Aug 9, 2008

Mitral Valve Repair

I had open heart surgery a little over three weeks ago. Yes, that's me on the left goofing around 5 minutes ago. This is a far cry from my hospital picture on the right. This one was taken the day after surgery. I still had over 20 lbs in fluid then.

Was I scared? I was more scared thinking about all the needles they were gonna stick on me. I was even more scared of the idea of having a huge scar down the middle of my chest! But I was so sick of losing my breath and being dead tired all the time, I had to do it.

My cardiologist recommended that I go see Dr. Vincent Gaudiani of PCCVS in Redwood City. Of course, I googled everything about the guy. After all, he's gonna cut me open. And I was impressed. He is pretty much the best heart valve surgeon there is. Some of his patients even refer to him as "Gaud".

So I went and met Dr. Gaudiani for the initial consultation. He certainly is one of the most confident persons I know. And obviously very, very smart. He explained what was wrong and how he was going to fix my mitral valve. And the best part is this: thoracotomy - he's gonna cut me open from the side in the most discreet place possible. Now, this might be more painful that the regular cut-open-the-sternum thing, he warned. Well, I'm one of those who will take a little extra pain if that meant not having a ginormous scar down the middle of my chest. Let's do it.

The day before surgery, I had x-rays, blood tests, an EKG and neck ultrasound at California Pacific Medical Center, where the surgery will take place. Bright and early on July 17, they had me shower with special pre-surgery soap, shave EVERYTHING and waited for my anesthesiologist, Dr. Sammy Shay. Did I mention I'm scared to death of needles? I am.

I assured D I'll see him after surgery as I went with Dr. Shay into (I think) the operating room. They had me lie down on this weird table that looked a lot like a cross. I told Dr. Shay that I was scared of needles and asked him to take it easy on me. He said, no problem. As I was looking around at all the funny looking lights in the room, I felt a prick on my arm. Dr. Shay has numbed my arm. I didn't even feel the IV go in. Then I got super sleepy.

I asked if this was the medicine that knocks me out. Yup. "You're good, Dr. Shay," I said. He said, "Say it louder, I want everybody to hear." I don't remember if I did say it louder. I think I was out. Dr. Shay, if you ever happen to see this post, you're super good!

The next thing I remembered was getting wheeled around. The next thing was that I was thirsty but I couldn't talk or open my eyes. The other thing was that it was a hard to breathe and if I was too slow at breathing, something beeps and a nurse comes in. Later, I learned that I was in the ICU and had a breathing tube in. I kept gagging on it, so I asked (by writing on a notepad) them to please take it out or knock me out and to keep my hands tied because I was going to rip it out. I remember Claudia and Jonathan (nurse practitioners, I think) checking on me. I remember Mom, Milka, and D visiting. I asked D to take pictures. No, the first thing I asked him was "How big is my scar?"

Soon, they moved me to a regular room. Then on Saturday, Claudia pulled out the drainage tubes from my side. Oh boy, that felt weird and looked gross! Two tubes, bigger than my thumbs stuck about 6 inches deep in my side. Thank goodness I didn't really know how far in those tubes were.

They removed my catheter and the IV line on my left hand. I didn't like having to get up to go to the bathroom, but I had to lose more than 20lbs of fluid that I gained in the process. I got brave enough to check out the incision. Whew! Nothing less then beautiful. Perfectly hidden.

I had wonderful nurses, too. They kept me pain-free and helped me get up when I needed to go to the bathroom (which was like about every 30 minutes or so), and kept reminding me to blow on the pep(?) tube to strengthen my lungs (they had to deflate my right lung at surgery). Big thanks to Paige, Brian, Betsy, Cindy, Cliff and a whole bunch of nurses, assistants and therapists whose names I don't remember. Sorry, I was drugged up most of the time.

Dr. Gaudiani checked on me on Sunday and said I was doing good. In fact, I can go home the following day! So a therapist taught me how to go up and down the stairs, educated us on post-surgery care at home, how to shower, what to eat, what not to eat, everything.

Monday, I got home, showed everybody my incision and slept most of the time. Two weeks later, the little tapes on the cuts are off. Three weeks later, my pain level is down to a 4 if I didn't take pain killers.

The main incision and the holes from the lung drainage tubes are pretty much healed. In fact, if I was brave enough to go and hang around Saint Tropez, I just might.

Dr. Gaudiani has done over 10,000 surgeries and I'm glad to have been his patient. Gaud, you're good!


Anonymous said...

you are so brave!
kung ako pa siguro na, galuya pa ko hangtud karon.
Bilib jud ko nimo, idol!

fr: dr tes

Troy said...

Yes, huge change from 3 weeks ago :-)

Gina said...

You're such a fighter...that's why fan jod ko nimo Oon 'coz you're not full of angst, not a if kaila ko nimo no, hehe, pero I've been reading your posts since sa pa..creepy mura ko ug stalker nimo hehe..But I'm happy for the success of your surgery.

K said...

Looking pretty in pink in your latest photos! So when are we getting together for margarita or maybe introduced you to my new found fave-mojito? You going to the beach with us Saturday? You should!!!! Da, kasab-an lagi ka!

pulangbanca said...

doc tes, thanks for stopping by. mamista nya ta sa Argao, doc. sultihan tika kung makauli nya ko pohon.

Gin, thank you! sus, mulapad man sad atong atay nimo oi. i like your blog sad.

Ms K, I hope to see you this saturday... looking forward to showing off my scars like some badge of courage. hehe. I'd like to meet your mojito, but I haven't developed the taste for alcohol. pwede martinelli nalang?

pulangbanca said...

Kuya Troy, thanks for visiting me at the hospital and at home AND on my blog. you rock!

BCS said...

Just stumbled upon your blog... you look gorgeous! Anyway, call me ignorant but I've never imagined that someone as young as you getting this kind of operation. If you don't mind my asking, why this? I mean, do/did you have some sort of a congenital (heart) condition?

Ai said...

your such a brave girl. Maayo nahuman na imong surgery oonah. Grabe ako'y nahadlok with how u describe the needles adn everything nga gibutang sa imong body.

jerminix said...

Isuga nimo diay sa, murag dli mn na kaya kung ako, bilib jd ko nimo miga dah, God is good jd.

Purpled Sky said...

Hi Oon! Got here from friendster. bilib ko you came out of your surgery so gracefully, nya brave pa jud kaau :-)

My little girl is scheduled for a surgery anytime soon. She has ASD. The doc said dapat at 2 years old na surgery na cya. We're looking into cardiac-cath kay di ko ka-imagine sa healing process sa baby.

Purpled Sky said...

aw, c bernadette diay ni oi, from your cannoncreek days :-)