We visited the surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic on Friday. After a CT scan he pronounced me healed and said I could do anything I wanted. I really don't think I am really quite that good, but I am close. I still have pain in the sternum if I push it too hard. A few more months and a lot of exercise should fix that. I have to admit this whole thing has gone very well for me and has proved easier than I expected. I am a very lucky man. Thank you for all the great support you provided; it was a big help.
Rehab is finished! One more visit to the surgeon later this
Journal posted on December 3, 2014
After my last report, not much changed from week to week in Cardiac Rehab. I just did my assigned exercises, got real tired. and then went home. Occasionally I had to "stay after class" due to low blood pressure. my record low after exercise was 80/42. It is somewhat difficult to stand up with when it is that low. Some days were better than others and I did make some progress but not like what I experienced the first few sessions. Before rehab I would feel fatigue with almost any activity. With rehab complete, my stamina has improved greatly even though my speed on the treadmill has only improved slightly. My heart rate is also lower at the same exercise rate. The trick will be continuing the exercise routine. I do enjoy the exercise once I get to the gym, however, I have to drag myself there every time. There always seems to be something more interesting or important to do. So far I have been able to continue the exercise on schedule
The story I was told was that the sternum would heal in 8 weeks. Well, it didn't quite happen. I guess I pushed a little too hard, because the darn thing still hurts. This especially true when I lift or push something a little heavier than a hammer. I try to be careful but one has to get on with life. Hopefully it will heal soon. Actually it does not hurt too much, more like an ache.
Overall this whole process was a piece of cake. I was drugged up enough that I don't remember the first few days which were somewhat of a problem. I found that sleeping in a Lazy Boy worked really well. Every once and a while I head back to that good ole chair for a good night's sleep.
This Friday I have one last appointment with the surgeon. I think the purpose of the visit is to give him a chance to admire his good work. The whole team at the Clinic did a great job.
All of you loyal readers were a big help. All of your support was certainly appreciated and beyond my expectations. THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
Also, thanks to Adam Pick for setting up this site. It is a truly great thing.
We went back to the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday for follow-up tests. The net results, great, and my wife's new two favorite words "No Leaks". I'm still getting hoarse almost every day. Sure wish I knew why. I now have three more days of Rehab under my belt. I am very glad they offer you a towel to use. You get a short warm-up and then you do 30 minutes on the treadmill and exercise bike. My heart rate goal is 110-120, which I can do. However, I am whipped when I am done, gasping for breath. The good news, it is easier each day. The difference each visit is obvious. I can see that my stamina is getting stronger and I am so glad that I chose to do Rehab. I am trying to wait 8 weeks to get back on my bicycle;so far, so good. I might make it. The next up date will be next week, not much change these days.
Last Wednesday, Cardiac Rehab was just a "meet and greet" with no real exercise. The exercise began on Monday. After they wired me up so they could watch my heart, I started on a treadmill. With all the walking I have been doing, this was easy. It was 15 minutes at a little over 3 mph. I'm feeling pretty good at this point. Next up was the stationary bike. Derek set the level and said "just keep the pedal rpm at 60 for 15 minutes." At the end I was soaking wet and gasping for breath, paying the price for not biking this year! After a cool down and some stretching he sent me home. Honestly, I was exhausted. More of this on Wednesday, oh boy.
More good news. I am almost off of all pain meds. Only taking two tylenol each day and feeling good. If only I had my old stamina back. I get tired very easily these days. They say it goes with the surgery. Maybe the rehab will do the trick.
After two sleepless nights and two miserable days, I called the Cleveland Clinic’s hotline for recovering patients. I told my story to the nurse, and she connected me to a cardiac physician who suggested Tylenol PM before bedtime. The nurses are not permitted to give medication advice. This small change did the trick and by Friday I was back to my old self. The healing continues at a fast pace, as I can now sneeze without any significant pain. I feel very lucky to have experienced such an easy recovery so far. Looking forward to starting Rehab on Wednesday.
Monday we met with our local cardiologist. We had a number of questions about the meds and got good answers. He suggested I attend a cardiac rehab program, which I was delighted to hear. We had checked out one of the programs and were excited about what they had to offer. The program is tailored to your specific needs to help you get back in shape. I can tell from the walking I have been doing that I am not close to being in the same condition I was in prior to surgery. With all the new plumbing you would expect to be able to just get out there and go. It just doesn't work that way, Boo Hoo. Good news, I can start driving in one week. Parting words from the cardiologist, "See you in six months". We have begun to cut back the pain meds and I am experiencing some side effects, primarily inability to sleep. I have to learn to be patient, and not rush things. Yesterday, I sneezed for the first time since surgery. Wow, was that exciting and painful. I am not complaining though since the pain has not been a problem for me. Cutting back to just Tylenol has brought a little pain into the picture but it is minor. Hoping for some sleep tonight. Thanks again to all of you loyal readers, your comments have been a boost.
