I am a couple days away from my six week post-op anniversary following an aortic valve replacement. My recovery has been almost issue-free, with the only truly major issue being drainage holes that took a month to heal. I was incredibly well taken care of by my surgeon and his team at Keck Hospital at USC in Los Angeles.
I was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve in 2003 (congenital defect). The murmur was very slight at the time. The cardiologist told me my aortic valve would have to be replaced in 10-20 years. I promptly put it at the back of my mind. I stopped having my yearly echocardiograms after 2009, as I was focused on raising my kids and did not take the time to care for myself.
in 2013, my mom was diagnosed with the same congenital defect and had her valve replaced that same year. I watched her suffer with tremendous pain for a couple years following her surgery. Her experience made me completely terrified of having my valve replaced, so I put off seeing a doctor. My blood pressure was high and was managed solely on one medication from 2010 until March of this year.
I started having issues breathing towards the end of February, about ten days after my 50th birthday. by the end of the first week of March, I made arrangements to be seen at Keck Hospital to be evaluated for my breathing issues. Once I arrived, my blood pressure was off the charts high (270/135). From that point forward, they worked hard to bring my BP down to a non-critical stage. About seven hours after arriving at the hospital, I had a very tiny NSTEMI heart attack. I am grateful there was no damage done to my heart and I had no blockages. When I did my cardiology follow-up a couple weeks later, I was told I had to have my valve replaced within 3-4 months, as the valve only had 28% function.
I did everything I could to prepare for my surgery in advance so that I would have a comfortable, smooth recovery. My goal was to not have the same negative, tortuous recovery I watched my mom struggle through following her surgery.
The surgery went well with zero complications and minimal blood loss. They had me up in a chair 18 hours post-surgery and I almost had all of my color back by then. I spent the majority of my hospital stay in the reclining chair because it was more comfortable than the hospital bed, especially for getting up and down. I was discharged from the hospital four days after the surgery. The hospital staff were all impressed with how quickly I was recovering.
The first couple post-surgical weeks were the most difficult for me, though the hardest part was being able to be awake early enough to do my exercise since it would get over 80 degrees by 9 am. At my post-op appointment, they removed the sutures from the drainage holes, which then took 26 days to completely close. I am so glad to not have tape on my tummy now!
I am still dealing with some range of motion issues in my neck (right side), but even that keeps improving each day. I am hoping to start back to working one of my jobs next week. Since my second job requires more physical exertion, I won't be back to that job for another two months.
Michele - cow valve...Moo!
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
My surgery date is:
June 10, 2021
I was diagnosed with:
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
Coronary Artery Disease