Two years ago today I had my mitral valve repair surgery. It's hard to believe that it's been that long! I'm so blessed to be here...healthy & whole. Thinking back to the day of my surgery & my week in the hospital...it was such a rough time but I made it through...I survived! I'm feeling great & living a normal life. I'm back on metoprolol but that's okay...it keeps my heart rhythm steady which is a good thing. It's scary to go through heart valve surgery but once you make it to the other side you can feel like yourself again...the fear & uncertainty fade into the past. Now I try to live in the present moment & enjoy the fullness of each day. There is life after heart valve surgery & I plan on enjoying every moment!
It's been exactly one year since I was released from the hospital after my successful mitral valve repair surgery. I've been sitting out on the deck enjoying this beautiful Fall day (it's 80 degrees here!). I was reading some of my journal entries & I realized that I haven't been on the site in a long time! I want to be a part of this community again so that I can support others who are getting ready to go through the journey that I've been on.
I can't believe that it's been a year since my surgery!! I've been feeling good. Sometimes I get winded easily if I'm walking uphill or going up a flight of stairs but otherwise I'm fine. The only problem I still have is the irregular heartbeats. I thought that would go away after the surgery but it hasn't. I was disappointed when I went to donate blood in June & was rejected because of my irregular pulse (they changed the guidelines). I relayed my disappointment to my husband's cousin (he had heart surgery) & he said that "the very best hearts always have a unique rhythm different from all the other average ones. Your beautiful loving heart is one of the best." That really made me feel better! I went back to my cardiologist in August. He wanted me to wear a heart monitor so, on September 21, I went to the hospital to get a 14-day Zio Patch heart monitor (a thousand times better than the old Holter monitors!). I went back to see Dr. Ridley on Friday. He said that the monitor picked up all sorts of arrhythmias so he's sending me to an electrophysiologist. We'll see how that goes...
Anyway, on this beautiful Fall day, and every day, I'm thanking God for my life & my second chance. I'm so grateful to be alive!!
I went for my last cardiac rehab visit on February 24th. I really had mixed feelings. I was so happy & proud of my accomplishment of having completed all 36 cardiac rehab visits. I was also sad to say good bye to the CR nurses & all my fellow cardiac patients that I had gotten to know during my time at rehab. Well, we all have to move on to bigger & better things! I've now moved on to exercising and working with a personal trainer at the nearby Center for Health & Fitness. I want to keep up with the progress that I've made so far.
My dad passed away yesterday morning. He was elderly (94 years old) and his death was expected (he was on hospice) but the pain, sadness, & shock is just as real. I'm so grateful that my brother, sister, & I were able to spend time with him before his death. My sister & I were there when he passed away. He was a wonderful dad! He was a good provider for our family & always spent quality time with his kids. He was outgoing, funny, & made everyone he met his friend. He loved the outdoors, animals, & music. He loved to play the harmonica & the organ. He was married to my mom for almost 54 years (she passed away in 2008). They had a wonderful marriage & traveled the world together. They enjoyed their retirement at their cottage on Lime Lake (in Northern Michigan) with family & their close group of friends.
I'll miss my dad but I know that he's in a better place...reunited with mom & his other loved ones ...playing the harmonica and enjoying his new life.
Friday was a milestone day for me. It's been three months since my surgery. I left cardiac rehab that morning knowing that I was three quarters of the way through my program. From there I headed to city hall for the city blood drive. I've been donating blood three times a year for at least the past ten years. I was a little anxious that there might be a problem with me donating blood. Two of the questions asked were: "Have you taken any aspirin recently?" and "Have you ever had any heart or lung problems?" I explained my yes answers to the Red Cross worker who sent me on to complete my donation. Everything went fine & I left feeling happy that I could continue to donate. After work that day I went for my echo/cardiology appointment. I was worried that my heart function wouldn't be normal. When Dr. Ridley came in he told me that my echo was completely normal with an ejection fraction of 67%. I'm grateful for all of the progress that I've made & hope to continue to move forward in my new post-surgery life.
I have two questions for my heart friends. First, is anyone still having problems with shortness of breath after surgery? I'm doing really well in cardiac rehab without any problems. Today I walked up the stairs and when I got to my room I was very short of breath & breathing heavily. It's been eight weeks since my surgery. Second, is anyone having concerns about spouses/family members sort of losing patience about anything to do with heart surgery/recovery? This comment was made to me today: "I'm tired of hearing about your cardiac rehab. You should be completely recovered by now."
