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Recovery from Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Here we talk about recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery, in those people for whom it was undertaken as a result of their heart attack. For experiences of recovering from a heart attack (see 'Recovering from your heart attack', 'Cardiac rehabilitation and support' and other summaries in the   'Recovery at home' section).

Many people have a mixed feelings on returning home after bypass surgery - happy to be home again, but at the same time feeling anxious that they no longer have the security of the hospital around them. One man said that being home was a bit daunting at first, but described how his confidence built up over time.

 

Coming home after bypass surgery was daunting at first but he slowly built up his strength and...

Coming home after bypass surgery was daunting at first but he slowly built up his strength and...

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
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When I came home after the bypass, I was a bit shaky really because once you get home, it's nice to get home, but all of a sudden you realise you haven't got the support of that hospital round you [laughs]. You suddenly realise that you're on your own and the first few days it was rather daunting. 

But it was certainly quite an experience that all of a sudden you're home, but you haven't got the support of the hospital services around you. But you learn to cope with it and, slowly but surely, the confidence returns and you realise that you've got to get on and do the best you can, and that's exactly what my partner and myself did.

How did you build up that confidence?

Well as different things happened. I mean, I was very, very weak, very, very shaky but every day I went outside and I did a little walk and walked back and then we moved the table here and we had a little dance practice and a little sleep. 

And we just kept working and working to build up my strength and of course, meeting people and my children coming over and seeing me, the support of the family and everything else. 

It was all wrapped in together and, slowly but surely, the confidence returns and you get more and more ambitious and then after a month you suddenly realise that you can drive again. 

So jumping in the car and driving around gives you a little bit more confidence. So you keep building and building, as long as you're positive.

 

The cardiac rehabilitation nurse visited Sab while still in hospital and gave him a list of...

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The cardiac rehabilitation nurse visited Sab while still in hospital and gave him a list of...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 64
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A list of things.
 
A timetable type sort of thing?
 
Yes everything written down, beautifully organised so if you forget and you pick it up and you think, 'Oh yes this is what I can't do.' How many minutes you can walk, how many, you know, each day or every other day and so on and so I had a timetable and also write down what I'd done that particular day and I went for a walk, was enjoyable or did you find it hard and you give yourself a marking what level from ten to…one to ten.
 
Did you find it useful?
 
Very useful indeed because you keep your record and you can see how easy or difficult it was the time before and you can slow down or you speed up and then you can also go faster and slower and see how it would do that. And I loved it, I couldn't wait to the next morning so I could do that again. So I was amazed that sometime, you know, before that I was thinking, 'Ooh I'll do it tomorrow, ' but this time I was the other way round, I was, couldn't wait for the day to come so that I can do it again. And then my wife came and, "What did you just do?" "I went to [Town]." "You went to [Town]? Are you supposed to do that?" So I get the booklet out and I'd say, "Well it says here I can do it." So that was my backup which is brilliant.

 

 
 

 

It takes most people about two to three months to recover fully after the operation. For the first three to six weeks many people feel very tired, especially at the end of the day.

 

Sab talks about what he was able to do at the various stages of his recovery.

Sab talks about what he was able to do at the various stages of his recovery.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 64
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And then for the next few days of being home was very, very emotional and because you can't do very much, you sit and everybody doing everything for you, they're running up and down and every time I moved, "What would you like?" my wife would stand up and [laughs] run for it. And then about three days later I thought, 'Well why don't you go to work and I'll be fine.' Because I knew that if she's not here I will do things for myself. And another friend of mine who also had a triple bypass a year earlier and he came to see me and talked to me about the thing I was going through is normal you know, that you will feel a pain, you don't want, you can't walk, you don't feel like to eat and so this is normal but it get better and, and support from families and friends I think that was the biggest help and encouragement to move on and do that. And then about four/five days later I started walking up and down in the house. It was so cold I couldn't go out for about six weeks and I was so desperate to go and walk. And then as the thing got better, I think about four or five weeks later I went to walk for forty five minutes and I went from [Village] to [Town] and back which is about just under three miles and I felt brilliant. And then I slept for two hours [laughs] because I was exhausted.
 
