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milo1, August 9,  2019  1:24pm EST

Trouble adjusting to life after heart surgery

Hello everyone,

Sorry this is a bit long, Im new here and have read many helpfull posts, so I'll start with what brought me here. Im 52 years old (male). About 1.5 years ago I was in the ocean on a very calm day (it was like a swimming pool) and I had passed out. I was by myself and only a couple people were around. I was face down in the water maybe 30sec, not sure, but I remember trying to breath not realizing what was happening. In any case, I "came to" and got myself out and was sick the next day. To this day I have never told anyone about this episode, and I have no medical info on the cause of the event. Just mentioning it here.

I have always been a very active athletic person with no known medical conditions or medication needs. At the end of May this year (3 months ago), I was out road cycling and had suddenly passed out (I have no recolection of it happening). I was found lying on my back in the middle of the road, rigid and turning dark purple in color (this was a small mountain foothill road with ocassional traffic). The person who found me (who I eventually met), called 9111 and did CPR. Luckily there was a fire station less than a mile away. I arrived in the trauma center then ICU for a few days sedated while they figured out what was wrong with me. I suffered ventricular fibralation. No problems with arteries, or infections. I had a mitral valve that would not close (mitral valve prolapse, chordea on one leaflet were ruptured and broken). After a week in the hospital, I went home with heart medications to recover strength and perform a repair to the mitral valve.

4 weeks ago I had the mitral valve surgery. Everything went well, Im recovering fine. While in the hospital, 4 days post-op my heart converted back into an afib/flutter rhythm. This is common to happen Im told. I currently take a beta-blocker and blood thinner and we'll see if it converts on it's own in the months ahead as I recover. We haven't talked much yet about medical procedures to convert it to sinus rythm, a bit early still probably. Im not confident in the long run that I'll successfully convert, whether on it's own or medically, and my heart will just revert back to afib. But that's a long way off right now.

Iv'e returned to work and normal daily activities as best I can, but find myself not able to meet social obligations and other things as Im still weak and get tired easily. Even though Iv'e told some people I know about what happened, it seems the world just continues on in it's normal race pace and Im having difficulty re-adjusting. I feel disconnected and isolated now that the surgery is done and the pace of medical appintments has slowed. It's like there was this separate life being lived (cardiac life) and now Im going into another (work/life), but I still have to keep tabs on and live in the other (cardiac). It helps to have talked with a few people about this, but overall, it seems it's just a curiosity and once it's satisfied everyone goes on. I feel as though Im a burden. I am very gratefull, some incredible people have helped me get where I am today. However, I do find myself replaying the whole episode in my mind (being found on the over and over again, sometimes with a not favorable outcome. And I seem to conclude it wouldn't matter either way. Things take thier natural course. Im still trying to figure out why I am living. Im not having "flashbacks" in that sense, but this is dominant in my thoughts through the day.

I don't know if anyone here has similar feelings from going through heart failure/surgery. I'd like to hear from you.

5 Replies
  • JamesPL
    JamesPL, August 9,  2019  7:37pm EST

    Hi Milo,

    I'm sorry to hear about your struggles but I can tell you that it is not uncommon. The other day I was watching a heart attack survivor on TV and he had mentioned that he had had diifficulty "trusting his heart" again as he called it. What he meant by that was that he was afraid to take up the activities he had once enjoyed because he thought his heart would betray him again. My wife asked me if I felt that way after my own event. I told her it's kind of funny but you do think about whether or not your heart is still capable. Eventually you realize that you have to return to living. 

    Feeling guilty can be common also. Don't. You've survived. Don't ask why. Work toward getting your life back on track. Be grateful for where you are right now. Before I had my heart surgery, I had told my wife I'll be happy when I wake up. I have always been grateful for my own survival and always try to make the best of it. One of the reasons I'm part of this group is because I've always wanted to help others who've struggled with what I went through. I know it's easy to simply say all of this so sometimes we could use a little help. Has your doctor or other health care professionals advised seeking professional help? It was recommended to me and I decided to take the advice. It was very helpful as the counselors opened my eyes to things I hadn't thought of. I highly recommend it.

    I wish you well in your continued recovery.


  • milo1
    milo1, August 10,  2019  12:13am EST

    Thanks Jim, that helps. "Being gratefull for where you are right now", that makes sense to me, just being present, thoughts are only about right now. I havent brought it up with my doctors, they havent asked, ill look into it though even though i feel afraid to.

  • JamesPL
    JamesPL, August 10,  2019  9:34am EST

    Don't be afraid to consult with them. Let them open some doors for you.

  • DolphinWrite
    DolphinWrite, August 10,  2019  10:13pm EST

    Hey.  Life is difficult enough.  Glad your with us, and your story can help others.  I think talking with others is good, but overthinking can take away the good.  Get back to life is my thoughts.  Fear and worry never helps has been my observation.  Learn, talk, and enjoy the things of life.  All the best. 😎

  • milo1
    milo1, August 12,  2019  3:19am EST

    Thanks DolphinWrite, Im slowly getting to the place you describe. 

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