Today is the 1 year anniversary of my mitral valve repair. I'll never forget that day and the tears in my husband's eyes as they wheeled me to the operating room. I tried to be so brave for him and kept telling him it was going to be fine, not to worry. And it was fine. There was nothing to worry about. But 6 weeks after my surgery he was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the last line of my final post last year: "I wish I could fast forward a year because this will all be over by then, good or bad, it will all be over." And it is all over. He passed away the day before Thanksgiving. He went through an awful time in the beginning and the end of his cancer. But there were almost 4 good months in between that I will always treasure. He deserved a much longer life but he had no control over it. No one did. So I guess what I'm trying to say is don't be afraid of having surgery. Some people are so afraid of having surgery that they won't do it which is a huge mistake. If you can extend your life to be with your loved ones then you have to do it. I wish everyone with upcoming surgeries a quick recovery. Take care of yourselves and remember who you are doing this for.
Went for my 2-month checkup. Cardiologist says I'm doing fine but my heartbeat is a bit fast so I need to stay on the blood pressure medicine. I'm amazed that I am doing so well considering for the last month I have been under enormous stress with my husband in the hospital for 4 weeks. I wasn't able to do cardiac rehab, I haven't eaten healthy or walking because after work I just have been going to the hospital for hours then going home and sleeping and getting up the next day to do it all over again. After 4 weeks in the hospital they sent him to rehab to get him walking again. His memory of the last 4 weeks is sketchy and he doesn't seem to remember they told him he has cancer. He is so determined to do well at rehab and get back home that I'm afraid discussing it will make him give up. I look back on how frightened I was to have my surgery and now I realize my surgery was nothing compared to what he has gone through. And while my heart is fixed and healed, it's not going to be so easy to heal him, if at all. I know this really has nothing to do with everyone's fears of their upcoming surgeries. But I remember saying to my husband after my surgery that this could be worse, at least it was something they could fix. At least it wasn't cancer. Now those words are haunting me and I know saying it didn't give him cancer but it's almost like now I know the real feeling of what is worse than heart surgery. I wish I could fast forward a year because this will all be over by then, good or bad, it will all be over.
Friday, March 25 (exactly 6 weeks to the day of my heart valve surgery) I ended up in the ER at 3:30 a.m. But it wasn't for me. It was for my husband. He had a perforated ulcer, lost a lot of blood and underwent emergency surgery. They found a cancerous tumor in his stomach and had to do major surgery and reconstruction. He lost a great deal of blood and needed 9 transfusions. They didn't think he would make it through the first few days. He's been in ICU since the beginning and not doing too well. The doctors tell me that they just want to get him past this part before they can evaluate the cancer prognosis.
I'm telling you this story not for sympathy but because I remember how afraid I was of having my heart surgery where I knew what the outcome would be. I knew I was going to be fine even if there were a few bumps on the way. In his case I have no idea what is going to happen and now I know what real fear is.
I'm trying to be as brave and have the same positive attitude I did when it came to my surgery. I don't know what's going to happen but I know we are lucky to live in an era were they can do miracles and procedures that couldn't be done even 10 years ago. So everyone, just have faith and know that you will do fine.
So far this has been a big week. Started driving on Monday which was a strange feeling since I haven't done that in 5 weeks. Yesterday I went for my echocardiogram and my repaired mitral valve looks perfect thanks to Dr. John M. Brown III of Morristown Medical Center. Visited him today to have him check my incisions and he said they are healing perfectly. So I have been released to go back to work and have decided to return tomorrow so I could work 2 days and rest 2 days. My insurance company contacted me today and said they would cover 6 cardiac rehab visits (6 hours) for a $500 co-pay since the classes are held at another hospital near my house. I think that dollar amount is ridiculous for 6 sessions so I'm going to pass on their "generous" offer because of the cost and I'll just keep walking on my own.
To everyone facing surgery: I know everyone says you'll do fine and you'll get through this, but it's really true. The only one who can make you strong to face your fears is yourself. All the horrible stories you may have heard about breathing tubes and other tubes being removed from your body sound worse than they are. I basically didn't even know when they were taking them out because they were asking me questions and by the time I realized what they were up to, it was done.
When you are on the other side of surgery and ready to go back to a normal life, it will all be a blur. I don't really remember too much of what went on in the hospital and I really don't care to remember because it's done and I'm moving on with my life. It feels wonderful NOT to feel my heart pounding with palpitations, feeling exhausted when I wake up in the morning and huffing and puffing because I went up a flight of stairs or tried to have a long conversation with someone. It's all over and I'm not looking back. I wish everyone much luck with your surgeries and recoveries and I pray for you to be strong because attitude is everything!
