The ‘Other Side’ Of Patient & Caregiver Fear

By Adam Pick on May 18, 2009

I receive many each day about heart valve surgery, from both patients and caregivers. Unfortunately, many of these emails begin with opening statements like:

  • “Hi Adam – I am scared out of my mind right now, I was just diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis…”
  • “Hi Adam – After monitoring my my mitral prolapse for 10 years, I need surgery. Needless to say I’m a wreck…”
  • “Help Adam! My husband is going in for aortic valve replacement tomorrow. I can’t sleep I’m so scared…”

As you can tell, fear is the fundamental emotion expressed in these types of emails.

In the past, we have talked about fear on many occasions. We have turned it into an acronym as F.E.A.R. or Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real. And, I have posted clinical research to illustrate how to dispel your fear of heart surgery.

This morning, I read a wonderful quote from best-selling author, John Roger, that addresses this very common issue among patients and caregivers. Here is the quote:

You may be surprised to learn that negative conditions can actually lead to a positive place.
On the other side of loneliness is a beautiful place called solitude.
On the other side of rejection is the simply powerful place of acceptance.

I loved how this quote could be directly applied to the negative condition of fear. I even thought about how we could add one more line to this quote about heart valve surgery. It might read like this:

On the other side of heart surgery fear is courage, strength and, among all things, healthy hearts.

If you are fearful about an upcoming surgery or if you are struggling through your recovery, please remember that the odds are with you.  As my mom said to me, “You can turn a heart valve lemon into heart valve lemonade.”

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.

Johan Neethling says on May 18th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Thank you Adam, My upcoming aortic valve replacement surgery is scheduled for 1 July and not minutes ago my girlfriend and I talked about fear, this time specifically about surgery induced stroke. She, for the first time, told me that she has booked a nursing service to have a nurse at my side for 24 hours a day for the first 3 days, when I get home. She admitted that she did this because she was afraid and I, of course, is as apprehensive about the operation as one can get!! Thanks for the note above, we both took tremendous heart (healthy heart!) from your comments. Johan in Cape Town

LaVonne Neff says on May 18th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Adam, I’m sure you’re aware of the etymological root of the word “courage.” Here it is from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

c.1300, from O.Fr. corage, from V.L. *coraticum, from L. cor “heart,” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.


Adam Pick says on May 18th, 2009 at 2:54 pm


Excellent to hear of your preparations for the early recovery! You are going to do greaaaaaaat!


I had no idea of the root of the word “courage”. Thanks for sharing. Very appropriate, wouldn’t you say?


Keep on tickin!


Joan Parkinson says on May 18th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

It is almost 4 months since my aortic valve replacement and for some reason I am still following Adams blog I find it very interesting and I enjoy sharing my experience with others.
As Adam has said many times there is no hard fast rule as to how long someone will remain in hospital or the amount of time it takes to recover. However, there are statistics available and of course Adam’s book.

My surgeon made the decision to do schedule the replacement surgery even though I had no symptoms but the valve was closed to .7cm and I have a very active lifestyle. So the morning of the surgery I was very apprehensive about going through the procedure when I felt fine…

I had the average length of stay in hospital, five days. No complications.
Taking Adam’s advise my husband cleared his calender for the first two weeks to at my side, friends brought food and cleaned the house. After 3 or 4 days I was controlling the pain with regular Tylenol. After 4 weeks I sent my husband away for a much needed get away.

Now it is over and I feel better than ever. We live in a marvelous time for heart surgery, they have certainly perfected it.

Good Luck and think positive.

Chuck Harris says on May 18th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Adam, I read your book after my OHS for aortic valve replacement and and one bypass. As for fear, I had it, in spades. Fortunately, my surgery came sooner than i expected so I did not need to go through the long anxious wait. However, It was still scary. My advise to any person facing OHS is to trust in the incredibly skillful, talented, and caring professionals who do these amazing medical feats! Trust in the surgeons, anesthesiologists, profusionists, nurses, and the janitors of the hospital you are in. These people know what they are doing. The risk is decreasing to the point that it is almost safer than driving! I have nothing but respect for the job they do; after all, they gave me 15-30 more years to live! Another thing; learn as much as possible! knowledge is power. Knowing everything you can will give you the confidence to actually approach this daunting procedure with curiosity and one can almost go through as a tourist. You will be fascinated by everything rather than being terrified. Ask questions and be a proactive patient. Of all people in the mix, who should be the most responsible for the success of the operation? It seems to me that YOU, the patient are most responsible. Make sure you are knowledgeable and help your medical team do their best by being at your best! If you smoke, stop!. If you are overweight, lose it!, If you have any issues that you can improve in order to assist your recovery then work on them! If you want to live, you really have no choice!

Chuck Harris says on May 18th, 2009 at 3:37 pm

For those, such as Johan, who might be considering using a nursing service for those first days home, WATCH OUT! The service we arranged for was pathetic!. The nurse fell asleep and I had to get up and wake her up to go get me a drink. Also the next night one “nurse” didn’t even know how to take my blood pressure. And on the third day, the nurse took off an hour early and claimed she left at the assigned time. As k around and get references as to the quality of care you can expect. We got excellent from a South carolina Home Care Nurse and Physical Therapy Nurse for free.

Abby says on May 19th, 2009 at 6:25 pm

my husband is having his surgery on friday & i’m pretty freaked out myself, I can’t imagine what he feels like inside. i have booked off work but not any extra help – should I?

Johan Neethling says on May 20th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Abby, your husband and you are in our thoughts and our prayers! In anticipation of my own aortic valve replacement surgery in 5 weeks time, I did a huge amount of background research and it became very clear to me that these amazing procedures are done routinely all over the world with as close to 100% success rate as one can get! Your husband will be fine and you will cope with the post operation care as I am sure you know from Adam’s blog and book what to expect! Taking Chuck’s comments about the quality of nursing services to heart, we have decided to cancel our nurse. Friends and family will now step in. Please keep us informed of your husbands progress. Johan in Cape Town

Micki Novak says on May 20th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

My surgery is June 1st. It was postponed from May 21st. I was all psyched and now am again, preparing myself. I too am worried about the care I need when I get home. Living alone, do I need to get 24 hour care? CanI just get a visiting nurse? Can I do any of this on my own? What can I really plan for?

Gail Kapcsandi says on July 1st, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I just came across this site this evening. God works in wonderful ways , as I am having my aortic valve replacement on July 5th and , needless t say, and scared to death. Reading some of the comments has helped some.
As far as care after I am released from the hospital, I will be going to another hospital rehab for at least 2 weeks. A friend of mine who had double bypass surgery went to this same rehab and aside from teaching you how to dress yourself, lie in bed properly, walk up the steps, and aide you in getting back to normal routines, you are monitored 24/7 by nursing staff or doctor. He felt so spoiled he almost didn’t want to come home. (lives alone). Although I know I will have the support of family and friends, I will be coming home to a 21 year old son and overexuberant pets in the family….so I am looking forward to a little time in rehab to recouperate a little longer, get a little stronger, be monitered by qualified staff in case of any problems, get a little rest…and I know my family and friends will be at the rehab for me as well. ANY new on aortic valve replacement surgery and recovery would be helpful to me now. I am scared!

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