One year later!
This month I celebrate my first year with a new aortic valve and aortic arch. I'm feeling great...as good as I've ever felt...for 70 years old.
For those who have upcoming surgeries, keep in mind that it will all be worth it.Recovery may seem to be going slow, but in a few months you'll be surprised how fast the time has gone.
I have some suggestions:
1. If you're a caffeine addict, go off it as soon as you can. I suffered with a bad head ache for the first few days after surgery. I'm sure part of it was withdrawal from coffee.
2. Be as nice as you can to all the hospital staff and doctors. Their job is hard. It's easier if they know they'll see a smiling face and you'll get better care.
3. Expect your heart beat to be more obvious and stronger. Check out some of the "learning Center" articles. It has to do with the pericardium being opened up. I was worried for quite-a-while. Talk to your doctor, but my experience is that it's expected.
3. Believe that you've made the right decision. A decision to wait would just put off full recovery and can have disastrous results.
Good luck. Ask questions if you think I can help.
The lump on the incision turned out to be an infection. After several months of attempting to stop the infection, the surgeons decided to opened the incision this week and removed some of the wires holding my sternum together. They seem confident that this should put an end to the infection. Now we'll wait and see.
Five months ago I had an AVR and aortic arch replacement. Everything has gone as expected for four months. I've been feeling pain free and good as new…feeling so good I completely disregarded the warning about being careful about heavy lifting for at least six months to a year.
Last week I damaged my sternum while doing some lifting and home repairs. It's all been checked out by the doctors, but I'm back to having a painful chest incision, but now I have a golf ball size lump underneath the scar.
Advice- Don't do ANY heavy lifting for at least six months or longer. Take advantage of the recovery to let someone else do the heavy stuff…even if you feel like you can do it.
At times I'm surprised that it's been four weeks. On other days it seems like its been much longer.
-I started rehab this week. At first I wasn't sure if I needed it, but now I'm glad. The bigs advantage is that you can push yourself a bit harder knowing that you're on a monitor and there's lots of medical staff around.
-I can get into bed or out of cars much easier.
-I'm sleeping much better. I can roll easily to change positions…still a little pain, but good, mostly.
-I walk a couple of miles per day at a pretty good pace and feel quite normal. I'm working on posture…standing up straight with shoulders back. It's easy to give in to stooping with curve shoulders to ease the pain in the chest.
Not so good:
-Still having problems coughing or blowing me nose. Both are done with lots of care.
-Clicking in the sternum. All of the medical people around me warn about not letting it happen, but it seems to happen anyway. Short of sitting still in the recliner I get clicking. I'm working on doing thing with less arm movement.
-Constant dull ache in chest. I know full well why it's there, but it doesn't seem to have changed much from the first day.
Overall…I'm doing great and praise God that I have a new future ahead of me... No regrets!
Thanks, also, for all the info on this site and from the fellow HVR friends.
Three weeks after AVR and many things have improved, but some recovery is still ahead.
I'm walking at least one mile each day plus several times up and down the stairs to my bedroom.
Since last Thursday I've been sleep very well in my bed.
Coughing or blowing my nose are two of things that haven't improved much. Fatigue is also a problem. I go along as usual for several hours and then I run out of strength. Nap time!
I start cardiac rehab on Thursday.
Overall, I'm very happy with where I am. Praise God for his goodness to us, patient caregivers and for great doctors!
I'm back! I couldn't get my wife to post for me, so here's how my week went.
Remember, I traveled 250 miles to have Dr. Vincent Gaudiani do a mini-sternotomy to replace my aorta and aortic arch.
Mon. Surgery Day. -A bit vague….but do remember waking with people talking around me and a giant tube down my throat. Early-on the breathing tube came out and I was able to talk.
Tues .Day 2 -Lots of pain and drowziness. They had me walking to the scale at 4AM. Breathing was difficult due to the drains in my chest. I went from a pre-op 4500 mL on the Spirometer to 500 mL day two. Under the drugs there was only a deep, dull pain in my chest. The pain came when I inhaled. I could only pull brief breaths .I walked three times that day and they did lots tests. Most of the time I visited with my wife and friends, and dozed.
