Today is my 5 year mitral valve repair surgery anniversary. Looking back, I am convinced I made the right choice. Recently I read a quote "The Opposite of Comfort is NOT discomfort it is courage. Living Deliberately Is A Choice". Having the surgery when I did was a choice and since then I am completely aware the living in comfort can be an deceptive and misleading. Surgery has given me access to l life of choice. I am grateful for my team of doctors, my supportive wife and family and for the life I get to continue to experience.
On May 9th 2012 I had open heart Mitral valve repair surgery.
August 29th - Sept 4th 2013 my wife and I completed a 7 day 50+ mile backpacking trip in Kings Canyon/Sequoia in the California Sierras mountains. Most of the trip was spent at elevations above 9,500 feet.
It was a wonderful adventure. My biggest fear upon learning I needed surgery was I would no longer be able to enjoy these types of trips. My surgeon assured me that unless there was some unexpected issue, that I would be able to return to backpacking.
So, I moved forward with the surgery, did all of the cardiac rehab, modestly adjusted my diet and maintained a regular workout schedule.
I did not have to make any adjustments to compensate for the surgery to do this trip. Well, to be honest I did purchase a lighter pack and tent, but I am always buying new gear.
For those who are confronting surgery, my experience has been one of moving forward always taking the next indicated step and embrace the opportunity to regain as much health as possible.
One week ago (on 5/9/13) it was the one year anniversary of my open heart mitral valve surgery. It wasn't planned as a one year anniversary trip, yet it turned out last Thursday I was driving with 5 members of my family to hike the Grand Canyon. On Friday we hiked from the south rim to the bottom and camped at Phantom Ranch. On Saturday we hiked out the Bright Angel trail. The total distance was 17 miles and the elevation gain and loss was about 4,800 feet.
I was able to complete the hike as well as everyone else (including the the two in their 20's)!
I will post a picture standing at the bridge at the bottom once I figure out how to get it to the correct file size.
So, for those of you who are just learning you have to have surgery or just recently had surgery, it is very likely that you will be able to accomplish so much in just a few short months.
I am very happy that I chose to have the surgery, since I believe that I feel as good as I have in many years and I am fully able to live the life that I intend to live.
The next adventure is a one week 45 mile backpacking trip in the Sierras the first week of September.
Yesterday was my 9 month open heart mitral valve surgery anniversary . It seems like so long ago and only sometimes do I even reflect on the surgery and hospital stay.
I do reflect often on good fortune to be alive at a time that this type of surgery is available. It has made a real difference in my life and I am grateful.
Last year at this time I was conflicted, confused and apprehensive about surgery. Today, i am glad I did all of the research, ultimately made a decision and then embraced the challenge as an adventure - - plus did ALL of the cardiac rehab.
My recovery has progressed to the point that on my one year anniversary (May 9th), i will leave to hike the Grand Canyon - - - down to the river on the 10th and back to the top on the 11th.
In about two weeks it will be 6 months since my Mitral Valve repair. For those of you at getting ready for open heart surgery, recovery actually is very straight forward and manageable.
I am amazed at how everything has unfolded and realize that my life's adventure now includes being repaired to be able to continue to live a vibrant life. I am grateful that the technology was available for the surgery, that insurance was available and that I have an amazing, loving and supportive wife and family. The truth is that to at least some degree, I took some of these things for granted prior to surgery.
As I look back and notice the progress since the 5/9/12 surgery the following has occurred:
1. 36 Cardiac Rehab sessions, which jump started a very fast recovery
2. I weigh 15 pounds less and my nutrition routine is much better (no more potato chips or cookies)
3. Still walking a minimum of 2 miles a day, combined with jogging and strength training
4. Completed a 5K trail run and my time was only 2 minutes slower than my fasted time prior to surgery on a flat course!
5. Feel great every day
6. Back to working a full schedule after just a few weeks
7. Officiated my niece's wedding in July
Only a small issue with some soreness with my sternum. In addition, I still sense I am not at 100% as it relates to my ability to concentrate and follow up quickly on the many issues that come with leading an active life - - yet it is still improving each week.
I believe that chosing to move forward with the surgery was the best decision I could have made for my situation. Yes, I did experience apprehension ahead of time. I found that keeping myself busy making sure that everything that needed to be put in order (business travel, legal issues at work, paperwork at home, visiting family members) helped to pass the time prior to surgery. The surgery came and went, recovery progressed and now I am available for the rest of life.
