Take Care of My Mommy. She’s The Only One I Have


My mom is going to have open heart surgery in April.

A couple of years ago she had a heart attack – not the “grab your heart kind” but a “didn’t know I had one” kind that health experts keep talking about.  As a result, she had a stint put into one artery.  My mom got a wake up call and began to exercise 4 days a week and eat a little healthier.  Doctors kept saying everything looked good.  But recently, fluid gathered around her heart making breathing difficult and after 300 cc’s of the fluid was removed from her chest, the doctors discovered the culprit is a bad valve.  Plus they found two other not so good valves.  And two arteries that really need to be bypassed.  So they are going in.

I am scared.  I understand that operating on a beating heart is common these days, yet I am having trouble getting over it being done to my Mommy.  That’s my Mommy we are talking about.  I feel so young and helpless.   I am terrified of her dying on the operating table, leaving me without a Mom and my daughter without a Nana.  I just found out yesterday, so the news is pretty raw, but I can’t live like this.   This level of worry isn’t healthy for anyone.

Your advice is greatly needed.  I can talk to the many doctors our family knows and get lots of information.  I can read about the surgery online, probably even rent a movie about the history of the operation from Netflix (I saw the one about how bypass surgery was discovered, actually).  I could not learn anything and just hope the worry goes away.  I’ve got 6 weeks before it happens, and then I’ll be going in to help care for her as she heals (Mom is in Michigan, I’m in Texas).  What do I do with myself for 6 weeks? How do I manage the fear and worry?  How have you handled major family operations like this?

Give me what you got.  I am going to need it.


9 responses to “Take Care of My Mommy. She’s The Only One I Have

  1. I had open heart surgery when I was a year old, in 1970. I was born with a hole in my heart and, according to my mom, used to turn blue because I couldn’t breathe. After the surgery, I can honestly say I have never been bothered by any heart troubles. I’ve been playing soccer year round for over 25 years. I do have a murmur, but it doesn’t affect my everyday life (other to increase my life insurance premiums, the bastards). I was, however, put in the high-risk group at the hospital when I was pregnant as they weren’t sure how labour and delivery would affect my heart. Everything was fine. There was a chance my son would have the same heart problem, but he didn’t, thank God.

    If they can perform the surgery safely on a toddler back in 1970, I think your mom will be in good hands. 🙂

    Sending positive thoughts.

  2. Hi, Meditation is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. My Daughter and I try to meditate daily, and it really helps. Also, I would ask for prayers mabye from a church, and from family and friends, because prayer is powerful. We will pray for your Mom and You, and we hope all will go well.

    Take Care,

    -Angela & Angelica

  3. My Dad went to the doctor after being short of breath and they set him up for open heart surgery within a couple days. They ended up doing a quadruple bypass. That was 6 years ago. He’s now 80 years old and doing really well. I was amazed at how “routine” these surgeries have become and how quickly they got him out of the hospital.

  4. Ainse is the kind of person you need to listen to right now. You can do all the research you want, but I’ll bet you won’t retain the huge majority of statistics of people who do great. You’ll remember the horror stories and flukes or start worrying that she’ll contract MRSA (she won’t!)

    I know how you feel though, my mom is a cervical cancer survivor.

    They perform complex heart surgeries all the time (my FIL and his friend have had them), and because your mom is a healthy active person, she’ll do great. So you need to make sure to surround yourself with positive thinking, otherwise you’ll drive yourself nuts. It’s not in your hands, you have no control so worry will just make you sick.

    But you’ll worry anyway and then your mom will come out just fine and your faith in life will be restored…. so take some xtra vitamins to combat your stress levels. 🙂

  5. Hey, at least you know about it in advance.

    I got a call last year from my dad, saying, “Your mom asked me to call you and tell you she was out of surgery, and she’s fine.”


    Mom had a hip replacement, and kept me totally out of the loop, because she knew I’d drop everything and go up to take care of her.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her. But it makes great cocktail party fodder.

    Seriously, open heart surgery is commonplace now. She’ll be fine. We’ll all keep our fingers crossed for you.

  6. My grandmother had paracarditis (fluid in the sac around the heart, constricting it) and ended up having to have 2 valves replaced. This was… hmm… 15 years ago? Maybe longer.

    This IS common surgery. And if she’s been taking care of herself, which she has been… then the risk is MUCH lower.

    It was so scary. My grandmother wasn’t a typical grandparent in my eyes… she helped raise me. She was by my side for every major event in my life. It was as if it were my mom under the knife. I paced during the entire surgery.

    Here’s the thing. For the next 6 weeks, she’s going to be taking it easy and trying not to tax her heart. If they’re waiting 6 weeks to do the surgery, that is a GOOD thing. It means that while it’s an important need, her life is not in danger at this second. (when they found the fluid in my grandmother’s heart sac they performed the surgery that night)

    The best thing you can do is be strong for her. Concentrate on that. Concentrate as little as you can on your own worry. You’ve got to find a way to release that, so you can be ‘in the moment’ and wholly present for your mom. She needs you, she needs to be able to lean on you and reveal her own fears without worrying about the burden it will place on you. In other words, she needs to just *be* … and whatever you need to do to help with that… is the right thing.

    I could be talking out my you-know-what… but I do remember how scary it was. It was awful.

    I’ll be thinking of you. You can get through this… you have the strength, tenacity, and courage. Your mom does too, I’m sure… but she may need to loan some of yours for a bit.

  7. A lot of good advice here already, so I won’t repeat what’s already been said.

    There is one thing I would like to add, since my mother has survived lung cancer for far longer than anticipated (4+ years now), and my father recently had a heart attack and angioplasty like your Mom.

    Here it is:
    What you are feeling is normal, and I would be more worried about you if you didn’t feel that way. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept that you will have these “awful” feelings for a while, and let them be what they are. Allow your love for your Mom to fill you, including whatever feelings of loss or fear may come up. Do what you can to give yourself some extra time each week to spend alone with your feelings, or to rest if that’s what you need. My experience was that the severity of feelings tended to decrease with time, whereas my love and appreciation for my parents became even more vast than I had ever expected.

    Good luck.

  8. Okay, coming from a professional worrier, I would not do too much Internet research. After Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (12 yrs ago!!) I read & read every piece of anything about it I could get my hands on (which was much less then than it would be now) and it was awful. The statistics are grim, and once you are hyper-aware of them it becomes part of your focus whether you want it to be or not. Remind me that we need to chat about something I read last month in Sun Magazine (I’m afraid if I type it without context etc., it could be taken really the wrong way. Plus, Mom has the issue right now because I wanted her to read about what I want to talk to you about, so I really don’t want to mis-quote either. Convoluted, no?)

    On a very practical level, when the worry is consuming me, I find writing lists very therapeutic. Again, as a professional worrier, I sometimes worry about forgetting what I was worrying about if I decide to try to let it go? (follow me?) For example, if I’m laying (lying,whatever) in bed in a worry spiral, I’ll get up and chicken scratch everything onto a list, so I know that if I still want to worry about whatever it is that is feeding the spiral, it’ll be right there when I wake up. Most of the time I end up tossing the list in the morning. And the overwhelming anxiety is quelled, if even for a brief time.

    All my best to you, your Mom & your family.

    • I love how you call yourself a professional worrier. I am so like that. Good advice to know as little as possible. I am going with that one for sure.