I think today, the beginning of a new year is a great time to share my story.
I am so thankful that I have a second chance at life.
My journey began seven years ago when I first noticed that I was experiencing shortness of breath upon a minimal amount of exertion. After five heart caths, two stints and several medications, my symptoms became increasingly worse.
Ultimately, I was referred to the Cleveland Clinic to see a cardiologist who specializes in left ventricle problems. I was seen by DR. Vidasagar Kalahasti, AKA Dr. K., who scheduled a MRI of my heart.
The MRI revealed that I needed a myectomy of the wall of my left ventricle, replacement of my aortic and mitral valves, and a bypass. What a shock! I was expecting to have a new medication prescribed and I was now scheduling open heart surgery.
Dr. K. Scheduled and an appointment with Dr. Nicholas Smedira, a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon at the clinic. He agreed with Dr. K’s diagnosis. Dr. Smedira informed me that the mortality rate was less than 1%, which considering the alternative, was pretty good odds. I was scheduled for the surgery in one month.
Needless to say, I was very apprehensive. “Why Me? This only happens to other people”. I had a month to think about it, praying for myself, my wife and son.
I then received an email from the Cleveland Clinic consisting of four audio downloads called “Guided Imagery”, to help prepare me mentally for the procedure and healing. The Guided Imagery promotes visualization and breathing techniques to help relaxation. The basic concept is that your mind and body are connected. You are instructed to mentally place yourself in a beautiful place in nature that you visited with people you most care about. Guided Imagery refers to the people you care most about, as your support team. The breathing techniques help promote relaxation. By using all your senses, your body seems to respond as though what you are imagining is real. I was skeptical, but at this point, I figured I had nothing to lose. I listened to the audios everyday for three weeks prior to my surgery. At first it was difficult to focus, however, with practice it eventually became easier. I would choose a time of day when my household was most quiet and asked family members not to interrupt. I truly believe that this technique was highly effective for me and conducive to my entire healing process.
On surgery day in the OR , Dr. Smedira and his team were preparing for the procedure and I was in the Grand Caymans on a catamaran; blue water, a warm breeze, with my wife, my son, my sister and my niece. I focused on feeling the breeze, smelling the ocean, and looking at the beautiful blue sky. Through the guided imagery process I was able to somewhat remove myself from the situation.
I believe that the Guided Imagery training played a tremendous role in helping to relieve a great deal of the fear and anxiety involved in my surgery.
I am so thankful to have had two world class doctors and their teams at the top of their game. I’m happy to say John Smurda, Steubenville, Ohio