Life At Five Months After Open Heart Surgery
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Blog Post by A.W.About this Blog
In this blog I will follow my everyday journey of living with familial hypercholesterolemia . I am sharing my own experience with this inherited disorder, and how I manage it daily from what literature I read on the topic and what my doctors say to how I live my life . This is solely a personal account that might or might not offer some insight on what to expect when diagnosed with this condition. This blog does not offer advice, in any way, to anyone suffering from this disease.
A Chest Pillow Is A Must
Having a pillow to stabilize your chest is a must. Most hospitals will send you home with one, but if they dont, make sure to get one. Chest pillows can help you when you sleep, sneeze, and cough they have has many uses. I had a pillow with me for almost a year after my last surgery and I still usee one during long trips in the car.
Patient Stories Taking Lifes Adventures To Heart Adams Story
Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital
Adam, a navy veteran, is no stranger to overcoming a challenge. With hobbies like skydiving, scaling mountains with his bare hands, hang gliding and rowing his canoe, Adam is a thrill-seeker at heart. Over the course of a 15-year journey, Adam would lean on this innate courage to face mounting heart troubles until an innovative, minimally invasive procedure would give him new life.
Looking at Adam in 2001, yould see a healthy, fit man. Even his medical exams indicated as much. Adam always scored a low BMI, low blood pressure and low cholesterol. But, looks and even tests can be deceiving.
That year, during a typical day at his job as a computer programmer, Adam felt what could only be described as a burp stuck in his chest. Immediately, his hands began to flounder about, and he collapsed on his keyboard. He had a massive heart attack and for a brief moment, life left him. Luckily, an EMT was called and he was resuscitated.
In the ambulance to Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, Adams heart again stopped. Again, the EMT revived him. When Adam arrived at the hospital, doctors found that he had nine severely narrowed arteries a congenital heart defect he shared with his grandfather, who had died of the same condition.
They saved my life, Adam said. Dr. Roberts, Sarah and Dr. Tomas, are all amazing. Theyre like family. The world needs to know about him and what his team does.
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Sleeping Can Be Hard After Surgery
Its hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. If you are a side or belly sleeper it can be hard laying on your back. Finding your favorite chest pillow will be your savior. You might also experience nightmares for a bit after surgery, but it will pass. If you continue to experience them, speak to your doctor and seek help if you feel like you are experiencing PTSD.
What Are The Types Of Open
There are two ways to perform open-heart surgery:
- On-pump: A heart-lung bypass machine connects to the heart and temporarily takes over for the heart and lungs. It circulates blood through the body while moving blood away from the heart. The surgeon then operates on a heart that isnt beating and doesnt have blood flow. After surgery, the surgeon disconnects the device and the heart starts to work again.
- Off-pump:Off-pump bypass surgery takes place on a heart that continues to beat on its own. This approach only works for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery . Your surgeon may call this beating-heart surgery.
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Beyond 6 Weeks Of Recovery
If you had open heart surgery and the surgeon divided your sternum, it will be about 80% healed after six to eight weeks. By that time, youll generally be strong enough to get back to normal activities such as driving, Dr. Tong says. You can probably also return to work, unless your job is physically strenuous.
Most importantly, this is the time to start a cardiac rehabilitation program.
This is a monitored exercise program designed to increase your hearts endurance. Through cardiac rehabilitation, you can gradually increase your activities, and your doctors will watch your progress closely. Youll also learn more about how you can change your lifestyle and diet to keep your heart healthy.
Working through a cardiac rehabilitation program is the best way to find out when youre strong enough to resume the more strenuous activities you enjoy.
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Meet Tom Broussard Aha Heart Valve Ambassador
Tom underwent quadruple bypass surgery at 59. Relieved to have avoided a heart attack, he didnt expect to have a heart valve replaced and then soon after, a debilitating stroke caused by a blood clot and then learning a few years later that he would need another heart valve replacement.
Meet some of our past Heart Valve Ambassadors.
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What Happens To Your Body During Open Heart Surgery
Open heart surgery may be performed with your heart beating or not. If your heart isnât beating during the surgery, which is more common, it is called on-pump surgery. A heart-lung machine will do the job of your heart and lungs by circulating your blood away from your heart.
If your heart is beating by itself during the surgery, this is called off-pump surgery. This is far less common than on-pump surgery and only works for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. It can also be called beating-heart surgery.
