Guided Imagery Helps Sam Prepare For Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2010

As we have learned together, there are several strategies and tactics that patients can use to best prepare for their heart valve surgery. Specific to this point, I just received an insightful email from Sam Swerdlow about using guided imagery CDs prior to surgery. Here is what Sam wrote:


Saw Swerdlow Uses Guided Imagery CDs Before Aortic Valve Replacement
Sam Swerdlow, Heart Valve Replacement Patient, & Slater


Hi Adam,

I wanted to let you know of something very awesome that has happened to me. As I have emailed you before, I have been preparing for my aortic valve replacement by listening to meditation and guided imagery cds.

There are many goals of guided imagery. One goal is to learn deep relaxation techniques so the body can heal more rapidly. Another goal is to visualize surgery with no complications, minimal bleeding, and little (or no) discomfort after the procedure.

The listener learns how the patient can become an active participant in healing their body through surgery. During the last two weeks, I have been working with two programs – “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” by Peggy Huddleston and “Meditations to Promote Successful Surgery” by Belleruth Naparstek.

I have been focusing my energy on my heart and my aortic valve, visualizing both my body’s acceptance and the healing of a new tissue valve. Tonight, I suddenly realized that for the last four or five days I have not experienced any of the heart discomfort (arrhythmias and palpitations) that had been becoming more-and-more prevalent over that last three months.


Guided Imagery CDs Before Heart Valve Surgery


Typically, that discomfort was most common during mild activity or when was I laying down at night. Now, my heart beats as it should and I am not experiencing any symptoms of my severe aortic stenosis.

What a bonus! And, what confirmation of the powerful roles we, as patients, play in our own successful surgeries and in our healing process.

I was so excited I just had to email you. Please let Anita know how valuable her blog was for me in preparing for surgery. I’m sure I’m not alone. There must be others that have benefited from Anita’s tips.

Keep up the great work Adam! Thanks again for your heart valve surgery book!

Sam Swerdlow,

P.S. I recently received a post-op email from Sam. He writes, “I thought I’d send you an update on my successful aortic valve replacement procedure performed by Dr. Gillinov. It could not have gone smoother. It was awesome finally meeting Dr. Gillinov in person. He exceeded my expectations in every way.”

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.

Barbara Tipton says on March 24th, 2010 at 1:26 pm


love this site as I am borderline moderate to severe mitral and aorta valve repair. I have been doing my due diligence home work.

Sam and his friend are both congratulated……..

Frank Catanzaro says on March 24th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Guided imagery is an amazing tool for healing. I recently had an aortic valve and mitral valve replacement a bicuspid valve repair, an atrial ligation and a three way bypass done by Dr. McCurry of the Cleveland Clinic. I knew it was a big procedure and my cardiologist Dr. Marwick ( an Aussie and head of imaging at the Cleveland Clinic) told me it would knock the beans right out of me.

The Cleveland Clinic has a small department in complimentary and alternative care and has produced an excellent guided imagery CD. I listened to it 3 or four times and kept the TV relaxation channel going in the background 24 hrs a day. Guided imagery is something I am very familiar with so mine is probably not the standard reaction but I have to say that it was responsible for close to zero stress, anxiety and pain before during and after the procedure.

Can’t say enough about the wonderful people at the Cleveland Clinic, it is a subject of a very long comment.

Thomasina says on March 24th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Adam: I just found this site! I look forward to taking a look all the way thru! I had mitral valve replacement surgery on March 14, 2006. I didn’t even know I had a mitral valve until they told me mine was so damaged! 🙂

I’m glad Sam gave us an update that he’s doing well! I love the puppy in he picture too!


Dale P. says on March 24th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I used “Prepare for Surgery” before foot surgery last May (which I thought would be my last surgery for years) and my aortic valve replacement surgery in November. I was certainly less anxious than I had been for other surgeries, all of which were less scary than my open heart surgery. I think it’s a great book and CD, and it really helped me a lot. I continued to use the CD for months after my surgery. I don’t have any scientific research to back this up, but I think I’ve healed very well and have felt very upbeat since my surgery.

Eleanor says on March 24th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I totally agree with Sam. I used various techniques especially for getting used to resting in the afternoon and to reduce fear and stress : meditation, visulisation and especially Yoga Nidra cd’s which really helped me get used to sleeping on my back. I am now 7 weeks post op and feel better than I did before the Mitral Valve repair. I’m still resting in the afternoon with these aids.
Thomasina made me laugh as I thought I was the only one who didn’t know I had heart valves! Adam your book has been invaluble for elderly ladies like me who didn’t learn Human Biology at school.

Joseph Maniscalco says on March 25th, 2010 at 6:42 am

Dear Sam,

I am so very pleased that you had a very succesful surgery. Your tips on meditations, positive thinking also sounds like a good idea for me. I’m facing the same surgery, AVR, and I’m scared shitless. My e-mail address is I would love to correspond with you.

My best to yiu always,

Joseph Maniscalco

Steve Romanoff says on March 29th, 2010 at 8:46 am

I had aortic valve replacement (severe stenosis) in mid February’10. I went home after three days, but two weeks later developed an infection in the incision. I was readmitted to the hospital for three days of antibiotic IV. I’ve been attending to the incision for the last two weeks. I hope to finally begin cardiac rehab this week. Has anyone else out there had to deal with an infection?

Fran Zilko says on April 1st, 2010 at 7:15 am

Dr Gillinov performed my surgery March 18th. He is a humble man, when I tried to thank him he said “it’s just a plumbing job”. Traveled from FL to OH for a new mitral valve (bovine), tricuspid repair and MAZE proceedure. I downloaded the relaxation/guided imagery tapes from the Cleveland Clinic and listened daily. Went into the OR with my headset on, had hoped they would let me do that but didn’t even have to ask, they just told me I could. I remember feeling no fear, just an overwhelming sense of peace that all would be well. Thank you Adam for this awesome trip.

Rob Sky says on April 12th, 2010 at 8:23 am

Congratulations Sam on your successful operation and thanks for the information about the cd. Also thank you Adam for writing the book and maintaining this blog. i have just been diagnosed with a heart valve problem and need to start planning for operation, a lot going through my head right now.

Kari says on April 12th, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Wow, Sam! Thank you for this wonderful advice. I am going to run out and get the tapes tomorrow. My Mom (80) is going to have mitral valve replacement surgery next week and she is really scared. Sounds like this will really help her, and me! Many many thanks for taking the time to share.
Blessings, SBKari

Natalie Phillips says on October 6th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Dear Sam,

I was born with a aortic bicuspid valve. I have been going to my yearly examines most of my life. After my son was born I skipped going to them for 6 years. Last Friday 10/1/10 I went in and got the scare of my life. My vavle had gotten worse. The doctor told me that I will need AVR in the next three to five years. I have been told most of my life that this was going to happen but I never thought it would be so soon. I am 39. So as you can imagine my life is turned upside down and I can’t stop thinking about it. I agree with Joseph Maniscalco (comment above)….I am scared shitless! And feel like my life is on hold.

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