British Heart Foundation
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Care after your Cardiac Operation

3 years ago I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I had a tissue valve so no need for warfarin etc. Physically I recovered well but got little or no aftercare which is so important. My doctor at that time was little use and by the time I persuaded him to refer me for cardio rehab (at least 2 months) they said it was too late. I became very anxious and eventually changed to a lovely doctor who suggested counselling. I have had a lot of counselling training so that seemed an excellent idea and I was on the way to recovery. I have recently got a job as a Practice Manager in a physio clinic so decided to have a session to try and sort out my lower back pain. She immediately said it was because my shoulders had hunched forward because the muscles tightened because of the surgery and gave me some exercises to stretch them. I just hope it is not too late. This post is hopefully to prevent anyone else suffering in the same way. My advice is stand up for yourself and demand adequate aftercare. It is ludicrous that the NHS spend tens of thousands on our surgery and then can not provide a few hundred to complete the recovery process. I am sure it varies from practice to practice but just so you are aware. I am more optimistic than I have been in a long time. So hope this helps K

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I agree with the general sentiment but I’m also a bit nonplussed as well. Cardiac rehab where I am was organised through the cardiology unit and not my GP. And 2 months post op is not unusual for your sessions to start - it’s actually never too late! On the physio side, I too am having physio, for shoulder problems, in my case but the cause is much the same. Again, it’s never too late, it just takes longer. Hope it goes well for you

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Hiya. It sounds like you are doing the right things now.

I feel like I'm a bit out on a limb as well. I'm 5 weeks post-op and trying to not overdo things. I do the stretches the rehab dept gave me at the hospital and I've added a few of my own. Haven't heard from cardio rehab yet but was told that there would be a wait. I also see a private physio and a sports massage therapist for neck and shoulder pain. They do gentle stretches with me and have given me exercises to stretch my muscles and improve my posture.

I am trying to be patient but it is emotionally a bit difficult - I would see a counsellor at some point but am trying to do some mindfulness meditation, which does work when I actually do it.

I think, for me, it is difficult to come to terms with my new limitations. I see how my neighbour, who went through similar surgery a few years ago, rests and enjoys her quiet time sitting in her garden reading and I want to be more like her. I guess it just takes the passing of time. It is a big mental and emotional adjustment for me.

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Sorry I didn’t see the latter part of your post. I think it is as difficult to get over emotionally as physically. I did read about 70 per cent of patients experience problems that way. Mindfulness is good and you will feel differently day to day. My very best wishes. K

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I had cardiac rehab after my avr it didn't start until after 6 weeks. Then stopped because I had a fractured rib. Started again three weeks later, then got pleurisy and had to stop again. Finally finished and have been offered 12 weeks continuation classes and free swimming at the local Sports Centre to continue rehab.

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That’s great. Good luck with it all. I suspected it might differ from area to area.

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That’s interesting. The pressure where I was was phenomenal People regularly turned up waited all day and were then sent home because there was no bed. In my case they booked me in after hours of waiting and then I had to go back to the place where my husband was staying for the night.The NHS was born the day after I was I am afraid we are both a bit creaky K

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That’s so good. The best of luck. K

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Good to get some advice about post op physio. I am keen to know what I can do to prepare for heart surgery coming up in the next three months. Not just the usual, be fit and eat properly, but what about about pre op exercises or mental preparations what would be an optimal profile for a good recoverery? Thanks Oliver

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I think go in with a confident approach. The op was nowhere Near as bad as I thought. Don’t know about the exercises but a good physio should be able to advise. Best of luck K

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Kay's advice is good - having confidence is the most important thing. Keep your mind occupied with reading or your favourite hobbies - it keeps you from over-worrying. It's great if you can do some kind of movement as you lead up to that surgery date - even if it's just walking around the house a bit. No special exercises needed - and you don't want to overuse any of your muscles to the extent that they will ache.

You will want to be strong in body and mind prior to your surgery. But you also need to get enough rest - don't overdo anything.

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Thanks Kayrow

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I by passed the GP and cardio unit and asked at the local leisure centre what was on offer and then asked my GP to refer me. It was one of the things that went right on my journey and got into that almost before I saw a Cardiologist!

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