May 20th is my day of gratitude and reflection. It's my 6th anniversary of getting my heart fixed by Dr. Luis Castro and company. I always like to post a family picture that best captures the past year. Sandy, Ashley, Kady and me on the Island of Maui
Five years ago today, I was blessed to have Dr. Castro fix my heart so I could continue to enjoy life. In the past five years, I have watched graduations, summited mountains and love my family. Forever grateful!
It's been a great weekend. My youngest graduated from Texas Tech University and today I celebrate my four year anniversary of my aoritic valve and root being replaced by Dr. Castro. I've lived a lot of life these past four years.
I recently celebrated my third anniversary of my mechanical valve by hiking the last 46 miles of the John Muir Trail which included a summit of Mt. Whitney (14,508'). For those pending surgery or those in recovery great things are in your future.
On 9/12/16 thru 9/17/16, I celebrated two years of a repaired heart. I got to travel 75 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from Yosemite to Sonora Pass, we gained over 14,200' and lost 13,188. It was a great adventure and I'm thankful for Dr. Castro.
Two years ago today, Dr. Castro, Dr. Harmon and the amazing nurses at Dignity Health Sequoia Hospital, replaced my aortic valve and root. I will be ever thankful for the kindness that I received while I was at Sequoia Hospital. I'm also thankful for the
It was one year yesterday that I had my aoritic valve and root replaced by Dr.Castro and company. I wanted to celebrate by crossing off one of my life goals-hiking the Grand Canyon. So yesterday I spent the day hiking with my wife from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a great day of reflection and gratitude of the past year. All the best for all of you waiting surgery or those in recovery.
Thanksgiving 2014-I'm thankful that I can continue to be there for my family and we (Sandy and I) could visit our daughters in Texas.
Update posted on...
November 27, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. I am blessed that I have become a member of this wonderful community that has been created. Adam, thank you for your vision and passion for paying forward your knowledge with heart valve surgery with this website. Whether you're in recovery or surgery is in your future, we all become better people after we go through the process of open heart surgery. I hope you all enjoy the day and count your blessings, I will.
I took this photo at the top of Cardiac Hill which is located on the Dipsea Trail. The Dipsea Trail host the oldest annual cross country race which starts in Mill Valley climbs over Mt. Tam to Stinson Beach. My 6 month old valve passed the test as we di
On September 20th I celebrated my fourth month anniversary with a 5 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail with my Sigma Chi Fraternity brothers. We started at the Sonora Pass and ... Read more
It's been 3 months and no news is good news.
Journal posted on August 23, 2014
It's already been 3 months and things are going really well. In the second week of July, I was given the green light to start exercising again. Sandy, Ashley and I went to Lake Tahoe and I took advantage of that green light. We went on a 10 mile bike ride and it felt wonderful since I haven't been on a bike since March. We also went to Heavenly and I hike a couple of miles at 10 thousand feet.
The past couple of weeks have been full of life for me. I turned 50 years young and Sandy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I started cardiac re-hab against my will, but I'm glad that I was convinced to go. It's really a good thing to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure while you are exercising as it has given me confidence when I exercise on my own.
I have been feeling really good as my heart and body are getting back into shape. I've noticed that my heart beat is stronger and my new valve is louder than ever. I have a hard sleeping without some type background noise. I have found that using a fan helps to get some good sleep.
Also, I can cough and sneeze with only a gentle reminder that my chest is almost completely healed. There are brief moments in time where you forget that you even had surgery, but those moments don't last very long. I have a deep appreciation for life and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Update: one week later the medical plan is working.
Journal posted on July 4, 2014
Happy Fourth of July heartland.
The medical plan was a collaboration of doctors after the procedure which removed 1.5 liters fluid off my heart. My cardiologist consulted with my surgeon, cardiologists in San Francisco and Stanford University. The plan was to give me medication that would reduce the swelling around my heart and remove the excess fluid that was present in my body.
I was given the following medication:
-Colcrys 0.6 mg (reduced the swelling of the heart)
-Furosemide 40 mg (for the fluid build up)
I only was instructed to take two doses of the Furosemide and this medication really flushed my body of any fluid. After three days of weight loss (8.2kgs), I woke up on Sunday morning feeling really good. I got another echocardiogram and treadmill test during this past week and everything is looking really good.