So from then on, you know, it got better and better and the next, my aim was to go and play golf and I remember going to check up in hospital and say, "Everything's fine we don't need to see you anymore, you are discharged from hospital," which was the more really a reassurance and give me more confidence. And I came home and just carried on, you know, as a normal life – walking and lots of walking and doing things, not sitting down and feeling sorry for myself and that's something you must learn to do. You know it's a wonderful world out there, you need to make effort and believe in yourself and you go and do things that you want to do.

 

The people we interviewed said they gradually built up their strength in stages. They set goals and they gave their body time to recover and heal. Many said they began by walking and they walked a little further each time.

 

His goal was to get back to playing golf after his heart attack and bypass surgery.

His goal was to get back to playing golf after his heart attack and bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
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But my goal was to play golf again and they told me in the little book, the heart booklet, which I've read, that at six weeks I shall be able to not play golf but I should be able to walk on the course. 

So at six weeks I started walking on the course again. With my wife mainly and we'd play nine holes, or she'd play nine holes and when we got to a green and I'd putt and then slowly but surely I'd sneak another golf club in and play with a [inaudible]. 

And after, just after six weeks I started to hit the golf ball again, although people have said, you know 'careful of your chest.' But the people in the rehab said, 'it's a swinging movement rather than a stretching.' Don't lift, people kept telling me, 'don't lift bags of cement and don't pick up slabs.'  

I have no intention of picking up slabs in fact I told the surgeon that if anyone's going to pick up a bag of cement, I'll let the wife do it. [laughs]

So I had this goal to play golf again and at six weeks also the rehab people called me and said, 'start the rehab again.' So I'm back into the rehab now, which is I'm only going once a week now for twelve weeks and I think again that's absolutely essential to do all this. 

But it was that goal and they said, 'at three months you should be able to play golf.' And at three months I started playing golf and I'm round to playing fourteen holes now, out of the eighteen, including going up the hill that used to worry me.

 

She took plenty of exercise and plenty of rest, which helped her to recover from bypass surgery.

She took plenty of exercise and plenty of rest, which helped her to recover from bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 84
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 81
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You must give yourself something to look forward to and something to do within the capabilities, your capabilities of doing it and I think that is as simple as that. That's all I can say and you have friends and you appreciate friends and you try and live the life you did before. 

But you can't do it suddenly; you've got to do it gradually. You've got to float around like some injured bird for a little while until your wings have healed and then you can go out. Plenty of exercise within reason, even if it's only slow walking. Slow walking and then you get faster, you get to be able to speak to people for longer periods and you get to be able to pick up where you left off. I did.

I made myself do it but I didn't overdo it, when I was tired I went to bed. Not set up but laid out, went to bed so that every part of my body was relaxed. I didn't care what people thought I went to bed whenever I felt like going to bed and maybe for just an hour and it was enough and then you get up and go again. It's just plain common sense I think.

 

He introduced a small incline into his walking programme during his recovery from bypass surgery.

He introduced a small incline into his walking programme during his recovery from bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 71
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
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These friends who had been looking after my wife were coming up to see me were quite astonished I think to find us walking. We didn't realise that, didn't study the book accurately to realise that it said after so may weeks I think it was, or days, as your programme progresses, try to introduce a little incline into your walking. 

Well [laughs] my wife did read it and she decided that she would drive me up to the top and we'd walk along the tops but I had some friends who came and goodness knows what they were expecting to find, these are work people, but I was halfway up the main hill and they recognised me and couldn't believe it. 

They said, "we've come to visit a patient, we've come expecting to find you all stretched out and feet up," and I was doing my walk, because we've got this magnificent area around here, this is a fabulous place for walking but it's hilly. So that was the rehab.

