Well, it is almost two years since by surgery and I am doing great. My cardiologist says, that as long as my echocardiogram is good, I probably won't have to see him again for a few years. I occasionally have a bit of soreness in my chest--but it isn't really a problem. The other day I was playing with our grandchildren (5 and 7) in our pool and I raised them onto my shoulders to throw them into the water. I felt a bit of soreness that night. I suspect it may be those wires moving a bit???? Anyway, the soreness only lasted for one night. Even though I am retired, I am as busy as ever on a number of Boards and Committees--and still enjoy my favorite past-times--swimming and gardening--and babysitting my grandkids!
Thank you to Adam and this website and the stories of fellow HVJ's.. The information and reassurance provided --both during the years when my heart valve was deteriorating and then when I faced surgery and the recovery from I--was invaluable. It helped me prepare and reduced my fears. Wishing the best to all those who are now on the same journey.
It has been one year since my surgery and I am doing great.
I still have some soreness in my sternum if I twist or over-exercise and often when I wake up after sleeping on my stomach. I read elsewhere in this journal about the possibility that the wires can play a role in causing that soreness. Regardless, it is a minor issue.
Wishing all my fellow HVJ's well and special thoughts to those who are heading into surgery.
I have been very negligent in not updating my journal more frequently. I guess it is a sign of doing well and getting back to a busy life.
My biggest pleasant surprise is that I can do 20 laps in a pool without getting out of breath. Before my surgery, I could do 10 laps but then would have to stop to catch my breath before continuing. Other improvements:-- I no longer have palpitations and I can shower without feeling dizzy when I do my hair.
I still have soreness in my chest, around the scar, but no longer experience chafing (thank heavens).
I had a baseline echocardiogram in December (to develop a baseline for ongoing monitoring of my new valve). It looked good but also showed a small mitral valve problem (that has been showing up on the last couple of echos)--and I hope that is not a sign that the mitral valve will need replacing down the road. I wonder if my aortic stenosis had a negative impact on the mitral valve? My cardiologist wants to see me in June and I will ask him then.
I continue enjoying my cardio rehab and find it helpful and reassuring. It is supposed to be a four month program but I have missed many sessions due to traveling.
Wishing all my fellow HVJ's well and special thoughts to Judy who just posted on my guest book and is waiting to have her aortic valve replacement surgery rescheduled. It looks like she had a similar experience to me--being prepped for surgery and having it cancelled because of another emergency. What a disheartening experience! Regardless, it was all worth it in the end!
We are enjoying the sun and beaches of beautiful Maui for 4 1/2 weeks. Can't think of a better place to recover. Have been swimming in the ocean regularly (except some high surf days). But I have to take it easy. I do the sidestroke pulling with my left arm only, because it still hurts on my right side. On rough water days, it still hurts on my chest when I get slapped by the waves.
I would say that I am holding at 95% back to normal, It is just the tenderness and soreness around my incision that still bothers me--although it is slowly getting better. Twisting to my right still hurts. Clothes on my upper chest still chafe--so it make it hard to keep my scar out of the sun. I usually look for a covered cabana.
I checked out some videos of open heart surgery and saw the big metal clamps they use to hold back the skin and muscles and tendons so that the surgeon can access and work on the heart. Knowing that those clamps are doing their work for 1 1/2 hours in my case, no wonder my chest is still sore!
I have also struggled with yeast infections on and off since my surgery and that takes it out of you as well.
It has been hectic for me--busy with projects and issues pretty much every day--making up for lost time from my surgery--and still trying to get to the beach every afternoon. Some days I find it tiring and don't seem to have enough energy and motivation (like Ernie said) and have to push myself. I have to remind myself that my body has been through a major traumatic event and it has had both a physical and psychological impact that takes time to recover from.
I go to the gym here and am using the instructions that I was given to continue my cardio rehab on my own.
Right now we are watching the Canadian Football League final Grey Cup Game. For any of you who follow it, or even know about it, we are rooting for the western team, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. Go Riders Go!
Miss my grandkids--but had a wonderful phone conversation with them last night. Both asked me how my heart is doing. So thoughtful for them--they are only 4 and 5!
Wishing all of my fellow HVJRs a Happy Thanksgiving.
And continuing to worry about Rachel and wishing her success.
I just reached my 12 week "mark" and am about 95% recovered. This past week I have managed most days without any pain medication. My sternum is healed, my scars are fading near the top, but my upper chest on either side still feels bruised.
