Today marks the 2 yr. anniversary of my heart surgery and I'm happy to report all continues to go well. All check-ups have been great and I've been back to everything I enjoy for well over a year now. Still running 20-30 miles a week, golfing, coaching youth basketball and being a dad to 3 great kids. My wife and I got a chance to spend a couple days in Cleveland recently, the first time we'd been back there together since the surgery and we had a great time visiting friends and hanging out. While the scar on my chest is a constant reminder of what I went through, I'm sure I've forgotten many of the details and now only remember the great things about the surgery. Like the fact that it most likely saved my life, like all the wonderful, caring and excellent nurses and doctors I met and how I still feel blessed to have gained the perspective this type of event gave me. To all you in the middle of your journey, do all you can to be calm and positive. You'll do great!
It's been 5 months since my operation and things couldn't be going better. Did a 9 mile run today with confidence and got in over 20 miles last week. At this point, I'll go long periods of time and not remember I even had the procedure. Really weird when I do remember again but I guess this is just part of the process. To all of you in the middle of what is, if you are like me, a scary and uncertain time, I want to be another voice telling you things will get better, you will get back to normal over a remarkably short amount of time. If fact, in my case, I think you could call it a new and better normal. One with more patience, kindness, and a perspective that just is not possible without this type of experience. Bill
Today marks 8 weeks since surgery and all continues to go well. I've been back to work for a couple weeks now but only doing home office until next week. Not too concerned about the travel though as I'm heading to Cleveland so if any issues arise I'll just head over to the Clinic. The only thing amiss now is a few irregular beats that occur when I lay down. It's like my heart needs a minute to reposition itself and then goes back to a steady beat.. Wore a Holter monitor (a portable EKG that records every beat of your heart) for 48 hours late last week and should get the results in a few days but no one seems concerned and all feel that the occasional odd beat is benign. Over the last few weeks they have gotten far less frequent and intense so hopefully they'll go away completely as I get stronger. Also started cardiac rehab at Vandy late last week. A great program and staff. They've given me confidence that I should be able to get back to normal activity over the next few months.. Monday I ran for the first time and completed a treadmill 5k in a little over 35 minutes! They also had me do 20 minutes on the elliptical and some lower body and very light upper body strength training. It felt great to be tired and sore from exercise again. I'm set up to go 3 days a week now so I'll be back at it tomorrow. Thanks to all of you (Amy most of all, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors) who have been so caring and helpful. I really feel like this process is one of the best things the has ever happened to me (and not just because the procedure went well or I lived). This time in my life has made me more patient, kinder, and more interested in building relationships with others than ever would have been had I just had a normal 40th year of life. May God bless all of you and if I don't get to talk to all of you who follow my journal, have a great holiday season.
The last 18th of the month at this time I was hanging out in the ICU at the Clinic only a few hours out of surgery. It was a great day because the surgery went well and I was resting comfortably knowing that I was on the other side of one of the scariest times in my life.
This 18th (today) was great for many different but related reasons...
-met with a new Cardiologist in Nashville and he is great
-in about 30 minutes I'm heading to a movie with my daughter and I'm driving us (been cleared for some light, around town driving)
-Dr said all sounds great with my heart and my healing is going well
-I'll be able to start back at work (home office only for now) some the week after Thanksgiving
-most medicines will be done soon and if all goes as expected, I'll have no pills to take long term
Hope all have a great weekend and I'll continue to all my fellow heart patients ( no matter where you are in the process) in my prayers. Bill
Today marks 4 weeks since surgery and all is going well. The only things that are a bit bothersome at this point are some muscle/bone pain when I move the wrong way (but I'm not on any pain meds at this point except for 2 Tylenol before bed) and feeling my heart beat against my chest bone if I take a deep breath. Sure not complaining about that...it just feels weird. When I think about it, my heart is working far more efficiently than it has since I was a kid so the strong, crisp beat is really exciting.
Last week was the toughest and felt a lot like "the wall" one hits in a long running or cycling race. Spent about 4 days with an irregular heart beat that presented itself when I reclined. Had an EKG and found that my Atria was double beating and then my heart was pausing between beats longer than normal to "catch up". Was told it was harmless and just part of the healing process and, just like it appeared, it disappeared while helping my son with his homework last Thursday afternoon. The other big issue was about a week of nausea. Had no idea I'd have to deal with that but Amy told me it sounded a lot like the morning sickness she had with our 3 kids...maybe a little payback for me. Lizzy's home sick today and just described a similar feeling so who knows, maybe it was a virus.
Above all, I feel extremely blessed and thankful. I'm walking 2-3 miles a day, doing at least one outing a day to the grocery, mall, etc., taking 1 or no naps each day, and I even did some yard work on Sunday. I go to the Cardiologist this Friday for my post op check-up so at that point I should know things like when I can drive, get back to work, how much I can lift, start running again. Thanks to everyone for the meals and help and look forward to talking to all soon.