It is time to extend a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who have posted comments in my guestbook. All of those comments, each and every one, were very important to me. I was even surprised how important they proved to be. They helped a lot. We have now entered the "not much change day to day" phase. The pain is almost a distant memory. I am walking a mile to two each day comfortably. However we are doing more at the Mall since the weather has turned hot and wet. The incision is almost healed, just a few small scabs left. But, it is still swollen somewhat. We toured a Cardiac Rehab facility this week and I am looking forward to getting started. We are waiting until our first appointment with the local Cardiologist which is this coming Monday. We have a lot of questions for him, mostly about the meds. I feel very lucky to have experienced such a good recovery so far. I am still losing my voice every afternoon or when I am talking on the phone for more than a few minutes. The next report will be posted after we talk to the Cardiologist. THANKS Again for all your prayers and support.
This morning when I awoke I had to cough and I was surprised to find that it did not hurt nearly as badly as it had. I thought my sternum was making great progress healing. Later I had to blow my nose and accomplished it with little pain. Now I was really excited, this is great progress. Later in the day I decided to pull a few weeds in the garden (see "My Photos" tab above). Mistake! Within 10 minutes it was obvious that this was not the best idea I had had in some time. Those weeds don't want to give up, easily. My sternum was not happy. At dinner when again I had to cough the pain was back, BIG Time. Wow, did it ever hurt this time. Lesson learned NO weed pulling.
It occurred to me after posting yesterday that the walking stories might be misinterpreted. I was a walker before the surgery and I am just getting back to what I had done before. Two weeks prior to surgery I was walking 2.2 miles in less than 45 minutes. I may be a little slower now, but I am breathing better. The recovery instructions from the clinic suggest a goal of two 30 minute walks a day 6 weeks after surgery. They are more concerned with time than with speed and don't want the patient to push. I do love the walking and the weather has been perfect for it.
Things have really settled down here. The pain meds are under control and I am sleeping well at night. We managed to get in two 25 min. walks today, easier than four 15 min. walks. Don’t seem to get out of breath but I do get hot so the speed must be about right.
Thinking back over the last week and a half, the change is staggering. On Wed. after surgery (Day 3) I was walking the halls of the hospital and coming back to my room tired enough to need a nap. The length of those walks was less than a city block and I am now walking about ten. We went out to lunch with friends just 7 days after surgery. I am looking forward to taking my wife out to dinner this weekend. She has been cooking some great meals and deserves a treat. I will have to talk her into it but I can do it. I think I will cut back the posting to every 2-3 days unless something interesting happens, don’t want to be a bore. PS Only two trips down the stairs today.
The recliner, AKA the Lazy Boy, worked very well for me. I got a good nights sleep last night and did not have to resort to pain Killers. Today we reviewed the exercise schedule provided by the Clinic. It starts with 4-5 walks per day of 5-10 minutes length, then increasing the length and cutting the number. The goal is 2 walks of 20-30 minutes. I managed the 5-10 already, so I will start at 15 minutes. Then there is the issue of steps; I was down the basement steps 5 times today. It seemed ok to me but Janet said I looked tired after coming up the steps. I will have to limit it to two trips. I know this is boring but these are some of the big issues of the day. This and the pill schedule. Knowing when to take the pain pills is tricky. Pain can be your friend if it keeps you from hurting yourself by doing too much.But pain can keep you from resting and rest is a key to recovery. No one wants to get hooked by taking too many. With each passing day you have a better idea of what to expect from the pills. Being a pill hater I tend to over worry this issue. Being back home is great as we are finding it easier to get into a workable routine.
During one of the follow up calls from the surgeon's office I mentioned that I was having trouble sleeping in a regular bed, even using a wedge and pillows. Since a recliner was not available at the hotel they moved the last tests up to today. I passed them all and was released to go back home to Dayton. It is great to be back home and I am in my recliner, very comfortable! The drive was easy on me and the traffic not bad for Janet. I could get used to being chauffeured. I am experiencing some shoulder pain from the wrong selection of pillows last night. It is not bad and every day gets a little or a lot better. I continue to be amazed that this whole experience has been a lot easier than I had expected. Looking forward to a good night's sleep in my recliner.