I appreciate all the support that I have received from this website and I wanted to give back a little to those who will follow.
Important: listen to your body and communicate to others.
Journal posted on June 29, 2014
If you are in recovery or it's in your future please continue to read my story.
I saw my cardiologist on the 17th and my surgeon on the 18th of June. I got the green light to start driving, return to work and it appeared that my recovery was in it's final stage.
Since my surgery on May 20th, I have been tracking my weight, activity level and the medications that I take. Last weekend, I noticed that I was gaining weight about 1-2 pounds per day without any change to my diet or exercise. I also notice that when I took a deep breath, that my lung capacity was not the same and I figured it was my chest plate healing. The final warning sign was that my legs started to retain fluid and it was becoming difficult to reduce the swelling.
It was Wednesday (Sandy's day off) and I told her for the first time that it was difficult to take a deep breath and that the leg swelling would not go away. The benefit of having a cardiac nurse for a wife, I had an doctor's appointment within a couple of hours. The cardiologist gave me an examination and then ordered an echocardiogram.
I picked up on the facial expression on the echo tech that there might be something not quite right (I've seen the look before surgery). The nice echo tech asked me if I was feeling okay and when I replied that I was okay, she summoned the doctor to look at my echo. When the doctor displayed a similar facial expression, I knew something was not right. So the doctor immediately showed me an image of my heart that was surrounded by fluid. The plan was to perform a "tap" in the hospital's cath lab to remove the fluid from my chest.
I was admitted to the hospital and got another IV, a blue gown and a room with a view (thanks to Sandy). I had to receive two pints of plasma to bring my INR down, so that they could perform the procedure to remove the fluid. When I got to the cath lab, I was medicated and they proceeded to remove over 1.5 liters of fluid from around my heart.
I spent the night at the hospital so they could monitored my progress and was released after my echo showed that things were looking good. So I'm back on track and things are looking good again. The doctors assured me that this is a product of heart surgery and there is nothing I did to cause this. I'm grateful that my wife has helped me get through this and it's a true blessing.
On my fourth week of Recovery Road, I experienced a couple of episodes of the fast heart rate and it appears that the medicine is slowly working. I saw my cardiologist on Tuesday and it showed that I was in sinus rhythm which was really good news. My doctor liked my strong "p-waves" (not sure what that is) but if my doctor says it's good, then I feel good about my recovery. So the positive news coming away from my cardiologist is that it usually takes about a month for the loading phase of the drug I'm on to take total effect. Well I'm almost to my third week, so I'm feeling pretty good about that news.
So I'm up to four miles a day walking, with the early morning walk between 2.5-3.0 miles and my evening walk between 1.0-1.5 miles. I'm still trying to get my INR at a consistent level so I can start on a maintenance routine, instead of the extremes on my dosage.
The end of my fourth week on Recovery Road had me traveling back to see my surgeon Dr. Castro and all the fine medical staff at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. My wonderful wife (Sandy) made sure and got gifts for everyone that was part of my procedure on May 20th. Our first stop was my office visit with Dr. Castro. I got to thank again everyone in the office that played a part in my procedure (Dr. Harmon, Taemin and Julie). It was definitely a powerful moment for me to be able and say thank you, as I will be forever grateful for those fine folks.
The next stop was the nurses station for the operating room. I wanted to meet and thank the nurses that played such important role in my surgery. Sandy did a great job organizing all the gifts and making sure that everyone that was involved in my surgery received a thank you card and a small gift. It felt so rewarding to be able to thank and hug the people that played such important part of my surgery that I will never forget them.
As we walked away from the hospital, I feel like that part of my journey is complete and I'm moving forward in my recovery. The exciting news is that I was told that I can drive again and it felt good to be able to navigate our car back home. Thank you Ashley for being my taxi for the past four weeks, but I'm all grown up now.
It's crazy to think that it was only three weeks ago this morning, that I was wheeled in the operating room with Dr. Castro and company waiting to fix my heart. I can never thank them enough for giving me the equipment that will extend my life. They are truly awesome!!
