First, thank you to everyone that commented to my most recent journal entry. It means a lot to hear from so many friends, family, and colleagues.
Short ...Read more
First, thank you to everyone that commented to my most recent journal entry. It means a lot to hear from so many friends, family, and colleagues.
The great news is that I did not have any blockages and no immediate need for an aortic root replacement.
Thursday night my cardiologist called me to let me know he had spoken directly with the cardiac interventionist/surgeon that would be performing my procedure the next day and they reviewed a number of scenerios and agreed on how each one should be handled. I felt reassured about the choice to have the current hospital complete this next step.
Early the next morning a nurse walked into my room and explained an ambulance would be arriving to take me to another hospital for the procedure. I think I turned ghost white and once again I had someone in front of me thinking, 'Oh Sh@t! I thought he knew this already.' She then calmed me down and explained they do the procedure in the hospital I was staying, but if there is any chance I would need open heart surgery, that team is at the other hospital. All of this made sense now, but I wish someone had explained it to me the day before when I was making these choices.
Later that morning, the ambulance crew showed up at my room ready to take me to NorthShore Hospital in Evanston which was 11 miles away. The crew was really nice, but it was odd getting carted off to another hospital only to come back to the one I was currently staying in. I felt like I was taking Uber for hospitals. We arrived at the other hospital and they got me all prepped for my procedure. Around 12:30pm the surgeon came out to the surgical prep room and said, 'You must be Mr. Rovin, Dr. Stone's friend from the Cleveland Clinic with the valve repair' After that, I felt very comfortable since not only did he talk to my doctor, but he actually listened and internalized the information. We then talked briefly about the procedure and he answered any questions my wife, dad and I had. He then disappeared to the procedure area. A couple minutes later I was wheeled into the procedure room and transferred to the operating table. On a side note, who do these people make the surgical tables for, it feels like you are laying on a balance beam, but I digress.
The team in the room explained each step before they proceeded so I would remain calm. Finally, the doctor came in and started the procedure. Unlike the procedure at Cleveland Clinic, I was awake throughout this one. I was able to see and hear everything happening in the room. There were a number of monitors in the room for my vitals, but the coolest monitor showed the arteries in my heart in real time. The doctor explained everything I was looking at and whether it was good or bad. To my surprise, everything he said was good! He then closed up the small incision with some pressure and bandaged me up before he left the room. His crew then took me back out to the prep area.
The doctor came out a few minutes later to officially let me know the good news. He explained the nuclear stress test is considered a screener which is designed to over identify, in other words give false positives so it does not miss anyone in need. I smiled because I often say the same thing to people I work with about the screeners we provide. He said he did not know why it gave a false positive for me, but it did. He then went on to say he only measured the aortic root to be 4.3cm as opposed to the CT and MRA which measured it at 4.6cm. If it truly is 4.3cm, then I do not need to worry about my aortic root yet. I would ideally like it to last until they need to replace my valve so I do not have to have more open heart surgery than needed. Now I have to figure out if an angiogram measurement of the aortic root is more accurate than an MRA or CT scan.
A few minutes after the doctor left me bedside, an ambulance crew showed up and took me for a ride back to my original room. Once back in my room, I had to lay flat on my back for four hours while the incision sight healed. I was thankful to have Netflix to help me pass the time. About seven hours later they discharged me and sent me on my way.
It felt amazing to be back home with Justine and Sabella. Since Sabella was sleeping when I got home, she did not know I was there until the next morning. When I finally saw her awake she gave me the biggest smile and happy cooing sounds. This alone made all the poking, prodding, stress, and nervousness worth it so I could spend more time with Justine and her.
Next week my cardiologist will meet with me to review all of the findings and make a game plan for where to go next. Regardless of the plan, I will likely be making a trip to Cleveland Clinic over spring break or this summer just to make sure nothing is missed.
Thank you again for supporting me on this journey.
I was not planning to write another update until I was five years out from my OHS. Well, plans change and I am rolling with it. I have been a good patient ...Read more
I was not planning to write another update until I was five years out from my OHS. Well, plans change and I am rolling with it. I have been a good patient by visiting my cardiologist regularly, getting my echocardiograms, and taking my meds on a regular basis. Also, life has been pretty good to me and my family over the years.
So why am I writing this post? Well, when I started this journal it was because I made a commitment to myself to be open about my experience and tackle my CHD head on with the support of others and also provide support to others along the way. It is easy to feel alone on this experience and I refuse to feel that way. Also, I find writing this journal helps me sort through thoughts and emotions.
About a month and a half ago I had a routine echocardiogram done and followed up with my cardiologist a week later. I was expecting a good visit, but that was not the case. My cardiologist alerted me that when I had OHS in 2012 my aortic root was at 4.0 cm and the most recent echo showed 4.6 cm which meant it was expanding at a fast rate. He then asked me to get an MRA (MRI with contrast) since echocardiograms are known to be inaccurate for this measurement type. So I scheduled the MRA for the first opening two weeks later. This past Tuesday I emailed my doctor and asked how I did on the MRI. I got an email response asking if I could meet him in his office the next morning at 8am. You guessed it, this made my heart race and of course I would be there.
