It has been almost 7 years out and I have been doing great. you, the things you are supposed to do, like live your life, love your family and work and provide for them as you always have. I have a checkup pretty much yearly and things are great. If you look down my journal here, you will see the outline of what a great recovery looks like and what you need to do to get back to life. It was easier than I thought and still no walk in the park, but with good doctors and pain management, it is very doable.
I am 63 years old, working 5-7 days a week and during the COVID Virus time, workin 70+ hours per week and feeling great. I promise you I could not have done that without this surgery to replace my bicuspid aortic valve. I have been able to see my son get three degrees from college, celebrate that graduation, watch him get a great job and start his life. I have had time with my wife that I cherish and value beyond measure and can say that the recovery time where we were together 24/7 is one of my fondest and cherished times with her and my son.
The key to note if you read the posts below is that you have a SLOW plan to increase your activities daily, take a small break when needed, distribute out your medicine during the day, limit too much activity too close together early on and WALK!!! They had me standing beside the bed to get me up vertical within about 12 hours after surgery. There is something magic in getting our bodies vertical, even if for 2 minutes quickly and the starting the process of walking numerous times per day, even if it is only to your chair. The it will be to the door of the room and then the desk outside the room and the the end of the short hall and then the long hall and then the circle around the floor, etc... All this happens over days and your drive to go is also your key to recovery. But take it SLOW and STEADY. If you are feeling great and can do more---DON'T. Stick to your plan. I had friends that went through this same time I did on here and when they over did it, it turned into a 2-3 day set back and one ended up back n the hospital for a day or two. Unless there are unforeseen complications, you will be fine.
I apologize for not keeping more connected here and the COVID-19 thing is a significant event where I hope all are safe.
I wish you the best and for me, I would do it again today. it has been more than worth it. Adam, thank you for this forum.
It is hard to believe that three years ago, I was on a table in Indinanapolis Indiana at the St. Vincent Heart Hospital (actually Carmel In). My recovery was literally picture perfect. My wife set me on the path with a planned increase of activities daily, very small increments and she was with me 100% of the time. I had a great recovery team with my brother and sister splitting time in the hospital the first few days. My son and one of our family friends were there for added support as well. One thing to really consider is that you need to plan your recovery activities and increase SLOWLY. I walked 7 minutes three times a day one day. It went to 8 the next, not 12 because I felt better. So many things like the hospital standing at my bedside that night after my surgery to the point that I was walking nearly a quarter mile three times a day in hospital on the 6th day after surgery around the hallways. I still travel globally and regularly for my job and work out 1-3 times a week most weeks on the treadmill and with hand weights. To all you on the list and just coming out of surgery, concentrate on the recovery to be slow and sure. Feel free to read my posts, I tried to be pretty detailed about what we did that worked so well for me. And again, I and so thankful to Tammy, my wife for her commitment and the 5 weeks of being with me 24/7 until she kicked me out of the nest again. I feel better at 60 than I think I did at 40. Never had symptoms, but Cardiologist knew it was time and the surgeon said it was one of the worst valves he had ever removed from someone that could stand. Get a couple of opinions but listen to them, even if you don't feel bad. Good luck all and let me know if I can help.
Last Thursday was one year. Wow. While I always know I had heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, I am doing everything I was before the surgery and more. It is not something I think about actively and it kind of moves into the background like any other significant event in your life. You do not forget you did it but it does not define who You are or what you do. For example, I spent Sat working on my friends truck replacing a right front wheel bearing assembly, getting under the truck, trying to break loose the stuck bolt with all my strengths the ratchet, lifting tires, etc.
My scar is barely able to be seen, there are no limitations to my activities and I feel like it made me 10 years younger. I still travel the world for my job, run/jog/walk 2 to 14 miles per week and lift weights 1 to 3 times per week. I am 58 and there is a good chance without the surgery I would have missed my last birthday.
You can read my previous entries and see what I did and how my wife helped me recover for a near perfect recovery. I would be glad to discuss any worries or fears and relay anything We learned to help you. Drop a response and we can discuss privately if you like. Now I need to go catch up on some of my other heart valve friends and how they are doing a year later.
Hello everyone. Sorry about taking a little longer to update but once your back in the thick of it, your time is not as much your own as it is during the first part of the recovery process.
Tammy and I are in central Florida, Orlando actually, and providing part of the care team for my sister who had a reverse shoulder replacement yesterday. Basically they cut the whole joint off and put the ball on the shoulder and the cup on the arm bone. She had a hard time during the first 12 hours and then we figured out the pain management ad she had a very good night. I got to spend the first night with her last night and she is going to be walking and sitting up a fair amount today. Yes, hydrocodone, 2 every 4 hours and 15 minutes, remember that!
It is interesting to be able to do this. I feel like I could always be a decent caregiver but it is amazing how much you learn when you are on the other side as the patient. Also, I have the best teacher and mentor in the amazing Tammy. She sees the big picture quicker than anyone and brings up the good points early. Lenora my sister is the nurse as well. Obviously a good caregiver but took her a while to settle into the slow and steady, actually about the first 12 hours. Brings back memories.
My progress has been great. I have lost about 34 lbs using weight watchers and continuing the cardiac rehab. Probably have about 6 more sessions before they evaluate my progress. Still doing 30 minutes on the treadmill but now going 3.6 mph and heading towards 3.7. 30 minutes on the seated bike at 7 resistance and 70 rpm and doing upper body weights. Starting to try to do the plank, where you rest on toes and elbows and try to hold body off the ground. The core is my weakest area after surgery and that is pretty difficult. Still doing the resistance band ab crunches, can do about 50 from a seated position. Not doing reg sit-ups or push-ups.
No medicines required other than the 12.5 mg of metoprolol twice a day. Do take some ibuprofen occasionally, it helps after the cardiac rehab sometimes and still can be a little weird when I sleep on my side for a long period in the night. Still feel deep layer tenderness during some things. The incisions site area can pull or sting the next day after a vigorous cardiac upper body rehab or throwing around a few heavy boxes.
Will see the cardiologist on the 13th and will discuss a baseline echo, amount other things. It is great to see everyone coming along so well, and good to hear about Rachel getting the tube removed.
Always remember, slow and steady. Turn down the expectation of the rate of recovery progress to get the quickest recovery. Also, you are now highly qualified care team members for others, go forth and keep healing.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. There is so much to be thankful for, it is hard to know where to start. It is best to keep it simple or my normal long post would turn into an epistle. The care team is a gift I can never repay, but that is what family really stands for isn't it? Yes the hospital, nurses, surgeon and cardiologist are part of this thanks. People I work with that made sure to keep me from coming back too early. All the people that checked on the surgery and recovery. All the information from all the people on here made the journey much less stressful. All the sharing we do here to keep the remote support going. And I saved some special thanks for Zach and especially Tammy, who carried me for weeks in such an unselfish way, it is humbling to look back and realize the devotion. It is very interesting that I can never truly be worthy of the blessings I have received, but the good news is that they are freely given with no expectations other than love. Yes God, I have a lot to be thankful for. Keep healing everyone.
Just finished another round of rehab today. it is going well and the treadmill and seated bike work is going well. Thirty minutes three times a week each. Still doing weights and now doing ab/core work with elastic band things (with handles). There is a rare pop of what I surmise to scar tissue stretching, which is a good thing, keeps it from getting tight and pulling/limiting movement later.
Different parts of the incision site pull over the time of the cardiac rehab. Ever since beginning, the pulling of the chest has steadily decreased in the first weeks to not have pain in movement. Pain is a relative term, it did not hurt as much as it was sore if I turned wrong.
As the exercises increased and the strength grew over the last 8 weeks or so, the pulling of the incision site has gone from general to feeling it across the chest at the bottom and very week or so, it has moved up. this is prob due to the increases in exercises and the incorporation and increase of the upper body weights. Now there is a pulling across the chest really above the incision, can not really explain that other than the whole area gets stretched, clamped or cut in the process of surgery.