Most surgeries on open hearts follow specific steps. These steps may vary depending on your unique procedure and situation. Generally, your surgeon could take these different stages:
- Cutting a long incision down your chest
- Cutting into the breastbone and spreading your ribcage apart
- If you have an on-pump surgery, putting you on a heart-lung machine and giving medication to stop your heart from beating
- Performing the procedure to heal your heart
- Bringing back blood flow to your heart
- Severing the connection between you and the heart-lung machine
- Closing up the incision on the breastbone
- Sewing the skin incision back together
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Overcoming Fear Before Open Heart Surgery
When Nicholas Serwer found out that he would need to have his aortic valve replaced, he was clear on one thing I wanted to avoid open heart surgery at all costs, he said. While hed had other surgeries in the past a shoulder replacement, intestinal surgery, and orthopedic foot surgery for Nicholas, 66, several things didnt sit well with him about this one.
Nicholas health story began overseas. A native New Yorker, he had been living in Singapore for over 25 years. Despite the successful treatment and control of his hyperlipidemia condition using diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and some medication, Nicholas cardiologist began doing echocardiograms.
Following the discovery that he had aortic stenosis, which occurs when the valve narrows, preventing the proper flow of blood from the heart to the aorta and throughout the body, his doctor told him, Well, youre okay for now, but the usual course is that it progresses slowly over the years, and the stenosis grows worse. By May of 2021, his echocardiogram results had progressed enough that he would require surgery.
If I did not have my aortic valve replaced, I had a 50% chance of dying in two or three years, he said.
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Six Weeks To Three Months
After six weeks, youll be largely recovered and youll then be able to resume heavier housework and gardening, business or recreational travel, aerobic exercises without weights, driving, and dog walking.
The expectation, more or less, is that you can start moving towards pre-operation levels of activity. That said, dont push it and seek out your healthcare providers clearance if you want to try anything more strenuous or new.
My Miraculous Open Heart Surgery
My battle against heart problems began when I was a child. At the age of five, I had a convulsion and passed out. My doctor in a small town in Central Wisconsin passed on hospitalizing me. He sent me home with my parents, and I was supposed to just rest in bed. Can you imagine a 5 year old boy resting in bed all day?
At nine, I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. From his exams using his stethoscope and the EKG , my doctor determined that my mitral valve was damaged pretty badly. Also, his exams revealed that I probably had an earlier attack of rheumatic fever and that I should have been hospitalized then. When the diagnosed attack of rheumatic fever happened in 1957, there was no echogram for doctors to use, so they had to rely on the stethoscope and the EKG.
When I turned 18, in 1965, the Army sent me to Milwaukee for my physical. Needless to say, I failed it. Up until this point in my life, that is the only exam that I was glad I failed.
Over the next 40 years my heart continued to struggle along. Let me emphasize that the only problem I knew I had was my mitral valve. My doctor in my hometown never mentioned my aortic valve had been affected too. I had to be careful that I did not physically overdo it because I did not want to get extremely tired.
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A Renewed Purpose In Life
Today, I feel like myself again. I can lift weights, go to spin class and run with my dog. I’ve started doing Pilates and yoga, learning the value of flexibility, not just strength. I even went hiking to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. And with my heart repaired, I had no problem hiking at high altitudes.
Oyler on a gorilla trek in Rwanda
When choices arise now, I ask myself, Did I have open heart surgery for this? And when it comes to thinking about how to help save the lives of the 1.5 million people who die from tuberculosis each year, well, the answer is a resounding Yes!
Part of whats amazing about this new job is that it also fully aligns with Johnson & Johnson’s vision for a World Without Disease. This week, I am at The Union World Conference on Lung Health, one of the largest gatherings of clinicians and policymakers for tuberculosisand other pulmonary diseases. This follows on the heels of the first-ever United Nations high-level meeting on tuberculosis , which was kicked off by the TB Innovation Summit. At the meeting on tuberculosis, Johnson & Johnson launched a new 10-year initiative in support of global efforts to end TB.
This past year, people have started referring to me as a survivor. I know that its well-meaning, but I dont like it. Its too passive.
Three Months And Beyond
After three months, youll be able to engage in more rigorous and heavier exercise and activity. As always, be very mindful of how youre feeling and try not to overdo it.
At this point, youll be able to participate in a full range of workouts and sports, you can take on more strenuous home and garden projects .
