After Aortic Valve Replacement, Dean Gets ‘Cheesecake Factory’ Delivered To Colorado Hospital

By Adam Pick on August 2, 2008

I’m incredibly lucky to receive touching and memorable letters from heart valve surgery patients and caregivers all over the world. In particular, I consider it a special honor when one of my book readers includes me on his or her email list during their heart surgery recovery.

Just today, Dean (from Colorado) sent me this wonderful email which illustrates his appreciation for his support group and his VERY RECENT heart valve replacement. I thought you might like to hear Dean’s thoughts on his hospital experience, so I asked him for permission to share it in this blog. Without further ado, here it is:


Dean and Betsy (aka His “Rock”)


Friends and Family,

Tuesday 29 July, 2008 – One Week After Heart Surgery

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Without your thoughts, phone calls and good wishes, I would have come through this surgery as great as I have. I also know that your phone calls with Betsy throughout the last week helped her deal with me as I worked through all the emotions of having this done and the first week of recovery. She was my “rock” through out it all with the most positive attitude anyone could have. Thank you Hon!

Today is one week from heart valve replacement surgery and I will give you a brief sketch of what took place the last week and hopefully not too graphic. Those that want more details, please just let me know and I will provide.

Tuesday:I arrived at the Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado at 7:00am for an 8:00am surgical start. Since they drugged me up, I am not sure when they wheeled me into the operating room. Betsy says right around 8:00am – go figure, a Doctor who’s on time.

The surgical staff had some issues finding my jugular vein in the right side of my neck, so they had to get some equipment to find an alternative vein in the left side. This delayed the start of the procedure until around 10:30am to 11:00am. I certainly had no clue about this as I was is La-La Land. But, it is just like me to make things difficult!

The surgery ended about 4:00pm and I saw an angel at the end of my bed at 6:00pm. (OK. It was Betsy but she’s my angel and I knew I had made it through). Betsy said I was doing double thumbs up every 30 seconds. I really don’t remember much of that night except that every time they gave me a shot of some drug I went into the BEST Margarita-ville that is know to man! I am trying find the name of that stuff!

Wednesday Morning: I am more alert and I have more things hanging out of me than an octopus. Head-to-foot and all parts in between, there is something hanging or hooked to me! They are now getting stingy with the margaritas so starting to feel like I got hit by a freight train. Sometime that morning, they pull the breathing tube (aka the ventilator tube) out of my throat – feels great and I can now talk. I discover that breathing hurts like hell because they have two drain tubes around my lungs and heart. I think they must have run out of regular size ones because these look like the size of garden hose to me. Late that morning they move me to the regular recover room.

Wednesday Afternoon: Now the real work begins. Get up and walk – yes within 24 hours of coming out of open heart surgery, they have me up, walking, eating and blowing into this torture tube to help my lungs. If is supposed to help, why does it hurt so much? Every few minutes there is someone there taking reading, giving me pills, injecting something or making sure I was doing my torture breathing exercises – did I mention the “tubes”!

Thursday: Things start coming out and with each tube, wire, needle, etc. I feel better. I cannot tell you how good it felt when those two hoses came out! One was about 12 inches long and the other about 18 inches long. I could now breath 10 times easier. The day was filled with taking meds, breathing exercises, walking a few times and eating. Still on Thursday, I could not concentrate on anything for very long – either that or daytime TV really is bad!

Friday: More of the same as Thursday. Less tubes and the nurses now have me climbing stairs along with the exercise. Collin and Evan came to visit which was a real treat. Betsy had stayed down in Boulder the complete time. Somehow a bottle of great wine showed up – I am convinced that is the secret to a fast and healthy recovery. (We checked with the doc and he said a glass certainly would not hurt)

Saturday: I am now doing everything on my own including showering. Nothing hooked to me – how cool is that? They tell me to not over do it. The boys and Betsy brought me some food from the Cheesecake Factory. That was a treat and the nurses were always telling me to keep my calories up. I guess they don’t know me!

Sunday: I guess my doctors and nurses were tired of my bad jokes and asking for take out from the Flagstaff House. They told me to get prepared to go home after the daily surgeon visit. Dr. Douthit came by and said everything was working perfect and that I was ahead of schedule for recovery. He said that my heart was getting more blood and working easier than it probably had in 5 years. I am nothing short of amazed and thankful with this man’s ability. Sunday afternoon at about 4:00pm Betsy is driving me home 5 days after open heart surgery.

Here’s what took place. They replaced my calcified aortic valve with a 23mm Carpenter Edwards bovine (cow) valve. Don’t be surprised if I chew my cud or moooooo occasionally. The pressure in my heart had reached a level of 75 mm HG where 45 to 50 is considered severe. It is now 17. Very close to a natural valve. When they had my chest open (aka median sternotomy) they did a by-pass of the descending aorta vein. Even though a couple of surgeons said they would not do the by-pass, I never wanted to do this again if possible and asked my surgeon to make a conservative judgment call when he had my chest open. I am glad he did it!


Median Sternotomy


Dean’s Heart Surgery Scar (One Week Post-Op)


Today, I feel great considering what I went through. I am off any pain killers and doing all the exercise they will let me. I don’t sleep more than 5 or 6 hours at night yet but I don’t have pain and coughing is even tolerable. Getting in-and-out of bed / chairs is easy although I am getting tired.

I have a nurse come by the house once a day to check the vital signs and everything is normal. Next week, I will join the cardiac rehab group at the Heart Center of the Rockies and go through 90 days of supervised exercise. At the end of 90 days, they claim I will be running 30 to 45 minutes a day. Hell, I couldn’t do that in some of my best days. I should be driving the end of August and off most of the medications by the end of October. They will clear me back to work in September but I am kind of liking this house husband retirement stuff.

I’ll quit rambling – too much time on my hands – but again my sincere thanks to you all for your support. There just are not the right words to express how much it meant to me. It just shows me that with terrific family and friends, you can get through just about anything.

Feel free to write or call. I am up to it and getting better and stronger every day.


P.S. To Adam, I can tell you that your book on heart valve surgery is the most read book in the Boulder Community Hospital. Everyone was coming in an borrowing it when I slept (if you can call it that). All of the nursing staff was impressed and I think will be ordering them for themselves and their patients.

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.

Alan says on August 2nd, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Well done Dean. Your story and the way you tell it was what I needed to read. I learned 3 months ago that I have moderate aortic stenosis and recently my cardiologist confirmed that I will need valve replacement surgery before too long. I want to have an attitude like yours and you certainly show why it pays off.

Sherri Hendry says on August 3rd, 2008 at 9:04 am

Dean, WOW!!! I’m amazed! Your experience is a comfort to me since being told I was in the category of having surgery in the near future. May you continue your speedy recovery. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

A says on November 6th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Very encouraging and gives hope. My friend is schedule for a bypass this coming Monday. He needs encouragement. I am glad I ready this. So I can share with him the possibilities.

Shelly says on May 16th, 2014 at 12:21 am

When the breathing tube is in what does it feel like and do they tape your mouth shut??
I am traumatized by the thought of the breathing tube. Did they give you all the pain meds you felt you needed. My surery is coming up very soon anti am petrified. Thanks

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