8 weeks

aliciavicki

What makes you feel alive? Is it a thumping baseline, holding your drink in the air… or the endorphins you feel after a massive gym session?
When are you most at one with yourself? At work? I doubt it. Eating those buttered, sautéed mushrooms alongside poached eggs at your favourite breakfast joint? Maybe, perhaps add some spices to the mix for a true dining experience.

Before, feeling alive meant I left the house, I sat in a park and let the sun do its magic, or I went to a funky new restaurant and shared a few platters with a friend, or I knocked back a couple Hendricks and let the music dictate my movement. After an experience like open heart surgery, this changes. Maybe short term, but I’ve never felt so alive.

I feel alive when I climb the stairs without getting winded at the top. I feel alive…

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My run to recovery….I’m there! 4 months post op

My last appointment…

I can’t quite believe I am at the point where I can say I’ve been signed off. It’s all good news and I no longer need to see my surgeon (which I’m quite sad about because I’ve got quite attached to the guy who fixed my heart!). I’ve been sent back to my cardiologist now for general checks every 6-12 months.
The waters gone from my lungs, the gastritis has cleared, and the valve is working efficiently. Relief. My INR is still all over the place though which is annoying because I’m at warfarin clinic every week still and I’m on a very high dose of warfarin. Bruising easily now which is a bit of a pain. My surgeon is going to put me on something different instead – sinthrome – so fingers crossed that’ll work. So long as I don’t have to go back to the dreading injections I’m not too fussed.
I still have a mild leak in my aorta, and a ‘shunt’ which is where the pattern of blood flow isn’t quite normal, and can go from left to right before circulating round. But apparently I have lived with this and it has caused no symptoms or ill effect on the pumping chamber – so as my surgeon said ‘you just have to get on with your life now’. True….so I asked if I could travel Australia next year. The answer was yes so I’m very excited and have started planning my trip to Oz with my bestie Nicola. I’ve always said as soon as I’m fixed I’m off…and now I can fly! My cardiac nurse was a little shocked when I said we’re planning on going at the end of January. She said, 2015? No. 2014. We’re going to start in Sydney and work our way around the coast. I’m keen to learn how to surf too.
On the way out of hospital we bumped into my fave nurse, Kelly. We had a good catch up and laughed over the time I was in hospital, and how to me, everything seemed ten times worse than it was…especially with the melon and mango episode! What a drama :p It was good to see you 🙂 glad I’m through it now.
As for the fitness side of things, I’m back up to scratch and it hasn’t taken anywhere near as long as I thought it would. I’m running up to four miles and lifting weights again. You know when you think, why was I even worried?
I’ve finished with cardiac rehab now and have become good friends with Molly who is 18 and had the same surgeon as me. She’s just been through her first op and wasn’t quite so used to her new scar. I told her to be proud of her scar and showed her how I sunbathe…and now, she does the same 🙂 ❤

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11 weeks post op

I haven’t posted in a while so it’s time for an update! I don’t like looking at my blog sometimes, because I don’t like to remember my hospital days & when I was poorly.

Things are going well though. In the meantime, I started cardiac rehab and they train you hard! It was a circuit training session where you worked on each exercise for 2 minutes before moving on to the next. The exercises alternated between cardio and strength and the class lasted for about 30 minutes. Of course you do a good warm up and cool down as well which is essential for anyone, but especially cardiac patients because you need to make sure you get enough blood flow and oxygen to your heart and the rest of your muscles before you begin.
Depending on your fitness level, you can start off easy or push yourself a little harder. So I pushed myself, and ached the next day.
Rehab is good because you get to set goals, its in a controlled environment, and your heart rate is monitored at all times so you feel safe. The instructors are very friendly too….even though I ask loads of questions 😊. They’re going to get me running again. I tried it a little on the treadmill but it hurt.

I’ve only been to one session though because I went on a cruise for 2 weeks. I’m not allowed to fly yet – my INR dropped really low again so I had to get that checked on board and reluctantly had to start the injections again. I don’t know why because I’m on a high dose but it can be something to do with how quickly your body processes it.. Injections have given me lots of bruises and one night caused me to bleed for 7 hours none stop and I needed a huge bandage from the medical for a mini pin prick. Bit of a pain but what can you do? At least my blood is thin and It stopped eventually but we had to get room service that night!

It was nice to get away though, Lisbon was my favourite port. I met some lovely people and even a training buddy which was fun. I trained most mornings and my fitness has gone up quite a bit since I started so I’m pleased. My first session in the gym 5 weeks ago was so tough. I did about ten minutes on each piece of cardio and I couldn’t get past level 2 on the bike and cross trainer. In 5 weeks I’ve managed to reach level 5-6 and I’ve increased my time too.

Now I’m back home I can continue with rehab and get back to work soon. We’re planning another walk for the British Heart Foundation too, this time in the lakes, possibly the Langdales. I see my surgeon in October. Hopefully all the fluid from my lungs has disappeared by then and my INR will be on the rise. Its quite dangerous for it to be low as I cant risk clots…. with having a metal mitral, it’s risky! So, I’m in clinic weekly. Apparently drinking wine makes it go up so that was my excuse on holiday. Along with a few piña coladas 🙂

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6 Weeks Post Op…

Finally

 
I cant’t believe its been 6 weeks, feels like its been forever. Recovering is tough especially with the mini setbacks but I’m a lot more chilled now and I’m feeling so well – I’m walking 3.5 mile and the naps are gone.
Just driving back from my Manchester check and I’m a very happy girl…my scan was all good apart from there is a tiny bit of water on my lungs but nothing as crazy as last time – it should clear soon 🙂 
Here comes the best bit – my surgeon has given me the ok to start the gym – I was really shocked when he said I can go spinning. He gave me a few pointers 
 

No weights for another 6-8 weeks 

Can use light weights in rehab
Can spin … just not too much resistance & start with just 10 mins
Can use cross trainer, treadmill and bike
Lower body exercises are fine 
No running or rowing for 6 weeks
 
So he signed my paper to start rehab and I couldn’t get it quick enough. Got my walking test at the hospital on Monday. They will figure out my heart rate zones and tell me what zone to work in when I’m training. Good job I’ve just got a new heart rate monitor and sports watch 🙂 
My surgeon said I don’t have to have many sessions in rehab I can just go off on my own.
 
