New member: 56 yo facing unexpected AVR before the end of the year

Valve Replacement Forums

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JohnStone

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2022
Messages
13
Location
North Carolina
Posting on behalf of my husband, as he’s a little overwhelmed at the moment (he will take over once the reality of his situation sinks in). We’ve just met with the surgeon today and they are going to move forward with surgery in the next few weeks due to rapidly worsening symptoms. John has a severely calcified bicuspid AV (we were made aware by chance about a month ago when he went to urgent care for something unrelated and the PA asked him about his heart murmur, which was news to us! )
I’ve been reading through the forum & see so much great advice & support. He & his dr have decided the bio valve will be the best option. My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
 

ChuckM

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Lafayette, La
I'm a newbie as well, and 2 years removed from OHS because of a BAV. Mine was discovered accidently as well when my GP suggested a calcium score. It also revealed a nearly 6cm dilated aorta. Testing after that determined that the valve was bad as well. At 49, my surgeon suggested mechanical as it would outlive me and I don't want another surgery if possible.

Help him with the anxiety, it will be overwhelming at times. The surgery itself wasn't a big deal. ICU was the worst part (my fear of a bed pan was real!) because of the pain and the tubes and being woken up every hour or so. Once I moved to a regular room it was the removal of the tubes that bothered the most. Food was terrible (of course) but I could then use the restroom and take a shower. Once I stabilized it was a matter of getting the meds correct, and I was home in about 8 days.

Once home I didn't continue pain meds for long. The most bothersome was the inability to use your arms. Getting into and out of bed, up out of the chair, all were no no's. Get him one of those "sit up" pillows, he'll need that to sleep for the first few weeks. He'll grow to hate the spirometer, but it is necessary.

I think I hit all of my milestones accordingly, followed all of the directions and the worst of it is minor now. I had one incident with palpitations that scared the daylights out of me, at that point I'd reached my deductible so back to the ER I went. Once all was checked out, the next day they subsided and I rarely have them now days. Be there for him, help him through the mental parts. As tough as us guys may be, this is a punch in the gut, but you both will get through it.
 

pellicle

Professional Dingbat, Guru and Merkintologist
Joined
Nov 4, 2012
Messages
11,032
Location
Queensland, OzTrayLeeYa
Hi "John"
;-)


My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
well I was 10 when I had my first one, and 28 when I had my 2nd and 48 when I had my 3rd, so as you can guess by the time I was even ready to ask questions I already knew a lot.
Now with respect to recovery its all pretty simple: do what you're told. This is because recovery is well planned after decades of doing this, its a well oiled machine. So I'm going to say:
  • be a compliant patient
  • eat your meals
  • go for walks as directed (they start you walking in ICU now)
  • follow the guidelines about lifting
  • consider some Korean KimChi to take with you and have with your first meal back on the ward. See the following posts


Thats about it... perhaps while you're waiting you could fill in a basic fact about John, which is how old John is ... its not in his "about"

and knowing this helps answer some questions

mostly its out of your hands and remember, its a very successful procedure
 

leadville

Premium Level User
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
470
Location
UK
Hey, at 56 it's a more nuanced decision on valve type.

You say he's BAV, has the surgeon told you of the increased chance with bav for aortic aneurysm?

This is worth noting because of any future potential surgery.

Welcome and good luck 👍
 
Last edited:

LondonAndy

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Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2015
Messages
576
Location
London, UK
Welcome, Mrs John! It sounds like he has great support, which will be particularly important during his recovery after the operation.

At that time, it is important to avoid risks of infection, and to let him rest a lot as he listens to his body's needs. Things like: don't share towels. wash his ones frequently, and at high temperature. Try not to touch his wound area, and if there are well meaning visitors don't let them disturb him for long, as he will not be able to focus on things for a while.
 

ValveAdmin

Administrator
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Admin
Joined
Apr 9, 2019
Messages
311
Location
SE USA
Welcome to the forum, Mrs. John. Wishing John the best. Good luck to you both.
 

tom in MO

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,995
Location
MO USA
Welcome to the forum.

Per your request: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery?

