January 2, 2016 - I have stayed healthy until November 2015 when I ran into a bump in the road. I went to me cardiologist for my annual checkup and discovered I was in atrial fib. It was not even noticeable. He put me on beta blockers, blood thinner and sent me to the electrical specialist, Dr. Varahan. Dr V increased my blood thinner and said she would shock me in a month. I sure looked forward to that as I was concerned I might not convert. But she seemed confident and made me feel good about it. When that day came, I checked into the hospital at 6AM, got my shock at 8AM and was home before 10AM. The shock treatment was performed in the day patient room where I stayed. The nurse brought the machine into my room and Dr V came in, put the pads on my chest and back, put me out for a few minutes and gave me one shock. It only took the one shock and my heart converted to normal rhythm. During that month waiting, I continued my normal morning workout routine and never really noticed that I had a problem except my heart rate would only peak at 110 while doing my cardio on the elliptical and just stay there. After the cardioversion, my heart rate does not go above 88 on the elliptical. I think the beta blockers have caused this. I go to Dr V for my follow-up visit on Monday and then maybe I will find out about the low heart rate...looking forward to that visit! The blood thinner I am taking is Eliquis and I don't have to do the monthly checks that I had to do on warfarin. I like this new medicine because of that.
It has now been two years since my heart valve surgery. It took quite a few months to get over the back aches and chest pains from the "opening". But my life is so much better and less stressful because I do not have to carry the burden about my heart situation.
Now I am on to my next challenge. Nine months after the surgery, I learned I had MS and MS has become my next life long battle. I have started taking a newer oral medication for that and have had no issues since. I do not have to take any heart medications so I guess I traded heart meds for MS meds.
I go to the gym at my work facility every day at 5:00 a.m. and continue my nutrition efforts to keep my weight in check which is a battle for me. But I have a great support team at the gym and they have become my good friends.
Because of my past and new challenges, I now view life and people in a different and positive perspective. I have more appreciation for everything...it was my enlightenment!
God gave me a message..."PAY ATTENTION to the great things in your life and enjoy them...relationships, friends and family are the most important!"
Tomorrow, I will finish the last day of three months of cardiac rehab. It has been a blessing to me. It was more than just exercising...it was about great new friendships, comparing surgery and recovery "notes", being in an extremely positive environment, learning more about being healthy and finding a fantastic reason to exercise. But most of all...it was about my new friends, the rehab staff - Amy, Miss T, Tony and Shaun - and the other heart patients - and one special lady who was so much fun to talk to and just visit with about anything and everything. Norma brought life to our group! I think she could write a book herself!
Tomorrow will be a great day because I will have the strength to be independent because of the great support I received at rehab. And it will be a sad day because I will have to be independent without the great support of my friends at rehab.
I wish a special "Thanks!" to Amy. If she had not called me initially, I probably would not have wanted to attend rehab. I wish a special "Thanks!" to Miss T for her sincere interest in me...I was so impressed by my orientation interview with her. She studied my entire case and probably knew more about me than all of my previous medical professionals put together. I wish a special "Thanks!" to Tony for always being the first one to greet me when I showed up at the center. I wish a special "Thanks!" to Shaun for making sure our important information and vitals were always accurate.
It has been three months since my surgery. At this point, I find it hard to believe it ever happened. But I do have the scar to remind every morning...Holly calls it my badge of courage. Other than getting a little tired every day and wanting to sleep a little more, I really don't have too many problems. My back issues have been attended to by my orthopedic doctor and they are slowly going away.
I really enjoy my time at cardiac rehab as it has become my calming place. I am so glad I decided to do rehab. My nurses there really know how to make people feel good. I know I am going to have a hard time after rehab is over as I will want to continue to see them every week. The days I don't attend rehab, I work out on my own doing the same things I learn in rehab...take it easy and progress slowly. I do lots of stretching exercises and am going to start yoga soon. I think the stretching is helping my back as well.
I am continuing to lose weight just a little at a time which is the way I wanted to do it. I am not really trying hard, I just eat smaller portions and stay away from sugar in any form and stay aware of carbs as much as possible.
