Heart Problems Post-Operative
It's my job to keep my heart ticking.
When a heart valve has been replaced the next battle is keeping the new valve healthy.
When my chest was cracked open and a new valve replaced a malfunctioning one, my first major skirmish was expanding my lung capacity by overcoming the pains from coughing and inhaling deeply.
What I didn't realize was that I was starting a longer battle against a silent killer, the possibility that the new porcine valve would get infected.
If I have a colonoscopy to make sure my colon is free of dangerous polyps, if I need any significant dental work done, or plan another surgery such as the gall bladder surgery I will need someday, I have to plan ahead and take an antibiotic prescription to my pharmacist and start popping pills to avoid infecting my new heart valve.
If I am lucky, my nicely functioning porcine valve will keep on functioning for the next 10 to 15 years. That is the reasonable expectancy for our partnership.
If I am not careful and lucky, our partnership could end unexpectedly much sooner.
Before that element of my successful 45 minutes surgery was as clear as it is now, I had my routine colonoscopy and some dental work done without taking the needed antibiotics before or after what I mistakenly thought of as routine.
I mention this here in response to my own surprise at having missed the importance of making sure I am properly protecting my new heart valve.
It is reasonable to think that one or all of my health providers may have given me that needed alert during my post-operative hospital stay, my regular visits with my surgeon, visits to my other cardiologists, and before my routine physicals, and checking in for my colonoscopy and dental care.
But, if I was properly cautioned about being careful and how to do just that, the alerts fell on deaf ears until my most recent semi-annual visit to my cardiologist 28 months after my successful heart valve surgery.
When I was alerted to "call us and get an antibiotic prescription before any surgery or dental care so you can already have that protection when you get the care," it came as a total surprise to think that I may have already avoided two bullets without realizing it.
In checking in for the colonoscopy, and later for the dental care, my medical history was taken, but no one asked "are you taking the needed antibiotic?"
If that looks like a weakness in our health care systems, I would say that it does to me.
Once again, the patient has a large responsibility for their own medical well-being. Health care professionals, pressed for time and with heavier patient loads resulting from the Affordable Care Act, still have an essential role to play in monitoring and serving their patients' health care needs.
Knowledge is power. It can even be life saving.
© 2015 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.