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Recovery and Progress

So the first day back from hospital was all about relaxing and settling in and taking it all in as to what happened with me. A close call? Maybe, but now it was time to start the long road to recovery, but I was determined to do it and get fit quickly.

***Note - I had palpitations continuously after getting home which lasted for 9 weeks. I had them checked out with a 24 hour ECG monitor. The day I went to collect it, the palpitations stopped and never returned. Occasionally, like everyone, I will rarely now have a palpitation that lasts a second and thats it. Always get it checked out with your doctor if you are unsure, most of the time they are harmless. Fit and healthy people also get them, and stress can cause them too. So think about that, perhaps a change in your lifestyle may make a difference for you.

road to recovery

Day 2

Today it was a pleasure to have woken up after my 1st decent sleep after 2 weeks. I woke up many times due to the discomfort in my chest and a particular muscle that caused a lot of pain under my right ribcage.

I found out that I had quite a lot of bruising around my stomach and around the sides for some reason. I couldn't see it but my partner definitely could.


So today was my first proper walk outside. The cardio handbook says for the first week, do a 5min walk, 2nd week was 10mins and so on. At the six week point you are supposed to be able to do a 30min walk, briskly for part of it, raise your heart rate to the point of being slightly out of breath but still able to hold a conversation.

Off I went with my partner and we took a stroll down by the river. It was lovely to be outside in nature. The smells, the sights, it was just lovely. It was a gentle walk, a little down the road, I speeded up and all the while taking as deep a breath as possible (thats what the handbook says) but thats not easy when your chest has been ripped open!! So with a little pain, I took some breaths as deep as i dare and it was ok. Got a bit breathless whilst walking at a brisk pace, and that is completely normal and stopped once or twice to view the river and to see if we could spot any wildlife. 

We turned around and set back off for home. Brisk pace, but the last part was a nice slow walk. Its a typical warm up, warm down exercise routine. I have done it thousands of times in the Army, so am well versed with the idea.

When I got back home, it was then apparent that I had been out almost 30mins!! So I was now doing exercise at the six week point on my first walk!! Thats perhaps stupid, but I felt absolutely fine. These exercises are generic, so the handbook suggestions are  probably perfect for people in their 70's+ but thats not me. Always been fairly fit before my heart attack, never been on medication before, and rarely ever went to the doctors, so I am thinking that I am going to respond quickly and effectively than other people. To be honest, after my walk, I felt really good. It was so good to be out and walking in the fresh air and I had no issues with aches pains or anything else. Looking forward to tomorrow......


 

slow walk, brisk pace, warm up, warm down

Day 55

 Today after speaking to my Cardiac Rehab nurse, I was given permission to up my game. She sent me a link to the BHF (British Heart Foundation) website and I could start phase 3 exercises at home. 

55mins of gentle exercise and keeping within my training heart rate zone as she had calculated, I found all the exercises very gentle and easy apart from one which perhaps I was being a bit more vigourous than the video was showing, but it was a good sign that i could easily do the exercises. 3 times a week, which is not a problem. So the other days of the week I could go for a walk. She wanted me to do one hour, which included a warm up walk of 10 or 15mins as well as the warm down, so about 30 or 40mins of brisk walking.


So after the exercise, I decided to try the walk (I know it should be the day i dont do an exercise at home) but I am feeling super great and I could always shorten the walk, or walk slower....... I just needed to get out and have a walk!

So an hour and 20mins later, the walk was done, very brisk walk, 4.4miles later and 10,102 steps and I felt great. I have found a new route and its very scenic, so I will do that from now on. 1 day of walking, and then 1 day of rest possibly. 


Found out later in the evening I have pulled a small muscle in my chest with the exercise video I was following. Its not overly painful, only when I do certain things with my hands, like clenching or pulling a tea towel (thats how I discovered it) Its always the simple tihngs!! A night of rest and it should be ok in the morning. So the reason I am putting this down here, is to warn anyone that its highly suggestable to stick with the program/video and don't over do it. 

exercise, BHF, British Heart Foundation, brisk walk, stick to the program

Day 3

Off I went for a walk! Same route, ensuring I included a brisk walk, perhaps a tiny bit faster and a warm down at the end. This walking is easy! Still breathing deep as best I could which is crucial to filling your lungs back up and expanding them to what they were before the operation. Please read the section called Bypass as I mention the surgeons collapsing lungs by hand.


 

collapsed lungs, same route, breathing deep

Day 56

Today was a walk in the countryside. I was a bit apprehensive about this walk as it was a walk I had done before my heart attack and it was a long and mostly uphill walk. Last time I did this I had to stop every 50metres or so to catch my breath and also because of pain in my calf muscles due to what I thought was the steepness of the hill.


