climbing after heart surgery

Posted by: edthomas

climbing after heart surgery - 01/16/14 08:12 PM

Anyone out there have experience climbing after heart surgery? I had a quadruple bypass two months ago, and I'm hoping that it is possible to return to some kind of climbing after rehab. I know it will be a while, but maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel?
thanks, Ed
Posted by: Bill2

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/17/14 01:32 AM

Hey Ed,

Ed Gud'on ya! Getting through the major league surgery and thinking about climbing! Excellent!

Can't speak to heart surgery but I had a bit of a bout with cancer 20 years ago. Surgery, chemo, bone marrow transplant and radiation treatment. It was a long way back. Passion at the time was ice hockey. Took a couple of years and some concerted effort but got back to playing at my pre-cancer level. Started rock climbing 15 years ago and haven't looked back. Hockey fell by the wayside and I climb year round and relish everyday on the rock.

Only long-term effect is a reduction in my aerobic capacity due to the impact of the chemo on lung elasticity and my heart valves. Makes some approaches a bit of a grunt. But hell with your plumbing now completely roto-rooted you should be better off now than before the surgery!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is the light of the setting sun glinting off of a Rail Trail Ale at the Otter as you sit on the patio after another terrific, magical day of climbing at the Gunks with great friends.

God bless you and keep you Ed and may your enjoy many, many years of all that life has to offer!

Posted by: edthomas

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/17/14 05:54 PM

Hey Bill
Thanks so much for your inspirational reply. It sounds like you went through a LOT more than I am facing.

Frankly, the only problem that I've had with heart surgery is that they have to saw your sternum open and then wire it back shut.
At that point...which is where I'm at... they tell you not to lift anything or do any tasks which might cause it to open up again until it has healed.( If it opens up then you are really screwed )

No one can tell me how long this typically takes. ( I don't think they deal with too many rock climbers). I was hoping someone out there had been through this.

Posted by: TerrieM

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/19/14 03:26 AM

Try checking in at Lot's of older guys over there, some of them are bound to have had open heart surgery. And some doctors too, who may have insight from both climber and physician perspective.

But whatever you do- do NOT ask Ammon McNeely. 89 days after a grrrruesome BASE crash, a WEEK after doctor telling him it was okay to put full weight on his rehabbing leg, he jumped again.
Posted by: edthomas

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/20/14 05:22 PM

Thanks Terrie..good advice all around.
Posted by: KathyS

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/21/14 09:53 PM

It's going to be up to you and your doc, but I will say that the younger brother of a climbing friend had a massive heart attack in his mid 30's that resulted in a heart transplant. He is still able to climb, but long approaches are challenging. He also has to be careful of platelet count and other such side effects of anti-rejection meds. Best of luck to you.
Posted by: edthomas

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/22/14 01:33 PM

Thanks Kathy
That's encouraging. At 76, I find long approaches challenging too, even without the surgery.
Posted by: Valpine

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/25/14 03:48 AM


I used to work as an RN on a cardiac surgery unit and currently work a few hours a week in a outpatient cardiac rehab.

The duration of sternal precautions (the limitations given to you to protect your breastbone) is ultimately up to your surgeon but typically last 6 weeks.

Following the discontinuation of sternal precautions, how active a lifestyle you can return to depends on a number of things. The biggest consideration is if your heart muscle suffered any damage prior to surgery (i.e., from a heart attack). I think that your medical cardiologist will be able to give you a better idea of if/when you can return to normal activity. Under the best circumstances my best guess would be a tad over 6 months.

I highly suggest entering into a cardiac rehab program when you are cleared to do so by your doctor. Insurance normally covers up to 36 of these visits which consist of exercising while on cardiac monitor. A big benefit that I see to a cardiac rehab is that it can give those who have undergone cardiac surgery the confidence to be active again. (Not all cardiologists in this area automatically refer patients to cardiac rehab so you may have to ask for it.)

Feel free to send me a PM if you have any other questions I can help you with.
Posted by: edthomas

Re: climbing after heart surgery - 01/25/14 03:28 PM

Sending you a PM