How to Survive Cardiac Surgery – Preparation

Exercise

If you’re a candidate for heart surgery, chances are that you won’t be feeling up to much exercise leading up to it. Here’s what I wish I’d done: weightlifting and yoga. Your muscles will be doing nothing much for the 3 months after surgery, so you’re best off getting them into as good shape as possible beforehand, so you hopefully have some left once you get back into exercise. It’s ridiculously frustrating to try to exercise with hardly any muscle mass.

Cardiac Rehab

If you can, find a Cardiac Rehab centre near where you live, and make contact. You may find a government-sponsored one, with any luck. It’s well worth the effort to hunt one down and sign up. Competent supervision of sensible but challenging exercise is near essential for a decent recovery time.

Entertainment

I’m a huge fan of reading. I’ll read anytime. If I don’t have much energy, I’ll read light fluffy stuff. If I have zero energy, I’ll watch TV. But you know, I didn’t need either after surgery. A couple of books would’ve done me fine, to keep me entertained the night before surgery and the day or so before I went home. I was far too doped up on painkillers to care.

Clothing

Firstly – this is going to depend on your personal tastes, and on the hospital you’re getting the surgery in. I could’ve worn hospital PJs the whole time, with just one outfit for going home in. That said, I couldn’t stand the idea of wearing hospital clothing… I wanted some semblence of normality back.

The First Day or Two

If you’ve still got tubes hanging out of your chest, you’ll want some clothes you don’t mind getting stained with various fluids. Old pyjamas or something. You won’t want to raise your arms more than necessary, so the top should definitely be fully openable down the front. Otherwise, the guidelines below should be fine.

Dressing Gown

Something relatively warm (but not too warm), and relatively short. Mine came down to mid-thigh – just enough to cover my bum and keep my back safe from draughts, but not long enough to get legs tangled in. Because, trust me – you do NOT want to fall over just after heart surgery. Nuh uh. *wince*

Slippers

They need to be easy to slide your feet into unassisted (you won’t want to be bending down to get them on), something that your feet won’t slip around in, with non-slip soles. I bought a pair of fluffy thongs which were ideal.

Pyjamas

Buttoning down the front. Cotton’s a good choice – some hospitals turn off air conditioning at night and it can get quite stuffy and warm. A tie waist is probably a good idea, just in case they’re a bit loose. I found that after the first day or so I could raise my arms enough to get on a top that only buttoned halfway down.

Day clothing

Of course, you can wander around in your pyjamas all day. Few hospitals will have a go at you about it after such major surgery. But I found that I wanted to dress each morning once I was over the initial pain-and-sleep thing. It made me feel more normal. I’d recommend at least a couple of button- or wrap-close tops, and loose cotton pants. Tracksuit or leisure pants are good. I had a couple of sleeveless kimono-type cotton dresses which I wore with bike pants underneath when it was warm.

Food

Apparently your tastebuds can get ‘shocked’ by surgery just like the rest of your body. That may be true. Regardless, the food in the hospital I was in… it was impressively bad. I thought it might’ve been the tastebud thing – after all, I’m not usually too picky – but no, I was wrong. I found that out when I ordered a chickpea casserole and it turned up without a single chickpea in it. What the hell??

Anyhow, my point is that you might want to work out in advance how to get food if you have trouble with the hospital’s offerings. You won’t be able to spring blithely down to the cafeteria, after all. Cardiac wards are often quite strict about salt and fat content in meals, which can make for major boredom even if the meals are cooked correctly. I finished up with two solutions. Hubby bought vegemite sandwiches from the cafeteria. The nurses conspired to get me some vegemite, and I made my own sandwiches once I was up to it. Yes, I lived on vegemite sandwiches. I craved the things. Go figure.

If you’re looking for more information on heart surgery, visit Aussie Cardiac.

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8 Responses

  1. Oh my stars. You found out that vegetarian cuisine in hospitals is lacking, to say the least.

    They’re really good tips for the pre and post-op period.

  2. great tips.

    Hospital food just sucks everywhere I think.

    I was surprised though, after my hyster, they kept bringing us full meals and expected us to eat them. The trouble we had to go to just to get a simple sandwich……….

  3. Anja: I was dumbfounded when I went into hospital to have Bubba Boy… the vegan menu was fantastic. Fairly plain, but well balanced nutritionally and a nice variety. I’ve never had much trouble with hospital food, frankly. It tends to be equivalent to food court type meals. But this last hospital… dear god, YUCK doesn’t cover it.

    Tom?: Yeah, sandwiches are like, holy grail stuff 😀

  4. hmmmm

    my son has been fiddling on the computer obviously……… lol

    Sorry Noms, last comment was from me

  5. No worries Bettina, had it narrowed down to you or Jayne 😉 Figured it wasn’t a male relative, what with the hysterectomy bit!

  6. […] that TJ had signed me out and had left himself signed in. One of the comments I left as TJ was at Naomi’s blog referring to my hysterectomy. Luckily I have peeps to point out to me when I stuff up like that! […]

  7. Thanks for the great pre and post-op tips! I hope that you are doing well with your recovery. Have you tried any post-op exercises with a heart rate monitor? They’re great for cardiac patients. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Harald, thanks for visiting! Sadly, heart rate monitors aren’t much use with my heart issues – heart rate tends to stay in the ‘healthy’ range but doesn’t necessarily work effectively.

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