Now back to Recovery Road.
After my heart converted on it's own on Friday, I started back with the a-flutter again on Saturday. The positiive news is that the it's not at 140 bpm, but the heart rhythm will only spike in the 120s. So for the past couple of days, it really feels like the medicine is taking over and I'm not experiencing the rapid heart rate in the middle of the night that keeps you awake.
I feel really good as I have been walking about a total of 3 miles a day and I'm feeling stronger with each walk I take. My sternum is healing and simple things like getting in and out of a car, or laying flat on a bed are almost to normal.
I have found a balance of keeping active and then forcing my self to rest by reading or watching college baseball. (Wreck 'em Tech!) So the journey on Recovery Road is making progess and it feels good.
Normally, TGIF is the end of a workweek and the beginning of the weekend to spend time off with family and friends. This week was a little different, as I had a cardioversion scheduled for 10am at the hospital to hopefully put this a-fluttering (rapid heart rate) behind me once and for all.
On Wednesday afternoon, I started to feel like the medication was working as my rapid heart rate was between 95-120 instead of the 140s and this continued until Friday morning. I got to the hospital about 9am and my procedure was scheduled for 10 am. I never thought I would be excited about being put to sleep, scoped and shocked to a normal rhythm, but I am growing tired of this rapid heart rate.
I was escorted to the EP lab where I got to wear my favorite blue gown, got an IV going and was ready for my procedure. I was put to sleep by the good doctor and away I went to dreamland. When I woke up, the nurse said that they didn’t have to shock me, as I coughed my way to sinus rhythm during the scoping procedure. Hey a win-win, I was back to sinus rhythm and my body didn’t have to endure the cardioversion. So the medication is working and I will be thinking positive sinus rhythm thoughts for now on.
The second week on Recovery Road has not been boring, that's for sure. The cardioversion that was administered to me on Friday, provided a normal heart rhythm for about 36 hours. On Saturday night right before I was going to dinner with my daughter Ashley, my pulse turned up to 145 bpm. This first episode lasted for about 5 hours
The good news is that these episodes of A-Fib have been lasting for about 3-4 hours since the first episode. Since I had a doctors appointment on Monday, I learned to deal with the fast heart rate for the rest of the weekend. The rapid heart rate Is bearable during the daytime, but it's impossible to sleep at night without some form of background noise to quell my mechanical valve. I have taken a liking to sleeping on the couch while the TV is on in the background.
When I arrived at the doctor's office visit on Monday, my heart rate was in the 140s. I was given an EKG to see what my heart was doing while my pulse was about 148. So while I'm in the exam room, my pulse went back into the 70s and they were able to get a second EKG while I was in a normal rhythm. Upon careful examination of this second test, it showed that I was in a form of A-flutter and not in true sinus rhythm. I also got an echocardiogram in the afternoon to get a better look at what was going on and I got to see my new valve which looks very interesting.
So here's the plan for this week. I am scheduled for a cardioversion on Friday if the medication (Amiodarone) doesn't take control of this a-flutter issue. I'm getting more strength everyday and my sternum is healing quite nicely. Though it's not ideal on Recovery Road to be dealing with this, it's just part of my journey. I'm confident that this is a minor issue while traveling down my Recovery Road.
Since my new aortic valve has been traveling down Recovery Road on cruise control, it came upon unannounced detour on Thursday night. It was about 9:15, I had just laid down to go to sleep when I could feel and hear my heart rate about 148 bpm. I took a couple of deep breaths to see if it would decrease and it didn't. I called my wife at work to see if I had a slipped into A-Fib and what should I do. I was told to take another dose of medicine and try to get some rest as I already had a doctors appt in the morning.
It was now 10:40, after about a hour of sleep, my heart rate still in the 140's. I made my second phone call to my nurse. I was told to meet my wife in the ER to attempt and get my heart out of A-Fib. My youngest daughter (Ashley) drove me to the ER and we meet up with Sandy.
Once in the ER, I was given a room and staff put me on an IV drip in an attempt to covert my new found heart rhythm out of A-fib. It then hit me like a ton of bricks that I was back in the hospital. What happened? Was it something I did or didn't do? And how long would I be here?
