NaCl + H2O

March 4, 2007

Well, Shawn’s pill box tells me that it’s Sunday morning, so I thought I’d update this blog. Shawn is doing well: temperature is normal, blood pressure and pulse in a normal range, and he’s been losing his extra water weight (we had to purchase a bathroom scale to find this out). Why the extra water? Read on.

During and after the surgery, the medical staff needs to administer meds, usually in IV form. Lots of extra water, then. The heart is beating less strongly than usual, which means that this extra doesn’t really get circulated in the bloodstream and removed, but remains in the body. The good news is that Shawn is now almost back to normal weight and his feet and ankles are much less puffy (for lack of a better term) than when he first arrived home.

Toward this end, we’ve also been eschewing salt, at least for the time being, since excess sodium tends to cause water retention. Well, to be completely honest, I’ve been cooking with less salt, giving the meal to Shawn, then salting my portion while he’s not looking.  (Okay, he knows I’m doing it)  I look forward to the day when I can once again use it in the entire cooking process, rather than just at the end.  It really does make a difference in the final dish, let me tell you. I love salt.

We actually received a bit of conflicting information on this topic in the hospital. The dietician for the entire cardiac care unit came to speak with us about the importance of maintaining a low-sodium diet for the forseeable future. This is really not a huge issue for us, since we don’t eat much in the way of processed foods, and our idea of fast food is a burrito from the local taqueria, but it was something to consider. I figured I could always eat some corn chips and pretzels to make up for my perceived deficit (chips and pretzels are really just a salt delivery system– if I could just lick the salt off and throw away the rest, I would probably do so). But then someone from the aortic root department came in and said that we don’t really need to worry about sodium as long as we’re reasonable, i.e. don’t eat at McDonald’s every day and avoid licking the salt off of the pretzels. See, the regular dietician talks to all heart patients, not just aortic root replacers, and most of the people on that ward have actual heart disease. In their cases, low sodium (LS) is essential, because they really will retain the water. Aortic root replacement is not the same as heart disease (are you listening, future insurers?), and therefore we really only need to use good common sense w/r/t the sodium rules. Her exact advice was, if it tastes good, eat it– better to have the energy reserves while healing from major surgery. Then she told a story about one of their aortic root patients who took the LS advice very seriously. Apparently, he arrived at one of his checkup appointments quite emaciated, since unsalted food did not appeal to him. We’re not having any of that here.

So Shawn is eating well, and I’m following the spirit of the LS law until it no longer seems necessary. He’s lost over ten pounds of (one assumes) water in the last few days, and our goal is to avoid a prescription of diuretics at tomorrow’s follow-up appointment at Stanford. Anything to avoid that additional pill or two during the day. His ankles look great.

Shawn’s day is surprisingly busy. When you are easily tired out, the schedule of four walks per day, four sets of breathing exercises, three meals, multiple medicaments, and enforced naps really fills up the time. His walks are getting longer (1-2 min. per day longer), his lung capacity is increasing, and, in general, he’s feeling pretty good. He’s experiencing enough daily progress to be able to feel positive and content.

He will probably post something within the next day or two, but I thought I’d throw this up for now.


One Response to “NaCl + H2O”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Good luck with the salt diet. 🙂 Really great to hear about the progress – thanks so much for posting. Way to go, Shawn!

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