I arrived at his office and of course I was not on his schedule because he works at a totally different office on that day of the week. After searching, they found out he came in just to see me and then he would head to his normal office. We sat down and he performed his normal exam followed by telling me we needed to have a serious talk. He showed me all the previous testing (I knew he was making a case for something) and then reviewed my new testing. He even took out grid paper and diagramed Eric's 2012 aortic root and his 2017 aortic root. The testing confirmed the root was expanding much faster that predicted. For those unaware, it is common for people with bicuspid valves to have a weaker aortic wall which can expand and ultimately tear or burst. The conversation was very mutual and we discussed a plan of attack. Great, we had made a plan for me to goto the Cleveland clinic in 6 months to be reevaluated.
I was getting ready to leave and he started asking me some routine questions he needed to close out the visit on his computer program. I then mentioned I had been experiencing indigestion more frequently than normal. Oooops or bingo, your choice! He instantly went into high concerned mode and poopoo'd any excuse I made for the indigestion. He then thought out loud for a minute and then said he needed to rule out an acute cardiac issue meaning I needed to goto the closest hospital ER. He then told me what to tell the ER doctors and made sure I had his cell phone and to demand they call him (he does not have rights at the closest hospital). I got to the ER and they did their workup, I dropped my cardiologist's name and stated what he wanted them to do. They told me typically they would have sent me on my way based on my workup, but they would admit me since my doctor thought they should.
They then ran a CT, nuclear stress test, and and echocardiogram between yesterday and today with the intention of sending me home this evening. All day today, nurses and doctors were asking if I had been released yet even though the stress test results had not come back. In other words, everyone thought my doctor was being overly cautious! This evening I had the hospitalist show up in my room and start the conversation by saying, 'I assume the cardiologist has been here to explain the results of the stress test?' I said, 'not yet.' His face then went blank and I could see him thinking, 'Oh Sh@t!, what did I just get myself into?' He then stated they saw an ischemia and they thought they would keep me another day to do an angiogram. What?!?!?! I was not ready for that one especially from anyone other than a cardiologist! He must have felt caught of guard especially when I started asking very specific questions as if I knew something about cardiac medicine.
Long story short, I wanted to be transferred to Northwestern University Hospital or Cleveland Clinic, but due to some other variables and tomorrow being Friday my own cardiologist and I agreed to have it done where I am currently staying as an inpatient as long as he has constant communication with the cardiac interventionist during the procedure. Yes, my cardiologist is absolutely amazing and believes he has the privilege to micromanage all other cardiac professionals which in this case may have saved my life.
My reaction would have been different just 1 year ago, but now my wife and I have a 21 week old baby girl. I am trying to ensure a happy life for her with me in it for a long time to come. A year ago I would have checked myself out and driven to Cleveland Clinic for this procedure, but that is not realistic now. If I need OHS then yes, CC it is! I am used to having my whole family with me at the hospital for procedures like this, but this time someone will need to stay back with our baby.
Also, my work family was going to be throwing my wife and I a baby shower tomorrow and I just got back to work full-time this past Monday after a wonderful paternity leave. Timing could not be worse! Thankfully I am surround with caring family, friends, and colleagues.
I will now take my own recommendation from previous journal posts and start focusing on my recovery.
Thank you for listening and hopefully I will be updating my journal sometime soon.
Since my last things have taken a turn for the better with the exception of some minor setbacks. I have learned that pericarditis can take a few weeks to resolve ...Read more
Since my last things have taken a turn for the better with the exception of some minor setbacks. I have learned that pericarditis can take a few weeks to resolve as long as you rest and receive early intervention. I am currently on summer break so it is easy to get some rest and my cardiologist is making sure I receive the appropriate intervention. Ever since I started the right meds I have felt much more like normal with the exception of today, but even today was much better than before I received treatment.
I am very thankful this is a short term experience and I will be back to normal before I know it. It has been very helpful to know I have such supportive friends, co-workers, and professionals in my life as I go through this hurdle in my recovery.
Since my first post I have set positive goals for myself as a way to focus my recovery on positives which has worked very well for me. So I will start this ...Read more
Since my first post I have set positive goals for myself as a way to focus my recovery on positives which has worked very well for me. So I will start this update with my goal achievements since my last posting which was when I married the love of my life this past December. Since that time, I lived my childhood dream of being an invited rider at the Mt Baker Legendary Banked Slalom. This has been the pinnacle of my snowboarding career as I was surrounded and embraced as an equal by the best riders in the world just over a year after my valve repair. Just getting to enter the start shack with the legendary words 'Say Your Prayers' over the entrance and being surrounded the best videographers, photographers, and announcers in the world waiting in anticipation to see what this guy from the midwest could add to this highly respected snowboarding event. If they read up on me and had spoken to me, they already knew I brought a whole lot of heart to the event. How did I do? No excuses here, I had the ride of my life! What did that look like in real life? I put everything I had into my run which made me a bit over zealous of my skills which lead to me to over shoot the blind banked turn after the tunnel and miss a gate which resulted in a DQ. Regardless, I reached my goal and lived a dream! The day was filled with amateurs and professionals getting DQ'd as this was rated as the hardest and most technical course built in the last 29 years of the event.