My friend, who is a nurse, said that the soreness could be due to the fact that they use clamps to hold back the top part of the chest after they open you up, so they can work on the heart. So, it is not surprising to have bruising and tenderness that takes time to heal. It also may explain the surface blotches across the top of my chest that looked like the and the Hawaiian Islands. Only the big island of Hawaii is left!!!
The prickly, chafing feeling from my clothes is still there, but not as bad.
I have actually been able to dig up some of my dahlia tubers to store away for the winter.
We are now preparing to go to Maui for 4 1/2 weeks and am looking forward to some R&R--but also have a lot of Board and Committee work to do over there.
Have one more cardio rehab before I go. The cardio staff will give me a plan to follow at our gym in Maui.
On Halloween it was so much fun to see our grandkids all dressed up and to see their awe-struck faces when we took them to a haunted house display put on my a neighbour.
Hope that all of you had an enjoyable Halloween.
Will be especially thinking of Jim who goes in for his surgery as I am flying over to Maui!
I continue to improve--but it is still slower than I would like. (Need more patience!). My incision area is still a bit tender and I still feel some chafing from my clothing but it is getting better. My energy level is almost back to normal.
I saw my cardiologist for the first time post surgery and he says that I am doing great.. He wants an echocardiogram done to create a baseline for my new valve and, barring unforeseen problems, he will see me in 8 months. He said the chafing prickles that I feel may be coming from the nerves and may continue for a long time for some people--hopefully not for me. He took me off off of the beta blocker medication--Atenolol. Yeh!!!
I showed him Adam Pick's report of the longevity study for the Perimount valve (that is my tissue valve)--that they last an average of 17 years for those under 60. This is am average and the length will vary by patient. He said that by the time I need a new valve the technology may have improved to the point where they can do the operation without opening up your chest. As a result he is encouraging more patients in my age group (I just turned 66) to consider the tissue valve.
I have completed 5 cardio rehab sessions and am doing well--they are slowly increasing the levels on each machine and I have had no problems keeping up. The trainer continues to customize the weight program for me because of the soreness in my chest.
I continue to value all of my fellow HVJrs journals and guestbook comments. Wishing all my fellow HVr's well and lets keep on ticking and talking!
I am continuing to feel better, but my incision still hurts with activity. I am about 90% now back to normal but am frustrated that it is taking so long.
I am back driving, although it hurts to turn my head too far.
I did a Thanksgiving Dinner with the help of my daughter last weekend. (Columbus Day in the US is Thanksgiving in Canada). We had a wonderful family dinner, enjoying my two little gandkids.
I had my third cardio rehab session on Wednesday and am doing well. They increase your levels each time and I have had no problems handling it. Heart rhythm and blood pressure were good.
My chest still hurts with activity, and it was particularly sore after the cardio rehab. But it is getting better. I try to minimize the use of pain meds because of fear that it will negatively impact my kidney. Early on I had an itchy rash, probably from the combination of the Lasix (which I am no longer taking) and the narcotic pain meds. That scared me because I worry about the impact on my sole kidney.
It is interesting how much my focus has been on managing the pain from the incision, to the point of almost forgetting that all of this was to fix the heart.
My "Elsie" still reminds me from time to time with annoying thumping. Fortunately, this is happening less frequently.
I continue to follow fellow HVRs' journeys with appreciation for the daily challenges we all face. And I am thankful for the support and encouragement from them as well as from my family, friends and colleagues.
I had my first cardio rehab class yesterday and it went well. I was a bit apprehensive because my chest is still sore--so I fortified myself with 2 Tylenol a couple of hours prior and a 5 mg. oxycodin just before the start. It was a relief to find that they start you out at a cautious pace.
it was reassuring to be hooked up to a monitor to track your heart rhythm and rate and to have blood pressure checked during each segment of the class. "Elsie" and I did great--just had to slow down a bit on the recumbent bike when my BP got a bit high. This is unusual for me as my BP is typically on the low-normal side. The nurse said that this often happens on that machine and that, with adjusting to the new class and machines, the combination may have played a role. I was fine on the treadmill and had to have the level increased on the upright cycle.
There are only 5 of us in the class, with two staff--an exercise specialist and a nurse--so lots of individual attention.
Interesting how they use Wi Fi methodology to track your heart on a monitor.
Afterwards my hubby and I went to a nice restaurant on the waterfront for sunset and a candlelight and wine dinner to celebrate my 66th birthday--and put all the pounds on that I lost at cardio-rehab. But it was lovely!
My thoughts and wishes to all of my fellow HVJ'rs!
I returned home from Maui several days ago and wanted to do an 8 week update but have been too busy.
