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Leave any well wishes, thoughts, ponderings, musings, reflections, meditations and ruminations here.

Not sure what to write? Here are some ideas to help you get started (borrowed from CaringBridge):

  • Keep it simple. Any guestbook message, no matter how brief, means the world to me.
  • Share a memory – a favorite moment or funny story – something that will lift my spirits.
  • Offer me a distraction by filling me in on recent happenings in your life.
  • Jokes, gossip, and internet memes are not only welcomed, but encouraged. (Okay, I made that last one up.)

99 comments

  1. Julia

    You never cease to amaze me with your thirst of knowledge and I am so super proud of being your friend! Love the surgeon, clear, concise, reassuring. Keep up the good work! Your blog is so rich of great and fascinating info, and it speaks a lot more to me than…ahem…galaxies and black holes :).

    Julia xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  2. Lee Lee

    You are such a good writer on top of all the science and medical lingo you know!! I will follow your blog and keep sending you happy thoughts. We love you! oxoxo, Lee Lee, Chris, Julia and Robbie

  3. Peg crockett

    I love your positive attitude, that will definitely have a positive affect upon your recovery time making it shorter and bearable. I am a true believer that it’s not the event in your life that determines who you are, but how you handle that event that determines who you are. Love the site and my positive thoughts are with you! I’ve been crazy busy this year in Saudi. Very strange place to live. People here live in a sterile bubble which creates many problems for them emotionally, mentally, and physically. It’s a sad society with overweight, inbred, and sensory deprived. May sound sever as an assessment, but as I look back the kids all have maids, cooks, and drivers that do essentially everything for them. They can’t tie off a simple balloon in a lab because they have never had to do anything for themselves. They haven’t been exposed to the outside environment, so touching a bug would be unheard of. They have no appreciation for life in lower animal groups so when we did a design lab I heard “just kill them all” more than once in reference to hamsters we were working with. They feel it’s unclean to touch or deal with any animal. Because they live behind huge 7-10 foot walls and don’t interact with anyone beyond their family, they are emotionally stunted in interactions with others. I see it in group work. They are emotionally immature in each age group and interaction within mixed genders is interesting to say the least. Took 32 boys ans girls on a week trip to Cyprus for an ecology study. It was a great trip, but emphasized the sensory deprivation, as well as lack of skills dealing with every day routines. Just making their beds, coming to breakfast on time, getting themselves up, hiking in the hills, touching invertebrates, carrying their own equipment, sharing the bathroom, not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, eating what they are given, we’re all new experiences for these sterile children. They were all around 15 years old. The transformation and bonds they made with the 4 adults along the trip was an indescribable experience. I’ve never seen such a strange society where no female is allowed to talk with anyone except for the members of their own family, only men have rights, women run around covered up with one activity occupying their every day, shoping at the mall! They apparently buy dresses you would only see on a ” red carpet” opening, then spend 4 hours getting make-up and hair done, then have “girl parties” at their houses. The make-up is horrible, caked on with fake eye lashes and drawn on eye brows. They look like street walkers, but they think it looks good. It’s kind of like the “newly rich” syndrome. One of the strangest societies I’ve ever seen. They are fat people here because they love McDonald’s and Kentucky fried chicken. Their restaurants are either from states or from UK. Fast food is their favorite, so diabetes is a real problem here. Because walking just isn’t done here, especially by women, then there is essentially no exercise. They have some clubs, but the majority of people here are overweight including the kids. I haven’t seen this many fat kids in a long time. Well, hope I’ve given you a slight diversion as well as an insight into my new home. I am off to Cambridge on June 28th and will be back in Texas on aug 4th. I’ll follow the blog and my thoughts are with you as you make this journey!

