I am off Facebook but I wanted to give God glory. Tomorrow Dec. 15 marks the one year anniversary of my open heart surgery. I had mitral valve repair done at Our Lady of Lourdes. Dr Kuchler was my surgeon. I feel great and I am so thankful. For those of you waiting for your surgery- the waiting is the worst. You will feel so much better when it is over. For those of you in the early stages of recovery- every day got better and better. Stay positive. Do what you're told. Appreciate your care givers.
I was at cardiac rehab (7:00 AM) finishing up when my heart rate went to 130. I sat down but it didn't drop. The nurse had me take an EKG. I had atrial flutter. So they took me to the ER (down the hall). They game me a med by IV to adjust my rhythm (Diltiazem). It didn't work. They gave me a different one (Ibutalide). It worked but I had to stay for a few more hours to check for side effects. I could sense my heart rate returned to normal. It was 66 bpm. The nurse asked if I was an organ donor. I said "Yes, but not today." I felt fine throughout but I could tell my heart rate was up. I'm fine now. Not what I expected to do today but God knows and I'm ok with that.
Because of the many friends I have in church and in my associations with other Christian schools I am constantly asked, ""How are you feeling?" Well, the answer is, "I feel great!" I am thankful for my recovery and the support of my wife and friends. I feel for those "heart friends" who acquire complications and a slower than anticipated recovery. I hope everyone can soon say "I feel great."
I just started my first week of cardiac rehab. The nurses got a baseline last week and now I am in with both feet. I am connected to a wireless device that sends my heart rate and rhythm to a monitor. My blood pressure is taken before and after the “workout.” I am able to do 20 minutes on the treadmill at 3 mph, five minutes on an arm pedal machine, and 10 minutes on a stationary bike. It feels good to do something. Now if I can resist a doughnut I’ll be fine.
Monday (Groundhog's Day) will be seven weeks post-op from mitral valve repair. Today I taught my first high school physics class since my surgery. I've had a dry cough so it was a bit of a challenge but my energy was good. When I think of all of the negative post-op possibilities I am truly thankful to God.
I'm not a big fan of tattoos but I like the scar comment.
Post-Op visit with the surgeon
Journal posted on January 7, 2015
I had my visit with my surgeon, Dr Joseph Kuchler, today. I am making good progress. Lungs are clear. Heart sounded good- no leaks heard. I can drive Jan. 15 and go back to “work” Jan. 20 (school principal- I don’t like calling it “work” because it is what God has called me to do- ministry). Thanks to all who have shown their support- Bonnie, school, church, and Facebook friends. Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Happy New Year from Don (the heart guy) and Bonnie
Two weeks post-op and Happy New Year
Journal posted on December 29, 2014
I am two weeks post-op and feel pretty good. I walked around my block two times yesterday (a relative distance, I know) . I only took 4 pain pills all day. Speaking of pain pills I have two words of advice- stool softener.
I hope all of you are doing well. Some are pre-op and some are post-op. I like being on the post-op side of things for sure!
Fluid weight gain seems to be a common occurrence as well. I knew I had gained weight because my hands and feet/ankles were really swollen. My bed had a scale built in. The nurse took my weight and she said the digital screen said "Only one person at a time." (Just kidding.)
Seriously, I was given fluid pills and have lost over 10 pounds. I was also given a pill with potassium to make up for what was excreted.
(Written ten days post-op)
First- Merry Christmas to everyone on the heart valve surgery site!
Second- I apologize for not putting news up earlier, I got home Tuesday, 12/23, tried to write something yesterday and it “disappeared.”
My story- I went in for mitral valve repair and possible bypass on Monday, Dec. 15. My surgery was at 7:00 AM and was in recovery at 11:30. I did not need a bypass. My hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes, is in Camden, NJ. Although it is a city known nation-wide for crime and poverty I was blessed beyond compare to have my surgery there. I received excellent care from all levels, especially the nurses.
The first procedure I had to endure, without anesthesia, was the attempt at removing my wedding ring from my pudgy finger. It didn’t work so they waited until I was “out.” That was successful and I now have it on my pinky.
My wife, three sons (we have five), and my brother were there. They took pictures of me in recovery and they are not a pretty sight. The breathing tube was removed shortly afterward and I was on my way to recovery.
I was sitting in a chair the next day eating and enjoying my visiting troupe. The nurses and cardiac rehab people get you up and going right away. I was happy to walk 50 feet- less than a quarter half way around the second floor. The total distance around the floor is 250 feet.
