I finally feel the capacity to think and post here! Monday was day 0, aka heart surgery day. I can’t believe I actually did it. When I woke up in my own recovery room, my nurse was there, and a few others. Soon my parents were let in. I was so happy to see them even though the drugs probably made me seem emotionless. My surgeon, Dr. Yun came in and explained what happened. The surgery was shorter than on expected. He replaced my aortic valve with an On-X mechanical valve as planned. The portion of aneurysmal ascending aorta was shorter than expected, so it was cut out, and sewn back together, without any involvement of a synthetic tube. I asked him if that means that future aneurysms can form and if that means any physical restrictions, and he said no. I was pretty stoked. Sleeping that night was difficult. My night shift nurse happened to be my roommate’s cousin! So crazy. In the morning, I was finally able to have most of the tubes and lines removed from my body. I had 2 lines that entered at my neck, which went down directly to the heart. I had a catheter and several other IV lines. It was quite liberating to have them removed. Today is day 2 (Wednesday), and I hoping to get my chest tube removed. There is a tube that enters at the bottom of my incision that drains a yellowish fluid that gathers in my chest cavity. This tube causes a good deal of discomfort. I’m looking forward to getting it removed.
I’ve also been walking around the ward, and doing breathing exercises with a special breathing tube game thing. During surgery, the lungs collapse, so breathing is very shallow until you work it up to normal levels.
Ok, so thanks for all of your support! Your thoughts, words, and prayers definitely helped motivate me though this process. See y’all soon.
Yesterday I went to my pre-operation appointment. It was an all day adventure, running around to different buildings at the hospital. I got my chest and legs shaved, vitals taken, EKG, chest X-Ray, extensive blood work, urine sample, and meeting with the anesthesiologist. It took extra effort to keep my head up high. I had to keep reminding myself not to fear. I came home to my parents, who flew in during the day. It was great to see them They got to meet my G.F. at dinner. Today we have Thanksgiving. Monday I get heart surgery.
The song above is Hypericum by Gem Club. I am very excited about the album, which comes out in January. My interpretation from the song is that of an event (perhaps marriage from the writer’s perspective) that is equally terrifying as it is hopeful and wonderful. That’s how I feel today.
Less than a week to go. My feelings: Calm, excited, nervous, anxious, ready. The butterflies have officially arrived to the stomach. I keep it together most of the time, but certain individuals have to deal with my occasional erratic behavior. Thank god for her support.
I have some goals for next year. I of course want to get back into climbing and cycling as soon as possible. Allot of my goals have to do with my rehab plan, but Loftier goals are necessary too. I have been invited by a fellow heart surgery recipient from northern california to do the 2014 Levi’s GranFondo race. I’m excited for this one. It looks pretty intense! Other goals include: skydiving, more highlining (I tried highlining for the first time 2 weekends ago!), climbing some big walls and a few select classic boulder problems in Joshua Tree (Caveman, Pigpen, White Rasta, Gunsmoke). Last weekend we went out to Joshua Tree and had a fun day of bouldering. I got on Caveman (V-7/8) and actually felt like it could go.
Roof Romp V4
Photos by Jackie Trejo
it’s so beautiful
I shared this on Facebook, and felt the need to share on my blog as well. This also brings me to a record breaking two posts in one day!
I teach 8th grade science. My students are super sweet and always ask me questions about my surgery. They want to know when it is, if I’m scared, how long the recovery will be, will I die, and if Mr. Ruiz is going to be their substitute. They’re all super sweet.
Today Something special happened. During my period three honors class, a young lady (who I will call Alice) came up to me while I was at my desk. She made chit chat about my pet scorpion. Then she said, “Mr. DiLemme…” and paused. She looked me dead in the eye, and then gave me a gentle little reassuring pat on the shoulder. It was basically a hug.
It is difficult to express how touched I was by this gesture by Alice. Sometimes adults think of children of being naturally selfish and not necessarily the most compassionate of people. Not the case. Alice’s gesture showed the upmost compassion and in a most mature way possible. Everyone goes on and on about how teachers touch the lives of children… If all that is true, I feel like today I felt all of my efforts, channeled back to me in one gesture.
I have received allot of support from my friends and family. Allot of people have reached out to me that I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Some people who I never have really been friends with ever (beyond Facebook), have reached out in a way that I would certainly now consider them good friends.
Meeting with Cardiologist 11/5
Meeting with Cardiac Surgeon 11/12
I met with my surgeon and Nurse Practitioner yesterday at Kaiser Sunset in LA. I was a little disturbed when the surgeon had me mixed up with someone else, but he quickly recovered and found my file. It is understandable; CT scans kinda all look the same. My cardiologist previously told me that I would need my aortic root replaced along with the valve and aorta. My surgeon said the root is fine, which also means that my coronary arteries do not need to be reconnected. That means a less complicated surgery and about a half hour less time under the knife. So what that means is I will be receiving a valve replacement with the On-X mechanical valve, the aortic root will stay intact (which lies between the valve and ascending aorta), and have my ascending aortic aneurysm replaced with a dacron tube. It will be a combination of the two images below.
The Nurse Practitioner asked me lots of health history questions. She also gave me these heavy duty antibacterial wipes that I have to wipe myself with the night before the surgery. Then they showed me an outdated video. My surgeon was in it and looked at least 10 years younger.
They also swabbed my nose to check for Staph, and took blood to determine my blood type. I got the results already; I’m A positive.
In other news, since my surgery is coming up so soon, I’ve kinda relaxed in my exercise limitations. I’ve realized that I have been living with the aneurysm for a couple years. At the climbing gym, I climbed without holding back, and it felt great! I know the hangboard workouts that I’ve been doing have really been helpful because I felt like i could just grip for days. I was practically climbing at previous levels despite holding back for the past few months. Makes me optimistic about my recovery!
Just a quick status update. It has been quite the roller coaster of various levels of anxiety, acceptance, and (mis)understandings about my upcoming heart surgery. I have learned that all this baggage certainly has the potential to adversely effect work, school, relationships, and other responsibilities. I’d be lying if I said that I avoided all this. I’m doing my best though. Lately though, there has been a shift.
- I have passed the phase of constant hypochondria. I’m not worried about dissections, ruptures, bacterial endocarditis, etc, anymore.
- I’m still emotionally vulnerable, yet headstrong.
- I’ve accepted my current levels of exercise within my sports, knowing that I will return with a vengeance.
- I’ve realized that though this is a stressful time not only for me, but for those closest to me, I know that those relationships will (and already have) change in positive ways that I never previously imagined. ❤
- I’m psyched, ready, and a bit nervous. I’ll let you know how that changes in a week!
19 more days to go.
Still at it.
I am raising money for Men’s health through a month long mustache growing event called Movember! The picture above is from when I did Movember in 2011. The goal of Movember: To grow a mustache during the month of November and to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and the importance of overall health screenings.
This is important to me because Bicuspid Aortic Valve is fairly common in the population (1-2%) and it affects mostly men. Many people who get diagnosed with BAV and Aortic Aneurysms learn about it when they are being screened something unrelated to their heart. Often, a lucky chest X-ray or CT scan is what discovers this eventual life threatening condition. I’m lucky that I’ve known about my condition my whole life. Some people learn about it when its almost too late, and they have little time to prepare for the life altering surgery. The point? Take home the message of Movember. Get yourself checked out when your supposed to.
The other point? PLEASE donate to my Movember page. I know it is early in the month and my mustache has not yet arrived, but I would greatly appreciate your support (I already do appreciate your support).
You can visit my Movember Page and donate here: http://us.movember.com/mospace/719924