Every week or so, I notice an increase of stamina and the normal activities get noticeably easier. Everything I do is easier than it has been in a very long time. However, I can still have the heart race occasionally just by walking normally up a set of stairs. There is still deep bruising I can feel if I lay wrong, sneeze or cough.
I have been able to do almost every normal activity for at lease three weeks or more and while I have not forgotten that I have the surgery, incision, etc., it is almost never top of mind. The habits I developed during recovery still are there and that is probably still a good thing. While they may not be necessary, it is better to be safe than sorry. I really do not take the ibuprofen much anymore. Did notice that holding my arms up to get the lights working on the Christmas tree still showed some additional work is needed in cardiac rehab, but the improvement over the 8 weeks is significant to say the least. Working on the core is showing good results, even though we have only been doing it about a week.
Someone ask me about the experience from the first couple of days after surgery. I will try to get that into the next 1 or 2 notes since my son and brother were doing that on my behalf during that time.
I am following so many of your progress, both before and after surgery. Keep healing. Slow and steady, this is not a sprint and that will only slow you down because you will either end up in the hospital for a day or so or have to take a day or two of rest to recover from your sprint day. They are not worth it and the small steps of the first weeks seem agonizingly slow when you are doing them, but they are amazingly fast based on the reality of what we experienced. While it has been 13 weeks today from the initial valve replacement, it feels like twice as long to me in one sense and almost yesterday in another.
Yesterday was 12 weeks from the original surgery and basically 11 weeks from the last time the chest was opened. Since then, I have been working for 6 weeks, traveling for 5 and feeling more stamina every week.
There is still healing going on. The incision site really does not hurt but sneezing still reminds me there was a surgery. Not pain so much as like getting pinched a little. Sometimes it stings, but that is from the arm weight exercises that stimulate the chest and it can result in mild stings but no big deal. This seems to be part of the keeping the scar tissue from being too tight, etc...
Walking at 3.5 to 3.6 miles per hour for 30 minutes (an hour if no bike) and 30 minutes on the seated bike. Rehab folks have said it is possible for me to start getting toward four mph which can be a light jog but I have held off to get the core stronger. Also doing upper body weights using 15 lb weights for bicep curls, 7 lbs for straight front arm lifts and straight side arm lifts and 15 lbs for tricep extensions. Starting to do half sit-ups which will continue to strengthen the core. Arms are getting stronger than before, can walk better than before but the core is still a little weaker. Found this out when we moved some patio furniture the other day and I had to take a few seconds to let heart rate slow down.
I wear a heart monitor strap with the watch to keep up with my heart rate when I exercise. Been doing that for years and it lets me know how I am doing. The rehab folks are keeping my heart rate under 130 but It has spiked to 140 if I don't watch it closely with either deep knee bend during stretching or weight work. No ill effects and the heart has never done anything but stay in normal rhythm. Resting heart rate now is between 78 to 83. Right after surgery it was 110 and spiked to 150 on my first walk. It does all level out if we take our time.
Because I am working out with the rehab or doing it at the hotels three times a week, once in awhile, the end of the day I can be tired. The great news is while I never felt bad, everything is easier now than it has been in years. Every couple of weeks, I find that while doing something like carrying the briefcase into the office or dragging luggage through an airport, I go wow, this is easier than I can remember, maybe ever.
It has so been worth it and the slow approach to recovery helped make this possible. I am following so many of your recoveries and presurgery writing. Ask all the questions of the doctors you want or need to. Make your decisions that are for you and your family and those that are this side of it, keep slow progress and great healing. Rachel, we are all watching out for you.
Hello all, I can not believe it has only been ten weeks. it seems longer in the early days and shorter after about 4-5 weeks.
I am typing this from Buenos Aries Argentina. The third country on a two week trip. Everything has gone well and I have been able to keep up with my cardiac rehab exercises while traveling, just have to find the time in between other things. What have I learned in 10 weeks, here goes.
1. Pacing the recovery a little slower was very good. We only increased the activities (walking mostly) in the early days a minute or two every day or so.
2. Tammy, planned very well how to make a place for me to recover that would work for me. In a bedroom is not me. She set up the TV/media room with a new LED wall mounted TV, reaaranged the theatre sets/recliners, set out pillows and blankets and set up the eating table and medicine central on the air hockey table with a tablecloth and some hand towels at the end of the same room. Lots of light in the day and I could walk from one end of the house to the other for my 12 to 30 minutes walks. I also watched a lot of Criminal Minds!!!!! Sometimes at 3 am.
3. Tammy stayed with me close to 100% of the time for companionship, along with Zach to make food runs in between his college work. This meant a lot, her dedication meant I had to keep my promise to heal and take it at the right pace with her advice along the way. I wish we had been closer to family or that she had been able to take some breaks in there but moving with corporate life means we do not have the extended support very close.
4. The choice of a very experienced and conservative surgeon saved us a lot of potential issues. They had 4 opportunities to screw up the stuck PICC line and did not. Their decision to look before they did anything wrong meant I did not have to have any vein repair surgery, just a reopening and I went home the next day.
5. The right dedicated heart hospital was a good choice for us. They see only heart patients and the process is very proscribed and they knew exactly what the program should be for us. Also, no infectious diseases in the same building.
6. Moving and walking is a big key. I was standing beside the bed within 3 hours of waking up. Walking to the nurses station the next morning and by the 4th day after surgery, I walked 3/4's of a mile in the hospital, when I added up the three walks I took that day. Mind you this is with a portable EKG transmitter that I could look at keep my heart rate down and the walk was a very slow stroll with occassional stops. Also a couple of times I got very cold and sat down in a wheel chair and rode back to the room. I did not ever push to the point of being out of breath, heart racing or even getting fatigued. Tammy or Zach or my sister Lenora were always with me for every walk and monitoring me. I hugged my heart pillow for every walk for prob 4 weeks and slept with it on my chest. I went everywhere with my pillow, even into stores and resturants the first few times. We just put a fresh pillowcase over it daily to keep it clean and not so obvious..
7. When we got home the first day, it was very easy to walk up the stairs to the recliner and I sat down and rested.
8. I did not walk the first day home, getting home was enough and you are now not on monitors or controlled environment. Anything happens here means help is a little further away and the paramedics are not as experienced in open heart surgery patients. Therefore the walking in the hospital dropped back to 7 minutes twice a day and we increased it by one or two minutes per day. Remember, that walking is not all your doing when you get home. Your overall activity level goes up and you have to consider all the activities and space them out.
9. Tammy spaced out the increased activities in addition to the walking like showering, getting up to eat, etc. to keep a pace that would not over tire me. This also applied to the outside activities like beginning to walk outside, riding to the store but not going in, going out for a SHORT lunch a few times, then maybe a short walk into the drugstore, etc. All with the idea of small increments over days and weeks. The first walk outside was 1/2 block and back. It is different than walking in air-conditioning on a flat carpeted floor.
10. The medicine routine was one tablet every three hours to keep the pain away so we could do all the activities and I could rest in between. Then tapered off to one every four hours. Took two inbuprofen every morning (alng with the hydrocodone) to reduce inflammation and still take that sometimes even 10 weeks later. Started to substitute inbuprofen for a pain tablet maybe starting one and half to two weeks after getting home. Very easy transition. Kept taking pain tablets and Xanax to insure sleep at night for prob 4 weeks after getting home. Sleeping is key as well. Also, used Dulcolax and Miralax daily every day I took the pain meds. Otherwise, your bowels don't work and you can end up in the ER.
