Man, this whole COVID-19 pandemic is really throwing a wrench into everything. My parents and my in-laws are both willing and want to come out and help my wife take care of our kids and myself during recovery. It's going to be especially hard on my wife considering that we opted to have them start the school year learning remotely from home. Having to take care of both boys and myself is going to a lot.
Since we live in Texas and our families live in California and Nevada, the logistics of getting them out here is proving to be difficult. My parents and in-laws are both considered high risk and really shouldn't be flying in today's COVID-19 world. The next best option is to drive, but you're looking at 17-21 hours in the car with a hotel stay or two somewhere in the middle.
At the end of the day, their health and safety is just as important as my recovery. I'm fortunate to have a tremendous of amount of support from my work family that are willing to help out. A few of them have even offered to mow our lawn while I'm recovering and unable to do so. You know you have great friends if they're willing to help mow your lawn or help you move. Lol.
Since we're on our own timing, I've decided to move the date of my surgery up. I know what needs to be done. The sooner I have the surgery, the sooner I'll be able to start recovering and moving on with the next chapter of my life. I was originally scheduled to have my surgery on 9/18/20, but am now scheduled to have it on 8/28/20.
Once I received the diagnosis that I had a severe heart condition that may require surgery to fix, my emotional state took a bad turn. You can't overlook the mental health aspect of any kind of medical diagnosis. At first, I was in shock. I was scared, worried, anxious, depressed. I did a bunch of research on my condition and thought of the worse possible outcomes. I started questioning what the point of working was. I started questioning my contribution to my friends and family. I had a hard time sleeping. I was questioning everything going on with me. I'd feel a muscle twitch and wonder if it was my heart. I'd feel hungry and wonder if it was my heart. Every little thing I did, I wondered if I was doing more damage. Is it okay to mow the lawn? Is it okay to ride my bike with my kids? Can I go for a walk?
Early on, I lost my appetite. I had a hard time focusing at work because my mind kept going back to what was wrong with me. I could feel the stress and anxiety sitting in the middle of my chest, reminding me of what was wrong. This would cause me to worry, stress, and be even more anxious. The more research I did, the worse it got. Mostly because I didn't really understand all of the medical terminology. I just heard the word "severe" and started to panic and freak out.
What really helped was that I started talking to people about my condition. I joined a couple of Facebook groups for my condition. Knowing and talking to others who could relate to what I have started to bring a glimmer of light and hope. Reading their stories of success after surgery was promising. It turns out that my manager's brother had the same condition and went through a similar MV repair surgery that I'll be going through. Talking with my friends and my co-workers helped a lot. It started to put my mind at ease. At the end of the day, I accepted that I have what I have and I can't do much about it. I started to focus on the things that I could control.
I started walking everyday. I started to change my diet and focus on what I ate. I returned a bunch of snacks and soda to Costco so I wouldn't feel like I had to consume it so I didn't waste it. I focused on what I could control to help my heart. The morning of my echocardiogram, I weighed 202.2 lbs. A month later, I am down to 192.6 lbs. My appetite started getting better, but I tried not to eat a lot or eat bad things. My wife started changing what she made for dinner to eat more healthy.
It's still hard to undo so many years of bad habits, but I'm feeling lucky and blessed that my heart condition was identified as early as it was and is still in a repairable condition. Trying to stay positive and continue the drive.
I met my surgeon on July 29th, 2020. His name is Dr. Robert Lee Smith II. He told me that my chordae have ruptured causing my mitral leaflet to flail. He is recommending that I have surgery within 3 months.
He will be performing robot-assisted, non-invasive surgery. Surgery is supposed to take between 3-5 hours. Recovery is planned to be 3-5 days in the hospital with another month or so of doing not much of anything. I'll need to get up and walk at a talking pace multiple times a day for the first month, after which I will begin cardiac rehab. I'm not supposed to lift anything over 10 lbs. The biggest challenge will be keeping the boys from climbing all over me. Gotta remind myself to cut the grass before my surgery. Hopefully it starts to hibernate around then.
The only major long term lifestyle change is that I need to keep my blood pressure down and eat no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily. Doesn't sound like I'll need to take any additional meds.
There's a <1% chance of dying and a 1% chance of kidney/liver/organ failure or stroke with this surgery. However, my chances of experiencing atrial fibrillation goes up by 5% every few months without any surgical correction. Long term prognosis after surgery is close to normal. There is a 0.5% chance of a follow-up surgery within a year and a 15% chance within 20-years.
Went to see my Primary Care Provider on March 17, 2020, after I noticed a crackling sound when I exhaled. With the COVID-19 pandemic starting to ramp up in the US, I was a little concerned, so I set up an appointment to meet with my PCP. During my check-up, he said that I didn't have COVID-19 and that the crackling was due to wheezing, which I had never experienced before. Unfortunately, he also checked my lungs and heart and noted that I had a heart murmur. He put in a referral for a cardiologist and I went on with my life.
I had a televisit with my cardiologist on March 27, 2020. I explained to him that I felt fine. I've been playing hockey, lifting weights, and exercising with no symptoms that would cause me to think something was wrong. My cardiologist ordered an echocardiogram.
Due to COVID-19, I delayed the echocardiogram until June 29, 2020. Had I known what the diagnosis would be, I would have scheduled it sooner. Based on the echocardiogram, I was diagnosed with severe mitral regurgitation (MVR) with moderate prolapse (MVP) of the posterior mitral valve leaflet. It was also noted that my left atrium (LA) is markedly dilated (>42ml/m2). The only positive was that my ejection fraction (EF) of 60%. Normal EF is between 50-75%.
During my follow-up with the cardiologist to discuss my results, he referred me to a cardiac thoracic surgeon and went over my echo results. I was able to get a lot of my lifestyle questions that I had answered. The rest of the questions will have to wait for the appointment with the surgeon.