Life move on and gets back to normal. I finally feel this BAVR is something I survived and it made me stronger and smarter. I'm back to my full activities and hobbies without too much trouble. I'll have my annual MRI and Echo next week, but I am not expecting and issues.
Today is my one year anniversary of my open heart surgery and my bovine aortic heart valve. I had my one year echo and MRI. I am happy to report everything looks good. My heart function normal and has returned to a normal size. I spent an entire summer walking averaging about 13,000 steps per day. There were set backs and days of exhaustion, but I made it past the first year. I had an incredible amount of support from my wife, family, friends, community, and business partners. I have leaned some lessons along the way.
1. People recover at different rates. I try not to compare myself to other recovery stories.
2. Have realistic expectations. I could not run a 5k before I had a heart problem. I still can't run a 5k now. I never experienced a big increase in energy or well being after my valve was replaced. I never really felt that bad with my old valve so the new valve was not a giant improvement.
3. Healing takes time and your heart has to get used to its new, "settings." Since the surgery, I have had to make lots of adjustments from how I sleep to how much beer I can drink. I think with a surgery like OHS, your whole body has to re-set itself.
4. People will tell you not to push yourself after surgery. Its ok to push yourself a little after a few months. You will find your limits. Things that never hurt before will hurt now. Your body will tell you when you had enough. I just try to make minimal improvements every day.
5. Keep up with social activities. Keep yourself busy outside of the home. You have to keep moving. I joined a horseshoe league, beanbag league and golfed whenever I could. Speaking of golf, I discovered the muscles I use in swinging a golf club are not much effected by OHS. I was golfing four months after surgery and walking the course. Just 9 holes on a smaller course, but it felt great to get outside. Golf is great for recovery and you can get in a lot of steps.
6. Have a great doctor(s). I have an excellent care team. Keep asking questions. Ask about every medication repeatedly. I was put on a prescription acid reflux medication in the hospital. I'm still now sure why. I never had acid reflux problems. I finally got off that six weeks ago and I feel better. Keep asking what am I taking? why? Can it be reduced? Can it be stopped?
7. Having OHS really sucks. Not gonna sugar coat it. Your chest will hurt sometimes. At first bones will shift that you know are not supposed to move. If you work hard one day you are gonna feel it the next day. I can even tell if a storm is coming by how my chest feels. Opening the sternum effects the ribs all the way around to the spine. There will be aches and pains. I have a good Chiropractor who understands OHS and did some good adjustment work that helped me keep going.
8. Walking. Walk every day. Get a fitness tracker like a FitBit that tracks your steps, heart-rate, and sleep. Use it everyday and make time to walk. It is addicting and needed for recovery. Track every step and join walking challenge groups. In recovery, walking makes me feel better and with more energy. On days I can’t walk, I feel sluggish and tired.
One year anniversary since my new bovine aortic valve. I'm about 95% back to normal. My one year Echo and MRI look great. Just annual echo's and MRI's from now on. I spent the last eight months walking and staying active. It makes all the difference. My enlarged heart is back down to normal size and I can do just about anything I want to do.
Five month surgery anniversary. New aortic valve is working great.
Five months with my new valve.
Journal posted on May 11, 2016
Today is the 5 month anniversary of my new aortic heart valve. I thought I would post an update. The new bovine valve is working great. I am mostly recovered from the surgery. Post op cardio rehab had me up and going three times a week all winter long so I couldn't just sit around. I walk a lot for my recovery averaging about 10,000 steps per day. Judy has been my awesome wife and caregiver every step of the way. My family and coworkers have been fully supportive and I am lucky to have such a great team at work. Over the last 5 months they have allowed all the time needed to recover without question. I feel truly blessed. I learned a lot in this journey and I continue to improve every day. Thank you to all the friends and people in the community who gave me so much support. It was truly overwhelming. i use a Fitbit HR to track steps and baseline heart rate. It is kind of addictive. I have a cardiologist follow up appointment in July. I look forward to a good report and plan to be in great shape by then.