At age 50, I thought I was pretty healthy for a man my age. I had raced bicycles competitively well into my late 40s, was trim, and had always been in great shape. I had always had a slightly "odd" heartbeat, and lately had been having more PVCs than normal. Last August (2012), while out on a bike ride, I started feeling funny, starting graying out . . . and woke up in a ditch.
Long story short--I had a badly calcified bicuspid aortal valve and needed a new one. Since I had a PE years before and was already on coumadin, a mechanical valve was a no-brainer for me. I had surgery October 2nd at Providence Hospital. All went well, but I experienced afib for the first week after surgery and had to be cardioverted. Went home after a week, went back into afib after a few days, but knocked that off with amioderone and digoxin. I was back at work (in an office) on a limited basis in 2 1/2 weeks after surgery.
Since then, my recovery has come along well. At 3 months after surgery I was cleared to return to "normal," and have since begun riding my bike again. In short, I feel completely normal and am off all of the anti-arrythmics, but still am on beta blockers.
I still experience PVCs at about the same rate that I did before surgery, but I was told by my surgeon that would possibly be the case. At this point, the surgery and first few weeks afterward seem like a distant memory. The whole thing was a shocker.
I can't say that I feel better than I did before surgery, since I really didn't have any symptoms. I had a badly regurgitating valve with very little stenosis. In fact, my surgeon state that it was one of the most abnormal he had ever seen!
To those worried about the surgery, I can't sugar coat it--those first two weeks after surgery aren't pleasant. You will be in a lot of pain, you will sweat through the sheets at night (which will probably be on a recliner and not a bed), and you may or may not suffer some post-op afib. Everybody recovers differently, but I weaned myself off the pain meds in the second week post-op, and was sleeping in my bed by 3 weeks post-op. My chest soreness was gone by about 5 weeks post-op.
I did all of my breathing exercises the first couple of weeks, walked per the doctor's instructions, and also didn't lift anything heavy per instructions. I did not do cardiac rehab, but did ride an exercise bike on a limited basis.