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 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 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 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" 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 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.
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 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 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 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.
Who takes care of the caretaker: I will! Role Reversal
Journal posted on February 3, 2013
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 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.
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. 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
This entry is a recollection of my experience during the actual surgery and the ICU. It is important to know that if you are undergoing open heart surgery you are not alone yet each of us will experience the journey in our own way.
After I was done waiting in the hall, I was wheeled into the surgical suite. I was able to look around and see each person was setting up and making sure everything was just right. I was rolled next to the operating table where I offered to transfer tables on my own. They said it was easier if they transferred me. Three people grabbed the sheets under me and lifted me up and over. They then told me they need to insert two more IVs and I would need to place my arms on these moveable arm supports. They wanted to make sure my arm position was comfortable and would adjust the swing out supports as I asked. The surgeon, Dr. McCurry, walked up to me and quickly let me know some test results came back and we now knew I would not need any work done to my aorta. He then said when everyone was ready, they would have a team meeting. He proceeded to introduce me to each person in the room. I was able to have a brief personalized conversation with each of them. Now it was time for an IV in the wrist and another in my neck. Evidentially these were not normal IVs and would require Novicain shots prior to insertion. They went in without hitch and I barely felt a thing.
Dr. McCurry then gathered the team around a whiteboard and also made sure I could see and hear him. He then listed everything they would be doing and asked the team if they had questions. I really felt respected by being included in this activity. No one had any questions so he said it was time to begin. I then remember a mask being placed on my face and then I was out.
Prior to the surgery we were told the first sense to come back would be my hearing and I would remember everything. I do not remember anything told to me before my vision came back but my family found talking to me very useful since I did respond. My very first memory was an odd and uncomfortable sensation from the breathing tube. I remember pointing to it and the nurse clearing it with the vacuum. I do not remember my breathing feeling funny or forced in any way. At this point, I was also very tired. My internal clock was still nonexistent. At no point did the tubes coming out of me scare me, it was very matter of fact and almost comforting to know they were there just as I had read.
It was time for my breathing tube to be removed. I remember my eyes were closed and the nurse talked me through the procedure. The tube came out quickly and it felt good once removed. The moment the tube came out, my memory goes blank. According to Justine, I kept wanting to go back to sleep, but if I did I would need the tube inserted again. She explained that I had an alarm monitoring my breathing and it had to stay above a certain number if I was going to keep the breathing tube out. Justine said my mom and her needed to keep coaching me to stay awake because the alarm kept going off. Well, they were excellent coaches because I never needed the breathing tube again.
My memory comes back in around late evening. By now I was awake more and the ICU was like watching a big screen TV. My head was propped up and I was looking into the brightly lit hallway and the room across from me. At the foot of my bed was my ICU nurse, Kate. I could see she was following a protocol listed in the binder in front of her. She would get up and check items connected to me and my vitals in preset intervals and then she would refer back to her manual on what to do next. I could tell she was on top of everything I needed and she was only assigned to me.
Shift change came and I was reassigned to Will who was also taking care of the man across the hall. I noticed instantly that Will was not as dedicated as Kate. I remember turning to Aaron, my best friend, and asking him to make sure someone was with me at all times because Will scared me. I am lucky, I had a support group that was not going to leave my side. My issues with Will are not relevant here so I will not go into detail. Aaron ended up staying with me until 3am and then Justine spent the rest of the night guarding and supporting me.
The night went smoothly for the most part. I did find myself worrying about the man across the hall from me. I noticed he had no visitors and he did not seem to be responding as positively as I was. I asked my nurse about him multiple times but I was not able to get much info. I knew I needed to focus on my own recovery, but it was hard not to care about my fellow patient. I wanted to encourage him even though I could not get out of my bed. Since I was going in and out of sleep, I would be distracted away from my concerns. Aaron would also help me make sense of what was happening and he also let me know he was concerned also. Having a shared concern put me at ease since I knew I was not alone.
Morning came and I watched Will pawn my case off on Joe. Joe was an excellent nurse. He was personal yet profession. He told me everything that was happening and everything I needed to do before I could be transferred to the step down unit. I then noticed that most of the tubes and alarms that once were connected to me were no longer there. The only major thing connected to me was the drainage tube coming from my chest area.