I was so anxious about going back to work. My first week was very long and tiring but I think it will take me awhile to adjust. I got to cardiac rehab at 7:00 AM on Monday. The door was locked where I usually go in but luckily someone finally came by who was able to show me the other entrance down the hall & around the corner. It's not too bad exercising that early in the morning. I brought my change of clothes for work. As I drove to work I kept thinking "I don't want to go." I wanted to turn around & go home. It seemed so strange being back at work again, especially since they had done some painting/decorating while I was gone and there was a new desk in my office. Everyone was happy to see me & gave me a warm welcome. I had a card & some gifts on my desk when I arrived. I spent the morning getting everything out of my old desk & trying to get rid of a lot of papers,etc. Some of my coworkers came in to move the desks for me & help me get my office in order. The day was long but I made it through the whole day & didn't leave early.
The rest of the week was long & very fast paced but I'm slowly getting into a routine and dealing with the day to day issues of working full-time. The work week ended on Friday with our company Christmas luncheon/in-service at a nearby park conference center. It was nice to see many co-workers that I don't get to see too often. I also got my service award: 25 years with the Commonwealth of Virginia!
After that I went to my cardiology appointment. Dr. Ridley said that I was doing well. I have an appointment to return in March for an echo. I'm hoping that my heart function will have returned to normal.
Well, it's time to get a good night's sleep & get ready for another work week. At least this week will be short for me. We'll be traveling to Blacksburg on Thursday for my son's college graduation! I'm so grateful that I'll be going to his graduation with a mended heart!!
My last week at home went pretty well. I went out each day for cardiac rehab and/or to run a few errands. I found that after I went to CR and made a few stops on the way home, I was tired and ready to get home to eat a late lunch & take a nap. This weekend I decorated the house for Christmas. Luckily, my step-son & grandson helped out with the heavy lifting and tree decorating. I found myself feeling very tired and getting some shortness of breath. Time to sit down!
Tomorrow is my first day back at work. I'm feeling a little anxious & depressed about the thought of going back to work. It's going to be a long week for me. I don't know how it's going to go but I need to keep a positive attitude & just take it one day at a time.
Last Wednesday I drove to Charlottesville (UVA Medical Center) for my last visit with my surgeon. I was a little concerned about driving by myself but I felt fine and I didn't have any problems. I left at 7:00 AM and returned home at 2:00 PM. It was strange to be back at the medical center but I was so glad that I felt so much better than I did the last time I was there! They didn't really do a whole lot at my visit. I did get my return to work form filled out (I wish I could have added a few more weeks to my return date!). Dr. Ailawadi said that most of my numbness should go away except for right on my incision. He also said that my heart function should improve with time. It seems like every time I talk to a doctor I don't ask all the questions that I wanted to ask & I always say a few things that I feel are silly or stupid. Then when I get home I'm thinking "why didn't I say that?" or "why did I say that?" Oh well, it's all in the past now anyway. I need to move on and let it all go. I had my valve repaired and I have a second chance. I need to make the most of what I've been given.
Today marks exactly four weeks since my MV repair surgery. I'm feeling much better now and the bruises/scars are fading/healing pretty well. I went to cardiac rehab again this morning. I was able to increase my levels on most of the exercise machines. My next goal is to get myself ready to go back to work (in two weeks). I think that I'll probably be ready physically but I'm definitely not ready emotionally. I've gotten used to my quiet routine at home, including getting up in the morning when I want to, and the thought of going back to work depresses me. It's going to be tough but I've made it through a lot so far. I know that I'm stronger than I think I am. I just need to work on my mental preparation.
I'll be driving back to Charlottesville on Wednesday for my last visit with Dr. Ailawadi at UVA. I'm going back there with a mended heart. This will be the last leg of my journey to surgery & it's been quite a journey! My journey to a complete recovery continues...
My third week at home was pretty good. I've been trying to do a few more things around the house every day. I've also been walking up the street & back. I still feel like I just want to rest on the couch most of the time. Last Thursday I went for my cardiac rehab eval. Everyone was very nice & it seems like a great way to get back into exercising in a controlled & safe environment. I went back the next day (Friday) to start my exercise program. Everything went well. I felt like I was really taking a step in the right direction by getting into this program.