11. Having someone you trust in the room when you are first waking up is very nice, if they will allow it with the critical care nurse. Since my sister came up and she is a cardiac nurse, she was allowed to be in the room with me and when she and the critical care nurse said it was OK, it was an peace of mind that let me know it really was OK. This would have applied to Tammy being there as well, but she was in the waiting room just down the hall with the rest of the team and they swapped in and out over the first few days. Brother John held down most of the day shift with me. Trust factor!!! helped a lot through the throwing up every hour for the first 18 hours with a rather painful incision. The IV drugs worked well here though. Just push the buitton every ten minutes, lol
12. Having a great support team the first 2-4 days is great. Sister-Lenora, Tammy, brother-John, son-Zach, family friend-Jim (who ran errands, kept people laughing and seeing to the team needs). Only thing is, once the the intensive care team has to all go back to work, etc. which for us is a long way off (14 hours of driving) you should concentrate of how to give the long term recovery part of the team some breaks and relief. Tammy did a great (read as GREAT!) job and Zach was instrumental as well, but it was really hard on Tammy I know.
Ernie, Higgy, Debbie, Carol, Susan, Chris, Rachel, Tom, Jim, Lynn, Dan, and all the rest that have just had surgery or about to get surgery, The best of luck to you all. I am following your progress.
The healing is progressing very well. I have been working now, this is my fourth week of work and the last two involved business trips to Chicago. I am now posting this from a hotel room where I am on a business trip in Cali Colombia. I will be in three countries over these two weeks and in meeting most all days.
Yes the tissue can still be a little tired at the end of a day but the stamina is much better than I have been in years and there is still more to improve. I can handle the 36 lb travel case without any real issue, along with the briefcase.
In cardiac rehab, they have me walking at 3.3 mph for 27 mins and on the seated bike for another 27 mins. I am still doing the weights for forty reps per exercise but have added lunges and some core resistance band work.
Since I was out of town in south Fl yesterday, I ended up on the treadmill at the hotel for 15 mins at 3.5 mph, did the weights with 5 and 10 lb weights depending upon the exercise and then back on the treadmill for 45 mins since there is no bike to ride there. It felt good and while I was a little tired, it is showing stamina improvement every week that I can notice. Heart rate was between 114 to 129 and everything felt good.
One thing is still noticeable. When I turn over from one side to the other in bed at night, I can feel the tissue tenderness. I suspect this will be another 1 to 2 months before this goes away completely.
Everyone, it has been well worth it for me. If you have already had surgery, keep healing, for those of you about to go in, good luck and take it slow and steady and for those still in the early stages, try not to let this be a worry, there are a lot of people gone before you that have done well and we are here to answer your questions, you just have to ask.
It has been 9 weeks and a day since the original valve was replaced and 8 weeks and 2 days since the chest was opened the second time to remove the PICC line.
I have been at work, counting this week for three weeks. The first week was 1/2 days and it felt pretty good. Last week and this week were full days and involved two business trip to Chicago on airplanes. Handling the luggage is not too burdensome and it gets easier every week. Walking through airports and going to business dinners after a full day is doable as well. Incision still gets a little scratchy after a long day but nothing a few ibuprofen can't handle. Still can get tired after a full day and the chest muscles that are still healing get tired and the deep bruising is noticeable. Overall, making good progress and can do most normal things I could do before surgery for the last 3 to 4 weeks. Still would not like to take a direct blow to the chest but it would not make me pass out or anything, just feel like hitting a deep bruise and it would ache for a while afterwards I suspect. Prob one of the few things that make me use a pain tablet. Still can feel the bruising when I cough or sneeze and yes, I still hold the chest when I do cough or sneeze.
As of Tuesday night, I could sleep on my left side with only very occasional twinges. For the last few weeks, having to concentrate more on going to bed earlier rather than counting on pain tablets or ibuprofen to help get sleep to occur. If I do not get enough, I can tell I am more tired the next 1 to 2 days. This is probably my biggest challenge, along with going slow at cardiac rehab.
On Monday, cardiac rehab increased my walking to 27 minutes at 3.3 mph and the seated bike at 70 rpm on resistance 6. Both had the heart rate at about 107 or so and were not too difficult. They also increased the exercises for my arms with the 5 lb weights from 30 reps to 40 reps. This is very noticeable. There are 4 exercises for the arms. Bicep curls, lifting each arm straight arm out to side, lifting each arm straight out in front of me and leaning over and doing tricep arm extensions. Doing each of these 40 times with each arm in two sets of 20 was more taxing and the heart rate went to about 120 to 125. Still not bad, but this was with me watching it on the monitor on the wall between sets and taking a minute or two break between sets. I think it would have been easy to take the heart rate well over 130, and this gets them very excited in not a good way.
Overall, stamina improving well. Walking is pretty easy now. Walking up stairs is easier but it can still get the heart racing after a couple of flights so there is more stamina to be recovered there. I still believe that it takes the heart a number of months to actually settle down after a surgery like this and I still have to take it in slow increments of activity. As bad as I want to get on a treadmill or elliptical and go all out, I feel like it would lead to bad things which we have avoided so far. I see a lot of afib in the monitors on the wall at cardiac rehab and do not want one of them to be mine. Slow and steady increases still work the best.
It is hard to believe that it has only been 8 1/2 weeks since the valve was replaced and only 7 1/2 weeks since the second chest opening to remove the PICC line. Yes, I feel better overall and it is getting more noticeable.
With all the good progress of better stamina, almost gone pain, feeling stronger almost everyday, getting back to work for a couple weeks, this has been a very good recovery. It is good to be making steady progress but it is interesting in that there are still some things that you would have taken for granted that are still in progress.
I have been able to transition from the recliner to the bed for the most part, but can not sleep comfortably on my left side. The left side of the chest seemed to take the brunt of the bruising.
It is still a challenge to get to sleep at night. Getting to sleep has always been a challenge for me anyway, this just makes it a little more difficult.
I have avoided as much as possible the need to sneeze. Even now, it is somewhat painful, like hitting a deep bruise. It only hurts for a minute and it is not that bad, but noticeable.
I can feel the tissue on the chest "rolling" over something, either wires or forming scar tissue. It still feels a little weird. Also, the couple of pops I felt a couple weeks ago seemed to have gone. Never did know what that was. Prob some tissue thing, never felt like the bone and the surgeon checked breastbone and said it was solid and he was happy with it.
So all this reinforces the idea that the recovery period takes a few months. Even with the good recovery, there are still things in progress. There are so many things going well and I could not be happier about the progress. I just have to remember it still takes a slow and steady pace to get to the finish line.
Everyone, keep healing and for those waiting, keep faith for a good outcome and recovery.
Hello everyone. Still making progress. Worked 1/2 days last week and it felt pretty good. Did not get too tired. The schedule Tammy has had me on has done me a world of good. I am working full time this week and just finished a couple days on a business trip to Chicago. The rolling case I used was 26 lbs loaded and I carry about a 10 - 15 lb briefcase. Everything was good even though I can still feel the healing of the tissue at times, depending upon how I move or turn.
I could lift the suitcase in the airport and hotel room with no issue. I checked the suitcase to keep from having to lift it over my head to put it in the overhead bin on the airplane. I did not have any trouble carrying the briefcase through the airport but do notice it pulls less to carry it with my right hand than my left. Also, as I was walking through the connector tunnel in O'Hare airport from concourse B to C, I noticed I was not having to work so hard to get there. The doctors all said I did not know how bad I felt. Well I never felt bad that I could describe. However, I think I am seeing the beginnings of a significant difference in how hard I had to work to do normal things. Over the last years, trudging between terminals was taxing to say the least. I attributed it to not being in the best of shape and a little to age. I am now believing that having 1/4th the blood flow from the heart might have had something to do with it, ya think???
I have been in cardiac rehab for a few weeks now. I am walking 25 min at 3 mph and 25 min on the seated bike at 70 rpm. They are increasing it Monday to 27 min at 3.2 mph and 27 min at a setting of 6 resistance where currently I am on 5 now on the bike. I am still using the 5 lb weights but they are increasing the repetitions from 3 sets of 10 to 3 sets of 20 if possible. It is interesting I am right handed but the right upper arm/shoulder is a little weaker than the left. Blood pressure still runs a little low, particularly after the cardiac rehab sessions where the blood vessels have dilated and not constricted back to normal yet. They have seen my top number be as low as 82 but 98 to 100 is normal so I do not feel the difference. They do make me sit and drink some water sometimes to meet their goal of at least 90 before I can leave. I suspect since my blood pressure has always run low, this is pretty normal for me and they must see most people with very high blood pressure, it is different for them.