Wed. Day 3- Feeling better maybe, too good. Feeling pretty good! Walking easy, but still drowzy and pain breathing. While the nurse helped me to bed I plopped back too fast. A few bells and buzzers went off. I was in AFib. It's not new to me, so I slept several hours that night.
Thurs. Day 4-AFib and pain. Between the two I was uncomfortable most of the day. I visited (briefly) and dozed. I was feeling depressed - probably because I had felt so good the day before. I had still been receiving lots of pain meds on day 2, so that's why I was in such good spirits - drug induced euphoria ☺ By afternoon I had retuned to a nice, solid sine wave and the drain tubes came out. When my wife showed up, I was feeling a bit better and I slept some better. Still no appetite.
Fri. Day 5- Best yet. I could now breath and AFib was gone. Went with the night nurse for a long walk and stood for a long time in front of the window and enjoyed the view. The PT was pleased when she took me up and down a 14 step stair well. After my day-nurse introduced himself to me he said, "You don't look like you should be in a hospital." I agreed with him and we both laughed. He promised to work hard to get me out Sat. morning. Hospital food still nauseated me, so am not getting enough protein or fiber.
Sat. Final day-Can't leave 'til we pull those plugs! They first thought I could be released in the morning. When lunch arrived I know we weren't leaving early. We walked and read and waited. About 3:30PM all my connections were removed and we were out the door at 5PM. The staff has been overwhelmed with flu patients and the hospital is full to over-flowing. Add to that, their computers were down, so we went home with handwritten instructions. Doing the best they can.
Observations and recommendations.
1. Get in as good a condition as you can. The staff was amazed by my lung capacity and credited it, in part, for my rapid recovery. I've always been a bike rider. Thru my 60s I've ridden 20 to 60 miles a week.
2. Check out mini-sternectomy. My incision is about 4 in. I'd say every factor in the process is reduced by 2/3.
3. Allow people to help you! A wise chaplain said it blesses other people when they are allowed to bless you - so be thankful for the servants God puts in your life and learn to be a gracious receiver.
4. Even though you feel better each day, recovery will probably take the full 6 weeks the Dr. says it will. Being cautious is difficult once you start feeling better, but I'm finding out taking it slow and easy will serve me better.
5. Drink liquids slowly. Coughing is really bad, but bearable with heart pillow. What you don't want to experience is out-of -control coughing trying to clear liquid that you've sent down the wrong way. It happened tonight and there was a time when I thought I might open everything up before it stopped. Short of the surgery, that may have been the worst thing to happen yet.
6. Never put off the surgery. Only one week after valve replacement I'm already breathing better, not tired all day and have improved circulation.
Tomorrow we leave for Monterey for preop and then surgery on Monday morning.
I'm anxious, but know that we've made as many good decisions as we can. Our faith and trust is in God and our team at Pacific Coast Cardiac Surgeons.
Met with the Dr. Gaudiani the Monday before Thanksgiving.
We were impressed by his willing to answer all our questions and explain everything. He even stepped out of the room to get a rubber glove to demonstrate the aortic aneurism.
The grand opening is set for Jan. 6! Anxious, but happy it's finally scheduled.
What are people's thoughts about a stationary bike for rehab. I understand about waiting until I can comfortably get on it, but I've never read about anyone using one after aortic valve replacement.
Thanks for your help.
I am a 69 year old active male. Several doctors throughout my life have mentioned hearing a "heart murmur," but I was told it was harmless and nothing to worry about. A doctor who heard it when I was 58 suggested I see a cardiologist. After a few tests he diagnosed aortic stenosis. I've had annual exams and echoes over the years, but have had no symptoms.
Two months ago the symptoms started. After a angiogram determined that the rest of my heart is in good shape I now have an appointment with surgeon.
Decisions about valve types and schedule are still ahead of us. At this point I'm still able to function without any limitations.
Thanks for the great website!