Now for the reason I am writing this update. A week ago Monday, I woke up at 3 am with the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. My chest felt like someone had hit me across the chest with a baseball bat and I thought I would not be able to take a breath. Thankfully, I was able to breath, but I struggled to take each breath as my chest had extreme pain with each movement. I eventually was able to take short shallow breaths without pain, but deep breaths hurt to a degree I could not have imagined. I have a fear of the skills at our local hospital and wanted to be seen by a major heart hospital, so I woke my wife and asked her to take me to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.
I arrived in the ER and was immediately taken for an EKG. Of course my EKG was a text book example of the most perfect post AVR as possible. This meant I got to wait for an empty bed in the waiting area. This was a very sad experience since I saw multiple examples of how people who do not have health insurance get treated even if they have severe medical conditions that needed medical attention. Trust me, they were treated with a lot less respect and dignity than I ever imagined. I finally went into the ER where they determined I was not having a heart attack, but they wanted to admit me for observation. While I was in the ER, the doctor ordered me food and an echocardiogram. I did not get either of these for over 24 hrs from when they were ordered, in fact, I got the food before the echocardiogram. I was admitted to the to cardiovascular unit which meant I would be seen only by people specializing in cardiology. One would think this would a be good thing, but I have learned it is just the opposite. Essentially, I was seen mostly by nurses, physician assistants, and 1st-3rd year residents. They ran all sorts of tests looking for bacteria and viruses in my system. In the meantime, my chest pain decrease a little bit and my left should started to hurt to the point I was walking laps instead of laying down even though I could not take anything close to a normal sized breath. My main cardiologist happened to be out of town on a speaking engagement, but he had his medical students visiting me around the clock to monitor the services I was being providing. According to the attending cardiologist, I was displaying all the symptoms of pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardial sack around the heart) and irritation of the lining of the lungs. He then stated that the ECHO, chest x-ray, and blood tests did not support a diagnosis of pericarditis so he could not diagnose such a disease. I was then informed that there is no reason a cardiologist would ever prescribe narcotics for pain so he would only prescribe me three norco pills of the lowest formulary when I was sent home. They said I would have to deal with my chest pain and get in contact with my primary care physician when I got home if I needed more pain relief or had further concerns. They totally did not care about my shoulder pain. Oh yeah, they also diagnosed me with rhinovirus (I has that 2 weeks prior but was feeling much better). I could not talk them into looking into any of my pain before sending me home. I guess this is the downside of being in such a specialized hospital unit. I was then released late Wednesday.
On Thursday, I went into work and worked all day with pain in my chest, shortness of breath, and shoulder pain which I was then self treating with nedbulizer treatments, over the counter muscle relaxants, and tylenol (I was told never to take NSAIDS again after I had my surgery). Thursday ended up being okay and reminded me of when I was younger with severe asthma. On Friday morning, my left shoulder pain was no longer being controlled by the treatments I selected or the Norco I was provided. In fact, my shoulder pain superseded the chest pain I had experienced just a few nights before and was now the worst pain I have ever endured. I called my primary care physician's office which took all day to prescribe me more Norco and a prescription strength muscle relaxant. Meanwhile, I had no idea why I had these symptoms and no relief or answers in sight. By 7pm, I was doubled over in pained, breathing shallow, breathing rapidly, and had confused thoughts. I was done! I had no idea where to go or what to do!
My wife and I decided it was time to go to the ER again and we were going to go somewhere that does not stereotype your symptoms because you had open heart surgery. We went to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. This time I had to be wheeled in because every slight movement sent terrible pain through my body plus I could not expand my chest to breath. Once they noticed me (I could not stand in line and had to sit in a chair below the level of the reception desk while my wife had to park the car), they rushed me back to have an EKG. After this, I was placed on a priority list to be seen in the ER. Once I was in the ER, they took chest x-rays and conducted multiple interviews. They said my symptoms sounded like plural effusion, pericarditis, and a possible pulmonary embolism. They decided to do a CT with contrast which could help them rule out any of the possibilities. The results of the CT showed fluid on the lining of the lungs and fluid in the lining of my heart so the ER doctor felt it was imperative to admit me while they did further diagnostics and better manage these conditions. I was once again sent to a cardiovasular floor, but this time I was assigned a pulmonologist, cardiologist, infectious disease specialist, and an orthopedic surgeon. All of these individuals ran their own tests and would confer with one another throughout my stay. In the meantime, they willingly and aggressively worked to get my pain under control. In the end, I was told my symptoms were consistent with pericarditis with effusion and plural effusion, but the diagnostic 'numbers' were not at a point they could give an official diagnosis. On Monday morning they decided to release me, but they did provide me with a plan to manage my pain which was realistic and could be followed outside of a hospital setting. The only thing they did not do was prescribe me an anti-inflammatory.
