Charles612
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Charles612, November 21,  2018  10:49pm EST

Post Surgical depression

I would like to find out how people deal with post surgical depression. I am 42yrs old, was diagnosed in 2004 with a bicuspid aortic valve and a pfo. Had my first valve replacement the same year followed by a percardectomy 2 yrs later. I did experience some anxiety and emotional turmoil after those surgeries but nothing compared to what I have been experiencing since my most recent surgery in August 2018. This one was to close the pfo and replace the failing pig valve. A week after surgery I was rushed back to er and was rushed back into surgery for cardiogenic shock. I have problems sleeping now and I find myself worrying that at any time my valve or another part of my heart can fail and that my wife or kids will have to go thru this all over again and that weighs heavy because I have seen the fear and worry in their faces. I have tried to talk to a professional about this but it seems that the best place for advice would be from someone who has experienced what I have.  

4 Replies
  • JamesPL
    JamesPL, November 23,  2018  9:21am EST

    Hi Charles,

    Post surgical depression is common. I was warned of it prior to my own heart surgery and was advised to seek help. Although I didn't experience what you did, I spoke with two therapists in online sessions over the course of many weeks. They were very helpful in reccommending ways to relieve stress and allow me to minimize my own anxiety. If you feel like the professional help you engaged with was unsuccessful, I would find another professional. The therapy I was advised to seek came from the hospital where I was treated and the therapists were recommended by my insurance company. Perhaps these could be two sources of information for you. Your doctor may also be able to help you. I believe if you find the right person to talk to, it will help you. You have also come to the right place as many of us in the support group have had similar experiences and can share some of that with you.

    Please continue to post updates. I wish you well in your continued recovery.

    Jim

  • AmbassadorDN
    AmbassadorDN, November 24,  2018  10:22am EST

    Welcome, Charles!

    James has given you good advice. I’m about the same age as you—I’m 43, and I’ve had 3.5 heart valve surgeries to address my CHD, mitral regurgitation. I did not experience post-op depression until my most recent surgery last year in November when I had a valve replacement and ensuing complication that landed me back in the OR the same night. While I felt great in the hospital, the post-op depression hit me late and hard in January. I was anxious and depressed, and I had no desire to do anything other than to sit and home and watch TV or sleep. I dragged myself to cardiac rehab and out to run errands with my husband, but the depression had a stronghold on me like nothing before. It wasn’t until I saw my cardiologist for a checkup that he insisted I get some help. I went to my neurologist who prescribed me a low-dose antidepressant and suggested therapy. I began seeing a counselor who helped me work through my cognitive issues after surgery. I also began a therapy regimen on the advice of my neurologist that consisted of 30 minutes of word-search puzzles, 30 minutes of coloring, and 30 minutes of journaling. I even began a blog in the spring. Coming down with that awful flu last spring and losing my dad suddenly did sort of set me back a bit, but the skills that I learned in therapy combined with the other therapies have brought me back to feeling like myself again. I discontinued the antidepressants in September with my doctor’s advice.

     Well-meaning friends and family will tell you to look on the bright side or to think good thoughts, and while I am not minimizing that in any way, if your brain chemicals are out of whack from the surgery, then you need to talk with your doctor about other methods of treatment. Unfortunately, post-op depression isn’t widely recognized in the medical community and often just seen as something that one will eventually just “get over.” Speak with your doctor. Research counselors and find one who may the right fit for you. You will get over this—you just need time and the right medical professionals to help you.

    To Heart and Soul Health,

    Ambassador DN

  • ivebeenivan
    ivebeenivan, December 19,  2018  8:59pm EST

    Hi Charles - I hear you loud and clear. I definitely experienced something very similar to you and it was terrifying. Here are the actions that helped me. 1) Meditate daily with the goal to become comfortable with the time your heart and your mind need to recover from the trauma (even planned surgery is traumatic on the heart). 2) Research everything you could be doing to tend to your heart, run the list by your cardiologist, and do them. I think feeling more in control of your health really helps with the anxiety. 3) Talk to close friends, family and pros as often as possible. We need them to know what's up so you can actually feel at ease more often than not. 4) Don't be afraid to ask your cardiologist for temporary meds to help you relax. I wish I would have done the latter much sooner, because I felt 100% like myself again after about three weeks. Please keep us posted. We're all rooting for ya hardcore!

  • BL1970
    BL1970, January 19,  2019  11:53am EST

    Charles,

    I know very well what you are going through. First and foremost, take a few deep breathes. I am 61 years old, (but still play like a kid,) I have had an aortic stenosis since I was two months old. I had my first open-heart surgery when I was nine years old, way way back in 1968. At that time, surviving ANY heart surgery was measured in per cents-I had a 50/50 chance. I was in the hospital for six weeks, "died" twice, and DID recover. I have had two more open heart surgeries, the last one in 1976, an Aortic prosthetic valve that has been ticking now for 41 years! I am going in for an ultra sound soon to see how the old gal is doing.

    That being said, Charles, I can tell you that since my first surgery in '68, I had been living in abject fear, not trusting my body, nor the valve. Its important to note that all throughout the surgeries, I has absolutely no counsel, psychiatric care before, during and after surgery. Just a few months ago I had a complete meltdown and was hospitalized, not for any heart issues, but for emotionall issues surrounding the surgeries.

    Open heart surgery is a TRAUMATIC experience. I have found scientific proof that children and adults who have heart surgery of any kind, are bound to be very depressed suffer fom PTSD, have suicidal thoughts. Why? Because the emotional support is not available before, during and after surgery.

    So only now, studies, research, and movement is being made. You know, cardiac surgery has blossomed since 1968. The surgeries performed today were only dreamed of at the time. So, like James suggests, I urge you to find the professional you need. I learned many coping strageties a few months, simple ones, like coloring mandalas, grounding excercise, walking, and crafting. I do all of these INCLUDING visiting this life-saving site.

    WE ARE NOT ALONE.

    I learned something called "radical acceptance." (I have become a bad speller) Anyway its when you, over time, accept that we are present now, the past is past, and the here is real. It is definetely okay to feel whatever we feel, friend, its what makes us human, (i hate that part!)

     I hope this posting helps in any way. I am grateful for for you and all others going through the surgeries. In '72, I received a valve that utterly failed, and was rushed back for a replacement. I felt like a Ford Pinto. (Check the brake fluid while youre at it.)

    We are here for each other Charles.

    In peace,

    Ken BL1970

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