Joe came over and said we were now waiting for my next room to be assigned so they would need to take out the drainage tube. I remember being excited yet uncomfortable with this proposition since I had bonded with the drainage tube since it was helping me stay infection free. I verbalized to Joe that I was not sure I was done draining since there was still fluid in the tube. He explained that most of the drainage had stopped and I would be given medication so I would expunge the rest of the fluid through my urine. I was okay with this, but I had no idea why. Next my mind shifted to what it would be like to have the tube removed. In my mind I kept telling myself that everything I had read said it would feel 'weird', but not painful. When I asked Joe if it would hurt, he said it would feel odd and sometimes it would hurt, but it would be done quickly. I now know 'weird' just means a pain you have not felt before. The tube came out without a hitch and Joe stitched me right up.
I met all of my goals and it was time to move to the step down unit. I was still going in and out of sleep and I do not recall the actual move to my new room. I do recall thinking the surgery and ICU were a lot easier that I thought it would be since I really did not experience any pain. Early on, I did have some nausea which they took care of immediately through my IV. I was now motivated to recover and felt very successful so far.
I am honored to be featured by Adam Pick for my recent AVR surgery and engagement. This was never my original plan, but then again I never planned on being diagnosed with Severe Regergitation of the Arotic Valve and being told I am luck to be alive. I had two purposes for this journal: 1. Keep everyone informed of my progress 2. To share my experience for futur AVR surgery patients. I feel like I have done a good job keeping people informs and in the next couple of weeks I will be making some additional detailed entries about my experience I would have enjoyed reading prior to my surgery. In addition, I also received support and knowledge from others who shared their own experiences on the board.
We are all happy about my recovery and the success of the surgery. It is no easy task to face your own mortality and then allow strangers to put you to sleep while their skills decide your fate. I was convinced I would own my journey and make it my own. At no point was I going to be the disease or allow it to alter my future. I am following all of the doctor's orders and still plan to ride at the Mt. Baker Lengendary Banked Slalom, this Februaury, with Justine at my side. Although I may not be full strength by then, I will make it my own and own the experience. Because of this surgery, I now have the option to go back in the future and compete competitively. For now, I will be happy to ride start to finish :)
Justine and I have yet to get much time together to reflect on our engagement or make official plans. We will most like have a ceremony in Whistler, BC. in just over a year.
Thank you to everyone for their support and I will continue to use this journal throughout my recovery.
I just got the official approval to be discharged and I was told I could fly home as soon as today. We are working on moving my airline tickets to this evening so I can spend the evening with my fiancé and our dogs (my rehab specialists). Feels awesome to have reached this point in my recovery.
Today started with figuring out how I could convince the medical team to to keep me inpatient for one more night. It just so happened that my normal CNP was not working and a different CNP was working in her place. This CNP actually sat down and listened to my concerns. We talked through everything and agreed that one more night inpatient would be reasonable. We also agreed to take an active role getting my SPO2 up to comfortable level rather than sitting around passively like we had been doing. Around 2pm I was absolutely exhausted, feverish, and just not feeling right so I gave in and allowed myself to nap. I slept for about an hour and have felt much better since then. There is no owner's manual for events after open heart surgery and this has proved very frustrating to me. I have learned to go with how I feel at the time and trust my instincts. They have been right so far. My heart normally has a resting beat of 62bpm and now it rests around 99bpm so it would be reasonable to assume this will wear me out easily.
My mind is in a very positive place and I think I will be ready to be discharged tomorrow. Hopefully discharged to go all the way home rather than staying in a hotel for a night.
Today, is also my mother's birthday. I am so lucky that she chose to spend the day with me and helping with my basic needs rather than needing the day for herself. Of course, we will make up for this when I feel much better.