    Best wishes,
    Peg

  4. Sharon West

    booooo! bad heart! bad! shame on you for making Summer and the rest of us worry about her!
    Summer, while this is ever so terrible news, I does make me feel blessed to live in an era where this sort of thing can be detected and treated. Science and engineering march onward. Since I can’t think of much else to write just now, here’s my favorite heart-related thing:
    http://www2.fi.edu/exhibits/permanent/giant-heart.php
    big bear hugs,
    Sharon

  5. Tiffany

    Hello from the West side of the States, dear cousin! We want you to get all better soon, so you can come visit us again soon, sit on our deck & let us spoil you! I’m sure Taryn would love to attach herself to your hip again for some days…. 🙂
    I admire so much how you are handling this with such grace & humor, it makes me realize all the more how lucky I am to call you my cousin…
    xoxo
    Tiffany

  6. Andy Ash

    During my runup to AVR, I found it hard to think about anything in the post surgical regime. I had kicked the surgical can down the road for months before committing. But eventually I reached the point where the surgical risk was less than the “let it be” risk so further delay was not an option. Now that I am one week into recovery, I realize that the Nike mantra, “just do it”, applies here as well. You are young and strong, mentally prepared and you have a great surgeon and hospital lined up to do the heavy lifting. I fully expect you to beat my record of 1 day in ICU and 4 days total in the hospital. You are ready and July 18 can’t come soon enough.

    Your (formerly) bicuspid buddy,

    -Uncle Andy

  7. Karen Palmer

    Summer, I love your blog, if not the reason for its birth. Given your relative youth and strong spirit, I’m confident that you’ll weather the surgery well. I began an interesting medical journey of my own last summer when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (thankfully caught early, with a good prognosis), so I can definitely relate. Thanks for taking the opportunity to teach us, along with sharing news on how the process goes for you.

    Sending lots of good energy your way!

    Karen Palmer

  8. Hey, lovely! Horrible to hear you’re entering surgery soon, but awesome to hear you took your health seriously and got this checked out before something super-scary happened. I am really, really proud of you for both addressing this issue and sharing your journey with us. You’re amazing. I’m starting this day super-inspired by you. Let me know when I can come visit – am in Brooklyn, so just holler and I’ll get on the train! Love, Dijah (@KMBTweets).

  9. Mandy Murphy

    Summer you are a profile in cool, calm, collected courage…which is truly why you are the 1%. What an inspiration you are! The Murphy family sends all our love and prayers and best wishes!!
    With admiration and affection,
    Mandy, Tim, Marion and Robin

  10. You had mentioned surgical caps earlier today on Twitter. During my first foray into healthcare I worked as a manager for a large hospital company. We would change contracts from time to time to take advantage of better pricing. At some point our surgical cap contract changed. The OR director called me one day just outraged about the new surgical caps, saying that they were different and didn’t fit properly. I calmly tried to explain to her that the only thing that had changed was the color, from blue to green (I knew that the part number had a suffix that denoted the color). I literally had to scrounge up an old cap, take it to the OR and stretch out both caps to prove that they were the same. A classic case of perception being reality (until proven otherwise). Strange but true.

    P.S. Make sure and tell them that you want the really good meds. Early and often. 😉

  11. I’m so sad I didn’t catch on to this sooner! I wish you all the best during your surgery and a wicked speedy recovery. There’s no keeping a brilliant sciency woman down, so I expect to see you up and running marathons in no time. Well, at least running to get a burger or coffee. 🙂 (You can still have coffee, right?) (Don’t make me weep for you…)

  12. kerstinu

    My long time twitter friend, sushi at Celebration companion and favorite astrophysicist… I wish you the best in this crazy experience, good health and quick recovery… miss our phone chats, maybe we can get some in while you recover. Many hugs… Kerstin

  13. Maggie

    Been thinking about you all morning Summer! Hope everything went well and the doctor actually took a picture of the blown out aorta for you to appreciate. Love you lots! Love you too Mama Ash! :)Mags

