So thankful for my surgeon, Dr. Hani Najm, at Cleveland Clinic and the wonderful ladies who helped me after surgery. The ticker (On-X) is working well, and my INR is stable. For those with upcoming surgeries, you are in my prayers. Yes, you will get through this!!!
Once again, it has been a while since I've been on here. It is hard to believe May 23 was just 6 months ago today - yes, on Thanksgiving! I am certainly thankful for having a skilled surgeon and excellent care at Cleveland Clinic. I am also thankful for all the great ladies who stepped up and helped care for me when I desperately needed it after surgery. Happy Thanksgiving to all my heart family :)
Hi all - I haven't been on here for 2 months, can't believe it! I am back to work full steam ahead and don't feel like I had open heart surgery less than 5 months ago on May 23. I even recently interviewed for a new job position in MI, so I will likely be moving in the spring. I hope all those heart warriors I remember from before my surgery are still here. Would love to know how you are doing. Prayers for those with upcoming surgery.
Hi to my heart family here. Between starting work and cardiac rehab (plus, dealing with a new dog at home!), I have been quite busy and haven't managed to find time to get on here for a few weeks. It is thrilling to be on this side of OHS, but I think often of those about to go to surgery. The Lord has been good to me, providing the caretakers and help I've needed, despite being alone with no family nearby. Food was bountiful, thanks to my church and other friends. Now I am back to work and will have completed my third week of work tomorrow. I work MWF (short days still) and do cardiac rehab on Tues and Thur. I am a pediatrician, and my office manager and I agreed on a schedule to slowly ease me back into my normal work routine by the middle of Sept. I am thankful for this website and how it both educated and reassured me through the process, especially before surgery. I will continue to give regular updates on my progress and to see how everyone is doing here. Prayers for those on the upcoming surgery list.
9 weeks after aortic valve replacement (Bentall procedure)
Journal posted on July 24, 2017
Hi all - I realized it has been almost a month since I've been on here. I can't say how thankful I am to be on this side of OHS. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those with upcoming surgeries. I am coming along, slow but sure. I saw my cardiologist last week Friday (3 days ago), and he cleared me to return to work. So, I have started the process to return to work in 1 week from today. I plan to start at a slow pace, only 3 half days a week for the first two weeks, and then to slowly increase my hours over the first 2 months back. My work is willing to accommodate my needs. I am driving, doing household chores, and walking my dogs now. Yes, I decided to get a new friend (an approximately 2 yo dachsund/chihuahua mix) to celebrate my 8 week mark after surgery. My old girl (13 yo pitbull/lab mix) was great through everything, but I must have needed more entertainment when I decided to get my rambunctious little guy. Despite not working, I seem to keep myself occupied and take time to rest a little in the afternoons. Although I haven't missed work, I am looking forward to a more consistent routine. Once again, those facing surgery are in my thoughts and prayers. Know that the odds are in your favor to do well, just like I have so far.
5 weeks status post Bentall procedure - feeling pretty good
Journal posted on June 29, 2017
Hello again, heart family! I can't believe I am saying the above and realized I will be six weeks post-op on July 4, which will be my paternal grandmother's 92nd birthday. Since she had a brain bleed after a fall earlier this spring, I plan to visit her and my family next week. Since I probably shouldn't drive 6.5 hours to my family in MI, I will be flying from Ohio to Grand Rapids, MI next Monday July 3. I plan to stay with my brother for 10 days and visit my family for a while. Still not ready to go back to work, but I was told I could drive (probably only short distances) when I get back to OH on July 13. I had my first session of cardiac rehab today and did well - On-X valve was clicking away, but no chest pain, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath noted. I do get out daily at least twice to walk and am doing most of my household task, just not lifting things (i.e. full trash bags and heavy baskets of laundry). I had bad sternal pain requiring Tramadol yesterday and realized it was likely due to my side sleep position the night before. After having a better night sleep last night and laying only on my back (I happen to sleep on a 30 degree wedge pillow for GER, but it has been a Godsend after heart surgery, as I can't sleep flat), I feel a lot better today. Now I am about to go on another walk on this warm day in OH. Glad to give a good report, and I hope others are doing well. I also hope this update gives encouragement to those with upcoming surgeries.
