In 49 hours we will be in San Francisco to meet with my surgeon. Since I learned that I would need surgery to at least repair the ascending and partially descending thoracic aortic aneurysm (and though we hope a valve replacement will be unnecessary, that is also a possibility), it has been constantly on my mind. Although I am quite busy in my day-to-day life, there is a constant thread of thought that does not ever really go away. Questions, worries, things to do, fears…they are all present.
Questions I will ask the surgeon include:
Do you feel confident that we can fix the aneurysm and I can return to a normal life? What will be normal for me after the surgery?
How is the surgery accomplished? Please explain what you will do and how the day will progress assuming there are no complications. How long will the surgery last?
How much pain should I expect (and what type of pain) and how will we manage it?
What must be done prior to the surgery – tests, changes in diet and supplements, etc.? When will the surgery occur? Where will it occur?
How likely is it that we will have to replace the valve? Can we use a tissue valve so that I don’t have to take blood thinners for the rest of my life?
How long will it take for me to recover? What will I be able to do and what will I need to avoid while recovering? What can I do to improve my recovery?
How long will I be away from work? When can I return to the chiropractor for my regular adjustments?
Can I return to my regular workouts at some point? Or are there things I will not be able to do anymore?
In searching the web, I found some suggestions and questions to ask the surgeon as they relate to the time leading up to the surgery:
- Exercise — should you start, stop or continue exercises?
- Diet — should you change your diet in any way?
- Weight — would it help your recovery to lose or gain a few pounds?
- Medicines – what medicines should you start, stop or continue taking? Remember to ask about all medicines that you take regularly or occasionally, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Also ask about any food supplements you take that could cause problems with surgery.
Questions I probably won’t ask the surgeon even though they run through my mind:
How big will the scar be? How long will it take to heal?
Well, some of these are obvious – death (though a minor risk, still scary), how much is all of this going to cost (after insurance pays most of it), being away from work too long, gaining weight, getting even more out of shape, the level of stress this is causing my boyfriend, family, and close friends, the stress the dogs will feel when I come home from the hospital, and what will I do with all that down time while I am recovering (I am considering doing CEUs in sports psychology – and of course the required ethics and/or studying for American College of Sports Medicine credentials)?
Things I must do:
No one wants to know this, but I need to update my will. I need a power of attorney for my boyfriend and advanced directives. I must contact my plastic surgeon to get the scar cream he gave me when he performed my surgery. We need to get the house set up for the time right after I am discharged from the hospital. I need to hire several staff members, catch up on all paperwork, train people to take over my duties, and set up supervisors to cover my staff while I am out. I need to fill out FMLA paperwork and request both advanced and donated leave. I also want to get my hair dyed right before the surgery so that I don’t go through recovery looking horrible and would like to have a massage a day or two before the surgery.
My web search turns up some additional to do’s: rest, relax, and do some things that are enjoyable. Oh, and the last thing, I notice as I appear to have stopped breathing for a moment in anticipation of all of the to do’s: I NEED TO BREATHE!