Last Thursday I visited my surgeon for a 6 week meeting. I hadn't seen him since the day he let me out of the hospital. I was looking to get a good report and to be able to drive and to increase my heart rate during exercise.
The doctor said I looked good. He took a look at the statistics log I had kept since I left the hospital (daily heart rate, blood pressure, weight, lung capacity and O2) and said that I was doing very well.
OK, I am a hopeless accounting and engineering type. I kept the logs to look for progress and determine problems. They gave me some peace of mind when there were no doctors around. I have put them in the file cabinet now.
I have been back at work for most of January and been getting daily exercise. I am up to about 2 miles per day walking (about 5 days per week). Last Saturday after being released by the doctor I tried jogging for about 1/2 mile. The capacity was good. My heart rate stayed around 133 and it was my legs that said, "What are you doing here".
I have been looking forward to these days when I could sense that I was considerably better off than before. I really think I am. I will know more in a few months as I steadily increase my activity.
To my wife I owe a big thank you for driving me everywhere for the last 5 weeks. Thank you to family and friends for the phone calls and well wishes. I feel like a new man.
On Feb 11, I will walk my youngest daughter down the aisle and dance at her wedding reception, not to mention singing in the wedding ceremony. I feel very fortunate and grateful.
Here it is 8 days from surgery and I am at home healing.
Coming home was good in that it is a quiet and controlled atmosphere. Then again, the monitors are gone and it's just me and my wife and daughter. The first night I had a hard time sleeping. I was so tired and keyed up. My heart was beating so hard that we could actually see my body pulsing with the new blood flow. It was hard to not focus on all the new feelings.
Now, a couple of days later I am sleeping about 6 hours at night and a couple of hours during the day. I am doing exercise walking laps in our one level home. I am trying to increase my distance about 20% per time of exercise ( twice per day). I am still feeling some pain but have managed to cut back to a tylenol about every six hours.
I have been spending about 4 hours per day at my desk (2 hours morning and 2 afternoon) just keeping touch with my business life.
I am so grateful to have had this surgery in the 21st century. The high quality porcine valve, the very intellegent and highly respected surgeon, Dr. James Spann, the high quality nurses and technology at my Heart Center all helped me to get an excellent result.
Technology allowed me to see well wishes through e-mail and this journal even while I was still in ICU.
Even though technology allowed me to see encouragement quickly I still had old fashioned extra love from family who turned up at 5:30 in the morning to wish me well and then sat through all the drama to again greet me in ICU. What a great family I have. What great friends that showed love and support. That really helped my confidence level.
My difficult times come from a loss of confidence and trust. Night time is the worst, as I listen to this body sync to it's new flow and work hard to heal. It has interupted my sleep as I wake up suddenly in panic. As sleep comes easier, then everything looks better. I have to sleep in the recliner. I just can't lay down flat on my back yet, the pain is too much and I tend to panic a little. I can't explain it, but I am trying relaxation techniques to get to a place where I can fall asleep fairly quickly. It worked well last night, so I am hopeful.
I hope to get out to a local park this weekend and do a little walking outside.
Steve is now in his private room with two large windows overlooking downtown Tulsa. The sun is bright, the sky is blue and my heart is warmed to know that Steve will spend the next few days in such cheeriness.
It was fun to see that Steve journeyed in comfort from one floor to the next in his recliner :-). Who knew that recliners came with wheels?
As Mom and I left, Steve's new nurse introduced herself and began to talk with Steve and Denise about the new procedures and expectations - more "firsts" on this happy day of transition.
Brother Shawn stayed with Steve Thursday night and reported this morning that Steve had a good evening, which included a walk to the nurses station and another workout of marching in place.
Dr. Spann made a visit and determined that today, Friday, is moving day...wahoo! First though, two units of blood to replace that which was lost during surgery and removal of the tubes - a HUGE relief.
I want to thank Steve's nurse, Richard, who cared for Steve both nights in ICU. Richard's countenance and professional manner gave Steve the confidence he needed to do the difficult "firsts". Richard carefully explained medical processes and shared information about things to come so that Steve will be prepared.
Just learned via text that Steve is enjoying breakfast. We are ready to leave the hotel to partipate in the joy of moving to a new room. Perhaps pictures will follow...stay tuned!
It is Thursday, December 15th, 5:30 p.m. Steve remains in ICU because his blood pressure continues to stay slightly below normal. The nurse explains that this is common.
The progress for the day is that Steve is now sitting upright in a recliner. He reports that this position makes breathing so much easier. Pain control has been very successful to date. Steve will have his first meal containing solid food this evening.
Steve is finding that he is too exhausted for much conversation today. The ICU is a noisy place and Steve has not been able to sleep much since arriving here. Earplugs and a closed door helped Steve to take brief naps throughout the afternoon. He prefers only one family member in the room at a time to watch over him and help with any special request he may have.