My main cardiologist takes a personal interest in me and will often call me at odd hours to see hour I am doing and expects me to call his cell phone if I ever need anything. He followed up with me after my release since he was concerned about the conflicting diagnostic results at each hospital and was puzzled why I was not provided an anti inflammatory. He now has all of my diagnostic results from both hospital stays and will be seeing me tomorrow morning to see if an anti inflammatory would be appropriate.
I cannot imagine what type of pain I would experience if my diagnostic numbers were in the 'diagnosis range'. In all honesty, I think their reason for not giving a diagnosis is a bunch of BS due to the symptom presentation I have had. In addition, I have learned that it is common for the symptoms to get significantly worse in the late evening and over night, but they do their assessments in the morning usually before midday. My pain follows this common pattern. Now that I am out of the hospital, my breathing and chest pain are significantly better yet I am still experiencing significant left shoulder pain later in the day and overnight. This pain is currently managed by the prescribed pain medication, but is no longer getting better each day. I see my cardiologist tomorrow morning and I am hoping for a better understanding of my diagnostic profile and that there are treatment options available to me other than just waiting for time to go by.
I knew there would be hurdles along my recovery path, but I did not expect the doctors and medical system to be one of those hurdles or even 'the' hurdle.
I will write an update when I know more or when things change.
As many remember, I had open heart surgery on December 11, 2013 and I proposed to Justine, the love of my life, on December 13th, 2013. Well, she said "I DO" ...Read more
As many remember, I had open heart surgery on December 11, 2013 and I proposed to Justine, the love of my life, on December 13th, 2013. Well, she said "I DO" at a fairy tale wedding on December 29, 2013 in beautiful Whistler, Canada! My heart is truly open and complete with Justine in my life :). Picture has been uploaded in the picture section.
On December 11, 2012 I had my Aortic Valve Repair and on December 12th, 2012 I came out of anesthesia surrounded by my family. I made it through my first year ...Read more
On December 11, 2012 I had my Aortic Valve Repair and on December 12th, 2012 I came out of anesthesia surrounded by my family. I made it through my first year post operation!
When I think about the surgery, it is like a distant dream. I have experienced minimal side effects or pain since my initial recovery. Every once in a while I will experience a phantom chest pain when I cough. My cardiologist visits have become very routine and uneventful. I am more aware of what I eat even though my issue had nothing to do with diet and dietary changes would not have prevented my need for surgery. This website is no longer a place I visit on a daily basis yet it helped greatly with my preparation and recovery.
People always ask if I look at life differently and I will often say that it does not feel like it has changed who I am in a way I thought it would. That is definitely my answer in the moment, but as I reflect on the time since surgery I have acknowledged that I have changed more than I realized. I definitely appreciate the people in my life a lot more along with everyday experiences. One would think that I may have an urgency to live life now since you do not know when you will no longer have the opportunity yet I find myself feeling more relaxed and methodical with my actions.
In my previous post I listed out a bunch of goals I set for myself post surgery and I have completed most of them. As most of you remember, I proposed to Justine 2-days post operation which took every ounce of energy left in my body. So, the next thing on my list is to marry Justine which will happen on December 29, 2013 which is getting very close. We have everything planned and we are just working on the final details before we travel to Whistler for the big event. We are both looking forward to being surrounded by our closest family members and friends for an intimate wedding and celebration. The rituals we will perform at the ceremony have a much deeper meaning to us as a result of my major life event. As with any wedding, there has been excitement and drama leading up to the big event. I find myself better able to remove myself from the drama and focus on the truly important things like our relationship with each other and the positive energy provided by others. I guess I just don't have time for the drama anymore since it does not enhance my life experience.
Snowboarding is an important part of my life and have always dreamed of being invited to the Mt. Banker Legendary Banked Slalom (LBS). Ironically, I received my first invite the same day I was told I needed open heart surgery within 24-48 hours. Originally, I set a goal to travel to Washington to compete even if my personal goal was to make it from starting gate to finish safely. My surgery did not happen as quickly as I thought it would so making it to Washington was not a sure thing anymore. I did feel well enough to ride the course last February, but I decided to follow my doctor's advice and the advice of my mentors so I agreed to stay home if I received an invite for the following year. Well, one month earlier than last year, I received my invitation for the 2014 LBS. Yes! Sometimes you have to pay your dues before you enjoy the fruits of your labor. I am registered, flights are booked, car is rented, time off requested, and hotel secured for the trip of a lifetime. (Additional sponsors are always welcome) This time I might even set a more aggressive goal although I do not feel any pressure to do more than show up and ride the course while I enjoy every moment. This will truly be my victory lap regardless of the official results. I have always described my riding style as ‘Soul Riding’ and this is truer than ever since my operation. Going from 'should have been dead' to competing in an elite international snowboarding event within a year is more rewarding than I could have imagined.
After these events are over I look forward to some relaxation as Justine and I build our future together.
