Cardiac Rehab & Status Update

Eight Weeks ago today my heart was stopped for 8+ hours while my body temperature was reduced to 34F. Wow, amazing what technology can do and still be alive.

I started Cardiac rehabilitation two weeks ago (six weeks post surgery), the earliest open heart patients are allowed to start, and I’ve been loving it. The specialized program is a 1.5 hour workout three times a week for 12 weeks. Two weeks down and ten more to go!

The facility I’m at is for cardiac patients only. It’s kind of weird to be in a gym where everyone except the therapist have had their chest cracked open. While they’ve had younger patients, I haven’t seen anyone else under 60. So far rehab has been very basic. Upon arrive I don a portable ekg, stretch, and begin simple cardio activities. Walking on the treadmill, ride a stationary bike, use the bicycle for the hands, and a cross fit machine which is like using a steeper while sitting down. Thus far no resistance is being used. The goal is simply to go the duration. Eventually they will integrate resistance and some weight training as well. The therapy is as much diagnostic as it is rehabilitative as all heart functions are recorded to detect if there are any other issues.

In the two weeks, I’ve seen reasonable progress. I’ve gained mobility, and the chest circle of pain has shrunk, while I’ve been able to apply myself a little more each visit.

Chest Scar - Far less than many would imagine. No stitches...Lasered and glued.

Chest Scar – Far less than many would imagine. No stitches…Lasered and glued. The lower scars are from drainage chest tubes.

No more radial artery or pulse in my left arm.  It's now in my chest.

No more radial artery or pulse in my left arm. It’s now in my chest.

Where I stand today/Overall Status update

Overall since surgery, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of autonomy but still have good and bad days. I’m very mobile and have started going out for limited 1-2 hour stints. I started driving in the past week, a huge sense of freedom. However, after today’s doctor’s visit they are still keeping the most encumbering restriction in place for at least another month. No lifting, pushing, or pulling more than a couple of pounds. In general while I’ve seen improvements, I feel like my progress has platued/stalled. I’m still taking pain meds daily and if I didn’t I don’t think this experience would be bearable. The musculoskeletal structure of my chest hurts almost constantly sometimes more than others. The sensation is odd as the skin surface is numb while the underlying tissues ache/hurt and are painfully touch sensitive. The only time I’m able to get pain-free is after laying in bed for several hours. While the target area of pain has reduced from the entire chest to three-quarters of the chest, its intensity hasn’t changed. The Oxycodone used to knock the pain out, however due to my extended usage I’ve built a tolerance to it. Now it merely takes the edge off the aching. My endurance is still what’s limited. 2-3 hours being vertical, standing or sitting straight up and then I need to rest. Everyone whose seen me, sees me during these windows and I “look great” and do great on the surface. My daily routine consists of managing the active intervals with rest. Working an hour in the morning, take an hour break, go to rehab, come home rest, and work for an hour or two. If I wasn’t self-employed and working out of my house, I don’t know what I would have done. In the evenings, watch TV from bed or on the good days go out for a short bit.

I saw my doctor today and my progress is fairly typical. While some are off meds at my stage others have problems for 3-4 months and the more chronic cases can last up to a year. At this point he thinks it could easily be another month or two of healing before I’m off pain meds. Once that subsides, the lifting restrictions will be dropped and I’ll be free to resume normal life. Happy to be here, yet getting frustrated with pace of progress.

This entry was posted in Health. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cardiac Rehab & Status Update

  1. Michelle says:

    What a nice Christmas present! Being in pain all of the time is a major energy drain.Have they suggested biofeedback or acupuncture as an option for pain management? Thanks for keeping me in the loop! Sending you love and endorphins!

  2. Flattop says:

    No they haven’t at this point because they and I do think this is part of the normal healing process and I have seen improvement. It’s fully expected it heal completely, just takes inordinate amount of time. The meds work, I’m just not taking them in the quantity to zero it out. I’ve done both acupuncture and biofeedback stuff for other things and by the time they work, I’ll probably already be better on my own. So unless this stays long term and doesn’t go away as expected, then I’ll look into alternatives.

Leave a Reply