Hard to believe that tomorrow will mark 2 weeks post op. When you're getting ready for something like heart surgery, you try to calm yourself (at least I did) by thinking of things you'll be doing after surgery. One of those things was sitting on the front porch passing out candy to trick or treaters. Well, here I sit, just like any other Halloween, passing out candy to the neighborhood while Amy takes the kids out to hit some houses. Feels good. As for the recovery, all is going well with only a few minor inconveniences like some headaches, nausea, and extreme sleepiness. It's amazing to me how tired I get. But all in all, the heart seems solid, the incision is healing great, and I'm already able to put a little weight on my arms so I think the sternum is getting stronger. Had a good walk today...went a little farther than a mile so stamina is improving too. Thanks to all who continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers and here's hoping everyone has a fun and safe Halloween.
Amy and I made it back home last night around 7:30. It's great to be home but it was a BIG day. Very tired spending a few hours in the real world. As someone doing so well in the hospital, my walks around the floor, visiting with friends and other patients seemed like a breeze. Getting out into the world was definitely humbling. Last night was good though and by mid morning I was showered and out on a walk with Amy and our dog. The afternoon was good and heading out for another walk and to watch the kids play outside.
It takes a village to raise a heart surgery patient
Journal posted on October 23, 2011
Hi All, I'm back on the blog after some awesome updates from Amy. I'm writing this from the Intercontinental Suites as I'm getting ready for bed. Had a few more excellent days in the hospital taking walks, naps, and watching a lot of ESPN until being discharged yesterday (Saturday) at around 4pm. Only hiccups are a couple of fevers that have come and gone which they feel are attributed to bringing my lungs back up to capacity (they have to deflate them quite a bit to have good access to the heart during surgery). Today was a great day just hanging out around the hotel and taking a walk out in the beautiful, sunny NE OH day. All told, probably walked about a half mile today.
Thanks to all of you who came to visit me (PJ and Kris, Cousin Joe, Cousin Kathy, Mike, Jason, and Brian)...it's difficult to express how much it means to me. A very special thanks to my beautiful wife Amy. Not much to say other than you're perfect.
Thanks to those who called, sent emails, texts, of well wishes or prayers. Everyone of them helped and were appreicated.
Again I was nothing but impressed with the Cleveland Clinic. I'd bet there were at least 100 different people that directly helped me in some way. It is the most impressive place or business I've ever encountered. For those of you going through this too, considered the Clinic if you can...you won't be disappointed.
Amy and I are flying home tomorrow afternoon and we are very excited to see the kids and Sara and Larry. The grandparents knocked it out of the park with all they did on the home front. Thank you for taking care of everything...you both are the best!
In the days and weeks to come, I'm planning on writing a couple different of updates every week as well as sharing some really cool stories about my experience. Talk to you all soon and for those who are going through this yourselves or about to, don't hesitate to reach out with questions. Bill
Hurry, get dressed and
lace up shoes, run
to the car, check
iPad, iPhone, laptop.
Drive and talk, mobile conference calls.
Check in at home-
What errands are needed,
what advice is sought,
needy, needy, protect the family;
yet slowly failing.
wet tears from body’s betrayal,
seeking opinions, staring at proof:
On the ECHO, the EKG, the CT Scan,
the doctors’ words,
the necessary decision.
the heart beats,
Slowly, the view of what is necessary,
what is beloved,
what matters is emerging,
Wisdom amidst the crisis.
Time slows and we savor the days, the moments,
and we feel the blessings,
Slowly, the heart beats,
Surgery day arrives,
Faith and fear crescendo into
Goodbyes and good lucks.
And, slowly, we wait.
Faithful heart, quieted,
chilled by the deft surgeon’s hands.
Science and miracle combine and slowly,
then quickly, forcefully,
the heart returns from its suspended state.
powerful thuds of renewed life force.
the new heart isn’t “angry”
as the nurses say in recovery.
It’s beating and beating
and making a new presence,
excited and youthful,
Wildly ecstatic to be healed,
ready to protect,
slowly remembering its place,
Oh, faithful friend.
I am simply amazed at the body's ability to and desire to heal so quickly after open heart surgery! Bill has had a few visitors today and they look at him in disbelief--although he is tired, he is sitting in a chair, enjoying the company of friends. I am so proud of him.
Some updates: he is no longer feeling the extreme body temperature changes and getting alternately sweaty/freezing. He is off all pain meds and pain pump except for some Percocet every few hours. He has walked up and down the hallway; he has been sitting up in a chair all day (he loves the Clinic but despises the bed!). He has a small appetite, better than yesterday when he had lots of nausea. He is smiling and much more comfortable today. His incision looks amazing, like our son Ryan drew a straight 9 inch line down his chest with a red marker. There is no puckering, no staples, nothing! They used DermaBond which is a skin glue to seal the incision.
