Instances of ischemic heart disease and heart disorders are growing at an alarming rate in India. The number of people requiring cardiac surgeries is on the rise. These surgeries put immense financial, emotional and psychological burden not only on the patient but on the family as well. However, a few guidelines and preparations could go a long way in easing the surgical process.
In our September issue, we had discussed various procedures that could help a patient before undergoing stenting, the process that involves widening the narrow artery by temporarily inflating a tiny balloon in the blood vessel. In this issue, we focus on getting ready for a bypass surgery.
Preparation for bypass surgery
Unlike angioplasty/stenting, bypass is a major surgery. Following are some of the concerns, thoughts, beliefs, and burdens that a patient goes through while preparing for or awaiting bypass surgery.
Can I get through it?
Is there anyone who goes to surgery without a worry? It’s normal for people to be afraid or to wonder if they are going to make it. Fears and doubts are common, and the patient should not feel odd if they have them. They should not feel odd talking about them either. It helps to share your feeling about heart surgery with someone who cares about you. Even if talking about it makes you a little anxious, it can bring out good feelings. It can make you and your family or friends feel closer. You may want to read what others have written about heart surgery or talk with others who have already had it. All you need to remember is that each person’s experience is different.
About heart surgery
One part of getting ready for heart surgery is to know about the surgery itself. All hospitals where bypass surgeries or other surgeries like valve operations are routinely performed, the hospital cardiac departments give brochures/booklets/pamphlets explaining the basic technical details of the surgery in simple language. All patients/family members should read this and can jot down queries if any and ask the concerned doctor or the attending nurse. Do not feel foolish for asking questions or saying what you feel. The more you know about what to expect, the easier your recovery will be.
Be kind to your body
If you have several days or weeks to get ready for heart surgery, this is the time to take very good care of yourself. Plan to:
Eat well – Try to eat a variety of foods each day even if you aren’t hungry. It’s important that your body gets enough vitamins and proteins. Eating well speeds healing and you will be less tired after surgery.
Rest – Don’t let yourself get too tired before surgery. The more rested you are the stronger your body will be. If frequent phone calls from visitors tire you, just tell your friends that you need more rest at this time. They will understand.
Exercise – Walk or do whatever exercise your doctor has allowed. This helps relax your body and tone the muscles. It is less tiring to walk on flat surfaces at an easy pace. Stop any exercise if you feel the pressure is being put on your heart.
Smoking – Smoking is tough on the heart and lungs. It raises blood pressure, makes the heart beat faster, narrows the coronary arteries and smaller blood vessels and makes more mucus in the lungs. So, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your body before any kind of major surgery. Stopping for even a short time helps. You will breathe better, and your heart won-t have to work as hard.
It is really hard to quit smoking when you are anxious or under stress… like before your surgery. You can follow some of the suggestions as below:
- Take it one day at a time. Ask family and friends not to smoke when they are with you. When wanting to smoke, do something else with your hands. Go for a walk, get busy, or pursue a hobby.
- Learn to relax. Plan time to be alone. Just sit and listen to the sound of your breathing. Read a book or simply listen to your favourite music.
- Cut down on coffee, alcohol and other drinks that you are used to having with a smoke.
- Get up from the table as soon as you are through with your meal. This helps if you are used to smoking right after a meal.
If you have been a patient before, you know some things about hospitals. If not, it may be very strange at first. It is not easy being a “patient”, but knowing these things can help you relax.
Things to ask – Get your nurse or another staff person to explain:
- Times for meals and medications
- Use of call light by your bed
- How your bed works
- Location of showers or bathrooms
- Visiting hours.
Things to tell – If you let your nurses know these things, they can take better care of you:
- How to contact your family
- Foods you don’t like or food allergies
- Eye or hearing problems
- Who will be at home after surgery
- Anything about family, home or work that you would like to share.
There are a lot of little things done to your body to get you ready for surgery. These are routine for any surgical practice like cleaning and shaving the skin, preparation of bowels, preoperative medications, and orders regarding oral intake of food and liquids and fasting requirements. All these will be well informed by the attending nurses,
Things for the family to ask before surgery
Be sure your family asks your nurse about these before you go to the operation room:
- The time of surgery
- Where to wait while you are in surgery
- How often and from whom they may hear of your progress
- Where you will be after surgery
- When and how often they can visit you after surgery
- What items you can have in the intensive care
- What to do with your clothing, glasses, hearing aid or dentures.
Conclusion: It is not easy to prepare oneself for any major procedure or surgery, especially when it is cardiac. Logical thinking, keeping calm and listening to your trusted cardiologist will ease your burden.