Open Heart Surgery & the Road to Recovery
Once you come to grips with the fact that you or your loved one has to undergo open heart surgery, your mind starts to race with all sorts of questions… First and foremost, the question of all questions is…
WILL I SURVIVE THE SURGERY??? This was NOT a question I dwelled on for too long… this is when having a belief in a higher being is critical. I strongly believe in God and in regards to my open heart surgery, I had to recognize that as impossible as it might seem that I would survive my surgery… I believe in a God that specializes in the realm of impossibility. This is when your faith comes into question and if you truly believe that God is the creator of the universe, then open heart surgery is such a small thing in the scheme of his power. I prayed to God to strengthen my faith because I knew that I had to move forward with the undeniable belief that I would be healed.
Seeking information, I attended a Pink Goes Red event and when the Keynote survivor spoke, I realized that I had just seen his surgeon five days prior to the event… I realized that he and I had the same heart problem… and there he was about two years’ post-surgery standing before the audience sharing his story! My prayer was answered - My faith had been strengthened! At that moment, more than ever, I knew I would survive and I vowed to share my story with anyone who would listen.
How will I feel after the surgery? The day following my surgery, I was able to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom located within my hospital room. The following days, I walked around the hospital unit... my pace was slow and I had to stop for breaks… sometimes long breaks. I was improving… the day before I came home, I walked a total of ¼ mile. Walking is one of the best things you can do to improve your recovery.
I’m still amazed when I think about it… I had my surgery on March 16, 2017 and walked out of the hospital 4 ½ days later… it was a slow and exhausting walk, but I walked out! Having my husband and mom as caregivers was comforting. They were both so patient, kind, nurturing and encouraging. I can’t stress enough how critical it is to have a positive support system.
Will I be able to cope with the pain? As for pain, surprisingly after being discharged from the hospital, I took just one Percocet. I took that pill on the night I came home and it was more of a precaution just in case pain set in during the night. The pain was unbelievably bearable and I only took a few Tylenol over the course of my first couple of days at home – gain I didn’t really need it, it was more of a precaution.
What special accommodations did I need at home?
My husband purchased me a Sleeper Lift Recliner chair. This was my favorite place to be. I don't know how I would have managed without it. The "Lift" feature allowed me to immediately manage getting in and out of the chair independently. My chair also reclined to a full sleeper. I slept in this recliner for about six weeks after I came home. I'm a side sleeper so it was great in regards to forcing me to sleep on my back, enabling me to keep pressure and weight off of my sternum bone as it healed. I highly recommend a Sleeper Lift Recliner chair for recovery - IT'S A MUST!!!
How will I reassure my children and family far away that I am recovering and getting better? Pictures say a thousand words. Journaling and blogging all started when I began to text selfies & quick updates to keep my family posted on how I was progressing… those pictures and text messages later became the content for the Photo Timeline on my blog…
How will I focus my energy to have the best recovery possible? I believe there are 3 imperative areas of focus for optimal recovery:
Mind – just staying positive every day
Body – typical diet changes, cardiac rehab and exercise
Spirit – renewed faith and commitment to serving God
Mind: Above all things I maintained a very intentional focus on seeing the positive in every day. That doesn’t mean that negative things won’t arise, but you can’t stay in that negative place. I have read about many people battling depression after open heart surgery… for me, I focus on the fact that I survived and deem it a BLESSING to have a second chance at life. A couple of weeks after surgery, I became involved in a community service organization which played a key role in my recovery. While I was still quite weak, it gave me something of purpose to do and I benefited tremendously from the relationships gained.
Body: To reduce future risks, I made typical diet changes which consist of a low sodium diet. Usually, I eat fresh fruit for breakfast and a salad for lunch, focusing on smart choices for dinner like salmon or chicken. Cardiac rehab therapy began about 8 weeks after my surgery (3 times per for week for a total of 32 sessions)… therapy was great! It really helped me to bounce back, building up my strength and endurance. I maintain a regular cardio workout routine… my favorite exercises are the rower, elliptical, and stepper.
Spirit: Actually what really kept me in a positive mindset was listening to a selected playlist of gospel songs throughout the day… I began listening to these songs almost immediately after I learned of my diagnosis… I listened to these songs throughout my stay in the hospital and I listened to these same songs routinely throughout my first year of recovery. These songs ministered to my spirit, keeping me grounded and focused.
What were some other significant milestones for your recovery? The following were key achievements in regards to my independence. Approximately:
3 weeks after surgery I was able to shower and dress myself without assistance
4 weeks after surgery I was able to drive independently within my town
9 ½ weeks after surgery, I returned to work
How would I summarize my first year of recovery? 2017 started off as if it would be the worst year of my life… potentially even the last year of my life. Who would have known that it would turn out to be one of the most AMAZING years of my life!!!
I was blessed to have a second chance of life, extending my time with my family
I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated
I was elected to the Plainfield Board of Education
I am a Heart Ambassador for the American Heart Association
I AM A SURVIVOR!!!
How am I doing today? i feel great and my cardiologist Dr. Derek Santiago, said my recovery has been INCREDIBLE.