After your surgery, what are some of the things that you found out that surprised you

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slipkid

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Yeah, the operation can do a number on your shoulders, back, whatever, totally separate from where they saw you open.

After I recovered enough for the sternum pain to subside (about 7-8 weeks) I noticed pain and extreme weakness in my left shoulder which due to all the other trauma to recover from wasn't something that had registered with me. Turned out I had "impingement of the supraspinatus muscle". Evidently I had been manipulated in such a way during the operation to cause that, my shoulder & rotator cuff etc got effed up.

Luckily it was cured through physical therapy. Took about 3 months of therapy 3x a week plus tons of exercises and stretching that I had to do at home. No biggie though since at same time I was going to cardiac therapy in the hospital right across the street, plus seeing the Dr with offices at the hospital too, killed 3 birds with 1 stone for a couple months so to speak.
 

slipkid

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P.S. Fascinating reading others pre-op experiences and what that was like. Being prepared. Counting down the hours/whatever. Seeing the OR itself.

My experience was drastically different. Not going into the whole long story but I had a heart attack at work and collapsed/passed out. Woke up about when the ambulance came. Next thing I knew I was in the ER. They definitely gave me happy drugs on the way there because I was totally calm, no concern that I was dying. Recovered enough to be conscious & talking, someone from work came over to reassure me about things, notify my family, that sort of thing.

Skipping over what else happened in the ER, in the cath lab they shaved my groin which was like a "WTF?" moment as I looked up to see 3 or 4 nurses fiddling around down there. Next thing I knew I felt something warm moving up my arm as they went in that way - then - NOTHING.

I simply was not there. I was not anywhere. No thoughts. No blackness. No sounds. No white light. No hovering around the room looking down. Just "outside time" is all I can describe it as then....a second later...a minute later...a hundred years later....who knows...I was back in the cath lab again, my eyes were closed so I opened them and the Dr & his head nurse were up in my face looking down at me but said nothing. I said "I think I passed out". One of them said "Yes you did. We're taking you up to the Operating Room now". I had no idea what was going on, but again, no worries, nothing seemed to matter, due to the happy drugs I guess. Heard much later, can't remember when, that my heart had stopped but resumed beating b4 they could zap me. I also heard later that I was still "infarcting" up until they operated on me (?).

Must have passed out again and next thing I knew I woke up because someone was either talking to me or shaking me or something, my eyes were closed, I opened them, and again kind of a repeat scene from earlier, there I am lying on my back, this time no concept of even where I was (I could have been in the OR, I could have been in a hallway, have no idea), opened my eyes and some old guy I never saw before, with big bushy white hair, had his face like an inch or two from mine looking down at me and said "Do you want a mechanical valve or an animal valve?".

I said "what?" (I heard him but I had no idea what he was asking me - I learned later this was the surgeon)

He repeated it - "Do you want a mechanical valve or an animal valve?".

I had no idea what he was talking about but it seemed like he wasn't going to be explaining anything so I just went with the flow and asked "What's the difference?" as if I even knew he was talking about my aortic valve - for all I knew he was asking me something about my car or my refrigerator, or I was dead and this is what God asks you, but if I am supposed to make a decision tell me something on what to base that decision on (what color are they? does one have a money back guarantee? which one costs more? which one goes zero to sixty faster? does one come with a hardshell case? how heavy are they? what do they taste like? wtf??)

He said "With a mechanical valve you have to take coumadin for the rest of your life". (I think he used the brand name but I could be misremembering, maybe it was "warfarin". Anyways...

Not even knowing the ins/outs of what it means to be on warfarin with INRs and testing, and clotting risks, and bruising, and bleeding, and what not I only knew that I did not want to have to be taking ANY GODDAMM MEDICINE period so I said "Give me the animal valve". Was not sure to ask for it to be gift wrapped or just eat it there....

He kind of moved back a little when I announced my choice and looked surprised or disgusted that I would choose an animal over a robot or whatever it was and he said "we don't give animal valves to someone your age" with no explanation whatsoever.