For those of you that remember, my father had his aortic valve repaired two months after I had mine done. His recovery was not as smooth as mine, but he came through like a champ. He is now looking forward to standing at my side as my Best Man later this month.
I do not regret my choice to travel to Cleveland Clinic for my surgery or my choice to have my valve repaired. It was the scariest thing I ever had to do and the thought of it still terrifies me. My advice to others is to own your decision and stay focused on your recovery instead of the actual procedure.
My thoughts and prayers are with anyone in need of open heart surgery and those recovering. We are members of an elite club (zipper club or X regurgitator club) and share a bond that few can understand.
Best wishes to all!
I am now officially 3-months post-op and life truly gets better everyday. One of the things that has helped me recover so quickly, other than the wonderful ...Read more
I am now officially 3-months post-op and life truly gets better everyday. One of the things that has helped me recover so quickly, other than the wonderful people that have supported me, is having a list of specific goals to accomplish. Here is my list and where I am at:
- Survive open heart surgery and muster up the energy to ask Justine to marry me (Check!: Engaged two days post-op)
- Have the ability to update my journal on my own ( check!)
- Get out of the hospital and travel home within a week to recover (check!)
- Return to work and driving in 6 weeks or less (check!)
- Be well enough to support my father through his open heart surgery (I knew this was inevitable before I had my surgery, I just did not know it would be so soon: love you dad!)
- Take part in cardio rehab (almost half way through)
- Take a single run on my snowboard at a local hill before the season was over (check!)
- Compete in the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom (postponed until next February at the request of others; was already assured an invite for 2014)
- Travel to Justine to Whistler to plan our wedding (happening this week)
- Ride Whistler Blackcomb with Justine before the season was over and at least 9 months before the doctors originally thought I return to the sport (Staring at the mountains right now with snowboards ready to go!)
- Get married to Justine (Planned for December 29th, 2013 at our favorite location in North America among our closest family members and friends)
Even though I have accomplished many of the goals above, I still have a ways to go to be fully recovery. It amazes me how well the human body adapts and mends itself with the assistance of medical technology. Without my asking the doctor to have an echocardiogram and stress test back in November, I may not have been alive to be here with Justine today. My doctors were in aww that I had not already passed away since my heart was not well enough to support my life style. Life is too precious to waste! Anyone reading this should strongly consider getting a baseline echocardiogram just to make sure your heart is as healthy as you think it is.
My thoughts are with my father who is not having a recovery as quick as mine and everyone else either recovering from or waiting for their own open heart surgery.
It is hard to believe I had open heart surgery 3 months ago. Since that point in time, I have become engaged, I started cardiac rehab, my father had open heart ...Read more
It is hard to believe I had open heart surgery 3 months ago. Since that point in time, I have become engaged, I started cardiac rehab, my father had open heart surgery, I have returned to work, and I am snowboarding again! Going into this surgery, I used snowboarding as a motivator to recover, in fact I had a very aggressive goal of snowboarding in a international level competition just 8 weeks after surgery. Red tape, doctor schedules, testing appointments, my cardiologist, family, fellow snowboarders, and friends worked on me and were able to get me to reconsider my goal. My cardiologist gave me permission to compete as long as I agreed to just run the course for the sake of running the course and not in a competitive mindset. He then told me that he knew the moment I was in the start gate, all I would want to do was get to the finish line as fast as I could while disregarding my own safety. Well, he knew me all too well and that helped sway me to wait until next year.
Post op week 10 came and I had all this protective gear, some lift tickets, an encouraging fiancé, and a pile of snowboards calling my name. I could resist no longer so Justine and I headed to the local hill for some riding. I took my soon to be \'new best friend\', a chest protector, and was set to go. I was a little uncertain how the day would go and if I would feel pain at me incision or if I would have the energy to ride safely. Well, there was no pain and I was able to take 5+ runs before calling it a day. I was very hesitant and protective throughout the day which in all honesty probably increased the level of danger because I was taking time to think and not trusting my abilities. We ended up having a blast!
We then returned to the same hill this past Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday the conditions were very good. I spent most of the time chasing Justine around since I was still hesitant and her riding has improved significantly since last season. As the day went on, I did experience a bit of a panic attack when I was increasing speed and I thought about what might happen of I fell. Would it be like any other fall or would I injur my chest? Would the chest protector work? The answer: I rode within my limits, stayed away from other people, and did not fall so I do not know.
Sunday came and I decided to ride a more aggressive snowboard. When we arrived, there was ice all over and after an hour I was thinking of calling it quits. The hill just happened to close the runs down at this point and groomed them. Justine and I thought we would take one more run and then leave before either of us got hurt. Well, to our surprise the grooming transformed the runs into a fast yet stable surface. All bets were off and my cardiologist was right, once I got in the zone I would not want to slow down. Anyone that knows my riding will tell you I am not a park/stunt rat and I would rather be pushing the limits of natural terrain at full speed while flying by everyone else. I found the gas pedal during my first run and it felt awesome! By my third run I was pushing 57mph according to the GPS on my phone. The moment I felt the ice coming through, I knew I would not let myself slow down so we did the smart thing and called it a day. This was the second happiest I have been since surgery with the first happiest being Justine accepting my proposal.