I had my second follow-up visit with my cardiologist and all went well. I had an echo and blood tests. He told me that I should start weaning myself off of my remaining heart meds in the next few months. I don't go back to visit with him for another six months, so it appears he is happy with my progress.
I hope the next three months are as good as the last three months!
I have now been back to work for 3 weeks and it has not been too bad. I have also been pretty aggressive with my exercise program to speed my recovery. Two days ago, I started attending cardiac rehab and learned that I was trying too hard. This could actually impede my desired quick recovery. My rehab nurse, Miss T, said that I was not allowing my body to build any reserve energy and really need to take it easy and slow down. She is a great counselor and I am lucky that I get to attend rehab with her as my guide for the next three months. I have had problems with my shoulder blades and left minor pec hurting a lot ever since the surgery (probably related to the sternum opening). Miss T says back problems are common and she will try to help me with that as well.
It has been 5 weeks since my surgery and I have one more week before returning to work. I am finally over the hump. I still have some soreness in my chest that comes and goes depending on what type of physical activity I am attempting and my back continues to bother me around my shoulder blade. But it is not anything that I can not work around. I think I am over my "agitation moodiness" that was bothering me for a few weeks (basically I just wanted to be left alone.) I am driving again and for the most part independent. My only restriction is keeping my lifting under 10 pounds...you would be surprised how much you need to lift on a daily basis that is over 10 pounds.
I am enjoying my time at home as a recuperating heart patient. I occupy most of the day with various "low level" activities like walking around the neighborhood for cardiac therapy, reading the paper, surfing the net, cooking light meals, watching lots of TV (boring, boring, boring), grocery shopping and practicing the guitar. I try to do light duty chores when I feel up to it. Holly and I go out to eat frequently just to get out of the house. She has taken excellent care of me even though I know I have been a difficult patient at times. We should all be so lucky to have such a great life long companion.
Yesterday, it was one week since I had my surgery. I had been on a daily roller coaster since that day. However, yesterday (only one week later) I felt fantastic. My vitals are returning to normal and I was able do everything I normally did before the surgery and I was able to it without any help! I have lost all the fluid that I had retained after the surgery. My color has finally returned and except for my back hurting a little due to the rib cage manipulation, I don't feel bad at all. Last night, I picked up my guitar and played a little...it felt perfectly natural. Tomorrow, Holly is going to take me to Hideaway Pizza for our traditional and healthy lunch of salad and bell pepper pizza...this has been our lunch tradition for the last 10 years. It will feel good to get outside again!
It has been hard to bother with the computer, so I have not made any entries. I have been writing instead as it is easy to pick up a pencil and my paper journal and just write anything down. I have about 16 pages to transfer to this official journal. So it will take a while...more later.
Got up at 3AM and took a shower with the special disinfecting soap that I was given and got ready as usual otherwise. It is 4:18AM and I am waiting on Holly to finish getting ready. I am still ready to go on with this surgery and still excited that my big day has finally arrived without getting any kind of cold or flu during this last week. Headed out to the hospital now...a 30 minute drive from our house. We arrived at the hospital a little before 5AM and a man in the parking lot told us the front door was locked and we would have to enter via the emergency entrance. I told him I planned to enter through the front and would call if necessary. By the time Holly and I got to the front door, the security guy had it unlocked. It was still too early and there was no one at the lobby desk yet. We waited a minute and one of the ladies who I had seen at this desk for the last few years showed up and greeted us. I was on her list and she gave us our buzzing-light restaurant style notification system which Holly would keep through out the surgery. We had to wait a minute for the admission employees to arrive and then they called for me. Chelsea arrived and she and Holly waited while I processed a little paperwork. I had to wait for the lab to call me which happened very quickly. They drew my blood and put an IV in my wrist and then took me to my prep room which was basically an outpatient day room.