I a writing this journal entry myself so it will be somewhat brief since it is hard to concentrate. So far I have seen very high highs and very lows lows. I came here with a broken heart and I will leave with a very full and well functioning heart. Today I want to say thank you to someone who turning my experience around when I was in a very scary and anxiety provoking place. The morning of surgery gave me a lot of anxiety and no one offered any sedatives or visual imagery to help me. Everyone scheduled for the A surgery schedule was pushed on their gurney up to the entrance of the surgical rooms to wait alone while everyone else on the team prepped the room. A man came to speak to me and asked my anesthesia history. It was a simple conversation ending with him asking if there was anything he could do to help me out while I waited in the hall for about 20 minutes. I asked him for a sedative and he responded by saying he did not have any with him. He left and his response felt so cold considering all the preparation videos Cleveland Clinic makes you watch which includes going above and beyond in these situations. Then a young woman exited my soon to be operating room and walked over. She said, ' Don't worry, I am a nobody...I am just a medical student observing your surgery'. I told it is was very nice to meet her and is somebody in my book even if she is only a student right now. Se then walked away. I looked to the other side of the hallway and the operating for another person opened and I was able to see all of the machinery, people, and scary things I had no control over, I must have instantly turned white in a panic attack and lost all control of my emotions while I was alone on the gurney. Within seconds, Erin stepped into my view and asked what was wrong. I could not even speak or pull a single word together. It was then that she said,' please do not worry, in just a moment you will have the best team in world working on you and that is why you are here.' I was able to compose myself and say thank you. I told her, 'see, you are much more important than you thought.' Thank you, Erin. Because of your words, I was able to enter my surgery much calmer and in a healing state of mind.
Today was training day #4 and I was able to take some walks, increase my use of the breathing device. They are still having trouble getting me off the oxygen. I was much less irritable today than yesterday. My mother has been doing a wonderful job caring for me, but I am trying to help her rest also. The Nurse Practitioner is dead set on discharging me tomorrow which makes me very uncomfortable even if I stay in town for an extra night. There is something about breathing the appropriate oxygen level before being discharged that is very desirable to me.
I am done for now and will journal more in the future.
Eric could move mountains if he wanted to. Today, he asked me to do a video recording if his stay in the hospital. He wanted me to video tape what his view was like while he moved to the couch for me to interview him. When I turned around to show the camera the room, Eric was on one knee with a jewelry box in his hand. Two days post op of open heart surgery, Eric was on one knee proposing.
Of course I said yes. He is my soulmate.
Eric is now an ex-regurgetator and a full member of the zipper club. A zipper is his scar. He is wanting to do more today. He is now sitting in a recliner, checking his phone. If you want, you can probably call him today. He will take his walks today in the hallways, get off the pain pump and on oral pain meds, get rid of the oxygen support, and get an echo. I know he wants to do more, but, he needs to be nice to his body right now. Just two days ago, his heart was stopped and opened.
Eric is feeling better because he was getting a little irritable. I would be the same. Eric was frustrated with not knowing what was happening during the day, and who was coming in to work on him, the pain pump leaves leaves him in a little bit of a fog. The CNP ran through his day for him. I think the unit may be used to older people who usually don;t bounce back as fast as he does.
A note to caregivers: If you stay overnight on the J unit, the pull out bench is really uncomfortable to sleep on. Bring a really plush blanket to make yourself comfortable.
A note to patients: It is important to get up and moving, but it is also important to rest. One needs to be kind to his or her self.
Update about Eric's dad: He is out of the ER. The CNP on Eric;s unit is going to try to get him in to see one of the cardiologists here while he is here at CC
In education, we have a term called apple-tree syndrome. Guess what? Eric's dad is in the ER. He started to feel pretty bad when we walked down to the cafeteria. His pain started to radiate to his jaw. He was still smiling and eating his snack, but knew it was time to get cheked out in case things got worse. The positive is that he is getting checked by the #1 heart hospital.
I'll keep you all posted once I know any news.
Eric is now in the step down unit for cardiac patients. His chest tube was pulled. He said it was not bad. It just pinched and burned a little.
Eric is only on one IV. His central line was stopped and pulled before he left ICU. He is on a pain management pump.
Eric is doing great. He is resting well, and enjoying visiting with family.
His private room is pretty large with a nice sized flat screen, padded bench, and 3 chairs.
Everyone here is really nice.
Got to go back to the guest house to change clothes, put of make up and do my hair.
As a caregiver and up since 2:30am, it is refreshing to feel human again,
Caregivers: don't be afraid about going through this. It is not bad at all. Seeing Eric on the vent was not bad. I just knew he was getting better. It has helped that Eric is in such good spirits.
Patients: be like Eric. It makes it easier on your caregivers and you will heal faster!
Hair slightly curled and make up on,
Eric is talking more. The doctor on the unit said Eric will transfer to a step down unit today. The nurse stated that is a hurry up and wait game. He said Eric will probably go to step down this afternoon.
Eric is on very little oxygen and is doing his breathing excersices well. He is fabulous patient.
I'll call the vet for an update on wolf in a couple of hours.
Eric is in just a little pain right now. He rates it a just a two.
