How can I prepare for open heart recovery at home?

Posted by in2dabluz @in2dabluz, Sep 12 8:34am

I'm scheduled for Mitral Valve replacement next month (OCTOBER) and would like any info on how and what I can do now to prepare for a comfortable home recovery. I live in a 2nd story condo with a flight of stairs.
What other useful equipment is recommended, like a shower seat, and a recliner to sleeping during the first few weeks.
Any other tips?
Thank you.

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I had mitral valve and tricuspid valve repair surgery in November. My daughter came home to help and we did have the shower chair. My husband did have to wash my hair for a week or two. I slept in bed with my heart shaped pillow which I used every time I laid down and got up. Mayo gave me that. Lots of friends and family provided meals and that was a true blessing. It was much less horrible than I thought it would be. Best wishes and good luck

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Hi and Welcome to Connect, I also had open heart surgery for my heart transplant so I can share my story of recovery.
It was performed on Jan 5th 2018 and I spent the first 2 weeks in the Hospital. Then to be closer to the very heavy schedule after the initial stay of checkups on a daily bases along with testing which are mostly about rejection so much more intense than I hope you will have. So the Mayo Hospital in Arizona is 80 miles from my home and the daily driving by my wife would have been tiresome. So we spent the first 2 weeks in a hotel near the Hospital. Then just about 1 month after transplant we went home and planned trips as needed to the Hospital for checkups.
I was not allowed to drive for the first 6 weeks due to muscle repair and medications. Also as @bjanderson said the hardest part was getting in and out of bed. I also had a Heart shaped pillow I still have as a memory all the great nurses signed so i use it to remember the great care I received. I would press it against my chest anytime I would cough, get up or lying down. I'm not sure if they will need to spread your ribs but lots of healing going on and the pain mostly is tolerated better with pressure on your chest. I also had a chest strap device they were testing that I found useful also to press against my chest with 2 handles. It was handy as I wore it and the times my pillow seemed to grow legs and hit the floor I knew exactly where this was. But I still used the pillow for times when I got home.

So my concern for you is those stairs. I had the hardest time recovering enough to climb up to the second floor of our house so for the first few months we set up a bedroom downstairs for me to not have to climb the stairs. Now my situation was a bit different in as much that I spent about 2 months in the hospital before the transplant and with my constant heart arrhythmias I was in bed alot. My muscles were in really bad shape by the time I got home. So depending on your strength you may not have a problem. What does your doctors think about those stairs? I had to strengthen my legs and did daily exercises so as they got stronger I started a few steps at a time and over a couple of weeks period did finally make it upstairs. I'm thinking back to those days now as I write and now over 4 years later seem like another life. I can now hike and walk and I do over 5 miles and regularly walk every day at least 3-4 play golf and work on projects around my house. So I hope that helps a bit and let's me know if there are any questions you can think of. Here is my pillow and I also might suggest jotting down your journey in a notebook as I sometimes wish I had done more of that.
Blessings

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@in2dabluz, I'd like to add my welcome. You got some great tips from member @bjanderson and @danab. You may also appreciate this post that @ronaldpetrovich made after his heart surgery for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a different heart condition, but heart surgery too.

– HCM CARE tips – What do you wish you had known after surgery?: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/hcm-care-tips-what-do-you-wish-you-had-known-for-after-surgery/

In2dabluz, do you have someone staying with you at home during your recovery?

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@bjanderson

I had mitral valve and tricuspid valve repair surgery in November. My daughter came home to help and we did have the shower chair. My husband did have to wash my hair for a week or two. I slept in bed with my heart shaped pillow which I used every time I laid down and got up. Mayo gave me that. Lots of friends and family provided meals and that was a true blessing. It was much less horrible than I thought it would be. Best wishes and good luck

Jump to this post

Thank you.

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@danab

Hi and Welcome to Connect, I also had open heart surgery for my heart transplant so I can share my story of recovery.
It was performed on Jan 5th 2018 and I spent the first 2 weeks in the Hospital. Then to be closer to the very heavy schedule after the initial stay of checkups on a daily bases along with testing which are mostly about rejection so much more intense than I hope you will have. So the Mayo Hospital in Arizona is 80 miles from my home and the daily driving by my wife would have been tiresome. So we spent the first 2 weeks in a hotel near the Hospital. Then just about 1 month after transplant we went home and planned trips as needed to the Hospital for checkups.
I was not allowed to drive for the first 6 weeks due to muscle repair and medications. Also as @bjanderson said the hardest part was getting in and out of bed. I also had a Heart shaped pillow I still have as a memory all the great nurses signed so i use it to remember the great care I received. I would press it against my chest anytime I would cough, get up or lying down. I'm not sure if they will need to spread your ribs but lots of healing going on and the pain mostly is tolerated better with pressure on your chest. I also had a chest strap device they were testing that I found useful also to press against my chest with 2 handles. It was handy as I wore it and the times my pillow seemed to grow legs and hit the floor I knew exactly where this was. But I still used the pillow for times when I got home.

