Exercise after Open Heart Surgery

I was nervous after having open heart surgery that I would never again be able to put myself under the exercise induced stress like I had in the past. I read about the case histories of athletes like Ronny Turiaf who had aortic surgery and resumed a professional sports career.  I heard about college football players who had the surgery and were on the field again hitting. I couldn't fathom going back to sweating and beating on my body during workouts as I had in the past after having my ribcage separated, piping replaced, and then having it wired back together.  It wasn't that I didn't believe it was possible; the evidence was there to show that it was possible. I had a psychological hang-up of thinking I might die at any moment during exercise and training. My mind hung on every thump of my heartbeat, and everything in between. I couldn't so much as get a gas pain without thinking it was going to take me out once and for all. My surgeon released me from all limitations two months after surgery.  When I asked about going to a cardiac rehabilitation center he said I could go if I really wanted to, but because I was so young and healthy he said it wasn't necessary.  He went into detail explaining what was done during my surgery and why it would hold up to the stress of exercise.  I speak all about this in my book.  He made fun of me for exercising before the surgery with a full blown aortic aneurysm ready to burst and he reminded me that I wasn't worried then.  He recommended that I simply ease into exercising on my own.  I was so nervous though about dropping dead that I decided to enroll in an official cardiac rehab program to simply have someone monitor me while I began pushing myself back into shape.

My wife got me set up to start rehab at the Demateis Center in NY in January 2010, two months after my open heart surgery.  I speak in detail about this crucial period "post surgery" in my book, but essentially I did rehab for a month or two and then transitioned back to going to the gym and running on my own.  I more less resumed what I would normally do for weight training and running workouts except that I didn't do any heavy bench presses or anything contraindicated for my sternum.

In April, five months after my heart surgery, my wife gave birth to our third child.  She had to deliver him by cesarean section because he was breached and it was a high risk situation.  We were overjoyed about having another child, but disappointed that she had to have a cesarean section.  She delivered my previous two children naturally, and since she is a very athletic (and vain) person she did not want to have a cesarean.  She got through the ordeal successfully thanks to her incredible OB, Dr. Lisa Johnson. One evening after she gave birth we were sitting together in the hospital in Manhattan reflecting on all the challenges we'd faced in the past year.  We set a goal of running the NYC Marathon together in November, and raising money for the American Heart Association.

I've been doing some inconsistent weight training and running, and Nicole just started running again.  We haven't officially started training for the marathon yet, but will probably do so during the summer.


InkkReviews said...

Thanks for this! I just had open heart surgery 6 weeks ago to replace my pulmonary valve and i have been itching to do something. thinking about either getting a personal trainer or just hitting the gym and see what i can slowly do on my own. I am 29 and ready to get back to my regular activity. thanks again for your story ! - Katie

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