Dr. Spann will decide on Friday if Steve will move to a private room...he is so ready!
It seems like a week ago we were gathering at 5:30 in the morning for Steve's surgery. We are on the other side of fear and dread - in the land of hope and promise...thanks be to God.
It is now 7:00 a.m. on Thursday morning - twenty four hours since Steve was prepped for surgery. He progressed well through the night and even stood up and took a step for the first time. Blood pressure is closer to normal, though still somewhat low. This measure may determine whether Steve remains in ICU for an extended time.
The nurse advised Steve that he would have his first liquid breakfast this morning and if he tolerates this meal well he can request a more substantial lunch.
Steve is communicating well and feeling more confident after having experienced so many "firsts" in one twenty four hour period. Today the IV's no longer needed will be removed, Dr. Spann will visit and preparations will be made for transfer to a private room.
I expect Steve will be making his own journal entries soon. I will stay connected until then.
The ICU nurse informed us that the breathing tube has been removed. This means they have determined Steve is stable enough to begin the rigorous process of deep breathing, sitting up in bed and then moving to the recliner...no rest in ICU!
It is almost 8:00 p.m. and Denise is going back to the room. Steve expressed earlier that he found it most difficult to try to breathe while intubated. The breathing tube remained two hours longer than expected due to low blood pressure and it required deep concentration on Steve's part to tolerate the tube in his throat.
Denise is now free to build her nest next to Steve and settle in for the evening. There are four of us left in the waiting room. We are hoping and praying that Steve will receive strength to bully through this very difficult phase of the healing process. I am confident that it will help hearing that more than forty people have expressed their well wishes in this journal.
It is now almost 5 p.m. and all twelve of us have squeezed Steve's hand and told him we loved him. The ICU nurse says he is doing very well. Their goal is to remove the breathing tube within the next two hours and have him sitting in the chair this evening.
Denise will be with Steve throughout his time in ICU and beyond. The only alone time will be from 6:30 to 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. for shift changes.
I will be here in the waiting room, continuing to give updates, as needed. Please continue to offer prayers for Steve's healing. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for your loving care.
It is now 3:00 p.m. Steve is in good hands in the intensive care unit on the third floor. We are all waiting for the ICU staff to give us guidelines for visitation. Denise is most anxious to see Steve and give him the thumbs up symbol, accompanied by a huge comforting smile.
It is 12:30 p.m. and Steve's surgery is almost complete. We will see Dr. Spann in approximately thirty minutes. Soon they will move Steve to intensive care in an adjoining building called The Oklahoma Heart Institute. We will be able to see him there in a few hours...so happy!
So glad to hear the latest report that Steve's heart is now beating on its own! The new valve is functioning and the new aorta is awaiting inspection by a technician. They will soon begin the closing process.
It is 11:50 a.m...did I mention how thankful I am??
We just learned from the nurse that Steve's new valve is in place and Dr. Spann is now replacing the ascending aorta. Steve was aware that there was a bulge in this vessel. I am so thankful that God provided this opportunity for the doctor to see the damage clearly and make a more thorough repair... God is SO good.
With this new procedure, it will be another hour before we receive an update. Thank you for your phone calls, texts and messages left in the journal guestbook. We appreciate you more than you can know.
The nurse is kind to keep us informed of their progress. We have been apprised that Steve is now connected to the heart-lung machine and replacement of the aortic valve is underway. Steve is doing fine. They anticipate an hour for repair, after which we will receive another update.
We have had three visitors this morning. It is so good to receive hugs and hear encouraging words from loving people...thank you!
Thank you, also, to the kind person who left snacks and reading material for us in the waiting room. We have a coffee bar nearby. Our wait is comfortable and hopeful.
The family gathered at 5:30 a.m. to share love and encouragement. It was great to spend time with Steve as he begins the most difficult phase of this journey.
Steve seems at peace with the process and ready to fight the good fight. His new running shoes are here in the waiting room - thank you to the kind friends who have made such encouraging gestures and expressed kind words of support.
There are eleven family members here in the surgical waiting room. The nurse will call us when Dr. Spann is ready to begin. Steve is probably dreaming of Cronulla Beach in Australia about now - that was the peaceful destination he chose to visit as the relaxation process began.
This is all for now. I will write again soon...Cheri
The day is at an end. Off I go to get, hopefully, a few hours rest and then off to the hospital at 5:00 am. Family and friends will be there to encourage me. Wow, that's love, getting up at 4:30 am to go and wish someone well in surgery.
Thanks again for everyone that made contact with me today. It helped me just stay busy so I didn't have to think too much. I am hopeful that tomorrow will be a good day. I really think I have a good medical team working on me.
No matter the outcome tomorrow, I can say my life to this point has been full of love and adventure. I am hopeful that I can continue to experience the love of my family, the encouragement of friends and many more adventures in the future.