  14. John and Melody Sanna

    Summer, Tiffany sent this to us so we could keep up with your event and the great progress you will make. Please know you are in our prayers and thoughts frequently. Being a mother I can only imagine what terror your mother must have felt at the discovery of your condition and the joy that came with the knowledge of a surgery to repair it! Bless you and your mother through this ordeal and the recovery process. We will check in on your progress every so often to see how you are doing.
    Our summer has been non stop here on the farm in Nebraska! Remodeling the old hog shed into a chicken coop/feed room. It was in really bad condition which required a lot of reconstruction. We have it closed up and the new roof on thanks to Tony and his sons, Linden and Layne. The chickens and the turkeys are moved in and growing by leaps and bounds. They are very entertaining and a delight to watch.
    Tiffany and Scott Weber (daughter and son-in-law) came for a visit July 1-6. My brother Dwon and wife Elaine joined us the evening of the 3rd and left on the 5th. Then on Saturday the 7th Tony brought Linden 12 1/2 and Layne 8 3/4 to the farm to stay with us till this Saturday the 21st. We have had a great time with them, they have done projects around the farm with John and they have had fun days in town at the pool as it has been soooo very hot here. We spend the heat of the day relaxing in the house and return to out door activities when the day cools off. They would like to spend the whole summer here at the farm but thier mom is having withdrawls and cant wait to see them tomorrow. We will surely miss thier energy and youth when they are gone but will look forward to next summer. Our garden has been under siege with every known insect to Nebraska and a new one, the “Blister Beetle”! They attacked the garden with biblical proportions that you can only imagine. Their season has expired and they are thankfully gone but they left most everything leafless! It looks like the plants may continue after putting on new leaves but everything has had a set back, some may not survive…. Then there is next year, lordy, lordy. There is no organic deterant nor natural preditor. For entertainment look them up, scary reading!!! Well must run but know you are in our thoughts. Take care sweetie
    Love,
    John and Melody

  15. Natalia

    Thinking of you. Want to come visit you (where ever you may be) Thursday, before I skip town, so I will be watching the journal like a hawk to know your whereabouts. Rooting for outside the ICU! xo

    • Summer Ash

      Hey Natalia, I’ve actually been out of the ICU since Friday. Trying to bust out of the entire joint now…

  16. Joe Rosenthal

    Summer, I had the exact same surgery a year ago last May at North Western in Chicago, Bi Cuspid Aortic Valve replaced by a Dacron Aorta and a Bovine Valve. They put me back together with Cryptonite (glue) instead of wire and had a great recovery. I am back playing tennis and all sports, the surgery is truly a miricle, I am glad you went through it so well. As an aside some of the web support groups made me crazy before the surgery so I just went it alone.

    Every day and every week gets better milestones at 6 weeks feel good and can get out of bed easy, 6 months 90% back to normal, 1 year like it never happened. Stay well and thanks for the photo’s and journal.

    Joe

  17. Did you just blog your own open heart surgery? That is *awesome*. All the best as your recover from surgery, and I hope you’re back to great health asap!

  18. I’m sitting here in the UK realising that anything I write will be inadequate to express the awe I’m feeling. I comfort myself that this is a perfectly normal reaction to clicking a twitter link and finding oneself reading and viewing someone’s heart surgery. I was expecting cats!

  19. Jason

    Hello, I’m Jason.

    A good friend of mine linked me to your site. He did so because about 1 year ago I began my wonderful adventure down what I like to call “My heart hates me boulevard”, and he knows how much I enjoy reading about the topic and other people who have similar issues.

    I was diagnosed with non paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. I’m a fairly young man (32). My afib came on when I was in the hospital for stomach pains (After an exploratory surgery we found out that I had colitis). I was kept dehydrated for about a week prior, and as I learned a bit later, the dehydration coupled with a pretty nasty infection doesn’t make the heart a happy camper! Post-stomach surgery I was told to walk around…I made it about 150ft before I had my first experience with afib. My heart shot up to 240bpm. My chest felt like an out of sync team of toddlers was dancing on my chest. (Ok ok I’m rambling…)

    I just wanted to say that I know your how you feel with the afib. I was in and out of the hospital 5x before I got solid advice on what was going on (And I only got that after I changed doctors). My afib would come on randomly, I could be eating, sitting on the couch, or walking to the car. My symptoms would come on and hit me like a train, and then within 10 minutes stop (Much like yours). Ultimately I had surgery, cryoballoon ablation, which was not a guaranteed fix for me, and ultimately it did not fix my issue 100%. I’m still on a few medications to help with certain side-effects/problems (Mainly PAC’s).

    I wanted to stop for a moment and say ‘Thank you!’. I wanted to document my journey/issues (and in some respects I ranted about them on facebook, but I did not do nearly the record keeping that I wanted.

    I hope your recovery is speedy/safe and thorough. It sounds like you have an amazing support system! (Now it’s time for me to go back to reading through your blog)…

  20. Your blog is quite moving, and I commend you for your efforts! I had a sort-of semi-analogous experience in which a cat scratched me at work (I’m a veterinarian), triggering a massive heart attack a day later. After a week in ICU and a year’s recovery, I was back to 100% again. I hope you get back on your fee again soon.

  21. Justin

    I found your blog via the website BoingBoing. I had my aortic valve replaced two years ago and went through the same ‘fun’ of chest cracking. Even being relatively young for the surgery (34), the recovery sucked a lot. Not being able to lift things sucks. Keep up the good fight.

  22. Paul

    Summer, congratulations on your surgery and recovery. I heard about your BAVD via Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing.net and was pleased to see the positive results of the procedure. Your clear and concise writing has enabled me to better understand my 6 yr. old sons BAVD, for that I thank you. While my son is not in need of surgery at this time, if it ever does become an issue I will make sure that your blog is resource #1. Science rules!

  23. Joel

    Best of luck to you as you recover. I received a mechanical aortic valve and aortic aneurysm graft in July 2010 so I do know first hand the ups and downs of bouncing back from your surgery. I love that you are putting your experience out there for others to see and learn from.

  24. Shandy

    I too am in the lucky 1% and, as a woman, we should be less likely to have BAV. I’m 37 and found out a couple of years ago that I also have a bicuspid aortic valve. I’ve been very afraid of the surgery that I will probably inevitably have. I am to have it monitored every 5 years. Thanks for posting about this. I hope you are doing very well and you have taken some of the mystery out of it for me. I was wondering, does your chest cave in on your left side? That is sometimes part of the genetic defect associated with BAV and mine does. Anyway, thanks again for sharing!

  25. Ruth

    First, best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery. Beyond that, I think this blog is amazing, and good for you, following up on that vague long-ago diagnosis and not just letting it slide, as so many people would be inclined to do. Heal well, keep writing, and I look forward to following your progress here.

  26. Jayson

    Congratulation on a successful operation! I am a perfusionist (I run the heart and lung machine) in Texas. I enjoy reading the stories of people having surgery. It can be a little too easy to forget there is more to this than just what happens in the OR. Thank you for telling your story. Good luck with the rest of your recovery.

  27. Tina

    Dr. Ash, you are simply amazing. Looking forward to seeing you fully recovered, loving life and geeking out on Maddowblog.

  28. Telmea Story

    Amazing, thanks so much for doing this. Apparently I have an aortic aneurysm and will be undergoing similar surgery at some point.

  29. Alastair Burnett

    Best wishes from Vancouver. I have had heart problems for the past three years which have messed with my life but still here alive and kicking. Very interesting to read through your site. You write well and have a great attitude. Keep on keeping on.
    AB

  30. Andy Benson

    Hi Summer,

    I just really wanted to thank you for putting this out for the world to see. I suffer from a bicuspid aortic valve myself, and will probably face this situation myself. I have to admit I’m just terrified. I’m almost not sure I can do it, but I don’t really want to die either.

    I’m going to keep following you, and wishing you well. Hopefully seeing you soldier on through this will help make me man up and find the courage to try it myself. (lord knows my wife is desperate for something to help me get over my fears)

    Anyhow, thank you so so much, reading what you’re going through is terrifyingly scarey, but kind of comforting at the same time. (because seeing the details somehow makes them a bit less scary than when my imagination just starts going crazy)

    -abs

  31. Leo Pereira

    Hey there:

    Thanks for blogging all of this.

    I was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve and have something like this to look forward to in my future.

    It was scary to read all of your entries but I am glad that I did, and I am so grateful that you had the courage to share this with us all. It makes it a little less *unknown* for me, and also helps me try to prepare as best as possible for the recovery.

    In reading this, I am struck by your unflagging good spirits. While I’m sure it helps you, it helps us reading immeasurably more.

    Good luck, I look forward to the time when you’re running or bicycling or swimming and living your wonderful life to the fullest.

