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    The Road Home from Heart Surgery
    Exchange_Blogs_Admin posted:
    Undergoing heart surgery is the medical equivalent of being hit by a truck. What are the questions and concerns you should discuss with your surgeon and cardiologist? What can help you get on the road home to recovery? Read Dr. James Beckerman's latest blog post . Then come back here to share your comments and questions.
    DeadManWalking56 responded:
    Recovery might be easier for some people than others. I have to work at mine, and thought an exchange specific to Heart Rehab might be a good focused place for it.

    Check my bio on the exchange.

    Optimisticstill responded:
    I wish it was that easy for me. During surgery lung function was damaged. (Paralyzed Diaphram) Although I'm sure they knew at the hospital (11 days) they only told me I had some fluid on my lung. They released me on oxygen to a re-hap facility. 11 more days there, released still on oxygen. Three months later my cardiac Doc agreed with me that my heart was not the problem (I had 2 way by-pass and aortic valve replacement) she sent me to a pulmanary doc who established that I did indeed have a paralyzed diaphram. Surgery was December 11th and I'm still on oxygen at night and during the day unless sitting quietly. Makes it hard to garden walk, or sing in my 2 choruses. I found a backpack to put a small bottle of oxygen in during those activities and use a long cord for household tasks. Some days I think I'm improving and other days are discouraging. If you have been through this and eventually got better I'd love to hear from you.
    daveydee2 responded:
    I was very lucky, I spent one night in ICU, after 3x bypass,
    and was home 2 days later. The only thing that I had a problem with, was depression, it's 3 yrs since open heart surgery and I still deal with depression.
    Other than that with my change in diet and excercise, I am doing fine.
    DeadManWalking56 replied to daveydee2's response:
    Wow. I think I was two nights ICU, then another 5 days in the hospital.

    Some depression, but I partly attribute that to lowered heart rate and BP. Plus it would be nice to have someone exercise with me occasionally. When I am more active, I am cheerier.
    jambajuice replied to DeadManWalking56's response:

    I want you to know that there are many people reading your posts and gain inspiration from your words...

    Both you and Cardiostar are providing people with Heart Disease with hope and a reason to believe in a better future.

    There's good reason why you're still "walking"...but, you already know that.

    Bless you and your humanitarian efforts.
    DeadManWalking56 replied to jambajuice's response:
    I get so few replies, I wonder if anyone reads them. I don't bite.

    I really need to come up with an exercise partner at home. I have one co-worker who walks with me regularly. I new friend at work needs to start walking. She has asthma and migraines and other issues, and her LDL is high at about 170, but her HDL is also very high at 89. I can't get her to do anything. That's annoying. And she's bright and interesting.

    Thanks Jamba
    DeadManWalking56 replied to Optimisticstill's response:

    We must always hope we can heal. Sometimes the problem is so severe, we don't realize how much we need to back off, and try to to find the right level for a starting point.

    After my bypass surgery, the nurses and physical therapists insisted I needed to get "active" as soon as possible. They helped me walk from ICU to my room ! And daily walks were insisted upon, just up and down the hall, very slow. The last day, the PT insisted I walk some stairs with her. 8 steps, and I threw up.

    At home, I don't think I did any walking for another week except to go to the bathroom. Those were very long slow trips across the house from the couch where I stayed, since I could not lie on a bed. But little by little, the bathroom trips got easier, and I started to make other little "excursions" from the couch. Very slow. Maybe once an hour. These slowly got easier. Maybe each week I added a tiny bit more.

    If you can walk or garden at all, you are doing well. But without a heart rate monitor to inform you when your heart rate is climbing because fatigue is catching you, you don't know to stop soon enough. If you always do just a little too much, you'll believe you can never do more.

    Avoiding fatigue, and even any breathing difficulty is a key in rehab from severe issues. I've had setbacks, too, but less than most people. And I've tried to keep progressing week by week. I made pretty much continuous progress until spring 2009, for over three years. I still have limits, and still overdo it sometimes, but I am much better off than the week after surgery.

    Gardening is harder than you think. I still have about an hour or so limit there. But I can also walk hard or row for an hour, or shoot baskets in the driveway for 40 minutes, and feel refreshed. Singing takes lung capacity, and its hard for the heart to deliver extra oxygen to the lungs when the rest of the body is not moving. If you can raise your fitness, the singing may come with it.

