Practicalities after OHS

I am having OHS (sternotomy) on the 22nd at Mayo for a congenital defect that we were unaware of until recently. I'm 33. I am a detail person and want to be able to prepare for the little things that could make my recovery easier. Any suggestions for practicalities like clothing, bras, showering, stairs, coping with an active 4 year old...? I'm blessed to have a ton of support from family and friends, but would like to have as much in place before my surgery as possible. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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Get a good bra. It helps to have support when you lay down and keeps the girls from pulling on your scar. You also may want to get or make some additional padding for the centre portion that might sit on the bottom portion of your scar. A 4 year old??? WOW, you are NOT going to be able to pick the child up or grab him/her by the hand or anything that will pull throughout your arms and to the sternum for 12 weeks. You are not to lift more than 10 lbs for that time either.
I had my OHS on November 30th, 7 weeks ago, and prior to going in I had my house professionally cleaned and made arrangements to have them come back this week to do all the heavy stuff once again, (tubs, toilets, floors, vacuuming etc). Have prepared meals and a well-stocked kitchen.
Let us know how your surgery goes and your progression throughout your recovery.

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Ask them to give you a surgical bra when you are in the hospital. A shower bench or chair will also help and you may need to sleep either in a recliner for awhile or get yourself a wedge pillow for your bed. It is very difficult to lay flat in bed for quite awhile. I slept in the lounge chair while I was in the hospital, and used the wedge pillow when I got home. The surgical bra that one of the nurses gave me was a Godsend. In fact I still use it to sleep in. Good luck and Godspeed with your surgery and recovery. Shamrock

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If you have shoulder length to long hair, you might want to consider going a little shorter for a bit. Brushing/washing/styling long, thick hair can be a chore with your chest newly wired. The first thing I did after coming home from triple bypass surgery was have my BFF come over and chop off my thick shoulder length hair to just below my ears. It dried a lot faster, didn't get or feel dirty as quickly and, in general, made my life a whole lot easier. Hair grows back. Ditto about the recliner. Most OHS patients find getting in and out of bed in the first few weeks both painful and tiring, even with the huggable heart pillow they give us for support. Sleeping slightly reclined with your legs slightly elevated helps breathing and leg swelling in the early days after such an invasive surgery.

I had no small children but my my first grandson was 5 months old. It killed me not being able to pick him up for weeks. You need to explain to your daughter in terms she can understand that mommy is going to have an owie for a bit but that you will be okay. She needs to know she can be a big girl and help mommy by picking things up and such. She needs to know mommy will need to take naps for a few weeks, but that all will be back to normal before she knows it. I am a firm believer in being upfront with kids that age - on their level and as much as they need to know. They understand a lot more than we give them credit for and when their normal is disturbed it can be scary and confusing for them. Including her to a point will help both of you through it.

Get her some things she normally doesn't get to do that you can do together. Water colors are a good, calm activity you can do together that the clean up from wouldn't be too bad for someone helping you out. Just an idea!

Wishing you all the best on your upcomnig surgery -


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Good advice all the way around.....I also got a bra (in fact 2) in the hospital and still wear them 3 years later at night because of the comfort. I have never been able to lay flat again due to developing orthopnea - but it's probably usually just temporary. I used a shower chair for the first several weeks with the help of my boyfriend and I, too cut my hair (was to my butt) and donated it to "Locks Of Love"

Do not be surprised when you have no appetie........mine lasted almost exactly 6 months, then poof, it was back :)

I strongly urge you to consider cardiac rehab if it is ofered to you as it helped me immensly. I got moving agin in a safe atmosphere and began to trust my body again (I had aortic valve replaced and got a pacemaker)

Excellent that you have a good support system - you will need the help, don't be afraid to accept it, you will be back to doing everything again soon enough. My only chile was 25 years old when I had my surgery, but I did run a daycare from my home. I had to accept only older children back when I first went back to work a couple months after surgery.