I had thought that I would be recovered at 8 weeks and am disappointed that I am probably only at 80%. If it takes 8-12 weeks, I am thinking that I will be closer to the 12 week mark--and I know that from other HVJ's that it can be up to a year to fully heal. I just had my 66th birthday and probably age plays a role in recovery.
The first day home from Maui I overdid it--unpacking and tending to our yard--so was quite sore the next day and needing pain meds throughout the day. Yesterday I got through the day, and enjoyed babysitting our grandkids and taking them to the park which is good exercise for me--but, by the end of the day, I needed some pain meds. Today, I am much better.
Generally I don't feel sore if I am sitting reading or watching TV--and even forget about the incision. But, with activity and exercise, my incision area still feels sore, especially my upper right area is still tender to the touch--feels like they knotted the wires there or something. The last few days it has also felt prickly, making it hard to wear clothes that chafe the area. That, hopefully, is the final stage of healing.
I am still careful about lifting, pushing or pulling anything over 10 lbs. Thank heavens for my hubby who has to take care of this kind of work for me, including our suitcase and carryon bags on our trip to Maui. My discharge instructions say to wait 9 weeks--but it is hard to wait when there is so much you want to do and you feel so helpless!
Thinking of all my fellow HVJs and am again reminded that it is not a straight line upward improvement. I am thinking especially of Sara who, after 5 or 6 months post surgery and doing so well, had to go back in for surgery because some of her wires in her sternum were sticking out--something that is rare but can happen. Fortunately it isn't as drastic a surgery.
And thank you all for your wishes and support.
I am in Maui for meetings and project work and am now enjoying some R&R before heading home.
At the 7 week post surgery mark, I felt like I turned a corner. Maybe it was just thinking about and getting ready to go to Maui--but there were actually brief periods when I almost forgot about my sore chest. I even headed off for meetings the past few days, forgetting to take any pain meds with me.
That being said, after the two days of meetings, I am exhausted and my chest is quite sore.Still need the pain meds for these times. And it is a reminder that recovery does not occur in a straight upward line. I feel for those who have to go back to work after 8 weeks--must be hard.
My chest still hurts getting in and out of bed and it feels like my ribcage is pulling away from the rest of my body. I wonder if others have the same feeling.
I have been doing a fair bit of walking here on Maui--and can do a couple of miles easily.
I start cardio rehab next week. I am a bit anxious about it but am relying on the positive experiences of fellow HVJ's that it is worth it.
Thinking and feeling for all those who are going into surgery and thanking all for their thoughts and wishes for my recovery.
It has been just over 6 weeks since my surgery. I am doing better this week than last. I am back to 75% of my former activities--just can't do anything to lift, push or pull over 10 lbs. I chaired a non-profit board meeting, did a conference call, and have been preparing reports for various boards and committees--so I am getting back into the groove of my volunteer work. Fortunately I can spent time on the computer without any ill effect. The worst thing is the thumping in my heart--which is just something I have to get used to. But it does force me to take regular breaks.
And I continue to enjoy visits with friends and family--and the special joy of helping with my granddaughter's 4th birthday party yesterday.
I had an orientation class and an interview with a cardio-rehab nurse a week ago and a cardio stress test on Thursday. I "passed"--yeah!--which means I am now eligible to start a cardio-rehab program. It was reassuring to get professional and ECG confirmation that my heart is doing well.
My chest is still sore and tender with activity and after meetings where I can't relax.. I can usually get by without pain medications in the morning. Mid day I take one or two Tylenol (acetaminophen) 325mg depending on how sore I feel and what activities are planned for the afternoon. I can usually get through until bedtime. Occasionally I need to add a 5mg oxycodone.
I finished most of the temporary meds that I was on post surgery. I still take Atenolol 12.5 mg/day (a beta blocker) to regulate the heart and hope that this will not be needed in the future as I don't have blood pressure problems.
I still find my chest is the most sore when I go to bed. I still have to lie on my back and use a wedge pillow and that helps, with cushions around me. I suspect that it is a combination of the stress on the sternum during the day and taking off my bra and lying on my back that also puts a bit of stress on the sternum. There is a little tender spot midway down my scar that hurts the most--maybe it is the slowest to heal or maybe that is where the most surgical work was done.
I continue to value the stories and experiences of other fellow HVJ's and am wishing the best for those who are just behind me in the journey.
Week 5 has been a frustrating week for me with ups and downs.
Twice I inadvertently twisted my body and hurt my healing sternum. The last was caused by a big June bug that landed on me and scared the daylights out of me! The first time I heard a click and that scared me--but it has been fine sine. Each time I have had to increase my pain killers again.
