Surviving an Accident With Heart Failure (Part 2)

Editor's note: This is part 2 in a series. Be sure to read part 1!

I wrote about surviving a fall down the stairs and a subsequent ER visit with a heart failure condition outside my regular hospital system. Now I’ll talk about my ankle surgery preparation and recovery.

Meeting with the surgeon

When I met with the surgeon the day after my accident, we talked about my condition, allergies, and medications. He had a lot of experience operating on patients with heart conditions and knew what to ask. I felt at ease with the surgeon who tended to me so I stayed with him versus going back to my regular hospital. He was also known as “the ankle guy", so I felt even better about my decision to stay with him.

Early preparations

To prepare, I’d had to go off my blood thinners for two days prior. I also needed a letter of health from my cardiologist noting that it was okay to go off my medication and fit for surgery, which she delivered promptly. Finally, I needed to be scheduled for surgery at a major hospital versus an office medical center due to my heart condition (in case anything happened).

Leading up to the surgery, I prepared my health records and outlined my fun history. I printed out the conditions I had, as per my records, allergies, and last ICD download. On top of that, I also had questions for the doctor so that I wouldn’t forget.

For example, due to my metal allergies, I wanted to remember to ask him if he could do sutures instead of staples to close the incision. I knew I’d forget something, so I was happy it was all in a one-pager so they could add that to my records. In pre-op, the attending nurse put that one page in the front of my binder and highlighted the necessary parts.

Pre-op preparations

There was a lot of attention paid to my existing conditions. My attending nurse was thorough, making sure she knew everything and that the surgical team was informed.

I met with the anesthesiologist, who reviewed my ICD report and asked where my ICD was placed. Having an ICD resulted in a few alternative methods to reduce electromagnetic interference (such as electrocautery). My surgical team was well-prepared, and to me, they were all calm, which made me feel at ease.

Recovery

The surgery went well, and I was sent home that night. Regular patients would have had a checkup at two weeks, but I went in after one week to check my incision. Heart failure can inhibit routine wound healing, so the surgeon wanted to ensure I was adequately healing.

I was allowed to take pain meds in the opioid family. But, unfortunately, with my condition and medications, opioids do tend to make me sick. So I stuck with Tylenol and ice to reduce the pain.

I healed well and just finished physical therapy. I have resumed daily workouts on a stationary bike vs. a treadmill. Despite this injury, it is vital to continue to work out that heart muscle daily.

Another first to check off the list

With a diagnosis like heart failure, it’s hard to imagine a typical experience, especially when you’ve been in an accident.  There’s a whole new set of “firsts” – first dental appointment, first physical, and for me, my first major surgery.  I was prepared and had excellent care, so I can now mark “first major surgery” off the list.

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