Open heart surgery

Having OHS on 10/5/12 to repair a vsd as well as repairing my pulmonary valve.

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Hi Kim,

OHS is a big deal, as I'm sure you've been told. Its pretty scary and recovery is sometimes overwhelming. Is there anything in particular that you are wondering about? There are many of us who have experienced what you are going through.

All the best,
Bj

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Wow, BJ the question never end. The phase I'm at right now is terror! How difficult is recovery? Is the pain unbearable, and how long before one becomes functional? I understand that the exhaustion is overwhelming, fatigue does not concern me as much as the discomfort with the possibility of becoming dependent on the pain meds. How long did it take before you could actually put on clothing over your head? Any answers are greatly appreciated:-) I understand that everyone recovers differently, I just would like to hear the experiences of other women.
Thank you very much!

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Just take a deep breath. You need the surgery and repair. Terror is a good word to describe how I felt prior to surgery. I'm nearly 15 years out, so things may have changed since my surgery, but the anxiety is the same.

First of all, this is what the surgeon and hospital staff do on a regular basis. Ask any and all questions you might have. Don't hold back how you are feeling with the hospital staff. They might be able to give you something to take the edge off of the palpable fear that you feel while waiting.

I honestly don't remember too much about the first few days after my surgery. I was in pain, but it was under control for the most part by some big drugs. I did have some complications which were addressed during the week I was in the hospital, but he key to pain and medication when you return home is that you want to stay on top of the pain ~ don't wait until it is unbearable. I took something for pain for a good month or so after my surgery and gradually pulled back. Be sure to ask for an RX for a stool softener before you go home because the pain medication slows down your tummy.

I am a massage therapist and did not return to work for approximately 5 months. My complication involved my lungs. It is called plural effusion, which means that the lining of the lungs filled with fluid. For me, it made it difficult to breathe and consequently I slept in a recliner chair for nearly 5 months. I'd say my recovery took far longer than what I was told it would be. But once again, we all heal at differently.

I don't remember how long I wore shirts with buttons in the front, but I mostly wore things like sweats. Some women have a sort of binding garment that they are given to wear for the first 12 weeks and it helps to hold their sternum in place. For those of us with larger breasts it is more of an issue. Some people are given heart pillows to hug to their chests when they cough or laugh, although I did not use one.

You probably won't be very hungry in the beginning. I had no appetite at all and I can remember sitting at the bar with one half of a sandwich and eating one bite at a time and putting my head on my arms in between those bites. That's how tired and fatigued I was when I first came home. One cannot explain it, one must experience it.

So I wish you well, my friend and heart sister. Feel free to ask any more questions and I hope that I have helped you in a small way. I will be online until I leave for a conference on October 4th. I will be sending you light, love and prayers to ease your mind while you are waiting. Please let me know how you are doing.

(((hugs)))
Bj

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(((hugs))) to you BJ! Thank you <3

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Hi Kim: OHS is daunting, scary and overwhelming, but it is not the end of your active life. I had a mitral valve repair in Jan 2011 and I was up and walking 2 days after--home from the hospital in 4 days and walking up and down my stairs. Back to work after 5 weeks (in a desk job of course). No lifting for 12 weeks (very important). There is some pain in the beginning, but you can control it with meds and the pain subsides. In the beginning weeks you have to find a balance between resting and pushing yourself a little farther each day in order to help in healing your body. Since it was winter when I was recuperating, I did walking laps around my house (20 mins 4x a day) and breathing exercises to help clear my lungs of excess fluid. I had good days and bad days when I just wanted to throw the covers over my head and cry, but believe me, it takes a lot of self-motivation to keep putting one step in front of the other. But, you will come thru to the other side and be okay. I reach out to you and give you a virtual hug and wish you the best of luck!! Take care--PG

P.S. The suggestion of front-buttoning loose clothing is the best one, plus a stretchy comfortable bra since trying to put clothing on over your head in the beginning is not easy. You can take showers once you get home from the hospital and warm water on your back helps with muscle aches (which there is a lot of).

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Hello Kim,
Well I had a vsd repair when I was 7 yrs old, and back on Sept. 14, 2011 I had my mitral valve repaired. I guess I was in pain because my chest had been open twice. So recovery time for me was almost 3 mos. It can be very scary, but like they said make sure you get some stool softners. Personally milk of mag worked great for me with about 4oz of warm water. Any surgery will make you sit on pins and needles. But just put God first and everything will fall into place. Peace, Blessings and Joy (PBJ)!!

Kapasapi (Michelle)

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Hi Kim. I'm one month out from an aortic valve replacement. Everything Reikiwoman and ponygirl have to say is right on, so I'll try not to repeat too much of it. I woke up feeling like I'd been runover by a truck, spent 2days in ICU, a week in the hospital.
The back pain has really been the worst, but none of it has been intolerable. My cardiologist did me a huge favor by reminding me that they wire the sternum together, so that the bones don't move a lot and therefore aren't really painful. I haven't taken any narcotics since a couple days before I left the hospital. However, pain seems to be different for everyone, so don't have a lot of expectations about what it will be like for you.
Try not to be terrified. I was too, and I think it's a normal reaction, considering the surgery involved, but it is really routine and the doctors and nurses who do it do it every day.
The exhaustion is profound and takes awhile to fight your way out of, but you just have to keep doing a little more every day. Think baby steps. I'm still working on it, but I'm walking over a mile and a half and doing a few chores and errands.
Don't forget the button-up pj's and blouses that will completely cover your incision. You won't want to expose it to sun. And make sure you have a smallish purse with pared-down contents(5 lb lifting limit). I've been either skipping the bra or wearing sports bras.
Plan on having someone to help you out, at home for at least a couple of weeks. Don't expect to drive for at least 4-6 weeks and if you have to cook for yourself, figure out where you're going to get take-out delivered. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I called in support from everyone I knew, including people I haven't heard from for years.
When you find yourself thinking "Why did I throw myself under that train." remind yourself that it's better to do it electively than on an emergency basis. There is life after OHS and you can get back to your normal level of function. Remember: baby steps. Keep us posted on how you're doing.

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Hey Kim! I am 35 and 3 weeks out from double valve replacement, single valve repair. I am also 2 weeks out from a pacemaker being installed. I waited for surgery for 2 weeks cause the first time they were unable to incubate me. I had a horrible time the second time and when I woke up it was scary and painful and scary again. However, it gets better every day, and I can say now it simply feels like a bad case of whiplash. This is terrifying and I know everyones experience is different, but I can tell you for me it was the greatest move that I have ever made and even though I am still hurting, depressed, and overwhelmed I feel amazing at the same time! I feel like it was a very smooth transition for me and I hope that you can be as lucky as I was with my caregivers and treatment and recovery. Much love to you and yours.

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Hi there Soly: I was actually thinking about you yesterday and hoping that all had gone well with your surgery. So glad to hear that you are up and about. My back pain was tough as well, even after I returned to riding, especially under my right shoulderblade. It must be the way your body is positioned on the OR table b/c I have heard other people complain of back pain as well. Good luck in your continued recupation and keep taking those baby steps. Hugs!! --PG

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Hey Ponygirl,
Thank you for your sharing experience and inspiration. Never have I felt more encouragement. Thank Sistahs one and all! We gotta stick together:-(
Fondly,
Kim

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Good luck with your Pacemaker. There is a possibility I will need one as well. Microwave ovens beware :-))))
Kim

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Wow, I hope my recovery mimics yours. All of you are easing my anxiety.
Prayers and love to all the Sistahs!
Ki,

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