Finally I am making a first person post. Planned on doing this yesterday but I could not get my iPad to cooperate, just might be the drugs. I do believe we have them under control now. We called the hospital’s hotline and received some very good help.
First, I can’t quite believe how little pain I have experienced. The meds have done a good job of keeping the pain to a minimum, except when I cough. And, you have to cough to keep the lungs clear. Second, I am very appreciative of all the kind comments posted on this site. Thanks also to all of you who have kept me in your prayers; I know it helps.
I know I have a long recovery, however, I feel so good already, I am actually looking forward to the process. It is wonderful to have something that can be fixed, not merely controlled. My aortic valve has been bad since birth. The new one should last thirty years which is about how long I plan to hang around. Yesterday we went for my first car ride, no problems. We are walking a lot which feels good and helps keep the lungs clear.
Every day we experience measurable progress. Janet has been a rock throughout this whole process.
Charlie attempted to do the journal last night, but the pain meds are still making him "fuzzy". There is a good reason you can't drive or operate dangerous tools while taking them! We are struggling a bit with the combination and timing of two different drugs. We took 4 walks yesterday, and are trying to develop a steady pace. Today we are going to ride the shuttle to the Cleveland Clinic, and then walk around there. The halls are covered with art work, and he wants to go to the rooftop patio and enjoy the Cleveland skyline. Sunny day here on the North Coast.
Big news! Charlie was released this afternoon from the Clinic and we are settled into our room at the Intercontinental Suites, just 2 blocks from the hospital. They have a shuttle service to the Clinic, all rooms are handicap equipped,and they are accustomed to guests who are in recovery mode. We will stay here all of next week, as Charlie is scheduled for tests and a consult with cardiologist before we head for home. He is tired tonight, but happy to be "unplugged" from all the beepers and in civilian clothes again. Love those hospital gowns! ha!
Charlie is off the IV pain meds and on oral ones now. It's a bit tricky, and nausea still an intermittent issue. Only bothers him when he eats food! The good news is that the pain is lessening. He had a CT scan today, which is the last test before release from hospital. They want a good look at his new valve and aorta, and a base line for the future. They removed the wires that had been placed during surgery, in case he needed a pace maker. Another good step towards leaving the hospital. We are extremely grateful for this skilled surgeon and his team.
Making progress on solid food. Nothing fancy, but a start. He took 2 walks out on the floor today, no dizziness, just very tiring. Trying to balance various medications, fluids, activity, and rest is still tricky. Every day brings a little more progress. Great staff here, no wonder the Clinic has the reputation it does. We have had wonderful support from our adult "kids", and thank each of them for their care and offers to help.
Charlie spent time sitting in a chair in ICU; very alert, pain under control. Chest tube out by mid morning. Ice chips & water going in, no food all day, nausea an issue. They moved him to step- down unit mid afternoon. Private room, Janet staying over tonight as he is weak. He is doing breathing exercises, coughing, (painful) and sleeping. Tomorrow will begin short walks and more chair sitting. All going well and very normal in the recovery process. Thanks again for all your prayers and good wishes.
By 7:30 PM the Intubation tube had been removed, and now Charlie can speak and is breathing well on his own. His blood pressure, pulse, all other stats looking good. He has had some deep coughs (very painful), which is a good sign. It helps clear the lungs of fluid. This current nurse (male) must be the one who removed the tube, because Charlie told me he is going to "kill him". Yes, our Charlie is coming back to us, fear not. He told me he is glad we are here, and worried that we must have had a "boring" day. Pain meds on board, he is resting.
(from Janet) Great news today! Charlie's surgery went smoothly, he is in recovery now. The surgery lasted 6 hours, which is pretty normal for the double repair that he underwent. The surgeon was optimistic regarding recovery, although the next several days of course are key . We will keep you updated on progress, and thank each of you for your prayers and support. Charlie has just been so touched by family and friends concern and caring words. Thanks so much.
We visited the Clinic for two days of tests. They went very well with no surprises. The staff at the Clinic were beyond good. We always got a straight answers to our questions and everyone was very, very nice. All the tests were on schedule.
It seems as though my heart is in excellent shape except for the valve and I have only one aneurism. Other than this my health is very good and equal to the task of the surgery. Both can be fixed and the operation is relatively low risk.