Living with a Mechanical Heart Valve: Click.Tick.Thump. Love It!

Support Group for Mechanical & Artificial Heart Valve Surgery & Using Warfarin

Well finally the surgery went ahead on 13 Feb... Then the real fun began, I was Kept under anaesthetic for an extra 9 hours due to an internal bleed that wouldn’t stop... on transfer into the High Dependency Unit I developed a chest infection that led to a collapsed lung, resulting in my being attached for 8 hours to a high flow air line, for anyone who has not had this experience its nothing like a standard air mask.. It’s being attached to a 'very loud' high pressure nasal hose that could well be used to blow up tyres rather than people, over the next few days I suffered constant nose bleeds due to the total decimation of the blood vessels in my nose... I have to say that the staff at Aberdeen were incredible and I was seriously impressed at the one-on-one bedside care that the NHS is able to offer.

Antibiotic injections eventually began to win the war against the infection, but unfortunatly the lungs natural inclination to remove unessasary fluids resulted in a lot of uncontrollable coughing, that as folk here who have had open heart surgery will know is not the easiest thing to cope with.. for several days the need to cough would come in bouts that lasted for several hours, consequently I was getting very little sleep... during this period I found that the famous tried and tested method of wrapping a sheet folded into a foot wide band tightly around the chest was the most effective in relieving the pain of coughing. But sneezing well that’s another story lol.

Just when I though it couldnt get any worse the coughing fits triggered a slipped disk that left me crawling on all fours for several days... Taking the weight of your body on your arms Is not the most comfortable thing to do when youve had a major chest trauma.. several times I founfd myself half way up the staairs and being unable to go up or down and then suffering from bouts of uncontrollable hysterical laughing at the pain and indignancy of it all..

Undoubtedly the experience was not the best it could have been but its amazing what you can get through and what the body can cope with.

But hey onwards and upwards...

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Hi Antony

Glad to hear you are on that road to recovery. The waiting it so hard. It definitely sounds like you have been through the wars, thinking of you.
I also had collapsed lungs post Op and was on a mask too, not fun, I thankfully couldn't really understand what was happening at the time, drugs were effecting my mental state a bit but it was hard for the family to see the mask and the state I was in but I got through it and 11months on I'm doing great.

I had a few sneezes and got the Winter vomiting bug about 3weeks post Op that hurt a lot but I just can't imagine what you must be going through, poor thing, and as to having to put weight on your chest because of the slipped disk!!!! I feel for you Antony.

What can I say? I know it is hard to believe right now be it will get better.

Thinking of you and wishing you a reduced pain day tomorrow
Best regards
Martina

Hi Martina ...  thanks for the kind words... You ‘hit the nail on the head’ in terms of the effect on family. The experience certainly put things in perspective and brought us all closer together. Pre op I was pretty much thinking about my own concerns and wasn’t aware how much of an impact the trauma would have on everyone else. 

I was also glad I was on effective drugs that were dampening both the pain and my usual inquisitive nature; for the most part I was happy not to know what was going on and just let the experts deal with the problems while I flew around the universe lol.

Hopefully the worst is over and I can award myself an 'I’m a survivor badge'... How long after the op were you able to get back on your bike... getting peddle fit is definitely something I could aspire too.

 

 

Antony - sounds like you really went through the mill post op with all the complications. Great to see you are on the road to recovery - look forward not back was always my motto during the recovery period.

As you said - onwards and upwards.

All the best

John

Hi Antony

I got an Electric bike to use post Op and was using it about 7 weeks post Op. The first few outings I used the power almost 100% of the time then when my confidence increased I pedalled sections myself, mainly pedalling on flats i.e. using the power on hills (not that there are many big hills where I live in Esssex!). I think it was another approx 8 weeks (~4months post Op) before I was pedalling approx 80% of the circuit myself i.e. only needing the Power for ~20% of the time, I usually cycled up the hills & used the Power to catch up with my partner. My circuits were around 15 to 20 miles. It was a great feeling to get back on the bike. I think it was around 5 or 6month post Op when I got on my normal road bike. The Electric bike was a lot heavier than my normal road bike so I probably could've got on my road bike sooner and gone shorter distances. I even went on holiday to the very hilly Andalucía in southern Spain on a cycling holiday approx 5.5 months post Op - again I had an Electric bike but only used it on the hills (which were pretty steep!).

 

For the first few months post Op my main exercise method was walking on a treadmill, working up from 10mins per day to on average 1hr per day & sometimes doing 2 hrs per day before I started back to Work (which was approx 2.5 months post Op - phased return). Once back at work I tried to do at least 30mins per day on the treadmill, progressing to 40mins on an exercise bike. Now 11 months post Op I'm not so good at doing exercise every day!!! hard to find the time between work & normal life activities, I tend to exercise more at weekend.

 

I've just come back from China, 5 days there, on business - long flights etc and I feel fine - I would definitely say I'm now fully recovered - chest scar still hurts a bit i.e. feels tight but that's it really.

