56 yo just finished my 6th week post Ravitch with Dr. D. Miller Marietta, Georgia.
My biggest surprise was how bearable the pain. I was sent home after 7 days in the hospital with strong pain meds, muscle relaxants, and told to also get Tylenol and ibuprofen. I used the muscle relaxants and tramadol at home for the second week. I also took ibuprofen 3 times for the inflammation. By week 3, I used primarily ibuprofen three times a day and an occasional muscle relaxant. .
The most difficult time of the day for me is bed time.
I purchased a wedge pillow (10 inches height). It has a nice slant. On top of the wedge, I place a pregnancy pillow that looks like a huge C. (Price 45 and 65 dollars respectively). I have to sleep at about a 35 degree angle or I am miserable. I also have two standard pillows one of which is super feather fluffy and can be shaped easily under my head. The other can help under the back if the wedge feels to stiff as they are foam.
Sneezing is excruciatingly painful and should be avoided in the early weeks at all costs. They tell you in the hospital to hold a small pillow at your chest if you need to cough or sneeze. Best advice avoid sneezing at all costs. If you must try to catch it early and pinch nostrils together and open mouth to stop the sneeze. Coughing is uncomfortable but gets much easier over time. Sneezing takes more time.
Stool softeners will be your friend while you are on the cocktail of strong pain meds. I used Miralax and a softener but I probably did not drink enough fluids even with drinking a large Gatorade daily plus 2 bottles of water.
My incision healed pretty quickly. I think it was totally healed by the end of week 3. I purchased a high grade medical silicone gel (60 bucks)and am using it religiously 2 times a day. I hope to minimize the scar plus it is very moisturizing.
My heart rythym is normal when I exercise I'm pulmonary rehab. My lungs are clearly enjoying more space but I still had a bit of pleural effusion at the base of my right lung. I can feel it when I breathe in. Hopefully that will continue to improve. The doctor's do not seem at all concern because it is common. But bit of advice, try to push yourself religiously to walk often and use the spirometer consistently in the hospital. I was uncomfortable and tended to sleep from the drugs they give so I got a slower start and was definitely inconsistent ad I slept through some of my practice times. If you have a tendency to want to sleep (you feel tired) make sure you tell family, nurses to try and maintain your exercise and spirometer schedule.
Finally, tightness. It is normal I hear. So please be patient.Hope this helps someone.
At this point, I am reserving judgement on the aesthetics of my new chest wall because there is still some swelling. So I shall be patient yet. But so far, it is way better than pre-surgery and my lungs and heart are both enjoying their new roomy home.
Well today is follow up day with the surgeon in my hometown. Before surgery I had absolutely no pleural effusion ever. However, I had pretty bad dypsnea (shortness of breath) to the point where I was always focused on my breathing.
Since starting rehab I have amazed myself. I am learning to jog on the treadmill. Not full on jog but jog for a minute then rest. I have been watching my heart rate recovery time and it is getting better. My oxygen saturation remains above 95 while exercising. In some ways, I feel more empowered to truly get into better shape because both heart and lungs can cooperate without stress of being caged in do to speak.
I still have symptoms of the pleural effusion on the background but only notice it when I lay down and breathe and in my head I hear and feel "crunching snow". I am going to ask about steroids today because I clearly do not have an infection.
Had a slight set back yesterday at rehab where my heart got super tachycardic and went as high as 180 but immediately took EKGs to cardiologist and he was not worried. Heart remained in sinus rythym the whole time and I may have gotten anxious when my heart rate started to rise and made it worse and it shot up.
Best to you on your journey.
That's awesome to hear about your heart rate recovery period improving.
Yes, I have that thing too where if I get anxious about palpitations and other symptoms, it adds to/prolongs a high heart rate. It seems like there is a psychological connection where at some point we experienced heightened panic from symptoms and from then whenever we are exposed to excessive stress, then it triggers stress chemicals in our systems that automatically raise pulse rates. It's a vicious cycle I think. I'm trying to break through this even though I haven't had surgery ...yet, maybe.
This gives me hope! Im scheduled for a carinatum ravitch with Miller next month. Im 25 so noting your recover time I'm hopeful I will have a quick recovery too. They mentioned to me that since i'm out of state they will not be able to prescribe me another round of pain medicine after I leave the hospital so hearing that you were on over the counter stuff by day 8 is comforting. I had a partial ravitch back in 2010 and I remember that I was pretty much back to work after a week and a half. So I'm hoping to be up and moving okay by week 3 this time around.