Was this a smart thing to do? Absolutely! I needed the boost to my confidence and some renewed energy to continue my recovery. Will my doctors agree? Maybe/maybe not, but I was taught a long time ago that there are statistics and then there is real life which do not always match up. Of course I will tell my doctors about my experience when I see them and I will listen to what they have to say.
My dad was taken from the prep room at 9:30am and the surgery started at 10:20am. We just received the first call from the OR to update us and they said everything ...Read more
My dad was taken from the prep room at 9:30am and the surgery started at 10:20am. We just received the first call from the OR to update us and they said everything was going well. They have harvested the veins they need and they have his chest open. Dr. McCarthy, the main heart surgeon, will now start the main portion of the surgery which will taken 2.5 to 3 hrs. We were told they will give us another update in two hours.
In the meantime, we are watching the snow come down through the windows of the waiting room on the 7th floor.
This has to be some type of crewel trick or something. I find myself lying awake in a hotel room contemplating open heart surgery tomorrow just like I did ...Read more
This has to be some type of crewel trick or something. I find myself lying awake in a hotel room contemplating open heart surgery tomorrow just like I did the evening of December 10th. On that night, I was contemplating the surgery from the perspective of the person who would be undergoing the operation. This night, I am just a mere audience member contemplating the open heart surgery my father will be going through tomorrow.
I can only hope that his journey will be as successful, smooth, and uneventful as mine. He has selected an excellent team of doctors which will be lead by Dr. McCarthy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This will be the second close family member my mother has had to support through OHS in months time. We are a small family so two family members equal 100% of her immediate family has had OHS in 3 months. How she does it amazes me.
This will be my father\'s second OHS with the first one done 17 years ago. Although I recall snip it of his first time around, those are few and far between. This time I have a much greater appreciation for the journey he is about to take on having been through it myself. Our surgeries are so close together, we will most likely be in cardio rehab together for a few weeks. How many people can claim that?
Please keep him I. Your thoughts and prayers in the morning and throughout his journey. We will be updating his journal (Ronald Rovin) throughout the day and I am sure I will update my own, as well.
The success of my AVR took participation from me and many people who cared for me. When I was a day or two into my recovery after my AVR, my father experienced ...Read more
The success of my AVR took participation from me and many people who cared for me. When I was a day or two into my recovery after my AVR, my father experienced some chest discomfort and visited the Cleveland Clinic ER. The CCF doctors decided he should continue his current medicine based intervention for a blocked artery and his aortic stenosis. Prior to this he had a failed angioplasty and was told there was nothing that could be done other than treatment with medication to increase oxygen in his blood and decrease the calcium intake of his heart. At the same time he was told he had aortic stenosis that would eventually need to be surgically corrected. Basically he was told to play chicken with an inevitable heart attack.
Since my stay at CCF and his visit to the CCF ER, he has had many visits with his cardiologist and he has has a full assessment with a cardiologist at CCF. The end result being a recommendation for a AVR (tissue valve; age 70) and three bypasses. They have assigned Dr. Sabik as his surgeon if he elects to have CCF perform the surgery. Next week he will be going to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for another opinion with Dr. McCarthy and his second cardiologist ( yes, he has two regular cardiologists). The end result will most likely be another recommendation for surgery.
Now, my father had a 5-way bypass 17 years ago and his recovery was anything but easy. My experience with open heart surgery was much more pleasant than his. Since that point in time, his diabetes is worse, he has aged, and he is not as mobile. In other words, this is a very scary proposition for him.
I would do anything for my father me I am ready to help him though the process. As a caretaker, I have many questions. Do the risks increase if a patient has already had open heart surgery? How much risk does loving with diabetes add to the surgery? Is history likely to repeat itself; does recovery from open heart surgery predict recovery from a second surgery? Does anyone have experience with Dr. Sabik for surgical \'redoes\'? Dr. McCarthy?
My father has started a journal and you are welcome to follow his journey. Search for Ron Rovin on this website. I feel like my journey just hit the \'repeat\' button.
It has been 6 full weeks since my AVR and all is going very well. I have been back to work full time for a week now with success. I work the full day and ...Read more
It has been 6 full weeks since my AVR and all is going very well. I have been back to work full time for a week now with success. I work the full day and then go home and relax/sleep until morning and do it all over again. Yesterday it was time for me to decide how hard I wanted to push myself so I could compete in the Mt Baker Banked Slalom the first weekend in February. After some soul searching I decided that if I could get the organizers of the event to postpone my invite until next season I would just wait. Thank you to Jake, Donna, Sierra, and Amy for helping me out and making this happen. So lookout world because Eric meets the Mt. Baker LBS in 2014 after a year of training with his new heart! I will be unstoppable and able to go all out; no regrets. My family and I went through a lot to save my life and it would be ashamed if I messed it all up by getting on my snowboard to soon and crashing. Even with a trained medical team on the mountain with me, it just is not worth it. My doctor was right, he said I would say i will just ride safely from top to bottom, but once I am there I will want to ride to win.
