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Can bypass surgery change a personality?

79 answers | Last updated: Aug 31, 2014
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Q
A fellow caregiver asked...
My father-in-law was a very mellow, easygoing person -- until he had bypass surgery. Now he's turned into a cranky and difficult curmudgeon. Can heart surgery change someone's personality? What's the best way to deal with this?
 

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Barry M. Massie is chief of cardiology at the San Francisco V.A. Medical Center.
59% helpful
answered...

Heart surgery -- or even receiving a diagnosis of heart disease -- can change someone's personality, pretty much like any psychological trauma. Sometimes there can be changes in the brain See also:
Coronary Bypass Recovery: What to Expect

See all 226 questions about Depression
related to the surgery that cause personality changes, but more often it's just the shock of recognizing that you have a serious condition.

Depression may also be a factor. Depression is fairly common following heart surgery or heart attacks, when patients feel scared or helpless. Counseling or support groups may help him to come to terms with his condition.

In any case, your father-in-law should discuss his change in outlook with his physician, because it's also possible that his mood may be a side effect of one of his medications.

 

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heart-bypass-surgery answered...

I have seen this with my grandfather as well. There are lots of things that can factor into the emotional changes that are separate from actual surgery itself.

In my grandfather's situation, a lot of it appears to be fear. The realization of his dangerous condition and the brevity remaining in his life has caused him to turn very inward. He won't do anything or go anywhere and generally just gets easily angered.

There are apparently some real anger-type side effects with heart bypass too. There is an interesting article on Bill Clinton regarding this...

http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2008other/080412clinton.htm

I hope this helps and that your step father is doing better now, you may also want to take a look at heartbypass.org for more information on heart bypass surgery in general. It may be in his best interest to go ahead and start seeing a therapist - however I know that there is a lot of resistance to this kind of thing.

 

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capnmoe answered...

I had a cabgx4 4 years ago. Mine was a little different in that I had a heart attack and they opened me up immediately. Any way I digress. I was fine for the first year. And then I gradually started to to resent my family. (All except my daughter) I felt that they were a bunch of money grubbing blood suckers and I was fed up with it. I bought a 32" sailboat and then bought a house on the water to keep it at. My point is that I believe that I spoke with God. I've seen mortality for what it is. It's natural. we've completed our work here and it's time to rest. I no longer fear death. I no longer have any patience for the ungrateful or the unfeeling. Iknow they mean well, but it's their agenda that they are selling. I ain't buying. Just cut us a little slack. Talk to us. Find out how we feel and what we want. We're the one on the short string. It didn't matter that I didn't know how to sail, I learned. Now I'm wasting time in style.

 

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deadbug answered...

I've been doing a lot of research on this for something I'm writing and it seems pretty clear to me that this phenomenon is not just "the emotional toll of a life-threatening illness and surgery." There appears to be a definite physiological situation in these patients with severe personality changes. Anger, mood swings, irritability, irrational behavior, lashing out -- friendly people turn mean, calm people turn angry, rational people suddenly do crazy things. I don't know whether it's "pump head" or some other mechanism, but this is not just people dealing with tough situation and getting emotional. Due to the high number of these surgeries performed on the population, there needs to be some serious research into this phenomenon.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I had heard bypass 1 1/2 years ago. I have experienced a definite change in my personality. I was an easy going person and now I am irritable, angry and lash out. I thought perhaps having two pints of blood transfused this might have been the culprit, or that I was just crazy. This does make me feel better, but is there anything that can help?

 

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SylvanWiz answered...

I had a 4-way CABG at the age of 32 back in 92' which of course shocked me when I was initially told I needed it as the Angiogram showed I had 12 different blockages in 4 of the main vessels with the lowest level at 70% and the highest at 95%.