Drains and tubes and wires and probes were inserted during surgery to monitor and aid in the healing process. Then, as the days went by, they were removed one by one. This was my first experience with a catheter. All desires for modesty are removed. For the nurses it is an everyday experience. For me…
I did feel much better when the main drain tube was removed from my chest. It’s a weird sensation but not painful. Walking took place three times a day with the distances increasing each day. I remember others writing of walking 100, 200, 300 feet and thinking, wow I can’t believe it is that hard. Then I remembered I just had my sternum opened and my heart repaired.
It seemed like I was on my way to go home Friday (four days post-op) and then I developed Atrial Fibrillation. I was told it occurs in up to 30% of patients. The heart tissue is obviously disturbed and this causes a problem in the electrical pathways. It was necessary to begin taking Coumadin (Warfarin) a blood thinner that will prevent a stroke. I was also given amiodarone, a medicine that treats A Fib. This caused a delay in my discharge. Two wires were already in place and were connected to an external pacemaker. Their removal was a different kind of interesting, but again, not painful.
I received a wireless monitor that fit into the pocket of my gown. This allowed me to walk my laps without someone pushing the monitor with me. From Friday to Tuesday I was able to increase my distance and walked, by God’s grace, a total of 30 laps on Monday. 30 x 250 is well over a mile. I think I was trying to show “them” I was ready to go home.
My overall pain levels were not that great. But I realized I needed pain meds to help me cough, walk, use the incentive spirometer, and function well. I was never really in any excruciating pain but was thankful for the meds to take the edge off.
My healing improved. I was asked by a nurse to talk to a young (47) guy who was admitted Saturday. He was told he need bypass right away and was understandably anxious. I went over to talk and pray with him. I was five days post-op and wanted to show him that he will get through this. I saw him again Sunday and met his wife. I talked and prayed with them. They just needed some assurance from someone who has just “been there.”
I was discharged Tuesday after my INR (blood thinner) numbers approached 2.5. It was 1.9 but moving up.
I am taking several new meds at home but this will be for one or two months. I am thankful for modern technology and pharmacology that allowed for my quick recovery. (I am far from healed yet. My family has a tendency to make me laugh and it is not good for the ol’ sternum. But laughter is the best medicine.)
I would be remiss to neglect to thank the many, many friends from church, my Christian school (I’m the principal there), Facebook, and relatives who supported me in prayer and encouraging words. I must also thank the God of the universe for His healing in my life. I obviously could not have done this without Him.
It was not as hard as I imagined it would be.
Get up and move around.
Whenever a commercial comes on the TV use the Incentive Spirometer. You want to get those lungs opened up and functioning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. My nurses were the best. One nurses even cut up my chicken on my first day post-op.
Ask God to help you.
It is starting to become real. I went to the hospital for pre-admission tests. Breathing, x-rays, blood tests, and EKG. Reams of instruction and policies. I was glad to go there because I had never been to that hospital before. There was more traffic than expected and the parking lot was not clearly marked. Every staff member was terrific and went out of their way to be pleasant and helpful. Seven more days.
Thanksgiving 2014. Great family time. New England, Atlanta, PA, NJ, Kansas, and NYC represented.
Two weeks to go
Journal posted on December 2, 2014
Just two weeks to go as I anticipate my mitral valve surgery December 15. I am the principal of a small private Christian school in South Jersey. I also teach physics. (Don't be impressed. I am not a geek or a nerd.) I just found out that one of my student's relative is my surgeon. They refer to him as "Uncle Buddy." I can't wait to be laying on the gurney and look up at him and say, "Do a good job Uncle Buddy."
Although I will not be sending out "Save the Date" cards to my friends, I was able to meet with my surgeon, set a date, and determine what will be done in the OR. The date is December 15. Mitral valve repair. I have a broken heart string. While he is in there he might do a by-pass on a small artery. My wife Bonnie was with me during this visit. An extra set of ears is always good.
I am at peace with this. I have a confidence in God. My peace is not based on my confidence but on Whom I have confidence.
I am home today after my heart cath yesterday. I received great care at Inspira Hospital in Woodbury, NJ. My doctor was late because of a procedure he was involved in in another hospital. The staff felt bad and gave the other waiting patient and me a gift card to a local convenience store. (Wawa- for you Delaware valley folks.) No blockages were found. Now on to decide on a date, a doctor, and a hospital. I thank the Lord for His goodness.