Archive | July, 2010

Week 4 Recovery

26 Jul

Four weeks into my recovery and I seem to have slowed. Not being able to compare myself to others, I often find it hard to measure my progress. I have spent time on the internet, searching for others who have gone through open heart surgery to then return to exercise. There was so much to read! Endless stories of those who had conquered their dreams after heart surgery, transplant or even near death experiences. My thoughts soon drifted to longer term goals i.e. an Ironman and I have begun to plan my steps. Having something amazing to aim for is the ultimate motivation when feeling sorry for yourself.

My daily walks keep me active and although things aren’t moving as fast as I’d like, my body is teaching me the importance of patience. For huge achievements, there must be an element of sacrifice, pain and determination. The process itself must offer some enjoyment and at regular intervals you should take stock of what you have achieved. Every month, I write a journal which details my successes in my personal life, in business and in my yearly aims. I also review my targets set the previous month and highlight any ongoing or new areas for improvement. When meticulously going over all your monthly actions, you will realise what can be achieved.

Week 3 Recovery

16 Jul

2 weeks ago, my first walk was for seven minutes around the block. My longest walk is now 60 minutes! How quickly the body adapts when it is pushed a little further everyday.

Cardiac rehabilitation is something that has always interested me for both professional and personal reasons. As a nurse, I enjoy cardiology and learning about the heart. After any form of cardiac event (e.g. a heart attack) or heart surgery, a programme of rehabilitation is offered. I completed my dissertation on this subject, focusing on the care offered in the community and accessibility to patients. During my nursing career, I have attended several courses relating to the heart and this has given me a deeper insight into my condition. Not necessarily a good thing as I believe it is true what they say about nurses, they make the worst patients!

On a personal level, my family history of heart disease has always concerned me about the future of my health. My unspoken mission appears tom have been ensuring I take control of my health with healthy eating and physical fitness. Genetics of course have a part to play in determining illnesses in life. Environmental factors have a huge influence on your overall wellbeing. Given the opportunity to try to prevent a cardiac event, wouldn’t you like to do all you can, be it a life long exercise commitment, eating unhealthy foods in moderation and avoiding stress. This is certainly my aim!

My love for maintaining a healthy lifestyle has driven me through my ill health recently. A desire to get back to running safely is so strong that I know nothing will stand in the way. Confidence and determination is what sees you through above all else. If I had to give one piece of advice for marathon training (including to myself) it would be see yourself finishing. You have to visualise your aim clearly in your mind and this translates into a belief.

Yesterday, I went for a check up with my consultant, 3 weeks after my heart surgery. All was well and I had my questions answered about returning to exercise. Small issues and niggles can easily become larger worries when you are sat with nothing else to think about so it was good to dispel these concerns. I was told I can run again at the end of August, building up slowly. As my fitness as declined since the start of the year, I can empathise with those embarking on their first challenge or race. Each step further hurts so much. My head tells me that it is ok to push further every day and that my body will once again take me the 26.2 miles. Until you reach your goal for the first time, you have to rely on the fact that you are getting closer and closer to your goal.

My scar is healing well and all who see it complement me on how good it looks! When I am out and I have seen people looking at the scar, I am not embarrassed. I am proud of what I have gone through and am almost feeling glad that I have a physical reminder of what I have gone through. I am grateful that my ASD (hole in the heart) was picked up at an age when I am fit and able to recover well from a major operation. I am looking forward to a future with running, triathlons and hopefully getting a little faster!

To keep myself busy, I am planning what I will be able to do at recovery benchmarks of 6, 8 and 12 weeks. I am discounting my ‘bad days’ and focus only on the ‘good days’. At the end of the 12 weeks, I am planning a holiday as a kind of reward for successfully making it through a long summer!

Week Two Recovery

7 Jul

I have now been home a week and getting better by the day! After a major operation, my ‘little book’ of common problems suggests it is normal to feel emotional for up to 3 months. I can certainly vouch for the emotions! Luckily, I am constantly surrounded with people who lift my spirit and keep me positive. It is all too easy to succumb to a gloomy stance of self-pity. Daily activities and long term visions are what keep me going through the boredom. Reflection has also played a large part of my recovery, as I have been dissecting my stay in hospital, the care given by the NHS and the good/bad points.  I have now drawn a line under that experience and am determined to move on with my recovery.

Many have asked me about my scar, a long straight scar down the middle of my sternum. To me, it is a symbol of what I have been through. I am proud of my scar and certainly don’t feel any need to hide it. ‘Aren’t you concerned about it fading, as a young women?’ nurses asked me. My reply was the same as before the operation when I opted for a straight scar as opposed to a horizontal scar which can be hidden more easily; the scar is the byproduct of the surgery that will improve my quality of life. Without the hole in my heart being closed, my ability to exercise was severely limited. My dreams of completing another marathon and gaining more experience in triathlon were unachievable. Now, with my thin, fading scar there is no reason why I can’t get back to my beloved training.

The second week at home has brought with with it frustration. Frustration at not being able to open doors, change position easily or walk as far as I’d like. Eagerness to progress seems healthy but I can’t let my frustrations lead me into doing too much. This week is still early days in my recovery, whilst my breast bone is healing and my heart settles down. Every so often, the fact that I had open heart surgery hits me and forces me to retire to the sofa with my feet up!  I have at least another 7 weeks before I can return to my office based work and 11 weeks until I can physically get cracking i.e. starting swimming, running and cycling. Can’t wait!

To anyone going through a similar time, my advice is the old cliche ‘patience is a virtue’!

Week One Recovery

3 Jul

After a long week in hospital, I am finally back home and happy to be feeling better by the day. Heart surgery took more out of me (and my family) than I expected. Pyschologically I took a knocking, by way of loss of confidence in the concept that I would ever get back to the same level of fitness. During my stay, I battled with post-operative pain and nausea which resulted in a 10lb weight loss. Not good when you need energy to recover! I struggled to keep my head focused on the long-term benefits of my surgery and I found it all too easy to concentrate on my latest symptom.

Positives included the surgeon and anaesthetist assuring me that I would not only be able to attempt the London marathon in April, but may even knock an hour off my best time! This cheered me up no end. Anything is possible, my family reminded me regularly, anxious for me to stay upbeat. My thoughts drifted back to ‘The Secret’ and ‘what you think about, you bring about.’ Enough with being sick, laid in bed and discharge date being postponed. What I needed as a hospital patient was to be able to visualise being well, painfree and at home in my own environment.

Now back at home, my recovery has come on in leap and bounds. Today I completed my first outdoor walk, a whole 7 minutes! I assure myself that little and often will pave the way for my running again, and eventually the start of marathon training. Once my sternum has healed, I will be able to get back on my bike and back in the sea / pool again – something that thrills me.

My thankyou list:

2010 may have been the year to focus on my health and to take stock. There is no point rushing into planning races, other than next year. Above all, I am grateful for the support of my family, so many of my friends and neighbours. I am also thankful for posts from women on a health forum who have gone through the same procedure.

I class this as week one of my recovery and the first week of 10 months of steady training towards 26.2 miles!