So I said - "then why did you ask me?".

He replied "Because you have to make a decision".

(How the eff am I supposed to make a decision on what is a pretty damn important thing like that when I'm dying, it is an emergency situation, I have no idea or background in any of this, and I am on happy drugs that make me pretty much not give a damn about anything???).

I think I said something like "Just ask my sister".

I then fell asleep or passed out again.

At some point he came back and woke me up and said "you need to make a decision".

I told him I didn't care. He repeated that I needed to make a decision. I said "just give me whatever everybody wants me to get" and closed my eyes.

Next thing I knew I was in some sort of weird place lying on my back with what I thought was a conveyer belt moving across my chest propelling little odd shaped clear plasticy things which I was flicking with my fingers to get them to jump around for some unknown reason and I could hear voices and recognized my sister saying something like "HE'S AWAKE!! WHAT'S HE DOING??" and laughing or something. At that point I was in recovery in the ICU I guess, had no knowledge of a tube down my throat or anything like that but eventually I came back slowly to consciousness and was told I was in the ICU, that I had an operation, heart attack, etc but it was probably days b4 I was with it enough to really take in what had happened.

OK, rambled a bit there, am tired, sorry, that's enough of that, need some sleep, hope that was entertaining, probably told some of that b4, wonder if my memory is the same as last time etc, anyway point is unlike you folks I had no preparation or knowledge or anything like that of what I was getting into, or out of, it all just HAPPENED and it was 100% carefree no worries whatever happens happens type of experience....
 

Paul Schur

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Jun 12, 2014
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Surgery was at a Johns Hopkins. I had the full 8"-
My surgery went without incident. I was surprised by the breathing tube when I woke up; that was an uncomfortable experience. And by how many wires I had going in me to monitor everything imaginable. I was pleasantly surprised there was minimal pain from where they sawed me open. And later that my INR would be so easy to keep at the right level (I chose a mechanical valve, best decision I could have made). I had the basic sleeping issues in the hospital - speak up for help there as sleep is where you heal. I was also surprised at how much I loved jello and pudding.
 

Michael O

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Jun 21, 2021
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Two more minor things post surgery that were unexpected:
- After 3 days of hibiclens and whatever they used in the OR, whatever repopulated my skin flora and fauna was resistant to my old deodorant. I'd put it on, then 2 hours later I'd smell foul like I do on the odd occasion that I forget and get a whiff of myself a day later. Swapping brands did the trick.
- Also in the "bodily flora and fauna" category - whatever antibiotics I was on wrecked my gut. I took the surgical team's advice and did the yogurt/etc routine, but in comparison to pre-surgery, white rice/white bread/simple carbs will really give me GI distress now. Oh well - I should be cutting back on those anyway, but it's been very noticeable.
 

DaveLee

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Mar 28, 2021
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My short story about my recovery.

Back in 2008 I went in for a physical, they found my sweet little valve problem. The next day I was having an interview with the surgeon, on the way out he said talk to your wife and get back to him in a week at most. On the way out I stopped and turned to him and ask when is the soonest you can do it. After he checked and told me Friday at 8am. I said great I will be here. Now the funny thing about my response was there was NO thought given to it. It was like I was on auto pilot, to this day I still dont know why. Anyway it was about a week from when they found the problem to the operation. The surgeon told me a few days later that my valve was only opening about the size of the head of a pin.



The worst part of the day after was the DAMN tube down my throat. I also had really bad pain on my left side the day after. The only thing that would help was a morphine IV. The reason was cracked ribs :( When I made it home my wife had to make a trip to the drug store. I heard a noise in the house and called out who is there, to which my youngest daughter said its me Melissa. My answer was "who are you". Turns out the drug they sent me home with caused me some problems. I did not KNOW who I was, or where I was or what happened. The big patch on my chest told me something happened that was not good. Needless to say I was rather scared. My wife talked me though it.



