I realized that I haven’t shared some of the supports that I have been given or provided with to help my recuperation after major heart surgery.
In trying to help others understand what they could face in their own journey with heart disease and surgery, I think it is important to share some practical tips on getting through it all.
Magic heart cushion
Well it is shaped like a heart and is bright red. For me, it carries a lot of magic too as this small cushion has been what has got me through some of the pain and awkwardness from moving around or shifting positions.
They teach you to clutch the cushion to your chest as you move or lie down and later on, travel in a vehicle. It serves a dual purpose to protect your chest from any incidental impact but more critically it is what it does to break habits that makes it magical.
When your chest has been opened up you cannot move around or twist in order to allow for the incisions to heal properly. They teach you to not use your hands or arms to assist any movement or change position as this would also pull on the healing chest muscles. Try doing that when your life long habit has been to use your arms to pull or push yourself up, to roll over or to cushion yourself when lying down.
So the magic in the cushion is that it occupies your hands and arms as you clutch it to your chest and in so doing you direct your muscles in your lower abdomen and legs to take the load and shift your position.
I would never have thought that this 51 year old man would be loud and proud about a bright red soft cushion in the shape of a heart but this has helped me deal with the related pain of moving, has helped me sleep and has helped me learn to break old habits.
A life saver!
I also thought I would share some of the advice on rehabilitation exercises that they get you to do during the first 6 weeks following surgery.
These were actually challenging to do at the start as your chest is tight and constricted and can be painful. The advice I was given was to go slow and work up a routine of 4 of each exercise leading to a session of ten exercises when able.
These worked for me to start to loosen me up again.
Shrug up and down & roll shoulders forward & then backwards. Repeat.
Neck stretches. Roll your chin to your chest, look right and then look left. Repeat.
Rotate your elbows in circular movements, forward and then backwards and repeat.
For torso twists, sit up straight, clasp your arms across your chest and then twist right and then left. Repeat
For side stretches, clasp your arms across your chest, lean to the right, return to centre and then lean to the left. Repeat.
These have obviously been designed by physiotherapists and fitness experts and they work.
As I am writing this now, some seven weeks after surgery, I have noted persistent chest and back pain but not near my incisions. This appears to be related to extensive sitting and lack of upper torso movement, ironically.
I have therefore brought this exercise routine back in to my day to day routine and it is helping to stretch some of those muscles that have got lazy with all the immobility I have been forced to do.
Hope this helps you?