Open Heart Surgery Recovery Advice for Patient's Family

Heart Patient with Doctor
During the post surgical recovery at home, the patient needs to be the center of attention. The other family members, besides following the rehabilitation instructions, need to take up the slack around the house. This is a page about open heart surgery recovery advice for patient's family.

Silver Post Medal for All Time! 306 Posts
April 15, 2011

Heart Patient with Doctor"Help, I can't find enough to do!" That seems to be my motto lately and I don't have the slightest idea why; not until my husband came home from his cardiac rehab last week, that is. Please let me explain for I know it sounds like I have completely lost my mind and for a while I thought I had. For those of you who are regulars of ThriftyFun, you may remember my writing about our rather unusual Christmas spent in the hospital as my two sons and I waited anxiously while my husband fought for his life after complications from open heart surgery.

Well thankfully all turned out well and he is home and in cardiac rehab now. He does have some problems that aren't the normal path of healing, but we are dealing with them one at a time.


When we left the hospital, they gave us a three ring binder with all kinds of information in it, but we found it was lacking big time in one particular area. After we get home, get the oxygen set up for my husband, which is another issue we gained with the surgery, I get out the three ring binder to see what else I should be looking for or doing. It seems that the discharge nurse pretty much covered everything as far as I can tell. That is where I was wrong and they were lacking.

Oh, they covered most of the issues normal heart surgery patients may experience; however they failed to discuss any issues the family might face during the recovery time. While the patient is rightfully the center of attention, the other family members, in our case me, have to take up the slack and do the work of both. Now I am not complaining, he is worth it and I signed on for that when I said I do.


As time went by, I did my normal routine, did his chores, and along the way managed to do a variety of hobbies, a big variety of hobbies; more than normal for two people. I made myself busier and busier - starting one project after another, at times without finishing others. One day I was outside getting some things for yet another project, and on the way back to the house I saw something that spurred yet another idea and my mind was spinning out of control.

I finally realized something was wrong, but I had no idea what. I stepped in the door, looked at my husband, and said, "What is wrong with me, I can't stop finding things to start even before I am finished with other projects?" He calmly looked straight at me and said "I don't know but you sure do have a lot of stuff started all over the place."


The answer came the very next day at his cardiac rehab! The nurse always had a topic she talked about and that particular day she chooses the effects the rehabilitation time has on families! What my husband and I were experiencing was a sort of shared depression. His depression stemmed from not being able to do things and seeing me have to pick up the slack for him and do my work too. He handled it by expecting me to know what and when he wanted something done, as though he were the one doing it. My depression stemmed from seeing him look normal, yet not do anything, then expecting me to do everything. I expressed that depression by being so busy, he didn't know when I did his work and therefore he couldn't ask anything of me. We didn't have words about it, we handled it calmly, but it was still an issue we were constantly facing.


This may all sound strange to you now, but believe me, if you ever go through open heart surgery with someone or know someone who does and experience what we have, you will understand the whole situation much better knowing what to expect. It is my hope this will help you cope with the stress put on the family as the healing time takes its toll on everyone, not only the patient. Being warned ahead of time would have made these past months so much easier for both of us.

By Ann Winberg from Loup City, NE

Editor's Note: Here is Ann's previous essay.

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April 16, 20110 found this helpful

Ann, I'm glad you know why you are starting all of these projects. But did they advise how to deal with the depression?

Thank you for sharing your story with us.


I hope both of you see some improvement soon!


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 306 Posts
April 17, 20110 found this helpful

The nurse didn't know we were experiencing the depression syndrome she was discussing that day she was just telling the patients of one of the things to watch out for. It isn't the usual form of depression where one feels sad or lonely as we usually think of. Bob and I sat down and discussed what the nurse had said and figured out on our own what we needed to do. Just knowing what was going on made fixing the problem seem clear. I went through my started projects, rating them for importance; throwing out the least important ones and sorting the others as to how long it would take to finish them. Bob tried to relax more and not expect me to have things done as he would have done them but in my own time. He wasn't pushing or being impatient with me before as he was holding it all in causing himself problems his heart didn't need. The solution for each family might need to be handled differently but it was no aim to warn others of one thing to look for after heart surgery. I hope this answers your question. Thanks for reading my essay and for your note.

April 18, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks so much for sharing this information Ann! It answered some of the problems we're having and without me having to do a ton of research!

I've been picking up most of the slack around here for a couple of years simply because we thought hubby was depressed; however, antidepressants were doing nothing for him. I must admit even though he's been more that productive over his life, I began to resent having to do everything that's done around here, including even servicing the cars!

I truly thought he was just getting 'lazy' as some people do after retirement and began to resent his 'sitting around'. Then he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Disease, he withdrew more and I kept finding more and more stuff to do (along with dealing with the guilt about my previous resentment) wondering why, with all the projects I have going, do I keep adding unnecessary projects to it? Well, you answered my question. It makes me feel better to know that I'm 'normal'.

Like you, I took him on for better or worse, as long as we both shall live, and I will use the energy and time I have ensuring that his remaining years will be as comfortable and as happy as possible. I don't even care if the vacuuming gets done or not, he comes first, and I thank God for giving me the health to care for him and pick up his slack.

Thanks again Ann. May God Bless.


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 306 Posts
April 18, 20110 found this helpful

Going through an experience like this is certainly a strain but with hard work on both sides it can be managed. Life is so precious and you both have worked hard to build the life you have together so by taking one small step at a time and lots of deep breaths you can make it. That is what we have to remember. Thanks for your comment and good luck to you also. God Bless.

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