As it turns out it has be one month since my last post. I had decided to wait until I had something significant to share.
It has been 16 weeks (not quite 4 months) since open heart surgery to repair my Mitral valve. Since surgery I have completed about 11 weeks of cardiac rehab and I have supplemented that with an average of 3 miles a day of walking.
So, on Friday, Aug 31st I flew up to Sacramento and connected up with my former business partner and friend. We drove to the Mount Lassen National Park to hike up Mount Lassen to watch the sunset and the full moon rise.
The trail is a moderate challenge for most people in decent health, it starts at 8,000 feet and goes up to 10,000 feet over 2.5 miles (5 miles round trip). My friend is about 10 years older than me and has had a hip and knee replaced. We both figured this would be a good measure of our abilities - - and we agreed that we could turn around anytime if the challenge was too much. My daypack weighed about 15 pounds.
I am happy to report that we both made it to the top in about 2.5 hours (got down in a little over 1 hour). We did see the sun set and moon rise, which was really cool. On the other hand the wind was blowing about 25 to 30 miles and hour and it was about 45 degrees. So it was chilly and combined with the fact that I have lost about 15 pounds since surgery (Less fat to keep me warm) I was having difficulty keeping warm.
So, for those of you that are deciding on the worth of cardiac rehab, my experience is that it really helps with the recovery process. Now my challenge is to keep up with the rigor and routine.
Yesterday marked 12 Weeks since my open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve. I find myself tonight at 7:30pm stuck in the Sacramento airport waiting for a flight home after flying here this morning for a 6 hour video shoot for work. This type of activity is what I have been doing for my whole career.
For those who are in the process of getting ready for surgery, it is helpful to look past the apprehension of surgery and recognize that a vibrant life is available very quickly - - in a few very short weeks. In my case it is as if I almost did not miss a beat - - it's back to the future!
next week I will be getting an echo, so I will get an initial insight into the effectiveness of the repair. However, my energy levels are good, I am able run with my dogs and I am starting week nine of cardiac rehab.
It is important to recognize that my recovery progress has all been made possible by a very supportive team at work, 4 sons who have reached out and let me know how they feel about me and my wife who seems to always know how to deal with my emotions and to be willing to encourage me to focus less on myself and more on the important things in life.
In my post this afternoon, I mentioned it had been 45 days since surgery, however I ment to type 54 days.
That is the one thing I have noticed, I have to be careful with my thoughts and communication more so now than before surgery. It got much better once i stopped taking the pain medication, yet my clarity of thinking is still not as good as it was prior to surgery.
So, i guess I need to realize that even though I may not feel physically tired after working out, I may be mentally tired.
Today is the 45th day since my surgery (which was open heart) and for those of you with surgery in the near future you may be surprised at how fast your recovery progresses.
Today in Orange County in Southern California it is really a nice day. So, I decided to see how much Cardiac Rehab has helped. I put on my hiking boots and went up into the hills for a hike by myself. I walked for about 1.5 hours (a little over 3 miles) and the trail had a fair amount of uphill sections. I was able to listen to my iTouch, did not get winded and did not feel tired with I got home.
I had set a goal right after surgery of doing this by day 90. So, the Cardiac Rehab has really made a difference - - as I achieved my goal in 1/2 of the time.
So, for me reading Adam's book, being patient with the first few days of recovery, doing cardiac rehab 3 times a week and walking 3 to 5 miles on the other days has made a real difference.
I am grateful for all of the information shared by the HVJ'ers, as it has been insightful, I am grateful for the having a circumstance where I can work and still be able to do my rehab and finally I am grateful for the support of my wife who has been willing to put up with all of my concerns and at the same time be reassuring that my health would improve .
In previous posts I talked about the benefits for me of cardiac rehab. My surgeon strongly suggested it, yet my cardiologist felt just 10 sessions were needed. At my 6 week follow up last week, it took 3 different approaches to finally get the cardiologist to prescribe at least a total of 24 workouts. I am doing well getting in a lot of walking on my own, yet I appreciate the structure, consistency and monitoring of rehab. Plus, with the progression to light strength training I find this to be a safe and effective way regain more of my health and vitality.
I had spoken to the cardiologist about rehab prior to surgery and he seemed positive, clearly I did not ask the right questions or I did not listen clearly. The lesson for me is to always be accountable for every phase of my health.
