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The value of support after surgery

Recovering from aortic dissection surgery is hard enough, but for Roni there was also the need for corrective surgery after. Support is what pulled him through.

Roni was in a boxing class at his local gym when he felt an excruciating pain in his chest. An ambulance was called, which rushed him to Middlemore Hospital before he was transferred to Auckland Hospital. 

“I saw the heart specialist team and they quickly diagnosed that I needed to have an operation urgently so I went under the knife early afternoon,” says Roni, who had just experienced an aortic dissection.

“I was under the knife for about eight hours, and they left me in a coma for 24 hours afterwards, just so my body could settle down because it was quite traumatised.”

Roni didn’t ‘come to’ till the following afternoon, and says his recovery from surgery went well.

He was in hospital for two weeks and attended the exercise classes at Middlemore to help his recovery. A lot of people in the class were from the same ward as him, and it was nice to see them trickle through.

“It was good that everybody was here through the benefits of our hospital and all the good doctors there that were trying to keep us alive, and they do a wonderful job so I take my hat off to our medical practitioners and all the other people that work in the hospital.”

“...Just my total approach to life had to change if I was going to be around.”

He and his wife also did the Heart Foundation’s Pacific Nutrition course, which was “quite an eye-opener”, he says.

“We were quite ignorant to the foods that we would purchase. A lot of times we would just go for what was the cheapest without reading the labels, so the Heart Foundation nutrition course really made me aware that the cheapest foods mightn’t necessarily be the best foods and a lot of times they weren’t – they were very high in sodium so I’ve benefited from doing the course. 

“I knew that I had to make some drastic changes and that my nutrition, my exercise, and just my total approach to life had to change if I was going to be around,” he adds...

The relapse

While Roni felt his recovery was going well, one of the ongoing check-ups confirmed that his aorta was starting to enlarge again and that he needed corrective surgery – “it was pretty traumatic”.

But soon after the second surgery and his discharge from hospital, Roni picked up an infection where he was coughing up blood, so had to be rushed back to Middlemore Hospital.

“So they had to open me back up again and take out the blood clot and any other things that were there, and I was in hospital again for another six to eight weeks.”

Following that, he had to have a blood test every other day and an infectious wash of vancomycin. “So the district nurse would come in and get me connected up and change my fluid – the material that they were using to wash my insides out.

“That went on for about another month and it was a slow procedure – a very difficult time for me, I sort of really didn’t like getting any blood taken so it’s not very nice having somebody jab you in the arm every other day just to try and find a vein.”

Eventually his infection cleared up, and Roni once again started the exercise programme, having to build up his strength once more.

Counselling helped

That second time in hospital was tough, says Roni, especially as he had to miss his daughter’s wedding.

“It was very emotional for myself and for my wife and when I came out of hospital the second time, I sort of went through a little bit of depression.”

“It was really of value to have a psychologist talk to my wife and I – especially good for my wife. I went through the operation but my wife did as well, and she had to have someone to talk things through with.”

The counselling, he says, helped give his wife the courage to let Roni do some things for himself again. “She was there for me 24/7,” says Roni. The psychologist explained that part of the process of getting better is letting go – and just having that confirmed gave Roni and his wife something to go forward with.

Roni is now back on his feet again “without any tubes hanging out of me”. He takes his medication, keeps moving, and has fingers firmly crossed for no more relapses. He is grateful for the care he received while in hospital and wishes to extend his thanks to the staff at Middlemore and Auckland Hospitals.


Shared November 2016.

Please note: the views and opinions of the storyteller and related comments may not necessarily reflect those of the Heart Foundation NZ.

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