Avoid the Blues After Heart Surgery
This article was first published in the Winter 2019 Beacon: The Resolve Issue. Read more from the issue.
EVERY 40 SECONDS, someone in the United States has a heart attack. In many cases, when a patient comes into the Emergency Department with a heart attack, they will end up having a cardiac catheterization or surgery. Surviving a cardiac event and undergoing a serious procedure can be very frightening and have lasting emotional effects for patients.
M.L. Ray Kuretu, MD, Medical Director of Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, explains why the mental recovery can sometimes take more of a toll than the physical recovery.
AFTER CARDIAC SURGERY, WHAT CAN PATIENTS EXPECT FOR A NORMAL RECOVERY?
Dr. Kuretu: Cardiac surgery often means a difficult recovery for patients. They often spend several days to a week in the hospital before going home. Once they are home, they will likely have Beebe Home Care Services coming in to make sure they are getting around and to do physical therapy. They need to start slowly, but they also need to make sure they are moving regularly. I recommend Cardiac Rehab, and often my patients will also join the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program at Beebe.
DEPRESSION CAN ALSO BE COMMON FOR HEART PATIENTS —CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY?
Dr. Kuretu: In addition to the physical recovery, many patients often go through a low point, which can mean depression. In some cases, it can turn into a severe depression. After having a heart attack, many patients tell me they thought they were going to die. This near-death experience affects people in different ways, but one common reaction is for a person to become more emotional—perhaps just for a period of time, or perhaps for a long time.
Avoid the Blues after Heart Surgery
Here are a few ways you can avoid or alleviate feelings of depression after surgery.
++ START EACH DAY WITH A PLAN. Make sure to get out of bed, get dressed, and have a goal for the day—even if it’s as small as getting the mail.
++ WALK DAILY. Light physical exertion helps your body heal and does wonders for your mental state. Cardiac Rehab can help get you started and help you feel confident in your abilities.
++ GET BACK TO HOBBIES AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES. A recent surgery is no reason not to get back to enjoying your life with friends and family.
++ SHARE YOUR FEELINGS WITH OTHERS. Studies show the importance of expressing your feelings to a loved one or friend. Group support is one of the foundations of the Ornish program.
++ TALK TO SOMEONE. In some cases, patients would benefit from counseling, says Dr. Kuretu. In his office, patients are offered tele-psych services over a secure video connection.
If you or a loved one are experiencing severe depression, call 9-1-1 immediately.