It has been 5 weeks since my surgery and this is my second week of Cardiac Rehab and the benefits have been encouraging. First of all, because they safely got me to bring up my effort level so that I was breathing a little harder and deeper, I was final able to get my breathing capacity back to my per surgery level! Secondly, the modest stretching has helped with the chest soreness and I am more comfortable with regular daily activities.
My challenge right now is that my cardiologist only prescribed 10 workouts, so I have to figure some way to get him to approve more so that my insurance company will cover the cost (however, I would pay out of pocket if needed because the benefits are worth it.)
At this time the only medication I am taking is one 325mg aspirin a day and Aleve when needed. My next follow-up with the cardiologist is next Wednesday and I have an echo scheduled for early in August.
So, my progress is good and so far uneventful and for this I am grateful.
Today it has been one month since my Mitral Valve Repair. This week I started cardiac rehab and I am happy I chose to do this. The staff is encouraging and they actually pushed me a little more than I expected and it felt good to break a sweat! In addition, I am walking about 3 to 4 miles on the days I am not doing the rehab work.
I also was able to go into my office 3 days this week for a few hours and it felt good to make a contribution there. This next week I plan on working about 25 to 30 hours.
For those who have upcoming surgeries, my experience with the healing process has been progressive and very manageable. I do have a great support system at home and at work and this made a significance positive difference and I am grateful. Yet, taking one day at a time, I have found that improvement takes place and each week amazing progress has occurred.
I went back to work for a couple of hours today. This is the first time I have physically been back since my surgery on 5/9/12.
I have decided to do my cardiac rehab near my office and today I had the consultation at the rehab center. So, I went to work for 2 hours and then went to the consultation. It was interesting how tired I was when I got home around noon.
Fortunately, I will be able to tie in my 3 times a week at rehab with 2 or 3 hours at the office for the next 2 or 3 weeks. This will allow me to work my way back to full time by the second Monday in July. I am grateful for the ability to slowly get back up to speed.
Today is 19 days since my surgery. A few days ago, I finally checked my Facebook account and saw a posting from this website highlighting the section "Patient Success Stories". I clicked on the link and was immediately encouraged!
The reason I chose to move forward with the surgery was to do what I could to extend my ability to spend time in the mountains backpacking. Last summer my wife and I spent 7 days in the High Sierras hiking 45 miles with extensive elevation gain and loss. It was an amazing adventure and I did not experience any symptoms of the Severe Regurgitation.
I got 3 opinions prior to choosing surgery and one thing that all 3 cardiologists agreed on was that I should avoid trips like that until the valve was repaired.
So, in 2012 I will be working on recovery rather than backpacking. However, based on reading the Success Stories, I am resolved to return to the Sierras in the summer of 2013. Therefore, I will be following through on the advice from the cardiologist and purposefully working on my cardiac rehab.
I appreciate all that this website does to keep me informed (especially the social media component) - - - Thanks Adam!
Just prior to my surgery on 5/9/12, I read an article about the young actress in the TV show "Modern Family", who suffered with kidney disease and just had a kidney transplant. She was asked how she felt about having to deal with her condition, did she feel it was unfair? Her response was not "Why Me?" rather it was "Why Not Me!". In other words, it is what it is and she felt that it was not unfair.
These comments from a 21 year old young women were helpful for me just prior to surgery. I admit I was still feeling a little sorry for myself, yet based on her comments, I was able to choose to have a positive perspective and recognize that I am responsible for how I handle my circumstance. The weight that was lifted off my shoulders was immediate and the days leading up to surgery were relatively stress free.
After surgery, I realized that my responsibility is to be diligent at following through on each indicated step. So, I have developed a routine of walking, breathing and rest.
This has allowed me to recognize the many things that I have to be grateful for, that I was overlooking. For example:
1. I actually learned about my Mitral Valve condition before any real damage had occurred to my heart
2. I had access to highly qualified cardiologists and surgeons with the expertise to repair the valve
3. I had the insurance to cover most of the cost of the surgery
4. My wife and 4 children (actually 4 grown adult men between 26 and 36 years old) were present throughout the journey
So, my Mitral Valve condition was just a circumstance that presented itself in my life (it is what it is) and as it turns out I was equipped to effectively take the next indicated steps and be responsible for my long-term health. I am grateful, because there are many, many people in the world with the same physical condition that do not have the same access to health care or insurance resources.
Today I had my surgery follow-up appointment with Dr. Raney's staff. The Mirtal repair surgery was done on Wednesday May 9th.