I don't like to complain about doctors but it makes a huge difference in what cardiologist you see. My first cardio visit after surgery was with my usual cardiologist who I realize now didn't know what he was doing which was evident in him sending me back to the hospital twice as an after thought to have a chest x-ray and cardiac cat scan when I complained of severe pain and difficulty breathing. I didn't like the fact that he told me to wait at the hospital for them to call him with the results as to whether he needed to admit me or not. When they phoned in the results, the doctor was gone and could not be reached. So I went home. Called the office the next day and they wouldn't even let me speak with him. I communicated with a nurse. They wouldn't give me an appt at the time with the partner who saw me in the hospital every day so I insisted my next visit be with him even though I had to wait an extra week. Huge difference. Unlike the first cardiologist he did a thorough exam, EKG and answered all the questions I was going to ask him (without having to ask him). He said my normally low blood pressure was high so he was keeping me on blood pressure meds for now because he said my heartbeat was a little fast. Scheduled me for an echocardiogram next Tuesday. But he said I looked great and no one in the waiting room would ever know I had heart surgery a month ago. He also is arranging for cardio rehab and said I can start driving next week and go back to work the week after that (6 weeks on schedule). I am so glad I got to see him even though he is only in the office 2 days a week because of his rounds at two hospitals. My cardiologist only does office visits (no rounds and no procedures like TEE and cardiac cath like the doctor I saw today). The last words the first cardiologist said to me as he sent me off to the hospital was to see him in a month. Really? That would have been a week AFTER I was suppose to go back to work. If it weren't for the cardiologist I saw today, I was ready to switch to an entire new group of doctors.
Was doing very well recovering from a successful mitral valve repair. I even got rid of the terrible pain in my right shoulder blade and was virtually off pain meds when my pain level shot up to a 10. I could barely move. It happened to be the day of my first cardiologist followup visit. He sent me for a chest x-ray and a cat scan. No blood clots but it showed a minor lung infection in the lower lobe. So I am on antibiotics and a new pain killer which works wonderfully. But I had this same exact pain immediately following surgery and up until less than a week ago so I find it strange they didn't see this before. Hoping it doesn't slow my recovery too much. I was really doing so well so this is a little disappointing but I'm making sure I don't push myself which is what I know I probably was doing when I should have been resting. Problems of an over-achiever. LOL!
Had mitral valve repair Fri. Feb. 12. Went into surgery late (around 3:30 pm). Anesthesiologist said it would take them an hour to hook me up to everything (urinary cathether, wrist and neck catheters) after I was asleep and make sure everything worked properly before the surgeons came in. I remember looking up at the operating room lights waiting for them to do something. That's the last I remember until 3:30 a.m. when I woke up. I was aware of the breathing tube but didn't freak out like I thought because I was so drugged up. I think I vaguely remember them taking it out but can't be sure. Then I was in and out for hours until around 12 pm when they were getting me ready to move to a room. They took out the drainage tube which I admit hurt alot for about 2 seconds. They took out the wires in my neck which I didn't even know because it was held on with so much tape that they were peeling off that I didn't feel the difference. Got to the room and they started me on meds. I was starving before the surgery then didn't have an appetite for days. I did learn you have to ask for your pain medication and they won't give it to you sooner yet if your nurse isn't available to bring it you can end up going a half hour to 45 mins. over your due time. One reason I couldn't wait to get home and take the meds when I was actually due for them. It's felt like someone is sticking a knife into my right shoulder blade but a Thermacare helps with that. I thought I would be able to do more when I came home so was surprised by my limitations but my lungs have been fine and been able to walk and go up/down stairs. It only gets better from here. Don't spend your time worrying about this. What I thought would be issues were not. Yes, there is pain but the upside is your heart is fixed. And that's the reason we all do this so we can be around for the people we love.
Hard to believe I was still in ICU this time last week. Still in pain even with pain meds but it's getting better. This pillow has been my best friend.
Surgery a success
Journal posted on February 16, 2016
Having trouble posting but im fine. Went for surgery at 4 pm after long delay. Woke up at 3:30 am took vent tube Out. Took drain out aroun 2 and brought me to room. They switched me from motphine tp prrcot then today to ultram which works best.
Received a call from my surgeon late yesterday. Frightened me because I thought he was cancelling me but he just wanted to let me know I was third on his list of 4 surgeries today and to arrive at 9:30 a.m. and my surgery would be around 12:30 p.m. At least I know now when I'll be going in instead of wondering. Took my shower last night with the surgical scrub they give you. I thought it might burn or itch but it was fine. Have to shower with it again at the hospital. I am already starving even though I ate right up to midnight last night. So far being hungry is my biggest worry because I'm not myself when I "hangry." LOL!
