1 year ago today was my mitral valve repair at UPenn Hospital.
It's gone by so fast but I feel like I've accomplished so much!
I've lost 20 pounds since my surgery and 50 over the past 2.5 years.
I run and/or workout 5-6 times a week and watch what I eat.
I just had my one year echo with my cardiologist and got a clean bill of health.
I am back living a normal life with no heart related medications save baby aspirin once a day.
This past year and each moment since my surgery has been a gift. I endeavor to live each day treating it as such.
Six months ago today I woke up in recovery doped up on morphine with a breathing tube down my throat and a repaired mitral valve. But that is only one of the many things I have to be thankful for.
Oddly enough, aside from the scar that I see in the mirror every day, I don't really think about my surgery much anymore. I jumped back into the fray of normal life in August and haven't looked back since.
Honestly life post op has been great. I run 10-15 miles a week and take a cardio conditioning class twice a week and I have never felt better in my life.
The decision to have surgery as soon as possible was one of the best I've ever made and very empowering for me. It helped give me the determination and desire to take better care of myself and thus enjoy life more fully.
Today is 15 weeks since my mitral valve repair procedure.
Tomorrow I am running my first 5k race.
If you've been following along you'll know I've been running again for quite some time. Since about 6 weeks post op.
Two weeks ago I started taking a cardio conditioning class at the martial arts school where Becky goes. It is brutal and kicks my butt but I absolutely love it and am seeing results already. I have improved my average pace per mile by almost a minute.
This surgery was the best decision I ever made for myself. I feel stronger almost daily and am grateful for the new found fountain of energy and health.
Now down to just one medication (lopressor) twice a week for the next 3 weeks, then I will be off of all heart meds.
Feeling about 90-95% most of the time. The scar on my chest is the only reminder of what happened 11 weeks ago. My surgery site is pain free, which is pretty awesome.
Still managing back/shoulder/arm pain with meds and chiro but it's at worst a minor annoyance.
I've been running about 10-12 miles a week and am going to start taking an mma cardio conditioning class twice a week starting this weekend.
Signed up for my first 5k in August. Just a casual fun run but something to get my feet wet.
Going back to work in 2 weeks. I gotta say I've really enjoyed this house husband thing. Having my girls home on summer vacation has been a great bonding experience for us.
Extremely grateful for all the support I've received throughout my recovery both on this site and in my personal life. The opportunity to recover on my own terms has been invaluable.
Had my 1 month follow up with my surgeon yesterday.
I am doing well enough that he lifted my movement and driving restrictions and took me off the coumadin! Lifting limit increased to 30 lbs.
Also approved for more strenuous cardio activity. So as soon as I got home I went for my first post surgery run! Only a short 2k run was enough to tell me how out of shape I am and how far I still have to go. But boy did it ever feel good to run again!
On Sunday I start an 8 week program to train for my first 5k race that I hope to run sometime in late summer/early fall.
As far as physically, I would say I feel about 80%. There is still some lingering minor soreness in my sternum but that is only during extreme movement or coughing/sneezing/laughing.
Still managing my back/arm pain but now that I can get a full chiro adjustment, I am already seeing results and confident that I will soon be pain free.
On that note, I have been seeing a chiropractor on a weekly basis for over 8 years and he has continued to be an important part of my recovery. I highly recommend finding a good one and seeing him or her regularly.
One month ago today I had my surgery.
I feel really really good. The pain and discomfort is almost gone and I feel like my sternum is just about healed. A small bit of lingering soreness but negligible.
I got on the table today at the chiropractor for the first time since surgery and my back feels better now than it has in weeks. The pain in my back and arm is greatly reduced and my fingers aren't tingling any more.
Falling asleep at night is still a struggle. I find when I nap in the afternoon I can't fall asleep at night until very late. Sometimes not until 2 or 3 am. It has been frustrating trying to get back into my normal sleep patterns. But I'll get there.
Going to see my GP tomorrow and my 1 month follow up with my surgeon on Wednesday. Hopefully I'll get the okay to drive again. That will be a relief.
Hoping to get signed up soon for cardiac rehab soon as well. My job is very physical and I want to be in shape enough to be able to handle jumping back into it.
This morning I ramped up the walking a bit. 30 minutes and almost 3k. The walking feels really good. Also puttering around the house and cooking a lot. Getting as much rest as I can.
My sleep pattern is still off some. It's still difficult to get comfortable in bed and fall asleep at night but I'm napping plenty in the daytime too.