Other days, like today, I feel good.
It is also frustrating because, as I feel better, and as time goes on, I see things that need to be done, but know that I can't do them yet. I hate asking my hubby to do more than he already is doing--and just have to accept that some things will have to wait.
My doctor has placed me on iron pills to increase my blood count--so I am on even more meds than when I left the hospital. My kidney function tests are not good--and that worries me because I only have one kidney--but I understand that it is most likely caused by all the medications--especially the diuretics and pain meds.
And I have a yeast infection to boot--but I am taking Monistat and thankfully, it is getting better.
In spite of this, I am doing better and doing more things most days. I continue with my spirometer--it is a struggle to get three balls up, but I am doing it!!!
Thank you all for your comments, encouragement, and best wishes. I appreciate them immensely.
And for those of you who are going into surgery--my thoughts are with you. The short term pain is worth the long term gain!!
I can't believe that it was 4 weeks to today that I had my surgery! I have posted some pictures from my hospital stay.
My worst memories of the time in hospital--aside from the awful food, was nausea (maybe it was not just the anesthetic!). And, getting the wires taken out of my chest hurt al lot. Aside from that the care from the staff and doctors was exceptional!
I continue to do well. I am up and about, doing small chores and attending to my committee and board work via email.
I can get all 3 balls up on my spirometer! That was quite a challenge--but I succeeded at last--much to my grandkids' delight!
My doctor says my blood count is low and has put me on iron pills. My uric acid is high but that is probably due to the diuretics and I will be finishing them soon.
My weight is down--and slightly lower than when I went into hospital. Don't know why other than that the diuretics have gotten all of the excess fluid out of me!
We have enjoyed visits from friends and family.
I have managed to cut my pain pills in half--although occasionally I have to add some oxycodone to manage the soreness in my sternum.
Sometimes when I am active, my "Elsie" thumps hard. I understand this is normal--and a good sign that all is working well--but it still bothers me. Glad for the info on this website--it is so reassuring.
Best wishes to all who are recovering like me and--for those of you who are facing surgery--its not as bad as you might think.!
Today is the third week since I had my surgery. I am recovering well. After my doctor and lab visits and doing some other errands last week, I was extremely tired and spent several days napping. I also think that my blood count is a little low and will be seeing my doctor on Tuesday to go over the lab results.
The last few days, have been much better. There are times when I almost forget my surgery--until the pain meds wear off! I am up and about--helping with meal preparation, light chores, dead-heading my dahlias. I have also participated in a couple of committee conference calls and am back attending to various issues and projects via email. I limit how much I do each day and balance it with rest periods.
I am beginning to reduce my Tylenol and that works fine if I am not too busy.
I continue to use my spirometer--not as often as recommended. But, if I am up and doing things, I don't think it is necessary since my lungs are getting exercised. I can get two balls up to the top, but not the third one--in spite of trying very hard. My grandkids are fascinated with it and keep checking on my progress!!!
I am enjoying visits from friends and family--and that boosts my spirits!
To those who are facing surgery--it isn't as bad is you imagine especially if you can get past the first couple of weeks. To those who are now on the other side of the mountain, "Elsie" and I are glad to be joining you!
Thank you all for your helpful advice and wishes!
Today I saw my GP. She wasn't aware that she is responsible for my follow up. I don't see my cardiologist until October and I am not sure when I will see my surgeon. After sorting this out, she checked me out and said I was doing well. Scar looks good, lungs are good, BP is good. She has sent me for some blood tests--especially to check on my kidney function and potassium and sodium levels--as I have only one kidney and my creatinine was high. That is always a worry for me--the surgery and all the meds can be hard on my one kidney.
I was relieved that my lungs sounded good.
Never thought that post-surgery I would be worrying about more than just my heart!!!
My heartbeat is strong and feels like it is thumping right through my chest. I remember reading about this on this website and in in other HVR'rs journals. I checked and sure enough, there is a whole section on it. How reassuring to know that this is normal. Guess my "Elsie" is just making herself known to me!
The trip to the doctor was my big activity for the day. My little grandkids also dropped by to make sure I was ok and to have a swim in our pool. They make all of the stress and soreness of the surgery go away!
But now it is time to rest!
Best wishes to all who are going through this surgery and thank you all for your thoughts and wishes. It is inspiring for me.
I am continuing to do well--though it sometimes means taking baby steps. I got a bit carried away yesterday--went out and cut a few of my dahlias to get some exercise--but was sure sore afterwards. I am taking it easier today.
