Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Road to Recovery

Words can't begin to explain how good it feels to be alive and on the other side of this surgery.  Of course I always try to think positively, however with any major surgery there is no guarantee. I prayed for the best case scenario which in my case would have been to get my mitral valve repaired.  I knew going into the surgery the valve function wouldn't allow for a routine repair due to the fact I had mitral valve prolapse and mitral valve regurgitation.  I had prepared myself for both the repair and replacement options. 

After 4hrs of surgery the surgeon came to my wife (Tristin) and explained he wasn't pleased when they tested the valve function after the repair.  The valve function had improved, however he wasn't sure it would hold up over time.  So, he confirmed with her again that I would in fact want a mechanical valve.  He also gave the option of taking up golf and just changing my lifestyle completely, which Tristin quickly informed him wasn't an option.  Thanks honey for being my #1 support!

My surgeon headed back into finish the mitral valve repair.  So, all together my surgery took about 6 hrs and they stopped/started my heart twice. (crazy when you think about it!) I did put my life in someone else's hands and feel fortunate to have Dr. Siwek in Spokane.  He's an amazing surgeon, however I hope to have to never use his services again!

Once I finished surgery on Nov. 15th, I spent until 9pm at night with tube down my throat (probably the worst part of the whole experience).  I stayed in the ICU overnight and then at 8am the next day they wheeled my upstairs to my own room.   I was so thankful to be making progress, although the first day everything was moving slow.  It was great to have so many family and friends visit me in the hospital.  I knew I had many amazing people in my life, however this experience once again confirmed it.

On Nov. 16th, I think I walked 150 ft twice during the day, my throat hurt worse than anything because of the tube irritating plus I had fat lip too, but I wasn't complaining as I was glad to be feeling alive!  I didn't have much of an appetite, coughed all night and popsicles/ice were amazing treats.  I used the spirometer and spend most of the day sleeping. I was coughing a lot (painful!) and running temperature.  That night sleep was rough due to the sore throat and coughing.  The highlight of my day was seeing family and friends throughout the day!

On Nov. 17th, I didn't sleep well due to the coughing/sore throat and multitude of tests, although it was again great to see family and more friends come to visit me.  I really start feeling better and walked more the double the distance of the day before.  I tried to eat, but that was limited to jello, pudding and apple sauce.  As the day progressed I continued to run a temperature of 100, although they did remove the big tubes from my neck!  I started to look forward to all the little things that indicated I could get out of the hospital! At the end day three I thought I might end up there until Friday due the fact I still had a few tubes in my chest, although I just kept trying to do as they instructed and found the coughing did finally start to subside!

On the Nov. 18th during the rounds the PA said they were going to try to get me out of there today!  I was pleasantly surprised and now I just need a few chest tubes removed!  I was finally able to get out on the hospital and home by 2pm!

It's hard to imagine that one week ago I had heart surgery, although I pleased to report I'm getting stronger each day!  Yes, I'm tried and sore, but more importantly I feel blessed with life!  I'm realistic and I know I have a long road of recovery ahead of me.  I've been getting a ton of rest and I've had time to think about all the fun adventures that I want to plan in the coming years.   My #1 goal initially is to make sure I'm completely healthy before I jump back into my active life too soon.

I'd like to share two amazing resources I came across through this process to help me during this experience.  I found people that are dealing with a similar surgery too provide amazing perspective and support.  If you know someone that is dealing with any life changing decisions regarding heart surgery I encourage you to share these two websites.

My road to recovery is just beginning, yet my life is fulled with endless possibilities.  I've learned so many lessons through this process about myself.  I only hope to continue to grow as husband, father, son, friend and coach to live my life in a way that inspires and supports others.  I realize that I want to live a life of giving more than I take.

In moving past this bump in the road I realize the challenges of life have a way of providing insight into the true character of people and importance of family & friends.  Thank you all for supporting, encouraging and inspiring me through this process!

Enjoy the journey!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heart Surgery

In life we all come to a crossroads or point in life where we need to trust that the decisions we make are the right ones.  For me that decision like this surgery has mentally weighed me down for months, although fortunately I've had family and friends to pick me back up.  My surgery and decision is now only days away.

My surgery is scheduled for a robotic mitral valve repair which now has become more routine (so I hear) although this is my heart and I really hope the repair is successful.  Before I go into surgery I have to let Dr. Siwek (my heart surgeon) know if I want a biological or mechanical valve if the repair doesn't work.  I've read endless research articles and talked with others, although this is my decision.  The list of Pros vs. Cons has consumed my thoughts lately.  The reality is that I won't know until I wake up after surgery of the outcome, so I've tried to prepare for both outcomes.

So, what would you do?  I hope everyone reading this doesn't ever have to decide.  I can go with biological valve and probably be fine for the next 10-15 or so years, although it would eventually have to be replaced.    Ultimately just like anything in life there is no guarantee.  I could get the mechanical valve and it might last the rest of my life, although it might not.  If I decided to go with mechanical valve I'd need to take blood thinners for the rest of my life and I already don't like to take anything. This really is the most difficult decision of my life and I hope by Monday morning I can make the decision with more confidence than I have now.

I've had so much on my mind lately that I feel I'm running the race of my life mentally everyday.  This surgery is serious business and as much as I'm trying to pray for positive outcomes my life will literally be in the hands of another.  Scary thought!  I know the surgeon is excellent, however like anything in life there is no guarantee.

I find myself for the first time in my life truly reflecting on my journey through life from a different perspective.  I'm asking myself questions that I've never really thought much about due to the fact this major surgery and I have more anxiety than I've had at any time in my life.  I've tried through this process to maintain my spirit, focus on the things I can control and come to understand that god truly does have a plan for all of us.

But the questions are still there.....Why me?  What am I suppose to learn from this?  What will I change in my life moving forward?  How did I go from feeling in the best shape of my life in June to heart surgery?  How can I use this experience to help others?  Are my parents/wife/son/family and friends proud of me?  I know the answers to some of these questions and plan to resolve others after surgery.

OK, OK.... enough of these questions.  My point is that I think all of us take life for granted at some point and forget to enjoy the little things or small successes along the way.  I know I have a long life to live, so I pray god will let me continue to inspire and touch the lives of others. It may be through supporting my family or helping teach people to live a healthy life of balance with goals to be all they can be.  I encourage everyone to find a way to give back and take time to enjoy the journey through life.

Did I think at 37 yrs old I'd be having heart surgery?  Of course not, however one thing I've learned through this process is that life is completely unpredictable.  All I can do is maintain a positive outlook and spirit as I put my life in the hands of others.

I'm going to Sacred Heart Medical Center on Monday, Nov. 15th at 4:45am to prepare to have surgery at 7:15am.  I'll be in the hospital for 3 to 4 days.  Thank you to everyone that has supported me through this bump in the road journey through life.  I feel so fortunate to have such an amazing support system of family and friends that will here for me when I wake up after surgery. 

Thanks for reading and remember to enjoy the journey!