 

Describes what he did to help him recover from bypass surgery.

Describes what he did to help him recover from bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
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Well as I say, I drank a lot of water. I decided that I was going to drink water to get whatever was in my system out of my system and I was drinking ten glasses of water a day. So that's something. 

The one mistake I probably made on reflection is that I decided to cut back on the food intake in terms of the saturated fat and so on, dairy products early on. I shouldn't have done that. I should have waited about a month and that would have helped my body to recover quicker probably. 

But it did recover quickly and it wasn't long before I was walking the streets and walking a little bit further each day. Not taking my dog because he might pull on my chest. So walk, walk, walk. And walk a little bit further each day and if there's a slight hill, be careful. But walk, walk, walk. Drink water, eat the right foods, be patient, be confident and push on ahead.

Did you find that you stayed positive emotionally during that time?

Most of the time I was. There's times when you get a little bit down and you know, you wonder what's the future got for you because you're not sure, because it's the first time you've gone through this experience. So you, I wouldn't say apprehensive, but just wonder what lies ahead, of course you do. 

But having gone through this stage, there's nothing really to worry about. So yes, you have your days when things aren't quite so good; a little bit of pain here, a bit of pain there. But you just get on with it. You've got to get on with it, life's got to go on. 

 

Sab was determined to build his fitness again and to go back to play golf again. His...

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Sab was determined to build his fitness again and to go back to play golf again. His...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 64
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It took a long, long time. Only at five months after I think my doctor did tell me that because I was so fit, I'm not going to benefit or wouldn't feel the benefit straight away. So I need to get, I've reached the level of fitness I was before we had operation and then you begin to feel that are you better. But when I do feel I don't get any indigestion anymore and the heartburn, you know, we call it and when I'm walking I'm not out of breath either so the last five or six weeks I really begin to feel, yes I played golf, I had been playing golf after fourteen/fifteen weeks but nine hole and then last five weeks ago I started playing eighteen holes and I don't feel out of breath out all. And I now feel I want to go back and have another few more holes to play. So I'm beginning to feel that I'm getting better and better and I feel in myself more confidence now than I did say four/five weeks ago.
 
You were active and a sporty person before have that helped with your recovery?
 
Most definitely yes because that's what motivates you and also give you the idea that where your fitness level is because what you were before and then after. And the golf and the walking that I enjoy and that's my real motivation to get myself to get better and also to go see my grandchildren. I didn't go this year to Canada and my wife did. I really missed that. I didn't want to take a chance to go on the aeroplane because of the leg but I'm getting fit for them because they don't believe that you sit down and give you sympathy, they just ask you to chase them and fight with them which I do with them and that was my motivation as well. Aim to get fitter so I can go and, they don't, not going to catch me when I run [laughs].

 

 

 

It takes several weeks for the breastbone and scars from the surgery to heal. Some people's scars were beginning to fade after four months. Others were still quite prominent after a few years. A few younger people felt conscious of their scars. One 39-year-old man described his feelings about exposing his scars when going swimming with his children. Another woman in her fifties said she wore trousers all the time at first because she didn't want anyone to see the scar on her leg.

 

Four months after bypass surgery his scars had healed well and he had no problems with his leg.

Four months after bypass surgery his scars had healed well and he had no problems with his leg.

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
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But now I've had my operation and my scars funnily enough are first class, they've virtually faded. The surgeon how he did it I don't know, because when I was admitted to the local hospital, after I came out, the charge nurse and the doctor said, 'I've never seen such a good cut. It really, really is a good one,' she says. And I agree, it's fading so good, I can't believe it. So I'm happy about that.

Did you put anything on it to help it? Has it just faded on it's own?

It just faded on it's own, I do nothing. This is one of the reasons I want to go abroad. I think a bit of sunshine would help it a little bit more and that's what it needs now is a bit of sunshine now, and I'm convinced that it'll be virtually undetectable, not completely. But there again, that's the penalty you've got to pay for having blocked arteries I suppose [laughs].

