Posted by Heart Hugger on May 25, 2021 7:50:59 AM
If you are caring for someone after open-heart surgery, or if you are preparing for your own recovery, here are some tips and things you need to know to help you take ownership of the recovery process and help shape the very best outcome.
Taking care of Their recovery
The six to eight weeks after open-heart surgery can be the most challenging, but healing time depends on many factors, like the patient's health prior to surgery and how well the patient cares for themselves during recovery.
Follow Up Appointments
In general, the patient will have multiple follow-up appointments, so make sure that the support system or caregivers are aware of the dates and locations of appointments to assist. The patient's discharge plan may or may not be similar to others, so it’s good to have everyone interested in their care on the same page!
As for the incision, it’s very important to follow the discharge instructions regarding care. It’s normal for some straw-colored fluid to be discharged during healing, but make sure that the patient or caregiver contacts the doctor if they experience redness, warmth, puffiness, a change in the drainage, pain or tenderness, or a fever above 100°F. This could indicate a possible infection anywhere from several days to even weeks after discharge.
Patients may also experience a clicking sensation in the sternum that can be quite alarming, but keep in mind that the sternum bone is also healing, and this will take time. If the patient experiences acute tightness, pulling, clicking, or grinding sensation, they should cease the activity that brought it about and contact their doctor if it continues or becomes unbearable.
Give Their body what it needs to heal
The patient's body has gone through something very major, and it needs time to heal. It is normal to feel exhausted while recovering from surgery, and conversely, it’s also normal to experience insomnia. Know that the body is hard at work healing from the ordeal of surgery and that the discomfort, pain, and all-around disruption will require some patience and time to overcome.
After open-heart surgery, the patient may not feel like eating much at all, which can be disconcerting if you are a caregiver. But their appetite will recover along with the patient, and there are some things you can do to give their body the nutrients it needs. Focus on eating small meals throughout the day instead of two or three heavy ones. Limit salt and fat intake by steering clear of restaurants, take-out, or frozen meals (even though they are convenient for patients and caregivers!)
Every area of one’s life is impacted before, during, and after major surgery, so it’s normal to experience moodiness, anxiety, depression, fear, or anger as you heal. While you are allowing yourself this time to heal and nurture your body, it’s also important to allow yourself the time and attention you need to recover psychologically as well.
Getting back to normal life
After open-heart surgery, life will never be quite the same; in fact, it might be even better! As the patient continues to heal, their doctor and other individuals involved with care will be able to recommend when they will be able to start exercising, traveling, returning to work, or taking on more strenuous recreational activities. If you are someone who is caring for a loved one after open-heart surgery, one of the most important things you can do is encourage walking (when approved), a daily routine, personal care, and self-care for yourself as well.
If you are feeling hesitant about the stability of the incision or would benefit from some peace of mind as a caregiver, you may want to consider discussing a support harness like Heart Hugger or post-operative bra. The support and comfort that can come from either of these great options can help speed your recovery by reducing anxiety, perception of pain, and by stabilizing the incision and sternum as well.