HEALTH: Recovery Tips

Get your confidence back after surgery

My Experience

In 2006, I had a four vessel CABG surgery, otherwise known as open heart surgery in northern New Jersey. After I experienced shortness of breath, failed a stress test, and completed a cardio catheterization procedure, I was admitted into Hackensack University Medical Center.

For open heart surgery patients, the actual surgery is just one obstacle to maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle. As big and complicated as heart surgery can be, it does not cure heart disease. It corrects the symptoms of heart disease. In 2006, my own open heart surgery shattered any confidence I had as a person, athlete, professional, husband, and family member.

It's Natural

During my recovery, I learned through my conversations with doctors and therapists, that my shattered confidence was natural. All of them advised that I would go through a long process of recovery, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Also, these recovery paths happened at different times. I recovered physically faster than I did emotionally and mentally.


Why me? I asked that question over and over. I asked that question when I felt a palpitation, looked at a flight of stairs in fear, or lay down to sleep. That question remained always and still to this day. But, I learned to cope. Soon, my confidence started to come back. Below are some things that I did to help me build back my confidence after my big surgery.

Little Steps

After open heart surgery, everything matters. I look at life differently. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be alive. After a year of recovery, including cardiac rehabilitation, doctor visits, and a lot of time in the gym, I still felt scared. I felt as though something bad might happen. Then, one day I reflected back on all that had happened. I remembered how just a day after the surgery, the nurses had me up, taking little steps. With everyday I progressed a little further until I could take a few steps without holding a rail, then eventually climb two flights of stairs without stopping. For me I had to remember that every little step counts. Every little step is a positive step to recovery.

Ask Questions

Having gone through such a big surgery, I've had to learn much more than I ever expected to about cardiac care, my heart, nutrition, fitness and other related health topics. When I had a question, I researched the topic online then confirmed my findings during my doctor visit. I had a lot of questions about my recovery and overall health, I made sure to ask them. The answers helped to educate me as well as empower me to move forward mentally. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The answers will motivate you to know more.

Stay Positive

Everyone tells me to stay positive. While it may seem obvious, it isn't. The emotional toll that open heart surgery takes on a person is huge. For me, I never wanted to share my experience early on. I felt very personal about it. It was a private matter to me. But I soon realized that even with that perspective, I could stay positive. I started to read books and listen to spiritualists, like Eckhart Tolle. I listened to classical music and meditated. Whatever it took, I found something that helped my mind maintain a positive attitude.

Today, I still struggle with confidence in some tasks, but I have come a long way. Everyday gets better. Every day I gain more confidence. I'll never be the same person I was before the surgery, and in many ways that's good. Now, I'm more aware and in touch with my heart and health. The tips above have helped me build confidence over time. I hope they will help you as well.

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