Best Wishes,


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Be good to yourself. It's great having lots of support but too much company after you come home can be exhausting. The website: allows you to designate a friend/family member to organize meals to be brought in during those early days. There are lots of helpful hints on that site. You can list food preferences/allergies, etc.. I highly recommend you ask cooks to bring food in only disposal containers, eliminating the possiblity of breaking a favorite dish and even the challenge of getting dishes back to the correct person. You might want to start out with meals for 7 days and then when you feeling stronger, cut back to 4 days per week, then 2 days a week until you're able to take over again.

Also, my husband and I had a code phrase that I used to let him know I'd had enough company. I'd tell him "Hey, Jack called earlier." That would let my husband know it was time to thank everyone and allow me some much needed rest.

Remember, be good to yourself. That'll allow you to heal and focus on what's truly important. Best wishes! Rudy

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I used a rolling technique to get out of bed taught to me by the rehab nurses. Hug a pillow, size of a throw pillow to your chest, roll gently (sorry, like there will be anything but gentle for a while) onto your side hanging legs over side of bed and pull with legs to
tohooked to side of bed to sit up. Also grab that pillow and hug to chest and bend over into it if you need to sneeze or cough or laugh.
Rehab nurses will show you how. I had the daVinci beating heart CABG so I didn't require the sternotomy. Very fortunate. I wish u the
Best. The other ladies are right on with the bra and bed wedge. I use, still, a nursing bra i got at target and a Bali comfort Revolution. Still have strange pulling sensation center chest and my only inc isions are under left breast, between ribs on side and right in that little fat in front at bra strap. I wish i would have known surg bra no info on that. Good luck

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Wow, I wish I know this site before I had my OHS. All the suggestions provided above are very good and useful. Please prepare yourself some loose round neck cotton clothings that are easy to put on. I just wear my husband's t-shirts. Make sure you have a pair of comfortable walking shoes that are easy to put on since you'll need to walk at least once a day. Also, place a cup of water next to your bed if you plan to take pain medicine because you'll suffer from dehydration at night. Of course, that means more bathroom breaks. Always put a huggable pillow in a reachable area to assist you with getting out of bed and from sudden cough. My nurse told me not to wear bra for three, I tried to put it on, but then I realized that it fell right on my chest tube. I guess not only that I needed to buy new clothings, but also new bra. I also have a three year-old niece and a five year-old nephew. I always hug or lift them whenever i see them, but after the surgery, i can't even do that. :( i think it's okay to tell your four year-old that mommy's going to have a surgare and so on. My sister tells my niece and nephew that I had a surgery and they could not just run to grab me. They've been good. They now only blow me kisses or kiss me on my cheeks. Anyway, Good luck with your surgery and wish you a speedy recovery. Take care!

Does anyone know when I can let go of the pillow and get up on my own. I am two months post surgery. Thanks.

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Get and read THE OPEN HEART COMPANION by Maggie Lichtenberg. Excellent advice for the patient and their friends/family. And take it easy; be kind to yourself.

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I am a little over a month post op. All your tips were invaluable! I had an impossible time finding a non-underwire bra that clasped in the front. I wanted one without a zipper since I knew my scar would extend to the place the band would go across and I wanted to be able to leave that part open. Mayo's surgical bras are more or less tube tops that have a large velcro strip down the front. Not very comfy since the velcro is stiff. I ordered over $250 of bras on line. I kept two that hooked in back since they were the only ones that were comfortable. I was actually able to do the clasps myself two or so weeks post op. I have developed neuropathy pain across my upper chest so wearing a bra or even a crew neck shirt right now is very irritating. Aside from that, I was surprised at how little post op pain I had. I was using Tylenol and Motrin for pain management by the time I was discharged. I do have to use oxy at night to be able to get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time. Severe pain was one of my biggest fears prior to the surgery, but aside from occasionally overextending my reach, coughing, and sneezing (sneezing is NOT fun) the pain really has not been bad. My dad and sister took it upon themselves to have a remote controlled lift recliner delivered to our house prior to my discharge. It costs $75 for a month rental from a medical supply store. Best money we ever spent! It was impossible to lay even remotely flat for a first few weeks. I did make it a point to sleep at night in a bed, but it required careful placement of half a dozen pillows. I also loved thee tip about having a code phrase to signal when you are ready for guests to leave. So glad I found this site!

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