Tomorrow, I have my first stress test since my AVR and hopefully I will be cleared for cardio rehab (finally). I am now able to sleep on my stomached with minimal discomfort. During the day, I rarely feel and discomfort from the incision. I can drive fine, but I prefer when someone else drives. The extra cold air can be felt in my lungs, but I warm up quickly once I am inside. Instinctively I find myself walking very slow and with small steps when I am outside so I do not slip.
Life is grand!
Yesterday was my first day back to work since my OHS. It was a rewarding freezing walking in to the building under my own power knowing I was in a better health ...Read more
Yesterday was my first day back to work since my OHS. It was a rewarding freezing walking in to the building under my own power knowing I was in a better health than when I was last there. It was great to see everyone again. Compliments always help with the healing process and they kept being sent my way as the day went on. I was told that I look healthy and I lost weight. If I we to see me for the first time some my OHS, I would find it hard to believe I had had OHS just over a month ago.
By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted! To top that off, Justine woke up extra early and baked some homemade chocolate chip cookies for me to take to work so she was even more tired than I was. Justine always amazes me!
On the agenda in the week to come:
First Cardio Rehab ( if I pass all other tests)
Visit to Cardiologist
Fitting for chest protection
Lots of time with Justine, family, and friends
Working full time!
Dreaming of February 8th
Today, Justine took that day off work to take me for my cardiologist appointment. I spent a long time with the cardiologist and he answered all of my questions. ...Read more
Today, Justine took that day off work to take me for my cardiologist appointment. I spent a long time with the cardiologist and he answered all of my questions. I get to start cardio rehab once I pass a stress test on the 25th. On Friday, I get to go back to work full time (some restrictions). We agreed to do a pre and post x-ray and echo in case I am released to participate in the Mt. baker Legendary Banked Slalom. From his vantage point I can participate due to the nature of the event, but he would then like me to wait 6 months before snowboarding again. Anyone want to goto Chile or New Zealand in 6 months? He does want me to get cleared from my surgeon before making a final decision. He did say he did not want me to workout on my own at the health club until after the cardiac rehab people transition me and verify I do not have an arrhythmia.
He also surprised me when he said we would be discontinuing the high blood pressure medication a month from now. He said there is a possibility my brush with high blood pressure was caused by my valve issues. I guess we will have to wait and see. My blood pressure has gone down since the operation and so has my pulse. To my amazement and nervousness, my resting pulse has gone from 69 bpm to 53 bpm. He said this was fine, but that is the lowest resting pulse I have ever had.
I felt like a 16 year old asking him of I could start driving again. To my surprise he said I could drive! Freedom! Independence!
The best part of the day was having extra time with Justine :)
In Chicago we normally have snow and cold weather around this time, but for some reason Mother Nature has taken a break. I was overcast today, but it was also ...Read more
In Chicago we normally have snow and cold weather around this time, but for some reason Mother Nature has taken a break. I was overcast today, but it was also 50 degrees out which feels relatively warm. I took advantage of the nice weather and did not exercise by walk each of our three dogs individually with Justine. We kept a very brisk pace and walked for a total of about three miles. It is soooooo nice to be outside with Justine and the dogs.
In addition, I think I finally got a good nights sleep without narcotics (pain killers). I slept straight through for 8 hours.
Today marks marks 4 weeks post-op. There is not much new to report other than I get more energy everyday. Since the flu outbreak is so wide spread in this ...Read more
Today marks marks 4 weeks post-op. There is not much new to report other than I get more energy everyday. Since the flu outbreak is so wide spread in this area, it has been a bit difficulty finding places to go to exercise. I try to go out during school hours so there are less people at the mall or big box stores. Hopefully I will be prescribed cardiac rehab soon so I can just walk on a treadmill under professional supervision. I have found there is a major gap in medical care when it comes to open heart surgery recovery which is weeks 2-6 when it is too soon to prescribe cardiac rehab yet you are too well to be in a hospital. I feel it is a bit of a wait and see period yet I wonder if there is more I could be doing to recover. During weeks 2-6 I will see medical professionals on 3 occasions but once I start cardiac rehab I will see medical professionals and be monitored 3 to four times a week. This is assuming my cardiologist even prescribes cardiac rehab which is not always prescribed.
My mood still stays positive since my recovery is going well and any discomfort is manageable. I read the journal entries of others on this website and my thoughts and prayers are with them. It is clear that each persons experience is different yet parts are similar.
I am looking forward to returning to work, snowboarding, and a normal life. These will come with time and hopefully sooner than later.
Today Is exactly 3 weeks post op for me. This morning I saw my primary care physician for the first time since he informed me of my valve concerns back in ...Read more
Today Is exactly 3 weeks post op for me. This morning I saw my primary care physician for the first time since he informed me of my valve concerns back in November. The check up went well and he seemed pleased with my progress. He even wanted to make sure I could get back to competitive snowboarding as soon as physically possible. At this point though, I need a little time to let my chest heal and my heart muscle to get stronger.
