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

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

Surgical adventures and the start of the recovery process

Well it's been just about 14 days since my surgery for Aortic Valve Replacement and roughly 9 days since I was discharged from St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, NY. The adventures of the newest chapter in my life have begun and some times I get a little confused or scared but at the end of the day I some how find myself pointed in the right direction. I am only 33 years old at the moment but have been a cardiac patient since I was around 4 months old. I had my first open heart surgery to temporarily fix my aortic valve at the age of 2 (November 20, 1979 is the general date but I will find the paper work to double check).

Starting off with the day of surgery, I arrived at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany with my parents just before 5 am and made my way to the 5th floor for check in and pre-surgery prep. It's funny how the prep nurse and the self proclaimed "Nurse From Hell" Cathy, who was to be my nurse until I was in recovery, had noticed right away that the original Op Note from 1979, when I had my first open heart surgery at a little under 2 and a half years old, was in my file/folder they needed for the day. Immediately they began showing everyone on the floor that
was on staff on duty or not as they came past the room. To everyone's amazement the 3 names listed on the Op Note from 1979 (just under 31 years earlier, missed the full year by like 1 month literally) happen to be 3 of the "top" known in the state. The main Surgeon for my surgery back then and now retired was Dr. Foster. After a small wait my parents took my bag and went to the guest waiting room for surgeries where they would be contacted when all was done and I was transported to the surgical waiting room where I met the In surgery
Nurse, a couple of the assistants and the Anesthesiologist.

While there Cathy showed everyone in the room my file and the Original Op Note. The 2 remaining names on there were two, now distinguished cardiothoracic Surgeons from the area that just happened to be beginning or doing their fellowships at the time. Not sure which order their names are in on the Op Note but they are Edward V. Bennett Jr and Thomas E. Canavan now members of the Albany Cardiothoracic Surgeons team. Bennett is the one who performed my surgery on Wednesday October 20th and Canavan was performing a similar operation in the next room. Just before being wheeled into the operating room they both stood at the end of my gurney and told me I would do just fine and that I had come a long way on their original temporary fix. This put me at ease as I was feeling a lot scared and nervous because I had no idea of how things would turn out.

The last noted time I remember before anesthesia was applied was the op nurse who was wheeling me into the room said "the patient has entered the room at 7:22am". I shifted to the operation table and they began connecting the monitoring systems and the anesthesiologist worked on 2 IV systems in my right arm. After he said take 3 deep breaths the first time I could tell it was oxygen in the mask. The second time he said take 3
really big slow deep breaths only a few seconds later I didn't finish counting the 3rd in my head. In only a matter of a few minutes I had gone from entering the room to sleeping. When I opened my eyes again to a blur of lights and people in scrubs and masks I was in the recovery/ICU/CCU/CSU room. Almost 8 hours had past. If you have had major surgery you know what it's like but for those of you who have not had major surgery, it's kind of really scary waking up from anesthesia after major surgery. Think of the Matrix when Neo woke up in the "real world" with the tubes in his mouth and body. ya it's like that. I had a breathing tub, a Foley catheter (if you really want to know ask me privately lol), 2 chest drain tubes, a number of IV's in various places (one of which is called a triple loomin and happened to be in the side of my neck), and an assortment of wires running every which direction for the bank of monitoring systems which slowly decreased in number over the hours through the night.

I guess the one nurse had asked me if I was ready for the breathing tube to be pulled out and I shook my head no but a minute or 2 later he asked again and I shook my head yes as I was gagging on it and fighting it to breath on my own, and only an hour and a half or more from surgery. After it was remover the first words I remember saying were "I hear a watch ticking". During the 8 hours of surgery they cut out my failing aortic valve and replaced it with a St. Jude's Medical mechanical bi-lief valve. over the last 13/14 days I have slowly noticed the sound going away or rather fading as I get used to it, but, to me it does sound like a mechanical watch ticking, very close to that sound and almost if not the same frequency of ticks from time to time as my heart and body relax from all the stress and work they have done for me over the past few years. I do need to thank all of the staffing at St. Peter's that helped me go from check in through discharge. Everyone was friendly and offered assistance without hesitation. Of course I had tried to do a few things on my own but in the end needed their help and apologized for needing the help, and, they said it was their job and that I should just ask for help with certain things till healed better anyways.