I spent several hours in the ER attempting to get my heart converted, but it was not meant to be. The plan was to move me upstairs into the CSU and Dr Baer would check on me in a couple of hours. Getting moved into a hospital room was extremely difficult for me to process as I was doing so well and couldn't understand what caused this.
I was introduced to several of the cardiac nurses and doctors over the next couple of hours as Sandy was show casing my scar and the fine work of Dr. Castro. I took careful note how each doctor and nurse told me how common a-Fib was with heart surgery patients.
I was transported to the EP lab to get my heart rhythm back and Dr. Baer could examine my heart via a TEE scope. I was put out again and was shocked back into the right rhythm. I woke up feeling good again and was released before noon.
On Recovery Road, this was an unannounced detour that occurred and was navigated smoothly.
I was just coming of out of surgery with my new valve and aortic root heading towards the ICU. It's truly amazing to think that one week later I'm walking around the neighborhood, going to the grocery store and getting 8 hrs sleep in my own bed.
For me the two biggest things are my "heart-hugger" to keep me from pushing the limits and creating a routine of walks, food and rest. People are amazed when I tell them that I had open-heart surgery only a week ago.
So I'm looking forward to slowly increasing my walks and getting stronger everyday.
When I found out on March 21st that it was time to get my BAV replaced, I had the reaction of "Fears and Tears" and I knew I had to find a way to get through this. My first resource was this website (thanks Adam) as it provided me with some really valuable information including the Patient Community. I shared a story with my youngest daughter Ashley and it seemed to bring some normalcy to such a scary topic as open heart surgery.
The next step was my consultation with Dr Castro. I immediately felt comfortable with Dr. Castro and knew he was the right choice for my open heart surgery.
After that, I gained an enormous amount of strength by creating this profile and sharing my story. I was able to fill my backpack full of courage from all the love, prayers and positive thoughts that was generated by sharing my journey. I want to thank everyone that gave me the strength to get through this and every single one of you that made a difference.
I wish Terrie well as we shared the same doctor on Tuesday along with our stay in the ICU and the cardiac care floor. You will do great in your recovery.
Thank you to everyone at Sequoia Hospital for taking care of me.
So I'm settling into my new routine of getting up, getting the exercises in (breathing and leg movements), eating something and then walking around the cardiac care unit, followed by a short nap. I have been encouraged to take this routine home and I have a detailed plan throughout my future days of recovery.
If I haven't mentioned what a wonderful doctor I have, get this. During his rounds, Dr. Castro took the time to show me how to work the home blood machine that checks my INR (how thin your blood is) on himself and then helped me through the process. Yes he actually cut himself to show me first hand how it works. Truly incredible man!
It looks like Sunday will be my day of homecoming and I will have the confidence by then to cut the umbilical cord of this great medical staff. So looking forward to my busy day ahead and getting ready to be home. Special thanks to Sandy (my wife of 25 years) for everything that you have done to make my stay better, but for also taking care of those who have cared for me.
My first day in my new room was a real pleasure. Though I can't leave the floor, the fresh air and beatiful day was captured through my windows which I throughly enjoyed. I was introduced to a new crew of staff who were all great; the nurses, physical therapist, case manager and everyone that participated in my recovery.
Dr. Castro and Dr. Harmon stopped by this afternoon and I got to thank them again for fixing my heart and extending my life. I will be forever grateful!!!
The most unique experience today was when I got my first feel of my mechanical valve working. Once I was in tune to it, I really could feel it working a lot better then my BAV. Though it's a new feeling, it's one I truly appreciate.
I got to eat breakfast this morning and it was a real pleasure to eat some food, in fact it was the best cup of milk I ever had. I was able to walk two laps around the ICU and felt pretty good. Throughout the morning I got my tubes removed and was getting prepared to leave the ICU. Sleep is hard to come by in the ICU so getting moved to my own room is exciting. My nurse allowed me to walk to my new room which was a very good feeling.
I did get a chance to see Dr Castro and Dr. Harmon today and thanked them for the great work. Thanks everyone for the postive thoughts and prayer as it is working.