It's not as bad as it seems. The overwhelming majority (>99%) of BAV replacement surgeries are uneventful. Any possible problems are well known and there are robust science based treatments. I had my BAV replaced at the same age. Any lingering effects are fully manageable. Given the fact that it's either surgery or death, the choice for surgery is an easy one to make and in no way is the surgery new or very risky. Just don't wait too long to schedule, a planned replacement is better than an emergency one.​

Your husband is a stone mason. Due to the heavy lifting involved he may be out of work for awhile to allow for additional healing of the sternum compared to an office worker. Making ends meet may be your biggest complication. Make sure you discuss this with the surgeon and your insurance provider.​
 

RealtorRick

Active member
Joined
Dec 17, 2011
Messages
38
Location
Lewistown, PA
Posting on behalf of my husband, as he’s a little overwhelmed at the moment (he will take over once the reality of his situation sinks in). We’ve just met with the surgeon today and they are going to move forward with surgery in the next few weeks due to rapidly worsening symptoms. John has a severely calcified bicuspid AV (we were made aware by chance about a month ago when he went to urgent care for something unrelated and the PA asked him about his heart murmur, which was news to us! )
I’ve been reading through the forum & see so much great advice & support. He & his dr have decided the bio valve will be the best option. My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
I had a BAV replaced with a mechanical valve 11 years ago at age 52. Also had the Aortic Arch replaced. I was surprised by the volume of my valve clicking. If he has a bio valve, that wont be an issue. I am on blood thinners forever, and that is not an issue, I get tested every 5 weeks. Again, that should not be an issue for your husband as he will temporarily be on thinners. Get off the narcotic pain killers as fast as he can. I was home a few days and gravitated to Tylenol for pain relief.

GO TO CARDIAC REHAB!!!!!!! It greatly speeds up the recovery process and they monitor your heart function very closely while exercising.
 

Beach77

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Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2021
Messages
103
Location
San Diego CA
What surprised me the most. It wasn't as bad as I thought but it wasn't easy either. I hope to never have to go through it again. (mechanical at age 64) Also, what surprised me was I wasn't in bed for weeks recovering but only slow around the house. I was up walking and watching Christmas movies. (Dec. 3rd was my operation date) I only took tylenol after ICU, I was in for ICU for 1 day. My pain was manageable with only Tylenol. Sleeping in my bed was hard. I purchased a wedge (amazon) after the first night home and used pillows under my arms to keep them closer to my chest. Nothing tasted good in the hospital and at home for a few weeks. Even my own cooking didn't taste good! The biggest surprised is how good I feel 2 years out! My surgery is only a memory now.
 

carolinemc

Well-known member
Joined
May 31, 2010
Messages
1,371
Location
kansas city, mo
Posting on behalf of my husband, as he’s a little overwhelmed at the moment (he will take over once the reality of his situation sinks in). We’ve just met with the surgeon today and they are going to move forward with surgery in the next few weeks due to rapidly worsening symptoms. John has a severely calcified bicuspid AV (we were made aware by chance about a month ago when he went to urgent care for something unrelated and the PA asked him about his heart murmur, which was news to us! )
I’ve been reading through the forum & see so much great advice & support. He & his dr have decided the bio valve will be the best option. My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
It can be overwhelming for men, for some can get depressed with heart issues. But you are a great wife to help him get the information he needs. Be sure to also check, WebMD and the Heart Association for reliable information. Heart murmur is a leak in a valve that can cause heart problems. I was born with Heart Murmur and had a repair on the aortic valve at age 8 years old. Then years later, I was 36 and had the aortic valve replaced with St. Jude's leaflet aortic valve. On warfarin and still active, walking that is. I have now developed over time and age, Mitral valve calcification, which the Cardio nurse will monitor every six months.
Just keep getting educated and you can come in anytime to get information, for we share experiences. And rant if you need to. We are here for you both. Have a nice great day. :)
 

dick0236

Eat the elephant one bite at a time
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2007
Messages
3,401
Location
louisville, KY USA
My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
My surgery was in 1967....that was, pretty much, the early years of this surgery. The very first valve replacement was successfully performed in 1961......and I did not know what to expect. I thought I would live no more than 20 years.......it has now been 55 years and my mechanical valve is going strong. I was only 31 when I had the surgery and my recovery was very quick......I returned to work 30 days after being released from the hospital (I had a job in accounting) and your husband, due to his age of 56 and being a stone mason might take a little longer.

I spent a lifetime waiting "for the other shoe to drop" but it never did. I have lived a pretty normal life with, few
if any, restrictions on life or lifestyle.

OHS is a well-developed surgery with millions of successful patients......so tell your husband to "have a beer, take a deep breath, and pretty soon it will be in the past".
 

JohnStone

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2022
Messages
13
Location
North Carolina
What surprised me the most. It wasn't as bad as I thought but it wasn't easy either. I hope to never have to go through it again. (mechanical at age 64) Also, what surprised me was I wasn't in bed for weeks recovering but only slow around the house. I was up walking and watching Christmas movies. (Dec. 3rd was my operation date) I only took tylenol after ICU, I was in for ICU for 1 day. My pain was manageable with only Tylenol. Sleeping in my bed was hard. I purchased a wedge (amazon) after the first night home and used pillows under my arms to keep them closer to my chest. Nothing tasted good in the hospital and at home for a few weeks. Even my own cooking didn't taste good! The biggest surprised is how good I feel 2 years out! My surgery is only a memory now.
That is very reassuring. My father had a valve replacement & triple bypass back in the early 1980s. I was fairly young, but I recall him being in the hospital many weeks & having a lot of complications and setbacks. And he died 7 years later. Of course, medicine is much improved now, but that’s really my only frame of reference, so this forum is so helpful.
 

