The period after heart surgery is important for every patient. The healing period looks different for every patient and for each surgery type, but there are a few things that you can expect during this time.
What You Might Experience
While everyone's recovery is unique, there are many experiences and situations that are common to nearly everyone.
You may have fatigue after the surgery, but that doesn't always translate into better sleep. You may have trouble getting to sleep and sleeping through the night for a number of reasons. One of the common reasons for this is some pain from the surgery. Taking the medication as prescribed at regular intervals allows you to keep much of the pain away. A Heart Hugger is another solution to help combat pain after heart surgery.
Another problem may be the stress of the situation or the disruption of your normal daily and nightly routines. Sometimes lingering effects from the anesthesia can also contribute to this problem.
After your surgery, you may have too much fatigue to be interested in having a meal. You may not feel hungry and simply want to put off eating until you feel like it. This is fine at first, but it usually isn't recommended for patients to go without meals for days after the surgery.
Part of heart surgery recovery is to gain your strength back, and this can't be done if you aren't eating. If you don't feel like eating a full meal, try having a few smaller meals instead. Make sure that anything you eat is nutritious rather than empty calories that won't help you to heal. A diet that has plenty of protein and is low in salt, fat, and cholesterol is generally recommended.
When planning for heart surgery, patients often think about the physical effects without preparing for the emotional effects it is likely to have. The anesthesia, pain medication and the stress of the surgery often lead to a highly emotional state during heart surgery recovery. Your emotions will need time to heal just as your body does. If you are upset, afraid, angry or lonely during your recovery, remember that these are all very normal emotional reactions and that they will get better as your body does.
Part of your emotional healing will be your emotional support system. Don't be afraid to lean on family members and close friends when you are upset, sad or otherwise feeling negative emotions during your heart surgery recovery. It can also help to get back into the routine you had before the surgery. You may not be able to do everything yet, but you can enjoy a hobby, take a short walk, wear the clothing you like and do other things that make you feel like yourself again.
You have multiple options for managing pain
Pain management is a big part of the recovery process. Although your doctor may prescribe opioids, it's important to remember that there are additional options--like sternum support harnesses which are wearable devices that compress your chest, protect your incision, and keep you comfortable while you move and breathe.
Questions about Recovering from Heart Surgery
1. When Can I Go Home?
Following surgery, it will take up to a week before you can leave the hospital. After four or five days of rest, you should be able to walk around and go up and down stairs. Patients do not leave the hospital with pain medication any stronger than Motrin or Tylenol so by the time you can go home, you will still be sore but not in an excruciating amount of pain.
2. When Can I Return to My Normal Activities?
After you return home from the hospital, you need to give your body a week to rest. Allow yourself to take naps and limit exercise to short walks around the block. Stretching your arms before and after walking is also a great way to gain flexibility and strength. Once you get into the third week of recovery, you can add in small muscles exercises.
3. What Should I Eat During Heart Surgery Recovery?
The most important thing you can do for your body is eating heart-healthy foods. Beneficial eating choices include:
- High fiber foods to normalize bowel movements
- Fruits and vegetables to increase vitamins and mineral intake
- Low-fat dairy products for protein and calcium
- High-calorie foods to give the body energy to heal itself
Heart surgery recovery includes some time in the hospital, but how you take care of yourself at home is critical. Introduce normal activities into your schedule slowly and nourish your body with the right food. To learn more about how Heart Hugger can help you recover, call us today!
If you or a loved one are in the recovery phase, a Heart Hugger may be helpful. Find out more about what these can do and how a patient may benefit from one.