The Traveling Steve's

Steve UNO Needs Heart Surgery

This is one post I don’t enjoy doing, as it concerns my health and well-being personally. I’ll spare all the details, but I have been having some tests done on my heart recently, and this past week it was determined I will need open heart surgery on Wednesday Sept 1. While it’s quite frightening, at my ‘young age’ of 59, the surgeons I spoke with both agreed its the best option for me. I will have the open-heart procedure done at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

After all of these years and millions of miles of travel both for work and pleasure, retirement has finally caught up with me! Actually it’s a good thing I retired early in December 2019, or I could have been working and skipped the necessary doctor visits and testing. In layman’s terms, I have two heart issues: an aortic valve that needs replacing, and ascending aortic aneurysm as well.

I had a heart cauterization (Heart Cath) out-patient procedure a couple weeks ago (also at Orlando Regional Medical Center), and it was hoped that I could use the TAVAR method of replacing the valve, which involves going thru the groin for replacement, which is much less invasive than open heart surgery. The good news by having the Heart Cath done, it showed my arteries were clear, and at least initially looked as I could be a candidate for TAVAR.

The bad news which I found out a couple days ago, after a couple more CT scans and other tests, the TAVAR is not a recommended procedure for my case as I have a Bi-cuspus valve. The Bi-Cuspus valve is a congenial problem affecting perhaps 1% of the population, and means I have two flaps instead of the normal three flaps, and it forces the heart to work harder, hence the need for the valve replacement. The other issue I have is an Aortic aneurism, which is normally it’s own surgery, but the Heart Surgeon will perform both procedures at the same time. I know I’m not explaining this well, but bottom line I spoke with a surgeon that does TAVAR and the other surgeon who will be doing my open heart surgery, and they both agreed that due to my ‘young’ age this is the best option, especially since it’s actually two procedures, and they could be combined into one surgery instead of two.

I chose not to have a metallic valve replaced, that while it lasts for a lifetime (usually), I would be on Coomadin or another blood thinner for life, which is not recommended. I will have my valve replaced with a ‘pig’ or ‘cow’ valve which lasts around 10 years or so on average. By the time I’m 70, the doctors said I could then have the TAVAR procedure for a replacement valve at that point, instead of more surgery.

While I knew I would need some type of surgery (either TAVAR or open heart surgery) I wasn’t expecting it to be this week – just five days after the prognosis! I guess in a way that’s better as I don’t have as much time to worry about it. When I came home from seeing the surgeon on Friday, I was a bit in “freak mode” just thinking about the open heart surgery. The surgeon cuts you open and literally stops the heart, putting you on a heart and lung machine! I just kept remembering the 1990 movie Flatliners (as posted on website IMDB) with Julia Roberts and it certainly didn’t put me at ease! LOL!

Fortunately when I asked my heart surgeon about the dietary and beverage restrictions after the surgery and I was recovered I could still have red wine! Yes! He all but encouraged me to have some as well this weekend if it helped me to relax in the evening, which it did.

Over the weekend I contacted my Estate Attorney to verify a couple things in my will and living will/health surrogate. This was helpful that I had done this over two years ago as the hospital asked for a copy of the living will and health surrogate when I registered for the surgery. Note to anyone reading this: make sure you have an estate plan including will, beneficiaries assigned, living will, health care surrogate, and power of attorney. Hopefully everything will be fine, but there’s always a chance with surgery it won’t be.

It’s now Tuesday evening as I write this, and I will be showering shortly and going to bed early (hopefully by 9pm) as I have to again shower early in the morning and be at the hospital at 5am for the 7am surgery. I handed DOS my commitment ring, which he said he would wear on his neck gold chain until I’m out of the hospital.

Today I had several hours of pre-surgery lab work, registration, X-rays, and at a separate location for a COVID test. DOS and I went to the Orlando Medical facility for the pre-surgery procedures. I was out of bed at 6am, which is very early for me now that I’m retired, and we headed for downtown Orlando around 7am with our bags packed. The morning sunrise was beautiful, and my next door neighbors cross in their front yard helped to put me at ease.

As we drove our neighborhood street, we saw these neighbors (Henry and Guiliana) taking their dog for a early morning walk. We stopped briefly, and Henry put his arm on my shoulder and said a prayer with me, DOS, and Guiliana. It is such a wonderful thing to having such loving neighbors. I’ve also had a tremendous amount of support from my Church, and Facebook friends. Thanks everyone; it means so much as I’m quite a bit nervous about this whole procedure.

We got to the ORMC pre-surgery building around 7:30am, and like everyone I had dealt with so far in this heart situation, the staff at the pre-surgery complex were very friendly, knowledgeable and professional.

It was nice to get all of these procedures over with today, as in addition to all of the above, there was lots of paperwork to review and sign, as well as meeting with multiple hospital staff. I would definitely not want to be doing this at 5am in the morning!

We were in the pre-surgery building for over three hours, but the time went by quickly.

We then drove to the nearby COVID testing sight which I had been to a couple weeks ago prior to the heart cauterization I had done. It’s very efficient; you drive up and park, and they come to your car to swab your nose. (Not fun, but not terrible either. I tested negative, which I found out a little while ago when I logged on to check the results.)

After the COVID test, DOS and I went to have a ‘final meal’ at the nearby Earthfare gourmet grocery. They have a fairly large indoor seating area, and wouldn’t you know, we ordered a full size double pepperoni and bacon pizza! Well I’m having heart surgery tomorrow – why not! (Actually my arteries are ok the Doctor said; it’s the valve that’s the issue, thru no fault of my own as it’s congenial.)

Since I will be in the hospital approximately 5 to 7 days, DOS booked the Townplace Suites by Marriott, which is directly across the street from Orlando Regional Medical Center. We are both staying there tonight, and DOS will stay there during the duration of my stay in the hospital.

As it’s nearly time 9pm and time for bed, I humbly ask for your prayers as I have this surgery, as well as inner peace without worry. Also please pray for DOS as he cares for me , and of course the surgical and hospital staff (all of whom have been exceptional and caring so far).

Thank you for reading and may God bless you and all the others going thru medical issues worldwide and the staff and families that care for them.

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