JohnStone

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2022
Messages
13
Location
North Carolina
My surgery was in 1967....that was, pretty much, the early years of this surgery. The very first valve replacement was successfully performed in 1961......and I did not know what to expect. I thought I would live no more than 20 years.......it has now been 55 years and my mechanical valve is going strong. I was only 31 when I had the surgery and my recovery was very quick......I returned to work 30 days after being released from the hospital (I had a job in accounting) and your husband, due to his age of 56 and being a stone mason might take a little longer.

I spent a lifetime waiting "for the other shoe to drop" but it never did. I have lived a pretty normal life with, few
if any, restrictions on life or lifestyle.

OHS is a well-developed surgery with millions of successful patients......so tell your husband to "have a beer, take a deep breath, and pretty soon it will be in the past".
That is great to hear! You really were one of the first generation of OHS patients! And he loves beer so I’m sure he’ll take that advice 🙂
 

JohnStone

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2022
Messages
13
Location
North Carolina
Hi "John"
;-)



well I was 10 when I had my first one, and 28 when I had my 2nd and 48 when I had my 3rd, so as you can guess by the time I was even ready to ask questions I already knew a lot.
Now with respect to recovery its all pretty simple: do what you're told. This is because recovery is well planned after decades of doing this, its a well oiled machine. So I'm going to say:
  • be a compliant patient
  • eat your meals
  • go for walks as directed (they start you walking in ICU now)
  • follow the guidelines about lifting
  • consider some Korean KimChi to take with you and have with your first meal back on the ward. See the following posts


Thats about it... perhaps while you're waiting you could fill in a basic fact about John, which is how old John is ... its not in his "about"

and knowing this helps answer some questions

mostly its out of your hands and remember, its a very successful procedure
I (John’s wife Terri) love Kim Chi. John is not a fan, but perhaps he will be too groggy from surgery to protest 😀
Very good advice on gut flora/stool softeners.
 

70sdiver

Well-known member
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
75
Location
Richland wa
The worst part was the worry before I had my surgery lol. I wished my doctor would have had me do it sooner ,I,m a little over 3 months from surgery and getting along really well. I’m back to fishing, hunting and riding my motor scooter. I’m still in cardiac rehab for the rest of december.
 

Croooser

VR.org Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2021
Messages
101
There is a recurring theme here. The success rate is very high and almost everyone recovers well. Recovery is no walk in the park, but knowing what the desired and likely result is, can make it more of a task and less of a stressful situation.

At 71 yo, I got through it just fine as do most AVR patients.

Worst thing for me --- every little ache and pain for the first few months...."Oh boy, what is that, never felt that before, hope that's not my valve."
 

erricojj

VR.org Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2022
Messages
54
Location
CT and FL
Posting on behalf of my husband, as he’s a little overwhelmed at the moment (he will take over once the reality of his situation sinks in). We’ve just met with the surgeon today and they are going to move forward with surgery in the next few weeks due to rapidly worsening symptoms. John has a severely calcified bicuspid AV (we were made aware by chance about a month ago when he went to urgent care for something unrelated and the PA asked him about his heart murmur, which was news to us! )
I’ve been reading through the forum & see so much great advice & support. He & his dr have decided the bio valve will be the best option. My question to you all: What do you wish you had known about open heart surgery ahead of time? How about recovery? He has no idea what to expect & is quite anxious. As am I!
One thing to consider is to get a comprehensive dental exam before the surgery as he will likely be prohibited from getting dental work for 6 months. I had a run of bad luck and had to get 2 root canals about 4 weeks post op. They nuked me with antibiotics. In any case, stick to prophylaxis antibiotic protocol for dental appointments.

Regarding the valve selection, if he's going with a biosynthetic (tissue) valve, consider the Edwards Inpiris Resilia. I am 70 yo and got it 4 months ago. A typical strategy at my age is to go with tissue, and if replacement is needed later, then TAVR will hopefully be an option to avoid a 2nd OHS.

Good luck to you and John.
 

JohnStone

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2022
Messages
13
Location
North Carolina
The day is almost here! John’s surgery is scheduled for 12/23 at 7:30 am. We are both nervous, but the cardiology team at our hospital has been great about giving us information on what to expect. They’ve even had John doing spirometer exercises ahead of surgery. Thanks for all the support & happy holidays!
 
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