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Personality Changes With Heart Valve Replacement

Can a person have personality changes after having a heart valve replaced with a pig valve?
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Avatar universal
From your screen name, I'm guessing YOU are NOT the one with the personality changes.  I'm sorry.  

Unless your husband is saying "oink" a lot and roots in the mud with his nose, I'd venture that the personality changes have nothing to do with the pig valve.  I just got my xenograft (also a pig valve) a couple of months ago, and I'm the same delightful person I always was.  (You can take my word for that; you won't have to ask my kids.  No! no!  Don't ask them!  Really!)

Personality changes are not uncommon after any surgery of this magnitude.  And healing is a long process, so if the changes are going to change back or change for the better, it could take a while.  

First, there is a lot to get used to.  We know we're mortal, but until something like this, we don't really KNOW it.  For example, I just kind of assumed I'd live to 88 because both my parents did, and now it's unlikely I'll live past 73-75.  Of course, I could have died of something else and still can, as soon as today, but I discovered that on some level, I took for granted that 25 more years were mine by right.  And I grieved the loss of those years, very much--too much--the same as if grieving a loved one:  anger, depression, all the steps of grief.  I'm better now--thank you--but it still hits me from time to time.  Yesterday my son was talking about where his family's life would be 20 years from now, babies in college and so on, a time in my life as an adult when my parents were alive.  And it hit me:  "Twenty years from now, I won't be here,"  and for a while I had a nasty little aftershock of grief.  

Then there are the daily losses, especially loss or potential loss of self-sufficiency.  Relationships and roles, especially with a mate, are redefined at least a little, which is very stressful and not a little confusing to the psyche until the two of you settle into a new pattern that works for you.  

Not to mention the bodily losses--a part of his heart is gone, a fact of which he is reminded every time he takes off his shirt.  And forget about the sternotomy scar, it's just the beginning; his chest and neck look like a punchboard.  Not so bad for me:  the sternotomy is kind of a companion piece to the gall bladder scar dating from before they removed a gall bladder (which lives 'way back in your torso) through a keyhole, and needed an incision big enough to move out everything in the way of it, which I gather was Everything.  Ah, well.  Even back then, I wasn't much in demand as a swim suit model, anyway.  But for some people, the visible changes are very hard to get used to.  

You don't say, but I'm inferring your husband had an isolated valve replacement, not with bypass or the like?  Me, too.  I think the one jolt that really helped put all this stuff in perspective was my post-surgical hospitalization in the cardiac unit.  After a couple of days, I realized that we AVR people were the lucky ones on the unit [after, you know, being unlucky enough to be there in the first place  :-P ].  We aren't dealing with artery/vein harvesting for bypass.  We aren't (necessarily) dealing with a heart that still, after everything, was going to be damaged or deteriorated (all or most of the heart wall damage from aortic stenosis will reverse in less than a year).  We came to this at a time when, unlike much heart surgery, the operation is well tested and today's procedure is polished by lots of experience and research.  We can look ahead, with even a little luck, to quite a few more years of good, normal, non-invalid life.  And on "my" unit, to make the point even more powerfully, just across the nursing station from my room, lay a patient with a total artificial heart, a temporary bridge, waiting minute by minute for someone, somewhere to die before it was too late, so that he could simply live.*

You know, most people going through these really serious losses and adjustments have a lot of it inside, where it just festers and produces (figuratively) a bilious gas that pollutes everything including relationships.  He may not go, but you might be able to find in your area a heart surgery support group, or really just any psychologist where he can shout, throw things, and maybe cry.  It won't change the facts, but it can really reduce the amount of bilious gas arising from the place inside him, and me, and pretty much all us patients where the anger, fear, and grief are lurking.  (To her husband--I do mean the part about throwing things.  Sometimes it feels great, but for whatever reason, wives don't seem to like it around the house.)  

I'm happy for you (and him) that he has the xenograft.  A mechanical valve presages a lifetime of carefully balanced medications which, among other effects, can definitely add to behavior and personality changes--and you sound like you've had enough of those!  The xenograft itself won't add to personality changes, it couldn't anyway, but it is not even the entire pig valve.  It is prepared by removing all the soft cells; what is implanted is just the cartilage, generally with a "stent" added to help keep its shape and secure it in place (I'm rather vague on the stent thing; I was kind of asleep while the surgeon was selecting my valve from his sample case and installing it.)  

I'm recommending a book I'm just reading that may amuse you, it's very light and quite humorous, but you promise to remember it's just fiction and has nothing to do with reality, right?  It's "Friends, Lovers, Chocolate" by Alexander McCall Smith, whose best known work is "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, and it's about a man who has a heart transplant, and afterward...     No, that's all I'm saying about it, except that your question reminded me of the book.

Good luck to you both.  

*The day I checked out, a part of the surgical team flew to San Diego to bring back his heart.          

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400515 tn?1244583416
  My son of 13 had a pulmonary valve replacement in december he oringinaly had a cows tissue valve then a week later when the artiery was collecting fluid had the same op again and had a human valve was fitted. Two weeks later he had abcesses on his wound and had a third op you can imagine what his scar looks like sometimes i cant look at it but he seems to get on with his life he is much fitter and back on his bike cycling to school. I have never noticed any change in him the only thing was when he got out of hosp he was moody ,sometimes in hospital he used to say why me ,When he was a baby he was diagnosed with tetralogy of fallot and had a op at 6 months old we always knew he might have to have his valve replaced but we never thought it was going to be so hard in hospital,we met some good friends though there but sadly they lost their son of 2 waiting for a heart and i just have to think of them and look at matthew and smile at him.
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Avatar universal
I guess overall it's easier to be the patient than to have it be your child, especially when your child has the horrible extra problems yours had.  No wonder he says, "Why me?" and as a parent, it sucks to have no good answer.  And at 13, he's just leaving the part of childhood that accepts things as they are, and going into the part where he'll be questioning everything anyway, which makes it harder.

My 13-y-o is adopted, so she may be the lucky one in this, but my adult children will have to be checked and THEIR children checked for it.  I'm worrried for my son particularly, because he's tired a lot, but we'll wait to find out.  It must be hard to know a long time in advance that this major surgery will be necessary in the future, like you did, and of course my kids will have to do that if they are diagnosed now.  And if they wait, it'll be hanging over their heads.

It sounds like you and Matthew have needed a lot of courage, and have had it.  You guys totally deserve a good recovery from here on in.  Good luck to you both.  

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21064 tn?1309308733
What a well thought out and wonderful post.  I am sorry that you have to tell your story, but I love that you are willing to share with others who are traveling the same path.  Thank you for being so candid and for sharing your lovely sense of humor with us : )

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21064 tn?1309308733
Oh, when I read your postscript, I smiled : )  You made my day even brighter!!
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21064 tn?1309308733
My goodness, Matthew has been through a lot in the past several months.  What a courageous young man!  Here's to a wonderful, healthy and long life.

I'm sorry that your friends little boy did not live long enough for a new heart.  It just doesn't seem fair.  As they say, we have another beaufiful angel to watch over us.  

Kudos to Matthew for gettin' on with his life!
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Avatar universal
Thanks for your kind remarks.  It is good to get an answer and know your post has been read.  Otherwise you just have to assume somebody saw or will see it, or not.  Not that anything we write in a forum is great literature, it's just fun to know somebody read it, and even nicer if it made someone feel a little better for a moment.
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