So my concern for you is those stairs. I had the hardest time recovering enough to climb up to the second floor of our house so for the first few months we set up a bedroom downstairs for me to not have to climb the stairs. Now my situation was a bit different in as much that I spent about 2 months in the hospital before the transplant and with my constant heart arrhythmias I was in bed alot. My muscles were in really bad shape by the time I got home. So depending on your strength you may not have a problem. What does your doctors think about those stairs? I had to strengthen my legs and did daily exercises so as they got stronger I started a few steps at a time and over a couple of weeks period did finally make it upstairs. I'm thinking back to those days now as I write and now over 4 years later seem like another life. I can now hike and walk and I do over 5 miles and regularly walk every day at least 3-4 play golf and work on projects around my house. So I hope that helps a bit and let's me know if there are any questions you can think of. Here is my pillow and I also might suggest jotting down your journey in a notebook as I sometimes wish I had done more of that.
Blessings

Jump to this post

Thanks so much.. that is great info…
I'm in relatively good shape and spend an hour at the gym ~2x week walking on the treadmill and using weight and resistance machines for the upper body exercises. At work, my pedometer registers more than 8K steps daily..
Yes, climbing stairs will be a challenge, so I'll focus on building leg strength now because I'll most likely be in the hospital for 2 weeks. PT and OT therapy will be helping me during those 2 weeks.

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@colleenyoung

@in2dabluz, I'd like to add my welcome. You got some great tips from member @bjanderson and @danab. You may also appreciate this post that @ronaldpetrovich made after his heart surgery for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a different heart condition, but heart surgery too.

– HCM CARE tips – What do you wish you had known after surgery?: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/hcm-care-tips-what-do-you-wish-you-had-known-for-after-surgery/

In2dabluz, do you have someone staying with you at home during your recovery?

Jump to this post

Thanks you for your reply.
As for your last question, I live alone but do have a very close friend who is a caregiver and can aid me as much as possible. l She'll have her other clients on her weekly schedule and won't be here all the time….
The more I know now about post op recovery will lessen the "have to figure that one out" situation.
Thanks again for your input.

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I just had robotic surgery to remove a cardiac myxoma and have made a full recovery. However, don't be surprised if you feel weaker after surgery than you think. I'm 54 and was used to working out daily, so I thought it would be a piece of cake! I was amazed at how much effort it took to do the smallest things, so give yourself a break and take it easy. We have a 2 story home and our bathroom is upstairs. I ended up sleeping on the couch propped up because it felt better to sleep that way. I also used a portable potty and it was great because I didn't have to do the stairs to go to the bathroom! This may not happen to you, but I also had trouble sleeping for about 2 weeks after my surgery. I was exhausted, but my body didn't seem to want to shut down and relax. I was told it was the stress on the body after a major surgery. After about 3 weeks after surgery I felt like I was getting back to somewhat normal, but it was about 6 weeks after surgery before I REALLY felt like I was making progress with a full recovery. Everyone is different and you may do alot better. I'm not sure what the difference would be with recovery with having a mitral valve replacement over a tumor removal. You may feel pretty rough for a few weeks, but it WILL get better! Take care!

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Open heart surgery left me more weakened than I had expected. I'm not sure if it is just the physical insult to the body or the residual effects of the powerful anesthetics. My wife and I have decided that, if I need another surgery, we will stay near the hospital for at least two weeks to allow additional recovery before returning home. With your stairs, you might want to find an alternative place for the first month or so, if that is possible. Riding in a car will also be uncomfortable for a while–that heart shaped pillow others have mentioned will become your best friend. Pain is not so much but there is long lasting discomfort in your chest. Pain was mostly in my shoulders, probably from the way they must position your body during the procedure–a good massage therapist can help. I found that sleeping in a good recliner was a nice change and tended to alternate between it and bed. Probably most important is to take part in a cardiac rehabilitation program. You'll get a bit frustrated in not being able to do upper body exercise for 6-8 weeks; I felt as if my arm and chest muscles were atrophying. You cannot feel your heart, but it takes a long time to heal; you'll feel some effects for perhaps as long as six months. Know that it passes and you will be much better off than you are now. Best wishes.

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I am two weeks out of open heart surgery for mitral valve replacement with closure of the left atrial appendage and the MAZE procedure. It was a big surgery. I am out of the hospital. It has taken me a couple of days to get back my routine for meds etc.
As others have said, I am much weaker than I anticipated. We drove our RV to Cleveland Clinic and now are heading to Iowa. It was almost impossible to climb the steps into the motorhome, it is getting easier each day. I shower on my own and do my own hair, Tylenol helps. Every day, I take a nap – something I never did before. Walking is a must, make plans for it. Set an alarm for the amount of time your doctors recommend – mine said walk every 1.5 hours during the day.
Emotionally I’m in an odd place, almost no feelings – flat. I don’t like it but do think that as the pain decreases I’ll become more engaged and emotional.
I am heartened by the messages here, thank you to all who wrote and to you, @in2dabluz for asking. I follow the forum on the American Heart Association as well, both places have been invaluable.

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You can rent a stairlift. You can also purchase or rent a chair which lifts you up to stand in good position. You can do any heavy lifting before you go. You can exercise more intensely so you will be stronger during and after the operation. You might, depending on the specific circumstances regarding atrial fibrillation, inquire about a simultaneous Maze procedure.
All this was something I wished I had done with the exception of the Maze procedure which essentially stopped my AF problem.

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