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I am new to this forum. My mother is 53 years young and was diagnosed with heart failure in mid November of this year. Within a week of diagnosis she underwent open heart surgery to repair her mitral valve. She had no major complications during surgery and has been recovering well and has surpassed the doctors hopes in terms of physical activities and abilities by far. Prior to surgery she was extremely physically active riding horses every day, all of her doctors say this helped her recover much quicker than expected. It's been a roller coaster throughout her recovery and we are so grateful for how she has healed. I was her primary caregiver for 7 weeks and just returned back to work last week.
We just received the results of her most recent echocardiogram showing her heart function has not improved, actually it has decreased by 5% (currently 15%, 20% before surgery). She is beginning a 3 month medication trial of a beta blocker to see if it can strengthen her heart muscles. Her cardiologist informed us her condition is severe, and if her heart doesn't respond we will have to shift to talking about the longevity of her life.
I'm looking for any support, words of advice/wisdom anyone can give. It's discouraging, depressing, anxiety-provoking to think that her getting through surgery would be the worst of it only to find her condition has worsened. I'm still in shock, as is my family. It's hard to figure out how to process this and go though a 3 month excruciating waiting period hoping her heart responds to the medication, and not knowing what will happen. I feel completely lost and out of control of this situation. Any support would be greatly appreciated.
LMS79, January 20, 2020 6:55am EST
Hello- so sorry your Mom is going through this. I want you to know, the medication can indeed help her EF improve. My husband had a “simple aortic valve replacement” last January 7 at age 62. There was a horrible accident and they sliced his aorta, opened and closed him 7 times, was on life support for weeks, ICU a month. He went in with zero symptoms and strong as an ox, EF 60, left like an 80 year old very weak man. His EF as recently as August was 32%. A new Heart Failure doc slowly ramped up Entrestro, Brilanta and Metoprolol plus baby aspirin. His EF is 50% now. (Part of his heart is still dead, so future still uncertain, and his left leg was ruined during emergency bypass, so he can’t work or do sports he loved). But yes, your Mom’s EF can improve! I should say, he works out religiously 3 times a week after finishing Cardio Rehab those first few months home (our kids are only 21 and 23, he wants to live as long as he can!). Good luck!
JamesPL, January 20, 2020 5:51pm EST
People have posted on the site about recoveries after experiencing some dire conditions so yes your mom can certainly improve. Her horse riding has probably improved her chances as her doctor has stated. I was told the same thing after my bypass surgery. If cardiac rehab is allowed for her, I would seek it out. This will help her and because she started out with a strong heart, it could help her that much more. What's really important is her overall and immediate quality of life. Don't concern yourself so much with longevity right now. I had this same discussion with my cardiologist when I was being diagnosed and I believe she was exactly right!
I wish you and your mom all the best in her continued recovery!
Jenbug, January 21, 2020 12:45pm EST
LMS79 and Jim,
Thank you for your responses and sharing your personal stories! It's helpful to know others have had success with medication improving and strengthening heart function. There is hope
LMS79, I'm sorry to hear what your husband and family have gone through, that sounds really scary. I'm wishing your husband a continued path of healing! I'm glad his functioning keeps improving!
Jim, thanks for your advice to not be focused on life longevity at this time. It's helpful to hear that from someone else who isn't her doctor. While her cardiologist keeps telling us her outlook is not good, she won't talk specifics with us yet about what that means. I believe the reason is what you said, she's trying to keep us focused on the here and now and her immediate needs and quality of life. I know it's not a time to give up hope. It's just hard not knowing what will happen, it's all so scary.
You both mentioned Cardiac rehab, this isn't something her doctors have talked with us about, I'm not sure if she's eligible. They have told us she needs to walk walk walk as much as possible and have given us resources into food and lifestyle changes. I'll ask about a rehab program and see what her cardiologist says.
Thank you again for your responses. This can feel so lonely and it's nice to be able to connect with others who understand.