It was funny because he thought I was 3 months post op. Feels that way! He also checked my scar and said ‘hmm a little bit broader than what I would have liked’ I thought, cheers!
 
So all is well…I’m driving now and opening doors for myself which my friends will all be pleased to hear!
 
My next check up is in 3 months. In the meantime things can only get better, and I’ve got a holiday to look forward to in the Canary Islands in 3 weeks. Best get that beach body on the go.
 

Day 23 Post Op Update – Always a drama!

…there’s been a drama! Since I left hospital I had a bit of water weight on my arms, stomach and legs which I managed to shift in 10 days. I remember when I first woke up I was horrified but I got told it would go once I started moving again. My stomach however, didn’t go down. It was so swollen, was getting worse and I couldn’t hold it in, it felt like I’d swallowed a balloon. Everyone kept saying, ‘it will be swollen you’ve been pulled about.’ Which did make sense but I knew something was not right. It hurt to lie down, I couldn’t fit in my clothes, I couldn’t eat, and I was starting to get breathless with everything I did. Over 2 weeks I had three doctors appointments and a trip to manchester hospital, and I was given the wrong diagnosis. IBS can you believe. I was convinced I had gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). I was put on treatment for this but nothing seemed to work and this really upset me. So my surgeon gave me an appointment to see him. I had an Eco beforehand,  and the Nurse asked me if I was getting breathless. By this time I  was starting to worry as  I was breathless but I assumed it went hand in hand with the recovery. My surgeon then came in and the nurse asked him to look at the screen…he said straight away,  ‘You have a lot of water in your lungs! You must be breathless.’ I was relieved because knowing what it was meant I could get treated…finally! Apparently this can happen after surgery. Luckily the heart and the valve are working perfectly. I’m still ticking away. My surgeon said I could go into hospital and they could drain the fluid or try medication. No way was I going back into hospital! I was prescribed with diuretics and within 48 hours I went from looking 9 months pregnant to looking like me again.

I can’t explain what a difference this has made….I can breathe,  I can lie down, I don’t have to live off liquids (Carrot juice is disgusting by the way I do not recommend), I can fit into my clothes and most of all I’m just so happy and very glad it wasn’t left any longer! I can get on with progressing now and start up my walking again. Setbacks hey!? There’s me thinking I would just have a sore chest…Here’s a picture of me very happy again – spot the scar! 🙂
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Day 14 Post Op Update

 

I’ve been home 5 days now and it feels like I’ve been home a month! It has been great being home but all I’ve been able to do in week 2 is rest. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s quite hard going from so much activity to nothing and there’s only so much resting you can do!
I had my first walk on Monday, day 12. I had to go to the Vic Hospital to check my bloods so I thought It would be a good idea to walk and get a lift back. It’s about a 10 minute walk. I was fine on the flats, but when we hit a little hill I was so breathless and it just felt really weird to be. When I got home I had to go straight to sleep. I know I have had one big operation, but it’s hard to think that 2 weeks ago I could run, and now it’s hard to walk. I really do have to start from scratch. Where’s it gone? This did make me feel a little fed up, I miss my early morning runs so much. The next day I went out for another little walk, and thankfully, it didn’t exhaust me…I made sure there were no hills this time & I had friend’s making sure I didn’t push it. What would I do without you?
On the plus side, I’m really happy my bloods are now in a good range! Finally, I can stop the injections. The headaches and sickness have gone too and this has really made a huge difference. All the drugs are probably out of my system now. I am healing really quickly…I can’t believe the change in my scar in just 2 weeks. Also, before my operation, my lips were almost always blue and I had to wear pink lip tint to hide it…but they are now naturally pink! I can feel myself getting stronger and I am virtually pain free, except when I sneeze…ouch.. Everyday I wake up, I feel that little bit better and I’m wanting to do more now. I went to Nicola’s for tea the other night, and tomorrow I’m going over to Natalie’s which I’m looking forward to because I’ve missed our dinner and film nights. All my friends from down the road have been to see me, and they always make me laugh.
I have had lots to cheer me up too!! I’ve had plenty of visitors, get well cards and gifts which is so nice. My friends know me well! I’ve been showered with fitness mags, health foods, dvd’s, chocolate’s, candles, flowers and a little heart charm 🙂 
Another thing that’s really cheered me up….My sister entered a competition to win a Thomas Sabo Silver necklace from Cole’s the Jewellers in Blackpool. To enter you had to write about who you thought deserved the necklace and why. Sarah told them about my story, and so did her friend, and she won! So I was really excited. I get to go with her to collect it next week 🙂 thank you!
I’m looking forward to this week because It’s the start of week 3 and I’m allowed to start moving a little more so things are looking up.
I have to admit, I’m on countdown. Only 4 more weeks and I can start driving, cardiac rehab and I’ll also be able to cycle…and in 8-10 weeks time I can start my running again. I am probably the most impatient person, I want to be well, NOW! but not long to wait….It’ll be tough…but worth it for the quality of life I am now going to have. I’m off for a walk now with Natalie, and she said she is glad there are no hills either ❤