Last day at work for a while. Kept myself busy all week getting things done so I can honestly say (with the exception of packing my stay bag) I am ready to go. Praying I don't get a phone call postponing this for unseen reasons. Will pack my bag when I get home from work then go out for a quiet dinner with my daughters and husband. Been pretty calm about this but sometimes anxiety kicks in then I just think about something else like a funny movie. I wish it was a week from now because I would be home and this would be behind me. When that time comes I'll think back on when I made this wish because I know with certainty this wish will come true. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone with upcoming surgeries and those who continue to recover.
At this time next week I will be in pre-op (hopefully I won't be rescheduled again). I am amazingly calm right now and I hope this feeling continues. I think I've gotten my fears under control because I know I am NOT going to die, this is NOT going to be the last week of my life and I am confident in my surgeon and hospital team. My co-worker's wife is a nurse in the cardiac unit where I'll be having my surgery and she says I couldn't be in better hands so that has really reassured me. I know I am not going to feel great after the surgery but I've been through 2 C-sections and gallbladder surgery so I'm familiar with how you feel after muscles have been cut and sewn back together. I survived that and I will survive this. Best wishes for everyone who has an upcoming surgery.
Apparently I had an allergic reaction to the nose ointment that must have stirred up bacteria and ended up making me sick which resulted in my surgery being canceled yesterday. But I guess I should consider myself fortunate that they didn't push my surgery off till March but were able to reschedule me for Feb. 12. Which means I'll be spending Valentine's Day in the hospital so to ease the extra stress and terror I am feeling right now, I'm focusing on the romantic Valentine's Day dinner my husband better be planning to take place in my hospital room. LOL! But seriously, I thought I'd be more at ease waiting again but I think I'm more stressed than before. So I'm telling myself that this is not happening tomorrow and not to worry about it until it is actually happening tomorrow. I also get a lot of comfort by reading everyone's posts to other people's journals, not just mine, because no one knows what this feels like except the people on this site.
I came down with either a very bad cold or a sinus infection so I called my surgeon today and he postponed my surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning. Said I need to go into this healthy and since I already feel sick I don't want to have to deal with that on top of surgery. I'm very upset and disappointed because I was all set to go mentally. But things happen for a reason and this is out of my control. I'm also convinced that it is not a coincidence that I got sick. They gave me this anti-bacterial ointment to put in my nose to prevent staph infections. I began using it Wednesday but by Thursday morning my throat felt like it was on fire so they suggested I stop using it. Friday I developed a runny nose and congestion and yesterday and today my sinuses are a mess and my head is splitting. Has anyone else used that ointment and had problems? Like I said, maybe it was just a coincidence but I've been so careful to stay away from sick people that I don't know where I could have picked up something.
Had all my pre-op tests yesterday. The x-ray showed my heart is slightly enlarged but I think that's to be expected with severe mitral regurgitation. A very experienced nurse gave a class on what to expect before and after surgery and the importance of clearing out your lungs and walking post-op. I found the class extremely helpful and it also relieved some of my anxiety. I'm most fearful of the 2 days after surgery because of the tubes and not knowing how much pain I'll be in because she said even though you have a faster recuperation, the surgery from the side is more painful than the sternum (?) because they go through muscle. I plan on going to the pharmacy today to find a homeopathic anxiety relief formula and if that doesn't work, I'll be consuming lots of wine this weekend before my Monday surgery. LOL!
I met with the surgeon my cardiologist recommended. I feel very comfortable with him and he was pretty direct telling me my mitral valve leakage was severe and showed me on the DVD disc I provided him from my TEE and cardiac catherization. He recommended surgery and said he would be doing the minimally invasive procedure from the side (not down the middle). But to be honest, the reality of this has hit me very hard. Have to admit I came home and poured myself a large glass of wine. I was hoping he would tell me I wouldn't need surgery and everything would be fine and fix itself. Not the answer I got. He also said he was 90%+ sure it would be a repair but he had to have the discussion about replacement. I loved his honesty and the way he handled the discussion. So I'm scheduled for Jan. 25 and feeling pretty numb and that I'm making a bad decision. He said I could wait 3-4 months but I'm thinking that in 3-4 months I'll be completely healed so why put it off and go through the stress of waiting. So I'm schedule for my pre-op testing on Tuesday the 19th and have to go to a class on recovery which I'm glad they do because I need all the advice I can get.
I've been reading the journals of those already having gone through this surgery. I don't know whether I feel better or worse since my anxiety level is through the roof. Like others, I'm questioning if I really need this surgery because I have good days and bad days. But deep down I know this won't go away on it's own and the longer I wait the more damage to my heart. I wasn't aware of the breathing tube and all those drain tubes which I'm already freaking out about. But I have to think back on when I had the TEE and cardiac catherization and they weren't so bad. It was my fear of the unknown beforehand that freaked me out. Now I could honestly tell someone that they are nothing to worry about. I think I will be more relaxed when I speak with the surgeon and I am praying he tells me he will NOT be opening me up down the middle and that he can do the surgery from the side which is less invasive.