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I Lived To Tell About heart Surgery

Wed, 06/19/2013 - 13:43 -- Jess

Ha ha ha, how’d you like that headline, eh? :) You know I like to joke around so I had to do it. :)


But in case you hadn’t heard, yep, it’s true. As I mentioned in my last blog post, four weeks ago RIGHT THIS SECOND, I was having my heart repaired. Now that it’s over and I’m totally fine, I’m willing to provide a few more details about what they did and why, since so many people have been asking.


The crazy thing is that they sought to fix two issues during one surgery. Talk about multi tasking, eh? :) And we think we have a hard time replying to email while talking on the phone! :) Ha. :)


One of the issues is that my Mitral Valve was really leaky and needed to be repaired, and the other is that I had Atria Fibrillation, which means my heart rate would go super fast and very erratic. I’d had 5 previous procedures over the last 11 years to try to correct the wacky rhythm but none of them worked.


Over the past year, both of those issues had gotten worse. Sometimes having the leaky mitral valve can contribute to the atrial fibrillation, and sometimes it doesn’t. The group of cardiologists working on me doesn’t seem to know for sure, but that’s neither here nor there. They both had to get fixed.


The TOTALLY SUPER AWEOSME part is that they were able to do this WITHOUT cracking into my sternum. Oh, curlies, you have no idea how thankful I am about THAT! Instead, they did it through 5-6 inch incision directly under my right… um… uh… boob. Ok. I said it. Boob. For some stupid reason I thought it “wouldn’t hurt that much” but I was 100000% wrong. They had to cut through muscle, separate some ribs and, well, cut into my heart, and hell, that’s gonna hurt. So my expectations were rather poorly managed on my part, but STILL. Having my chest bone intact is WAY BETTER, m’kay?


The other CRAZY part is, they did this surgery with my heart NOT BEATING. Ahhhhhhhhh, right?! I knew about that going in and I’ll be honest, it FREAKED me OUT. They used the Heart Lung machine to keep blood pumping, but yeah, they stopped my heart to do this thing. I was like, uh…y’all better get that sucker going back up again after! They did, clearly, so all’s well there. (Here, just to prove it to you, here’s a little video I made today JUST to show you that it’s really truly me writing this blog. :-) )



So they implanted this little device to fix the leak, to put it in very layman’s terms. :) Here’s an example picture.(Note: this is NOT the exact device that I am currently sporting internally. Sorry. :) )


annuloplasty ring mitral valve


Here’s the Wikki page on the procedure if you want a more complicated explanation.


The other aspect of the surgery was to address the atrial fibrillation. For that they did the Cox Maze procedure where they made a series of little cuts in the atrium to create, for lack of a better term, a “fire wall” of scar tissue. That scar tissue prevents the wacky beats from getting out and creating the atrial fibrillation. As scar tissue can take a while to develop, they can’t declare total success or victory on that part yet, so it can take 3-12 months before they know for sure if that worked. So there’s a wait-and-see aspect to that part but that mitral valve is fixed, NO question.


By now you know that my dad and I are super-duper-tight so he came down from Canada for a few days, so that made it ALMOST fun. I mean, almost. :) We’re a pretty funny duo, even (especially?) in the hospital, and it was great to have him here. Here’s a picture of him entertaining me with feigned worries that he couldn’t hear his heart own beat…




My favorite anecdote from the hospital was when I was still in ICU that first night after surgery. The night nurse came on for the shift change and asked me, “So why did you have this surgery today?” My reply? “Because my heart was f***** up.” Ha. Like, duh right? Why ELSE would I be there? Silly night nurse. :) Luckily he had a good sense of humor. :)


After I got discharged that Saturday (surgery was Wednesday) I had to stay in the Bay Area for 2 weeks, in case of complications and to have follow up visits with all the doctors. I can’t tell you HOW STOKED I was to come home finally!


Here’s a happy/dorky pic from when I was getting discharged. They give you these heart pillows in the hospital and my friend Kristen made me the “I heart my heart” pin. HOW cool is THAT?! :) My hair was just up in a messy bun because, well, I mean, I was in the hospital, come on. :)


Loving support


Now it’s been 4 weeks and I’m realizing – oh, what, you mean I’m not Wonder Woman like everybody keeps saying? :) Ha. Crazy how heart surgery can kick your butt! The pain in my side has gotten SOOO much better though. Even driving is a lot better. (I have a stick shift, so driving it with my right arm was pretty tricky the first few times I tried.) I still get tired way faster than I’m used to but that will keep getting better every day too. Everything is TOTALLY on track and my surgeon called me “text book.” Can’t get better than that! :)


My good friends Lynn and Andy drove my car home from the Bay Area for me (THANK YOU again for that, guys!) and a few days later I was emailed THIS adorable video. OMG. I have the best friends, of ALL ages. :) If you want a cute little laugh, watch this video. I’m telling you. :)



Speaking of Lynn and Andy, and their super awesome kiddos Ava and Morgan, CHECK OUT the World's Biggest Get Well Card they gave me the day before I left for surgery!! :) I love those guys, OMG. :)


get well soon


That’s about it. I’m happy to be on the other side and ready to get back to regular life! :)


heart with bandaid