I saw my cardiologist for the first time today after my surgery on May 23. Since I have several years (about 5) of working with Dr. Lane (an adult congenital heart disease specialist at Akron Children's Hospital), it was great to see him and his nurse Deena, who were always willing to answer my questions and allay my concerns before surgery. I have done pretty well keeping it together until now, but for some reason, I had a little emotional meltdown there with them today. I just realized that after all the planning and preparation going into my surgery, I am now well past it and healing well. The Lord has been gracious, providing everything I need through both the surgery and recovery process. I am still not out of the woods yet (INR was subtherapeutic today, so Coumadin was increased; also, I lost 5 lbs - a big deal for someone who only weighed 98 lbs presurgery), but in about 2-4 weeks when I am driving again and able to do more on my own, I will look back and think, "What was I so worried about?!" I can only be thankful for the technology available today, my medical team at Cleveland Clinic, and the group of women who have helped me at home while recovering from surgery. For those here who live alone like me, tell people you trust at work, at church, and in your neighborhood where you live about your need for heart surgery. You will be surprised who comes to your aid.
Hello, all - I have been journaling about weekly here. Yesterday, I was officially 3 weeks post-op Bentall Procedure on 5/23/17. I can't believe I am already that far our of surgery. I certainly don't feel like myself, but I am doing more every day. Over this past weekend, I had a friend staying with me. We did an outing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I was exhausted when I got home each day but SO glad to get out of my house for a while. For the first time today, I felt like I had enough energy to load up my dishwasher and clean my kitchen. I have the most energy after I wake up in the am, so of course, I did the work then. I am no longer having someone stay with me at night, so it has been just me and my dog the past 2 nights. I am still having someone come daily to help me lift things (i.e. take out garbage and recycling for trash day today, get laundry out of the basement) and drive me to appts (first outing to a salon today, chiropractor for gentle work on my neck and back). My blood work is improving, with my hemoglobin up to 9.4 from 8.7 and my liver function tests normalizing. My INR has been relatively stable on Coumadin 3 mg daily, but I will now take 4 mg twice weekly to make sure my INR doesn't decrease below 2. So, I am pleased with my progress, even though it seems slow. I would love to be back to my "normal" activity level and be able to drive and lift again. I will be seeing my cardiologist next Tue 6/20/17 and hope for a good report. Take care all, especially those about to go through surgery. My thoughts are with you!
I have been home now 4 days and am getting stronger every day. I have been doing 3 walks daily, no more than about 20 min at a time. Pain (especially neck and upper back pain) has been a problem and wasn't helped with the narcotic pain meds. I did get better after a massage with a cooling gel my chiropractor had given me months ago. I had my post-op check yesterday. Anemia was improved (Hgb up to 8.7 from 8), and except for my liver function tests being abnormally high (still waiting for answers and recommendations on this matter), everything checked out okay. I have an INR recheck in 2 days, and plan to see if I can get a recheck on my liver function tests at that time. I am working on decreasing my pain meds, as pain is slowly getting better. They make me so drowsy and seem to give me headaches. I go see my primary care doctor next week and cardiologist in the next couple weeks. Fortunately, I have been getting good sleep, only waking up with occasional coughing spells (at times quite bad) or pain (yet I go right back to sleep when the pain meds knock me out). I have several sweet ladies assisting me, taking shifts staying at my house and providing 24/7 help until June 12, or about the first 2 weeks I am home after surgery. They have helped me maintain a hopeful outlook during these first few days home after OHS. Anyway, just my latest update for now. I hope eventually to put on a post-op "smiling scar" pic :)
6 days post-op: feeling achy and tired, but going home tomor
Journal posted on May 29, 2017
Hello, everyone - I finally feel that I have the energy to get on my laptop and write a journal entry. It has been a bit of a haul, but I am almost ready to go home (some hold ups due to the holiday). I spent my first 3.5 post-op days in a pediatric ICU, as my surgeon is a congenital heart surgeon that does surgeries at Cleveland Clinic's Children's. It was somewhat touch and go for my first 48 hours after surgery, trying to get my BP and urine output up. I had to go on a medicine called dobutamine to increase my heart function for about 48 hours. It worked, as urine output and BP improved. Most of my lines and drains were taken out before leaving ICU. I was then transferred to the adult floor for post-operative heart patients. The first 24 hours on the regular floor was spent getting my pain under control. The first night out of the ICU, I was very weepy after moving to the bathroom via walker. The nurse got an additional pain med ordered by the doctor, and I was on an every 3 hour pain medication regimen the next day. I was able to walk the halls by the end of that day. Slow, baby step improvements since then. A shower last pm made me SO tired and achy in my neck and shoulders. Had to stay on a regular pain med schedule since last pm, but I feel a little better today. The heart surgeon's fellow and nurse practitioner rounded and seemed to think I am doing well. Lasix got off my extra fluid (almost 2.5 liters of urine yesterday!), so I can actually put on my slip-on sneakers today :) My heart rate is a little tachycardic (high 90's to low 100's), which is apparently normal after heart surgery. Due to my BP being low (and it is normally), they don't think I will be able to tolerate a beta-blocker to decrease my heart rate, as my systolic BP is rarely over 100. SO, I just have to hang out another day and keep doing laps around the unit.
