I went to, and the surgeon my cardiologist suggested, were wonderful, and my overall experience was excellent. A friend of mine went to "the best" in the area and has not done as well as I have, so who is to judge.
Good luck to anyone who has to go through this. It is scarier before you do it than after.
It has been 12 1/2 days since my surgery and my only remaining complaint was the durned adhesive stuck all over me as well as the gluey Betadine stuff they painted me with. Gosh, that stuff is rubbery, but as they expalined, it formed a thick anti-bacterial layer all over my chest, abdomen and legs. However, there I was at day 11, still peeling the stuff off my skin--sort of like an old sunburn--and it was getting to be a nuisance since there was so much of it.
I did an internet search and got a lot of suggestions, but the best was WD-40. Now I know that sounds awful, but WD-40 is actually not harsh on the skin, and I didn't spray it on. I sprayed a small amount on a washcloth, and starting far away from the incision--shoulders, underarms, I gently rubbed away the adhesive. It came off quite easily, and my skin was soft, smooth, and not irritated. I continued all over the area, and within 15 minutes all the goopy stuff was gone. A soapy washcloth took off the residue, and I felt great. The WD-40 washcloth, however, had globs of glue and Betadine all over it. It didn't so much dissolve the goop as slide it off my skin.
So while I wouldn't recommend doing this until the wound is well closed, it worked great at 12 days. Of course, there was no adhesive right against the incision, so that reduced the danger as well.
Hope this helps others.
This is going to sound odd, but sometimes feeling too good after heart surgery is a problem. I find myself feeling as if I can do anything I used to do before the surgery, and while I feel wonderful--no pain, no discomfort, cheerful--I soon discovered that the body is not totally healed. I tried to fold some sheets today and realized it was a stupid thing to do--stretch arms out to side and shake sheet's wrinkles out. I find myself jumping up and down to answer the door, get the phone, put the dogs out--or in--and do get breathless. I have a home helper for a short time, but today she told me she doesn't think there's anything for her to do but laundry. A
nd someone please tell me how to get all this adhesive off my body!
Surgery Day minus 22:
Found out I flunked my stress test. Was in denial. You've gotta be kidding! Scheduled for cath next week.
Surgery Day minus 19:
Flew to Bethesda to see my son's "new" 14th fl condo. What a view. Had dinner at the home of one of his colleagues.
Surgery Day minus 18:
Had brunch with son's college best buddy, wife, and kids. Took Metro to D.C. and walked the Washington Mall in 95 degree heat and full sunshine. They don't have water fountains there any closer than every half mile. Somebody sells a lot of boiled water. Wondered if the walk would ever end. Had dinner with one of his H.S. friends who lives there. Flew home.
Surgery Day minus 14:
Had cath. Heard cardiologist mutter, "I can't believe she ever got to 70 with that valve." He cautioned me to have the surgery soon--absolutely no later than Christmas and then scheduled me to meet the surgeon 5 days later.
Surgery Day minus 13 through 8:
Discussed with hubby. How about when he goes on vacation Dec. 14? Maybe we ought to do it sooner? How about first week of October? After all, I'm going to a quilt show 120 miles from here next week and have tickets to So You Think You Can Dance Sept 30. WHAT? Are we crazy? Let's be realistic.
Surgery Day minus 7:
Did NOT go to Quilt Show 120 miles away. Filed fingernails so I wouldn't chew them. Transferred money in bank accounts, paid bills, tied up loose ends.
Surgery Day minus 6:
Got message from God--well, actually, it was a notice from my life insurance company that they owed me $4800, and did I want them to send me the check? Had first session with hypnotherapist who told me I would know they were giving me needles but I wouldn't feel pain and would amaze everyone with how well I would recover
Surgery Day minus 4:
Went to Bed Bath and bought nice new fluffy towels and extra tub mats anticipating the need for extra linens. Hubby placed huge order with Omaha Steaks in anticipation of our having to eat his "cooking" for awhile after the surgery.
Surgery Day minus 3:
Met surgeon. His first words, "What are you thinking? You've got to do this NOW, not in October!" We agreed. Surgery scheduled for Friday.
Surgery Day minus 2:
Had pre-op at hospital. It took 4 or 5 hours and included a full education on heart procedures, recovery, etc. Excellent information.
Surgery Day minus 1: Had second session with hypnotist. Called friends. Send group announcement out.
Time pushed back to 12:30 PM from 7:30 AM. Later met the guy they swapped my time with. He had a quad bypass and got very critical so they gave him my time earlier in the day and me his later. My best friend arrived at hospital to sit with hubby during surgery. My favorite neighbors also arrived. A woman from my knitting group as well. All stayed until I was cleared from surgery. Actual surgery at 4:30 PM. They tell me I woke up and looked at them and smiled at my son. I don't remember. I do remember waking up briefly and thinking, I'm ALIVE!"
The after-surgery days start counting when you get out of surgery, so mine started at 9 PM on Friday night. Hence Day One went from 9 PM Friday to 9 PM Saturday. Not a night I want to remember. More later. This is just a short timeline. I think the mouth tubes came out around 8 AM but not sure.
Transferred to regular room. Unbelievable view. Absolutely gorgeous. Learned how NOT to get up and lie down. Had sponge bath.
Actually just an hour into 3--found out someone was actually in more need than I and there was nobody to take me to the bathroom. Got out of bed and went myself. Took my first walk at 3 AM. Took 13 short walks that day. Had horrible night sweats that night, but nurses very understanding and changed bedding twice and showered me as well.
Took very long walks 4 times. Stopped all painkillers. Had no pain to speak of but took Tylenol at bedtime and a sleeping pill.
Not my best day. Had lots of visitors. The bowel problem was resolved in a major way and spend most of day on toilet. Was exhausted and called friend to tell her not to come that night.
Woke up like a new woman. Called hubby and said "I'm going home today." He asked sensible question, "Does the doctor know yet?" Felt full of life. Called nurse and told her to call all the doctors and tell them. They came in on their own and all agreed I could go. Went home at 3 PM. SO HAPPY to be in my own bed.
Day Seven: Where is all this energy coming from.
Day Eight: TODAY!
Typed young friend's project paper and spent day helping him think through some of the problematic areas. Will post pictures later.