Monthly Archives: December 2013

Week 2 Update

My dog Moon (white dog)

My dog Moon (white dog)

It has been 2.5 weeks since my surgery. Each day I feel better in some ways, and worse in others. One highlight of week 2 was going to dog beach in Huntington, CA with my buddy Yousseff and our dogs. Walking on the sand was actually pretty hard!

My heart and lungs are doing great. Last week I would notice my heart working hard when I would bend over to do tasks like unplugging a computer cord from an outlet. I do not get that feeling any more. My lung capacity has improved greatly since week one. My walks are getting much easier. I haven’t really been pushing the miles or breaking any records with my walks, but I’ve been consistent.

All of my issues have to do with muscle pain related to my cut sternum and incision. It seems like each day I have a new pain. These pains all exist somewhere on my chest or back. The body is healing, and pain is a sign that things are getting better. Lately, the worst of the pain has been in my lower back. My muscles must be very inflamed, because yesterday during lunch, when I was swallowing my food, I could feel my food going down my esophagus, and it activated my back pain as it went down. One issue with this pain is that it often wakes me up in the night. Getting back to sleep usually isn’t too hard, but sometimes it keeps me up. I think that lying flat in bed might be irritating some of the pain.

My blood pressure has been very low due to my medication (beta blocker & ace-inhibiter). I took my BP just now and it read 93/71. The purpose of the medications are to lower the BP (and heart rate) so that the recovering heart does not have to work as hard. One side effect of such low BP, is that when I stand up I can get quite light headed and dizzy for a moment. Luckily, I will probably only be on these meds for about 3 months.

My heart rate has been getting lower, which is a good thing. The week of my surgery, My pulse was over 95, often over 100 beats per minute. Last week my resting heart rate lowered to 88-93 BPM. Now, my resting HR is anywhere from 73-85 BPM. This makes my very happy, because many open heart surgery patients have very high heart rates (sometimes over 110) for weeks or months after their surgeries.

I have to mention how happy I am with my medical team. My cardiologist, who I’ve been going to since 2011, has always shown patience and concern over my condition. She never rushes me out the door and always answers all of my questions in detail. She is also very pleasant to talk to. My cardiac surgeon is a rock star. At the hospital, all of the nurses and doctors had amazing things to say about him. His bedside manner is terse and matter-of-fact, but to me that shows his high level of confidence and experience in his field. My primary physician has also been great. I had an issue the other day that required me to get an after hours CT-Scan, and he read the results from his home and called me from his cel phone to discuss the results (The results were negative: no fluid in chest cavity and no blood clot in lungs). So, if anyone in the Redlands, CA area needs a recommendation for a primary physician, cardiologist, or surgeon (in the Kaiser Permanente health system) let me know; I’ve got names.

Week 1

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It has been exactly one week since the day of my surgery! I have to be honest I am surprised at my progress. My parents have been with me this whole time, making this process way easier than if I were alone. A week in review:

Monday 11/25/13    

Surgery Day. Surgery was shorter than expected. He replaced my aortic valve with an On-X mechanical valve (25mm) as planned. The portion of aneurysmal ascending aorta was shorter than expected, so it was repaired and reinforced, without any involvement of a synthetic tube. Surgery was 7am and I was awake by 2pm. The throat tube was out by the time I awoke. I was kept in the ICU overnight.

Tuesday

The neck tubes and catheter were removed the pain involved with the removal of these was a bit unpleasant, but nothing to lose sleep over. I was moved to the Cardiac Surgical Care Unit in the morning. I took my first short walk (1 lap around the unit). I sat up in a chair.

Wednesday

Though I hoped to have my chest tube removed, the doctors wanted to give it one more day to finish draining the fluid in my chest cavity. More walking. slight fever at night. difficulty sleeping. Neck/back/shoulder pain getting worse. Resting heart rate 95-105

Thursday

Nurse Practitioner removed chest tubes. Very liberating. Multiple laps around unit, several times a day.

Friday

Discharge day. Nurse Practitioner removed pacemaker wires Pacemaker is left on heart in case of problems). This is another eerie removal. You can actually kinda feel a tug inside of you, which is the wires dislodging from the heart itself. All other IV lines, EKG sensors & transmitter box removed. Met with doctor & NP one more time. Met with pharmacist about anticoagulant treatment. Heart shaped cough pillow received. Wheeled to parking lot to go home! Home by 4pm. Went for two .4 mile walks. Still had trouble sleeping. Back/neck/shoulder pain causing too much discomfort.

Saturday

More downtown walking. walked to coffee shop and ran into some surprised friends. Several .5 mile walks. Natalie came over and we went out to get a small potted christmas tree. She carried it. Back pain still an issue. sleeping still difficult, but slightly better.

Sunday

Went for a 2 mile walk! Later, walked again to a downtown art event, with some meandering around, probably .75 miles. Back pain getting better, but still sore. Went out to eat, but had no appetite. Got first full night of sleep! Zzzzzz…

Monday

A week has passed! A full night’s rest goes a long way. Goals seem attainable. Progress is obvious. Feeling better each day.

To another week…