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  1. #1
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    Riding after Open Heart Surgery`

    In July, I had open heart surgery to #1 replace a congentially deformed aortic valve, #2 to replace an aneurism in my aorta with dacron hose, and #3 to perform a "maze" procedure to eliminate atrial fibrillation.

    In April, I rode a bit over 500 miles, which was my PR. Then they told me I was at risk of dying from the aneurism, so I backed off.

    I think I am healed. Today, I managed 25 miles, a bit slower than pre-surgery, but it was windy.

    How many of you folks have come back after Open Heart Surgery (OHS) and how long did it take you to get to pre-surgery levels? I'm a few weeks short of 58, by the way.

    Actually, I'm just pretty much glad to be alive and back on the bike, but I keep wondering what the future holds.

    John

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    I've never had heart surguery, but I've had three major surgeries for cancer. What I know is that it's much better to be healthy before surgery than sickly. I suggest you get as healthy as you can, because if they've got to go back in, you will come through much better if you are in shape.

  3. #3
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    I had bypass surgery 7 years ago when I was 55. Before that, I rode bikes only occasionally and a 5 mile ride was a big event. I took the sport up seriously about 5 year ago and am on pace to ride 3,000 miles for second year in a row. In my case, it has been a long climb to get to where I do what I do today.
    I also work out 3 times a week in the cardio rehab gym at the local hospital with other cardio patients. One thing I have discovered in conversations with rehab buddies is that everybody has a different recovery rate and threshold for the amount of exercise they can do. These conversations are a huge wealth of information - some you can apply personally, most of it not.
    Ask your Doctor what he recomends for you and tell him what you want to do. Most Doctors today recomend all the excercize you can do (within reason as you recover from the surgery). Sounds like your surgery was more serious than bypass.
    You will come back and probably stronger, just takes longer than we like for it to.
    Ride all you can (with the Doctor's ok) but don't overdo it.

  4. #4
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    No personal knowledge here, but one of my riding buddies is a cardiologist with 30+ years of experience. I met him almost 20 years ago when I went into chronic atrial fib, and one of the reasons I've stayed with him so long is that he was a marathon runner back then, as I was, and we both moved to cycling at about the same time when our knees gave out. After the usual disclaimer ("Every patient is different, and you should follow your doctor's recommendations"), he's a fierce advocate of exercise for nearly everybody he treats. He called me a wuss when I did a couple of centuries in my early 50s but didn't go for the double option on one of them, and he got another friend of mine up and walking, then eventually jogging, at age 68 after a huge heart attack and surgery. The guy died a few years later of unrelated causes, but I know his last five or six years were better because he was active.
    In my case, which is minor compared to yours, he's put no restrictions at all on my activity, and I seesaw between riding 300 miles a week and sitting on my butt for weeks at a time, just out of laziness. I look better, feel better and all my tests are better when I'm active.

  5. #5
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Had a bypass 8 years ago and asked the doc about exercising- He did not really understand so it was suck and see time. Only thing he told me was to take it easy and if any tightness or signs appeared- Not only stop exercising but call the Ambulance straight away. Went back into him after 11 weeks and told him I was up to 40 mile rides and HE had a heart attack after he had layed into me for doing so much.

    Take it steady- Follow the docs advice- but ignore it if you feel fine, but Listen to the body.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

  6. #6
    bobkat
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    A valve replacement and a thoracic aneurism and a MAZE is way different from the garden variety bypass. I'd follow your cardiologist's advice.

  7. #7
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobkat View Post
    A valve replacement and a thoracic aneurism and a MAZE is way different from the garden variety bypass. I'd follow your cardiologist's advice.
    Definitely is but That is why you have to listen to your body. It will tell you if you are doing too much. And as the OP is riding 25 miles 3 months after surgery- I think he is listening to it.

    Apart from the heart- The main problem I had was in the Body. The chest surgery made me adjust my position on the bike and eventually- I had to get Front Suspension on the MTB. That was once I got some fitness behind me and started to push a bit harder- About 1 year after the surgery.

    It is getting the body fit enough that is one problem. That comes with exercise and more exercise. The other is that you will probably be on Beta Blockers. They will slow your heart rate and you will not be able to push yourself as hard as you want to. They will keep the heart rate down and are necessary evil for a while. Do not decide to come off them without talking to the Doc. He advised me to come off slowly by cutting the Dosage and that took a year after surgery before I was off them. Then there are the Mental problems that come in. Are you able to ride as hard as you used to? Will you cause any damage to the heart? The way I looked at it was that I now had a reconditioned Heart. Not as good as new one- but definitely better than before the op.

