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Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

  • 1.  Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-15-2020 05:50
    A bit of an update: Got home yesterday. Flight from CC to LAX was uneventful. CC encouraged me to use the airport's wheelchair service on both ends, and very glad I did; walking would have been WAY too stressful on my body, and it was great for my wife to have that extra help with the luggage.

    I'm learning to listen to my body. I overdid it on Friday, for reasons I'll explain in a moment. Later that day, and early Saturday, marked the first time I did not feel as good as I had been feeling. I've been telling people that I don't feel like I had major heart surgery, which included an aortic valve, a root, an ascending aorta and a single bypass. That swift in-hospital recovery obviously led to a false sense of security, which as I've read here can be a common trap. My heart clearly does NOT like pushing the boundaries, especially burning the candle at both ends.

    A little background…

    In normal times, my situation would have had an extra level of stress. While recovery from the actual heart surgery has been fairly straight-forward, there was a wrinkle: Like many people, my bowels did not want to cooperate and "wake up" the way they should have post-surgery. This is called ileus. That led to some bowel discomfort and a night from hell (for me AND the poor nurse who was charged with clean up) during the first night in the step-down unit.

    During a scan of my abdomen to rule out a bowel blockage, they noted a "possible" abscess, or tiny infection (<2 cm) near my prostate. That set off all kinds of alarms and visits with a urologist and infectious disease doc. After a day of trying to figure out the right solution – either remove the abscess immediately and culture the infection, to determine what drug should be used to treat it, or treat with multiple antibiotics NOW – the surgeon (who is the final arbiter) ruled to start treating with antibiotics. He felt it would be best to wait to treat the abscess until after six weeks post-surgery, which is the most sensitive time for an infection to occur.

    To treat NOW meant I would need a picc line inserted in my arm but more importantly, that my caregiver – AKA my already stressed-out wife – would need to learn how to attach the IV. This is not something she is wired to do, and it's a tricky process that requires compete sterility. As a result, every 12 hours, for three sessions, a nurse came to our hotel room in Cleveland to teach us how to do this on our own. Each drip takes an hour, with prep taking another 30 mins. That meant less sleep, which triggered Angry Heart.

    Combine that with an early flight back on Saturday and I was extremely fatigued.

    So was my wife. We typically split chores. I ALWAYS do the grocery shopping and know where everything is in the various stores. After ANY trip our routine is that I go to the store, she unpacks.

    This time was different. I couldn't help. That meant the burden for EVERYTHING was on her. After a two-hour drive from LAX, and jet-lagged to boot after a highly emotional two-week trip, she had to get to the store to restock our bare cupboard.

    BUT… these aren't normal times. Thanks to the coronavirus, the shelves were empty. She was able to find basics. By then she was exhausted. I was exhausted. We skipped the day's IV treatments (doctor said it was fine to do.)

    By 6 pm – 9 p.m. Cleveland time – I was exhausted. I turned in for the night, knowing full-well I would be awake by 1. (Need to get back on CA time ASAP.)

    That got me to wondering what the word "rest" after surgery means, and I think I'm starting to figure it out. Let's just say I told my biz partner I'll be on reduced bandwidth for at least another week or two, if not longer. Then again, in an odd twist of fate, so will everybody else.

    Herb Greenberg
    San Diego CA

  • 2.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-16-2020 09:38
    Glad to hear you are doing better. One of the best things you can do right now is nothing. This will allow your wife time to rest. I learned the hard way that the more I tried to get better quickly the more I stressed my wife (caregiver). She did not sleep well because she would listen to every noise I made in my sleep. She would not rest while I was doing simple things like just walking from the bedroom to the living room. She was constantly on guard and on edge. 
    After a few days, a visiting nurse advised me to just be lazy and allow my body to tell me what I could do. I listened to her and just sat and watched TV, took naps. I made my wife a promise I would not do anything except go to the bathroom without telling her first. This gave her a little peace of mind and took some of the stress away. 
    One of the best things we as heart patients can do for our recovery is to allow our caregivers time to rest. They will be happier with us and they will recover quicker as well. Take care and best wishes.
    Richard Short
    Chapter 395

  • 3.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-16-2020 10:45

    So glad to hear you are back home, and doing well.

    I agree completely with Richard.  First day or two back home after OHS I tried to be like 'normal'  - my wife felt like she had to watch me like a hawk, and I made myself too tired.  It's interesting to wake up with your spouse shining her phone screen on your face to make sure you are breathing.  I was slow to realize MY surgery was a trauma for the whole family.  Ended up just sitting in the recliner as much as possible for the next couple of weeks to give the family a mental break.  Just asked them to walk around the block with me a couple times each day.  Otherwise just sat and read, or watched TV.

    Twelve weeks later I am doing 2-1/2 mile walks in between rehab sessions.  Strongly recommend rehab - after about 10 sessions I realized I wasn't fragile anymore, and met some new friends who all had similar experiences.

