Surgeon Follow-up, Home Physical Therapist and Nurse Visit

Monday was a follow-up with my heart surgeon, Tuesday I had an appointment with my home physical therapist and today had an appointment with my home nurse. A busy week so for but all three appointments went very well.

On Monday the stitches where the chest drain holes had been were removed. Mostly painless except the third of three. They had to dig that one out a bit. Ouch! I was also told it will still be four more weeks before I can drive a car. That sucks! I can now wear t-shirts again and I can wash my own hair! Since I’m doing so well I am being referred to Cardio Rehab at the hospital. This wasn’t supposed to happen until sometime in the first part of July. The bad part–since it’s at the hospital someone has to drive me there. We’ll find a way to make it work but it’s one more thing to plan and coordinate.

Tuesday’s visit with the at-home physical therapist went very well. Paul (my PT), had me repeat a test that he had me do last week. The goal is to walk 610 yards in six minutes. Last week, I was able to make it to 396 yard. Still, that was pretty awesome considering I’d only been home two days from the hospital. The results this week were much improved. In the six minutes I covered 650 yards! I graduated and I will no longer need Paul to help me. The Cardio Rehab will replace this work and should be a little more difficult to perform. I’m anxious to get started.

Lisa, my at-home nurse came to the house to check on me. All is fine: BP, pulse, surgical wounds healing nicely. Also, I’ve lost a total of twleve pounds since my surgury! YEAH! I expect the weight loss to continue for a while but I’m sure the pace is about to slow down pretty soon. Lisa gave me the option for her to visit later this week and next but it was my choice. Since my wife is going back to work next week I thought it might be good idea to have Lisa around one more week and then go from there.

Things are looking good. I’m staying positive and focused on healing. Tonight I think I’m going to celebrate a bit and have a glass of wine. Cheers!

First Week of Rehab

The first week of triple bypass heart surgery rehab went very well. I started the week with little expectation other than to do as much possible without straining myself. I have to be honest, while my speed of recovery has been pretty amazing it’s still alot like taking ten steps back from the beginning.

Needed pain meds throughout the week. Those afternoon naps were a must and most nights I was in bed by 9 p.m. and I was ready! My appitite has picked up and I’m eating well but… losing weight too. The diet is high protein, low carb plus no beer, wine or bourbon! 🙂 I lost 8.3 pounds! I wouldn’t recommend triple bypass surgery for weight loss but I knew I needed to lose some weight. Also, the three weeks before the bypass I was eating all kinds of fried fatty foods. What the hell, I couldn’t do anymore damage and new plumbing was on the way so I enjoyed the opportunity.

IMG_4216One thing I’ve really hated about rehab is having to use an incentive spirometer! It’s used to help me strengthen the muscles used to deep breath. Before surgery I was given one to begin practicing. Prior to surgery I was able to measure 3500 mL inspired volume. Immediately after surgery, it was all I could do to get it up to 500! By the end of the week I could consistently measure 1500-1750 mL inspired volume and occasionally reach 2250 mL inspired volume. So I’ve still got quite a way to go before I’m back to pre-surgery levels.

Now, this should give you a hint about the speed of my walks. My outdoor walks are my favorite part of the day but the pace is S-L-O-W!!! Here is a rundown of my walking progress for the week:

May 30th – Wednesday

.50 miles          16:26          32:40 pace
.51 miles          16:29          32:15 pace
.52 miles          13:25          25:53 pace (probably inaccurate GPS readings)

May 31st – Thursday

.86 miles         18:32           21:34 pace (I don’t trust this result either)
.75 miles         19:37           26:10 pace
.74 miles         18:00           24:11 pace

June 1st – Friday

.98 miles         29:04           29:34 pace
.97 miles         29:24           30:21 pace
.98 miles         28:20           28:57 pace

June 2nd – Saturday

2.75 miles    1:17:55          28:22 pace
.97 miles         29:11          30:06 pace

June 3rd – Sunday (Rest Day)

1.02 miles      20:39           20:17 pace

Steady progress for sure. The distance has been steadily increasing and the pace is gradually improving too. For week two, I plan to build on my base. I hope to increase my pace some but the focus will remain to keep it easy.

One Week After Triple Bypass Surgery

Well… I survived the surgery. Thank God! I’m a few hours short of seven days since I first woke up in ICU. I’m still under the influence of pain medication so this post will be short.

