Bypass surgery. What to expect?

nhbasketsFebruary 26, 2014

Yesterday we were told that DH needs to have bypass surgery. He's now waiting to be transferred from our local NH hospital to Mass General in Boston. We've been told surgery will probably take place on Friday, as they need to flush out a blood thinner med he takes from his system.

I'm finding the waiting and unknown is driving me crazy.

If anyone has experience with this, I would love to know what to expect. I'm totally confident with MGH, it's the recovery at home that I'm clueless about. I have a difficult time asking for help, but I'm guessing I'll need to get over that.

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Annie Deighnaugh

I can't help you with specifics, but I can send you comfort and courage thoughts your way. Be happy that they have a diagnosis and a plan of action and all they have to do now is execute the plan. And be thankful that they are now so skilled with these by-pass surgeries that they are completely common place now. I'm sure everything will work out fine.

Y'know there are times in our lives when we are called upon to provide help to others, and there are times when we need others to help us. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There's more available than you think and it's important to learn to receive as well as give. As you will be the caregiver, it's important that you take care of yourself too so you can continue to provide the necessary support to your DH.

Hang tough!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:23PM
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You'll be surprised how quickly they get him up to walk and then kick him out of the hospital....home....for YOU to care for him! Go out and buy him a cuddly Teddy Bear to 'hug' while he's up walking....he'll be doing his fair share of that. He might need help putting his shoes on, or whatever takes bending forward...but will come home with instructions. He will be sore for a bit, but that will subside. You will both be amazed at his recovery and how much better he will feel. Good you both.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:23PM
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Ditto SC. My FIL had this and by the time he came home, he was doing quite well. I do know that he started the cardiac rehab program sometime after that, but I can't remember how long. Upon being cleared after surgery, I am sure. I remember he was very mobile when he came home and pretty able to do whatever, just had to take things easier and slower. When my grandfather had the same surgery, his vein was taken from his leg and he had more problems (pain,etc.) with his leg than his chest.

Diet will probably change. FIL adopted a low-fat lifestyle after his surgery. During his cardiac rehab, he and my MIL met with a nutritionist as part of the program. He also started walking daily.

Take care!


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:29PM
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There should be a support group for bypass patients that Mass general can hook you up with.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 7:24PM
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Oh, my, and all this in the middle of your house sale and move to the new house. (Fortunately, I think you're still in your old one, right? What a stroke of luck how that worked out so well!)

Anyway, My DH had complex heart surgery done at MGH two years ago. We went there from upstate NY. They are really expert at MGH and he has recovered very well.

Did some one tell you that there are places you can stay nearby so you don't have to travel home each night? I chose to go home - 4.5 hours, each way - because I needed to get away and home with our animals, but for many people who wouldn't be as stressed out as I am in a big city atmosphere, staying would be loads easier.

And even just going in the night before and staying will make your day-of-surgery start less fraught because they don't make much accommodation for long travel distances.

I've sent you my email addy, in case you want to chat.

Recovering from by-pass can seem like a slog, but I think you'll both be fine in the end.

I'll keep you in my thoughts. MGH, is really tops for heart care and your husband will be in very good hands..


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 11:39PM
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I don't have any first hand experience with this surgery so my comment is anecdotal. Quite a few people told me that after their fathers, specifically fathers, had bypass surgery the men became much more emotional and demonstrative. Not permanently, but during the recuperation period. Previously stoic men were weepy and overwhelmed with love and emotion for their families - and the scary part for some of my friends - they expressed it instead of repressing it. One friend told me the doctor told them to expect this temporary change in behavior as it's a common side effect of major surgery. It's certainly a nice side effect but it can be disconcerting if it's greatly out of character.

Good luck to both you and your husband. Take advantage of any support groups because you'll learn caregiver tips. Don't hesitate to ask for help from family and friends.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:08AM
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My father has major open heart surgery on Valentines day. Double bypass plus valve replacement, repair aortic aneurism and a few other "fixes". He spent 10 days in hospital, just went home Tuesday. Surgery lasted six hours, bypass alone will be shorter. Agree about the emotional part. My dad had been warned by a friend, but was still taken aback by how emotional he was. He isn't used to tearing up!

Day 2 and day 3 were the most difficult for chest pain. My dad was also confused upon waking for the first few days, not remembering where he was and trying to get out of bed alone. He was over that by day 6 or 7.

Sleeping was an issue, a private room and a radio help isolate and drown out the irregular hospital sounds.

My dad has been taken aback by how weak, and more to the point, how nervous he was, post surgery. Although he is 80, he is incredibly fit (we were hiking in Sardinian mountains last spring and he walked 5km the day before the surgery). Although he was up and walking quickly at the hospital, we had to keep reminding him that he needs at least six weeks before he'll start to feel more confident and more like himself. I think he felt he'd be back to his old self in a week! Not the case when your breast bone has been broken!