    Read my tips about healthy arteries and endothelial progenitor cells. Its surprising how many things can interfere with them.

    How good is your diet ? Are you as rigidly low fat and getting regular anti-oxidants as I try to ? Missing my mid-morning and mid-afternoon break for green tea with prunes, blueberries, pistachios or dark chocolate, does not bother me one day, but if I do it for a week being too busy, then it starts to make a difference, and I am not doing as well.
    Confetti1955 responded:
    Just found this blog. Open heart surgery in 1997. Had a rare birth defect they just found. Subaortic membrane stenosis. My surgeon had corrected 7 of these and he is head of cardiology. My concern is that my cardiologist has never spoken to me about cholesterol, etc. Am I more of a risk for heart disease because of the surgery? It wasn't related to lifestyle, etc. No symptoms prior to surgery.

    After surgery-extreme fatigue, depression, suicide thoughts-due to medication. Things ar egood now-but the keloid scar is a bit unsightly.

    knitwoman replied to DeadManWalking56's response:
    I have been looking for a site such as this since I came home after having my aortic valve replaced. It is great to find you people. I had surgery on May 25 and came home on June 1.

    I think the key to recovery is having someone who really cares about you to take care of you. My husband has been absolutely marvelous. I think he is afraid that his "little girl" is growing up as I am able to do more and more things for myself. I really had no idea that I wouldn't be able to do anything for myself at first. I'm a very strong woman and to be so helpless was pretty much devastating at first.

    Having your chest cracked open, even though we remember none of it, has to be one of the most invasive things that happens to a human being. Thank goodness they can do it though and make us well again. I look forward to working in my garden again but that will have to wait until September, so I'm told. I still sneak a weed pull now and then as I walk by a flower bed.

    How have you dealt with the depression? I will just burst into tears for no reason. Luckily I haven't done it in public, but only in the privacy of my own home.

    I am in cardiac rehab once a week now and those people are fabulous. They are aware that I also have PAD, so I can't walk for an extended period of time and allow for that. With a 3-5 minute break I can now walk for 10 minutes at a time. Three weeks ago, I couldn't even do a total of 3 minutes. Having a treadmill at home helps too.

    Looking forward to actively participating here.
    James Beckerman, MD, FACC replied to knitwoman's response:
    Congratulations on your recovery so far!

    I think you have recognized an important point - social support can be as important (if not more) than any aspect of recovery from heart surgery.

    Depression is not uncommon - there's nothing like having open heart surgery to make you seriously confront your mortality - it's scary, and it's normal to face some challenging moments when you're looking at yourself in the mirror or thinking about it late at night or when you are alone.

    But remember that it's one step at a time. Literally and figuratively. You are still early in the process - take care and look forward to some gardening in the weeks to come!
    knitwoman replied to James Beckerman, MD, FACC's response:
    Thank you for your response, Dr. Beckerman. You really confirmed what I had suspected about the social support.

    I would hope that everyone has the support that I've received from my family. My husband, as the main caretaker, has been above and beyond with the care he has given me. My two grown kids have been wonderful also. In fact, both of them stepped up to the plate while I was still in the hospital and went buggy one night. I'm sure that some of the people have had that experience. I got it into my head that the nurse (my favorite out of all of the wonderful folks) was going to kill be. Daughter is a police dispatcher and I called her and asked to send the cops over. Of course, she didn't, but kept me talking and called her brother to come and sit with me. He did, and finally got me calmed down. They both called their father at 4 in the morning to let him know what had happened. This is when you know you've raised good kids.

    I really am taking things one step at a time and when I look back over the past weeks, that is when I realize how far I have come. Gotta go hop on the treadmill in half an hour so I guess I'd better get the rest of my computer stuff done, before Nurse Ratched comes after me.
    IsadoraD replied to James Beckerman, MD, FACC's response:
    My friend is about to have open heart surgery. What advice and tips can you give me to make his experience and recovery as good as possible?

    cbrucejohnson replied to IsadoraD's response:
    seek out others who have had similar surgeries. There is nothing more powerful than one patient sharing his or her story with another.
    knitwoman replied to IsadoraD's response:
    Go in with a positive attitude that he will come out fine. Be prepared to look for the truck that hit him. Realize that his life will forever change. Get all the friends around him for moral support. It isn't something that anyone is going to enjoy, but I'm told that down the road (I'm only 8 weeks out from my surgery) he will have more energy and be much healthier. Good luck to him

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