I’ve improved everyday since the surgery. The doctors, nurses, and therapist have all told me they are amazed by my progress. I don’t know how truthful they are but after having so many people tell me how well I’m doing–I’m believeing it. On the day of surgery they rushed me through prep thinking I was going to go in early. In the end though, it ended up being about 90 minutes or more later than scheduled. After surgery, I woke up in ICU at 9 p.m. and by 6 a.m. the next day they were ready to move me to the Cardio Vascualar wing. I heard this is incredibily quick. It turned out though that I stayed in ICU until about 6:30 in the evening because they didn’t have a room available for me.

The first couple of days were painful! So tired. So weak. I had gone about a day and a half without food so I ate the first meal completely but after that, it took a lot of effort to eat anything. They have you up and moving pretty quickly and I didn’t mind that part but getting in and out of bed really hurt.

I think I overachieved a bit on day one after surgery so on day two I was feeling the effects. Extremely tired and it didn’t take long for me to be short of breath. Day two in the hospital was probably the hardest of them all. There are some things about undergoing CABG that cannot be described. It’s kinda like basic training in the military–until you do it, you really don’t know what it’s like.

On Sunday, I think my surgeon would have let me go home if I could have managed a bowel movement. I’m not sure but I think it would have been the shortest stay after Triple Bypass known to anyone at the hospital. By then, I was walking 1500 feet at each walk and did this at least three times during the day. This is the day they told me I didn’t have to eat hospital food and not only that I could eat ANYTHING I want. I’ve never tasted a McDonald’s cheeseburger that ever tasted better! This became my staple food for the rest of my stay in the hospital.

Between midnight and 8:00 a.m. on Monday I walked two sessions of 3000 feet. Thanks to some extra help of meds I had several bowel movements since the day prior. Now, the walking distances I’m telling you about may not seem impressive but their expectation of patients in recovery is three laps of 500 per day. Before my 10 a.m. release on Monday I had two six lap sessions! Yes, when I finish I’m breathing a little hard but not gasping for air and I recovered from each walk pretty quickly. I didn’t actually measure it but I’d say within two minutes I was breathing normal again. Heart rate never exceeded the low 100’s and was usually in the high ninties.

I was home before lunch on Monday and I was so ready to take a shower in my own home! I was still sore and stiff but much improved from Friday and Saturday. I can’t raise my arms over my head so I still need help in the shower. My wife has taken the next two weeks off since I can’t be left alone and she’s a trooper. I have my moments and I can be a real crab sometimes but she puts up with me. 🙂 I was looking forward to getting into a routine but it hasn’t quite happened yet. On Tuesday I had my first visit with a Home Care Nurse and on Wednesday I had a visit from a physical therapist. My follow-up with the surgery got moved up so now the Home Care Nurse is coming back today to check on me and to draw blood for tests the Surgeon needs at my follow-up.

I would call Wednesday the first day of my next training phase. I expect this cycle will run until the end of August at least and will consist of mostly walking my way back up to running again. Probably sometime in July I’ll begin Cardio Rehab which will consist of some exercises and light weights to help my build up my strength.

There you have it. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone for sure but I’m oh so grateful that my recovery is starting out so well. I’ve been warned to expect some depression to sink in at some point so I’ll be on the lookout for that. I have been overwhelmed with love, support, encouragement from so many friends and family. I’m very blessed and thank God for everything he has given me.

I’ll try to post again sometime during the first part of next week so you’ll have an update on my recovery/walking results. Thanks for reading!

 

CABG Day!

In about and hour and a half it will be time to head to the University Hospital in Augusta for my coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). If things stay on time, my surgery begins at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Haven’t had much sleep in the past few days but I suppose I’ll have plenty of time to catch up in the next 4-6 days in the hospital for recovery. At the moment, I’m not too worried. It’s out of my hands now and nothing I can do other than hope and pray for the best.

I didn’t go to bed until midnight last night hoping it would allow me to sleep in a bit. It also gave me a chance for a late night snack and a final drink of water. It didn’t matter. I was awake by 4:30 and I got up out of the bed about an hour later. Now I just waiting on everyone to wake up so I can start packing up my things.

