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Coping with Post-Op Frustrations

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

By Jon Ritchings, Jr.

In today’s post, I wanted to write about moving forward in a positive way and how we can do that; instead, I’m going to write about getting through tough times. I'm in the middle of one now, or at least what I think is one of the toughest things about living with CHD. You see, I'm about seven months post-op and I feel incredible. My energy is way up and I can run for more than a couple of hundred feet for the first time in years, but I can't do the things I want because I'm having pain in my sternum and ribs down the back of my left side. It happens any time I stretch my diaphragm and it is like a hot knife being stuck in me.

I'm being told it will work itself out and at times it seems to have. I might go a week without feeling any pain at all and then, whammy—I wake up and it hurts as bad as it did before. What makes this hard is that immediately after surgery I was able to do things I hadn't done in years and I was looking forward to becoming fit and really going after things and yet I'm stuck in one spot. So this is how I cope with that frustration:

  • First and foremost, I talk to my doctors. I have a call in again this week and hopefully they will get me in to be seen. It's important for me to find out why I'm in pain. If we know the cause, we can figure out a plan towards finding a solution. For me that is a huge step in getting through things—knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.
  • Secondly, I occupy my time and mind doing the things I can do. I can walk without pain so I do. I also putter around the house doing all the everyday chores, as well as playing and building a ukulele. I find that by getting my mind off of where I'm at for a good section of the day keeps me from dwelling on the things I still can't do and lets me concentrate on the things I can.
  • The third and last thing I do isn't really something I do—it's more of who I am. I simply refuse to hear that I can't or won't be able to do something. I don't know if this is from my Irish roots or not, but if you want me to do something, the easiest way is to tell me I can't do it. This has pushed me through when everything else has failed. I think it's why I was able to do so many things despite my heart issues.

So my advice to everyone is to work as a team with your doctors to find a plan and stick to it. Find things you can do and enjoy doing and concentrate on those instead of the things you can't. If all else fails, try to find a way to do the things you want in some way or another. I hope this helps you when you seem to be in a tough spot.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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