After seventeen days in hospital, fifteen post op I finally made it home on Saturday.
Well, that was an experience, I am thinking of designing a new board game titled Grandma’s Heart Surgery.
I was in theatre for nearly nine hours as my surgeon tried three times to repair my mitral valve, each time restarting my heart to test the repair. It was to no avail and so a mechanical valve was inserted as agreed pre-op. Seemingly my valve had some rheumatic damage (confirming that I had rheumatic fever as a child), also one of the mitral flaps had a very wavy edge instead of being a smooth curve; a congenital defect. The four other procedures were carried out.
Forty-eight hours in ICU were not very pleasant, nausea, sickness, extremely sensitive sense of taste and smell and wierd dreams. Fortunately it went by quite quickly and I was very sluggish. I found the strong pain killing drugs were the worse for making me ill so forty-eight hours post op decided to only take paracetamol. I did have some pain particularly as the paracetamol wore off but managed to control it with some breathing techniques etc. I will write about this in ‘my tips’ further on. I think you always need to feel some pain so that you can tell if you are doing something that is damaging the healing.
Three days in HDU began with my body reacting differently than most to the anaesthetic and morphine, let’s just say I didn’t need laxatives! At the same time I had put on twelve kilos with fluid retention. I could hardly breath or move and so the poor nursing angels had to do everything for me. Once the intravenous diuretic got working the fluid started to come off and I became mobile. Lost two or three kilos a day, I have never lost weight so quickly. I wouldn’t recommend that particular diet regime though. My pacing wires were left in for as long as possible to allow my heart to remain in sinus rhythm and were removed day five post op and a day after the chest drains. I didn’t find having any of them out particularly unpleasant, the little sensation I did feel was short lived and being free of them was bliss.
Still suffering with the trots, I was moved to a room on the ward. Another step in the right direction. Shortly after returning to the ward my heart went into Afib, back to theatre for a cardioversion, unfortunately it didn’t work so going to be reviewed in three months. Chest X-ray showing fluid around lungs so kept on strong diuretics. Next came an increase in my white blood cell count, normal is ten mine had risen to fifteeen, every possible bodily fluid was tested for infection, all negative. They didn’t take any chances so had me back on intravenous antibiotics. Having had mitral valve surgery there is a slight risk of Endocarditis, an infection that attacks the wall of the heart. Slowly my white blood cell count came down and was switched to oral antibiotics, first box✔️. Second chest X-ray showed that the fluid around my lungs had reduced but still not good enough to go home. Came off intravenous anticoagulant and started Warfarin, my INR reading needed to be stable at between three and four before I could go home. Chest X-ray on Friday showed quite an improvement, still a small amount of fluid but happy for me to go home on strong diuretics, another box✔️. Blood test showed good INR reading, last box✔️. Yippee, I could go home.
This is not a scare story but one that reveals how resilient the human body and spirit are. It is a tribute to the skill and dedication of the surgeon and his team; and the compassionate care of the nursing angels.
Each one of us is different, everybody reacts differently, we all have complex heart issues unique to us but we all get through it with the skills of the professionals and by supporting one another.
My tips are:
Practice these thoughts - ‘this too will pass’; ‘just for today’; or even ‘just for this hour’; ‘today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday’.
Not sure the menfolk will like this, take in copious amounts of 100% pure lavender oil and splash it on your huggy. It will aid breathing and help you to relax. I also used breathing exercises and meditated whilst listening to soft, relaxing music.
Weeks before surgery massage the incision site with bio oil twice daily to prepare your skin. My scar is looking pretty good already, half the stitches have dissolved.A big thank you to all my heart chums for keeping me in your thoughts, it was good to know you were rooting for me.
Now then, let’s get cracking designing my new board game, you never know it could be a best seller next Christmas, especially if the winner gets a copy of my heart surgery video - yes my surgeon is preparing one for me as promised.
The photo was taken as I left hospital, not bad?
Lots of love,