And your leg, sometimes the leg is more of a trouble than the chest, was that okay?

No, no problem at all. I did wear a stocking, a pair of tights for the first six weeks, day and night. I never took them off except to wash them and change them and it's healed up perfectly, beautiful. I'm really, really pleased with it. I'm very, very pleased with the surgeon, there's no two ways about it.

 

He feels conscious of people looking at his scars when he takes his children swimming.

He feels conscious of people looking at his scars when he takes his children swimming.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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You get very conscious about some of these things. It's weird when you, like we're about in November we go, as a family we go to the [a leisure complex] in [the lake district] every year, and it's lovely, but I went last year and you go into the pool with trunks. Well I'm, I look like bloody Frankenstein and you just see people going [pause], looking at you like that.  

What do you do, do you look at them in the eye or, or you carry, or if they catch you, it's things like this. I've just got to carry on but, but you do feel so self-conscious of it, you try not to but it's worse because with being, still relatively put on a lot of weight on from the running point of view, I'm still relatively thin, by comparison to, to most people and, and the, the scars have what's the phrase, is it gravelled up or grained up or whatever they've, they've become quite proud and, and the skin, so they stand out. 

And you've got this big one there, down there, your tracheotomy, there's these, four chest drains, there's two there either side, you know. And you've got from there down to there and that's fine, that's actually healed up you can't see it, but from there to there it almost as thick as me, me finger.

The scars?

Yes, so of course you [laugh] you're walking, I mean if I saw somebody like that you'd just go, even if it was, I would have mine, “Oh bloody hell what's up with them?”, you know and you just like, and you just feel. The kids don't really comment on it now they just go, that's where you've been sore yeah, things like that.

Playing with young children or grandchildren might take a bit of time after bypass surgery. One man explained that he had to be a bit careful at first and talks about how his young son reacted to his scar. Another man said he was a bit wary at first of his chest when his granddaughter sat on his lap, but his doctor had reassured him that the breastbone had healed.

 

Describes how his young children reacted to his scars as he was recovering from bypass surgery.

Describes how his young children reacted to his scars as he was recovering from bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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I mean initially when I came back I sometimes do forget she wanted a hug and cuddle, she's one of those crawling all over you. She couldn't because physically, this is after the bypass, well you're in real pain, and just a little nudge here were like, and it was painful and they'd be upset if they hurt you, so you have to be very careful. I mean my son is the most adorable loving creature you could ever see.  

It's quite surprisingly is, you'd almost think I hate gender stereotypes because most people say the behaviour he exhibits are female and that he's so loving, he gives you a kiss but if he gives you a kiss he asks for a hug as well. If you just give him a kiss and walked away he'd be upset, give me a hug as well. 

But if I'm hurt, if I feel as I'm, say the scar, he'd go and kiss the scar, I'll make you better, he'll come and kiss and hug and then go away again. So that's what I get from them, you know the hug and the kiss and they'll actually touch the scar and kiss and walk away again.  

 

Talks about playing with his grandchildren three months after bypass surgery.

Talks about playing with his grandchildren three months after bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
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It was initially, now I play with them now and will lift them, although my wife looks down at, because they are the 'bag of cement effect'. And I was a bit protective of me chest, especially this dead, dead patch.

My one little granddaughter, she's a wriggly bum, she sits on lap and there's arms and legs going all over the place and you get a poke in the eye and she'll, she'll sort of put her head back and would bang on this. So there was a bit of wariness about that. But we spoke to the surgeon and he said, 'well after three months, all where he's, he's cut down and separated the breast bone, and I'm actually put together with titanium loops'.  

He said, 'at three months', he said, 'that's absolutely solid now'. He said, 'you know you can't get through that, you can't damage it. And at two months even it's pretty well knitted'. That was when I was really starting to sort of move about and play more golf or at least started to swing. And he said, 'you know you can't get through that.'