I do walk and use weights at the hotels at the same level when I am traveling now. I feel like I could do much more but I refuse to break the pace that has been so successful of slow and steady recovery with really very little upsets or backsliding. I did not feel noticeably better everyday and even had some days where I was more tired and rested more, but it seemed to be steadily improving every two or three days. Also, I am convinced that Tammy would have chased me with a 2 x 4 if I started ignoring the successful track she laid out and helped me stay on. Don't kid yourself, she still would today. According to her, and I agree, the healing process takes a number of months, not weeks. Maybe I can get her to put the 2 x 4 up in Jan?
Still taking the 1/2 tablet of blood pressure medicine twice a day along with and aspirin a day. So far so good.
Everyone, keep healing, keep walking and for those coming up on their surgery, hope it goes very well for you all. Let me know if I can help in any way.
It has been 71/2 weeks since the valve was replaced. We have come a long way and the recovery has been pretty good.
I worked last week 1/2 days but believe I could have gone longer. I promised Tammy and a lot of other people that I would follow the plan and not push ahead even thought there are times I think I could have. I believe that has made the recovery move faster and not slower.
I feel better every few days. I can tell there is still healing going on in the chest. I can take a deep breath and feel it some. I sneeze and it feels like someone hit me in the chest with a board, not too bad but more than enough to notice. I would not like to get hit in the chest with any real force, I think it would reach the deep bruising I still feel.
Some days I do not take anything for pain, not even ibuprofen. Some days the chest is a little more irritated based on activity and cardiac rehab. Still take something to sleep. I expect that will last another few weeks.
I can carry my briefcase, even loaded, better with my right hand than my left. If I have to carry it very far, it is easier to put it on my shoulder. The left side of the chest seems to be more sore than the right and has since surgery. The scar has been healed for weeks and is less red than earlier. I can touch the chest all over without any pain but scrubbing the shirt across it all day does occasionally get noticeable.
The cardiac rehab and their evaluations have have been good so far. More about making sure the heart is behaving while it is getting the exercise and not in afib or anything. They started me out with 5 lb weights this last week and I am doing mostly arm and shoulder exercises. They are not doing chest exercises like overhead or bench press type things. The first day of weights made the chest more tired the next day but the 2nd day showed strength improvement. The 2nd weight day was better and I could feel a little of the muscles being sore from the first time but not bad. It also seems to be stretching the chest tissues and increasingly getting them back used to a wide range of normal activity as well as reducing the surface soreness as the activity increases. I am walking outside on non rehab days almost 2 miles in 40 minutes or so. During rehab, walking 25 minutes at 3 mph on treadmill, seated biking at about 70 rpm for 25 minutes and then about 15 mins of weights.
The blood pressure seems to be stabilized at about 100/60 or sometimes slightly less. I have an appointment with the cardiologist to discuss the way forward with the blood pressure medication to see if we can either reduce it more or switch or eliminate. I do not have high blood pressure, actually it runs a little low. I am taking 1/2 tablet of metoprolol tartrate twice a day ( 1/2 tablet is 12.5 mg) which I think is the short acting form of this medication. Have to wait and see what he says.
I still can feel what seems to be tissue rolling over either forming scar tissue or maybe the wires. Not sure. It is not really painful but does feel a little strange.
There is still deep brushing and healing going on and while it is better, I expect it will continue to be there for another 4 to 8 weeks. Wait, that is exactly the same time my wife Tammy told me it would take from day one. I now have to say the most dreaded words a man has to say to his wife "Honey, you were right and I was wrong". Actually, she has been the major director for me through everything since I got home. A big portion of my good recovery is directly attributable to her.
Everyone keep healing or keep looking forward to getting fixed and many more years of health.
Got up and on the way out of the house, stopped to kiss Tammy before I left. Kind of like leaving the nest for the first time. The first day back to work went very well. I have an office job and it was good to see everyone and be back on the swing of things. Hugs and handshakes abounded along with some welcoming phone calls. Had a number of meetings and phone conferences and felt good, even when I was illustrating something on the white board. Could carry the briefcase packed with computer, notebook and misc files. Not too light but manageable. One of the people saw me get out of the car and insisted on carrying my briefcase for me. It is very humbling to know that there are friends I work with that care some much. I am blessed on all sides, from doctors, nurses, friends, workmates and most of all family and Tammy.
Went straight to rehab and that went very well. Doing 20 min on the treadmill at 3 miles per hour and did the seated bike at 83 rpm for 20 mins on level 5. Broke a sweat and did not get too winded. Heart has stayed in normal sinus rhythm the whole way. Blood pressure still low but not a worry for me, running from 98/60 to 90/53 before and after exercise respectively. Feel like the heart is pumping 5 times as much with 1/10 the the effort. I am convinced that in a few months I will be outrunning the energizer bunny and leaving him in the dust. Have been doing the walks outside with Tammy for 40 minutes a day on alternate days from rehab.
Went home and helped Tammy with somethings around the house, dinner, etc. When lifting or twisting, I feel the pulling of the muscles on both sides of the incision. Not pain but noticeable pulling. This eventually leads to the chest getting tired by the end of the day and I still default to something to help me sleep, either some ibuprofen or an Ambien, depends on the night. I would also use a pain tablet if I had a lot of activity and the chest was pulling a lot at bedtime, just do not need it right now. I put a lot of emphasis on getting a good nights rest to heal and be ready for increasing the activity some every day.
In a little over 6 weeks after surgery, I saw the surgeon in his office, last Monday. He ask about activities, pain, the various drug levels, etc. All the expected things. He adjusted the medications as expected.
I now do not take the Lasik any more nor the potassium to go with it. I do not take hardly any pain tablets at all, just one very seldom if the chest is sore from the normal activities I am returning to. The beta blocker had already been cut in half and may still be keeping the blood pressure a little too low, but very manageable. Actually, the surgeon was glad to hear the blood pressure was running low on the medicine rather than high.
When they listened to the valve with the stethoscope, the comments were that it sounds like the valve I should have been born with.
Then I ask a number of questions about how do I know the breastbone has healed, what activities can I do and when, when can I go back to work, when can I travel domestically and internationally, etc... He patiently answered them all and then put his fingers on the incision site over the breastbone and said "cough". My first reaction was, "he is kidding, right?" Then, when it was obvious he was serious, I coughed. It really did not hurt much and he was grinning from ear to ear stating the breastbone is mostly knitted back and is now very low risk to resume normal activities His caution was the tissue is still healing and settling down and I can do anything that does not cause too much pain. He said I am not going to injure myself, other than be very sore later or the next day that would limit my activities then. I was then released to go to work the next Monday. He said he would recommend working half days to test the stamina levels.
It is an amazing thing to be able to go back to normal activities in less than 7 weeks after the valve was replaced and less than 6 weeks after the last chest opening.
Now, how do I feel and what can I do? I am feeling much closer to back to normal activities. The world is brighter, maybe I can perceive it more? The stamina level for walking is great, able to walk 45 minutes with no issues. The stamina of going up steps still needs some work but is much better. Working the upper body is easier due to the rehab routines but still need to work on that more.
I am still very protective of getting bumped in the chest but that is partly habit. The "pain" is all gone but there is a deep muscle heaviness that feels like the remnants of a deep bruise that lingers. Also, after a day of high activity, the chest muscles are tired and can make it difficult to go to sleep or to wind down. I will counteract this with a pain tablet and a Xanax if it is really annoying but 90% of the time just a couple of ibuprofen. I do take ibuprofen from every four hours to every twelve hours, based mostly on the previous days activities and cardiac rehab.