Every day is truly better than the last one. I have yet to sleep through the night due to pain and discomfort. I wear my zipper ( incision) like a badge of honor since I truly earned this one. The area around my zipper is sensitive, but tolerable. Right now, the most bothersome thing is the pain that I get as the chest muscles \'reactivate\'. After reading other journals on here, I consider myself very lucky to be progressing so well. As usual, I avoid coughing and sneezing at all costs.
Mood wise, I am very happy! I get dressed each day and I go out at least once a day to walk and even try some stairs. I feel ready to go back to the gym on a regular basis. I know it is not possible to feel ones heart muscle, but I know mine is already working better than it was prior to surgery. My blood pressure is down and my pulse is almost back in the low 60s. I know things may not change, but I am excited to see if my aorta and heart shrink a bit now that I have no regurgitation.
There is not a single day that goes by that I do not replay all of the recent events in my head. One person that I want to thank is my best friend and cousin Aaron Ratskoff. We may not live close to each other or get to see each other as much as we did growing up, but we are still just as close. Aaron dropped everything so he could be with my family and me during my recovery and surgery. Aaron stayed at my side while I could not care for myself in ICU the first night after surgery. He made sure I knew exactly what was going on plus he made sure I had a voice. Thank you Aaron!
Hopefully I will get a chance to write-up my experience in the step down unit sometime soon. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the other HVJers as they prepare for their own surgeons, have surgery, and recover.
Improving my ticker one beat at a time,
Happy New Year to all! There is a saying that you should always leave things better than you found them and I would like to think I am ending this year much ...Read more
Happy New Year to all! There is a saying that you should always leave things better than you found them and I would like to think I am ending this year much better than when it started for the mind body and soul.
First, I am alive and able to celebrate with family and friends. Over the past year I earned a second masters degree and a new general administrative certificate for grades K-12. Last spring I had another successful end to my snowboard season and was able to be part of Justine\'s amazing snowboard season. This fall I learned I was lucky to still be alive and would need surgical intervention for my arotic valve due to a genetic disorder I never knew I had. On December 11th, I was reborn and given another go at life thanks to the dedication of Dr. McCurry and his team. On December 13th, I proposed to the love of my life, Justine, on one knee even though it took every last ounce of energy I had and I set off every alarm in the room. She said YES!
In addition, I have a career I love and I am surrounded by family and friends that have been very supportive.
Thank you everyone that has helped and supported me on this journey and I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store.
Since my surgery I have experienced yawning and coughing. Yawn is very weird, but does not cause pain. On the other hand, coughing causes pain and I try to ...Read more
Since my surgery I have experienced yawning and coughing. Yawn is very weird, but does not cause pain. On the other hand, coughing causes pain and I try to avoid it at all costs. Sometimes hugging a pillow when coughing will help lower the pain as long as you do not have buttons between your pillow and you incision.
Something I never thought about before or after surgery was what would happen when I eventually sneezed. Well, don\'t sneeze! I had just finished a nice sushi dinner with Justine and I was waiting in a glass foyer for Justine to bring the car around when out of no where I had a single sneeze. This hurt worse than coughing and I let out a scream and probably some other four letter words as I tried to figure out what just happened and how I needed to respond. Thankfully, I was the only person in the foyer although about 4 employees appeared to be making their way to my location to see what happened.
Moral of the story...sneezing equals pain. From here forward I will be aware of this and try to avoid sneezing whenever possible. Hopefully I will have my pillow with me next time if it must happen.
Today is exactly 2 weeks post op for both Wolf and me. I have been trying to get out at least once daily to walk around and get out of the house. My mind ...Read more
Today is exactly 2 weeks post op for both Wolf and me. I have been trying to get out at least once daily to walk around and get out of the house. My mind does not tire easy but my body gets tired fairly quick. The hardest part is my breathing since my lungs have yet to fully recover. This reminds me of asthma from when I was a child. My pain is well managed except when I am trying to sleep, at night. I have yet to sleep through the night without waking up in pain or extreme discomfort. My chest finally is starting to feel a bit bruised, but I think I have had less discomfort than I would have had if I had a larger more traditional incision. My spirits are very positive and I am enjoying all the time with Justine.
Whenever I see someone who knows I recently had open heart surgery their jaws drop because they say I look so good. Most people expect me to be in a wheelchair or in bed. It has been fun to show people life goes on and it is possible to recover sooner than later. I know recovery is not as quick for everyone, but I want people to know it is possible. Knowing my uncle went back to work 4 days after his bypass was an excellent model for me to have going into my surgery.
Wolf had his first post op follow-up visit today and had his staples removed. He is recovering well and should be able to start physical therapy in two weeks. Justine gets the angel award since she is caring for Wolf and me at the same time. I actually think I am the easy one take care of since I do not need help walking like he does.