Thank you so much for all your thoughts and prayers, hospital and home visits, cards, flowers, and food. I am blessed to have such great family and friends.
Open heart surgery on December 19th went well. I don't remember much about the prep and nothing at all about the surgery. Thank goodness. My first memories were of blurry visions of people looking down over me and speaking to me. I had no idea who is was or what they were saying. My waiting room family consisted of my husband, daughter, youngest son, sister, brother-in-law's wife, and several family friends.
The heart tower (6th floor) at CMC in Charlotte was wonderful. The ICU staff had the most compassionate nurses. Two of the male nurses were my favorites. They were always looking after my pain and discomfort and were able to help me keep it to a minimum. Dr. Stiegel is a superb surgeon. After he replaced my aortic valve, he was able to repair rather than replace my ascending aorta. This allowed for a much shorter surgery, 1-1/2 hours compared to 4 or 5. I was in ICU for 2 days while they tried to get my heartbeat to normalize. I do remember having the drainage tubes removed - no fun there, but at least it was over quickly.
I began doing all the things the doctor and nurses told me that I needed to do to have a faster recovery - lots of deep breathing exercises to keep the lungs from collapsing; walking to build up my strength; and stretching exercises to keep me from 'closing up my sore chest area like a clam'.
I was worried about having the surgery during the Christmas holiday, but there were plenty of staff onhand to meet my every need. On Christmas Eve morning, I was released. It was good to be home for Christmas. I had decorated the house prior to surgery.
I'm on a low salt, fat free, low sugar diet. Did I mention that I also quit smoking on Dec. 19th? I am progressing nicely and getting stronger each day - still doing all the breathing and stretching exercises as well as a good bit of walking. Pain medication is helping me get through the sternum healing process. I have cut it back once and tried to cut it back again even more. That was a mistake. I was warned not to let the pain get 'ahead of you'. I'll try again next week. I was also warned not to lift anything more than 5 pounds or to reach too far, etc. You definitely pay the price when you don't follow that advice.
My daughter was my nurse during my first week home and my youngest son has now taken over. Both did a fabulous job. Hubby has been wonderful, too.
I have a home health care nurse that stops by now twice a week, and I see my surgeon for a follow-up on the 18th. I will do cardio rehab at some point in the future to help me to continue to recover.
I've been doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, reading, and 'getting to know my new laptop computer'.
Looking forward to playing tennis again in the spring, doing some gardening, and getting back to my little building projects.
Thanks again for all the support. It was and is truly appreciated.
All systems are ‘go’ for my open heart surgery on Monday morning, Dec. 19th to replace my aortic valve and ascending aorta.
I had my pre-op last Tuesday and received a tour of the operating room, CVRU, and a private room. A cardiac nurse sat with me for about an hour going over what will be taking place during my stay. Additional tests were performed, and I was sent home to wait for the 19th. Last Wednesday, I finally decided to see a doctor to get some medication for anxiety. I gave it a trial run last night, and it works like a charm.
I have to arrive at CMC in Charlotte by 5 am. They should begin prepping me between 6 & 6:30; the surgery will start at about 8 am and is expected to take about 5 hours if there are no complications. I will be in CMC’s CVRU (ICU) for at least two days. Then I’ll be moved to a private room in what they call “6th tower”. It is estimated that I will be at CMC for 5-7 days if there are no complications, so I’m hoping to home by Christmas Day or the day after.
I have done everything I can think of to prepare for the before/after surgery needs. I’m in a good state of mind, and I have full confidence in my surgeon, Dr. Mark Stiegel of Sanger Heart and in CMC. I have the support of family and friends. But when all is said and done, I’m ultimately in God’s hands, no matter which way it goes, but will certainly appreciate any and all prayers. Please pray for my family, too.
I don't know if anyone will post updates for me, but we'll try.
I had an appointment today in Charlotte with my heart surgeon, Dr. Mark Stiegel of Sanger Heart & Vascular. After discussing the pros and cons of tissue vs. mechanical valves for people of my age and lifestyle, I'm ditching my original choice, the mechanical valve in favor of a tissue valve. The surgeon will also be replacing the whole section of my dialated ascending aorta.
The pre-op is scheduled for Dec. 13th; the open heart surgery is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19th. I have to be at Carolina Medical Center, Blythe Blvd., Charlotte at 5 am. My daughter and son-in-law have a break from FSU and will be coming up the weekend prior to surgery to stay for a while. My hubby and youngest son will also be here. I will be in the CVR (cardiovascular recovery) for 2 days before being moved to the 6th floor tower for heart patients for an additional 3-4 days; longer if there are complications. Hopefully I'll be back in Statesville for Christmas.