Eric got to talk snowboarding with an EMT who does helicopter transport.
Eric's parents should arrive soon.
The 3am to 9am watch - Justine
Eric's cousin and long time close friend, Aaron, stayed with him from 8 to 3am. This was awesome of him so I could go back and get some sleep at the guest house. Eric didn't want to stay alone, and we did not blame him.
Eric woke up when Aaron and I changed out. Aaron has a heart of pure gold. I am so thankful that he stayed with Eric. Aaron arrived yesterday at 9am after driving through the night in snow, rain, and god only knows what else. Eric is lucky to have such an amazing person as a friend.
After glimpsing at some of the other patients on CVICU, Eric looks amazing. He also looks really young. He's the only one with no gray hair. (:
If you are pulling a night shift at CC CVICU, bring stuff to do. Eric's iPad will keep me busy until 8am.
Eric says hello to everyone. He woke up to cough. You hear a lot of that along with tons of monitor beeps and dings. One also hears suctions. this is from nurses suctioning out patients tubes or patients using their suctions to get rid of phlem. Patients are required to cough to help their lungs stay clear.
Wolfs surgery also went well. The vet called and said everything was routine. Eric remembered this from when I first saw him. He didn't remember much else. Just shows the reader how much Eric's dogs mean to him.
I fly home Thursday night, will pick up wolf on Friday evening and start his rehab at home.
2nd shift nightwatch thanks to Aaron's first shift,
Eric is in ICU tonight. He should be able to go to a step down unit tomorrow morning. He is resting. He got his vent out hours ago. He is talking in short sentences, making little jokes. He is still pretty out of it.
His watchful night guardian,
(Posted on Erics behalf)
The surgeon was able to repair the valve instead of replacing the valve. The aorta was within normal limits. No need to do replace or repair it. We will get to see Eric in a few hours.
P.s. Eric? There were flurries the whole time you were in surgery.
(Posted on Eric's behalf)
Wolf, our 136lb dog, is also in surgery today. He is getting a tight rope procedure on his left hind knee. He had his right hind a few years ago. I get to pick him up on Friday after teaching. Vet tech said wolf was doing well and being wheeled into surgery as we speak. He is a fabulous dog. A gentile big teddy bear. Little kids crawl all over him when Eric takes him to work. He is an old soul. His hugs are therapeutic.
So, both human and his best friend under the knife at the same hour. If Eric had it his way, he probably would want to share a operating room and recovery room.
It is go time. Just received a page that the major part of the surgery is underway. I have to admit that this part of waiting is easier than I thought. CC did a great job helping us get ready. They offer classes while we wait such as what to expect after and what happens when the patient arrives at home. CC really treats the whole family.
I only shedded a couple of tears when I had to say goodbye before Eric was wheeled to OR. I recorded a short video that we will publish on YouTube as a series to help others going through this.
Having a family here really helps. Talking to other caregivers and family members really helps too.
If you go to CC, the food choices for family is huge and all good. You got the typical au Bon pain but also moes, McDonald's, good cafeteria with lots of choices, Starbucks, and I think one other. Good op for some shopping too.
We are now going into an CVICU nurses meeting for family session. They are taking us on a tour, then we will have an info session. They really treat us all here. What a place. The info session covers what we will see, what the patient will look like post op, and what will happen in the next couple of days. This was very helpful.
By the way... It is still lightly snowing!
First incision was at 8:05am.
(Written on Eric's behalf)
A good omen is always a great thing to have when about to undergo a life changing event. On our way to CC, there were little snowflakes drifting down. I think it was to tell Eric that everything was going to be awesome. As you are all aware by now, Eric loves snow.
Today was fairly uneventful. We spent the day at Cleveland Clinic going from department to department for tests and consultations. Today I was able to meet my surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and many other nice people. I enjoyed my meeting with Dr. McCurry. He was very willing to answer my questions even the tough ones. He seemed very intelligent and well experienced. There are still many things up in the air like what type of tissue based valve I would receive if they are unable to repair the valve and if they would do anything to my aorta. He plans to only cut the top 3-4 inches of my sternum unless the arotic repair is too 'high' and then he would need to cut the whole sternum. Either way, I would be fixed or as I read in someone else's journal, ' I would then be an ex-regurgitator'. I will admit that I kept asking questions in hopes he would say I did not need the surgery even though I know otherwise.