Starting to feel the energy come back again after my setback last week. Just have to keep in mind to not push myself too hard.
I think my appetite is back in full force. Lost about 7 lbs since coming home from hospital but gained about 3 back in the last couple of days. Of course I am drinking beer again so there ya go. Limiting myself to one per day for now until I'm off the coumadin.
Nerve pain in my back is still an issue but manageable with meds for now. My surgical scar is almost completely healed.
Turning 46 today and all in all I feel very fortunate for my health.
I woke up yesterday feeling great. I decided to push my morning walk a bit harder. Honestly, I felt so good I had to hold myself back from running. Big mistake.
After lunch the visiting nurse came for my bi weekly blood draw for my coumadin levels. My bp had dipped into the 90s/50s. Thought nothing of it until later when I stood up from my chair too fast and came to on the floor.
Since then I have taken it much easier and being careful to not push myself too much. Plenty of time down the road for all the "things" I want to get done. I just need to concentrate on my healing and endurance right now.
Sleeping is getting better every night. Last night I felt much less uncomfortable in bed. I only need some Advil around bedtime to supplement the Cymbalta for my chronic back/shoulder pain.
Before I sign this off I would be remiss if I didn't thank Al Z. for his great email detailing his experience with Cardiac Rehab. This is something I am seriously considering and hope that my insurance will cover. I am fortunate to have pretty good insurance so I don't think it will be a problem.
Yesterday was a very low energy day. Got my walking in and took 2 long naps. I expected this to come along sooner or later since I've been pushing myself a little.
Saw my Cardiologist for a follow up and she is very happy with my progress. She recommends I start a round of antibiotics before every dental visit and anytime I go to get a tattoo. She explained that if the bacteria in my mouth or on my skin got inside my bloodstream they could attack the artificial ring around my valve and that could be bad news. Okay, then.
Trying to get back to cooking for my family again. Since my job entails me being on my feet all day I figure cooking is good therapy to build up my endurance. I just have to be extra cautious with my knives since I'm on blood thinners. On that note, I think I'll try to grocery shop today. Also excited for our farm share to start up next week. That will keep me busy in the kitchen as well.
This morning I woke up to the smell of my wife making coffee and wanted my first cup since before surgery. I cut it generously with decaf and it tastes soooo good! I have missed coffee and since I work for a coffee company we always have it around but I have only this morning started to want some again. Another step towards normal.
Sleeping has been a challenge. I am used to not needing much sleep but getting more than 2 or 3 hours at a clip has been difficult. Getting comfortable has been the problem as I am a tosser and turner normally but every night gets a little better. The naps help tons too.
Pain management has been much better the last couple of days. Day 2 on Cymbalta and the pain in my back and shoulder has been much better. I haven't had to take a Percocet in 2 days. Extra visits to my chiropractor have helped a lot as well. I'm excited that my incision site has been relatively pain free and that I am off the narcotics.
Also my skin issues seem to be fading on their own. Still a little itchy but not nearly as bad and not waking me up at night. Guess I'll let sleeping dogs lie on that one. :)
I am tracking how my surgical scar is healing. There are pics posted in My Photos if anyone is interested. Check back for updates.
Had my first visit with my GP today. Went very well. He says I am a textbook success story.
He prescribed me Cymbalta, an anti depressant, for the nerve pain.
I forgot to bring up the rash on my neck but had a phone conversation with an NP from my surgeon's office who called today to check up on me. She thought it was probably either a reaction to meds or perhaps a reaction to a dressing they put on my neck since it was around the location of my A line. It doesn't seem as itchy and bothersome so maybe it'll go away on it's own. In any case I'll bring it up at my Cardiologist appt tomorrow.
Also had a visit from the visiting nurse today. Because I have an annuloplasty ring around my valve I have to be on blood thinners for about 3 months. They come every Monday and Thursday to check my INR (blood clotting) levels to make sure I am taking the correct dose of Coumadin. I was on the bottom end of my target range so they bumped me up another 1.25mg and retest on Thursday. We'll see how it goes.
I think things are starting to catch up to me today. Lower energy and I napped all afternoon. But I needed it.
Pain is becoming an issue again in the form of a pinched nerve in my left scapula directly behind where my heart is. it radiates through my shoulder and down my arm. my ring and pinkie fingers tingle on the ends.
I have been to see my chiropractor once and am going again tomorrow and it has helped some, but there is only so much adjusting he can do until I can lay on the table on my stomach. I may have to look into PT.