When I said "caused me some problems" I was in hell every time I slept and it was a fight to force my way awake. I told my doc that I would NEVER take it again. I was changed to Oxycodone that worked great but had a problem also. I would goto bed about 9pm and take one. About 4 am I would wake with pain in my chest and take another pain killer (Oxycodone). After a few weeks I woke and reached for the Oxycodone and had one in my hand when I reached for my water and that's when it hit me. I had NO pain. So I put the pill down and went back to sleep. The next mourning I gave the bottle to my wife and ask her to HIDE it and I have not taken another one to this day.



Now for my story about the real pain. the damn spirometer, I cant tell you the pain that caused and I had to use it every day two times. Now it could of been from the cracked ribs, I will never know.

The reason why I have told this story is I was NOT prepared for the experience once at home. Not knowing if it was normal or ... :(

I have to add to my story :(
It seems that my aortic Aneurysm has swollen to about 50% of the critical size to mean another cracked chest. I had it checked a few weeks ago but have not talked to my GP about it. My cardiologist retired last month and its about 1 month till I meet my new cardiologist to decide the best course. It seems that the swelling has slowed down the past year so there may be hope yet :) I have a choice to take the the risk of the operation to fix or wait it out, best guess is 5 years. That was the story a year ago.

It has changed again :( at 71 they don't want to take the risk of another operation and think my best odds are to wait it and see what happens.

I have also learned about a new procedure where they dont crack your chest but use a small hole and do the job via the hole. I talked to my OLD cardiologist about it and said NO NO NO and never gave a reason :(


I have a St Jude valve and 71 years old, I have lived with it for 14 years now.
 

Superman

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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
@DaveLee

Am I reading this right? You have an aneurysm in the ascending aorta that they aren’t willing to repair due to age at 71? Seems a bit overly cautious? Unless it’s not large enough where the risk of surgery outweighed the risk of watching?

Here’s hoping it’s stable and doesn’t progress further. Or if it does, I hope you can find someone willing to help. Are you located in the US where you are free to shop around? Plenty of people older than 71 here have the surgery you would need without issue.
 

Chuck C

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@DaveLee

I am going to second Superman's suggestion. If they are telling you that your aneurism is in the danger zone, but that at 71 you are too old to operate on, by all means please get a second opinion from another cardiologist and surgeon.

It is not always a good idea to put too much trust in the advice from any one medical professional in these matters. If what you say is accurate, unless there is more to the story, for example if your medical health is extremely poor which would put you at very high risk for OHS, I really wonder why they would take this position. People over 70 get OHS all the time and if your aneurism is as big as you say, you are likely a ticking time bomb. But, I am just some random guy on the internet. Get a second opinion from a medical professional- please.
 

Lawnerd64

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I was surprised to have four drainage tubes running out of my abdomen.
I was surprised that the Physician's Assistant just yanked them out in one hard tug.
I was surprised that this was the most painful aspect of the entire ordeal.
 

Unicusp

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I was surprised to have four drainage tubes running out of my abdomen.
I was surprised that the Physician's Assistant just yanked them out in one hard tug.
I was surprised that this was the most painful aspect of the entire ordeal.
Agreed. I also had 4 drain tubes. But they were yanked one at a time with each burning tightening of the sutures. And which made it worse was making me lie beyond flat to help tubes removal which put pressure on the sternum. No fun. But quick!
 

slipkid

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Schwenksville, PA, USA
I was surprised to have four drainage tubes running out of my abdomen.
I was surprised that the Physician's Assistant just yanked them out in one hard tug.
I was surprised that this was the most painful aspect of the entire ordeal.

Yeah that was not fun (I had 3 tubes). The PA that did that told me the day b4 to make sure to take some pain medicine that morning b4 he came by. I asked something like "Why, is it going to really hurt?" and he said "No, it's not bad". Then when he did it it HURT. I said "That hurt like hell, I thought you said it wasn't bad" etc and he said "I lied".

It was nowhere near as painful as when the catheter came out though (I have a humorous story I like to tell about that that I probably already told up here, or maybe I didn't because of the mixed company in the forum). That was the worst pain I've ever felt and it took quite a long time to go away, couldn't even pee for over a day it hurt so bad to even try....
 

tom in MO

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I was surprised that I needed insulin injections for a day or two until my pancreas kicked back in. I was on bypass for about 3 hours.