In general, before starting up a new activity or taking up one that you used to do, ask your healthcare provider if its safe. Dont hesitate to seek out medical advice and/or help if anything seems off.
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From Hospital Discharge To Six Weeks
As you begin getting back into your routine, remember to start with small tasks and take plenty of breaks. Dont overdo it.
After you leave the hospital, unless your surgeon says otherwise, you may return to activities such as:
- Light cleaning.
- Climbing stairs.
Some things are still off limits, though.Dont lift, pull or push anything that weighs more than 10 pounds. Its too soon to drive, too, but its OK to ride in a car.
What Is Recovery Like After Open
Recovery time varies depending on the surgery type, complications and your overall health before surgery. It can take 6 to 12 weeks to recover from an open-heart procedure.
Your surgeon will let you know when you can return to work and other activities. Typically, you shouldnt drive or lift anything heavy for the first six weeks.
Some people need to take blood thinners after heart surgery to prevent blood clots. Your healthcare provider may also recommend cardiac rehabilitation. This medically supervised program can help you regain strength and stamina and improve overall heart health.
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Life In The Fast Lane
Cars have always been Lloyds passion, so its not surprising hes a guy who lives life at a very fast pace. But following a heart attack, and subsequent triple bypass, learning to slow down became a very real priority.
Lloyd had plans for the evening of February 24, 2017. He was taking his wife out to dinner to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary. Hospitals and heart attacks were the last thing on his mind.
The 59-year-old had never been hospitalised in his life and had always been fit and active. As well as the manual work that comes with their rural lifestyle block, there was also the physical activity that came with his line of work: a business building hot rod cars.
The first inkling he had that something wasnt quite right came that morning after breakfast, shortly before going to work.
I had a pain, or perhaps more precisely, a discomfort in my lower chest. Nothing which, in the first instance, gave me any rise to concern, in fact I wondered whether it might have just been an indigestion or some reaction to the muesli that Id eaten.
This pain was followed by a congestion in his throat, but the feeling passed quickly. The possibility of heart trouble briefly crossed Lloyds mind, but with no real chest pain and no pain or discomfort in his arms he dismissed the idea quickly.
With the discomfort in his chest soon dissipating Lloyd headed to work. Later in the morning, however, he experienced another unusual sensation in his upper left chest.
Youll Play A Key Role In Managing Your Pain
Post-surgical pain is unavoidable but can be managed in a variety of ways. Because of recent national legislation changes, physicians can prescribe no more than a seven-day supply of opioids to patients at the time of their hospital discharge.
Weaning yourself off opioids as soon as possible is important. You may need less than a seven-day supply, depending on your condition. Some patients do not require any opioids for pain management.
Other options for pain management include:
Oral and topical analgesics such as acetaminophen and Salonpas patches
Applying a warm cloth to the area, using caution near the incision because nerve sensitivity may be decreased, causing the skin to burn
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and guided imagery
If you are on long-term opioids, you should meet with your prescribing physician to begin to wean down to the lowest dose possible before surgery.
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What To Expect During Recovery From Open
Heart disease is a common health issue. In fact, its the leading cause of death in the United States.
An umbrella term, it describes various conditions such as unstable angina, arrhythmia, valve disease, and atrial fibrillation.
And while theres no cure, it is possible to manage symptoms. For example, there are medications that you can take to help control the disease.
Not only that, but surgery is an option as well.
Will you be undergoing open-heart surgery? Want to know what to expect? If so, youre on the right page. Keep reading for everything that you need to know!
How Do You Care For Someone After Open Heart Surgery
The thought of caring for your spouse after open heart surgery may be daunting. How do you know what to do or how to take care of them? Dont worry: your doctor will likely send you home with a lengthy list of post-surgical care tips, possibly including some suggestions for what to wear after open heart surgery, like a post-thorax vest to protect your loved ones sternum.
The most important thing to remember about caring for a loved one after surgery is to be prepared: know what kinds of meals might be best for healing, what type of transportation schedule youll need to set up to get them to and from rehabilitation appointments, what kinds of home-health aids they might need , and how to help manage their pain or nausea levels.
Post-surgical rehabilitation will likely include some form of physical therapy or occupational therapy. Youll want to discuss options for senior rehabilitation centers with your doctor to ensure you understand the basics of rehabilitation therapy and how to choose the senior care facility thats right for you or your loved one. For more information, read our blog post about how to determine when a senior might need rehabilitation therapy!
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