    The only thing that is slowing me down now is Age. I am slowing down- I am looking for the easy routes up the hills- but as to me not riding as much as I used to- Thanks to fear of losing the use of my legs by sitting in front of the computer waiting for the server to speed up- I am riding more and still getting the smiles per mile factor working.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 67walkon View Post
    Actually, I'm just pretty much glad to be alive and back on the bike, but I keep wondering what the future holds.

    John

    I most certainly can understand that. Take each day for what it gives you, and with any luck and continued riding, the future may hold more than you imagine. You have my respect for climbing back on the bike after such an ordeal.
    Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain, that's when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

  9. #9
    Senior Member skiffrun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    ... getting the body fit enough that is one problem. ...
    Most of the following is a bit (or more) off the target subject:

    Thankfully, I have not had the medical conditions. But one of my younger brother's has. And my mom. Each with the heart / bypass type stuff. I vividly recall the phone conversation in which my brother-in-law told me that "your mother needs a new heart, but she is too sick / her heart is too weak to get on the wait list for the wait list."

    Fast forward 3 years, and mom calls to tell me the doctors say her heart will now outlast most of the rest of her body. Amazing what working up to walking (mom claims up to 21 miles, but I suspect prob not more than 10 most weeks) a few miles each week, and adjusting the diet can accomplish.

    Fast forward another 11 years (most of which were not expected at the time of the mentioned phone call), and mom just had a pace-maker / defib installed after a scary evening. Doctor told her to keep walking, but wait three days after she got home to resume ... with shorter distances, of course. Tuesday night, another brother took her to my nephew's high school X-country meet. She promised to stay at the shelter that was near the start / finish and which the course looped past a couple times. Since the rest of the family is 1000 miles away, I don't know the results, but no one has called with any bad news.

    One of my sayings is "first, you have to get fit enough so that then you can begin to get into shape."

  10. #10
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    Hey John,
    I had two of your 3 procedures... Aortic valve and Dacron ascending aorta along with a single bypass. It has been three and a half years. I ride but not as robustly since I do not want my BPM too high. I am 71 so try to stay below 135 or140. Main problem is I went on Lipitor for a year after surgery and got torso muscle damage so much stress on my torso muscles makes them ache and even makes me feel "sick" with nausea. Anyone else have a similar experience? Jim B

  11. #11
    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    OT, but Jim asked.. Statins are so harnful to so many, I am shocked they are still available. I have 3 family members that suffered muscular degeneration and liver function issues all related to Lipitor use.

  12. #12
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    John,
    My experience was pretty similar. Had the aortic valve replaced with a mechanical and the aorta wrapped to prevent a blowout about 5 years ago when I was 54. Thinking about Holbrook's recent death scares me some when I think about what might have been if they didn't discover my problem. I ride three or four days a week when the weather permits, play racquetball and weights on the other days. Just saw my cardiologist last week. He gave me a slap on the back and said keep on going. He doesn't limit my activities at all. I worry some about being on coumadin for the rest of my life, but it beats the option. Good luck. Larry

  13. #13
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    I had quadruple bypass in Dec of 09. I have put 4100 miles on my bike so far. I have been spinning mostly during the last 3 months because of my schedule. I did 1 century ride and 4 metric century rides. I am feeling well. But I put 3200 miles on my bike in 2009. I took a routine stress test and failed it.

  14. #14
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    John, I had a pig valve but not the regular kind of pig valve. Mine was a " full root" pig valve meaning the surgeon replaced the whole section of aorta that contained the valve with the corresponding section from a pig.
    It has been 3.5 years. My biking seems fine but I take care not to let my bpm's get too high. I try to keep below 135. As I said in my earlier respond, I think the Lipitor I took for the first year after surgery did damage to the muscles in my torso. Anyone reading this should use extreme caution in using ant statin. In fact I advise against it. Some report using statins for several years and then the muscle damage began and some suspect they can lead to Parkinson's.
    Now if I do anything that tends to put much tension on the muscles in my torso -- either gym machines or yard work, I get real sore torso and even feel nausea and flu like aches. Jim B

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