One thing I am glad that we did, is to rent a lift chair. (Got this idea from a fellow HVJ'r). It is a lazy-boy type chair with an electrical control. Press a button and you can raise or lower the leg supports. Press another button and you can raise or lower the back. It can actually lift you right out to the chair if needed. It has been great for me this past week because I don't have to worry about hurting my sternum when getting up and down and I can rest in a variety of positions. I have also been using it to sleep at night. I tried my bed with the wedge pillow and it was very comfortable to sleep in but extremely painful to get up. I tried extra pillows on either side, but it was still painful the next morning. So, I will stick with my lift chair for a while. (Besides I can watch TV if I have trouble sleeping!)
I have been home 6 days and it is the 12th day since my surgery. I can't believe how well I feel--most of the time-- and how tired I feel at other times. I am trying to alternate activity with rest and, as many have advised, to listen to my body (not easy for me to do!)
I can hear "Elsie" (my cow valve) pounding away after exercise and meals and that is scary but much better than when my heart sounded like a steam engine.
I went into the hospital with two meds (for thyroid and cholesterol) and came out with 11. Hopefully these will be reduced over time, but it is a challenge to keep track--especially when a bit groggy from the narcotic pain killer. Thanks to a friend's suggestion, I have developed a spreadsheet/journal to keep track.
Appreciate all of your best wishes and will promise to update my journal more frequently now that I have some more energy!
I got home yesterday afternoon on Day 6 post surgery. (It was actually 7 days in the hospital, but apparently they don't count the day of the surgery.) It was a couple of days longer than expected because I developed fluid on my right lung (right pleural effusion) that they finally had to remove using a tap procedure (thoracentesis) that inserts a needle and tube into the lining of the lung and removes the fluid. I believe it was almost 700 cc of pinkish fluid--about 3/4 of a quart. It sure felt better afterwards.
My hubby picked me up and had my lift chair all carefully positioned for me to lie in when I got home. I arrived home to my daughter making a delicious fresh halibut dinner and my precious little grandkids waiting to help make sure I was comfortable. Son-in-law arrived with flowers and we all had a wonderful dinner together. Even had a glass of wine (Dr. said it was ok)! it can't get better than that!
As many have said, some days are better than others but I am gradually improving.
The staff and care at VGH was wonderful. I never had a worry!
Thank you all for your best wishes and thank you to my hubby and my daughter for updating the journal while I was in the hospital. And thanks to my sis who did my nails in the hospital a few days ago so I would look nice when I got home!
Mom is even better today. She was walking around with the help of a physiotherapist. Feeling a bit dizzy, the physio put her back on oxygen but she is no longer needing dopamine pain medication. They also removed the bandage over her incision. Her chest is a little bruised and swollen, but otherwise the incision appears to be healing well. We are hopeful she will be home on August 14 or 15th.
Just a short note from Christine's daughter to say that Christine is doing well. She has had some nausea and sickness from the anesthetic and pain meds but she is always very bright when I bring the grandkids into see her. They enjoyed learning how to move Grandma's bed up and down for her today and nurse Clara helped the kids put the pictures they made for Grandma up on the wall at the end of her bed so she can see them first thing whenever she wakes up.
Just a short note from Christine's hubby to advise that Christine's surgery went well yesterday morning and her surgeon told me that no complications were encountered during the four-hour surgery to install a new "cow valve".
Christine is now recovering in the Intensive Care Unit until she is moved to a regular ward probably tomorrow.
If all goes well, we expect her to come by next Tuesday, August 13th.
Vancouver General, the hospital doing my surgery,has been involved in some innovative research on strategies for post-surgery infection control.
One intervention is called nasal photodisinfection and resulted in a 40% reduction in infections. It involves applying a blue dye to the inside of a patient's nose before surgery. The dye attaches itself to germs and when a light is shone inside, potentially "bad" bacteria are destroyed. It is kind of fun because your whole nose lights up when they do it.
Another intervention involves the use of Sage Anti-septic Wipes. I have to wipe my body down with these wipes tonight and then again at the hospital tomorrow before my surgery.
I am now getting ready again for my surgery.
During my aborted stay on July 29th, I met many of the health professionals who will be involved in my operation: the anesthesiologist for the surgery and a different one after the surgery, one of the operating room nurses, and a second surgeon, and the perfusionist.
The perfusionist is the professional who operates the heart-lung machine. He says that I will be on the heart-lung machine for about 1 1/2 hours. That was a bit of a shock, but it makes sense. I imagine it is longer for those who are having more than just a valve replaced.
All of these are wonderful, caring professionals and I feel fortunate to be able to put my life in their hands. Maybe Adam might consider interviews with some of these other professionals who are such critical members of the surgical team.