Unless you read this blog I’ve kept this surgery kinda under wraps. Yet, I’ve received many phone calls, txt messages, and emails wishing the best and praying for me. Word does spread and I really appreciate everyone’s support.

Well, it’s time for me to start packing things up. Wish me the best. You’ll hear from me again soon!

Keeping Busy

The past two weeks have been very busy. My daughter and two grandsons living in Okinawa came to visit before my scheduled surgery and my wife and I flew to Indiana to see our first grandson graduate from high school. Thankfully, no anxiety for this trip. Changing the dose of the beta blocker has worked great.

IMG_4187We had a wonderful time and I’m so proud of my grandson. While we were there we got to see him run hurdles for his track team in the sectional and he has qualified for the regionals next Thursday. Wish I could be there but I’ll probably still be in intensive care and it will probably a day later before my mind is clear enough to know how he does.

All of the extra visitors in the house and travelling have me feeling a bit tired. The advantage is it has also kept me busy enough I’m not sitting around thinking about the open heart surgery scheduled for this week.

Speaking of open heart surgery: I got a call from my surgeon this morning to tell me I had been bumped back to Wednesday afternoon but there was also a chance I could get bumped again for Thursday morning. Guess what? I’ve been bumped to Thursday morning now.

I’m Ok with it really. I am ready to get this over with but I also realize there are others needing the same surgery and in much worse shape than me. I’m gratful I am otherwise healthy and I will be praying for those who are the reason I’ve been bumped back. I had hoped to be home on Sunday. I knew it was a long shot but I was hoping I’d be home in time to watch the Indy 500 from the comfort of my home. With the delay it looks like Monday (Memorial Day) will be the soonest I’ll be home.

Another plus is my daughter (the mother of my graduating grandson) is flying here tomorrow and with the delay this will give us some extra bonding time before my surgery. We tried over the weekend but with the graduation activities going on there wasn’t alot of opportunity. We did what we could.

I’m not sure when I’ll post to the blog again. I don’t think it will be before the surgery so it will depend on how I feel afterwards. We’ll just have to wait and see but I hope to post again over the weekend.

I Think it was the Meds

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A week ago I was going crazy with feelings of anxiety that would just come out of nowhere. I really hated missing my trip to Indiana for the Mini Marathon and getting to see alot of my family members but I wasn’t sure how I could control the anxiety so I bailed on the trip.

Really, the only thing that has changed recently was my medication for high blood pressure. About two weeks ago my cardiologist prescribed a beta blocker and it wasn’t too long after that I started having the anxiety.

Anyway, I decided on my own to cut my beta blocker medication in half to see what would happen. Yep, without my doctors permission. I’m already watching my heart rate and blood pressure closely so if this change would have a significant effect I would know pretty quickly. On the very first day I noticed the feelings of anxiety weren’t as bad. Now, this was on Saturday, the day of the Mini Marathon. By Wednesday, I was feeling more like myself again and the anxiety was pretty much gone. My heart rate and blood pressure did go up slightly but not at a level to be terribly concerned anyway.

I’m not going to speculate why this worked. I Googled and Binged all over the place trying to find information. All I found was a posting on some website from 2010 from a guy who was having the same thing happening once he started taking beta blockers. The post didn’t say if he did anything to correct it. It just so happens he was a runner too! All I can figure is the dosage was causing my pulse to go too low and then my body started reacting to tell me something wasn’t right. I did record HR’s in the very low 50’s several times. If I had been in top physical shape when all of this started, maybe low 50’s would be fine for me. I know I’m in decent physical shape but no where near top form. From what I read, low 50’s are very low. So maybe that is it?

That’s when I shot off an email to my cardiologist to tell him what I had done. I don’t know what I would have done if he told me I was crazy and get my dose back up to the prescribed level but thankfully, he didn’t. He gave me the OK to continue at the reduced dosage. Yeah!!!

I’m still having nervous reactions to any little ache or pain I get. Especially in the chest, neck, arm but I guess that’s probably normal for most people knowing they will be going through open heart surgery in a few weeks. For the most part, I don’t feel any different than I did two weeks ago or even two months ago. I’m a little bored because I can’t do much other than sit around. That probably doesn’t help with keeping the bad stuff off my mind either. I’m hangin’ tough and just living on day at a time.

I guess the moral of this story is, it’s good to know your body and to listen to what your body is telling you. Even more important, follow your body’s orders!