Having a chronic illness and/or a surgical procedure can be scary. In this episode of the Heart of Innovation, we are talking about pre and post surgery stress and anxiety, especially tomophobia, 'the fear of surgery'. In the hospital, people are given medicine to help them sleep or sedatives to put them at ease. At home, it's not always as easy. Either way, many times the hurry up and wait game for any procedure is sure to put you on edge. The Way To My Heart Nurse Practitioner Kay Smith along with CRNA Kathryn Walker, CEO of Rivitalist, a group of mental wellness centers and her colleague Beth Ward, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) talk to hosts Kym McNicholas and Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Phillips about how to discuss doubt, fears, and anxiety with your healthcare team. They also offer tangible, actionable ways in which you can put yourself at ease pre and post surgery.
Grady, a family member of a patient who is now recovering from open heart surgery kicked off the discussion with a candid description of his experience leading up to his brother's procedure. He discussed the fear driven by the procedure itself but also the revolving door of physicians, the numerous pre-operative tests, the gaps in communication at times, and worries about what happens if treatment doesn't work. He also drove home the importance of a patient's healthcare team to recognize the stress and anxiety of a patient's family and to keep them in the loop to ensure all are on the same page so they can more effectively support the patient and help accelerate versus hinder the healing process.
Marcia, a patient with peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.), asked the therapists and Dr. Phillips about how to deal with post-surgery symptoms and the emotional stress that comes with so many questions that may arise between appointments with her healthcare team. Most patients don't have a physician or clinician on speed dial every single time a questions pops up. So what might be a small, normal post-surgery side effect, can be magnified the longer a patient waits for an answer.
A big takeaway from CRNA Kathryn and LCSW Beth is to recognize that stress, anxiety, and fear step from worrying about the future and things you can't control. They say the key is to focus on what you can control. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and place inside the circle all of the things you are worried about that YOU can actually do something about. That includes planning for options to accelerate recovery, such as starting to contemplate rehab possibilities, setting up a meeting with a dietitian, obtaining items for improved comfort and mobility at home, etc. Focus on those. For the others, sit down and come up with questions that may arise around them which can be discussed with your healthcare team or that of your family member.
In summary, it's most important to not burden yourself with regrets of the past and the 'what if's of the future. Catch them coming into your mind, and remind yourself to look for things that are within your power tand control to change and do right now.
For more, listen to this powerful conversation: