Christine Rekash – Questions I Asked Before Heart Surgery
Christine is a volunteer with the American Heart Association’s Heart Valve Ambassador Program and shares her story to help raise awareness.
You have been told by your cardiologist that "it's time" for surgery. You think to yourself, now what? Your upcoming events related to family, work and social obligations flash before you and you try to negotiate time and ask, how soon do I need to have this? The hardest part of "swallowing this pill" is that you wish it could be something other than the one thing that sustains your very being - the heart. To further complicate things, what if you have never had any other surgery, and this is your first experience undergoing major surgery? Nervous anxiety, the fear of the unknown and "what if's" occupy your every moment from the time you are informed by your cardiologist that "it’s time" and the time you meet with your surgeon to discuss the procedure that is recommended. Everything from how do I prepare for this, how do I share this with my family, my friends, my employer, to how will this affect all aspects of my daily living, and what is my surgeons experience, begin to swirl through your mind.
For me, after developing a leaking mitral valve the time to repair the valve came within a short period of two years upon careful monitoring by my cardiologist over the course of several years. I was a candidate for the robotic minimally invasive repair but had the option to also have a traditional open heart incision. It was important to me, to discuss both procedure's advantages and disadvantages as well as the number of surgeries the surgeon has performed.
Below is a checklist of questions to discuss with your cardiologist and team for when you are informed "the time has come."
♥Risks associated with the traditional open heart repair of the valve vs. the minimally invasive robotic repair?
♥In your professional opinion Dr. based upon a degree of medical certainty what advantages are there that outweigh the risks of this type of surgery, in your overall professional expertise?
♥Advantages of the traditional open heart repair vs the minimally invasive robotic repair
♥Dr. in your professional opinion, why do you prefer the traditional repair approach
♥Disadvantages of the traditional open heart repair vs the minimally invasive robotic repair
♥Dr. in your professional opinion why do you feel these are disadvantages?
♥Approximately how long, based upon your professional expertise, have you observed the repair to last? Is it possible that the repair will necessitate a replacement down the line?
♥Is there a more optimal time to have the surgery which will aid in a faster recovery: i.e. Summer vs. Winter (dry and sunny conditions vs snow, ice)
♥Based on my current state of the heart, what is your recommendation for how quickly it should be repaired?
♥How will you repair my valve? (With the ring or just a nip and tuck)
♥Will my body organs be cooled down while on the pump run to preserve them?
♥Percentage of people who you have operated on and what is their outcome?
♥What is the typical recovery time for someone in my age, current state of the heart?
♥How soon will I notice an improvement? I.e. will I still feel the palpitations? sluggishness? Lightheadness that I feel now?
♥Will I need to be on medications after the surgery, if so, what and how long? Lifelong vs temporary?
♥Risks of infection?
♥If so, what?
♥What signs should I be aware of to be considered an ER (other than the common sense ones) i.e. will be it apparent if my valve springs a leak?
Diet/ Daily Functions:
♥Soonest I can get out of the hospital?
♥Special diet during recovery?
♥Any Lifelong alternations: Will l I be able to return to eating chocolate? wine? How will caffeine affect my new valve?
♥Will I need a catheter during recovery?
♥Will daily functions such as sneezing, coughing, bowel movements affect have an impact on the recovery?
♥I Have a hard time staying put, what is the recommended activity level for optimal recovery? i.e. Will I be sleeping allot, should I expect to be walking around the house being able to fold laundry and vacuum? To that extent, should I make any advanced preparations that would assist in the transition of recovery
♥How soon can I return to work:
♥How can I handle job stress?
♥Modified work schedule to transition be recommend?
♥What will be my prescribed method of monitoring the condition of the valve replacement?
Support during Recovery
♥Any nurses or support groups to recommend for further questions?
♥Any books to read in advance of the surgery?