My dad is having bypass surgery - advice?

There are five blockages.

I will be taking care of him after the surgery, and I am nerve wracked about both the surgery and the aftercare.

Does anyone have advice or stories to tell about either having the surgery or taking care of someone afterwards?

My husband had triple bypass surgery 7/7. He is completely recovered! I should’ve kept better notes on this, but here are some tips.

The first couple of weeks home, he will want to sleep upright. Try to rent or buy an inexpensive recliner. It will save you! Even a month later, my husband still needed two extra pillow plus his “heart” pillow. Actually he needed these extra pillows and could only sleep on his back for nearly three months.

When he’s ready to be left alone, make sure that anything he might need is at waist level, including fridge food.

Although he’ll be getting a special diet, the first 2 weeks or so, it’s more important THAT he eats, not WHAT he eats. My husband practically lived on ice cream because that’s all he was hungry for!

If you’re the sole caregiver, I warn you that you will be stressed. People will want to call and visit, and you will have to play the Bad Cop. He literally will not have the energy to talk or visit much.

Have people do errands for you. Believe me, they will be so happy that they are able to do something for you. Items you will probably need: Metamucil, stool softener, thermometer, Mrs. Dash, food tray, lots of ice cream/sherbet, Kleenex and trash can (he will be hacking up and spitting a lot!), lots of mini pillows, which you will be adjusting a lot to make him comfortable.

You know what, this is getting too unorganized and confusing. If you’d like to ask some specific questions, e-mail me or send a private message. I’ve been through this so recently that I feel I could probably help you through this pretty well and I’d be happy to!

Oh no it’s not confusing at all! It’s very helpful, and I have started making a shopping list.

One thing I didn’t think about was the small pillows. I had a minor abdominal surgery and even with a minor one it is really painful to get up, cough, etc. and get in a comfortable position.

Luckily he has a recliner already, so we have that one covered. :slight_smile:

I have a call in to the doctor’s office and hopefully I can get hooked up with a packet of aftercare info that will go over the technical stuff, but this personal experience advice is really what I worry about most.

Thanks for the info and for the PM offer - I may well take you up on it if I have questions over the next few days. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a computer so I will be kind of winging it once I get there.

If something even looks wrong, please please PLEASE get on the doctor’s ass about it. Raise hell. I remember when my grandmother went in for a quadruple bypass. They took the veins from her legs. It worked, but her left leg wasn’t working so hot after that. The family would occasionally say something to the doctors, but it just wasn’t enough. They finally realized something was wrong when the leg obviously had visible gangrene. They amputated it and saved her but it’s been hell since. :frowning:
I don’t mean to give you a scary story, just make sure that he’s well cared for. As mentioned above if there’s any specific diet given to him by the doctors make sure he sticks to it if you can, if he has the appetite to do so.

I’m interested in hearing all kinds of experience (well, okay, I am also really nervous and scared to hear stories that ended very, very poorly). Boy scout motto and all.

I will definitely take the advice to hound the doctors if something doesn’t look right.

My dad had bypass surgery about 7 years ago, and is still doing well.

If you go to see him immediately after the surgery, be prepared for him to look really really bad. I still think fondly of the nurse who warned us, before we stepped into ICU. He was pale. Dead pale, unmoving and cold. If we hadn’t been warned either I or my mom might have paniced.

BIG ONE… He will be issued something like a heart pillow. Hazle Weatherfield mentioned it above. As he is recovering, he is supposed to keep the pillow next to him, and any time he starts to cough, clutch it tightly to his chest. My father decided that the pillow was silly, didn’t use it. He ended up having to have his rib cage rewired (they wired it together after the surgery, to hold things in place while it healed) after his coughing pulled the wires most of the way out.

This website is great! Tina will custom-make any combo of colors/fabrics and the resulting pillow attaches to a seat belt.

At the hospital, your Dad will most likely be given a heart shaped pillow with a line drawing of a heart on it and it will probably come with a pen, so that his visitors can sign it. This is fine, but a little obvious and cumbersome, once he’s really ready to venture out. We had to attend my stepdaughter’s wedding less than a month after the surgery. Over nine hours away, with him in the backseat and me driving! But, that’s another story… Anyway, this Tina who makes the pillows, made and sent 2 heart pillows: one shiny silver, one black to go with either of my husband’s ties (and tuxedo.) Plus, she only charged me for one. I paid for both because she was so gracious and generous! Anyway, kind of a long story, but something you may want to look into, especially if he’d like something less obtrusive or has a sports team that he particularly likes!

Another lifesaver: This is invaluable in keeping everyone updated without having to make a bunch of calls and e-mails. My husband was kind of sensitive and a little embarassed at first, but then he got a HUGE kick out of all of the hilariously irreverent guest book signatures he got, especially from people he hadn’t heard from for a long time! It’s free and totally worth it! Plus, they will send you a free dvd of your website when you’re finished!

More later. Again, please let me know if you have any specific questions. And be sure to care for YOURSELF, as well…especially if you’re the sole caregiver!

Be prepared for your dad to be kind of emotional in the weeks following the surgery. Both my father and a friend of the family were much more emotional than they’d ever been previously for a short time as they recovered. They would tear up at very minor things. It may be a combination of the pain killers but I think a lot of it had to do with the “I’m alive!” feeling that only weeks of bed rest (providing plenty of reflection time) can bring on as you recover from something very serious.

I don’t have any bypass surgery experience to share, but I absolutely second CaringBridge. My former pastor’s daughter underwent multiple surgeries for a brain tumor and that site was an incredibly convenient way for friends and family to keep track of events.