And of course, my hubby and daughter and son-in-law will be an important part of my team even though they won't be in the operating room with me.
Thank you to all my family and friends and fellow HVJ'rs for your thoughts and best wishes.
My new surgery date is Aug 8th. They have put me in first on that day to minimize the chance of me getting bumped again. It was initially disheartening to have it postponed, but I am now looking on the positives. As Sherry, said, you definitely don't want your surgeon touching you until he is ready. This is the most important surgery that I will likely every have. And having gone through the preliminaries, I feel even better prepared. It will give me more time to relax and get ready. I feel for the patient ahead of me who had problems with her surgery. I understand that she is ok now.
Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful words. Your comments have been so reassuring for me.
Well--after getting prepped a the hospital for my surgery, I was informed that my surgery will have to be postponed. My surgeon had unexpected complications in his morning surgery. While I understand that these things happen, I am very disappointed! Thanks for all the wishes from everyone!
This is my last day before surgery tomorrow. I just phoned the hospital and was told to arrive at 11:30 am. My hubby will be taking me and staying at the hospital and will be by my side throughout--and my only daughter and son-in-law will be joining him for part of the time--a great support network for me.
My surgery will take about 4 hours plus an additional hour for ?documentation?--so --if i go into the operating room at 1 pm, it will be 6pm before they can see me after the operation.
Yesterday we went to the Red Cross to pick up a shower stool and a raised toilet seat--that is loaned out for three months for free (other than a donation). Now I am doing laundry--want clean clothes and sheets post surgery.
Today, is another beautiful sunny day in Vancouver and I am going to make the most of it. We have family visiting from the Yukon and I will enjoy my last swim with them and my little grandkids. It probably won't be until next summer that I will be able to do this again.
Still can't believe that that my surgery is tomorrow! It is good to be busy--no time to get anxious.
In made an error in my last post. The pre-assessment nurse called me today to go over the details for my surgery on Monday. Mostly she went over information that I had already read in the booklet that they gave me earlier, and what I already know from this website. Now that I am back from our little holiday, I am scrambling to get ready for the big day. It is hard to believe that after all of this waiting, the surgery is just three days away!
Thanks to all my fellow HVJ'rs for helping me to be prepared. Because of all of the information and journals on this website, I am not feeling to anxious--yet....!!!!
I had my hospital pre-assessment a couple of weeks ago but didn't get a consultation with the pre-assessment nurse because I didn't have a date. Now that I have a date, I have an appointment for her to call me to discuss preparation for my surgery. I met her when I had my angiogram last October and found her very helpful. I have a 52-page booklet that she gave me and lots of information from this website, and now I am making a list. Any suggestions for questions to ask? For me the biggest concerns are: being able to sleep on my back, should I get a lift-chair, is it easier to use a stool in the bathtub or the shower, how much time can I spend at the computer working on projects, when can I start swimming again, air travel, when and where for cardio rehab, should I get a temporary handicap sticker for the car, follow-up care??? Any advice from my fellow HVJ'rs would be appreciated.
In the meantime my husband and I are going to take a little 4-day holiday before I (we) are "grounded" for 8 weeks post surgery. I have been scrambling to get all of my projects in order before we go away and before I am out of commission. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and wishes.
I finally have a date for surgery: July 29th. So I can start planning in more detail for the big day and the recovery after. Up until now I have felt that my life was in limbo--especially since I agreed to be "on call" to go in on short notice. (My surgeon has to divide his operating time between emergency inpatients and people like me who are on a waitlist--and sometimes an operating space occurs on short notice because they can't always plan for how much time is needed for each surgery. This is Canada--but at least we get the health care we need without worrying about how to pay for it and without having to deal with insurance companies.)
It is strange to be relieved rather than anxious--although I will probably start to stress out as the date approaches.
My pre-op assessment went well--mostly blood tests, chest X-ray, vital stats, and an informative interview with an anesthesiologist. But, I am still waiting for a date.
As always, I got asked about symptoms and especially if I have shortness of breath. I have always found this difficult because I feel generally healthy and my aortic stenosis does not interfere with my daily active life. I walk, garden, and swim as well as being active on several boards and committees.I have not been aware of any significant, obvious change. But,.there have been subtle changes over the past several years, as my stenosis got worse, that-- if I were not looking for them--I might have just put them down to ageing or excessive exercise or being out of condition. From what my cardiologist has said, and from reading, I suspect that the changes are so gradual that you just adjust to them.