If a vein was removed from the leg, it may also feel uncomfortable. Some had no problems with their leg but others said their leg gave them more problems after the operation than their chest. Some wore a support stocking to help the leg to heal. The scar on one man's leg was slow to heal.

 

Four months after bypass surgery his scars had healed well and he had no problems with his leg.

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Four months after bypass surgery his scars had healed well and he had no problems with his leg.

Age at interview: 77
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
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Yes there was, there was a patch now that you mention it. A shortish patch when, you know after this operation they make you wear these long elasticated stockings which at first I couldn't deal with myself, my wife or a nurse, my wife had to put them on and take them off. 

They are quite hard to get on and this was made even worse [coughs] by the fact that they cut the leg all the way from, from the ankle to the groin to get a vein out to do the bypass. I've got four, they had to have a long piece of vein so I've got a long cut.

And the cut whilst it didn't hurt, the upper portion of it didn't seem to want to heal and it kept oozing. It wasn't as I say, it wasn't painful but it was, it was wetting this damn stocking that I was wearing and it was a mess. 

And I had to go for this walk every day and before we'd walked a quarter of a mile, I was wet through up here and that really depressed me, I was really fed up with that. But again it's not actually the heart attack; it's only a side issue. A lot of people have told me that when you have a bypass, the leg gives you more trouble than up here.
 

Some people noticed numbness or pins and needles around the scar on their legs or chest after bypass surgery. One man still felt numbness on the left side of his chest five years after bypass surgery.

Many hospitals offer a cardiac rehabilitation programme for people who've had heart surgery. The programme, which usually lasts at least six weeks, aims to help people recover from the procedure and get back to everyday life as quickly as possible (NHS Choices 2015). These programmes vary but usually start about four to six weeks after heart surgery. Many people talked about the benefits of these programmes during their recovery, though one woman chose to use the Heart Manual rather than attend an organised programme and one man said he would have liked to have done more strenuous exercises.

 

At cardiac rehabilitation he met a range of people with different experiences.

At cardiac rehabilitation he met a range of people with different experiences.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 59
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Well I think at cardiac rehab you see all the people who have the same problem. [laughs] Some of us had it for the first time, some for the second time. 

Some of us had stent, some of us had surgery, some of us still waiting, so there is a good mix, a good mix of age, a good mix of experience, a good mix of you know of physical limitations and, but as a group, yes it was quite enjoyable. [laughs]  

Particularly that I don't, I'm not, I used to swim and play tennis in the past and I stopped that quite a long time. 

I don't know why it was probably there was no time and my only exercise I do is walk in the corridors of the hospital and going up and down the stairs to see patients or running for an emergency and that was my exercise. [laughs]

There's no time.

So there's not time in between. I wish to go back to swimming again and the tennis. Hopefully. In the future.

So the benefits of the cardiac rehab was having someone in a similar situation to you?

Yes, yes and then you also can do some things you know all together. You know you can see somebody who can do it, somebody who can't do it, somebody who's tired. So you can see in reality how, how life can affect you and then you can see whether you are lucky or unlucky. [laughs].

And how did you feel?

Well I felt it is quite, I really enjoyed it. Yes, I really enjoyed it.

 

Describes the exercises he did and the cardiac rehab programme he went to recover from bypass...

Describes the exercises he did and the cardiac rehab programme he went to recover from bypass...

Age at interview: 67
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
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Can you tell me about the cardiac rehabilitation that you went to?

Well it was just, you used to go for a talk at first, when you first started, just tell you what were happening and how your heart were recovering and your tablets, what your tablets were doing to help you recover and then we did a physio for one day a week, you went for a morning.

And we did circuit training for all different sorts of exercises so you went one day a week for that and that went on for about 40 weeks I think it was and they recommended that you did a bit of exercise, besides that exercise you were doing at rehab. So I used to go for a walk, take the dog for a walk or just cut grass.