    Regards

    L. A. Pereira

  32. Anthony DiLemme

    My hero!
    Defective heart girl, I am defective heart boy. I also have Bicuspid Aortic Valve! I’ve known about it for most of my life, but lately have been getting more frequent echos and check ups. As the potential for surgery day being suggested by my doc lingers overhead, I am increasingly nervous about the whole matter. Your matter-of-factness is incredible. I just found your site today via boingboing, and I just can’t wait to look through the whole thing. Thank You!
    -Anthony D

  33. This blog of yours has been so enlightening & encouraging, yet at the same time very frightening. I was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm in NOV ’11. They say it is stable, but in my mind am already preparing to follow your path. Reading through the blog, feeling so many connections to you. My son was Stanford around the time you were there. I have experienced bouts of Afib throughout most of my adult life. And I know the pain of major surgery since I had a nephrectomy to donate a kidney to my daughter. (in the old days-flank incision-primitive pain management.).I wish you all the best. Sounds like you’re coming out the other side just great!

  34. Meredith

    Summer Ash, I now name you ‘Scientific Educator of the Year’. I don’t know if you have ever thought about developing any more health problems, but if you were to blog them so brilliantly then me and all the other doctors would be very happy. My top diseases would be Cystic Fibrosis, asthma, cerebral palsy as I’m sure my patients could learn a lot from your experiences of these conditions ; – )
    Seriously though, thinking of you and wishing you the speediest of recoveries. Hope we’ll see you soon.
    Love,
    Meredith

  35. Jon

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Summer. Seeing the photos of your procedure jogged my memory, and I thought you might be amused to see sketches I drew in medical school of a similar procedure.

    http://www.pjonwhite.net/aortic-root-replacement-sketches

    This was, of course, before iPhones 😉 Get better fast! Keep up the great posts!

  36. Kate Trulock

    Hi Dr. Ash. I’m a Maddow junkie and her tweet led me here. I had seen some previous posts from you on her blog to help me understand very cool stuff, most recently, the Transit of Venus. Thank you for sharing your journey. I love I when I learn new stuff – that’s why we read, right?!?! I wish you all the best in your recovery and send good healing vibes your way. Stay well!

  37. Emma

    When I just stumbled on your blog it brought tears to my eyes, more relief than anything, that someone could provide some real information about surgery that isn’t from a pamphlet.
    I’m 24 and having surgery for Hypertrophic Cardiomopathy (it’s quite different, but the same ‘big entrance’) in October. I was just wondering if there’s anything, object or preparations that you could not have lived without when you were in hospital?
    Thank you so much for writing all of this information and your experience in such a public place, it’s really helped me.
    x

  38. Hi Summer! I popped on over from Boing-Boing to read your facinating surgical journey and now your recovery.

    You write on the technical level I enjoy reading, frank, honest and humorous.

    Soon you should be ‘recovered’ though you’ll always have lil reminders in your life of this facinating experience.

    I appreciate your sharing your experience and will continue to follow this blog.

    ~ Paul.

  39. hi stanford girl, this is truly amazing what you blog here. almost fresh out of the op-room with your heart taken out, repaired and put back again, you write about it as if you are just back from a lovely bike ride. someone who can do such a thing deserves to make it up to 100 yrs at least and in good health. keep up the spirit.

    all across the ocean in the netherlands i stumbled onto your blog and being a heart patient myself i can only bow deep and lift my hat for so much positive energy.

    wishing you the very best,

    rederik

  40. Hey Summer,

    I loved reading your blog. I’ve known about my own heart defect Quadricuspid Aortic Valve Disease QAVD (I’m the .008%!) since 2010. I was told that I would need heart surgery at some point 1.5 years ago. 2 weeks ago I learned that I need it sooner, rather than later. I loved reading about your prep, getting your hair done. Voting on what song to have playing when you go into the OR. It is a great to see your positivity and I like the idea of donating your hair to pay it forward. Thanks for the information.

    Can’t wait for your next entry,
    Carolyn

  41. Natalie

    Hi, I’ve had three open heart surgeries myself! my left tricuspid valve is shot! I just want to let you know it’s so nice knowing other girls out there have the same problem as me! I haven’t read much of your blog cause I’m swamped with school work, but it seems like a great way to have a outlook on post surgery! I recommend Yoga when you fully recover, it has helped me a lot! okay, have a great day!

  42. Sarah C

    I want to thank you for sharing your journey. My mom is about to have an AAA repair. Your blog gave me a more realistic expectation and inspired me. Thanks again.