The scariest symptoms for me have been near-fainting spells. These have been rare--usually in the context of being excited about something and moving quickly from a sitting to a standing position or vice versa. The scariest occurred several years ago (when my stenosis was moderate) when lifting my grandbaby after changing his diaper on the floor. I quickly learned to always be near a wall when doing this. More recently I have noticed dizziness when getting up quickly out of a chair, or washing my hair when showering. These quickly pass.
The most common symptom for me is palpitations. I get them frequently after eating or drinking or exercising. Although uncomfortable, they do not interfere with my day to day living. They seem to be getting more frequent and last longer as time goes on.
The weirdest symptom is the urge to urinate. Again, this often occurs when I am excited about something. Usually|I can control it—so again it isn’t that problematic for me.
I do also get a little more short of breath when climbing stairs or walking uphill or swimming laps—but I have always lacked stamina for any kind of sustained exercise. I just take a break, catch my breath, and continue on. And, more recently I often felt extremely tired after a busy day with a lot of physical activity.
I do not have any other heart conditions, other than the stenosis of the valve, so that may mean less symptoms than others may experience. However, I would be interested in fellow Hv'ers comments.
While I do know and understand the reasons, I still find it incredulous that I need such drastic surgery!
And my husband has made similar comments. At the same time, we are thankful that I have something that can be so easily fixed!
After almost 5 months of waiting, I have been called in for a pre-operative assessment at Vancouver General Hospital. I have been told that this will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I will be meeting the anesthesiologist and a nurse. And they will do some blood tests and an ECG. Although I know that this is nothing to worry about, I didn't sleep well last night. In spite of all of the best preparation and valuable learning from fellow HVRers, I am feeling anxious now that the reality is getting closer!.
I met with Dr. Peter Scarsgard, who will be doing my AVR. Lots of positive reviews on RateMds.com. He was very professional, conveying knowledge and expertise. He went over the reasons why I need the surgery—that my stenosis is severe and there are symptoms. He explained the risks and reassured me that, because I am relatively healthy, it is extremely unlikely that there will be any complications.
He went over the three valve options: tissue, mechanical and Ross. Fortunately, having read up on all of this, including the great information on this website, and having discussed it thoroughly with my cardiologist and my family, I had pretty much decided on a tissue valve. He noted that the Ross procedure is generally recommended for younger patients and is a more complicated procedure. He said something interesting that I haven’t read before, that the tissue valve tends to last longer in older persons than in younger persons. They don’t know for sure why, other than possibly younger people being more active may put more pressure on their valves. For me, at age 65, a tissue valve should last 15 to 20 years. As I hope and expect to live longer, that may mean another AVR surgery down the road, but hopefully there will be technological improvements that may make AVR less risky and less invasive by then. To me that is preferable to having to take blood thinners for the rest of my life with a mechanical valve, and facing the risk of blood clots.
Cow valve versus pig valve. No difference. He will choose the one that fits best during the surgery, when he can measure the size of my valve and aorta.
Minimally invasive surgery. He doesn’t do it and doesn’t believe it guarantees the best results in the long term. He will refer me to someone else if that is what I want. He showed me how far he will cut down my sternum and reassured me about the procedure. I guess at my age, I don’t need to worry about a scar.
We discussed my kidney function—I have only one kidney and it is functioning at about 75%. He said there should be no problem other than the criteria he uses for determining the need for a blood transfusion. There is a typically a 10% chance of needing a blood transfusion. (I asked about donating my own blood and was told, bluntly that it was not possible. Not sure why but I didn’t pursue it.)
Delaying the surgery? He would not recommend it. It should be done as soon as he can do it. That will be in about 3 to 4 months. Since my surgery is relatively straight forward, sometimes they have an unexpected “space” in the schedule that is best filled with a surgery like mine that takes less time, and so I could get a call and could have my AVR done sooner. After talking with his administrative assistant afterwards, who showed me the slew of files of patients awaiting surgery, I got the impression that it will be closer to 4 months—end of May or June. June suits me fine as I feel relatively healthy and it would work best with my schedule.
I filled out lots forms and information in preparation for the surgery and signed the agreement.
To my surprise, he said that most likely I won’t see him again until after the surgery.
I received a call from my cardiologist's office a week ago to say that they have recieved my angiogram and that I my should expect an appointment with the surgeon by December or January, about 8 weeks away. This is fine with me as I am going to Maui for 4 weeks. Fortunately, my symptoms are mild and infrequent, so I don't feel any urgency. This may sound crazy, but I am hoping that I won't have to have the surgery until June. I have a lot of travelling commitments away from home over the next six months--and it would be nice to recouperate over the summer at home.