(Sandy writing for David)
The great news from Dr. Castro, was that the surgery was successful. They were able to do a mini sternotomy to replace my ascending aorta and my aortic valve. My coronary arteries were reattached to my new aorta and things went smoothly. Four hours following my surgery, I was relieved to get the breathing tube out of my throat. My voice sounded scratchy, but it was nice to be able to communicate verbally again. I begged for water only to find that I had to wait two hours before I could have any. When I did get some ice chips, it was like heaven!! Tonight I watched a little tv with Sandy, got my PA catheter removed from my neck, did my incentive spirometer breathing device to levels that everyone was impressed with, and had more ice chips. Sandy sent a picture of me to our daughters to let them see how great I looked. They had only seen me connected to all the machines and a mere 4 hours later, I looked dramatically better. Our daughters were happy to see the real me come back into their world. I would have to say that this day has been surreal and I'm glad the surgery is behind me. Updates to follow will be made my me instead of Sandy. I will be in the cardiac surveillance unit tomorrow and will start working on setting records in race walking for this hospital. I'm on the road to recovery and blessed to have so many people reach out to me and my family in prayer and support. Bed time. Good night. :)
(Sandy writing for Dave). My experience in pre-op surgery was interesting to say the least!!! The people were great, but then the woman with several electric clippers walked in. Let's just say that I now have a common bond with the poor sheep that get sheared in the spring. She took her job seriously and I was at her mercy. I'm thinking my new look may qualify me to now be a competitive swimmer. Sandy had a great time rubbing her hands on my legs. No nubs found on these legs!!! (She was jealous that mine were smoother than hers!). Meeting the anesthesiologist and the RN were next and then off to surgery I went. Time for me to get a nap now.
I had a couple of pre-op appointments today that went well. The staff at every level was great and really added to my confidence in my doctor.
We took our daughters with us so they could see where the hospital is and feel comfortable about tomorrow and the next couple of days being at the hospital (and they found the mall in Palo Alto of course).
So we decided to spend one more night at home and we will leave early to be at the hospital by 6 am. I feel really good and I'm ready to get my BAV fixed. I am so blessed to have so many people praying and thinking about me tomorrow that it is truly amazing what a lucky guy I am. Sandy and the girls will keep you updated for the next couple of days until I'm able to be digitally connected. Thanks everyone and I will be back soon......
The weekend is coming to a close and I'm getting for the week ahead. It was a great two days at the track as many athletes were awarded medals or personal records for their efforts. It was such a pleasure to see the coaches (Tony and Brian), the athletes, and the parents leave on a happy note when they left the meet. I will miss the coaches and athletes for the next couple of weeks that make up the Napa Track Club as they sure know how to make you feel special.
I have enjoyed watching TV with my girls, going out to dinner on Saturday night and catching a movie on Sunday afternoon. It was also good to bring back "donut" day as my girls were home on this great Sunday morning.
I have been thinking about my recovery and what that will look like when I get home from the hospital. I have two novels to read (thanks Renee) and I'm looking forward to having time to read those books. I also have a new pair of shoes for my recovery walks around the neighborhood and eventually the track.
I go in tomorrow for my pre-op appointment to get bloodwork, chest x-rays and a physical. We have decided to come home after the pre-op appointment so I can spend one less day away from home. We will get up early Tuesday morning and make the trek to the hospital. As time gets closer, I feel less anxious and I'm ready for Dr. Castro to work his magic in less than 40 hours.
I'm looking forward to picking up my girls from the airport this evening as they are returning from Texas Tech University, now that the semester is over. I have been anxious to see them for the past week and I'm ready for a big Zeta hug from both of them.
With one week to go, I have been creating a checklist so I'm ready and this is one more step for me to be prepared for next week at 9am.
Tomorrow.... finish packing my office for the big move in June and saying my; "I will see you in June in our brand new office."
The other day when I returned to my office there was a t-shirt left behind that had the following scrip on it: "I Got a Ring and Valve Job- Dave's Body Shop-Napa, California". I attempted to post a photo of this very thoughtful shirt and was unsuccessful, so I will describe how it looked. At the top of the shirt was the "I Got a Ring and Valve Job", insert a cartoon character of a police officer blowing a whistle and at the bottom was "Dave's Body Shop-Napa, California".
