Picture taken 17 weeks Post Op - trying to keep salt water out of my eyes while boogie boarding the pacific ocean in Nicaragua. You folks waiting for your surgical dates - don't forget that you are going to feel SO much better when you get to the other
Eleven Weeks Post Op
Journal posted on January 3, 2018
... and doing great. I feel so much better. My energy and recovery 'limiter' has been lifted.
Other than some soreness around my sternum and ribs (which I expect for another month or two), I feel fully recovered, in fact I felt very good at about 5-6 weeks, but had to wait until 8 weeks for the lifting limit to be lifted to fully appreciate it. Since then, I've resumed all my regular activities (climbing the foothills of the Franklin mountains, yard work, weight lifting etc), except for returning to my twice weekly exercise class, which I'll do next week. It was nice to be able to dance for several hours on New Years Eve, and not feel tired. I could have danced all night.
My advice to others, which others have given, is to walk, walk, walk, before your surgery to get in the best shape you can and then walk, walk, walk, after your surgery to get back in shape. It makes for a relatively quick reward.
Happy New Year everyone - here is to a happy and healthy 2018!
...and still doing great. Walking at least 4 miles a day, sometimes 5 or 6. I went for a cardio rehab assessment last week, but I think I'm going to skip it. They want $40 for every session (3 one-hour, once a week, sessions) to monitor you on stationary bikes or treadmills. Walking my neighborhood hills for 1.5 hours a day I think is better exercise. I don't really need to be monitored - if I drop dead while exercising, I don't want to know about it. I had a Bombay Sapphire martini last night with friends, to no ill effect, delicious - a sure sign I'm getting stronger.
I'd like to get off the remaining few drugs I'm on (except for low dose aspirin, no problem with that)... which are the platelet drug (both cardiologist and surgeon say finish the bottle, we don't care about it), a beta blocker, a statin. I was also on flomax, which I stopped taking as between the beta blocker and flomax, which also lowers blood pressure, I had a few spells of light-headedness when standing up. That's gone now. I've never had high blood pressure or high lipid counts for cholesterol - so I question why I'm on these drugs. My surgeon said they were negotiable, my cardiologist says he's more conservative and because I have a little plaque build up on my aorta ("insignificant, maybe 20%" he says) and a slightly enlarged aorta, he'd like me to stay on them. Otherwise the cardiologist says "do what you want, see you in 6 months, we'll do an echo at that time to check things out. I think I'm going to negotiate with surgeon, next followup is December 7 - I'll bring him my blood tests and I think I'll start taking my blood pressure - just to have some data. Any collective advice or wisdom?
Happy Thanksgiving to All! A new lease on life is something truly to be thankful for!
Three weeks post op and I feel great. I feel like a new man, well, an old new man. Got rid of the catheter last week, chest tube stitches pulled yesterday during surgeons follow up. He is very pleased with recovery so far (as am I) and has no problem with me driving. My appetite is mostly back, and I’m now walking 3.5-4 miles a day at good stride. My breathing has not been this easy in some time - even though I have a ways to go to full recovery, I can tell the difference. An exciting prospect. Cardiologist follow up tomorrow.
Greetings All! Today marks two weeks on the road to recovery so I thought I’d better do a journal entry. I”ve been home a week and my body is sorting itself out nicely. I’’ve not taken any pain meds since I’ve been home, so I’m very pleased about that. I swear, those surgical chest tubes hurt more than a broken sternum. I’ve been gradually increasing my walking and as of Monday moved from walking around the house to walking outside. I’m currently walking about a mile and a half per day, split between a morning and an afternoon walk. The above picture is from this morning before setting off. I was sent home with a Foley catheter as they had difficulty due to an enlarged prostate. I’ve got an appointment with urologist tomorrow to get the thing out. I’ve got an appointment with the surgeon’s office on Saturday to check incision nd pull any remaining stitches. I’m very happy to be on the other side with the worst of the recovery behind me. Many thanks to family and friends for helping me protect my health during this fragile and vulnerable period - you guys are the best!