I am also starting to have some minor skin issues. Since surgery I still have the rash around my neck that I mentioned before. Now I am getting these tiny itchy hives on my forearms and around my knees. Sounds like an allergic reaction to something. Perhaps one of the many new meds in my repertoire.
In any case this will be all be addressed tomorrow as I have an appointment with my GP.
Since I've been feeling great since surgery I decided to assess how my pain level without meds is today. Went almost 12 hours without a percocet and only felt mild soreness at the incision site. I am having some nerve pain in my left arm/shoulder/back that has been nagging and was ultimately the reason I had to take pain meds around dinner time. The percocet has worked well for my pain management. I haven't experienced the nausea that some get from taking them. I just get the clammy sweats a little. Feeling much better about it than a few days ago.
Continuing my walking program: 2 ten minute walks a day. Today was a very muggy day so my RPE was a little higher but still not much over light exertion. Felt a little faint near the end of my evening walk but just slowed the pace for the last stretch and I was fine.
Question for anyone farther out than me:
Have any of you experienced any post surgery skin rashes? I have a rash on my upper chest that extends across my collarbones and is very itchy. There was no dressing or anything rubbing on that area that would irritate it but just wondering if it's something that will go away on it's own or not. I have an appt with my GP on Monday so will probably address it then but was just curious if this was a common occurrence.
Trying really hard not to get cocky but so far it has worked out well listening to my body and resting when it tells me to.
Time will tell.
Firstly, A HUGE shout out to the staff of Silverstein 10 cardiac ward at HUP! The level of caring and professionalism I received was amazing!
Released from the hospital yesterday morning. I feel much better than I thought I would. I had a lot of energy yesterday and it was hard to keep it in check remembering I have to take it easy.
I have to keep that in mind as I have a lot on my plate for the upcoming weeks.
The highlights of the day were the most epic shower ever and sleeping in my own bed! I thought I'd be uncomfortable but I only required one additional pillow to prop me up. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes sleeping in your own bed not getting woken every 2 hours for vitals, meds, xrays, etc. lol
Anyway I feel like this is a life reboot for me. An opportunity to realign my priorities and actually appreciate what I have and the infinite possibilities that the future holds.
There's something big coming up for me around the corner. I can feel it. No pressure. Just relax, recuperate and enjoy. Life is good.
Got the last chest tube and the pacemaker wires out yesterday evening. My only requirement for today is keeping my blood INR levels therapeutic and I get to go home tomorrow!
I am feeling mostly relieved but also well aware that the road to recovery will not be easy. This whole experience so far has been the biggest physical and emotional rollercoaster of my life and it has only just begun.
Pain management has been a challenge. I feel great when all doped up on Percocet but am also well aware of the pitfalls of getting addicted.
Lots of research and work to do when I get outta here to get through this.
A lot rattling around in my brain right now and suddenly very tired. I guess that is the way of things right now. More later when I can sort it all out into something coherent.
Feeling very achy. Didn't do so well with the breathing tube as they made me keep it in for 6 hours after I woke up from surgery. No fun.
Also yesterday they found I had air in my chest cavty from the operation so they put anothr drain tube in my right side. Hopefully getting it and the other drain tubes out today!
Not quite back on solid food yet probably a clear bfast and maybe something more substantial for lunch.
Also have to start walking today.
Getting tired now. More later.
Hi there. It's Becky, Kenny's wife. His repair was a success!! He is in recovery and I will see him soon. Thank you for all of the support, information and kindness. You have been a great help to him and I know will continue to be as he heals. More later!
Ha! Got all the way to the hospital and checked in. We were waiting in the pre-op waiting room and my surgeon came in to talk to us.
It turns out I got bumped for an emergency heart transplant. I am rescheduled for tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. I feel good about having an extra day and I certainly understand the circumstances that a more urgent need supersedes mine.
The only tough thing will be saying goodbye to my girls again. That was really hard this morning.
So I just got home from breakfast and an unexpected dry run and then off to do it all again tomorrow morning!
Good thing all that love and prayers coming my way don't expire! Thanks again, everyone!
Well it's 5:25 am and we're about to leave for the hospital.
I want to thank all of my fellow HV patients for their messages of love and support. As you know, it really helps.
My wife, Becky will be updating later on today when I get out of surgery.
Okay, it's game time! See you all on the other side!