My second week at home was much better than the first. The severe shortness of breath & feeling like I'm going to faint has gone away. It's a little lonely being home by myself but, on the other hand, the quiet time has been nice. My husband took me to my cardiologist on Friday. Dr. Ridley said that my heart murmur is gone. He thought that my problems during my first week at home could have been due to too much Lasix. He said that I didn't have any abnormal heart rhythms or events while on the heart monitor so I could take off the monitor right away (yeah!!). He also said that I could start cardiac rehab. I'm looking forward to starting the rehab program and getting stronger.
I was glad to get home again on October 31 but there were problems as soon as we walked in the door. There were pet problems and other household issues. I think tempers flared because it had been such a trying week for both of us. It was hard on me because I felt like the concern and sympathy I had received was gone. It was a difficult weekend.
My first week at home I felt very weak and tired. My appetite was poor. I would go from one room to the next and would have to sit down because I was so tired. I would walk upstairs and then sit on the bed for five minutes to catch my breath. I would have to get out of the shower quickly before I was done because I thought I was going to faint.
Last Wednesday I went to my cardiologist. He sent me for blood work, a chest x-ray, and then a CT scan. He thought I might have a pulmonary embolism but, luckily, I didn't. I was so grateful that I didn't have to be admitted to the hospital.
Since that day I've been feeling better. I'm on a portable heart monitor for 30 days. I haven't had any more incidents of severe shortness of breath or feeling faint. I have some back & chest pain at night but nothing severe. I hope to be feeling better with each passing day.
I was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. My mini MVR was a success! No mechanical valve needed. It was a very rough week but I survived.
I'm now just enjoying all the tastes of freedom: getting all those wires, tubes, & monitors off of my body, wearing my own clothes, getting out in the fresh air & sunshine, taking a shower & washing my hair, eating a nice meal at a restaurant, sleeping in a big bed, & getting a good night's sleep (without any interruptions). A good night's sleep is what I'm really looking forward to tonight!!
We head back home tomorrow.
We arrived in Charlottesville this afternoon at about 2:30. After stopping by the hotel to check on our room, we drove to the UVA Medical Center to make sure we knew the route & how much time it would take us to get there. I have to be at the hospital at 5:15 AM. Our son drove here from VA Tech so that he could be there for me & go with us to the hospital. He got here around 6:00 & brought me a Big Bird stuffed animal for me to have during my recovery. We went out to dinner & went back to the hotel to go in the pool & hot tub.
I'm writing this before I go to bed & I'm feeling scared. It still doesn't seem real. I know I'm doing the right thing. Last night I was in bed, tossing around, & listening to my heart. It was doing all sorts of flip flops & crazy beats. I knew it needed to be fixed.
Thank you, heart friends, for all your words of wisdom, support, & prayers. This is my last post before my surgery. Good night friends.
Today my husband & I spent the day preparing for our trip to Charlottesville. We needed to take care of some needs for my dad & buy a few items to take on the road with us. We did our laundry & began packing (I really don't need to pack much!). I called my sister who lives in California. I wish she lived closer. I tried calling my brother in Minnesota (no answer). I called my uncle who lives in Missouri. He said that he had heart bypass surgery at the age of 76 (he's 87 now). Later our pastor stopped by to talk & say a prayer for us. Then we went out to a nice dinner & came home to finish packing. So much to do...
Today was my last day at work before my surgery. Our office closes at 1:00 PM on Fridays but I stayed late to finish up with a few things. I wanted to get my office in order and work on a training log that my supervisor will probably need for an audit next week. A few coworkers, one being my supervisor, stopped by my office to wish me good luck, offer their thoughts & prayers, and give a few hugs. Some coworkers just quickly walked by with a "good bye & have a good weekend." Did they forget that my surgery is on Monday? Maybe they just didn't know what to say? As I sat in the quiet of my office I felt some sadness. I was trying to get things done in case I didn't come back. Of course I'm coming back! Don't be silly! I have those same thoughts when I leave for a vacation (especially if I'm flying). A coworker from the other building stopped by. She asked me how I was doing so I had to tell her about my surgery. She offered some words of encouragement. While I was finishing up I got a call from UVA. I was given the pre-surgery info including the time I had to be at the hospital on Monday (5:15 AM...I didn't think it would be THAT early). After the call I finished straightening up, sent an email, packed up a few items from my office, and left. It was 3:00 PM. On the drive home I realized that I was really going through with this surgery. It's a done deal. Everything is all set and everyone is waiting. Even though I have a lot of support and a lot of HVS community friends, ultimately I (and all of us) will go through this alone. It's just something that we have to go through. I know that the surgery is necessary to save, prolong, & improve our lives but there are other reasons too. I think we find out the reasons when we get to the other side of the surgery. I'm ready...
