Below are some verses that gave me comfort as I prepared for open heart surgery on 10/15/18 to replace my calcified and bicuspid aortic valve.
Isaiah 41:10 - Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Psalm 73:26 - My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
Joshua 1:9 - This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Psalm 139:13-14 - You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Philippians 4:6 - Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Five years ago today I made the smart decision I made on this day five years ago. At the time I had no physical symptoms of heart disease but decided to get a heart scan because someone told me about the heart scan, it was being offered at a reduced price, and I was 50 years old and my grandfather died of a heart attach at the age of 49. Since that heart scan I have had stents put in arteries 80% and 90% blocked and on 10/15/18 I had open heart surgery to replace my calcified and bicuspid aortic valve.
I’ve been introduced to three men recently who are having open heart surgery soon to replace their aortic and mitral valves. Two are Rotarians introduced to me from fellow Rotarians and the third is a friend of a friend. They live in Maryland, Maine, and Oregon. I’ve been able to share my journey with him. I had a few folks do the same for me which helped me prepare for the surgery and recovery. These three new friends will be in my prayers for successful surgeries and strong recoveries.
4 mile run on Christmas Day 71 days after getting a new bovine aortic valve
60 day anniversary
Journal posted on December 14, 2018
Hard to believe it was 60 days ago that Dr. Robert Lancey performed open heart surgery on me to replace my calcified and bicuspid aortic valve with a bovine valve. Again the prayers and encouraging comments before and after the surgery played a big role in the strong recovery. I’m sure my friends are tired of my heart updates but I’m proud of them. Here’s a recap of some of the highlights during the recovery the past 60 days.
Oct 15 - 4+ hour surgery
Oct 16 - Walked four times in the hospital
Oct 18 - Lou and Betsy treated me to a Chick Fil A chocolate milkshake
Oct 19 - Released from the hospital and back home
Oct 28 - Attended Community Church
Oct 30 - Attended my weekly Rotary club meeting. Walked 1.3 miles outside
Nov 3 - Walked 3.8 miles outside
Nov 9 - Allowed to drive a car
Nov 12 - Walked 5.3 miles outside
Nov 14 - One month check-up with Dr. Lancey who released me from his care
Nov 17 - F3 workout (modified)
Nov 18 - Ran 2 miles
Nov 19 - Back to the office
Nov 25 - Ran 6 miles
Dec 2 - Ran 3.4 miles
Dec 8 - Played a game of one-on-one basketball.
Dec 12 - Led an F3 workout
Dec 14 - 60 days since getting a new aortic valve
Hope the photo of the chest scar 48 days post open heart surgery isn’t offensive but I’m sort of proud of it.
6 mile run 41 days after surgery
Journal posted on November 25, 2018
Today I ran 6 miles 41 days after open heart surgery to replace my calcified and bicuspid aortic valve. Prior to the surgery I was not able to run more than a minute without having to stop and catch my breath. Today I did not have any breathing issues. I did stop a few times to refresh the legs. It was an awesome feeling being able to run without having breathing issues. It appears the new Bovine valve was doing a good job pushing the blood through my body.
An easy two mile run today 34 days after open heart surgery. I did not have to stop every minute to catch my breath which was an incredible feeling. The bovine aortic valve appears to be working fine. I stopped after one mile to rest my legs for a minute
My thank you note I delivered today to the Maryview Medical Center Cardiac ICU 30 days after my open heart surgery. I had a hard time holding back the tears.
30 day check-up
Journal posted on November 14, 2018
Today I had my 30 day check-up with Dr. Lancey. He said my recovery has been outstanding. The Heart Hugger vest is no longer needed. It has been a good friend the past month providing comfort as the breastbone has healed. He said I do not need cardiac rehab and that I can start exercising but to start off easy and be smart. He even gave me the okay to go easy jogs during some walks. I stopped by the Maryview Cardiac ICU to hello and provide a thank you note. I wasn’t able to hold back the tears. As I have said before, I was truly blessed to have Dr. Robert Lancey and his team replace my aortic valve. Today he spent over 30 minutes with me answering my questions and talking about my continued recovery. The breastbone is still a little tender but will continue to heal.
Walked 3.8 miles 19 days after the open heart surgery
My heart story
Journal posted on October 30, 2018
In 2014 I turned 50 years old and was probably in the best shape since my college days. In 2012 I lost over 30 pounds and made exercise a priority. My grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of 49, my father had a triple bypass and valve replacement in his early 70s, and my mom had a stent put in an artery. Someone gave me a flyer about a heart scan (also called a calcium scan) to check the possibility of having plaque in my arteries. Despite being in good shape, I decided to spend the $59 to have the test done (it was on sale from the normal $100 fee). A few days after the test a nurse called me and told me my calcium score was 1,100. A calcium score of 400 means there is a 90% probability of plaque build-up. I called a friend who is a cardiologist and he wanted to see me immediately. He decided to do a catheterization which showed I was 80% blocked in an artery and three stents were put in. He also said we need to keep an eye on my aortic valve as it had some calcification and it may need to be replaced at some point. I was running a week after the procedure and from 2014 to 2016 I ran three half marathons and my first full marathon.
In the winter of 2017 I noticed I was having to stop and catch my breath during my runs. I shared this with my cardiologist and after a stress test I had another catheterization showing I was 90% blocked in another artery resulting in a stent. Again my cardiologist said we need to keep an eye on my aortic valve. A few months after this procedure I again started having trouble catching my breath when I ran and it had gotten to a point that I had to take a walk break after one minute of running. However, I did not get out of breath doing yard work and other activities. In August 2018 I was playing basketball at the YMCA and after running up and down the court a few times I could not catch my breath. I contacted my cardiologist and he did a stress test followed by a catheterization which showed that my aortic valve had become more calcified. It also showed that my aortic valve was bicuspid.
I then met with Dr. Robert Lancey, a heart surgeon and Medical Director of the Bon Secours Heart and Vascular Institute at Maryview Medical Center. Dr. Lancey spent 90 minutes with my wife and me during our first visit when we decided to proceed with open heart surgery to replace my calcified and bicuspid aortic valve. We decided to use a bovine valve. On October 15, 2018 I had a four and half hour surgery to replace my aortic valve. Dr. Lancey told me my valve was one of the most calcified values he had ever replaced and that it was having a very hard time pushing blood through my body.
The day after surgery I walked four times in the hospital. I went home on October 19. The recovery has been remarkable. I have had little pain. Thirteen days after surgery I was walking over a mile. In my first post op meeting with Dr. Lancey, he told me my chest x-ray was the best he’s ever seen of his open heart surgery patients. The prayers and support from my family and friends including my coworkers, Beta brothers, Rotarians, and F3 PAX has been incredible. Dr. Lancey and his medical team were the best. In the hospital he visited with me three times a day and he called me two days after I came home. I will always be grateful to Dr. Lancey for giving me a healthy heart.
I was extremely scared and nervous about the surgery. But it was not nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Sure, the first day after waking up us tough but every day I felt better. I’m sure it helped that I was in good physical shape. My advice if you have any of the symptoms of heart disease no matter if you feel you are in great shape, get checked out. That decision in April 2014 probably saved my life.