My First Rehab Visit

I had been discharged from hospital for four weeks when I decided to call the rehabilitation team at Astley Ainslie Hospital and ask what had happened to my rehabilitation programme. The documentation I received on discharge from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) said that I would receive a call within a week which had never happened. When I did call they could tell I’d just had heart valve surgery, but there had been no referral from the RIE.

I was directed to call RIE rehabilitation team myself, which I did, and a few days after I received an appointment to see the team at Astley Ainslie, some six weeks after my operation, to the day in fact.

I’d never been to the Astley Ainslie Hospital and I never knew the size of it. There are multiple buildings around the surprisingly large grounds with plenty of space between the many buildings and little parking to cover them all. When we arrived for our 9am appointment, every space across the Hospital grounds were taken, apart from the spaces blocked by badly parked vehicles, so my wife dropped me off and headed away to find a space.

It was four or five weeks late but it was worth it. I have to admit that the discussion I had would have allayed many of my fears in the first few weeks, told me that all I was experiencing was pretty normal, and undoubtedly stopped my visit to Accident and Emergency. However it was better late than never.

One of the key things I learned is that emotional instability is considered normal after such surgery. I am currently borderline for suffering from anxiety and slight depression, but apparently that is a normal reaction, in fact many people cross over that line quite easily following such major surgery.

I must admit, writing those words down and opening them to the public is a scary prospect for there is such a stigma attached to mental health issues, especially concerning that “D” word. However, hearing that this is a normal reaction and that I’m doing well is a good thing and if anyone else ends up in my situation, not knowing these things early after returning home, whether it be through a failure in the post hospital care system or not, is a good thing and reading through my site is just another way for them to find information about what they are experiencing.

I received a lot of encouragement and positivity in the discussion, and some exciting things too. It appears that while I’ve been staying off alcohol I’ve been doing the wrong thing, I should have been drinking. Not copious amounts of course, but since the surgery have been trying to stabilise my Warfarin and INR levels and I should have been drinking as I normally intend to. This is because alcohol thins the blood and has a strong effect on these levels and if I wait until my INR is stable, drinking will knock it for six again.

So I received the okay to drink again, although there’s a maximum imposed I’m lucky as my regular glasses of wine and whisky per week fall within that amount. I was going to write “well within” there, but then I realised I was lying. Within is enough. Now we’ll have to see my INR levels fluctuate again, when I’d just seen them steady for the last few weeks, especially as I had my first glass of red wine last night!

The other good news was the exercise test I carried out. I was fitted with a heart rate monitor and my optimum range calculated for my age and fitness, as well as taking into account the operation, and I was off. Beeps were played and I had to walk between two cones, turning on the beep. Every few turns the rate increased and I had to speed up. I was pretty good at keeping pace, but for the last section I realised walking fast just wasn’t cutting it and I began jogging. Six weeks to the day after major heart surgery and I was jogging. I know it wasn’t too far, but I was amazed, and I still hadn’t hit the top of my allowed heart rate range.

Now I’m down for an introduction session next week and the following week I start attending rehabilitation classes which include an hour of exercise. Oh yes, you might think its old people sitting around stretching, but it’s not. I must admit I thought the same. No, it’s circuits, and if I’m feeling it’s too easy then I’m hitting the weights. Seriously, this is the rehabilitation exercise, I’m amazed.

So a good day all in all and a surprising one. If only I’d had that experience much earlier. Still, the good thing is I know how far I can push myself and that I’m doing much better than expected.

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