Tag Archives: valve replacement

Kintsugi: The Art of Embracing Damage

A new fellow valve replacement surgery friend (“Valver” as we say) emailed me to tell his similar story to me. One thing he said stuck out to me, and reminded me of something that I have thought about quite a bit, but never wrote about here. He wrote,

I think of myself as an analogy…I feel like a broken plate that’s been glued back together…in one piece, but it won’t take much to break me again.”

kintsugiThis describes Kintsugi (or kintsukuroi), the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. What my new friend doesn’t realize, is that although he feels fragile now (he is still only 5 months post op), when the lacquer dries, he will feel more beautiful, and stronger than before. I can speak to this from experience. The speed and volume of personal and emotional growth that I have experienced since my heart surgeries has been incredible. I am a better, kinder, more honest person now, because this experience has unlocked something that was laying dormant inside me.

Please watch this very informative and poetic explanation of what Kintsugi is. When I watch this video, it brings me to tears because for someone who has been through a traumatic experience such as open heart surgery, Kintsugi is more than an analogy.

Some quotes from the video:

The art of Kintsugi became famous for turning broken objects into pieces more beautiful than the original product.

The fractures on a ceramic bowl don’t represent the end of that object’s life, but rather an essential moment in its history. The flaws in its shape aren’t hidden from inspection, but emblazoned with golden significance. 

The pristine is less beautiful than the broken. 

A Post for You: The Person About to Have Heart Surgery

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything real on here. I’ve been busy with work, finishing up my Masters degree, and staying in shape with climbing, cycling, jump roping, etc. Yeah, I’ve been jump roping. It’s hard.

I want to reach out to any new people that might be stumbling onto my blog.

You probably found my blog because you recently found out that you need a valve replacement via open heart surgery. And you’re scared. I know, I was there. I’ve received emails from dozens of people who need open heart valve replacement surgery and they are unsure about their future. I’ve maintained communication with some of them. I’m so happy to see their progress after their surgeries. I’m posting this because I really don’t have much more to say about my recovery, and I want to leave some wisdom and point you in the right direction of some valuable online resources. First the wisdom, then the resources.

Wisdom

It’s okay to be scared, to cry randomly, to cry often, to think to yourself, “why the fu#$ am I crying so much?!” It’s normal to be in denial about it, and you are probably doing lots of research to hopefully discover a reason why you don’t need to procedure; perhaps some new technology that no one else has heard of? Weigh your options with valve choice. It is a personal choice. You’re life will go one with either choice. Talk to other valvers about it. Find them on the internet (see resources below). Don’t be ashamed of your scar. I wear V-necks and tank tops more often now, almost to show off the fact that I’ve been through this mess and can still crush at the climbing gym, or the crag, or cycling up the hills. Be prepared for surgery and recovery. Do your homework. Keep yourself occupied while recovering. I did lots of gardening until I could be more active. Involve your support network in your doctor visits, surgery day, recovery, etc. For more advice see the rest of my posts. I’ve been writing here since two surgeries ago, in 2013! 🙂

Resources

Me! I’m just a guy who went through a few heart valve surgeries, but please feel free to email me at anthonydilemme@gmail.com and ask any questions!

The American Heart Asoociation has a new Support Network on their website. Register here and join a conversation about valve disease, surgery, and recovery: http://supportnetwork.heart.org/registration

By the far the most valuable website for me is this one, which has allowed me to connect with others who have already gone through the process. These people are incredible supportive, compassionate, and knowledgable! http://www.valvereplacement.org/ValveReplacement.org/default.html

Another great online support group Facebook group called Heart Valve Surgery Support Group. The following link may work. Otherwise simply search for the group name.               https://www.facebook.com/groups/15618633322/

Adam Pick’s blog, website, and his book.                                                                 http://www.heart-valve-surgery.com/heart-surgery-blog/                            http://www.heart-valve-surgery.com/

The Athlete’s Heart Blog by Heart Surgeon Dr. Lawrence Creswell http://athletesheart.blogspot.com/                                                                                   Particularly This Post.

Ascending Aortic Dilatation Associated With Bicuspid Aortic Valve (Article in Circulation) http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/6/880.full

Valley Hospital: Calculate Your Relative Aortic Size http://valleyheartandvascular.com/Thoracic-Aneurysm-Program/Calculate-Your-Relative-Aortic-Size.aspx

On-X Mechanical Valve Clinical Studies                                           http://www.onxlti.com/low-anticoagulation-study/clinical-results/

Ironheart Foundation (Post Heart Surgery Racing): http://ironheartfoundation.org/ironheartracing/

Digifit Heart Monitor System                                                                       http://www.digifit.com/

Summer Camp for kids with Congenital and acquired Heart Disease http://www.campdelcorazon.org/

cheers!

Bouldering 10 months Post Surgery

Bouldering 10 months Post Surgery

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.