When I am pushing up using my arms (remember we were not supposed to do that for a while following surgery) I can feel the chest tissues pull on the "bruised muscles as well as it feels like the tissue is rolling over the wires in the breastbone. Not sure if that is the case but it is a different feeling. May also be feeling some of the lesions/scar tissue that is trying to form being broken up as the normal movement increases. The tissue feelings like that are different, kind of like rolling over bubbles. Not painful though.
Overall, great results so far and the surgeon said it only gets better from here.
Hope everyone's recovery is going well and for those anticipating the surgery, it is doable and in a few weeks hopefully you will be amazing yourself with what you have done.
I have been through two more rehabs. Th first one really started to stretch the upper chest that I had been so protective of. It pulled and like I said the stretching was more challenging than the treadmill and bike.
The second and third rehabs and stretching times were easier progressively. The cardio work is really them wanting to slowly start me out. It is less than the thirty min walks I have been taking. They will ramp it up more the second week. It is good to see the heart monitor trace on the screen and know the heart is in good sinus rhythm and not acting up.
They monitor your blood pressure closely as well. Mine is running low and they have some concern on this. I run about 105 over 64 but right after the exercise the blood vessels are dilated and my blood pressure can be as low as 90 over 48. They make me drink some water to get the blood volume up before they let me leave. It does not seem to really affect how I feel except I may notice a little lightheadedness upon standing quickly. As the meds ramp down, this should abate but not an issue right now.
The low blood pressure is the result of two things. The beta blocker to lower my heart rate since surgery and the LASIK to remove the water from the tissues after surgery. The doctors office cut the dosage of the beta blocker in half Friday and it should start to level out by about Tuesday. I am still taking the LASIK but suspect that will end soon.
The chest is still pretty tender but I can do more everyday. Stamina is picking up as well. Do not really need a rest during the day most days. Can type pretty easily and can manage the phone conferences and business discussions pretty much as needed.
Will give everyone the update on the doctors visit and hope all are doing well. The light at the end of the tunnel is bright and it is not a train. Keep healing.
Hi everyone, this is Aubrey's wife, Tammy. I have been the primary caregiver once he got home. There have been a number of questions about getting off the pain medications. I will give you my perspective.
I cannot stress from the caregiver prospective how important pain management is....it holds the key to progressive and complete recovery. It allows for you the patient to do the daily activities to get back to a normal better amazing life. It provides the rest you need at night to wake refreshed for the daily activities that are part of your recovery. I know that Aubrey has soared because of his pain management post op. My opinion only but I have seen first hand how important these drugs are....we are where we are because of them. There is nothing wrong with taking the pain medications for as long as you need them to keep the body recovering and moving forward. There is no shame in using the drugs prescribed for you...they are given to you for a reason. Plenty of time to ramp down and finally be off of them. You can but you should not rush your recovery ..you only set yourself back. I as the caregiver would not allow Aubrey to let his pain get out of control because I would spend the next 24 hours trying to recover him...and this indeed at this point does become a setback. I follow each of you and I pray for you and know that you are headed for a amazing new life along with Aubrey? God bless and keep that pain under control.
I will let you know that a couple days ago, one of the outings was to go to the store with my wife and son to the local Kroger. Only needed to pick up a few items and it continues to build my stamina.
My son is 6' 6" tall. He is very playful and will request the "I've been Krogerimg" sticker for his shirt for kicks. He thought I needed one too. So he gets one and as I reach up to make sure he does not put it in the middle of my chest, it is obvious he is going to stick it to the left side, no issue right? Wrong. He very gently puts it on my shirt there and then in his heavy handed way, slaps it firmly to make sure it is securely stuck to my shirt.
Four things happened simultaneously. One, my eyes got as big as plates. Two, I inhaled about half the air in the store. Three, my knees buckled a little. Four, he realized what he did.
It did not hurt too badly but it was a surprise to both of us. He had forgotten in the impulse of being playful that there was an incision site very close to that. While it was surprising, it did give us a very good laugh once I figured out I was not going to ooze to the floor.
So beware, Krogering can be painful!!!!
Lol, I will update the last cardiac rehabs more later today.
Hope everyone is doing well and it is good to see your updates.
After 5 weeks, as you look back, every week you seem to have moved forward quite a bit and the pain diminishes, activity increases, more normal functions of walking, taking a ride to the store, going out for lunch, etc are doable without needing an immediate nap.
I am off all of the hydrocodone and using ibuprofen to keep the chest happier, mostly healing tissue that gets strained or unhappy due to higher activity levels. I do use a sleeping tablet to go to sleep at night. I believe good sleep is one of the best healing mechanisms I have had. Since I am off the pain killers, I stopped the laxatives, have to see how that goes. The doctors office was more concerned with me being active without pain than how fast I came off the pain pills. I ramped it down slower than some I have read here and think it worked well for me. A hydrocodone does not slow me down much at all and it was easy for me to function while it took away the pain edge, allowing increased activities easier. It seems some people can do this with ibuprofen and Tylenol sooner. Whatever works for you.
I am noticing that the metoprolol beta blocker that I take twice a day seems to be keeping my blood pressure a little on the low side and I can tell this when I stand up too quickly with slight dizziness for a second or two. Have a call into the doctors office to see about reducing this dosage. My resting heart rate is down to 64 which is either very good or maybe a little low since I am still not able to push the physical activities to be in really good shape yet.
I am still very careful with the breastbone. It is not truly healed until abut 3 months I am told. Apparently there is something that occurs at about 6 weeks with the breastbone knitting but not sure if that allows any reduced limitations. I will let you know when I see the surgeon on October 7th. Yes I still use the pillow and take it around most places. Recently started leaving it in the car for lunches and short store visits. Also, be careful to not let people bump into you in the stores or restaurants. Be aware of your chest personal space so to speak.
By the way, I sneezed for the first time yesterday. Yes, I used the pillow or I think my head would have exploded. It pulled on most of the chest tissues that are still tender and feel bruised and it did increase some of the soreness in the chest for the next few hours. Try not to sneeze, but it was bearable.
I am still on the LASIK and potassium to keep fluids down, even though it does not seem to be a problem at this time. Will discuss with surgeon.
Fist cardiac rehab was Monday and it went well. They take vitals and send you to do some stretching exercises to warm up. First day is more them assessing your starting point. Light treadmill and maybe light bike. You are wearing heart monitor and they show you how to put the leads on and you have a pouch to wear to hold it. There are a few tv monitors around that show the different heart traces from the monitors so you can see how your doing on heart rate to pace yourself. They are also walking around and monitoring you as well. The treadmill, and bike did not bother me since I am up to the 30 min walks outside. However, the warm up exercises get my heart rate to 120+. It is very interesting how this is more straining than the walking or bike. Now I am not waiting between the different exercises much and that would help, but doing these simple movements were more noticeable on the heart rate. I suspect it is moving blood to different areas of the body at once, which is something that has not really happened in 5 weeks for me.
Since the chest was opened twice, they are a little conservative and not really working the arms right now. The stretching of the upper body was not too uncomfortable and actually helped the chest feel better the next day. While I did not feel overly tired afterwards, once we ate lunch, I did take a couple hour nap on the couch with some ibuprofen. When I woke up, I felt very good. Again, this was not pushing much either that first day. I will let you know how much the next session starts to increase the activity levels and how it goes.
I would like to note that Tammy is my constant companion, and for that I am blessed. This makes everything go easier, faster, calmer, safer, etc... While it is doable on our own, she has made this a shared experience, even through some pretty serious dental work she is working through. I hope everyone has their angel as well.
I am so happy to continue to be progressing so well. Two things come to mind.
One is that I am noticing that the world I see seems a little brighter than before the surgery. All the doctors said that I would see a difference and they seem to be right so far. They said that when we have bicuspid aortic valves that go bad over many years, we do not realize how bad we may be feeling. While it is not significant yet in the difference, it does seem to be there some already.