I’m relieving son Seth of blogging duties. I got the 2nd drainage out tube today and if all looks good, which it does, I’m heading home. Everyone’s recovery is differrrent and so drainage tubes, are my variation. I had a small pneumocardia at top of right lung, which is a small pocket of air. It may be part of me now, or it may disappear,, you never know. In any case I feel great, been walking the hallway track and excited to get home. The best way to prepare for a surgery like this is to of course be in as good a shape going in that you can. I’ve been participating in a local university comprehensive exercise program for the last year and a half, and it really payed off - I dazzled the nurses and tech’s, haha. For example they’d never seen anyone extubated as quickly as I after surgery. Thanks for all your support, I look forward to catching up to all your comments in the coming days… and tickled to see the pictures and comments “went viral” on the heart valve surgery facebook site. Best to everyone who has an upcoming surgery - you can do it!
Reached another milestone today and Pop is out if the ICU! Feels great to have to a change of environment.
Had a few very minor setbacks on our road to a "perfect" recovery. One spell of low blood pressure on Day 3 made us take off a day of Physical Therapy, but we made up for it on Day 4 by doing two long walks down the hall. He still has one drainage tube in and we hope it's coming out tomorrow. Had some difficulties getting the catheter in, which means he is taking it home for a bit. He also just got an echocardiogram and the valve is working perfectly.
Hopefully back home in 2 or 3 days, also found a website called lotsahelpinghands.com that seems like a great tool in coordinating post-op care. Check it out, organizes visits, meals, rides to the doc etc., for those who live alone and have a team for support.
Strolling down the avenue with the entourage!
Midway through Day 1 and we're ahead of the curve. Got up and into a chair first thing this morning and this is the first walk down the hallway and first solid food this evening. Physical therapist's said
The Bovine Bad Boy is in great shape! 4 and a half hours out of surgery and we’re smiling. Fastest the nurse has ever had someone be extubated.
Success! The cow has landed!
Journal posted on October 18, 2017
Seth back again. Pop is currently in the ICU and surgery was a success. Things went very well according to the Doctor and I’ll follow up with more specifics in the days to come, because all I heard was that he’s in great shape!
Got to see him in the ICU just now, he was a bit in and out of it but we made eye contact, he gave me a thumbs up, pantomimed texting so I let him know that I’ve told all his buds and fam that he’s doing great and love him, another thumbs up and a wave goodbye and back asleep.
Such a strong guy and glad I’m here.
Feel a little weird about having a cheeseburger for lunch in retrospect but so be it!
…to get that calcified aortic valve out and that Bad Boy Bovine installed.
Pre-op labs tomorrow, surgery Wednesday morning (time to be determined)
Ace caregiver flying in Tuesday
Friends and neighbors organizing my own personal food bank (Thank you so much)
Electric recliner rented with delivery on Friday
Adam’s book read and passed to caregivers
Personal hospital items gathered (ear plugs, eye mask, travel pillow, pj’s, etc)
Combined sense of humor, wonder and grit intact
18 days until open heart surgery and a bit of reflection
Journal posted on October 1, 2017
Learning that your average life span, statistically speaking, is now reduced to less than three years * tends to make one reflect on their own mortality and their place in the world… as I’m sure the patients on this site know!… nothing new, but here are a few of my own.
How fortunate I feel to live in an era of modern medicine. Replacing heart valves was not an option for my grand parents generation. As tough as life is sometimes, it was tougher back then. With some gentle persuasion (ok, a bit of pushing as well) I’ve gone from collapsing on a Stockholm airport concourse to cardiology appts, to echocardiograms, to angiograms, to surgeon appts to a surgical date to replace my valve, in less than two months. These are busy busy folks and they’ve accommodated my strong desire to be on the other side. No guarantees of course, but the odds are greatly in my favor of having a nearly full life span restored with a 2-4 hour operation. Amazing.
I live alone but feel so fortunate to have the support of family and friends near and far. I have one son who lives in Chicago that will come for a week to see me through the surgery and a few days at home, another in who volunteered to come, but he and his family will be here the first week in November anyway, so I told him not to come. He lives in Helsinki Finland. Two sisters here in El Paso who are most supportive of whatever I might need. A community of great supportive friends and neighbors - I am literally surrounded by great people, some of whom I have known for more than 30 years. As a quality place to live, especially at this stage in life, I’d stack El Paso up with any place. Family, friends and community, those are the important things in life and I feel so fortunate.