Today is the day before my mitral valve repair surgery. I had to be at the hospital at 7AM for my heart cath procedure at 9AM. I arrived promptly and was processed immediately. I had to fill out more paperwork which turned out to be the short version. I was very quickly called in for my blood test and IV installation. Unfortunately, they had a hard time hitting a vein in my arm to draw the required 3 viles of blood and finally gave up (this is a first). They decided to use the IV in my hand to collect the 3 viles of blood needed. Well, I have never seen this technique and now I know why...I watched the process and immediately saw blood all over my hand...the nurse told my not to watch if I am queasy. I decided I could take it and looked back again to see a 5" puddle of thick blood on the floor. I immediately got queasy and did not look back again!
Things improved after that...they immediately took me to my private room and I was attended to by 2 very nice nurses who took super care of me. One gave me an EKG and shaved both sides of my groin - one for the catheters today and the other for the surgeons requirements tomorrow. A very nice lady chaplin (from Wisconsin) came by and prayed a fantastic prayer. And then it was time to go.
I was wheeled to the very cold cath lab in my bed and then I transferred myself from my bed to the skinny procedure table. The anesthetist hooked me up to his magic juice, but I requested to talk to my cardiologist before they get started. He was summoned from his clinic down the hall and came down to see me immediately. I reminded him that my surgeon wanted to reserve the right groin for his work and he said he was glad we talked. He said he normally uses the right side. He went back to clinic and they started giving me a little of the siesta solution to see how I reacted. It made me feel good and I started looking around the room to see all the equipment and people for my journal research.
Someone started cleaning my groin area with that brown disinfecting solution. It must have been kept in the refrigerator as it was very cold. The lab was white with lots of equipment and a separate viewing room. It was big and very technical looking and there were 6 people in there doing various things. They turned the big bright lights on, so I closed my eyes. By this time, I was satisfied with my assessment and started feeling some pressure on my left groin area. I think it was a numbing pack of some sort.
The next thing I know, I am waking up and they are moving me back to my bed to wheel me back to my room, but I don't remember the ride. After I got to my room, the nurses removed my catheter tube and held pressure on the area for about 15 minutes until it stopped bleeding.
It was about 10AM and I was a little groggy, but awake. Holly came in and said the doctor said I did not have any blockages! I immediately felt great and the nurse told us we could order lunch off of the hospital restaurant menu. This was more like room service at a nice hotel. Holly called the kitchen and ordered a nice lunch for both of us. It arrived about 15 minutes later delivered by a lady dressed like a chef. We enjoyed our lunch and I was waking up nicely by this point.
I watched the TV for a few minutes, but ended up falling asleep. Shortly thereafter, they brought my dismissal paperwork, pulled my IV, made me go to the bathroom and walk in the hallway. I qualified to leave and got dressed. They wheeled me out to the front door in a wheel chair and Holly picked me up in my car. We were home at 12:30PM. It was a great day! It was not as hard as I expected and the results were fantastic. Thank you God! I can't wait for tomorrow!
January 5, 2010 - Today, I quit taking coumadin and celebrex to prevent bleeding during my upcoming surgery. I am having a heart cath procedure the day before my surgery to determine if I have any blockages. All my past stress tests have looked very positive (no blockages), so I am optimistic the angiogram will look good.
January 9, 2010 - I shaved my mini-beard off today. I will let the surgery prep specialists shave whatever else needs to be taken care of. I will probably grow my beard and mustache back later as my family doesn't like my "clean" look.
January 10, 2011 - In less than three days, I will be a different man. I am not scared or nervous about anything. I am still excited, but dreading having to get up at 3:30AM to get ready to be at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital at 5AM. I did not realize there were people working to check in patients at 5AM! I hope they are expecting me...I will not be late! My surgery is scheduled for 8AM. Dr. Bodenhamer, please have your coffee before then.
December 14, 2010 - In less than one month, I will be fixed! I am having Mitral Valve surgery - repair or replace, just fix it and rid me of my palpitations. Dr. Bodenhamer and his da Vinci robot will be my surgeons and Oklahoma Heart Hospital will be my temporary home for a week beginning on Thursday, January 13. I can't wait for that day!