This week (Sunday through Wednesday) I'm in Glen Allen, VA (Richmond area) for a work-related conference. I really wanted this time to meet with colleagues/friends, learn, relax, enjoy my hotel room, and have some time to myself to think & reflect. I wanted to enjoy this time before my surgery. I'm glad that I had this opportunity.
Right now my surgery seems far away to me. I'm trying not to think about it too much. In the past I would find a way to get out of things that were uncomfortable or scary for me. I can't really think of a way to get out of this. Everything is all set. The only thing I could do would be to take off and disappear. I'm not going to do that! It wouldn't solve my problems & would only make everything worse. I'm going to make it through this. I have to believe that everything is going to be okay.
I've told most of my family & friends about my surgery either in person, on the phone, or on Facebook. Everyone is very supportive. Unfortunately, most of them are spread out throughout the country with very few living in or near Virginia. They will be with me in spirit.
This is one of those times that I wish I was younger and still had my parents with me. My mom died in 2008. My dad has some dementia & lives in an assisted living facility (he's 94). I'm not telling him about my surgery.
I'm grateful to have my step-son staying with us for a while. He'll be taking care of things while we're away. My husband will be traveling with me to Charlottesville and will stay at a hotel during the week of my surgery/hospitalization. My son is going to drive from Virginia Tech to Charlottesville next Sunday to visit & stay with us until I go into surgery on Monday morning.
I'm grateful for my family, friends, and this HVS community for all your thoughts, prayers, and support. I especially don't feel so alone when I know that so many others are going through the same things that I am. I'm so grateful.
Last Thursday I drove to Charlottesville & back (280 miles) to the Heart & Vascular Center at the UVA Medical Center for my follow-up pre-surgery visit. I had an EKG done and then met with John, the PA, to go over details of the surgery, get my questions answered, and sign the consents for my mini mitral valve surgery and the anesthesia. Then my surgeon, Dr. Gorav Ailawadi, came in to talk with me. He asked if I had any questions but I seem to forget all my questions when the doctor walks into the room! He told me that the surgery would last about four hours. We agreed that I would get a mechanical valve if necessary.
Next I talked with Robbin, the nurse care coordinator. She discussed more details about before, during, and after the surgery. She was very helpful to me in understanding what to expect and calming some of my fears. She gave me my pre-op instructions, including the special soap that I needed to wash with before the surgery and the spirometer that I need to practice using. After that I went to the lab to get my blood drawn & get my blood bracelet to take with me to the hospital.
Then I left the hospital and drove home. Later that night I sent Dr. Ailawadi an email with two questions that I forgot to ask him at my visit. He was nice enough to respond to my email the next day and answer my questions. I feel much better about going through with the surgery and I'm confident that Dr. Ailawadi is the most qualified and the best surgeon to perform my mitral valve repair surgery. My surgery is still set for October 26, two weeks from tomorrow.
Today I told my coworkers that I was having heart valve surgery. I was a little anxious to tell them but I felt better when it was out in the open. Everyone was very supportive. This is becoming more real to me. I guess I'm going through with the surgery.
This afternoon I went to a mandatory employee presentation on Advance Care Planning/Advance Medical Directive. How ironic. This is something that I didn't want to think about but I know I need to have. I'm filling out the paperwork now.
I'm sure everything will be fine and, of course, I'm going to remain positive. It's always good, however, to be prepared.
I received two letters in the mail today. One was from my insurance company. They approved my surgery for mitral valve repair or replacement. The second letter was from the UVA Division of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery. They sent me a copy of the completed attending provider statement for my short term disability paperwork. The diagnosis & the date of my surgery is listed on the form. Well, I guess this is really going to happen. I'm going through with the surgery...three weeks from today.