Ray Rivera – AFib Awareness Month – My Heart Surgery
Ray Rivera is 63 years old and he retired two years ago. He had open-heart surgery at 61 years old. He blogs about his heart journey at My So-Called New Life. He shares his story in honor of AFib Awareness Month.
On April 4th, 2016, I underwent open-heart surgery, in part to correct my atrial fibrillation. Up until that point I always believed my heart was very strong. In fact, I used to brag about how strong it was.
Turned out my heart was the weakest part of me.
My urologist discovered that I had an irregular heartbeat during a routine check-up and sent me to a cardiologist. After more than a year of tests, it was recommended that I have open-heart surgery.
I’ve always exercised and have never really been overweight, but one thing I discovered is that heart disease can happen to anyone, and it doesn’t always have symptoms. In my case, there were never any symptoms of AFib.
Just prior to my surgery, I tried to surround myself with a good support group, that stayed around throughout my recovery. I stayed away from anyone who was negative or created a bad vibe. If I went online, I looked for positive things about surgery. I learned that open-heart surgery, in most cases, was fairly routine. A few hundred thousand operations are done each year with excellent results. Did this make me feel better? Yes, it did!
Despite my surgery being extensive, it turned out well. I had a double bypass, a valve replacement, an aneurysm repair, and a maze procedure for atrial fibrillation.
Heart surgery recovery is difficult, but far from impossible. I went from only being able to walk a few feet the day after surgery to walking 5 to 6 miles a day, in total over three walks, in about two weeks. Just short of a month after surgery, I was walking between 7 and 10 miles a day in total.
What helped me was that I did everything in recovery that I was asked to do. Some things were difficult, but I knew if I did what was asked of me, I would get better. I never drifted from what I was supposed to do each day.
During recovery in the hospital, I remember talking to one of the nurses, about how overnight I would just lay there and watch the clock move, seemingly so slow. Without hesitation , she said to me, “Yes, but remember Ray, it is always moving forward.” That comment was very profound, and help me move along throughout my recovery.
At first I felt having heart surgery was a stigma. I thought people would always be a little nervous around me, but now? I wear my surgery as a badge of honor. I now probably have a better heart than most of my friends. I’m glad I went through it. I saw my cardiologist today and he said my heart was as normal as a heart could be. To want more would be selfish.