How To Prepare Yourself For Some Frustration… Before, During And After Surgery!

By Adam Pick on January 12, 2008

Many patients and caregivers say that heart valve surgery can be similar to a roller-coaster. There are emotional and physical “ups”. And, there are emotional and physical “downs”.

Looking back on my surgery, I completely agree with that roller-coaster analogy.

In addition to the fear… In addition to the uncertainty… In addition to the doubt.

I, like many patients, experienced waves of the “F” word. Ahem! Not that “F” word. The “Frustration” f-word.

I was frustrated with my insurance company. I was frustrated with my first cardiologist and his horrible bedside manner. I was frustrated with the heart surgeon selection process. I was frustrated with the valve selection process too.



I was even frustrated with my own heart.

“Why can’t you fix yourself?” I’d think to myself.

As you can read in my earlier blogs, I’m not a complainer. I think heart valve surgery is a medical miracle. However, that being said, I am writing this blog to prepare patients and their caregivers for a little (hopefully not a lot of) frustration.

Here are some simple steps to avoid the frustration…

1. Remember to ask questions and stand up for yourself or the patient you care for. Earlier, I have written about ‘Asking Your Genie‘ and it is totally true. Knowledge is power. Curious questions are the stepping stones to negating frustration . As Jackie Pancoat, writes in “The Best Piece Of Advice” chapter in my book, “Ask Questions!”

2. Accept RIGHT NOW that you can not avoid the frustration. Trust me, frustration will appear in your life relative to heart surgery. Maybe you will be frustrated with the recovery? Maybe you will be frustrated with the pain? Maybe you will be frustrated with yourself? Maybe you will be frustrated with your caregivers? If you can acknowledge it and accept the frustration your life will be much easier.

3. Talk openly about your issues. The worst thing you can do is keep everything bottled up inside. Find someone who will let you vent any bit of frustration you can find. I used to tell Robyn (my wife), “I need five minutes to vent. Are you okay with that?” Robyn, being the saint she is, would sit, listen to me and nod her head. Believe it or not, after those five minutes of venting, I felt a whooooooole lot better.

So you know, it is now two years after my heart valve surgery and I’m still experiencing frustration.

Just today, I had to follow-up with my cardiac surgeon for part two of my annual check-up. It’s been over a month since I first requested the appointment. Yes. A month! Still, no appointment.

That doesn’t make Doctor Starnes a bad guy. However, his staff could really learn a thing or two about following up with his patients and planning appointments properly.

What did I do?

I accepted the frustration. I laughed it off with Robyn. Then, I called Dr. Starnes’ office. I complained politely. And now… I have my appointment! And, many years later my aortic valve replacement is doing great!

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Carla Kelly says on June 15th, 2008 at 3:12 am

Hello, my name is Carla and my spouse has just undergone a triple bypass surgery on June 2. of this moth. What I am wondering about is his great mood swings now that he is at home the 2. week. He seemed to have done better the first week at home. Now he gets often very angry, yells and me, then he is sad to almost tears and so on. I wonder if this has to do with the medication he is taking? He went to his regular GP and ask him for valium and change the vicatin pain pills which kept him up all night back the preceset. He is also taking prosac and lopressor blood presure medications.

Is there anyone to give me some advice as what to do about that or if my concerns are not valid. I am falling apart trying to take care of him at the moment,


Al says on June 17th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Hi Carla,
I had quadruple bypass in Jan. 08 and last week had carotid artery surgery to unblock the artery. Myself the bypass was a piece of cake compared to the carotid artery surgery, maybe because it was prescheduled not like the bypass which was done 3 days after I suffered a heart attack. It’s been a long tough recovery, the depression is normal according to my cardiologist, he wanted to give me meds I chose not to take them. The day after my bypass I basically took nothing but Tylenol for pain which was minor. Also took no pain meds after the carotid I have bottles of vicadin and oxycodin sitting on my counter. I guess I was lucky. The worse part I think is the fear one has that there could be another heart attack etc. After talking with other people who have experienced heart surgery everyone is different, I would say try to stay positive with your spouse and be involved with his doctor. Good Luck and my prayers are with you. Thanks to Adam for this web site. By the way I am 59yrs old single male doing great “now”

Ann Tyler says on June 11th, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Help my frustration level has reached the tear level again. I had open heart done to replace my aortic value and Also an aortic aneurysm fixed about four months ago. Had some minor issue after with the incision, but nothing that was not able to be handle. My biggest worry, Fear is getting the Coumadin levels right. Up and down they seem to go. My Inr is ok this week, last it was low and now my pt is too high. This has me walking around like a basket case. I really never wanted the mecahincal valve just for this reason but they said I would be right back in there if I got the tissue value. It’s not that I don’t believe the doctors or trust them. Look they have gotten me this far and I made the decision kind of. Anyway I’m just don’t know where to go from here. Can anyone help 😔

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