Today was so much easier than before. It was emotional just how much I was struggling in the past, but now I feel like I could walk forever. It was a strange emotional feeling but elation was the main feeling. I could do this walk without issues, yes slightly out of breath when i got to the end, but that would not have been possible before, i would have been gasping. This is mainly due to smoking and of course over the years the arteries were getting reduced due to this, so oxygen getting around my bloodstream was more difficult and hence why my calf muscles were aching i think. Today, there was none of that.


The walk was from Stourhead to Alfreds tower in wiltshire. 4.7 miles and only 10,833 steps. This is 8 weeks post op, not doing too bad I think, but am aware of not overstepping the mark. Tomorrow i will probably take a rest and not walk anywhere, although I could easily do that, I don't want to push it too much, I think i have already done over and beyond what I am supposed to be doing but I do feel fine, but don't want to risk it. Heres a couple of photos of the area. Beautiful scenic route. If ever you find yourself in Wiltshire, its always worthwhile to visit Stourhead for a walk. Run by the National Trust, its iconic in Autumn. Highly recommended.

smoking, long walk, stourhead, national trust

Day 4 - 14

I have inclluded several days into one article due to the fact that the walking is the same every day! So for these days I will mentioned that the first week I was walking steadily and changed my route a little to include a slight incline which was about quarter of a mile long. A brisk pace all the way ensured I raised my heart rate, got slightly out of breath but during and at the end I could still hold a conversation with someone. Considering I had smoked for 40 years and had a bypass, this was pretty remarkable and its such a good feel factor to be able to do that without worrying about whether I was going to keel over or have a heart attack, its invigorating and gives you great confidence. This recovery was going well and I was enjoying being outside for a walk. The rest of the time at home, I am just sat around, watching TV or using my computer but nothing else. No lifting, pushing or pulling anything. Sometimes you feel useless when others are running about doing things, and I like to help but I can't. So the daily walk is important to me. The recovery is going well and I feel the walking is a bit too easy.


 

walking, quarter of a mile, incline, invigorating

Day 67

Today was a walk around Combe Hills Wood. Never been there before, and I won't be going back again!! Place looked nice at the car park, but as soon as you venture into the woods, the paths are just full of mud! Am sure during the summer its lovely, but today was just crappy trying to walk without slipping over all the time. Took the enjoyment out of it all. 


So about a mile into the walk, perhaps a bit more, we decided to head up to the high point and see the view. The path was very steep and had to stop once or twice due to it being really steep, and to allow me to just catch my breath. Wasn't struggling like I would have done before my heart attack, but there was still a bit more to climb. Once I reached the top, the views were great to be honest. My partner had decided that this walk wasnt long enough once we got back to the car and as Glastonbury Tor was just 10mins away by car, we, or should I say, her, decided to go there and take a walk up to the Tor. I had never been before after all these years living within an hours drive of the place, so off we went.


At Glastonbury, you instantly notice lots of middle aged people walking around in tye dyed trousers, weird hats, long braided hair that hasn't been washed in years and the smell of cannabis floats around in the air around each corner. There are some weird people, nice enough, but it was interesting to watch people and hear people.

So the walk along the road to Glastonbury tour there are a couple of routes up to the Tor itself. I decided to go for the steeper climb, but slightly shorter climb. Although it looks mighty steep approaching the Tor, once you go up this path, take it steady and you will be fine. I didn't struggle with this, in fact, since my bypass, I have to say I haven't struggled at all, just a bit out of breath like any normal person would be climbing up a steep path.

The views at the top were AMAZING. 360 degree views from the top. Great place for taking in the view, so if you are in the area of Glastonbury or are thinking of visiting, just do it and take in the view.


 

glastonbury tor, glastonbury#, steep climb, tor

Day 15 - 21

Day 15 and I have decided to extend my route for a week and see how I get on.

So I am now going further, 30-40min walk but at a bit of a faster pace. Warming up with a slow walk for a couple of hundred yards and then up my incline at a brisker pace, across country at a fairly brisk pace and then back onto the road to warm down before getting home. This is working well for me. My deep breathing is becoming easier and now without any pain involved which is a bonus and my chest is starting to heal. The scar down my sternum is cleaner and looks like a nice clean scar.


 

clean scar, faster pace, deep breathing

Day 73

It was a long walk today on rolling hills. The start of the climb was long to reach the top of the Mere Down Ridgeway. Its also high up and the wind blows strongly. Slow walk at the end as my muscles were starting to ache a little, and the calf muscles especially. Definitely out of breath when I got to the top, but not gasping for breath as I have done in the past. I think I didnt have enough fluids in the morning which may have contributed to my slow walk up this monstrous hillside!!