I didn't dig garden because I hadn't to do any heavy work you know, any hard work. I used to just cut grass, walk up and down a few times, sit down, have a rest. It used to take me half a day to cut grass and it's only a small garden so plenty of time and just take things easy, don't rush things, just take it nice and easy. I haven't any problems, I haven't any twinges or ought like that you know.

 

She chose not to attend a cardiac rehabilitation programme and used the Heart Manual instead.

She chose not to attend a cardiac rehabilitation programme and used the Heart Manual instead.

Age at interview: 84
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 81
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I felt I could rehabilitate myself, which I did. I didn't want to be; I didn't want to be mixed up with other people's reactions and feelings. I wanted just to have my own and sort my own out and right or wrong I did it. But no, the doctor asked me and I said, 'no, I'll do it', I said, 'I'll do it myself.' I didn't want any help to climb the mountain because if somebody fell down I'd fall down with them. I'd rather do it myself.

Did you use the heart manual? Did he give you a heart manual?

Oh Yes, yes I read it. Yes that's very helpful, I think all these manuals, all these leaflets and questions and answers that other people have gone through before you and experiences of doctors as well, it's good to read because you can pick out something that goes with what you have already said or done and think. 

You think, 'oh yes that's right, yes it's right there or well that's a good thing, that's an idea,' and you read these things and you do get ideas and you do get inspiration. I can only say that from these different things and you get so many different aspects of these things. It's not, it's never black and white is it? [I' No]. It's never black and white.

And you, and you, you felt it was better for you to just use the heart manual [R' Yes, I did] and work through that week by week?

I found that very, very useful especially when you first get over the operation, are getting over the operation, you do need rest. You do need exercise but you have to be clever about it. You need the exercise and you need the rest. 

And I used to just lay on the settee, which wasn't here then, it was in the other house, and just read and get really involved with it and then ask myself questions and then think, you know, oh yeah well yes that could happen and perhaps that's what happened to me, and you either agree or disagree but it gives you something to do. 

It's obviously knowledge because without books you wouldn't have any knowledge would you unless somebody talked to you forever. Yeah, I think the leaflets and the books, which I always read are very helpful. Sometimes you wouldn't agree with them but it depends on your own experiences wouldn't it, it just depends. 

 

The cardiac rehab programme was not as strenuous as he would have liked it because he was the...

The cardiac rehab programme was not as strenuous as he would have liked it because he was the...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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There is a cardiac rehab and I initially went through that in terms of some of the exercises but again that's, you see that's the weird thing in that, I'd go there and of course I'm almost half the age of most people on it and they're doing the exercises. Well I'm like, you know, it physically wasn't, although my heart was, was, obviously you've got to be careful, I'm governed by my heart and what my muscles and brain can do, but I, I moved through it reasonably well. 

The first few weeks not so, because I was still recovering from the chest and so I was getting intense pain, I was having to sleep sitting up. So when they did for example the floor exercises and say, 'Lift your body off the floor', I couldn't get up again [laugh]. I'd have to roll over on my side, because it was so painful to move your body that way. 

But in terms of the other ones, like lift, lifting your knees up and what, I mean, I can go for ever and a day at that. But again it's comparing, I think, understandably generally within the medical profession you get a range of people to you, you tend to discuss the general the norm.  

Well from a physical point of view, as I say, I was well outside the norm, there were those who were pretty ill before they come in, there were those who were, physical attributes that make them great athletes or whatever, you know. So I'm probably going to be a little bit different to the norm and, and these are some of the areas that I were. 

So as I say from a personal point of view, I'd like to have done more. And I did go to a gym then you see and started doing, I joined a local gym, I started doing more there.  

Cardiac rehabilitation classes should be tailored to the individual's needs' if they seem not to be, it is worth discussing this with the cardiac rehabilitation nurses. For people's experiences of cardiac rehabilitation programmes after a heart attack (see 'Cardiac rehabilitation and support' and 'Community-based exercise programme (Phase 4)').