So, he has to walk five more times before midnight which is a little daunting but I know that he can do it. Our goal now is to keep him calm and get his strength up to allow his "angry heart" to heal (that's the term the nurses use to describe the heart's reaction to open heart surgery-- it beats harder and is distressed in general).
Very thankful for the wonderful prayers/cards/flowers/teddy bears/balloons/visitors we received today. We are overwhelmed by kindness. Thank you!
p.s. He is in Miller J Building at the Cleveland Clinic, room J61, Bed 20. There is a room phone, but you can also call him on his cell phone at 615 804-5658. He has enjoyed a few short conversations today!
Around 1:30 p.m. I was paged to meet with Bill's surgeon. Dr. Sabik proceeded to share that Bill's surgery was successful and that he had been able to repair Bill's leaking valve. On a scale of 0-4 with 4 being severe regurgitation, Bill's had been at a 3. After repair, his valve is at a negligible .5. The doctor was very happy with the results of the aortic root replacement as well. The aortic aneurysm at the root was replaced with a graft and the coronary arteries were attached to the graft.
I went to see Bill in the ICU about an hour later. I was told that he would be pale, sleepy, and still have a breathing tube in. So I walk in the room and he is awake, tube out, looking at me and saying, "Hey, I need my glasses!". He smiled at me; I knew that he was back.
He proceeded to do his breathing training ( to help his lungs get back to normal, necessary after heart surgery) and he finally got to eat some ice chips. He is in pain, about a 6 out of 10. This will be a long night for him, but he does have a self-medicating patient pump to help.
A special thank you to cousin Joe for coming up and spending the day with me. Your family stories helped pass the time for sure. Thanks to all of our friends and family who have sent best wishes.
Bill arrived at 5:15 a.m. and was taken back to be prepped for surgery around an hour later. He was one of around ten patients being prepped for heart surgery at this early hour; he was the youngest most certainly. I was able to go back and kiss him and give him all of the courage and strength that I could in a simple hug and embrace. Very hard to walk away and see him wheeled away. All I can know is that God and the surgeons will proceed from here... Surgery began around 7 a.m. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.
Hi All, Amy and I made it to Cleveland in the early afternoon today and had a GREAT day. We got a car and headed out to Chagrin Falls for a little lunch at Your's Truly when I got the call from Dr. Sabik's office that I was to report to the clinic at 5:15am. Surgery should start around 7 or so. We then headed to the South Chagrin Reservation for a 4 mile walk in the woods. The sun was shining...it was a perfect fall day in NE OH. I ran that trail countless times before and it was wonderful to feel at home and at peace. I also found myself looking forward to the day when I could go for another run on that trail. We then hit Jeni's Ice Cream for a little snack before heading over to the hotel. Thanks to all of you for the well wishes and prayers. It's humbling to think of all who are praying for me.
For a couple months now, I've had to slowly close myself down in preparation for the 18th. No more running, no more lifting weights, no more biking or doing many of the things I enjoy so that I didn't hurt myself by putting too much strain on my heart. It's good to know that even though the surgery will knock me out for awhile, I will be working to get stronger each day again.
That's all for tonight...keep the prayers coming. I'll be turning this journal over to my PR Manager Amy for the next few days. God bless you all, Bill
Only 5 days until surgery now and I'll be flying home from Boston and the last work trip I'll take for a while tomorrow. Looking forward to getting home but it was great to see all my friends and coworkers. They really helped me have a good and much less anxious week than I would have had just sitting at home counting the hours to Cleveland. Being a guy who probably jokes around too much, it was good to laugh and make jokes about all I'll be going through rather than worry. Thanks to all for the kind wishes and prayers on this site over the last couple of days. Getting the opportunity to see life and appreciate all the people around me in a new way is truly a blessing. Good luck to all those others getting ready for the same journey.
Saw one more surgeon this past Friday to get his thoughts and had another confidence building experience. Early on, I had made an appt with Dr. Michael Petracek at Vanderbilt as I had received numerous opinions that he was the best in Nashville. After meeting and talking to him I can see why. He spent a good bit of time with me discussing my case and after reviewing all the info told me that because of the good chances of repair, he would have recommended me to one of 2 people...Dr. Svensson or the doctor I've signed up for surgery with, Dr. Sabik at the Cleveland Clinic. This expert in his field credited with installing the 1st of a couple different types of replacement valves and a heart surgeon for 36 years went on to tell me how he felt "Joe" is one of the best in the country and went on to rattle off only another 6 or 7 names as who he felt were the best. So it's all systems go for October 18th in Cleveland.