  43. Greta

    I finally found a blog that truly helps me! I am going in this Thursday morning for open heart surgery to repair a large Atrial Septal Defect. I’m 45, have 3 young kids, and I’m terrified. This blog helps me define my fears, face the fact that the time in the hospital is going to be an enormous challenge, but that I can follow this blog as I get through it to compare experiences and look forward to healing. Thank you thank you THANK. YOU. I will be referring your blog to others so that they can both read and see images of what will happen in OHS. I showed my kids the picture of your scar and they all said, “That’s not that bad Mom”. I’m so glad they won’t have the shock effect seeing mine. Big hug to you for being so brave and sharing your experience with others. Wish me luck on Thursday May 23rd!

  44. I just wanted to thank you. I love your blog and wish you all the best for your recovery.

    I’m also a proud owner of the zipper style scar, and the proudly the only ice hockey cyborg in the UK, having had a pacemaker fitted in 2004. Whereas my operation was many years ago and I’m lucky, I don’t remember it, my thoughts are with you going through rehab, after my pacemaker it was tough, frustrating and dull (not more swimming!) but so very worth it.

    Keep setting yourself goals and keep going. All us are on the same team in recovery!

    All the best.

    Paul

  45. lucyarnett

    Hi, my name is Lucy. I am going to have the same operation on Wednesday this week. Your blog has really helped me understand what I have to go through and I thank you very much for that. It has also inspired me to do my own blog and I was wondering how you are doing now and how your cardiac rehab is going.

    Best wishes,

    Lucy

  46. Anthony DiLemme

    Summer,
    I too am going through the same procedure in a few months. I followed you through your experience and was inspired. I decided to do the same thing and blog about it! So far it is a great release so I don’t bottle things up. check it out: http://robovalve.wordpress.com/

  47. kateamus

    Hi defective heart girl,

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. In a random string of occurrences a week after having my baby, I was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm (5.2 cm). Super weird, because there’s no history of heart problems or early death anywhere in my family, and I’m a thirty year old healthy woman. I’m scheduled for valve-sparing aortic repair in two weeks. Due to the similarity of our circumstances, I got a lot out of your blog, and can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. All I was finding before was pamphlets written by and for fat old men who had bypass surgery, and were mostly concerned with not being able to have McDonalds or play golf. Your notes through surgery and on your recovery both provided me with a reality check on what it would actually be like, and hope on what it could end up as. It makes me happy to see you doing so well. Thanks again.

    Kate in Austin

    • Hi Kate, I’m so glad this helps. Truthfully, I’m still recovering in some ways (despite that last entry). I would say the biggest thing I did was underestimate the time it takes to heal, both physically and emotionally. In some ways, I think I was conditioned to think it would go smoothly as people kept telling me how much easier it would be since I was young and otherwise healthy. I’m sure that’s true to some extent, but it definitely turned out to be a lot harder than I was expecting. I hope you have a good support system of friends and family! Please feel free to ping me if you have any additional questions or if you need to vent after surgery. Take care and good luck!

      • kateamus

        Thanks for the reply, DHG! My surgeon is leading me to believe the same – he told me that I wouldn’t know I had heart surgery in three months. I’m not calling him a liar, but I don’t know that I believe him. He said I shouldn’t lift over 20 lbs during recovery, which my son weighs less than, but something tells me that I won’t be able to pick him up for at least few weeks afterwards. I’m not a runner like you, but I’ve always been strong and the activities I enjoy are high-impact (Krav Maga, Vinyasa yoga, Crossfit, etc), so I’m worried about being able to resume those. Luckily, my husband can work from home during my recovery, and my mom and dad will be staying with us for the first couple weeks, and sporadically afterwards.

        Emotionally, this is so isolating. I have a newborn, so I can’t really go out and live it up before the surgery. I JUST got done recovering from my C-Section, where I got cut in half crosswise, and now I’m preparing to get cut in half lengthwise. It’s heartening to read young peoples’ stories like yours, but I feel even removed from those. Don’t get me wrong, I’m SUPER grateful to have had the OB that I did – if I’d pushed through a vaginal delivery, I probably would have burst my aneurysm and died. My son provides so much distraction and motivation to recover from the surgery. I’m so bummed that I won’t be able to pick him up, or barely hold him for weeks after the surgery. However, I feel like I just went through a major change becoming a mother, and now I’m about to go through another. My friends and family are trying so hard to be empathetic, but they can’t possibly understand.

