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Annie26, January 11,  2021  9:11pm EST

Post-op depression

Hi everyone! This is the first time I've done anything like this so...hoping this helps not only me, but others out there who might be feeling the same way.

On mid-July 2020, in the midst of the worst year the world has ever seen with COVID-19, I was diagnosed with moderate/severe heart stenosis with an echo. I had fainted a couple of times in June and felt lack of air, so when the cardiologist told me the news, I felt my world crash around me, especially because even though I've been in a therapy process for years now, nothing could've prepared me for this, at 32 years old.
I had to face my demons in order to be ready for open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I had to choose between a tissue vs a mechanical valve. I had to face my truth about me not actually wanting to have kids, and then face my husband withy decision of a mechanical valve and not having kids.
I must say, I tried to look for other women online and offline who had a similar story to mine, but I wasn't able to...most women already had kids or were planning on having them with anticoagulant shots and the risks it has (with a mechanical valve).

Because of this, I felt alone for some time...but by the time the surgery date came close, I was ok with my decisions. 
I had open heart surgery on November 13th, 2020. Turns out, my heart was so messed up, the tissue valve wasn't an actual option for me!!! I wish at least one of the 6 doctors I saw (between cardiologists and heart surgeons) would've told me this was a potential outcome. Instead, being a woman, all I was told was - "you should pick the tissue valve. You will want kids. You will change your mind." Even when I shared my decision on children, the doctors still tried to push me to make that choice, which would've just resulted in failure!!

Now, in my mind, I thought the worst had already passed, as no one told me my mental health could be impacted by the surgery. But it did. Today, almost 2 months after, I'm feeling depressed, with both physical and emotional pain, anxiety, and insomnia. I've cried every single day. I'm in the process of starting rehab, where a psychiatrist will also see me, but I wish I had known this was normal. I wish I had known two months earlier that depression in these scenarios is normal. Ive been feeling out of character, and my family has even told me I'm ungrateful.

Thank you for reading me.


With my heart,


3 Replies
  • AHAModerator
    AHAModerator, January 12,  2021  8:59am EST

    Hi Annie,

    Thank you for joining the support network and sharing your story. I'm so sorry that you've gone through this but it's good to hear you're in the process of starting rehab. I can share with you stories from AHA ambassadors who have heart valve disease: I hope their stories will help you learn more about the recovery process. Please keep us updated on how you're doing, we're rooting for you!


    The AHA Team

  • AmbassadorDN
    AmbassadorDN, January 14,  2021  6:13pm EST

    Welcome, Annie26!

    You have ceratinly come to the right place! Unfortunately, post-op depression is not widely discussed with patients prior to heart valve surgery. Oftentimes, nurses and doctors may advise patients prior to surgery that the patient may experience the "blues" after surgery, but post-op depression, even in its most severe forms is quite common.

    Speaking from experience, I have had three valve surgeries: I have had a repair, a tissue replacement, and finally a mechanical replacement. With each surgery, I experienced varying recovery timelines as well as varying degrees of depression. In fact, I suffered severe post-op depression after the third surgery, and I finally had to take medication on the advice of my cardiologist as well as see a therapist. Both helped me quite a bit. I've started working with our local hospital here in California (pre-COVID) and the cardiac team to create a pre-op manual that addresses post-cardiac surgery in more detail.

    Please know that depression is NOT a character flaw. It does not mean that you are not grateful to be alive. To put simply, the way my neurologist explained to me (yes, I have a neurologist, too, but it's a long story) is that when people undergo heart surgery, they are basically "turned off," like putting a computer on sleep mode. When the surgery is over and everything comes back "online," a person's brain chemicals can get messed up which causes depression.

    Please know that you are not alone in this. My fellow Heart Valve Ambassadors and I are here for you, to help you along your post-op journey, and to be a sounding board for you. Please don't hesitate or feel ashamed to vent or ask any questions or share your concerns.Meanwhile, keep doing your cardiac rehab because the exercise can help ease some of the depression you feel.

    To Heart and Soul Health,

    Ambassador DN

  • Caroline65
    Caroline65, January 20,  2021  11:34pm EST

    I was 38, single, never married when I had my bypass, Aortic valve replacement with a St. Jude's leaflet. I felt at that age I was done in trying to have a child. So this mechanical valve was a choice I could live with. I have known women who was able to chose a different way. It is hard when you are facing a life changing experience. And i bet you are on birth control pills or shots to control getting anemic. 

    As I got older and faced the change we all women go through, eventually. I knew there would be a small chance of taking meds for it. But I got lucky, no pills. And was about to get off the shots, of which I did not miss not having periods like I did before. I was a heavy bleeder and hated the period. And being on blood thinner, it was a mess. When I turn 50, and other changes came, I had to go cold turkey. I got lucky. No more periods. 

    Changes are scarry and can be depressing. You are not alone. You might need some counseling to help yoiu deal with the depressiion of surgery and being on blood thinner. Keep us infomred of what youy do for your depression. We are rooting for you. 



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