I am starting to read everyone else's journals to get prepared. Glad to know that Sherry made it through her surgery and that the pain wasn't as bad as she feared as long as it was managed properly.
And appreciated reading Linda's journal and learning what to expect in the recovery period.
I had my angiogram on Friday and it went well. I hardly slept the night before--but, for all my worry, the procedure was simple and painless. This is a day-procedure that takes about a half an hour, but you are there for most of the day to prep or it and be monitored after. They just insert a catetor into your groin, then inject dye into your arteries, (they put in less dye than usual because I only have one kidney and that kidney is beginning to show signs of moderte dysfunction as I age),.then a machine moves around over your chest to take pictures of your arteries and that is shown on a screen and recorded. It was great to be able to see the screen showing the dye going through my arteries.The worst part was having to lie flat for an hour after, and the soreness in my groin once the freezing came out--but that was mild and only lasted a couple of days.
When I arrived, I was told to take all my clothes off and put on a gown--and I remembered Linda's experience--even though your heart is at the front, the gown is put on to open at the back!
Dr. Huckle, cardiologist, advised me that my arteries are like a 20-year-old! That is a relief--so my surgery will just focus on replacing my aoritic valve. I was pleased to be given a report with a picture diagram showing the results, along with instructions for post-procedure care.
Vancouver General is also a teaching hospital, connected with UBC--so I also had medical students visit me to feel and hear my chest and make an educated guess about my diagnosis. It was rewarding to know that I was helping and it was fun to see them learning--and they got the diagnosis right! And there was a medical intern who did my procedure under the supervision of Dr. Huckle.
I also was pleasantly surprised to get a visit from the cardio surgery triage nurse, Laura. She said that she will be responsible for coordinating my care when I get my surgery. She gave me a 56-page booklet with excellent information for my surgery. The booklet rers to the Society of Thoracic Surgeon's website for more informtion about the surgery: www.sts.org/sections/patientinformation/adultcardiacsurgery/. I told her about this heart valve website and the book by Adam. She hadn't heard of it.
With this experience at VGH, I am feeling better about going there for my surgery.
I am now waiting to hear from the surgeon to schedule my first appointment. In the meantime, it is reassuring to read everyone else's journals. Thank you Linda dor sharing your experience. I am rooting for Sherry who goes in for her surgery tomorrow!
Tomorrow I am going into Vancouver General Hospital for an angiogram. My cardiologist told me that this is done routinely to make sure that there isn't any hardening or blockages of the arteries--that can be repaired at the same time as I have my valve replaced. He says that, even though he thinks that my arteries are ok, it would be a shame to go through such major surgery and then find out shortly thereafter that I need further surgery to fix my arteries. I had necessary blood work done yesterday in preparation for the procedure. I am anxious about it, but understand that it is fairly routine. I only have one kidney and some kidney disfunction and that adds a bit of risk---but am told nothing to worry about. I am glad my husband can take me and pick me up.
My name is Chris and I have been reading up on all the information provided on this website and in Adam Pick's book as well as following the journals of other patients with aortic stenosis.
I was diagnosed with aortic stenosis several years ago when my GP noticed that I had a heart murmur and referred me for an echocardiogram and to a cardiologist. Since then I have been monitored on a regular basis--initially being diagnosed with moderate aortic stenosis associated with a bicusbid valve. After several years of monitoring, I have now been advised that my aortic stenosis is severe and have been referred to a cardiovascular surgeon for replacement of the valve. What I had hoped would be many years away, is now facing me directly.
I am a retired 65 year old woman and consider myself to be active and healthy--so it is hard to believe that I need such drastic surgery.. When my cardiologist told me earlier this year that I was approaching the severe level and asked me about symptoms such a increasing shortness of breath, I didn't think I had any change. He arranged for me to have a stress test and I did fine on it, although it was only done for 15 minutes, and I was a little out of breath at the end. However, after reading more on symptoms, and after having a few near-fainting episodes, I realize that there are subtle, gradual signs of change. If I didn't know to look for them, I would think that I am just getting older and tire more easily. So, I know it is time!
Interestingly, my first reaction to being told that I needed to get my aortic valve replaced, was a sense of loss--that I would be losing a part of me forever!
Even though it is diseased, from my perspective, it is still working. Now that my more rational side has taken over, I feel thankful that this is a disease that can be fixed--and I can look forward to living a normal life afterwards. The prospect of the surgery itself is scary--but after reading all the information from others, including Adam Pick's book--it is reassuring to know what to expect and the positive outcomes. My cardiologist, Dr. Bon, says that I will feel differently--i.e. better--and I am looking forward to that.