        Phew. Now, I have some practical questions about recovery, and I can’t seem to figure out how to PM you via WordPress, so here goes. How long was it until you felt mostly normal again? I know this is subjective, so I won’t ask about specifics, but just generally. When did you feel like yourself? Hair: is long or short easier? I know washing it myself will be nearly impossible, but being able to pull it up in a ponytail seems preferable. Bras: I HATEHATEHATE going without a bra, but I have no idea what to do about this with the healing scar and limited range of motion. Suggestions? Anything you can recommend I pick up or do beforehand to make recovery easier?

    • Justin

      Hi Kate in Austin,

      I’m 38 now I had my aortic valve replaced in 2010. I do want to reinforce what defectiveheartgirl said about underestimating the recovery time. My doctor was so super excited to have a young and healthy person and kept telling me that I would be back on my feet in days.

      While true that I was walking a day after surgery and out of the hospital in 4 days, the rest of my recovery was brutal. I was tired all the time and felt like crap. Since they split my breastbone, I couldn’t turn on the facet because it was too far of a reach for two weeks or so. It’s hard, as much mental as anything else. Don’t let your doctors convince you that it will be a smooth cakewalk, because that mis-set expectation made things *very* hard for me.

      Good luck with your surgery!

      • kateamus

        Justin, thank you for your insight. I’ve been lead to believe the same by my surgeon, and have only recently come to realize that this isn’t going to be a breeze. Any other specific activities or motions that you recall being difficult or impossible? Which ones became easier first, or, what made you realize you were healing?

        • Justin

          I saw your note about having a new kid. Congratulations on that!

          If they are going to crack your sternum (not all procedures require it), then basically anything which requires extending an arm to the side or using your pectoral muscles for stabilization is going to be affected. Push ups? No way. Reaching my arms out to the side in the way you’d make a snow angel? Nope. I was very excited when a month after surgery I was able to lift a gallon of milk. That should give you some sense of how much it impacted me.

          The other thing you should talk to your doctor about is what level of physical exertion you can do after surgery. For me with my valve, I cannot do crossfit or any other activities which are massive strains on the heart. I can do cross-training and weightlifting, but when I do weights, I should never go to a weight where I can only do one rep. I need to be doing 10-15 reps, rather than loading up the weight so that my muscles fail after one rep, as that would stress my heart too much.

          Good luck with the surgery!

          • kateamus

            They’re only cracking the lower half of my sternum, and my valve will be left intact, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. The doc said that once I’ve recovered, I should have no physical limitations, but I suppose we’ll see about that. Thanks again for your insight; I’m glad to hear from people in our situation who’ve regained their lives 🙂

  48. Joe Rosenthal

    Here is a little good news, I am a 60 year old male and very active. I had my aortic valve and part of my aorta replaced two and a half years ago. I was out of the Hospitol in 4 days and back hitting golf balls in 6 weeks. Within 6 months I was playing tennis and now there is no limitation and my life is so much better. All I can say is I read,lots of blogs and several testimonials on the net. I was so scared and thought this was the beginning of the end. I am happy to report if the surgeon does a good job and you really work at rehab a 100% recovery is possible and you should expect nothing less. The first month is the worst, after 6 weeks you can drive and every day it gets better to 6 months for 90%. A full 100% took almost a year for me. Good luck think positive and be sure to push yourself. The surgery is truly a miracle.

  49. Justin Martinez

    Summer, I don’t know if you remember me but I was the surgical technologist (scrub nurse) in the operating room working with Dr. Stewart and I talked to you before your procedure. I have thought about you many times since your surgery as you were definitely one of my most memorable patients thus far in my operating room career. I don’t get to follow up very often on patients whom I participate in their care in the operating room. Hope you are well. Feel free to email me anytime.

    • Hi Justin!

      Of course I remember you. I’m so grateful to you for answering all my questions and also facilitating my OR photo shoot. 🙂

      Apologies for not replying sooner. Been going though some more stuff that I’m writing about now, but I would love to touch base. I don’t seem to have your email though…

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