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British Heart Foundation
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So many questions about open heart surgery

I have so many questions about open heart surgery can anyone answer some of them ? (Some more personal than others)

1. How does a catheter work?

2. How many days did you spend in hospital?

3. What happens if i'm on my period when i have my surgery if i cant get up to change my pad?

4. How did you beat bordem in hospital?

5. How did you sleep in hospital?

6. Can someone push me around in a wheel chair if i get bored?

7. Do the tubes in your neck / arms hurt?

8. Do the machines beep all night?

9. Should i write letters to my friends and family just in case everything goes wrong?

10. How many visitors are you normally allowed?

11. Can i ask to be in the childrens ward if i'm 18?

12. What things should i wear? / bring with me to hospital?

13. How many people are allowed in the anestesia room with you?

14. How long do you need to fast for before hand?

15. Should i complete my one year uni course first or have my op first. ( if i leave it the uni course costs 3000 pounds whereas if i have it before my op it will be free

Thankyou in advance for your on going support

9 Replies

All of this will be addressed as you proceed you’ll be fine don’t worry nurses are brilliant and will advise x

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1 A catheter works by draining your bladder

2 I spent a total of ten days, five days post op

3 Sorry I can't help here

4 reading, downloading box sets, chatting and listening to music

5 really badly it's very noisy

6 Nope they like you to get up and about

7 no not really, uncomfortable

8 They tend to silence them but they will still be alarms on the nurses desk

9 i did, its a personal choice i think

10 2 at a time, they were very strict

11 i dont know

12 something comfortable, and loose fitting, a dressing gown as well

13 none are allowed

14 12 hours it was for me

15 a personal choice, I'd probably look for the free!!

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Good set of answerers so just a few comments. My girlfriend;'s young grandson (now 5) has had to have a number of spells in hospital. The oldest in the children's ward seem to be 14/15. I was in an adult ward at 15 but it was a long while ago! As regards the timescales you need to discuss this with your surgeon to see if he/she is happy to wait that long. Your wellbeing is more important than money!

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2) Typically on my ward it was discharge 4 days post op. I was personally discharged 5 days post op due to it being congenital and my pacing wire getting stuck. I was advised that normally the maximum is 7 days post op if no complications.

3)Relax about this one- they are more than used to it and as a female you almost certainly at some point will have your period during your stay. General Aneatsiscs often bring on an abnormal period in women.By day three I was up walking and would have been able to change my own pad. And in fact day three I started a period that was induced by the Anaesthetic. Did not expect this had no pads with me. Told the nurse and she found one immediately. I know what they do during the Op as I asked this exact question- but talk to your nurse. It is not as bad as it sounds (I had the issue with a catheter procedure user GA).

4) I was too tired to be bored and due to the short stay associated with Open Heart Surgerys it was not long in between tests and further interventions.

5) Once out of ICU I did not sleep badly but I had an individual room. The individual room was allocated to me based on my co-existing medical needs. Not sure what is like in the bays.

6) Not really. Firstly you will very likely be up and walking the length of the ward with in 3 days. It is likely you will also be fitted with a telemetry ECG while on the ward particularly while pacing wires are in. The telemetry boxes do not work if you leave the ward. Therefore you will not be going further than you can walk until those wires are out and for me this was day 4 of 5 day stay.

10) It depends on the individual hospital visiting policy. So ask your nurse.

11) This is very unlikely. Although, I had my surgery age 20, so understand how uncomfortable it is to be significantly younger than all the other patients. Ask if their is a individual room or small bay of 4 you could be placed in. No one can guarantee but if you do not ask you do not get.

12) Pyjamas- if possible button up around the front. None of mine were and i coped fine but getting them over my head was a little uncomfortable. Also make sure they are lightweight- shorts rather than trousers, short sleeves rather than long, or skimpy dress for lack of a better word. Hospitals use plastic mattresses for ease of cleaning. These will make you very very hot and cause you to sweat a lot. Even in winter.

13) Personally had no one. Again it will depend on hospital policy so if you really want someone ask your nurse about your hospital policy. However, I believe it is only with children that i is common place to have parents in the anaesthetic room.

14) No food for about 12 hours before procedure. Clear fluids were allowed up to 6hrs before the procedure. Clear fluids normally just means water on an adult ward on the children's it included squash :(

15) I will answer this separately.


Would agree with everything everyone else has written, but just wanted to chime in with further reassurance on a couple of points.

