Heart valve surgery recovery typically lasts between four and eight weeks. During this time and throughout the days and weeks of recovery, it’s important to strictly follow your doctor’s orders. If you’re practicing self-care during this time, follow this guide to properly prepare for your recovery.
Immediately After Surgery
Before you have surgery, create a recovery plan so that everything is in order once you come home. This way you don’t have to stress when you should be recovering. Both caregivers and post-op patients can use the following items to prepare for recovery:
- Pillows: Splint pillows are an important factor in recovery. A nurse will guide you through deep breathing exercises that involve coughing. These might cause pain or discomfort over the incision area at first, but your nurse will teach you how to splint the incision by properly holding a pillow and your arms over the incision area to reduce the pain as you go through the breathing exercise. The pillow also can help to ease pain when getting out of bed, walking or sneezing.
- Shades or Blinds: Patients are discouraged from sleeping during daylight hours, which makes the natural sleep time more important. Before surgery, outfit your bedroom or sleeping area with light-blocking shades. With these types of shades, you’ll be able to sleep through the morning hours without interruption.
- Planned Meals: Heart.org recommends preparing meals for the week following your surgery. Lifting items like a gallon of milk or even opening the refrigerator can be stressful, so it’s important to make planning meals a priority. You can use a meal delivery service or have a friend or family member help you prepare and store meals. It’s also advisable to have prep-free snacks like carrot sticks and apples readily available.
- Help at Home: From walking the dog to putting in a load of laundry, daily tasks become much more difficult following heart valve surgery. Enlist help from family or friends or hire a professional service to ensure that everything gets done around the house.
Weeks After Surgery
- Hobby Supplies: If you love painting, crafting, woodworking or other hands-on activities, you can resume your favorite hobbies and activities during the first weeks after your heart valve surgery. Stock up on paint supplies like brushes and canvas so you don’t have to after surgery, or visit a put-put park with your friends and family to show off your golf skills and get some fresh air.
- Walking Shoes: Walking is an important step in your recovery. By the end of the first week post-op, you can walk more than five times each day, according to Lee Memorial Health System. Gradually build up your pace and head outside to partake in light, physical exercise. Before you head out, be sure to have a pair of walking shoes that provide comfort and support.
Staying Healthy After Surgery
- Healthy Apps: After surgery, you may choose to make health and nutrition a priority. It’s not easy, but with a little help from smartphone apps like Fooducate and Seamless, you can make healthier choices in the grocery store and when ordering take out.
- Health Trackers: The newest version of the iPhone comes standard with a health and fitness tracker. However, other wearable and tech devices can provide you with helpful information related to your health. Consider picking up a FitBit to monitor the steps you take and your heart rate during exercise.