I hate to begin with a cliche, but – “I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post!” Oddly, things have been pretty busy, giving me a taste of what things will be like when “real life” kicks in again. All in all, I’m doing pretty well.
I met with my surgeon late in May; he gave me a good report and cleared me to drive again. That was a good day – and my unfortunate chauffeur Larry agreed wholeHEARTedly!!! It was nice to have that freedom again – for BOTH of us! We learned an interesting fact during this visit: I did NOT have my pulmonic valve replaced! The surgeon explained that it’s still in good working order and did not have to be removed. At first I was confused about this, because he told me he would be doing this when we first consulted, but time has convinced me that this was a good scenario – the surgery would have been that much longer if I had to have this done, and as it was, the surgery took eight hours. So it’s a good thing I didn’t have to stay on the table and under anesthesia any longer than I did. Thank you, Dr. E and Dr. Kopf! A nice note: in the doctor’s office before this consultation, I met a guy with whom I was friendly in the ICU and the step-down unit with me – he had just about the same surgery as I did, by the same surgeon, one day after I did! We’re going to keep tabs on each other. He’s a long-distance runner, and I’d be interested to hear how he progresses back to that. Hi, Kevin!
I’m on my 5th week of cardiac rehab at Griffin Hospital. Generally, I’ve been responding well to the program and progressing through it nicely. It’s basically like doing cardio at the gym, except you’re hooked up to an EKG the whole time so they can regulate your heart rate. Additionally, they monitor your blood pressure before, during, and after exercising, and offer education around the whole heart health thing. As the program progresses, they have you do more and more, as your body and heart get stronger. So far, so good. Eight more weeks to go! The staff at Griffin Hospital has been excellent, and I thank them for running such an excellent program. Hi, Trish!!!
The pain in my sternum has subsided a great deal. Even though I’m still trying to sleep on my back – sleeping on my side still hurts – I’ve woken up to find that I’d slept on my side, and I feel it in the morning. It’s nothing a few Tylenol can’t help, and I know it’ll go away completely in the end. One of my providers said it takes about a year to heal completely. Patience is a virtue!
One large disappointment has been an unfortunate side effect of the surgery, which has been a constant irritant since about two or three weeks out. At first we thought I had a urinary tract infection from the Foley catheter which I had in the hospital, given the pain and burning I felt upon urinating. Well, we tried several antibiotics to treat that, none of which worked. Then my urologist put me on a pill – can’t remember the name – which would alleviate the pain while my providers decided what to do about this. This drug helped a little with the pain, but it has the side effect of turning the color of urine to orange – the deepest blood orange I have ever seen! My joke was that I was peeing Sunny D! Meantime my medical providers had trouble agreeing on how to proceed with the issue: my urologist wanted to do a cystoscopy, in which a camera is snaked into one’s appendage to see if there is an infection at all. My surgeon’s team was afraid that I could bleed out due to being on the blood thinner Coumadin if I had this procedure. That was resolved, and it was agreed that I could stay on the Coumadin. Then there was another delay: the surgeon’s team thought it might be too soon after the surgery for a procedure such as this, as the risk of infection reaching the heart would be too great.
Finally, three weeks ago, I was OK’d to have the procedure (with more than a bit of trepidation on my part!), preceded by a heavy antibiotic (Cipro) preparation. I could not go through with it, however, as it was so intensely painful, and after only a few seconds, I started to bleed from it. So my urologist, a great guy with a great sense of humor, who has been very helpful in not letting me get too discouraged about all this – I mean, literally, my pride has been hurt! – announced that the
problem must be scar tissue in the urethra, a condition not uncommon in patients of any type of surgery which includes the use of a Foley catheter. So this morning, after being off of the Coumadin and having to inject myself with another anti-clotting medication called Lovenox for the past five days, I went to Bridgeport Hospital and the urologist performed another procedure on me, in which he used an instrument to widen my urethra to break up the scar tissue. The name of the procedure takes longer to pronounce than the entire surgery probably took, but thank God I was “twilighted,” and had no idea what was happening! Oh, yes, another side effect of this whole shebang was a horrible tummy from the Cipro, for which I had to take ten days of Flagyl, ANOTHER heavy-duty antibiotic, which did do the trick. But I’m through with antibiotics for a while, if I have anything to say about it. Hopefully this procedure, which I looked forward to and dreaded in equal parts, will also do the trick, and allow me to feel more normal going forward. So far things point to that. WHEW!
Yet through all of this, the new ticker prevails! I have a return-to-work date of July 10, and I look forward to getting back to a normal routine. My team is in the process of figuring out how I can best do my job while protecting the good work that has been done on my body. I’ll be continuing the cardiac rehab in the meantime, continuing to build on that good work. Throughout everything, it’s been a wonderful experience to have the love, concern, and support of all those who have lifted me up throughout this ordeal. I’m not sure if I ever really appreciated how many good friends I have, but I do now, and it’s a great comfort that I’ll always cherish. Thanks to all of you for making this man with an empty kettle stay on his mettle (you “Wizard of Oz” fans should get that one!) Now, on to the next phase of this journey!!!
And as always and forever, thank you, Larry, for every selfless sacrifice you’ve made through yet another ordeal.
Peace and love, and heart….