I was prescribed the ritualistic activities for the night before and morning of surgery routine including tons of reading. I am sure some of it is necessary and some is just meant to keep my mind busy.
I am now very excited to get tomorrow over with and be on the road to recovery. I feel like I have kept my mind so busy learning about this procedure that if I somehow woke up in the middle of it, I would be able to complete the surgical work myself. Thankfully, I know I will sleep the whole way through and then some. I was told I would not be tied down when I wake up which was important to me.
Tomorrow will be a long day for my parents, Justine, and Aaron as they have to wait for news and then have to see me with tubes coming out of places they were never meant to come out. I have a feeling I will have an easier day then they will. It is a blessing to be able to love and be loved by others.
I am guessing I will be busy prepping and hopefully getting a little sleep before I need to check-in at 5:15am. Future posts will probably be made by Justine and my Mom until I am able to concentrate on my iPad again in a few days.
I cannot say this enough, but thank you to everyone for supporting me through this!
Justine knew exactly what I needed to lift my spirits yesterday. She took me snowboarding! I initially suggested that we stay home and work around the house, but Justine would have nothing to do with my depressed mood. She told me we were going. Well, I have not smiled so much in a long time. I had to take at easy and stop a couple times on my way down the small hill, but I got to ride with Justine which is all that mattered. Now that I know I have a bad valve, I understand why I get so tired while snowboarding. Justine was definitely enjoying the ability to keep up and even lap me. My mind and soul feel much better as a result. Thank you Justine!
As I write this entry, we are on our way to Cleveland. We are very thankful that Justine's family had offered to dog/house sit. I much prefer taking this drive because we are going to Cedar Point, but I guess that will have to wait for next summer.
Thank you for continuing to support me through this journey!
They say that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Well, I love what I do! Of course there is always a day here or there that feel like work, but I have been very lucky to have chosen the right career path for me.
Today happens to be one of those mental hurdles as I prep for surgery. This will be my last day at work for a long time. Everyone I work with has been very supportive and has helped me stay positive and focused over the last month and a half. For this, I am very thankful. If I have extra time off work, I can think of many other activities I would rather be doing.
Today is the start of my presurgical diet. I can not have any caffeine, chocolate, vitamins, herbs, or allergy meds. I am very thank we had a frost last night to kill off the molds. This is going to get interesting. If you are around me, please help me keep this diet.
First, thank you Glenda, Trent, Nancy, Niki, and Adam for your words of support!
I have now reached a point that I am no longer seeking information endlessly and I am in a good place mentally. I read Adam's book and it always helps to hear someone else's story. Justine found a person that made a video diary of his recovery and that helped also.
It is still weird how one day you are living life and the next day someone tells you that you are lucky to be alive. In addition, they tell you to stop doing anything that raises your pulse or blood pressure. For the most part I feel the same as I did before I was told to stop exerting myself. I feel like I have an invisible disability that is invisible to me also.
Over the weekend I had a chance to ride our horse, Rocky. This had to be one of the most therapeutic things I could have done for myself (pic posted). It is amazing how much of difference an animal can make in your life. They have amazing healing powers.
I also added to my stress list over the weekend. Our big dog, Wolf, started limping so we took him into the doctor. It turns out he tore his CCL (similar to an ACL tear in humans) and requires surgery as soon as possible to prevent pain and arthritis development. He had his other legg repair two years ago. As it turns out, he will have surgery the same day I do.
This brings me to the next thing I wanted to share this evening: support groups. Adam talks about the importance of a strong support group in his book. I am very lucky to have such a great support group. Justine, my girlfriend, is absolutely amazing! She will be caring for both Wolf and me. In addition, my parents have been very supportive. Everyone at work have been very caring, flexible, and encouraging. Extended family and friends have offered help, thoughts, and prayers. The combination of all members in my support group has truly helped me throughout my journey.
Like many others, I am spend a great amount of time researching and reading about my upcoming surgery, condition, and recovery. So far I have only read positive reviews about Adam Pick's book and would like to purchase it. Since I would have to buy either the paperback or the ebook, I wanted to see of anyone could tell me the pros and cons of each. I am an avid techie and use my iPad all the time for books, writing, and research but the ebook version looks like it is one large PDF file rather than a traditional ebook I have used in the past. How does this impact the readability and ability to quickly find the information I might be trying to obtain? What program would I use to read it on the iPad? The most important question is, when I am recovering in the hospital will it be easier for me to use the iPad or paperback version?