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Thomas's Heart Valve Journal

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Thomas Smeal

North Olmsted, Ohio,

United States


My Diagnosis

Aortic Stenosis




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My new valve is registered!

July 26, 2012

I received a letter from my heart surgeon explaining that my new St. Jude Medical Trifecta Pericardial Bovine Heart Valve bioprosthesis #25 (whew) is a registered prosthetic device and is considered an “implanted device”.

The valve is assigned a model number and serial number imprinted on a Patient Identification Card that I am advised to keep in my wallet at all times. Safety Information on the back of the card indicates that my valve, which has a structure made of titanium, is “MR Conditional”. Specs are listed that should be followed if I ever get an MRI (I’m guessing here) in the heart area. I’ll have to check this out further.

Fun With ReHab

July 16, 2012

Kinda fun I guess. Today was my second visit to rehab at Fairview Hospital, a Cleveland Clinic system hospital. The routine is 20 minutes on the most boring exercise machine in the world - the treadmill, then 20 minutes on the really most boring exercise machine in world history - the stationary bicycle and finally 5 minutes using both arms yanking on wall pulleys. I guess I'm forever spoiled from hiking up Colorado mountains and bicycling up to all the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi...sigh.

To counter the boredom I kicked it up a notch by walking faster on the treadmill, and using a higher resistance on the stationary bike. I actually sweated....for the first time since pre-surgery and I was within the limits the therapists set for my workout. These little things mean a lot when you're bored out of your skull during recovery!

Enough about me, howz everyone doing?


4 Week Maintenance Check

July 6, 2012

Cardiologist says I’m doing ok; my new heart valve is working perfectly but I’m still in the seriously healing stage with a high heart rate and low blood pressure. Doctor says to stay on my current dose of beta-blocker which helps lower the heart rate. My heart muscle is still screaming in protest from being violated during surgery….this is normal. Climbing simple stairs finally isn’t causing me to double over from breathlessness. And my chest bone (sternum) is healing nicely so the Doctor declared it stabilized and gave me permission to drive (Donna is so happy, happy); who wants to drive around a crotchety old guy!

Finally, I was given a prescription to take Cardiac Therapy so I’m scheduled for orientation at Fairview Hospital next week….walking is so boring and a very low key exercise so I’m anxious to ramp it up a notch or two or three.

See you soon,


2-Week Post Op Check-Up

June 21, 2012

Visited the Cleveland Clinic yesterday for a post valve-job inspection. Had some blood-letting, still-hairless chest X-Ray, an EKG and an up close and personal meeting with a Nurse Practitioner (CNP & MSN & MPH). The results of all the tests were immediately available to the CNP, the Cleveland Clinic is very efficient. This level of nurse substitutes for my heart surgeon and is able to interpret and diagnose all of the tests and can write prescriptions. She reported that I’m doing very well considering and my healing is progressing as expected. She also had every one of my whining irritations covered with an immediate explanation and mitigation recommendation; I couldn’t stump her so I gave up trying.

She explained that my lack of appetite and problems tasting some foods was due to the lingering effects of the powerful anesthesia used for surgery; the effects can last for weeks and is normal. I have to wait for written approval from my Cardiologist before I can begin cardiac therapy (exercise) to help strengthen my cardio-vascular system. I see the Cardio guy in early July, until then I can only walk every day and blow into a hand-held, plastic Incentive Spirometer device regularly to keep the lungs clear. Pneumonia is the biggest post-op risk.

My chest X-Rays showing the permanent stainless steel wires holding my sternum together are normal and the surface scar is healing nicely. And still no lifting anything over 10 lbs and no driving until the 6-week post-op date (an air-bag event could be very harmful to my still healing chest).

Oh well enough about me!

And a Happy Birthday for our cherished Aunt June, 86 years young! See you on the 4th!

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Surgery went well, to be released soon

June 10, 2012

Got my new St. Jude Trifecta Paricardial Bovine, 25mm aortic valve. I also had my ascending aorta repaired with a Dacron shield. D-Day, the day my of surgery was blur! I can remember very little....thank goodness.

Now it's Sunday and I may get out this afternoon.

Thanks to everyone who posted here and who kept in touch with Donna.

It's Donna again

June 5, 2012

Check out Tom's bedside photo in the My Photos picture...any of you who know him will wonder IF he really had surgery...he looks great.

Word out is possibly a Monday release...go figure!



May 30, 2012

Got a call yesterday, Tuesday, from Dr. Pettersson's office at the Cleveland Clinic, the scheduling guy said they had a cancellation for today, Wednesday, and wanted to know if I could show up today for surgery!! YIKES!

I had to decline, I'm not ready, still many details to take care of....plus my cousin from Connecticut is flying in tomorrow to be here for my OHS scheduled for June 6th. Whew! That was a close one.


Holy Bicuspid!

May 18, 2012

After a full day yesterday at the Cleveland Clinic submitting myself to a full battery of pre-operation tests I found out today while talking to my surgeon Dr. Pettersson that my severe stenosis aortic valve is also bicuspid! This means that the valve has only two of the three leaflets of a normal heart valve, Its a congenital condition - I was born with it and means the valve never opened all the way, and got worse as I aged.

This news confirms two things: 1. the valve indeed must be replaced before it gets worse, 2. the replacement valve will make my heart work better than it has ever worked in my lifetime. Darn, it's still too late to qualify for the Tour DeFrance! Oh well, c'est la vie!

This valve defect has also caused some minor damage (weakening) to my aorta just downstream of the valve. Dr. Pettersson will strengthen it while replacing the valve.

Enough about me! Howz eveybody doing?

Surgical Packet arrives...D Day getting closer.

May 6, 2012

Yes, my valve job is scheduled for D-Day 2012, June 6th.

As promised, my Cleveland Clinic Surgical Packet arrived one day after the nurse told me it's in the mail. What a wealth of information about heart valve surgery! Sometimes is nicer having paper in hand instead of staring at a computer screen.

They've scheduled me for these tests on May 17th: blood test, electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, CT scan and a pulmonary function test (because of my asthma issue). Whew! I then get to meet with an Anasthesiologist and a Nurse Clinician. So much for day one.

I am then to meet with my surgeon on Friday the 18th! The man who will have his hands in my chest is Dr. Gosta Pettersson, Vice Chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery and Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation.

When I meet with Dr. Pettersson I will finally know the two most important details of my surgery. 1- Do I qualify for the minimally invasive surgical technique, 2- What new aortic valve material will be used for my valve job. I'm leaning toward the minimally invasive technique, obviously, and the bovine material valve.

We Shall See!


The Date is SET!

May 3, 2012

The Cleveland Clinic called today as promised last week. My aortic valve replacement surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6, 2012! Dr. Pettersson had reviewed my medical history yesterday and will have me scheduled soon for an aortic CAT Scan, Breathing test, blood test.....and a few others before the pre-op test. Now I wait again for the call for me to come in for these tests. No decision can be made as to surgery technique (mini-sternotomy or full sterno job) and new valve material until these tests are analyzed....makes sense.



The next step.....

April 28, 2012

My heart doctor fedexed all my test results to Dr. Pettersson at the Cleveland Clinic yesterday. I talked to the CC patient contact nurse who told me that the doctor would exam my records and his office would contact me. In the mean time I was instructed to obtain a 'letter of clearance' from my Dentist along with dental x-rays. These are required before open heart surgery..

Apparently it takes about a month to get all the ducks in a row before the cutting begins.


Meeting with my heart doctor Friday 4/27/12.

April 25, 2012

Since I was advised to limit my exercising to a maximum heart rate of 135bpm I am really anxious to get the ball rolling.

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