Hi Andy,Welcome from another Brit! and I agree: open heart surgery is a big deal, so it would be surprising if anyone is not anxious before it happens! Anticipation is the worst thing, and difficult for many to deal with. Personally, having a mechanical valve doesn't affect what I do at all. Still drink (in moderation), eat what I always used to, and in random amounts, and go on holidays etc.
Focus on getting ready for it, and the recovery period afterwards. Top tips:
- Take ear plugs and an eye mask! My valve was done as an emergency, and I discovered later that if it had been a planned procedure they would have issued some ear plugs by post to me. But no. I remain amazed at how little respect most medical staff have for sleep! From early morning cleaning to other patients being admitted or discharged, there is noise and bright light most of the time. You may already know this from previous time in hospital!
- Don't bother taking much clothing. You'll mostly use hospital pyjamas and gowns, and their laundry processes are not really geared for private clothing - stuff will just get lost.
- Remember phone charger, toothbrush charger if you use an electric one, and a book or kindle-type device for lots of time waiting around, though you probably won't feel like reading much after the op for a while. It's difficult to concentrate as the body heals.
- Get a CoaguChek meter. Loads of threads about them on here. An easy way to test your INR at home or wherever you are, to manage your Warfarin. And it means you can test more frequently than most clinics end up doing. (Not unusual to be every 6 - 8 weeks once your INR settles down, but with a meter you can test weekly). Read this for more info and why it is so important. Not sure what it is like in Northern Ireland, but I had to buy my own meter (£300) and then the test strips etc are on prescription. (You don't need to pay VAT (sales tax) - we're exempt for medical reasons).
- Prepare for coming home. Don't share towels to avoid risk of infection. Wash after only 2 or 3 uses, at a high temperature. Have you got a recliner, or big triangular pillow thingy, to help sleep on your back and make it easier to get in and out of bed? Again, lots of threads about these issues.
- Don't overdo it! Give your body the time it needs to recover and get back to normal. Remember you won't be able to lift much weight whilst the chest heals.
Thanks for the reply! Always good to see someone who's been through the NHS talk about their experience. I have been in hospital a total of 9 1/2 weeks this year and COUNTING . (7 weeks in August and the last 2 1/2 weeks) Ear plugs have been the best thing I have taken into hospital and you're right about the lack of respect given to sleep here. I have asked a few times about them coming back later to change bed sheets and you would think I just insulted their whole family.
My consultant did mention that it may be possible for me to test myself at home once the INR levels are stable enough post hospital but not sure if I would need to buy the device or not. In Northern Ireland our prescriptions are free so I should be ok for the test strips in that case.
I was actually looking at getting a white noise machine for home to help with the ticking sound from the valve, I'm the type of person a ticking clock on the wall would drive me mad at night. Is this the pillow you're referring to? It was on my to buy list for getting home. If there is anything else you or anyone else thinks is worth buying for home recovery please suggest away!
Hope you have been doing good since your surgery and it sounds like your lifestyle more than normal