My mammogram results were 'inconclusive', so I'm having another one done on Dec. 5th. If they find anything, this could mess up my OHS date. A colonoscopy is scheduled for Dec. 14th. I've had 14 doctor/testing appointments in November alone. I am just about 'doctored out'.
I'm feeling confident that all will be well, but anxiety keeps rearing its ugly head, especially towards bedtime. My hubby bought me a laptop and a recliner (early Christmas presents) to make life a little easier for me during recovery. He's been absolutely awesome.
I will ask my family to post occasional updates while I'm in the hospital for the first few days, until I'm up to taking over.
A little good news from the opthamologist - I don't have glaucoma - yet, but I'm still close enough to have to monitor it each year with testing. Bad news from the cardiologist - The heart catheterization that I had at CMC-Main in Charlotte on Monday shows a more narrowing (.64 cm2 - less than .60 cm2 takes it from severe to critical) of the aortic valve than shown on the echocardiogram (.73 cm2); also the 'mean pressure gradient' is higher (49 now; was 41) with 88 being the 'peak pressure gradient'. I am not a candidate for a less invasive heart surgery. Dr. Owen says that in addition to having my aortic valve replaced with a mechanical valve, the surgeon will also have to replace the aortic root and the section of the ascending aorta that has the aneuresym. He says I need to have the surgery asap, but definitely by the new year. I have decided on Dr. Mark Stiegel of Sanger Heart as my heart surgeon. Dr. Owen says that Dr. Stiegel and Dr. Reames have performed the most aortic valve replacements, and while Dr. Skipper is fantastic, his area of expertise lies more in other areas. He went on to say that he would be comfortable having Dr. Stiegel perform the surgery should he, himself need aortic valve surgery. Dr. Stiegel is the surgeon that Dr. Browne (heart cath dr.) recommended, also. He is also the doctor that performed Hugh McColl's (former CEO of Bank of America) heart surgery, and I don't think Hugh would let just anyone operate on him, if he didn't have full confidence in him. I have several referrals from former patients, too, so I feel pretty confident with this decision. When I discussed 'bedside manners' with Dr. Owen, he said that the cardiologists usually have a much better 'bedside manner' than surgeons, but that I needed to be more concerned with a surgeon's skills more than his 'bedside manner'. I agree, but it would be nice to have both. I am awaiting a call from Dr. Stiegel's office to set up my first appointment where we will discuss my condition, mechanical valves, what to expect before, during, & after surgery, and hopefully set a date for the surgery. Having a mechanical valve will require me to take warfarin/coudmodin (blood thinner) for the rest of my life to prevent clots from forming on the heart valve. So there you have it. I guess winter is the best time for me personally to have surgery, since I'm not a 'winter person' anyway. It will allow me time to work on my genealogy and some other indoor, less strenous activities. Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving. .
I had my last procedure (hopefully, a left/right heart catheterization, before open heart sugery yesterday at CMC-Main in Charlotte with Dr. Browne of Sanger Heart. The procedure was scheduled for 7:30, but we got there at 7 am, so they took me back for prep early. Due to the doctor's extended time with the person before me, I wasn't wheeled in until after 10 am. I had not slept the night before due to anxiety and couldn't sleep while I was waiting for the procedure. I was awake during the procedure and was able to watch the tubing from the catheter tube in my groin go inside the arteries into my heart. I could feel the tubing at the insertion as it's being manipulated, but it didn't hurt, just a little strange feeling. The artery at the point of insertion was closed off with a plug that will dissolve over time. By 11:15, the procedure was complete.
The doctor did NOT find any blockage in my arteries. What great news! He told a nurse that my murmur was at the "very end of S1", whatever that means. I have some soreness at the insertion site. I can feel this little 'cork' plug in the groin, especially when I sit or bend. I'm also pretty sore in the groin from all the pressure the nurses applied to the area to stop the artery from bleeding prior to inserting the plug. The doctor wants me to take it easy for a few days - no exertion, climbing, lifting so no extra pressure is placed on the plug. He wants me to try to eliminate climbing stairs as much as possible and no exercise other than walking.
Dr. Browne recommended and introduced me to one of the surgeons at Sanger Heart - Dr. Stiegel. He was very personable, unlike Dr. Browne who was all business. I asked him how many heart valve replacements he's done, and he said "over 500, about 1 to 3 a month". He feels that I can wait until after the holidays to have the open heart surgery but suggested that I not wait any longer than that. While I guess that all surgeons at Sanger are excellent, I have two other surgeons that I'm considering - Dr. Skipper and Dr. Rheames as they were recommended by some friends. I want to have this surgery asap, so it may come down to who is available during that time. I have to give this some more thought and take into consideration family schedules, etc. My next cardio appointment is on Friday with my cardiologist, Dr. Owen of Mecklenburg Medical Group in Charlotte. I'm not sure what all we will discuss, but I have quite a few questions for him.
