Things to know about going home from hospital after heart surgery

This is general information only based on the questions heart patients often ask other patients or family members. It does not replace professional advice from your medical team including your doctor, cardiac specialist, and pharmacist. If ever you feel unwell with symptoms such as chest or arm pain, difficulty breathing, fever, dizziness or bleeding you should seek immediate medical attention.

Everyone has questions … Heart patients, their families and care givers everywhere have the same questions about leaving hospital. Some questions come from the powerful emotions they feel. Other questions are simple – how will I get home, what do I eat. And then there are the questions about getting back to normal life. 

HOW WILL I FEEL?

You might feel tired, confused, sore and emotional 

  • TIRED – Patients have their sleep interrupted in hospital because of nurse visits every few hours in the night, meal deliveries and other activities. They are also tired because recovery takes energy, and they might not feel like eating much. 
  • CONFUSED – it can take days or even weeks for the surgery anaesthetic and other hospital medications to leave the patient’s system. These medications can make the patient a bit confused and drowsy. 
  • SORE – the surgery will have made cuts to the patient’s chest and possibly a leg or arm. Also, their rib cage is moved in their chest so that the doctors can operate, and they will have had cannulas (needles) inserted in their arms or wrists. Like any cuts these will take a few weeks to heal. 
  • EMOTIONAL – heart surgery is very emotional for patients and their families and it can take a while for things to even out a bit. Crying is normal.

WILL I BE ABLE TO TRAVEL AND GET AROUND ON THE GROUND

You are NOT allowed by LAW to drive any vehicle until your doctor says so; this might take quite a few weeks. This is because you are tired, confused, sore and emotional. 

  • You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital, take you to medical appointments, and to pick up groceries and any equipment you need.
  • You should not use mass public transport such as trains and busses because you can damage your chest wound if you are bumped, or the vehicle brakes suddenly. 
  • You will be told to travel in the back of a car with a pillow between your chest and the seatbelt .
  • You can use taxis or ride shares but remember that you will be weak and confused so make sure you are safe. Also, you cannot carry anything heavier than a kilo or two for a few weeks so will need help with carrying bags and groceries when travelling.

WILL I BE ABLE TO TRAVEL AND GET AROUND IN THE AIR

  • You must get clearance from your doctor before flying. Aircraft have reduced oxygen pressure that can make breathing difficult and there is no access to advanced medical care on board 
  • Every airline has its own rules – an extract from Qantas’s rules as of February 2021 is below.

Provided by Al Johnson, Centre for Digital Business

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Things to know about going home from hospital after heart surgery

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