Just finished my first scrub down with the surgical soap and got in a shave and trim. All fresh and clean. Tonight and tomorrow morning are repeats of the same.
I have a few errands to run and loose ends to tie up and then just wait for the call this afternoon from the hospital for my surgery time.
Today I feel calm and resolute. I am ready to face this.
Today I also feel grateful that I have such awesome people in my life. The out pouring of love and support from my friends, neighbors, co workers and family have been a blessing. I can face this without fear because of the tremendous cheering section I am fortunate to have.
This morning my 9 year old daughter Marley came to me and gave me her "baby blankie" to take to the hospital with me. This is her first blanket that she's had since she was a baby. It is her most prized possession. That she would give it to me means so much and that is not lost on me.
My surgery is one week from today. I originally had scheduled surgery for today but had to push it back a week due to my surgeon's scheduling conflict.
The time is moving so fast yet it still seems so far away. The nervousness for the most part is gone. I have spent some time on this site and elsewhere online and feel pretty comfortable about what to expect. Now I am just anxious to get on with it.
I want to thank all of my fellow HV patients who have responded with messages of support and insight. They have truly been helpful and provided perspective.
I also want to thank my family who is my real time support system. I can't do this without you so thank you for being here for me. I love you all.
I feel pretty lucky actually to be in the situation I'm in. My MVP has been monitored for years and my progression to severe regurgitation was caught early. Thanks also to my cardiologist, Dr. Banu Mahalingam, for taking such great care of me and strongly recommending I have this surgery sooner rather than later.
I've never experienced serious health issues related to my condition so am glad that I can get this taken care of before it becomes a problem.
I have a beautiful wife and two beautifully perfect daughters who are my everything to live for and life couldn't be better.
Heart surgery is just a bump in the road. Okay, a big bump, but I'll get through it.
Posted a photo of a letter that Lexi gave me yesterday. I realized it's too small to read. So here's what it says:
I really love all the times you were healthy when you didn't have the problem with your heart. And my three wishes are to be healthy, strong and to have life. And these are the things you need.
As my surgery date draws closer and recovery plans are being made, I am both excited and scared. I am definitely feeling the pressure I'm putting on myself to tie up loose ends at work and home in the short time I have left. But it is a comfort to know that my family and friends have my back.
I feel like I have mentally done all I can in preparation for what is to come. I accept what must happen and am prepared to face this.
Went into Philly today for my pre op testing.
Pretty routine but made me feel more relaxed about the whole ordeal.
Got to talk to Dr. Acker's nurse practitioner and ask some questions re. the type of surgery I'm having, open heart where they crack open the sternum, as opposed to the relatively new minimally invasive robotic surgery where they go between the ribs with a smaller incision.
Found out the robotic procedure takes much longer to perform and there is concern over being under anesthesia for that much longer and the possible side effects of that. Never read anything about that in my online research. Additionally, it is not an ideal procedure for mitral valve surgery specifically and I would still have to go on the heart/lung machine.
I feel I got some good answers and feel much more comfortable with my choice of surgeon.
After my Q & A, signing my name a bunch of times and receiving my "day of" instructions, I went to another part of the building and had an EKG and some blood work.
Then on to yet another part of the building for a chest xray.
All in all, I expected to be there most of the day but was done in 2 hours. I was quite impressed with their facility and staff. Everyone was very pleasant and the place runs like a well oiled machine.
22 days and counting...this can't come fast enough.
Got an A+ on my test!
It was weird being awake for the procedure and seeing them thread a tiny camera up my arteries to look at my heart on the screen. But everything was all clear. No blockages found.
Home now and feeling fine. Just a little sore in the groin area. Looking forward to tomorrow and a get together at the house with close friends to celebrate Bec's birthday.
Next up is my Pre Op appointment at UPenn in five days. I'll get an ekg and chest xray and whatever other tests they need to do.
Tomorrow morning I report to Princeton Hospital at 6 am for my pre op Cardiac Cath. I saw Becky go through this before her surgery a couple of years ago, so I kind of know what to expect. Just a check to make sure there are no blockages around my heart.
After reading Adam's book and reading some other journals on here I feel like I have a better idea of what's down the road for me and how I can be best prepared.
This is an arduous but necessary journey that I must embark on, and I can't do it alone. I can't begin to express my gratitude for my family and friends who have already said they are here for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they put their lives on hold to be there for me.
I don't feel like I'm very good at this journal-ing thing but I will do my best to keep you all updated on my journey. So stay tuned!