    Best wishes,


  • 4.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-17-2020 05:30

    I agree with Richard, Andrea and the others.  This is an extraordinarily difficult time for our caregivers, on top if the extraordinarily difficult time they just survived during the acute phase of our crisis.  I heartily recommend that you use your new leisure time to read the book written by our fellow Mended Hearts member Bob Levin, and his wife, Adele Levin, entitled "I Will Keep You Alive."  I suspect you will find a lit of parallels to your own experience, as I did with mine and with my wife.

    Good health,


    Ira Reid
    Hoboken NJ

  • 5.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-16-2020 10:38

    Hi Herb,

    I'm glad you were able to make it home. Try to rest and relax the best you can. I completely agree with Richard. Allow yourself to be lazy for a bit and relax. Find some non stressful activities if you are one who "needs" to be active. Things to activate your mind will be helpful. Things like sudoko and crossword puzzles. Binge watch a show or two, and just rest. 

    Andrea Baer
    Grapeville PA
    (724) 396-7820

  • 6.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-18-2020 01:06
    Due to an odd twist of fate, anyone who is home recovering from recent open heart surgery has plenty of company.  The Coronavirus has changed many of our plans and routines for the next few months. Self-quarantining, social distancing, and working from home are on everyone's agenda. My cardiologist's office called me Monday to reschedule a six month follow up consult scheduled today.  What surprised me was the that the dates I was offered were in May, six weeks away. Since my surgery was over 2 years ago, I was not a concerned.  Your Cardiac Rehab, which is usually schedule six weeks after surgery, may also be postponed for good reason.  Here are some suggestions on how to rebuild your strength and endurance after surgery.

    Walking is the ideal exercise which needs no equipment other than running shoes and comfortable clothing.  If you neighborhood has sidewalks,
    start a daily of walking program, increasing your distance as your endurance improves.  If you have a indoor mall in town, have your wife drive you to the mall before the stores open.  This is a good alternative if it's raining or if the temperature outside is too hot. If you have access to a community pool or your own pool, that's even better aerobic exercise than walking.  Since my gym closed, I use a local park with a one mile loop. I have found two laps provide better aerobic exercise than 30 minutes on gyms treadmills, stationary bikes or arc training machines.
    Good luck, we're all in this with you.

    Victor Fabry
    Short Hills, New Jersey

  • 7.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-18-2020 07:30

    Funny how that worked out, with everybody staying home. I saw my cardiologist yesterday - first post-op visit. The place was empty. He said they have suspended cardiac rehab, which is fine. I am lucky to live in a very walkable neighborhood, complete with varying types of hills, inclines and flat surfaces. I'm trying to walk 4-6x a day. I'm up to 6 minutes per walk. There are stairs at my doc's office and yesterday, not thinking, I walked up a flight. Barely felt it but I DID feel it. My doc's only admonition was not to let the Type A in me drive me to push too hard. After reading everybody's comments here, and armed with the schedule from Cleveland, I think I have it down. As for malls - in SoCal they're all outdoors! ;-) But it IS SoCal.

    My doc said he wished they could do more telemedicine, but explained how private insurance isn't there yet. (Medicare, is. but I'm not sure it is fully implemented yet.) Still, in the first post-op you need to see the doctor in person. Ditto, next week I need to actually step into a hospital at UCSD to see a urologist for the one incidental finding related to my surgery, which currently requires me to use an IV of antibiotics. I hate thinking about walking into a hospital, but it probably will be well social-distanced (AKA empty) and the best I can do is take normal precautions. We still have life to live.

    And FWIW - last night - w/the exception of a few diuretic-mandated bathroom breaks - was the first night I got 7 hours sleep. A milestone. I had been getting up after 3-4 hours. I AM sleeping on my side. I realize there is controversy over that but the team at Cleveland said that if you can sleep on your side, sleep on your side.


    Herb Greenberg
    San Diego CA

  • 8.  RE: Returning Home in a Coronavirus-Turned-Upside-Down World

    Posted 03-18-2020 10:43


    You're doing extremely well with your exercise routine of 6 minutes per walk, 4 to 6 x a day. You're lucky to have a neighborhood with varying types of terrain and safe walk-able areas.  It took me a while to gradually increase my time from 5, 10, 15 and then 20 minutes per walk.  I began walking in my neighborhood early morning and then shifted to the mall when I reached 15 minutes and later to a nearby park when I reached 20 minutes.  I do miss my buddies and the Summit Y and hope this Wuhan virus peaks in April and begins to abate by May. But then I'm an inveterate optimist.

    Sleeping on my side took me almost a month after surgery and 7 uninterrupted hours of sleep was a big milestone.  By the way, the staff at NYP told me sleeping on your right side is preferred because of the anatomy of the heart and chest.   I've noticed it actually limits AFib episodes when I sleep on my right side as opposed to my left side. No it's not a political preference; I'm a radical Centrist.


    Victor Fabry
    Short Hills, New Jersey