My hubby has been an absolute gem, catering to my every need. My youngest has been helping out around the house. I could get used to this. LOL My family and friends have been very supportive.
Well, tomorrow at 7:30 am is the 2nd procedure before my open heart surgery. Dr. Richard Browne with Sanger Heart & Vascular will be performing a left/right heart catheterization at CMC-Main in Charlotte. This is to see if I have any blockage in my arteries or other problems in addition to a narrowed and calcified aortic valve that will be replaced in the near future as well as part of the aorta (aortic root, I believe they call it). I should be home by tomorrow evening unless they find blockage and have to put in a stent. In that case, I would stay overnight.
Forgot to mention that the doctor says that the tightness in my chest is not from the COPD, but from my faulty heart valve.
Thanks so much for all your well wishes. I'm doing my best to stay positive, although there is still anxiety that I cannot suppress that is making for a little difficulty in breathing.
As previously mentioned, my pulmonary doctor told me that my xray showed scarring of the lungs. After having my TEE procedure, I went in for a CT scan. When I returned home, I did some research online. Big mistake. Prognosis is poor - 3 to 5 years L.E. and no cure. I did some major 'freaking out'.
I received a call from him early Friday morning with the CT scan results. He said the CT scans showed NO scarring of the lungs. Hallelujah! I celebrated all day.
Today I have been trying to get all my appointments in order. I have other issues besides my heart. Sure wish that 'The Patient's Guide to Heart Valve Surgery' had arrived today, as I was hoping to read a little of it before having the heart cath on Monday. I have so many questions running through my head - what kind of procedure, what type of valve, which surgeon, which city, etc. Lots of anxiety!
I had the TEE (transesphophaegeal echocardiogram) this morning with Dr. Owen, my cardiologist at CMC-Brunswick. I was very apprehensive about having a tube down my esphopagus while the little camera took pictures of my heart. All my worry was for nothing. Intraveinous 'whoopy' medicine works miracles. The last I remember was having my throat sprayed to numb it and being rolled on my side. I don't even remember them giving me a flu and pneumonia shot afterwards. The test shows that I have a bicuspid aortic valve. One in 200 have this, while the rest of the people have a tricuspid valve. The bicuspid valve causes the stenosis (narrowing) of the aortic valve. Having nothing to eat since before midnight, I was not allowed to eat or drink for 4 hours after the procedure.
My pulmonary doctor, Dr. Jones called me on the way down to Charlotte. I have mild COPD and he was calling with the results of my x-ray. It shows progressive scarring since my last x-ray in 2004. So after I finished the TEE procedure, we had to go up to CMC-Huntersville for a CT scan that he ordered.
By the time we finished, I was absolutely starving. We stopped at Fresh Market and 'bought out' the store.
Monday morning is the second procedure, a left/right heart catherization at CMC-Main in Charlotte, by Dr. Browne with Sanger Heart. I hope to just be there for the day, possibly overnight. I'll be getting pulmonay results next Thursday and the cardiac results on next Friday. As if this isn't enough I'm seeing an opthamologist next week as my optometrist suspects that I have glaucoma. I'm almost afraid to have my mammogram next week. When it rains, it pours.
A recent physical exam showed that I have a heart murmur. My primary care physician referred me to a cardiologist in Charlotte who performed an echocardiogram and a stress echocardiogram. I was diagnosed on Friday with borderline severe/critical aortic valve stenosis with heavy calcification - narrowing of the aortic valve. The area of the valve should be 3 cm square. Mine is .77 cm square. The pressure gradient should be less than 20; mine is 88. I also have a dilated (enlarged) ascending aorta as a result of the stenosis. The aortic valve has to be replaced via open-heart surgery.
Tomorrow I am having a TEE (transesphophaegeal echocardiogram) that will determine if my aortic valve is bicuspid or tricuspid. A biscuspid valve is a congenital defect that occurs in 1 of 200 people. On Monday I'm having a left/right heart catheterization that will send a catheter into my heart to see if there is any additional areas of concern. After these procedures are done, I will return to the cardiologist next Friday to go over the results and schedule the open-heart surgery to replace the valve with a mechanical one. The surgery will be performed by a surgeon from the Sanger Heart Institute in Charlotte. I'll be in the hospital for 5-7 days if there are no complications. Recovery is 3-6 weeks if no complications. I'm hoping they will wait until after Thanksgiving, so I will be able to see my daughter and son-in-law in Tallahassee before the surgery.
While I'm not exactly excited about having open-heart surgery, it's better than the alternative. I'm trying to stay positive.