So I'm thinking, "who would go out of their way to make me a personal t-shirt and where did they get this?" As I ventured out to find this gracious donor, I came across my thoughtful friend Steve Fracolli who had a guilty look about him. After a short exchange, Steve told me that he came across this website that made custom shirts and that's how I it came to be.
Thanks Steve for the thoughtful jesture and bringing a sense of humor to this journey.
My cup is always half full and today it runneth over.
Journal posted on May 3, 2014
For some reason it's been awkward for the past month in telling others about my upcoming open heart surgery. So after giving it very careful thought, I decided I would share this website with the entire organization I work for and share my story. Well I wasn't prepared for the phone calls, text messages, emails and even FB posts thanking me for sharing and wishing me positive thoughts. I was truly overwhelmed and I continue to be humbled by the support. So I want to thank everyone that reached out to me, I really appreciate it. 17 days until the big day.
March 21, 2014
I got the news today that the future was now and that it was time to replace my aortic valve. Though I knew this day was coming, I wasn’t prepared to get a phone call from Dr. Baer telling me not to exercise or get my heart rate up. Since I go to the gym and exercise on a daily basis, this was going to be a major life adjustment for me not to exercise. My follow up appointment with Dr. Baer was scheduled for March 25, 2014.
March 25, 2014,
I went to see my cardiologist (Dr. Baer) with my wife (Sandy) to go over the results of my CT scan of my heart. Dr. Baer told us that my aortic root was approximately 5 mm (should be in the 2's). It was time to replace my bicuspid valve and to reduce the size of my aortic root. So we discussed options and received a referral to be able to consult a surgeon of our choice.
While I was doing research on open heart surgery and trying to understand what was in my immediate future, I found this website. It reduced some of my fear by reading the stories of others and sharing them with my family. In the meantime, Sandy was talking with doctors, nurses, and medical reps in the cardiology world to narrow down our choices for a heart surgeon. The first visit scheduled was for April 3, 2014.
April 3, 2014
Our first consult was at a major medical center in the Bay Area. The consult was okay with the doctor giving us his background and experience in the procedure that was needed to fix my heart. Our plan before the visit was to consult with two doctors and decide after the second visit. We were convinced to make a surgery date and that we could always cancel if we changed our minds. The surgeon explained the procedure and the complications that could arise during the procedure. Well, I wasn’t prepared for this bit of news and it made for a long drive home back to Napa. When I got home it really hit me how scared I was and what “Fear” really felt like. Well, that lasted for about two minutes, until I composed myself and started planning my recovery by purchasing a new pair of work out shoes to use when I get home from the hospital.
April 8, 2014
Our second consult was with Dr. Luis Castro at the Sequoia Valley Hospital in Redwood City, CA. It was ironic that Dr. Castro was recommended from Sandy’s sources of information and that he was also the featured doctor on this website during that time. The consult with Dr. Castro went really well and we both selected him to fix my heart. When a doctor tells you that he takes great pride in the fact that you are putting your heart in his hands and he doesn't take that lightly, I was sold. So we discussed mechanical versus tissue and I have chosen to go with the mechanical valve. Dr. Castro said that he can teach me to take my own blood sample to check the INR on a weekly basis so that really convinced me to go with the mechanical valve. We set a date for May 20th with a pre-operation visit on Monday the 19th. Since I will be 50 in July, Dr. Castro wanted an angiogram to make sure my arteries were clear.
April 23, 2014
I was scheduled for my angiogram at Marin General Hospital for the first case of the day which meant being admitted to the hospital at 5:45 am. I took this procedure as a warm-up to the big day in May. You know, the one size all hospital gown, IV drip with the ability to put you to sleep with a push of a button and the gurney that was made for people under six feet tall. Dr. Baer and the crew at MGH did a great job checking my heart as they were able to go through my wrist. When I woke up, I was happy to hear that my arteries were clear and that my bloodwork was good with a cholesterol at 119.