This, definitely-- the “I’m alive!” feeling, to be sure, but don’t discount the fact that narcotic painkillers can really knock you for a loop. Percocet is my friend; Vicodin, although very similar, makes me INCREDIBLY depressed and feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck (my mom has the same thing happen to her with codeine). It’s something to keep in mind, and keep the doctors in the loop if you or your dad notices a reaction like that happening; they may be able to change the pain medication to something equally effective without the side effects.

Be prepared for them to discharge him long before you think he (or you) are ready. My Dad had triple bypass (was supposed to be quadruple, but the fourth one was irreparable) and I was shocked when they wanted to send him home after a few DAYS! This was about 12 or 13 years ago and my siblings and I all lived at least an hour away from my parents and had jobs and families of our own which precluded us from being able to stay with them. My mom was about 71 or 72 and a petite woman who never learned to drive- certainly not able to help my father get up and down or get out to get whatever he might need. I had to fight to get them to at least discharge him to a rehab where he could get proper aftercare safely. Thankfully they did, which was a Godsend.

One of the harder things for us was his diet. My father also had diabetes, so not only did I have to find sugar-free foods, I also had to find low/no fat and low/no salt foods! As my father said, “no TASTE foods”! One thing I eventually figured out after hours in the aisles - - if it’s low fat, they increase the sugar. If it’s no sugar, they increase the fat. If it’s low sodium, they increase either the sugar OR the fat, depending on what type of food it is. It should be a bit easier for you if you’re dad doesn’t have the sugar issue, but it is still a bit challenging. You might want to walk the aisles with him before he goes to the hospital (if you still have time) and see what appeals to him.

The oddest thing about the surgery, I found, was the rather casual attitude the medical community has about this type of surgery. For them, at this point, it’s routine! No big deal, we’ve done it a thousand times, it’s fine… ACK! You’re thinking, “You’re about to cut my father wide open and DO THINGS to his HEART!!!” And to them, it’s not that big of a deal because they HAVE done it thousands of times with no or few complications. So try to relax a little about it (yah, I know, much easier said than done!).

Best of luck to you and your dad and please keep us posted. When’s the surgery?

I had triple bypass surgery a little more than a year ago, in July '07. I was amazed at how debilitated I was for several weeks after the surgery, but regular exercise (in my case, on my treadmill) helped speed the recovery.

As was noted upthread, I kept my heart pillow close by for a month or two. It’s made of fairly dense foam and helps protect the incision and sternotomy during coughing or moving in a way that may stress the incision and sternum.
I had to sleep on my back for several months, which I normally don’t do, and as a result, I snored quite a bit.

For a long time after, my emotions were a bit unstable - I think because of the drugs I had to take. I was quick to anger and that part was toughest on my wife, I think. I’ve mellowed out quite a bit now.

The most alarming part of recovery was that my heart would have odd rhythms, and I experienced several weeks of PVCs (bigeminy) that would make me feel anxious and panicked and like I was going to die. This has mostly gone away now.

I thought about starting an “Ask The CABG Patient” thread, but I never got around to it.

No direct experience to share, but I remember my girlfriend telling me that when her mother woke up after her bypass surgery, she said “My god, it feels like my breastbone was broken!”

Evidently she didn’t watch the pre-op video too closely, huh?:wink:

Anyway, best of luck to you.

Just wanted to add to the OP: don’t worry - everything will be fine. Bypass surgery really is a fairly common procedure now. Hundreds of thousands are performed in the US each year with few complications.

It’s on election day!

Thank you everyone for the well wishes and information. I’m going to print this thread out and take it with me.

Fritz: I think an “Ask The CABG Patient” thread is a great idea if you anted to one day.

My FIL had triple done a couple of years ago. My MIL ended up staying at a hotel right beside the hospital rather than making the 45 minute drive twice a day back and forth to the hospital. She was thankful for someone suggesting that to her.

FIL was very weak and looked like hell. The hardest thing for me was seeing him look so weak and helpless. He recovered nicely and is doing well now and had no other bumps along the way. I asked her what she thought about this.

Her advice:
Shop before hand and get everything you might possibly need now. You may not feel like leaving home once he is settled.
Take all the help you are offered. If someone wants to help, but you don’t necessarily want what they offered, make a suggestion on something you might need.
Leave a bell at your father’s bedside.
Be prepared for the emotions (his and yours).
Plan some time for yourself when you can “get away” if need be and use it.

The bell is one of the first things I thought of :slight_smile: I picked one up at Office Depot. Much easier to find than I had anticipated.

On the emotions: I have been crying on and off a lot. Not really because I think things are going to go badly, but more because I am just nervous in general. If anyone else has done this, were you able to keep it together when you were caring for the person? I haven’t had any problems when I talk to him on the phone, but when I am with him 24/7 I wonder if I’ll be able to do it.

I was terrified at how soon they let him come home! He weighs twice as much as I do and hadn’t had a chance to practice steps yet. Surgery was Monday and he went home Thursday! Luckily, my parents were able to come down. They brought a recliner they had found THAT DAY at a yard sale. They helped me get the chair and the husband up the stairs and didn’t leave til we were all settled in.

My husband is poor with basic niceties and respectfulness. He needed and needs to learn that “will ya?” is not the same as please. He rarely says thank you. This was and still is a huge problem. Hopefully, you will not have this issue.

The bell is a good idea, but make sure you have one ring for just general assistance or needs and a special ring for I-need-help-right-now! It will save you from jumping over the couch to get to him the first time he rings his bell (or the blasted parakeet rings his bell!)