The names of the Nurses that I remember rights of the top of my head are: Rebecca, Courtney, Joy, Cathy and Joan. The names of the techs I immediately remember are: Ja'Neill, James, Carly, and Illorna I do apologize if i forgot anyone or misspelled any names. You were all wonderful and helpful and made the time pass with ease. Thank you.

I don't think a full day had gone by from the start of surgery till they got me to "roll" off the bed onto my feet
and then stand and move and sit in the chair in my room. After a few hours they had me walk to the ICU room which later in the evening they moved me to another room to make a bed available for female patient. So 3 rooms in 2 days but that was fine as the moving helped with recovery. As each day passed more of the
various tubes and IV's and wires were pulled from me. By Saturday they started me on Coumadin (a blood thinner). I did some Stairs on Sunday during PT, 11 actually so that’s one flight according to the PT Nurse. Sunday night when I asked for a pain killer the nurse said she was waiting for a script for me to come up for some vitamin K then I would get it, and sure enough not even a minute or 2 later she came in with the pain pill and this little tube full of liquid vitamin k… about 1 ml. to get my PT/INR back down.

Monday morning I was released by 11:10am. The fun began in the hours prior to that with the final set of leads for the monitoring system being pulled off me, don’t let them kidyou those big ones do hurt a little bit when pulled off after being attached to you for days on end. And 30 minutes before I was released they pulled the triple loomin out of my neck, for those that don’t know this is a triple port IV they placed to be able to do blood draws and administer IV meds. The Ride home was an adventure as I had to sit in the back seat with the heart hug pillow in between my chest and the seat belt. Of course the route to get to and from the hospital from the section of Highway that leads to my home is in dire need of repair. So that was an adventure in its self. Once home my parents waited for me to get some what settled in and I had said hi to the puppy in her crate and let her smell me before they let her out. After I was sitting in one of the chairs they let her out and she came running across the room to me, but, stopped short of me and looked then slowly moved closer. She is still getting used to me not being able to do everything I used to with her.

I am following the daily and now weekly instructions on the discharge sheets and the back at home sheet. With the weather as crazy as it is I have to improvise a little here and thereon the walking but I get it done each day. The first shower was the hardest but they are easier each time and not feeling as tipsy in there. The First Tuesday after my release the Home health aid/Nurse came and visited me, got paper work done and
checked my vitals. That Thursday I had my first of many in home Blood draws for the pt/INR testing. I know I have always had needles since I was young for different tests and shots but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I look away or close my eyes which I hear is pretty normal for most people out there. The tech that comes and does the draw is good and quick with minimal pain so it’s pretty easy.
Since coming home from the Hospital I got back on my low sodium diet from before surgery and have lost a little bit more weight. There is more to tell but lets wait for another time.

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Comment by Alex Kirk on November 25, 2010 at 20:48
Hi Jonathan. Read read your story. It was reassuring. I hope you are still progressing. Alex
Comment by Richard Deal on November 8, 2010 at 9:49
great post jonathon!
i think most of us know the foley catherter quite intimately... at least the mention of it had me cross my legs in discomfort! you were lucky - i had mine for 2 weeks!
as graeme failed to say, keep on trucking!
Comment by Graeme on November 6, 2010 at 11:59
Hey Jonathon, reading your blog brought it all back to me in vivid detail, especially the wires out of the son said i looked like robocop wiht his head torn off and all the wires exposed..cute huh! Good blog.. good read..yes its a chore to keep it up to date - but really worthwhile as you can read it years later and have a big sigh of self satisfaction - plus its good for newbies and old hands alike to read of other members thoughts and recovery...


Comment by Jonathan F Bushey on November 5, 2010 at 14:11
ugh.. guess it will be a never ending battle to edit and fix this so I guess it's good enough lol


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