Mended Hearts Open Forum

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shortness of breath

  • 1.  shortness of breath

    Posted 03-28-2020 08:14
    This is my first post here.  Sorry for the long length.

    I had CABG surgery Jan 17th, 2020 (10 weeks ago).  Ejection fraction 50+ -- heart is working great.  BP hovers around 140/80, pulse 72.  I'm taking several drugs (Amiodarone, Losartan, Metoprolol, Amlodipine, and a statin).

    After 10 weeks, I still have significant chest wall pain (surrounding sternum) but, my biggest problem is extreme shortness of breath.  I've discussed this with my PCP and my Cardiologist.  Heart seems to be working well (very good ejection fraction).  PCP has listened very carefully to my lungs and can hear no issues.  Cardiologist is hard to see right now -- Coronavirus lock down, etc.

    Here's the big question...

    When resting I can take deep breaths and I'm just fine.  As soon as I try to walk upstairs, carry anything heavy, etc. I launch into this very shallow panicky breathing -- where I'm only able to get half breaths.  It can take me as much as 3 minutes to calm down after walking up the stairs.  My PCP has listened to my lungs and reports no problems.  He has entered a referral to a pulmonologist -- but that could take several weeks.

    So, it appears my lungs are clear, my heart function is awesome, but I still get this panicky thing.

    I'm beginning to think that there may be a psychosomatic component to this.  The combination of my chest pain (surrounding my sternum) and flat-out fear/post operative anxiety.

    I did an experiment last night.  I had two very strong drinks (alcohol).  I was completely relaxed.  I walked upstairs, and had no problem whatsoever.

    What the hell is going on??  I'm scared!!  In this Coronavirus situation we're in, it's almost impossible to see a doctor -- which might be dangerous.  I'm staying home no matter what...


    Anthony Smith
    Lake Elsinore CA

  • 2.  RE: shortness of breath

    Posted 03-28-2020 09:09
    Hello Tony,
    You seem to be doing fine. I agree that it could be related to stress and fear. I had some of the same feelings about 4 to 6 weeks post-op from my CABG. I only lasted about 2 weeks but I remember the concern I had. Going upstairs is something we take for granted but after heart surgery, the body needs time to catch up to the mind. I tried to walk from my front door to the end of my driveway and back and I was puffing like an old freight train. My wife started to call the doctor but I was able to relax after getting into my recliner. I fell asleep after the long walk for about 30 minutes.
    I spoke to my visiting nurse about that the next day and she advised me that it is normal to feel stress and for me to just not push my body faster than it will allow me to. 
    I agree you should see the doctors and get everything checked out but I think you will find as you slowly exercise more the fear will slowly go away and things will become easier for you. Keep listening to your body and when it says rest do so. I am 5 years post-op and stairs are still a challenge for me. I just go slow and like the tortoise, I eventually get there.
    I am glad you are healing well and you will be able to share what you are going through with others in the future. 
    Take care,

    Richard Short
    Chapter 395 

  • 3.  RE: shortness of breath

    Posted 03-28-2020 12:14
    Hi Tony,
    I'm ten months out now (CABGx2) and definitely agree with what Robert said, "The body needs time to catch up with the mind."
    Ten weeks may seem like a long time, but it's still VERY early on in your recovery. It took me about three months before I could even walk one mile. I always seemed out of breath. I started out walking 3x a day and would increase my distance each week. I now walk 2.5 miles a day at around 2.5mph. (after my surgery I purchased a FitBit) Also, make sure to stay hydrated. 
    My surgeon told me the sternum would take at least three months to heal but could also take up to a year, and you may even have some mild discomfort up to 1.5 years. I still at times have some mild discomfort in my chest. My cardiologist didn't lift my weight restriction (gal milk) until 6 months post op.
    You may want to call your DR to see if he/she does the telemedicine to help you relieve some of your anxiety. Most are willing to, and most insurance companies will cover it under these circumstances.
    I know what you mean about the anxiety from this virus! I'm about 2.5 hours from you and am on lock down as well. As of yesterday, we have 2 confirmed cases in our small community! I've been working from home now for two weeks and don't plan on leaving my house any time soon either! Luckily we have some tp and paper towels in our rv that we will have to use as backup haha! I'm still trying to figure out why the tp panic?! I made sure to have alcohol and ice cream in case of emergency LOL!
    Best of luck to you on your continued recovery, stay well and stay calm  : )

    michelle leverett
    Ridgecrest CA

  • 4.  RE: shortness of breath

    Posted 03-29-2020 10:51
    Tony, I hear you.
    First off, I had panic attacks after I had my open heart surgery.
    I would also br able to breath normally in bed but when I would walk up an incline I could not get my full breath. Freak out city.
    I learned it was anxiety. Your body has been through quite an ideal and has some more healing to do.
    I saw a counselor after my surgery and we worked on my anxiety. Its Its interesting what the mind will do.
    Hang in there, give it time, and be patient--
    I had to tell myself this often, and after some time, it played out.
    Good thoughts to you.
    Ken levine
    Middlebury Vermont

    ken levine
    volunteer, retired
    Middlebury, Vermont
    United States of America

  • 5.  RE: shortness of breath

    Posted 03-30-2020 00:42
    Hi Tony
    You're going to be fine. Keep climbing those stairs. You're building up your stamina. Rest half way up the stairs for a while. You had surgery on your heart for goodness sake. Your chest is going to be sore for months. By the time you are 6 months post surgery you'll be running up those stairs. Take care and stay safe.

    [Carrie] [Kashani]
    [White Bear Lake [MN]