Two is the improvement in the 4th week like many others have experienced. The chest soreness has declined and I could get in a full 1/2 day on the phone conferences and computer this morning. Between walking daily and getting out more with short trips to store or lunch, everything is getting back towards normal. I am also very aware that I promised everyone from Tammy, Zach, brother, sister, friends and friends from work that I would not push this and be careful to have the speediest recovery by not pushing it too hard and taking a chance on a relapse. As much as I have to do this for me, I also do it for them and their support and reminders are invaluable.
I will have many questions for the surgeon about how do we know the chest bone is healed. I only have two speeds, full throttle and asleep. I will be pressing him about how to definitively know that it is healed so it is safe to go again. Is it an X-ray, ultrasound, etc... This is pertinent to me since he opened the chest/bone a second time 6 days after the original surgery. Did that slow it down? Does it change the healing curve? How do we know, not just what is "normally" done, since this is not normal with two openings.
I could not really lie in a bed last week and tonight, it was much easier to get in and out of a mostly flat bed. I still prefer the recliner but the day of sleeping in a bed is getting closer. I like to sleep on my side so I think that it will still be a little while before I get there.
Down to only one pain pill to get to sleep with the Xanax at night and only ibuprofen otherwise as needed. More activity can call for more ibuprofen and maybe one pain tablet every two or three days. Still using laxatives but the need for them is decreasing. This is directly related to pain tablets. Will talk to doctors office about how to taper off of the LASIK and potassium. May cut back to one tablet a day on the beta blocker since the heart rate has come down to 65/min which is much improved over the 100+ it started out right after surgery. Also, blood pressure is getting to be about 104 over 65 which is not too low for me but should not drop any lower until I am down a few more pounds and exercising more. 100 over 60 was my norm when I was in shape a few years back. Again, have to watch the beta blocker dosage. All this has to be discussed and agreed with doctors office before any changes are made.
Glad to see everyone on their recovery trips doing pretty well. Keep up up the good work and I will let you know about the first cardiac rehab coming up Monday.
The last two days have been interesting. Three days ago was a pretty big day of walking and moving around increasing normal activities. This turned out to really give my chest a good workout. As a result, yesterday I was tired and sore and with Tammy's advice (maybe a little stronger than advice??), I took it easy all day. Turned out to be the best thing since it lead to a very good day today with another 30 minute walk and the chest soreness feeling better today.
Another thing that is helping in a different way is the combination of Dulcolax and Miralax to help offset the effects of the pain tablets on the intestines. The doctors office advised it a few days after I got home because of the difficulties I ran into there. If you have an issue with this, and it is likely you may, talk to your doctors office and get their advice on how to manage it.
Also, even though I am off the pain tablets and on ibuprofen during the day, it is ok to backslide and take a pain tablet during the day to offset soreness or to get some extra rest if your get really tired during the day. This probably happens about one out of every three or four days.
Another thing is that since I am only 2 and a half weeks from the chest being opened for the PICC line, I have chosen to delay the actual beginning of the cardiac rehab to let the chest and breastbone have more time to knit before beginning. It is more normal to begin rehab about 4 weeks after surgery and delaying the rehab gets me closer to that point. This also more coincides with the schedule of the appointment with the surgeon which was scheduled a little beyond the 4 weeks from the last chest opening. The rehab was scheduled based on the original valve replacement surgery and did not get rescheduled due to the different circumstances.
This is important in that we, the patient and the care team, are in a good position to know all the details that not all of the medical team may have access to. The medical systems are used to managing the 80 percent of the cases that follow the normal curves. If you are a little different, it is up to us to keep that discussion up front with the medical teams and use our judgement to influence the process. Do not be afraid to question and ask what are the options and what are the normal curves and does your situation need some additional consideration. Basically, we help them help us by reminding them of the details through discussion and questions. It is unlikely we are something they have not seen before, we just need to keep them straight about our situation, progress and needs for them to give us the best advice and support.
I also have been the recipient of the support of Tammy and Zach in another way. We are all doing Weight Watchers and I had lost 16 lbs before surgery and have lost another 9 lbs since surgery, once we got most of the fluid build-up out of the way. This is an opportunity to change some things we want to change or continue a change we have begun. The future is bright and it is an opportunity in many ways for us to write the next chapter of our lives.
For all of us already in recovery, keep walking, eating well and increasing the normal activities. For those of you scheduled for surgery, look forward to the opportunity to let the experts do what they do everyday and get you back to a more normal life and activity level for many years to come.
It is getting better everyday in stamina and strength. Also the soreness of the chest is transforming from acute pain after surgery to deep pain to now being underlaying bruised heaviness, some minor swelling and surface incision tenderness. If anything, the incision is a little more tender due to the increased activity everyday but it is easily handled by the ibuprofen about every 4 to 5 hours. I understand why some people would use the incision shield but I do not find it that bothersome and really prefer to still use the pillow to stop the friction from the shirt and to stabilize the tissues during certain activities.
The stamina increase is now allowing me to walk outside for 30 minutes continuously without any issues. Not able to do it twice a day yet but can walk in the morning and stay up without needing to rest doing more normal daily activities until mid to late afternoon. At that point a short rest helps to keep going until dinner and early evening. About 7 pm or so, the day ends and we retire to the recliner upstairs in front of the TV to rest from the day's activities. Now able to type some on the laptop without it pulling on the chest to hold my arms up. It is also good to start re-engaging with the office with some phone calls and phone conferences.
Did the preliminary with the cardiac rehab yesterday and it went well. I will delay it a little more due to the fact it has only been about 2 1/2 weeks since the chest was opened up and the rehab normally starts at about 4 weeks. They were not sure either since it is not normal to have to deal with the second chest opening 6 days after the original surgery. This is important in that you have to make sure of two things. One is that the different medical people have all the information, from the surgeons to the rehab group to be able to do their best for you. Also, even though they may feel comfortable with something, if you are not, you need to listen to yourself as well. It is not difficult, but is a bit of hitting the right balance and using the experts and your judgement to get this to be the best for you. Also, trust your care team, family and friends, to help here as well. They are a good source of balance too.
I am truly fortunate to have a good recovery so far, with all the support you could ever ask for from family, friends and workmates to support doing the recovery in the right way and without taking chances of setbacks.
The best indicator I have had is the progress of slowly working up the walking everyday without pushing too hard. Walking has been the key to everything getting better and then starting to do normal activities like showering, making lunch (sandwich)' etc. This helps the soreness of the chest diminish over the course of a couple of weeks while still protecting it to let it heal back to be as strong as before the surgery. A little extra care about protecting and letting the chest heal is not all bad.
Keep healing and hope the Sept candidates are looking forward to a good outcome. I know I have said it before but I am so glad to have done this knowing that we should be fine for decades.
Today is another day of progress. It is still slow but steady. Got to walk continuously outside today for 20 minutes. Then, was still functional around the house for normal home activities with a couple of small rest periods. Will target at least 22 minutes tomorrow with goal of 30 in sight.
Still ramped down on pain meds during most of the daylight hours with only an occasional pain tablet during the day and converting to ibuprofen. Still taking meds at night to sleep and still sleeping pretty well with hydro condone and a Xanax. Wake up about 4 hours after first one, take one more hydro condone and then sleep till morning. Doctors office is happy with this to keep sleeping and resting well but satisfied it shows much less need for pain meds overall. May be able to cut out the middle of night pill pretty soon.
Chest is feeling better and can use arms for normal daily activities but the chest gets a little touchy after too much activity. Also, can now type on the laptop and do emails for about 15 minutes or so before the typing position starts to make the chest start to feel pulling on it. This is a large improvement since last week. Can type more on the iPad since it is easier to position in my lap with arms proped up to ease the pulling.
Everyday seems to be incrementally better as you look back, even though each day may not feel like progress. After a few days, you realize you are stronger, walking longer and doing more so the progress is there.
The time Tammy spends with me is valued and I believe helps with the recovery in not only the help and support she provides but the sharing, talking and companionship is a big part of the healing. Zach checks on me numerous times per day and my sister and brother call almost daily along with friends, workmates and neighbors. The support during recovery keeps you from getting frustrated and let's you know your part of something bigger than yourself. It makes a difference.