People should not drive for at least four weeks after bypass surgery. One man had problems with driving and found ways to make it easier.

 

Explains how he overcame problems with driving seven weeks after his bypass surgery.

Explains how he overcame problems with driving seven weeks after his bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
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One of the frustrations I had was driving and let me just talk about that a little bit because they recommend you shouldn't drive for four weeks. In fact most people wait for six weeks as I did and if, six weeks even I found problems. I found problems at road junctions looking to the left, looking to the right, the pain on the chest. 

So there is a problem there and the other thing is safety belts because the safety belts going right across your chest when you've had an operation and it's still, it's sore. So I got round this by using a soft cushion, which reduced the pain a bit and by using clothes pegs on the safety belt because you've got to wear a safety belt. 

So that does help but yes, there was a problem and I'll never forget, seven weeks after the operation driving 120 miles and I was glad to get to the end of the journey. So there is a problem there but again, be patient, be confident, it's going to get better and it will get better. 

 

Sab is a retired driving instructor but after his triple bypass surgery he was afraid to drive...

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Sab is a retired driving instructor but after his triple bypass surgery he was afraid to drive...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 64
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I didn't drive for six weeks and then about seven or eight weeks but then I didn't want to drive. I just didn't want to go on the road at all. I thought no this is much better life walking [laughs] and then my friend who lives in [Town], it's about thirty miles away and I think my wife and his wife, they came to see me and I think my wife talked to them about I didn't want to drive. And then when they went home they phoned up and say, "Why didn't you come over for a meal?" and my wife agreed, you know, without telling me and she said, "Right we're going to go there," and she said, "You drive," I said, "No, no, no I don't want to drive thank you," and she said, "Come on its only up the road," so I yeah, I drove and we got there and I was petrified, absolutely petrified and of course as I'd been a driving instructor and I drive my hand here and every time I went over the bump it really hurt. I mean we got there and I was really pleased. I thought, 'Whoa that's great,' and I ached. I ached so much I couldn't eat food, you know, after I'd driven and then I took some tablets, painkillers, and then I had to drive back and it was in the evening, very quiet, nobody about and then the pain got better and I really started enjoying it. "Oh this is alright." And I came home and that was it after that. Then I went to, it was my wife with me and the little short journey I'd driven after that and then my brother phoned up. He said, "Why don't you come and see me who lives in [City] and whoa. I thought about, driving on the motorway, I thought, 'Whoa I don't think I can do that,' and I said to my wife, "I'm going to go on my own," and she was petrified, more worried about it than I was. So I drove and I really, really enjoyed it, you know, it was just no problem. Bit of pain again my chest pain because of the way I held the steering wheel and when I got there I took some painkiller tablets and coming back again was brilliant so after that I never looked back and I drive whenever I want to every day.
 
 

 

After slowly building up their strength and giving their bodies time to heal, many could return to normal activities three to four months after bypass surgery. One man, a hospital consultant, described what it was like going back to work after his bypass surgery.

 

Talks about what it was like going back to work after triple bypass surgery.

Talks about what it was like going back to work after triple bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 59
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Going back to work, what was it actually going back those first few days?

Well it was a bit strange because I start now to coming back to, to what's the normal routine is waking up early and coming late and you know it was quite exhausting to start with. And I think the, the stress and the strain was a bit, you know I start to feel the stress from the day one because I have to, to be on my toes most of the time, I have to think twice before I do anything and you know the, I was a bit slower than I used to be because I have to check everything twice before I [laughs] do anything. 

And then as time goes by, start to pick up and come back to normal. Because every day you work and you do the work, you get more confident and then you feel that much happier.

Three men had joined a gym. Another returned to dancing. One man was playing golf 6 weeks after his operation. One woman walked to the top of Snowdon seven months after her bypass surgery.

People's experiences described here are of successful outcomes. Recovery for those who had a stroke or heart failure after bypass surgery would be longer and with greater long-term limitations. 

Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated June 2017.

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