The catheter is a tube that's inserted (I think once you're under general anaesthetic? I certainly don't remember it being inserted anyway!) that drains your bladder. It gets in the way a bit, but it's not too uncomfortable, not something to stress about, just a useful means of not having to visit the toilet every few hours.

Hospital staff are definitely used to dealing with periods. The nurses can help with pads etc if you really can't manage it. I was really anxious and uncomfortable about bodily functions when I was admitted to hospital for the first time, but the staff will soon put you at ease and you realise it's all absolutely everyday to them. My nurses did not bat an eyelid when I bled all over the sheets.

For beating boredom, I would make sure you have something that doesn't require too much concentration. I had books and crochet in hospital with me (two of my favourite pastimes usually) and couldn't concentrate well enough to do either for the first few days, maybe longer. If you have an iPad or similar, maybe try to download a few series that might hold your attention, or some easy-to-watch films?

As for your course... If your surgeon/consultant recommends you should have surgery sooner rather than later, is there no way you could arrange to defer for a year/waive fees? I'm sure your doctor would be happy to write an explanatory letter to the relevant body and I would be very surprised (horrified!) if you were still told to do it now or pay £3000, I don't think any organisation would want to stand in the way of you getting the medical care you need.

Good luck with everything :)


If she is in the UK she will not get a fee waiver. I have been in that position. But would receive additional loans from SFE.

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Geez, that is terrible! Then I guess all you can do is seek medical advice and make the decision you feel most comfortable with. That sucks, though :( Wouldn't happen in Scotland, I'm telling you.

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True because HE funding in Scotland is different to the rest of the UK.

Although I do feel the way I was treated was fair as I had started the year (and completed a 1/3) and was therefore liable to that years fees. If I had to interrupt and start the year again would be liable to the fees a second time as it was my second attempt at the year. Granted SFE would fund the year adding and extra £9000 to my £40000 debt the course is going to give me and in response to the situation not use my "gift year". They fund your course + 1 "gift year" year for mishaps. If the mishap is beyond your control (such as this) that would become course length + 1 year for mitigating circumstances + 1 'gift year. Thus, allowing one to complete your course but anything I took was added to my debt at the end.


15) There are many factors to consider in making the decision that is right for you. Personally it was only halfway into my first term at Uni that I was told I needed a procedure so I really did not have a choice.The choice for me was leave (interrupt) and start my first year again or carry on. The factors that must influence your choice:

- Would it be detrimental to my long term heart health to delay the procedure a few months?

(Ask your surgeon- if they are unhappy with a few months delay then that answers your question)

-Would the stress of the impending procedure negatively impact my ability to focus and complete my Uni work?

(Think logically about this- if your really worried now is this going to take away from your capacity to get the most out of your course or would having less symptoms allow you to partake better in Uni life. I assure you the experience wrecked my experience of first year and I had to change programmes dropping the year abroad component. I wish I had known they were going to operate before starting my course).

-If you think the stress might affect your ability to complete assessed work to the best of your ability, read your chosen uni's mitigation policy to ensure the outcomes of the process would allow you to perform near to your ability.

My Uni is very liberal with mitigation and will take significant stress into account discounting any units that have large discrepancies from your year average. However, there are a number of uni's who have a fit to sit policy that means if stress has affected you but your are physically well enough to fit it is game over with regards consideration. My advice, if the Uni operates a fit to sit policy, delay starting.

- If you decide to delay starting Uni, think about what you might do with the time up to the procedure. One of the reasons I continued rather than interrupted my studies was I did not wish to be just sat at home stressing about my procedure. I came up with a list of things I could have/ really wanted to do and it included things like attended a computer programming crash course and learn a modern language.

- Remember even if you go to Uni there is no guarantee they will manage to time the procedure so coincide with the summer holidays and early enough for you to return in the September for second year. Resulting in an interruption. From friends who have interrupted, interruption is difficult as you end up a year behind the friends you made, ending in a year group where all the friendship groups were already made, and quite often you go rusty on material.

As I said above, my choice was to continue. If I had known before staring Uni I would not have started as I have had to drop the year Studying in Germany and lost out a bit to my symptoms impinging on my experience. But as I did not know what was about too happen,(consultant sent notification of needing Surgery November) I am confident, after the considerations above,I made the right choice for me and finished my first year wth a 1st.

It is a hard choice but good luck.


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