Good luck tomorrow!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:42AM
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My father had heart bypass surgery several years ago. He was a fit 80 years old at the time. My sister who is an RN (who previously ran an ICU/CCU unit and now works home healthcare with this kind of patient) , and then one of my brothers, flew down to Florida to help Mom out. The sometimes extreme emotional reactions that Hhireno and Sochi mentioned were symptoms that Dad had, too. Both my sis and my DH (a physician) stressed to Dad that this was normal, expected and it was very ok to feel that way . . . and to express those feelings. Men, especially, tend to feel overwhelmed, guilty, weak and/or embarrassed by these feelings and it is you and your family's job, along with his close friends, to let him know that these are normal and ok . . . and not to react in a way that he may interpret as shocked or embarrassed. I can't stress this enough.

As Sochi also mentioned, disorientation when sleeping is another thing my family had to deal with Dad, post-surgery. He would wake up several times a night thinking it was daytime and try to head outside for a walk, or want to know why everyone wasn't up because he thought it was time for breakfast. With Dad, my sister and then my brother when he flew in to relieve her, ended up having to sleep on the living room sofa in order to catch Dad before he left the house or tried to start cooking at 2AM.

Dad also felt more comfortable sleeping in his recliner for his first week or so home.

He also expressed a fear of going to sleep because he was afraid he might not wake up again.

I'm telling you all this not to scare you but just to make you aware of what many, but certainly not all, people experience after this kind of surgery. It is stressful enough for him and for you and because of that, you both need to be prepared. I also encourage you both to join a hospital run and a local support group of others going through this surgery. One more ( strong) suggestion: have a family member there to help you, especially that first week he is back home. For him and for you! Best wishes to you both!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:25AM
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Just wanted to wish you good luck. ( my mom had it years ago and she was much older at the time- it went well but I am sure it has changed so much).

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:48AM
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HH - I meant to mention that and forgot! We were told my FIL could become depressed or emotional that it had something to do with being put on the machine during the surgery. (The machine that takes over for your heart at a point during the surgery). In my FIL's case, he was not emotional and I don't remember him seeming depressed but he was a bit quieter, etc. than normal.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 12:40PM
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How frightening for both of you. I will keep you and your DH in my thoughts and prayers. A good friend had this surgery, and became very depressed afterward. Apparently this is sometimes a side effect of this surgery, so you should be aware to watch for it.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 6:23PM
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Thank you all for your kind words and insight on what to expect. DH is finally in an ambulance on his way to MGH. They didn't have a bed available until tonight. We expect that surgery will now occur on Monday. I plan to go down for the day tomorrow and Saturday, then stay over night on Sunday. At least that's the plan at this point.

I was glad that I was able to bring our dog, Bingo, into the hospital to see DH before he left. Both were very happy to see each other.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:48PM
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The surgery will go great. Love this pic of your DH & Bingo. Will keep you both in my prayers.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:56PM
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NHBaskets, good luck to you both! You will be in my prayers this weekend. I think there is some bad weather headed this way for Monday so you might want to plan to stay.

Love the photo of Bingo and DH!

Beth P.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:02AM
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I will keep you all in my thoughts. Love the photo of him with Bingo. Even though you are in great hands medically at MGH, it is still a big surgery.

One thing to add is see if he qualifies for outpatient cardiac rehab once he is discharged from the hospital. Medicare (if he is getting Medicare) will pay for 36 outpatient sessions as may your private insurance. Really try to push for this. It will help him improve his physical functioning, and the exercise will be good for his mental outlook. I am actually covering the phases and benefits of cardiac rehab in my class today.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:23AM
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Thinking of you, NHBaskets. Love that picture of your husband and Bingo!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Good luck, that is one sweet picture: such good progress was made in bypass surgery in the last 20 years.
Keep us posted when u can.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 12:57PM
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Another update. I went down for the day today. We live about one hour away. Met the surgeon. The plan now is to do surgery on Wednesday morning. Learned that it will be a triple bypass. DH has had some chest pains today, so they put him on a nitro drip. If the pains continue they will do surgery earlier, as in this weekend. I planned to stay home tomorrow to do laundry and catch up on other things. Going down on Sunday with my son and SIL. Will be good to have company.

While I was there today I met numerous people. All were very nice and willing to answer any questions. DH's neurologist for his sleep apnea came by as did the cardiologist for his pacer replacement that occurred in January.

On my way home I stopped at our local Ethan Allen store and ordered a recliner for DH. We had been there recently and he had sat in one he liked. It's available in their quick ship program, so we could have it in 2-4 weeks. They have the exact chair on their floor so we were talking about getting that until the new one came in. I've never purchased furniture on a whim like this, but he kept mentioning today he would like a recliner. Their sale ended today so that sealed the deal.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:04PM
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Thanks for checking in! A recliner is a great idea...sometimes it is comfy post-surgery .

Will be thinking of you!

Beth P.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:04PM
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