Hope everyone is doing well in their recoveries and hope the anticipation of the upcoming surgeries is not causing too much anxiety. It is easier than you think it will be and your stronger than you know. You will be up and around in no time with decades of health ahead of you.
I was discussing the process we are all going through with someone the other day and it occurred that we did not say too much about the possibility of nausea after the surgery. It is worth expanding on.
I basically had two surgeries 6 days apart. One was to replace my heart valve, which during the procedure, the heart is stopped for some period of time, measured in hours.
The second one to get the stuck PICC line out was a much simpler surgery that re-opened the breastbone and chest again but did not involve the stopping of the heart.
The first surgery resulted in me waking up and being sick for the first 48 hours that involved me throwing up for the first 12 to 18 hours. Yes, this does not feel very good after you have had your chest split open. However, you do get enough pain meds to offset the majority of the discomfort and the nursing staff is equipped to handle this.
When they told me I had to have the 2nd surgery 6 days later, I basically was very emphatic with the 2nd anesthesiologist and said that whatever it takes, I do not want to be sick for another 2 days since I wanted to go home the next day if possible and the surgeon said the reopening would not set me back much at all. I was not sick the 2nd time and did get to go home the next day. Not sure if they did something differently the 2nd time either, even though I believe they did.
The reason for this longer note here is that the first surgery may be more difficult to keep the nausea down since it is so different with the heart stopping, level of anesthesia, etc. However, my advice is that if you are prone to be sick after anesthesia, get with your anesthesiologist and insure they understand the seriousness of this to try to offset it if possible.
The 2nd purpose of this is that if you experience it like I did, do not worry, it is not as bad as you think it will be and it does pass in a couple of days. They really can handle this, even if it comes up and you will get through it without too much more than a good story or two.
The anticipation for me was worse than the reality and even though I am less that 3 weeks out of surgery (first one), I already have noticed no shortness of breath like before and am really glad to have done it since the valve was much worse when they got in there than they suspected.
Hope this helps take some of the fear away and I wish everyone good luck and recovery.
Everyday is getting better. Walking outside more now. Weather is cooler and got to walk twice today for 15 minutes each. Walked in the neighborhood and while it pushed a little it was good. Quality time with Tammy and Zachary since they walked with me as well splitting up the walks.
Did not need any pain pills during the day and used ibuprofen. Getting the pain meds to ramp down. Doctors office wants this to be slow to keep the physical progress up. Will still need them to make sure to get good sleep at night and not sure everyday will be the same as today.
Still sleeping in the recliner. Tried laying flat yesterday and while it might be possible, it was not nearly as comfortable. Plan to stay in the recliner. I travel a lot, wonder if I can request recliners in the hotel room, lol. One more transition to make in the next few weeks.
Able to go out to lunch or a trip out to the store but do get tired if this is combined with walking outside. There is also a difference between walking inside and outside. What a huge difference it makes in just a little over two weeks. Already I can walk more without getting short of breath than before the surgery.
Still have to be careful of chest. Takes time before the breastbone is healed. My solution is to carry the heart shaped pillow to keep my hands full enough to not want to lift anything I should not.
Also, oddly enough, you would think you will not want anything touching your chest. I find just the opposite. The pillow helps keep the chest tissue from moving around while walking and getting up and down from chairs. Wile it may seem funny, I even leave it on my chest when I sleep. Yes, I guess I have a "blanky". What ever helps, right?
It has been 14 days since the heart valve replacement and 7 days since the 2nd chest opening. Progress is steady and the walking is ramping up slowly everyday.
Well, the stamina is now enough to go out for a short meal at a local place we know. Nothing that took too long. Good planning by Tammy that got us there just before 11:30 am and we got our food quickly. Did not tire me out too much but needed to rest when we got back. Food was very good and it was good to get out.
It was interesting yesterday, I rode with Tammy to the grocery store and was going to just sit in the car for the few minutes it was going to take. Well, due to LASIX, needed to run into the restroom and what did I see just inside the door? ELECTRIC CARTS! There was no way I was going to let this go by and yes I did. It was very interesting to ride this through the store for the few minutes we were there.
Have to admit there is a big difference even between yesterday and today. I can tell a difference between riding the cart yesterday and the eating out today. A day does make a difference.
Have to be very careful about the heat and walking so most of the walking is inside except maybe one excursion outside in the morning for a few minutes.
Surgeon said that I should start walking more outside the home starting next week. This means both outside and his suggestion is an indoor mall. Both start the stretch back to the normal types of activities and stimulations rather than the more sedate home environment.
Have started to substitute ibuprofen at least one pain tablet a day for the hydro condone and it is working so far. Will start to try maybe 2 doses soon. Surgeons office has slowed me down on the conversion to ibuprofen which is interesting. Pain level seems to the dropping off, very promising.
Hope everyone in progressing in their journey. We are thinking of you all
Well, today was a short walk outside that let me get to the corner of the block we live on and back. It went well and I did not have to take an immediate nap, lol.
Have gotten in two more indoor walks today of about 7 minutes each. Will continue to ramp up slowly to stay on track. Will try to substitute a dose of ibuprofen for the pain tablet sometime soon to start transitioning over to less drug support. I think this is possible in the daytime but not sure at night yet. We will have to see how this goes over the next week or so. Thank goodness for being able to get pretty good sleep at night.
I feel the need to mention something that really does not show up here much and that is bowel movements. Yes some us worry about this because the medicine can really interfere with this normally taken for granted body function. Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about stool softener that might help. One of the many unsung things you experience in this journey that seems so insignificant most of the time and can be so significant at other times, lol. Ouch.
Hope everyone's progress and journey is going in the right direction.
Today is a better day. Got in four 6 minute walks in the house without a lot of trouble. Tomorrow will be the first outside walk in the morning to see how that goes. Have mapped out a plan to increase activity level every one to two days and see when we can ramp down the pain medication. All of this needs to probably be done slower than I would like and that is where Tammy's judgement and guidance is invaluable.
Adjusting the timing on a few of the pills I take in the morning helped a lot and there was no weakness or scaring Tammy today, for which she is grateful.
It still hurts quite a bit to even type on the iPad, even when it is specially positioned. There are still a couple of spots on my chest that make be believe the doctors pick out a spot after the operation and hit you with a ball peen hammer a couple of times to take your mind off of some of the other things going on. Just kidding. But seems like we all have some spots that are more sore than others.
The larger support team of family and friends has been a gift that can never really have a value attached. From this point the burden Tammy and Zach are carrying to get me through this part is significant and they do it without complaint. Every cleanup, meal, snack or drink takes effort while they at still doing housework, college courses, etc.
Thank you all for the support and everyone is in my thoughts as you go through your journey as well.
Everyone's path is similar and different at the same time. It is worth noting some of our experiences along the way to share, so we can either help avoid them or at least manage them if they occur.
So, I have been home two days, getting up, moving around the house quite a bit, feeling pretty good, sleeping pretty good and pain mostly under control. Then this morning, Tammy brought me breakfast and with breakfast, I took the once per day pills like the hospital gives them. This includes about 8 tablets which included LASIX, potassium, beta blocker, hydrocodone, etc... You know the drill.
I went off to the shower to cleanup with Tammy's help and during the process I started feeling a little weak. Sitting down helped and when we came back to the room where I sleep and recover, I sat down and the tried to pass out twice sitting up. We got through that but I was weak and did not feel well the rest of the morning. There are a couple f things that were clues behind this as best we can tell.
I have lost 3 lbs of water in the last 2 days so I am prob a little dehydrated and the LASIX runs my potassium low very quickly. Add that to the same time the pain and blood pressure pills kick in in a warm shower and we get me scaring the day lights out of Tammy.