A bit more about test week before moving on to the next milestone. I arrived Wednesday the 28th and was immediately impressed. Working in a profession that focuses on delivering world class customer experiences, I could tell after a short time that CCF was a special place and different from any medical experience I had had prior. Over the 3 days, I can't recall one person who was not nice or knowledgable. From the caregivers that schedule and work the desks all the way to the chairman of cardiac surgery (the doctor I've chosen for the procedures), everyone was friendly and showed concern that my experience was as positive as possible. Some highlights...
EKG, Chest X-ray, Pulmomary Test, and routine Blood work...all went so smoothly that I was ahead of schedule for the morning...and when I did have to wait a few minutes before each test, it was in clean comfortable chairs watching a baseball game on a 42" flat screen TV.
Cardiologist Dr. Allan Klein...perhaps the best experience with a doctor that I have ever had! After a short wait and a great experience with the nurse, Dr Klein spent what must have been 45 minutes with me reviewing my case point by point, discussing what he saw, asking questions to better understand me as a person and a patient, and sharing his perspectives.
Echo...I had a couple hours until my next appt. For the echo but decided to stop by the desk to let them know I was ahead of schedule and I'd be waiting, doing some computer work. 5 minutes later my pager went off yes, they have pagers so you can move around and not miss your name being called and they took me back for the test because it was a little slow and they might as well knock it out. A couple very cool things here. 1st, they had to install an IV to do a test that shoots saline bubbles into the heart to see if the chambers are "communicating" ( they weren't) but the person doing the test had noticed that I was scheduled for a CT after this test and called over to those people so she could install the right size needle for both tests so I wouldn't have to be stuck an extra time. 2nd, as I walked out of the test, I found myself in the middle of 10 guys in expensive suits. The tech went on to tell me that that must be the entourage for the Prime Minister from another country that was there that day! Makes you feel good that your getting care in the same place where heads of state come for help.
CT scan...with IV already in place and after watching a couple innings of baseball on another flat screen TV, I was taken to the test and back out in few minutes...done for the day a solid hour ahead of schedule.
Day 2...the Diagnostic Heart Cath. First off, let me write that if your reading these because you may need or are scheduled for this procedure, Don't Worry! The biggest pain or discomfort I felt was the IV going in when I first arrived. This test is cool. You're awake but sedated so you can watch a lot of the procedure on the same monitors the doctors are using. I remember asking; "is that wire right next to my aortic valve?" "Yes" was all the doctor said...he was focused on his work. As for the experience, it was also a super one. Again, everyone was great and I felt a constant mix of a high level of competence from friendly, caring people. After about 30 minutes, I was rolled into recovery to lay down for 4 or 5 hours, nap, and you guessed it, watch some more baseball on my TV in the recovery cube. Had lunch, read and answered some text messages, and after a few hours, stood up and walked around a bit. After another couple of hours and some more walking, I was free to go. I met up with my cousin Steve (my driver for the next couple of days) and I even felt good enough to go to Hunan Coventry for dinner.
Day 3...pre-op discussions and meeting Dr. Sabik. With the tests concluded, now all that was left was to have my discussions about surgery. I watched a video about what to expect before, during, and after surgery, met with a nurse that went over everything again and reviewed the results of my tests with me (all came back great and she mentioned the numbers for blood work, pulmonary function, etc were some of the best she'd seen in some time), met with an anesthesiologist, and then met with Dr. Sabik. A very nice, calming man that explained everything again and shared his plan A...repairing the aortic valve and replacing the ascending aorta with a Dacron graft. Plan B still includes aorta replacement but adds a valve replacement if the current one can't be repaired. The big decision now...mechanical or tissue.
Finally, the day we have been waiting for... Bill met with the surgeon who will be replacing his aortic root and fixing his valve. Did you notice that I wrote "fix" his valve and not replace? This is HUGE. The surgeon candidly said that Bill's aortic root has to be replaced and that his coronary arteries have to be grafted onto the new root (which means open heart surgery and NOT a minimally invasive surgery)... BUT, Dr. Sabik believes that he can actually repair Bill's valve. Bill would not need a mechanical valve, he would not need a biological valve...he would NOT have to take Coumadin (the blood thinner) the rest of his life. So, while we are adjusting to the news that this surgery cannot be done minimally invasive, we know that his sternum will heal, and he will recover and, he will be coaching basketball and football and golf as soon as he is able to next year.
As a side note, I love what our 4-year old son said when he heard that Daddy has to have a little something fixed on his heart.... he said, "Well, that's okay Dad because God is in your heart already--He'll be there"-- he has the assured faith of the young, and I am made aware again how honestly our children speak the most basic of truths.
Very exciting week! Bill has had such a positive experience at the Cleveland Clinic. After many diagnostic tests and a lengthy hour-long meeting with his new cardiologist, he found out that he will still need surgery. However, his root is not as enlarged as he thought (5.0 measurement in Nashville, 4.5 measurement in Cleveland).