May 23 will be the date. No hold up based on hematologist's evaluation for my low wbc count. I got blood work done today and have an abdominal ultrasound scheduled while I'm up in Cleveland this coming Monday, which is the day before my surgery. Future evaluations for my low wbc count may be in the future, BUT at least no hold up on my heart surgery. Yay!!!
Today was my preoperative testing day and time to get poked and prodded before surgery: CXR, EKG, blood work, and echocardiogram. I was sent home with a holter monitor. I got a tour of the surgical suite, ICU, and postoperative floor. I was referred to a hematologist for preoperative clearance due to a low white blood cell count, which I have had for years. I hope the nurse practitioner working with the heart surgeon or my primary doctor can work a small miracle and get me an appt for this consult before my scheduled surgical date. I am definitely hoping and praying that nothing changes my surgical date.
So, I spent the past two days cleaning up everything at work - we're talking 10+ hours on Thursday and about 5+ hours yesterday (Friday). I am pediatrician and had to make sure all patient care matters were addressed and medical records were completed. Most people who aren't in health care have no idea of what is required for documentation, even just for a kid coming in for a simple cold! But I digress . . . here I am now, awake at 3:30 am. I just finished eating two slices of cold leftover pizza and now can't lay down for a while due to GER. I made the mistake of falling asleep early after eating very little for dinner, then waking up anxious and hungry. I hope this night isn't foreshadowing my upcoming days before surgery. So much to do, so little time!
I am having my heart cath at Akron Children's Hospital at 11 am today. Yes, I go to a children's hospital and see one of the adult congenital heart specialists there. Dr. John Lane is my doctor and is board certified in both pediatric and adult cardiology. He is doing my cath this morning. For adults with congenital heart disease (simple and complex) who live in Northeast Ohio, I highly recommend him and his partner, Dr. Saini. They conference weekly with the congenital heart surgeons at Cleveland Clinic. Who would have known I would have such a great team of specialists taking care of me when I was referred to Dr. Lane by my primary care doctor about 5 years ago when I needed a cardiologist after moving to the area several years prior. And don't follow my lead of not going to a cardiologist for 7 years at the time I first saw Dr. Lane! Get at least yearly echocardiograms if you have bicuspid aortic valve and aortic stenosis..
So the waiting is almost over! I can't believe how time has moved so quickly to this point. My last day of work was yesterday, and now I have two weeks before my surgery to attend to my needs. I must have a heart cath before my surgery to check out my coronary arteries. I hope all is found to be normal. Can't believe this happens in two days! The worst part will be laying flat for 6 hours after the procedure.
Surgery is one day shy of 5 weeks away from today. I am taking two weeks off work before surgery to get myself prepared and to do my heart cath and preop visit. So, I have two weeks and two days left of work before about 3 months off. Too much to do, too little time. Trying to stay focused the best I can.
For months,, I have been planning and preparing for my surgery on May 23. Fortunately, my surgery hasn't been an immediate urgency, so I have been able to schedule it at a convenient time for me. Unfortunately, I was told by my sister that her work isn't going to let her take off the 3 weeks I was hoping she could spend with me after my surgery. I know everyone's recovery is different, but Just wondering: how long would people recommend having a 24/7 caretaker after surgery? I live alone and plan to make a calendar of coverage, allowing family and friends to give me specific dates and times they are available to help.
So, it is less than 2 months before my surgery. Trying hard to keep focused these days. Has anyone thought of doing something completely out of character, almost a little crazy, before surgery? I am usually VERY practical with my money and have an old but good car (2005 Honda CR-V - paid off since 2008). Would love to have a motorcycle, but due to being on blood thinners soon, I don't think that would be a good idea. Plus, I am very petite! Instead, I think I want a fun, impractical car. How about a 2013 MINI Cooper S Hardtop - gray with racing stripes? Found one online for a good price. New car or not, I think a road trip is calling me before surgery :)
Hello all - I had a little bit of a roller coaster ride after the appt with my heart surgeon on Feb 9. Instead of coming armed with numerous questions, I asked to hear my "options." I had just done a long drive through treacherous weather and then couldn't find where I was going (Cleveland Clinic's main campus is a maze!!!). I was already in a bit of a tizzy when I got there and seemingly couldn't process all the information given by the surgeon. And I am a pediatrician! For most people who aren't in the medical field, the idea of OHS must be incredibly overwhelming. The decision making process must be incredibly difficult, especially if I as a physician struggled for days about what option I would choose. After discussing at length the Ross Procedure with my cardiologist, I stayed firm on my decision to get a mechanical heart valve. I must also get a graft of my dilated ascending aorta (no aneurysm yet, but precautionary), I want "one and done" - no future procedures for me!!!