It is very strange to see your wife talking to you almost nose to nose, not really being able to hear it and realizing she is getting ready to call 911. Two things go through your head. The first is, her lips are moving and I hear a little but none of this is registering so I am a little confused and second, she is about to call 911 so I must look really bad!
Yes, this passed but I felt weak for a while until we got some fluids in me and it was obvious nothing was going on with the heart, it was strong and regular. My conclusion is to distribute the pills more than the hospital does, maybe reduce the pace of progress a little and watch the LASIX, potassium and dehydration more closely.
I felt much better within an hour or so and the day progressed as normal from there. I will expand back to the 4 times daily walking tomorrow and if it happens again, the pill balance will have to be reviewed with the doctors office. May be that as my systems become more normal, the support/ balance that I have been sent home from the hospital with may need some adjustment. I will not do,this without consulting the doctors office.
I am trying to catch up to the guest book entries and really appreciate the support and hope this helps to show that what people call setbacks usually are not. They are mostly just now each person finds our way through a bit of a balancing act.
I am convinced walking, no matter how slow, eating good calories, pacing your meds and love from your team, family, friends and work family make this so much easier.
Post op update 9 days from valve, 3 days post 2nd opening
Journal posted on September 6, 2013
Hello to everyone. You do not know how much keeping this journal and your support has meant to me and the family. I have now been home 2 days and it is different than in the hospital. I slept better the first night than the whole last week but the getting around is a little harder, I think due to the 2nd chest crack.
More active since you are in your home environment and and I stayed up most of today, which is tiring but satisfying. Tammy and Zach are great and the support team still checks on me daily.
Things are going in the right direction. Got the pain medications down to one pill very 3 hours before we left the hospital and did a little doubling down to get me home, but otherwise that was working well. That pace kept me awake and mostly functional for a few calls with friends and things that just mean a lot, like crosswords and some reading.
Looks like we can move to one every 4 hours now and it seems to be treating me well. May keep it there a day or so to make sure we stay on the curve. This is really Tammy's call since she is managing this more than I am. Had my first real shower today, tiring but easier than I expected.
If you have this upcoming, DO NOT WORRY, they do this all the time and while the body looks like it had a few run ins with a baseball bat here or there, the pain is not as great as you imagine nor is it that tough to manage. The cosmetic things will fade very quickly and you will notice significant improvement in the first 3 to 6 days to get up, walk, eat, etc... After that, get on the curve for a SLOW, STEADY recovery of strength and wean off the pills as it makes sense for you.
I don' mind the pills, but do not like to have anything interfere with my mental acuity. Therefore, over the next week or so, Tammy will guide me down and it should not be too bad. I will keep you posted.
Today was supposed to be discharge day for my Dad, unfortunately it took a weird turn.
This morning around 8:30 AM, the nurse came in to remove the PICC line from his chest which allowed the medications to be given through IV. It was right below his left shoulder blade. Well, the nurse was unable to remove it so the Physicians Assistant attempted to remove it to no avail. Lastly, the anesthesiologist who put it in attempted to remove it but also was unable to pull it out, it simply would not budge.
So, they decided to bring him to the operating room and see if they can see on x-ray what was going on with it.
Around 3:30 PM today, they brought him to the operating room to remove the PICC line and found out that it had stuck on to a titanium clip they put on a vein to stop bleeding during surgery. These clips ARE intended to stay in the body and under normal circumstances require no removal once placed inside.
The PICC line was caught by one of those clips just enough to prevent it from being removed; so they had to take the most drastic route just to be safe..... Reopen the operating site and go in and take it out.
So they cut his chest open again, split his chest bone again and removed the clip then the PICC line slid right out. He required no ventilator, no heart-lung machine and very little anesthesia and was alert upon returning to his room.
The clip wasn't placed back in due to the fact that it was not needed anymore anyway, so why have an extra clip when he didn't need it.
So, he is expected to go home tomorrow and the adventure will commense once again after we see how tonight goes.
He was able to eat, and everything like he could just before surgery so the splitting of the chest didn't set him back any further which is great. All in all, it has been a bumpy ride and an interesting one, but we are making it through and appreciate everyone who is supporting and have been there through all of this.
On behalf of my Dad and my family, thank you for your support and we really appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
I missed out on updating the journal for yesterday, but my Dad was doing great. He was up and alert, able to do everything needed and even walked 8 laps around the top floor of the hospital. A huge deal.
There's so much required to be released from the hospital...
Being able to get up and down off of the; toilet, bed, chair and any other normal day-to-day basis task.
Be able to pass a bowel movement (waking digestive tract back up after being shut down)
Be able to have a sustained heart beat that doesn't spike or depress
Walk without too much trouble and manage yourself without relying on anyone or any support from objects
Have all levels normal when it comes to being able to maintain; potassium, iron etc...
Lastly, in just a few short days you can go from absolutely miserable to the best you can imagine feeling. It's always good to get yourself back and be up and moving around and not feel hindered like you were the first few days.
Well, on the 4th day post op, I am doing much better. They get me up to walk about 3 to 4 times a day. All things are getting better. Hope I can go home tomorrow or the next day. Still tired and taking pain meds but happy to be done with it. I will give more updates in the near future.
This morning he is looking far better, he is able to eat more and his color has starting really returning. He is more aware and able to read the magazines he brought with him today. He doesn't seem as out of it, and his recovery has gotten even better. Although he is still in pain and that he is still nasueas, he is managing it fairly well.
Throughout the night, he achieved a fever of about 100 degrees. It was stated that it was normal, and now his temperature has returned to normal.
Today he gets his chest tubes removed and he also will start getting less pain medication hopefully to reduce the nausea and that should help his healing even further.
He has gotten a clean, shaved face and his hair has been washed and he is feeling much better than the previous days. Each day is suspected to be getting better and better.
This morning, he said when he moves that he can feel his chest moving inside where the split it apart and it is a weird feeling, but not something that is particularly bothersome to him.
We are glad to see that he is recovering well, and we have a wealth of new photos uploaded and we are excited to see him recovery further. He will soon be writing his own journal again, but until then we will keep you updated on a daily basis.
Thanks for following, and to those who have sent flowers and all kinds of wonderful things. THANK YOU! it is nice to see his room full of thoughtful and colorful and beautiful gifts to wish him a swift recovery.
Each day after surgery gets better and better. The first day he was unable to move even the slightest bit without pain or nausea. Since then, it has drastically changed and things have gotten better. He has been able to accomplish walking the entire hallway around the second floor of the hospital, which is a huge goal.
Although his nausea is bad, he is staying positive and able to start keeping food down which is great news for him. His morale is starting to raise because he can see his progress after the surgery.
All of the medical machines including the computer operated IV machines have been removed from his room and he is now taking every medication by mouth. Although it took over an our for him to take 6 simple pills, he has been able to keep them down.
Nausea seems to be affecting him more than the pain, though he is able to work through it; it's something that is uncomfortable and we look to see get better in the following days.
Every day is a challenge, but he is tackling them all and he is able to meet and exceed the required goals for recovery and with that he is starting to get better and better because he KNOWS that he is able to heal.
Coming off the ventilator a little before midnight, yesterday... We went to visit him. The first question out of his mouth was "What's my heart rate".
My mom, and our entire support "team" was around him for his first moments off.
This morning, he has done very well with the recovery process. He was able to move from the bed to the chair about 3 feet away all by himself with no problems and needed no help. Although it was painful, I think it gave him the confidence that he needed to be able to continue a strong healing process.
Since the doctor came by, which we unfortunately missed; he started my dad on two more bags of blood, but the loss of blood through the chest tubes has reduced by a lot.
He has his heart shaped pillow close to his chest which will be the aid to help him move around, hold close when he feels pain and provide support for his upper body when he moves around.
He is in and out of sleep and he is sometimes in large amounts of pain, but his pain is being managed and he is being treated well and so far everything seems to be going as planned and there seems to be an easily forseeable successful outcome ahead for his recovery
Thank you for all the support and kindness that we have been given during this time of great transition; we wish him the best in his recovery and so far... so good!