My Aortic Valve Replacement operation: a summary

A world away from home cinema and DVDs, I know, but I’ve been asked about this a fair few times so I thought I’d publish this on my website. It was written a while ago, but I’ll update it if there’s any additional news. Happy reading….

On April 29th 1994 I had an aortic valve replacement operation which stemmed from a heart defect that I was born with. The following is an account I wrote, last updated in November 1994 (so forgive the present-tense scribblings when it happened ages ago).

(some of the details are a little unsavoury, so I award this section a PG13 🙂
(In UK terms that means : Put down your dinner!)

It’s something I’ve had a problem with since birth, so to speak. I had ops for co-arctation of the aorta (ie. they cut a bit out and sewed the ends up, since it’s quite stretchy) when I was 12 days old and 9.5yrs old, at The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury.

Now I’m 22, my heart has stopped growing as everyone’s does, and it was time to do the op (I’ve had checkups at the Manchester Royal Infirmary all my life, although before the age of 12 I went to the Gartside Street Outpatients Dept round the corner. All of these are every 6 months, and the next is 14th January!)

I found out in my checkup in July 92 that I’d have to have the op soon since the regular ECG (echo-cardiogram) and Echoscan (like an Ultrasound) tests showed up that I needed it.

So I saw the surgeon in August last year, and he put me on the waiting list. Since graduating in June last year, I got my old job back at Little Chef, purely as a job until I found something else.

Then when I found out in July that I’d have to have the op, I decided to stay at the Chef until I had the op, hoping that it wouldn’t be too long, but I waited and waited and waited, and got totally pissed off with the Little Chef, although the people that worked there were great and that’s the only thing that keeps you going there, since the wages are shit (3quid an hour!) and 90% of the customers are wankers (but then any job working with the public must be crap).

So, since I knew that all my mates still at Keele were finishing their finals on May 18th, I asked for a week off (I did this on March 31st) from then so I could go there and get pissed. Also, I remember that last year on the last day of the finals (I finished mine 8 days before the last lot) when everyone who finished the last exams came out, they were bombed with eggs, flour and buckets of …well, whatever was in it was anyone’s guess. Imagine eating lots of kebabs and drinking 3 bottles of vodka and leave to simmer for a bit 🙂 I didn’t think I’d get the week off but I did! I was so pleased since getting time off at Little Chef is like getting blood out of a stone!

The next day..I got the date for my op! : April 29th! Grrr! I had to go in the day before, so I finished Little Chef on Apr 24th, and went in on the 28th, had the op the next day, came out a week later on Fri May 6th, and have been recouperating for the total of 3 months since (and I have a sick note for that length of time, so at least the sick pay is some money that I’m getting from the Little Chef for free 🙂

To replace my aortic valve (with a metal/carbon one) they have to go through the breastbone (ummm…), into the heart (glad I was out for this one!) and then they use 5 or 6 metal wires to put the breastbone back together, and it takes 3 months to all get back together and fine. The time may be longer for older people, and most of them were.

However, it took about 5 weeks after the op before I was feeling a lot more like myself and luckily I was able to make it to Keele for the last 3 days of term and I had an absolute ball. Just the perfect tonic.

A while back I saw a doc who gave me the all clear, and later on (after getting a note from my GP to say I was fit and allowed ..) I could resume driving. I spent a whole 7 or 8 weeks without driving! What a pisser!

For five weeks, twice I week, I went to the sessions at the MRI for a cardiac rehab course (the next youngest person is in their mid-40s and there are plenty of OAPs…well, there’s about 10 or 11 in the group altogether). We just did exercises like shoulder-circles and leg raises in the Wed session (Mon was just for signing up really, and letting them take details like BP and pulse rate) and things will progress as the course goes on until the last day which was Mon 25th July.

By the way, since my new aortic valve is made from metal/carbon, it clicks every time my heart beats since the blood is meant to go through it from the heart, and not leak back at all which is what my old one did slightly. Hence, I sound like a Swatch watch all the time now! I noticed it all the time when I first get it, but not so much now – only when it’s quiet and when I am thinking about it.

However when I went to Keele for the Summer Party and the last Friday of the term, I discovered the best ever chat up line – getting all the ladies to have a listen to my new valve..and they did! One girl even said “Ooh, I could listen to that all night!”, but I don’t think her b/f would approve 😉 I wonder if I could hire a Swatch-watch fancy dress costume??

I was thinking of sampling the click and making a dance record out of it. I could call it “Aortic beat”!! 🙂

Now I’m on 1mg or 3mg tablets of Warfarin for the rest of my life (usually taking 2mg or 3mg per day), and I didn’t know what else this stuff was used for… it’s RAT POISON! The rats can’t handle it due to their metabolism and the fact that it thins the blood, hence it stops the valve from clotting up. If I don’t take enough Warfarin then the valve would clot up after a while, and if I took too much…excess blood has to come out somewhere… :O