Sunday, February 9, 2014

The one month post-op report

My pulmonary valve replacement (PVR) surgery was one month ago today, and this past month has been a journey like none I can remember. While there were definitely some challenges (ones I hope to never have to repeat again), I have been fortunate to experience the most amazing outpouring of support from my family, friends, and coworkers.

Some quick facts and figures:
  • Approximate length of my surgery: 5.5 to 6 hours (based on rough estimates; I have not yet seen the official operative report.)
  • Total # of days spent in the hospital: 11 (2 nights in the ICU; 8 nights in the regular room in the telemetry wing)
  • "List price" for all medical services billed to my insurance to date in 2014 alone: Just over $331,000. (I have never been more grateful to have good insurance!)

I woke up from surgery attached to so many different things; I figured one more connection would turn me into a Wi-Fi hotspot. I had a breathing tube down my throat, a central line in my neck, at least three other IV lines (including one arterial line), two chest tubes, a urinary catheter, a telemetry heart monitor, and a pulse oximeter. (There may have been more, but that's what I can remember.) Thus began the true endurance event for me.

I spent a total of 11 days in the hospital (2 nights in the ICU and 8 nights in the regular room), a slightly longer-than-anticipated stay due to elevated levels of drainage from one of the chest tubes. Fortunately, I had a fantastic team of doctors and nurses caring for me the whole time I was there; and at one point I was even referred to as a poster child for the hospital's heart surgery program because my post-op progress was so impressive.

My first (outpatient) post-op checkup was on January 24, where I had a chest x-ray, an echo, and the sutures from the chest tube sites removed. (There were no sutures to be removed from the sternal incision. After surgery, I was "sewn" back up with what the doctors described as human super glue.) Both my surgeon and cardiologist were very pleased with my progress and the results they saw from those tests. The echo indicated no regurgitation (leaking) of the new pulmonary valve, and it showed that the size of my right ventricle (RV) had already started getting smaller. Before he left the exam room, my surgeon wished me well and even asked him to remind him of the date of the triathlon this summer!

Follow-up appointment #2 was on February 6; this one was just with the cardiologist. (At the previous appointment, the surgical team said they were done with me unless I had any questions or problems going forward.) Once again, I had a fantastic checkup; and the doctors continued to be pleased and impressed with my progress. The ongoing discussions among my medical team about my interest in the triathlon has made it clear to me that I can't get out of it now even if I wanted to. They're all talking about it, routing for me, and looking forward to hearing my results!

I just recently received the pre-approval letter for cardiac rehab from my insurance company; and I have my orientation appointment scheduled for February 20. I am considering the rehab program the official start to my triathlon training! It's a 12-week program, and it should conclude just before the time I will need to start a formal 12-week triathlon training program. (I really didn't plan this schedule in advance, but it seems like the timing will work out quite well.)

When I found out back in November that it was time for me to have this surgery, I knew that 2014 would bring its share of challenges, as well as its ups and downs. Sure, this past month was not particularly enjoyable; but I could not be happier to have this surgery behind me and to now be well on the road to recovery. To all the wonderful people—family, friends, and colleagues—who visited or sent cards, flowers, texts, and Facebook messages of good wishes and support, I thank you from the very bottom of my newly-repaired heart!

If you haven't already done so, mark your calendars for the Chicago Triathlon on August 24, 2014. It's only 195 days away! I will see you at the finish line!

1 comment:

  1. Love your updates and I love you!! Your dedication to the triathlon is admirable and inspiring!