“Don’t lift anything heavier than a fork”: really bad advice after heart surgery

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Almost 200 years ago, newspapers reported on the outcome of a surgical amputation performed in London by Robert Liston (apparently known as the “fastest knife in the West End” – because speed was important in pre-anaesthesia 1829). Here’s how this was described:

“The operation was successful, but the patient died.”

We don’t know much about the unfortunate patient who went under the knife that day (thus making that ironic description famous in medical circles). But fast forward through the centuries to a duo of modern researchers who wondered why some patients who are undergoing successful cardiac surgery end up having poor outcomes, too.       .                 

Continue reading ““Don’t lift anything heavier than a fork”: really bad advice after heart surgery”

Heading home tips following open heart surgery

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters 

Open heart surgery.   Is there any medical procedure in history so surrounded by genuine awe and surreal mystique? Cracking open the sternum to reveal the beating heart beneath, and then somehow trusting a heart-lung machine to temporarily take over the jobs of both the human heart and lungs – now, that’s heroic! But when it comes to explaining just how that happens, few of us might guess that the most compelling and straightforward description comes not from the world of medicine, but from the venerable magazine, Popular Mechanics.
Continue reading “Heading home tips following open heart surgery”

The delayed ‘Trauma Drama’ of heart disease

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Summer Ash is a self-professed space cadet. She’s an astrophysicist at Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy in New York City, where she serves as the Director of Outreach.* Five years ago, she underwent open heart surgery after she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm (that’s when the tissue of the aorta balloons out dangerously). This condition was likely linked to a congenital heart defect Summer was born with called a bicuspid aortic valve. About 99% of people, she explains, are born with a normal tricuspid aortic valve (meaning three leaflets in the valve), but she was one of the 1% born with only two. With her kind permission, I’m running her story here as it was originally published in 2014 on her blog, Defective Heart Girl Problems.
Continue reading “The delayed ‘Trauma Drama’ of heart disease”

Learning to love your open heart surgery scar

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Scar image: Defective Heart Girl

Each surgical scar on my body tells a story.  The big long one that tracks across my lower right abdomen tells of an appendix that ruptured on my 16th birthday – and the subsequent month I spent in hospital seriously ill with peritonitis and creepy drainage tubes.  Two scars on my right knee tell of surgery after an unfortunate slide down a big pile of gravel. Another meandering zig zag tells of a nasty piece of broken glass once embedded into my left palm, its evidence exquisitely masked by the skilled plastic surgeon who sewed my hand back up.

Women who have survived open heart surgery sometimes have traumatic stories to tell about their very noticeable chest scars, and mixed emotions about whether “to hide or not to hide” this evidence of their cardiac history, particularly in the early weeks and months post-op. Continue reading “Learning to love your open heart surgery scar”