Overall everything is on track for recovery. There were no surprises, all of stitches are now out, blood pressure and heart rate are normal and I am no longer taking pain medication except for Advil or Tylenol.
There was some misunderstanding between the Surgeon and my Cardiologist as to who would prescribe the cardiac rehab. That is now settled. Because I am no longer taking the prescription pain medication, I have been told I can begin driving 3 weeks after surgery which is Wednesday May 30th. So, I guess I will start the rehab routine late next week.
I continue to be encouraged by everyone journals, the comments offer great insight and help me to manage my expectations and this has been a great emotional advantage.
Looking back on the run-up to my surgery (5/9/12), it is interesting how it played out. Initially I scheduled the surgery for late March, however it had to be rescheduled due to a conflict with the surgical staff availability, so it was delayed about 5 more weeks at my request.
At first, I was very apprehensive and frankly I was feeling sorry for myself. However, in Adam's book in the section "The Best Piece of Advice" I took to heart what Sue Monks said (page 176). So, I used the time to get my affairs in order which included:
1. Completing several legal issues and the corresponding paperwork in connection with my business
2. Organizing my Mom's Trust, of which I am the Trustee
3. Visiting several clients across the country, to ensure continuity and at least 120 days of positive momentum - - this included 4 multi day business trips to New Orleans, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Austin.
4. Visiting my Son and Daughter-in-Law and our first grandchild that was born on April 10th. This required a flight from Orange County, CA to Columbus, OH.
Looking back, Sue's advice was good for me, as I spent very little time thinking about something that I had no control over. In addition, I accomplished quite a bit for my business that I now do not have to worry about anymore!. Most importantly, it got me to visit my son, daughter-in-law and grandson much, much sooner than i would have if I was stuck in my normal day-to-day life.
So, overall in an interesting way, the valve repair actually got me more involved in my own life and I was far more connected in all of my relationships. So, Sue, thank you for your advice, it was valuable to me.
Today marks one week from returning home from the surgery. I am happy that my clarity of thinking is much better. Over the last week I experienced some difficulty with food tasting weird, yet that went away after a couple of days. I am also walking for 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a day.
I am only taking the prescription pain medication once in the morning and once before going to bed (and each of these times I am only taking 1/2 of the allowable dose). The rest of the time I take tylenol, which is usually 500mg around noon and 6:00p. The upside as I mentioned is that my thinking is better, yet there is a fair amount of soreness in my back during the evening.
In my day-to-day life, I am a CEO of an advertising agency, and I am very fortunate that both of my business partners (Rochelle & Debbie) are supportive and as I attempted to be just a little involved last week, they made it clear that I am to work on my recovery. I did take their direction and I have left it up to them to continue to do the great job they always do.
So, being used to being actively involved in business, I have been surprised that I actually look forward to an afternoon nap, the quiteness around the house and the ability to just sit and rest. My wife says to see this as a blessing, because will soon be back to the day-to-day business life.
I have found that sleeping is much easier than I believed it would be. I usually sleep on my stomach and found it difficult to sleep on my back. I believe that this has not been an issue, since I decided to use surgery as an excuse to get a recliner chair. This has been my bed for the last week, and I am getting relatively long stretches of peaceful sleep. However, I am looking forward to returning to my regular bed.
The one area where I may not be doing as well as I could is with the breathing excercises. I am following the directions and using the plastic devise with the tube 10 times an hour. I just seem to have hit a plateau a few days ago. Well, i will address this with the cardiologist tomorrow at my appointment.
My surgery was on May 9th for Mitral Valve Repair. It was a 5 month process from the day of learning of the need for surgery to actually have the surgery performed. The surgery went as expected (yet Dr. Raney said the repair was difficult) and I was only on the ventilator for about 2 hours. I moved from ICU to the sub-acute floor the next morning. My biggest issue had to do with the 4 tubes which I had not completely understood prior to surgery. They were uncomfortable and the biggest issue with pain had to do with discomfort in my back.
I was up walking the day after surgery and the tubes were removed 2 days after surgery. I was released from the hospital on Sunday May 13th.
I have been at home recovering. My wife has been amazing, taking care of me and everything else (boy do I owe her big time). I have been able to walk everyday, yet progress seems to be modest each day. I have been able to greatly reduce my need for pain medication. My follow-up appointments are on Monday and Tuesday this coming week.
I can tell that one of my challenges will be having the patience to just take the time to recover, so that is the main reason I chose to do this journal - - to share my experience with recovery and perhaps it will help others.