Saw some deer whilst walking along the ridgeway, that was nice, and a steep walk down the hill side, slipped up once, but managed to stay upright. This walk was about 5 miles and once up on the ridge, you could see for miles. Great walk.

long walk, mere down, ridgeway, 5 miles

Day 22

Today I spoke to my cardiac rehab nurse. She rings me every week to see how my progress is coming along. I am supposed to be using an app on my iphone to record details of medication, walking, exercise and lots of numerous things. Today I told her I wasn't using it as its completely rubbish. The reason why its rubbish is that it keeps crashing and its just a glorified notepad. Nothing is automatic, you have to manually enter every single detail yourself. Not really an app is it? My iphone has an app called Health and it automatically records my steps I do on a daily basis which I am currently using to see my distance and my progress. The app the NHS want me to use does nothing like this. For those of you that ever have to use it, hopefully by the time you use it, it may have been improved. I hope so because it needs some drastic improvement. Its called My mhealth (no thats not a spelling error)


So part of the conversation was the exercise I had been doing and for the past week I have been doing 6200 steps on my daily walk. (my normal daily work involves around 8000 - 12000 steps per day) So I am doing quite well I think. However, the cardiac rehab nurse did mention that I shouldn't overdo it. Its only been 3 weeks since I left hospital and she reminded me of that, and said that too much, too soon could be determental to my heart as the heart is still recovering from the shock of a major operation. You know, I wish this information is told to you whilst in hospital or as you are leaving. Heres me thinking I really am going to recover quickly as I feel great. And now I have had to compromise with the nurse by saying I would still continue to do the 6200 steps per day but I would then have a day of rest afterwards. So every other day I will go for a walk doing 6200 steps. She was happy with that and thought it was a good idea. So now I am thinking that I won't recover as quickly as I want to, but to be honest, I am doing pretty well so far at the moment so I am not going to get hung up about it and worry. Perhaps on the days that I go walking, I will just speed it up a bit! cool

walking, speed, steps, too much too soon, iphone app

Day 97

Apart from the walking to the shops and back, which is a few times a week, its been a couple of weeks since i did a big walk. Today was Melbury Hill (theres a beacon at the top) and its quite a high hill. The steepest hill i have done and I though Stourhead was steep, but this is on a different level !!! The photos don't really show the really steep part of it, so you will have to take my word for it.

Enjoyable walk, thought I might struggle with the steepness, but although i was out of breath at the top, thats partly for going too fast, but its quite a long steep walk, but could still hold a conversation going up. Onwards and upwards.

steep climb, Hill

Day 24

Today was a lovely walk at Badbury Rings. Last time I went there was the year before and it was a bitterly cold day. Today was much warmer but a very brisk wind so my thermal hat was firmly on!!

So if you are unfamiliar with Badbury Rings, there is evidence of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation at Badbury. However, the site is known mostly for its Iron Age hill fort with its three rings. It is thought the inner most ring dates from around 500 - 600 BC.

A number of tribes settled at Badbury Rings. Among them were the Durotriges – a Celtic tribe who lived in parts of the South West of England prior to the Roman occupation of 43 AD. 


These rings are around 20 feet high and steep (as you would expect from a fortification). The walk up to the top of the fortification is a slight slope, its actually not that slight and its quite long. Last year I was out of puff when I got to the top apparently. Today, slightly out of breath for someone who had a major operation a month ago. Not bad going at all and very pleased that there was no pain, no sign of the heart screaming to get out of my chest and because I am a non-smoker now, the lungs were clear and not an issue at all. This is going well, and I am very eager to go further (which at this stage I could easily do) but my cardiac rehab nurse has indicated to think about what the heart has gone through and its still in the process of getting over the shock of major surgery. So i need to rein in my eagerness for another couple of months, but then I will be running anyway, so the long walks will be absolutely fine to do.


For those reading this that have had surgery or are going to be having surgery, do not fear what comes after the operation. In a short space of time you will recover and you will be doing what you used to do but a bit more slowly to start with. Its all very possible with the right positive mental attitude and determination. I am getting there, and theres no reason for you not to either.


 

Positive mental attitude, badbury rings, determination, long walk, out of puff

Day 121

So after waiting what feels like an eternity to go for a run, I had permission from my GP and also the cardiac rehab nurse to start a gentle jog. The discussion with the cardiac rehab nurse was quite simple. Listen to your body. I would suggest you do the same as well.

We also agreed that I would jog for 1 minute, followed by a walk for 1 minute and so on until I finish. I was given a heart rate to watch out for and not exceed, which was a range of 88 to 121 maximum.

