The Traveling Steve's

Hospital Days for Aortic Valve Replacement

It’s now Wednesday, September 15th as I write this, and I’ve been home from the hospital for just over a week now. This time two weeks ago, September 1rst, I was in the middle of my open heart surgery for an Aortic Valve Replacement. While full recovery is expected to last two to three months, I’m felling a bit better each day. I’m getting great care from Steve (DOS), and he bought me a couple T-shirts I can take walks in, which I do each day, little by little.

My last post was from two weeks ago concerning my pre-surgery and my pre-hospital stay. Since then, I’ve had by Cardiac Surgery, and YES – I’m still living, and YES I’m going to be fine!

I obviously couldn’t blog about my experience while I was in the hospital, although Steve (DOS) kept my Facebook friends up to date. I’ll recall my six night hospital stay here (as much as I can remember), now that I’m home and much more comfortable.

On the morning of my surgery (Wednesday Sept 1), I reported to the hospital at 5am for pre-op. Since it was so early, DOS and I had stayed the previous night at the Marriott Townplace Suites, which is a new hotel just down a block from the main entrance of the hospital. I actually slept well the night before the surgery, and was surprisingly calm when I got up and showered at 4:15am. I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to my surgery, so no morning coffee for me. Here’s a selfie I took in the hotel room shortly before we left for the hospital around 4:45am. I normally wear contact lens, but at least while in the hospital and first days at home, my glasses were much more convenient, not to mention recommended.

After gathering my paperwork, DOS and I then walked up the street to the hospital. Looking back, I’m convinced my calmness was due to the awesome power of prayers from my Church, friends, family, neighbors, and social media friends. We took another couple photos in front of the hospital at the early hour of pre 5am.

And I gave a two-handed thumbs up sign in anticipation of the surgery outcome.

Once inside the hospital, we went thru the security check, and I got my patient wrist band ID to wear while in the hospital, and DOS got his visitor ID. DOS took one last photo of me in the lobby before we headed up to the pre-op surgery waiting room.

Here I am sitting in the pre-op waiting room, waiting to be called up for surgery prepping.

DOS had previously downloaded a hospital app called EASE that provides real-time updates via texts, on the status of the patient’s progress throughout the surgery cycle. EASE is a wonderful tool for waiting and anxious family members as well as hospital staff as they don’t have to keep inquiring on the status of a loved one.

In the waiting room there was also a separate monitor showing the status of each patient as well, with each patient assigned a unique 6 digit number (instead of their name showing) for privacy; my number was 510603 shown below with the others.

Since all of my paperwork, testing, insurance etc, had been done yesterday, I was called fairly quickly (along with 2 other men), to head up to the surgery area prepping. At this point I said goodbye to DOS, and surrendered my cell phone and iPad which he would bring me later on after surgery. It was quite sad saying goodbye to DOS not knowing how I would be after the surgery (or worse), but I didn’t have much time to ponder this as the other two men and myself were quickly led to the secure and authorized-only surgical prep area.

At the early hour of 5:30am, the surgical prep area was already bustling with activity. I was transferred to a stretcher bed where the prep work on me began. The area reminded me of an ER or recovery room with at least 20 beds or more, all partitioned off with a curtain for privacy, and faced large work station area in the center of the room used by the various medical staff.

I first changed into my hospital-supplied gown and footies, which I would wear for the next six nights. The clothes and shoes I wore into the hospital were put in a bag, and returned to DOS by the hospital staff. I didn’t have my phone now so couldn’t take any photos, but from here all of the pre-op surgery proceeded at a very fast and efficient pace, with various nurses going to work on me, probing and prodding me with needles, and who knows what.

I had asked for a pre-sedative even before I got to the operating room, as to hopefully alleviate my anxiety as I had experienced during my recent heart cauterization. Once my IV was started, I did begin to relax quite a bit. An IV port was setup for each arm and multiple tubes were attached to both ports. My arms, legs, and groin area were shaved, and sensors placed on my chest which like everything was wiped down sterile on me.

It was amazing how swift and efficiently the nurses handled my pre-op setup, as well as the other patients around me. I’m thinking “Wow they do this every day on other people? How many other people could be having open heart surgery everyday, not just here but throughout the world?” My surgeon, Dr. Michael Hanna came by briefly to see me, and assure me in his calming manner that I was going to be fine. That short but important pre-surgery interaction with Dr. Hanna, really made me feel my life was in good hands! Shortly later, I was wheeled off to surgery and barely remember anything in the actual OR room except for the large number of lights overhead me, before being sent into la-la land by the anesnteiologist. I would not be conscious again for several hours.

I found out later about the EASE update texts that had been sent to DOS while I was having surgery. The texts actually started as I was in the surgery-prep room, and continued thru to the recovery room, as seen below. EASE is really a great technology update for the family and friends, (not to mention the hospital staff) as you can see in real-time the progress of the operation, as waiting for updates on loved ones can be the hardest part. In my case this major surgery was a several hour’s wait for DOS.

From the EASE texts it appeared I was in surgery for about 3 1/2 hours, not counting the pre-surgery prep time. I would find out later that Dr. Hanna had talked to DOS (after the surgery), that I would not need the additional surgery procedure to repair an aortic aneurysm after all. By not needing the additional aneurysm surgery, this reduced my surgery by another couple hours or so.

Here is a photo DOS took of me as I had just been wheeled into the recovery room, with the breathing tube still attached to my mouth. (Yes I had allowed him previously to take photos of me so as to not violate HIPA regulations.)

The next thing I remember after having being wheeled into the operating room, is waking up in the ICU Recovery Room, which was several hours later. I had absolutely no sense of time, place, or pain. I do remember the worst part, however, which was having the breathing tube removed from my mouth. A nurse was yelling at me to breathe, and in my state I couldn’t seem to catch my breath, more of a panic type problem on my end as I’m very claustrophobic. Eventually I breathed well enough on my own to where she removed the breathing tube, (but not before DOS had to leave the room for that part). Although I was still semi-sedated state I remember well having that breathing tube taken out, as it was not a pleasant experience. It was replaced at my bedside with a much simpler and less bulky oxygen tube which I breathed thru my nose with.

DOS had been in to see me a couple times before I eventually woke up late afternoon. I’ll end this surgery day post with a huge thanks to Dr. Hanna and all of the medical professionals at Orlando Regional Medical Center. I was given a heart pillow, which was not only practical (you need to place on your chest when coughing) but also a nice thing to hold onto and later get signed by Dr. Hanna and some of the nurses. Welcome to CVICU Steve – you’re going to be just fine! Thank everyone for their prayers! God Bless!

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