I hear so many people say how easy- breezy their open heart surgery was which is wonderful. My journey was tough and took time. I hope this helps those who might be struggling. Read to the end...happy ending!
For the past several years I had felt awful. I was short of breath and extremely fatigued requiring long naps each day. I had been to four different cardiologists, none had answers. Echos, nuclear stress tests showed only minor regurgitation, not enough to raise an eyebrow. Regardless of each doctor saying, “Your heart looks good”... I knew something was terribly wrong. My symptoms were getting worse. I knew I had to find the problem fast.
A cardiologist/friend sent me to a valve specialist in Phoenix, Dr Jacob Green. He literally saved my life. He listened to my story, reviewed all prior tests and said.. something doesn’t make sense. He scheduled testing in the cath lab. At first, everything looked normal. He could not locate a problem with my heart, just like the others. He then decided to inject my heart with epinephrine to increase my heart rate. Bingo! All 3 valves failed! When my heart rate went up, my valves would back flow blood. That's the reason echos under normal lab conditions would not reproduce the problem. Five days later I was having open heart. Dr. Robert Riley replaced my aortic valve and repaired the Mitral and Tricuspid valves. Apparent this required opening three chambers of my heart. There were many complications after surgery, my heart stopped due to swelling, multiple bouts of AFib, fluid in both lungs... it was touch and go. It was a week before I felt like I was going to make it. As soon as I was able, I started walking the halls of the hospital at all hours of the day and night. I was having difficulty breathing and sleeping due to fluid on my lungs so I would climb out of bed, walk a lap, go back to bed and repeat this 6 or 7 times a day. Walking helped my breathing, reduced anxiety and tired me out. If I went on a walk and didn't feel well, I would just turn around and climb back in bed. After 14 days I was finally discharged, spent a week in a rehab facility and finally home.
Since 3 valves were repaired, I was told recovery would be slow and not to push it. Every step was an effort, like dragging an elephant. I took slow short walks. If I pushed it, I paid for it...my heart rate would shoot up and I would become exhausted. Back to the couch for more rest! After 8 weeks I started cardiac rehab. I did not want to go but I made myself. The first 2 weeks were difficult , I had no strength especially in my thighs. Rehab was an hours drive from my house. I did not miss one session. I met so many nice people all in the same boat. Their stories were amazing to hear!
About month four, I started feeling stronger and noticed the pre-surgical arrythmias, shortness of breath, heart pain and fatigue were gone!
I think I had been dealing with so much stuff after surgery it took time to notice how much better I was actually feeling.
I was told at 6 months I would feel fine. Not the case for me . I was still dealing with rapid heart issues and fatigue. Six months came and went. No change. I was getting down, not sure I would ever feel better. I remember thinking, I must be happy, grateful and patient. I continued walking, meditating and praying.
At 11 months it was like someone flipped a switch! I was able to walk further and the fatigue was gone. I am now walking 2-5 miles most days and feel amazing! I am no longer short of breath or fatigued in the slightest. It was worth everything I went through to feel this good again!
Last month, May 2020 was my one year check up. The cardiologist said the surgeon had done a fantastic repair!
It was a tough journey. Thank heavens for modern medicine.
Best things I did:
Rest (a lot)
Walk every chance possible if even just laps around inside of house.
Stay positive and thankful!
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
I am from:
My surgery date is:
May 3, 2019
I was diagnosed with:
My surgery was:
Aortic Valve Replacement
Mitral Valve Repair
Tricuspid Valve Repair