I needed insulin as well. Was somewhat concerning but it was true, I didn't need it but for a day or so.
 

Chuck C

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I was surprised that I needed insulin injections for a day or two until my pancreas kicked back in. I was on bypass for about 3 hours.

This is exactly what happened to me. It is critical to control blood glucose following surgery, and it is common for people to become termporarily diabetic after valve surgery. Any clinic that is on the ball should know this and test blood glucose before each meal, giving insulin as needed. Prior to one meal, my fasting blood glucose was 140, which is well into the diabetic range; diabetic if over 126. I have a home blood glucose monitor and once I was home things normalized after a few days for me.

Postoperative hyperglycemia is common with other surgeries as well. It appears to be a result of the stress on the body which comes with the surgery.

" More than 50% of patients with moderate to poor BGC after cardiac surgery were not previously identified as diabetic. Inadequate postoperative BGC is a predictor of in-hospital mortality and morbidity. "

 
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KLS39

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I was surprised to have four drainage tubes running out of my abdomen.
I was surprised that the Physician's Assistant just yanked them out in one hard tug.
I was surprised that this was the most painful aspect of the entire ordeal.

I was also surprised to have four chest tubes. I only had two with my first OHS. I remembered it being excruciating the first time. This time they told me to hum which was weird. While it did hurt some I was so tired of lugging that around for 5 days I was happy to have them out
 

Dana

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I had three tubes but what surprised me is the answer I got to the question, when will you pull these out? Ans. when the daily output drops below 700 ml.

OMG, if it drops to 650 ml/day and there are no drainage tubes, where is all the fluid going to go? Well I found out! It fills up your interstitial spaces (between cells) and you swell up particularly in the legs, and gain weight and have a hard time breathing because a lot of the fluid fills the interstitial space in the lung which collapses inhalation volume making it harder to breathe, reduces cardiac output and makes your heart work harder which gives you symptoms of heart failure, further pulmonary edema being one of them. Solution (for me anyway) was to get after a few days of this, a prescription for Lasix, which worked miraculously. I lost (urinated out) close to 20 lbs in a week. That and compression stockings to keep too much fluid from filling the legs.
 

carolinemc

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I was surprised that I needed insulin injections for a day or two until my pancreas kicked back in. I was on bypass for about 3 hours.
They check the glucose these days, for when I had my second bypass and Aortic valve replaces, they did not test it then. But when my cousin had hers, they checked and she was type 2 diabetic, as I was. So glad you did not have it, but any changes in the body will affect the glucose.
 

carolinemc

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This is exactly what happened to me. It is critical to control blood glucose following surgery, and it is common for people to become termporarily diabetic after valve surgery. Any clinic that is on the ball should know this and test blood glucose before each meal, giving insulin as needed. Prior to one meal, my fasting blood glucose was 140, which is well into the diabetic range; diabetic if over 126. I have a home blood glucose monitor and once I was home things normalized after a few days for me.

Postoperative hyperglycemia is common with other surgeries as well. It appears to be a result of the stress on the body which comes with the surgery.

" More than 50% of patients with moderate to poor BGC after cardiac surgery were not previously identified as diabetic. Inadequate postoperative BGC is a predictor of in-hospital mortality and morbidity. "

I had it show up a year after bypass, my cousin was the same way. It runs in the family and my father was type 2. But these days they will check the glucose to catch any issues. Mine is genetic. And it was triggered by surgery.
 

jamessd

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Apr 6, 2022
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I was surprised, this time being my second, to be specifically told I needed to keep coughing and deep breathing. Whilst I remember being encouraged to get up and walk regularly in my first OHS 8 years ago, I don't remember being told to cough and given a rolled up towel.
 

d333gs

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They told us to cough too. I was lucky; the second day a huge gob of junk came up and that was it. It took one of my neighbors about two weeks to get it out .....whatever it is/was.......painful
 
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