You have probably read the following a lot on this fantastic website but I will repeat it because it really is true. Listen to your body, don’t push yourself too much especially in these first few weeks, everyone is different and recovers at different rates. I found going to the Cardiac rehab very helpful – boosted my confidence greatly and I would strongly recommend it. Remember, it’s only been just over a month since your Op and all your added ‘fun’ issues ( I called mine a ‘ little Glitch’) so you will definitely still need to be resting. I gave myself little targets i.e. get to x mins per day on treadmill (even if that was some in the morning & then some in the afternoon), always measuring it in time rather than distance walking. I can’t remember all the details but I’m pretty sure I was still sleeping a lot on the sofa even after 6 to 8 weeks post Op especially in the afternoon.

It’s great to have targets but don’t push yourself too much at first. Hope you are feeling better today & I’m sure you will continue to improve but don’t worry if you have a few bad days every now & then – I had some what they call ‘Blue days’, feeling mentally & physically drained and sorry for myself etc, it’s a common thing & it passes.

Best regards

Take care

Martina


Hi John.. Thanx for the positive input.

Yeah I'm rather hoping the worst is behind me.. sadly the results of a recent blood test showed I have an abnormality with my liver function that requires further investigation (wasnt there pre op) .. and then there is that damned cough... still hurdles are made for jumping lol

Cheers

 


John French said:

Antony - sounds like you really went through the mill post op with all the complications. Great to see you are on the road to recovery - look forward not back was always my motto during the recovery period.

As you said - onwards and upwards.

All the best

John

 @ john.. From reading your blog it sounds like you also had a few problems on the way to getting yourself up and running.  That is an amazing looking shoreline in your profile picture.

stay well

Hi Martina...

Funny you should mention sleeping on the sofa I have found that I get a better sleep doing that than using a bed. As I am still sleeping on my back at the moment I think it’s got something to do with it not being so wide and perhaps there is some benefit to be gained from the restriction of movement, In any case the sofa seems to make sleeping less of a painful affair... 

I think you are absolutely right about not overdoing it and being careful with the exercise, I am already aware that my body is quite happy to rebel if I try to push walking too far, around 20 mins is the limit of comfortable at the moment and I still need a good hour to recover from that...

I have access to a cross trainer (a standing training unit with handles and pedals) which can be set to 'Very Easy' workout until I'm past the complete wimp stage, I'm hoping that combining it with my walking regime should get me up and running quickly.. I do think a bike will make a good addition to my long term recovery, although it’s been a few years since I made a regular habit of cycling.  Travelling 45 miles to the nearest major city and often making 150mile round trips too areas of work, has made daily bike rides less attractive... Funny how things work out, when I lived in the City I used a bike almost every day. The electric bike sounded like a great idea.

As for the fun and games of it all, I just got the result of a blood test that revealed a liver disorder that now needs investigation. Rather hoping it’s something to do with the drugs combination I’m on and a change of pharmaceuticals will help it resolve itself. Last but not least is this annoying cough I have, that just refuses to go away, it may well be normal to get a bronchial problem after the surgery and the lung collapse, but it’s looking like something else I need to bother the doctors with…  and on and on

Hi Antony - I had all my complications before surgery - once I had the op it was all fine and seems a distant memory now so never looked back.

The shoreline in the Photo is in Iceland - it is one of the smaller lakes that has a glacier flowing into it.... very spectacular and because it was not one of the famous/popular ones there was nobody there.

My tip on sleeping is to get one of those Triangular pillows - it means you can sleep in bed in more of a sitting up position and because it wraps around you a little bit it stops you rolling over or moving side to side.  I really found it a much more comfortable nights sleep.

Hope the liver thing sorts itself out.  Could just be down to the anaesthetic as I know that kidney's are very sensitive to that.  I never found a comfortable way to deal with the cough or the sneeze I am afraid - I did find that trying to stop a cough or a sneeze was more painful on the chest - so found it better just to let go.... not so good for the people around you though....

Hi Antony

Definitely talk to your Dr about your cough & indeed anything else that worries you - they are there to help.

I have a cross-trainer too but have not used it at all in the 11 months post Op, I’m not a fan of it, I can’t really get into a ‘flow’ with it -  it might be because I’m so short and can’t move it so well :) Also, Cardiac rehab suggested it would be best not to use it at least for the first approx 3 months post Op. I would suggest you get advice before using it - you really need to put as little strain on the chest as possible for as long as possible i.e. especially in the first 3 months or so.

Sleep well and I hope the Liver issue sorts itself out quickly.

Best regards

Martina

Wow Antony what a bad trip, still as you say despite all the setbacks you have been well looked after. I wish you a speedy recovery, take care. Kevin

Hi Kevin..

Ye was pretty crazy .. but feeling stronger by the day now and no real glitches with the medication yet.  Had first drive around the countryside today.. Looking like Independence is returning... so there is life after OHS...

Take care.

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