So on day 121 after leaving hospital, I went for my jog/walk. I went with my partner so she could tell me when to jog and when to walk, which is very useful, as I just tend to keep going without realising. We had planned our route, 2 miles around the streets and that should be a good start for me to eventually not only continuing to run but also take it further.

The first part was walking for 1 minute, and I am now very comfortable with walking, as I have done lots of that so far! I was very eager to get running. 

When I started to jog, it felt good, I felt good and got into a nice rhythm. After 2 miles, I wasn't too out of breath, just enough to get the heart rate going and boy did it feel good. Periodically throughout the 2 miles I checked my heart rate and the maximum it got to was 124bpm, which is ok.

So for my 1st jog/walk it felt really good and I very much enjoyed it. At last, I felt that I was starting to get back to normal. The key thing to keep in mind if you ever have to go through what I have gone through, is the fact all of this recovery process is NOT a race. Its a slow and steady thing and rome wasn't built in a day, as much as you and I would like to progress quickly, the body really does need time to heal.

1st run, jog, jog and walk, cardiac rehab nurse

Day 28

Today was a lovely change to my normal routine walk. I went to Stourhead in Wiltshire (National Trust) and although you have to book online before going to ensure its not overcrowded due  to Covid-19, it was a really lovely walk. Probably over a mile leisurely walk, steps on my phone indicated 5620 steps, so a little less than normal but there was a couple of inclines as well to get the heart racing. Worst incline was the walk back up to the car park. Thats quite steep, and my partner had to tell me to slow down as I tend to walk fast uphill, downhill and on the flat. I was out of breath at the top but still able to hold a conversation and although I have been there before a number of times, this was the easiest walk back up to the car park i have experienced due to smoking before my heart attack.


A lovely day none the less.

stourhead, wiltshire, national trust, good walk

Day 311

There has not been a lot to report on since day 121 apart from lots of walks uphill, downhill and some on the flat but I have gotten stronger and healthier.

 

Today is a significant day as I completed a 20 mile sponsored walk on behalf of the British Heart Foundation and raised £400 to date.

 

The walk was along the south west coastal path and there are some really steep climbs and walks. It took just over 7 and a half hours to do, so we weren't dawdling along but set a brisk pace.

This will probably be my last entry for a long time, but suffice to say, I found the walk easy, it was tiring having walked for so long but my heart, lungs and legs were strong and didnt struggle. I guess you could say I have pretty much recovered from my operation and the fitness has improved incredibly.

I am also going to the gym every other day to run, to do core work and leg work. Its a real pleasure to go to the gym and not struggle with any of the exercise. Most of this is because of the operation but having given up smoking since my heart attack, this is quite an important factor in improving my fitness and keeping myself as healthy as any other normal 50+ year old. I know it can be difficult to give up smoking, but sometimes it takes a life threatening jolt to make you want to do it !!!

20 mile walk, sponsored walk, giving up smoking, healthier

Day 44

Every day I have been walking despite what the cardiac rehab nurse said, I felt that I could and can, easily walk about 2 miles. This is what I have done, some briskly some casual walking, just so I don't overdo it, and although I feel fine walking, I always have what the cardiac rehab nurse said to me the other week, don't over do it, your heart is still recovering from the shock of surgery. Although I have always thought I have a strong heart, and this was outlined on the echo cardiogram I had in hospital, I will always listen to the cardiac rehab nurse, well..... most of the time I will.

So today I wanted to do something a little different and walk up a hill. I achieved this, it wasnt too difficult and I have walked up this hill before my heart attack, and I did struggle in places, having to stop, catch my breath, but carried on all the same. That was clearly the smoking having an effect on me. I am smoke free now, for the last 2 months, and I don't miss it, and today proved the fact that I don't need it either!

The hill was 680 metres high, doesnt sound too bad but its very steep in lots of places, so I just took my time, and I could still hold a conversation whilst I was walking, which is something I struggled to do before my heart attack. Heres a couple of pictures.

3 year anniversary

I climbed Snowdon. Highest mountain in England and Wales.

An achievement and it was tough, but i could never have done it before my surgery. Keep positive and keep moving. I hope I have inspired you to work hard in your recovery process. 

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Comments

Shaun
Mr
An informative read in general a very similar experience, how many grafts did you actually have?
Wednesday, 04 October 2023
Alexander Brodrip
A great account - thanks
Brilliantly written, I formative and helpful for anyone that’s been through or about to have heart surgery.
Wednesday, 09 November 2022
Geoff
Thank You
Thanks for this - I've not read so much for years - will get onto the Recovery as soon as I get the chance. Not looking forward to the nostril bit - I sneeze every time anything goes up my nose!
Friday, 28 January 2022