I had my AVR surgery one year ago today and, reflecting on all I've been through, I realize how fortunate I am to have been in the care of a talented cardiologist and a terrific cardiac surgeon, great ICU & Step Down Unit nurses, and the many support staff at Barnes Hospital (Washington University Medical Center) in St. Louis. I feel stronger and have more endurance than I did before the surgery and credit for much of that goes to the Cardiac Rehab staff at St. Mary's Hospital here in St. Louis. I am forever indebted to Adam for writing his book and establishing this web site. I discovered these resources about a month before my surgery and had innumerable questions answered, fears eased and confidence gained through knowledge of what lay ahead. The support on this site of my heart brothers & sisters was much appreciated in the weeks following surgery and I know everyone who has been through heart valve surgery is stronger for the support from this "family."
I hope for successful surgery and recovery for all my heart sisters and brothers who are facing this challenging step in their lives. We're all here to support you.
I am now 6 months post-surgery and had my 36th and final cardio rehab session this morning. The Cardio Rehab team at St. Mary's Hospital in suburban St. Louis are a superb group of professionals. It was great to push myself with both cardio and weight-lifting workouts, knowing I was being constantly monitored and encouraged by this knowledgeable team. I've also returned to playing squash, bicycle riding, playing golf and taking occasional outside exercise walks (which will increase now that rehab is finished). I definitely feel I'm back to nearly 100% of pre-surgery strength & health. Adam discusses the value of an organized rehab program in his book (subject to your cardiologist's approval) and I certainly agree with his thoughts. Best wishes to all my heart brothers & sisters for successful surgery and a good recovery.
Yesterday was 8 weeks post-surgery and I had a "final" visit with the Cardiologist. He feels everything is progressing very well, he doesn't need to see me for 6 months and I can resume all my normal activities (but start slowly with physical activities, whether it's supplementing the cardio rehab with gym workouts, playing golf or doing something like yard work). It will be wonderful to return to a more normal life and really start enjoying my retirement (my first visit to the Cardiologist was 3 days after I retired).
Since several recent posts have asked what kind of valve we chose and why, I'm posting that I chose a tissue valve and accepted the surgeon's recommendation of a porcine valve, as he feels the current "pig" valves are the most reliable and longest lasting of the tissue valves (thank you Edwards Life Sciences). With my racing hobby, a mechanical valve was not a good option, as the need to take a blood thinner would have mandated my retirement from racing.
I've almost reached 8 weeks, the surgeon has completed released me, and the cardiologist just want to see me one more time for a routine check (he says the echo his staff did last week looks fine). I've started cardio rehab and, being a regular at the gym, it feels really good to be exercising again (even conservatively at first). The insomnia has almost gone away and it feels great to wake up at sunrise, instead of at 3 or 4 AM. Just to make this week extra nice, out St. Louis weather has improved immensely, with sunshine and 70 degrees the past 2 days. Positive thoughts to all who are facing surgery in the near future.
Today is my one month surgery anniversary and I feel stronger & healthier every day. My one concerning issue has been recurrent insomnia. Thanks to many posts on this web site, I'm aware many of my heart brothers and sisters have also had insomnia. I'm wondering if others have suggestions for non-prescription sleep aides that helped through the insomnia (Tylenol PM, for example).
I had my Cardio Cath procedure last Monday to confirm my only issue was my Aorta Valve, which it did. I had a "mini" Sternotomy early Tuesday morning at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. I went into surgery at 7:30 AM and was in the Cardio ICU by noon. My breathing tube was removed prior to my transfer to the ICU and I still remember how good the ice chips felt. Aside from an A-Fib incident Thursday night, my recovery in the Cardiac Step-Down unit went well and I came hone today.
I hope all my Heart Sisters and Brothers have as smooth an experience as I did,
Now onward to recovery!
I just finished an echo-cardiogram and consult with the Cardiologist, which went very well. The echo shows the stenosis has continued to develop (no surprise) and it's definitely time for valve replacement. The echo did confirm that my heart and circulatory system have no other issues and the surgeon is planning on a less invasive form of replacement surgery (most likely a partial or "mini" sternotomy). The cardio catheter procedure is scheduled for Monday afternoon (1/19), which should confirm no artery blockages or other problems.
I just finished reading Adam's book and am so glad I ordered it before my surgery. Aside from lots of valuable information, I now have a list of questions for my Cardiologist during my appointment this coming Tuesday. Thank you Adam!
With my surgery just 2 weeks away, the anxiety is building a bit, but the many positive reports and journals on this web site are very reassuring.
I was aware of my bicuspid aortic valve, but somewhat surprised last summer when the cardiology resident at the echo cardiogram lab told me how severe my stenosis had become in the past few years and that he was recommending a referral to a cardiologist. My symptoms have been quite mild and I've been a regular at the gym and on the squash court, even since my diagnosis. I'll have another echo next week at the cardiologist's office, then a cardio cath the afternoon before the surgery. I'm hopeful my good fitness level (for age 70) will help me endure the surgery and through the recovery.