Recovering Takes a Long Time

Today's NYT has an op-ed article by someone who had heart surgery fairly similar to mine. In My Heart's Long Surprise Rick Hamlin describes his surprise at the slow pace of his recovery. They told him he'd be fit in weeks. It took over a year.

Mr. Hamlin's surgery seems to have differed from mine in four important ways:

  • His was planned, mine was an emergency (he probably had a leak; I had an eruption).
  • He got a bovine valve, I got a metal one. As I understand it, a bovine valve is a lot easier to take care of and doesn't require the blood thinners and strict dietary regime I will be subject to the rest of my life. It's a lot better than metal … until it wears out in 10-15 years and requires another surgery to replace. Which is why for middle aged people such as him and me, my surgeon chooses metal valves which are supposed to last indefinitely and don't require a surgical rematch when one is pushing 70.
  • He wasn't unconscious for 11 days after surgery due to complications.
  • His doctors were ridiculously optimistic about the expected speed of recovery. When I was flat on my back and weak as a couple of kittens, mine told me I'd feel a lot better soon. I did indeed manage to stand up on my own in a matter of weeks, which improved matters greatly. But they also warned me, I hope accurately, that it would be six to 12 months before I felt really normal. His didn't.

I think, despite my post-surgical complications, I may have gotten the better deal. Or the better doctor. It's been almost six months since surgery and I still have a ways to go. My stamina remains less than it was, my ability to concentrate on work isn't yet back to par. I'm not pulling my weight at home. But at this rate I'll get there before a year has passed.

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