Mended Hearts Open Forum

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  • 1.  Caregivers suggestions

    Posted 09-11-2023 09:48

    Hi, I just found this forum and I'm hoping this is what I need. My husband had a stroke in April due to undiagnosed AFib caused by a leaky mitral valve. While he has recovered 100% from the stroke, both the AFib and valve regurgitation have continued to worsen in the past 4 months. He is scheduled for CABG surgery in 3 weeks. I'm curious about caregiving issues after surgery. Anything I need to be aware of that might not have been an issue after the stroke? Any suggested purchases to make life easier? All advice welcome. Thank you so much. 

    Springfield VA

  • 2.  RE: Caregivers suggestions

    Posted 09-12-2023 05:28

    Hi Sue,

    The main thing you both need to know is that your husband will be on so-called "sternal restrictions" for up to 12 weeks subject to the directions of his thoracic surgeon and/or cardiologist (and make sure he has a cardiologist he can visit after the hospital).  You should be able to get a list of sternal restrictions from the surgeon or hospital nursing staff but they essentially boil down to not reaching overhead or stretching your arms to far or lift more than 5 pounds in order to allow the sternum to properly heal. He also should be taught the proper way to lie down and get up from bed without unduly stressing the sternum. This should be done as soon as he is allowed to move around while still at the hospital.  In addition, he will not be permitted to get behind the wheel of a car until his sternum has healed sufficiently. The bottom line is that the sternum needs to be treated like any bone that has been broken and needs time to heal.  

    He also may need help in the shower, at least at first, and you'll want to make sure you have a firm chair or two in case softer chairs are painful to get up from.  You and he also should know that he will need to sleep on his back for a while, as sleeping on his side will be too painful.  In addition, he'll likely be pain free most of the time after his initial postsurgery period, but we will experience pain for a while thereafter when he coughs or sneezes.  This is perfectly normal.  Ask the nyrsing staff to give him a "heart pillow" that helps soothe the oain when he needs to cough or sneeze.

    Get him into a cardiac rehab program once he is discharged from the hospital.  Ask the nursing staff for recommendations.  This would be a 3x week 1-2 hour per session 12 week outpatient program with nurses and ohysical therapists that will create and supervise an exercise program for him that protects his sternum, builds up his cardio endurance and fitness, strengthens myscles and all while monitoring his heart function.  It is incredibly important and beneficial.

    Finally, he will needs to rest and take naps.  CABG surgery is extremely shocking to the body and it just takes time to heal.  When I got home after CABGx5 surgery, in addition to the rehab, I would walk every day.  The first day, I could barely make it around the block but after one week I was walking a mile a day and after a second week I was doing 2 miles a day.  I also was napping like crazy.

    I was able to return to work after 12 weeks.  At that time I also graduated from rehab and went back to my old gym, slowly getting back into my old strength trining and cardio routines.  I made very rapid progress but it does take a good year postsurgery to fully recover.

    Good luck to you both and keep us posted.


    Ira Reid
    Hoboken NJ

  • 3.  RE: Caregivers suggestions

    Posted 09-12-2023 07:58

    Ira, thank you so much! Most of what you said is covered. He'll be going to an inpatient rehab for at least 2 weeks after he's discharged from the hospital. The part about getting in and out of bed and chairs is something new. I really appreciate the information!

    Sue Brennan
    Springfield VA