And of course I feel fortunate to be making new friends on this site, who are so willing to share their reflections, their stories, their expertise and experiences. And I thank you for that. My sense of humor may get a little irreverent at times, but please take it with a grain of salt, I do not consider open heart surgery a trivial matter, but I do believe humor relieves stress and can be a panacea for many of our predicaments.
Thank you all, I love it when a plan comes together.
* People can live with severe aortic stenosis, with no symptoms, for awhile. But once symptoms show up (for me it was fatigue and passing out on airport concourses), statistically, you have less than 3 years to live. This is when open heart surgery starts to sound pretty good.
OK, things are moving along. I now have a date, place and time. Wednesday, October 18, early. I still need to do some valve research, but I’m almost certain it will be an Edwards, tissue valve, model #11500A Inspiris Resilia, in racing red, with turbo-boost turbocharger. You can’t get much sexier than that.
I told my cardiologist that I would much rather be on the other side recovering (wouldn’t we all) and it looks like he is accommodating that wish. Things are moving. A week ago Wednesday I had an appointment with him to go over the echocardiogram he ordered (my 4th in as many months, 1 from PCP, 2 in Stockholm hospital, 1 from current cardiologist) where he told me “it must come out, let’s do an angiogram this week and talk to a surgeon next week”. So he scheduled an angiogram for last Friday, 6:30am. The angiogram went well, but not perfect. He attempted the catheter in my wrist twice, but could not get it to go, so he had to go through the groin… which means a little longer recovery and a little extra care must be taken - you don’t want to re-open that femoral artery. So, five days out and I’m back to regular activity and a bruised wrist.
I’ve got an appointment with a cardio thoracic surgeon this afternoon. He has a fine reputation and I went to school with his siblings and cousins. I was lucky to get in so soon and that should be my next journal update. Hopefully we can schedule surgery within 3 or 4 weeks time. My expectation is open heart surgery with a bioprosthetic aortic valve… either pig or cow. Gerald, I noticed you and some others chose a cow valve, any specific reason for that choice? Thanks.
I discovered this site the day before yesterday, I've added "My Story" which I will make my first journal entry and introduction - I'm not sure exactly how the site works yet, but please excuse the redundancy. I'd also like to add my thanks to Gerald for his detailed and supportive posts - what an inspiration! Anyway, here is My Story:
Thanks for this site Adam, this seems like a good way to keep family and friends informed of my upcoming surgery and to participate in what is obviously a great, supportive community. So here’s my story.
I am a healthy, divorced, father of two, grandfather of 1, 65 year old. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur about 10 years ago. This past August while traveling back from visiting one son in Finland, with another son and his spouse I had my first clear symptom. We had a tight connection in Stockholm, where the gates were far apart in 2 different concourses. I decided to jog the 2nd concourse and about 15 yards from the gate I suddenly felt flushed, out of breath and dizzy - my last thought before fainting was ‘I really should sit down’. I ‘came to’ on the concourse surrounded by a worried looking son and a number of concerned people including two very attractive blond Scandinavians — so for a minute there, I thought I was surrounded by the Valkyries of Valhalla… — but back to reality — I had lost consciousness for about a minute and in the process had turned blue and stopped breathing for a short period. Needless to stay, and despite my telling them we still had time to make the flight, they were not letting me on the plane. To make a long story short, I spent two nights in a Stockholm hospital, being monitored and tested (2 echos’ and 1 stress test) on their cardiac ward. There was apparently another John Dodson in their medical records system (which they refer to as “your story” btw) and so I became John (Texas) Dodson. (Everyone thought I was Scandinavian until they saw the record.) They were very nice, I came home with a couple of written reports which they translated into English and a USB drive full of images and data. My diagnosis: severe aortic stenosis. It’s too bad I’m not Swedish - my stay would have cost me the equivalent of $12 a day for the hospital stay and I would have had a $200 annual cap on any other expenses.
For family and friends: I have a calcified aortic valve, that has stiffened due to calcification. This condition blocks blood flow and is progressive. The rest of my heart is clear. It has nothing to do with leading a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. They don’t know why some valves calcify more rapidly than others, but it is 3 times more common in men than it is in women. I write it off to wear and tear, old age, and luck of the draw. To quote a line from my cardiologist: “it’s got to come out”.
More to tell, but I’ll post those to the “updates” section of this website.