This is a follow-up to my previous column, “Not Looking Forward to Heart Surgery Procedure,” in the July 23 Pilot.
There were seven steps in my pre-op process before surgery. This took most of the day and involved measuring height, weight, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation, pain assessment and blood work. Electrocardiograms and X-rays were also done.
I went through the surgery without complications. At the post-op meeting, my surgeon was still in the operating room, so his partner debriefed me. He was a magna cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School and had a very good personality.
I had left the Duke hospital not really knowing what was actually done to my heart. So Dr. Jake began to describe the procedure. My tricuspid valve was leaky, or didn’t close tight enough, causing blood to leak backward across the valve.
This valve is located between the right atrium (top chamber) and right ventricle (bottom chamber). Its role is to make sure blood flows in a forward direction from the right atrium to the ventricle. To correct this, they installed an annuloplasty ring to get my heart pumping properly. I asked what the ring was made of. Couldn’t believe the answer: fabric!
My souvenir of this operation is an eight-inch scar on my chest that has healed quite well, notwithstanding a few painful moments. I am walking about a quarter-mile every other day and am now driving my car, but I’m still only about 30 percent of what I was before surgery. So I am watching movies and taking it easy. On certain days, I am a true invalid with no energy or desire to get off the couch.
They encouraged me to start golf, using the putter for the first week, chipper for the second, and so on — which puts me back on the links sometime in October or November.
Making the trip to Duke has been easy, and I know the directions by heart. N.C. 147 flows right into the hospital complex. It takes about 90 minutes My post-op instruction was not to drive for four weeks, and only then if I was off pain medicine.
My No. 1 driver had an accident, so my good friends Carol, Michael and Larry took over, including transporting both our daughters from and to RDU.
Then I read Betty Hooker’s recent letter to The Pilot editor about how she was looking for transportation to Duke and found that Moore County Transportation Services would drive her there for $20. Wish I’d known about this earlier.
The curse I’m left with is taking a very strong dosage of diuretic. When I see the cardiologist next, I’m sure he’ll put me back on double dosage. I also take Xarelto as a blood thinner, since I am still left with atrial fibrillation. These pills cost about $10 each, which equals about $3,650 per year. Insurance takes care of $400 of this — a little help but not much.
I bought a pedometer to keep track of my prescribed walking routines. But since my stride is still a cane-assisted shuffle, it won’t work. I am wondering if there will be a day that I can throw the cane away.
In any case, as is often said, “Better to be on the right side of the grass.”.