Okay, after a 5 1/2 hour drive, I met the doctor today. I could not have felt more comfortable. He brought us into his office and explained the problems and the fixes. He had a model of a heart, a tissue valve, and the Dacron tube they use to replace aortas with aneurysms. He explained everything in detail and in a friendly and relaxed manner. Two things brought tears to my eyes…No, we do not have to replace my bicuspid aortic valve. It is working well and there is no reason to replace it. The second is that I will be as good as normal after the surgery. I can do everything I used to do. And at the end of the meeting, he hugged me. Do I trust him? Absolutely!
Remember my list of questions? Here are the answers:
Can I return to a normal life after surgery? yes
How is it accomplished and how long does it last? The whole process takes about 2 hours (about 40 min of that is actual surgery). They will only cut a part of my sternum, not the entire thing and the incision should be no more than 4 inches. The dacron tube is attached to the healthy ends of my aorta once the part with the aneurysm is removed. The Dacron tube has collagen infused throughout to keep it from leaking, yet the fabric is porous enough for the purpose. Enzymes in the body help the collagen dissolve as my body creates a tissue covering both inside and outside of the tube. The tissue-encased Dacron then serves to fortify the aorta.
I don’t do well with narcotics, how will we manage the pain? IV Tylenol is now available.
When will the surgery occur and where? I just let them know when and where and we do it – I plan to call the office to set that up tomorrow. We are looking at mid-September.
How long will it take me to recover? Four to five days in hospital and then in three weeks I should be able to drive – and likely return to work at least half time – turns out this may be overly optimistic. His office says plan on 6 to 10 weeks recovery.
What about workouts? No HIIT anymore. Weight lifting is fine as long as I do not lift heavy enough to close the glottis (i.e. grunt).
What should I do to prepare? Relax, have fun, eat healthy food and stop all supplements (i.e. things I take that are not prescriptions) a week before the surgery. This includes the fish oil and flax seed.
We (my boyfriend and I) feel such unbelievable relief. We both anticipated the worst, especially after the appointment with the last surgeon. And I plan to stop saying that I am having “open heart surgery”. Instead, I have decided to call it STAAR (pronounced “star”) surgery – surgical thoracic aortic aneurysm repair. I like the sound of it. And now, if you will excuse me, I am off to bed. It has been a very long day and I am happy and exhausted. Sweet dreams? You bet!!
UPDATE: Surgery date is September 12, 2012.