Prior to having this surgery, I was under great duress and CHRONIC Stress due to someone playing games in my life and disrupting it at a level that would be considered traumatic very easily. I can tell you that chronic stress does cause or accelerate Heart Disease as our bodies are only designed for Acute Stress such when a Deer runs out in front of us, or if a person pops a balloon behind our head without knowing it. However; dealing with a level of constant stress on our mind keeps our hearts and every organ at a level of hyper-stress where little to no relief is felt. An acute stress event allows our body to return back to a comfortable and calm state whereas a the chronic stress gets little to no relief. This same stress continued after I healed after my CABG until it was resolved months after my surgery, but by then, the damage had been done.

Otherwise, prior to my surgery and the event where this third person created a mess of painful issues in my life I needed to fight and deal with, I was otherwise in good shape, and had been a regular runner/walker of 3 or more miles about 4 times a week and ate well.

Back then, (I don't know if it has changed) I was told the Heart/Lung machine pumps the blood in reverse flow to what our body is used to. However; my level of anger was for the person that affected me with their attempted character asassination of me prior and after my surgery and I can't say the surgery caused it except the fact that this person drove me and my body to break-down to a level where I need such a radical surgery at an awful young age. Also, there are hardly any people that has such a surgery at this age, and I felt alone and in an arena where I could not relate with others my age as they had not had such an invasive surgery.

I would say the Heart Attack I had 9 years later at age 41 affected me more as far as being changed by the MI that I have noticed several subtle and a bit more profound changes in my character, personality, and, I have lost much of the zeal and desire to do anything of interest I had before in which I coded 6 times in the E.R. and I wonder if and what level of lack of blood flow my brain experienced during my Heart Attack. Then, add on top of this that my Father dies of a single Heart Attack at age 41 which is the same age I was when I had mine. Not to mention I am his only son and named after him as the III generation as my Grandfather was named the same. This I know affected me psychologically and brought a level of doom to me, but, I was glad I survived my Heart Attack. At least now at 51 y/o, I have the comfort of knowing I "did" out-live my Father as this caused me great greif when I was younger as to the hereditary aspect of Heart DIsease that runs on both sides of my family.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I understand that this type of surgery can have a major and sometimes negative effect on the mental health of the patient. However, when my mother had triple bypass surgery at the age of 70, she eventually had more energy and "spunk" than she had for many years. Her recovery was long and difficult, but after she finished her re-hab (which included quite a bit of supervised aerobic activities) she felt better than she had in years. Fortunately she had no heart damage and only had to continue taking the blood pressure meds she had been on before the bypass. She felt it was the exercise and her socializing with other heart patients during her rehab that pulled her out of any "funk" that she may have been in after the surgery. She made new friends and had a built in support group by going to all of her re-hab sessions and completing them as suggested by her doctors. My parents were living in an active adult community at the time, and many of the residents had similar experiences that they could share with her. I believe it was the support she received from friends, family, and the medical community that helped her become a healthier person than she was before the surgery. All I can say to those who have parents who are suffering through depression after surgery is to continue to support them and make sure that they get as much help and exercise as is possible. Socializing with others of a similar age with similar experiences is also important, as it is for anybody.

 

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Janbp answered...

Oh yes, yes, very sadly YES heart bypass surgery can and does change personality! I married the kindest, nicest, most loving man I've ever known and ever since his CABG surgery over 7 years ago, he has changed into the angriest, cruelest person I've ever had the displeasure of knowing-after more than 20 happy years of marriage! "Pumphead" is a sad, terrible reality and it has ruined our lives! I'm not talking about depression, this is a viciously mean, angry man now! This change started in him within 3 weeks of his surgery, and it shocks and horrifies me to this day. I suppose it might be possible to mitigate the effects of the brain damage done to these patients with a combo of drugs and therapy, but I'm not sure-and the patient would have to agree to try. In our case, he doesn't feel that there is anything wrong with him. But there is and I'm not the only one who's noticed-but he takes most of his anger out on me. He hates me now-and we had been a very happily married couple! Trust me-this procedure is ruining lives!!

 

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mama04 answered...

I have been searching for answers to this disturbing question: Why has my personality changed since my CABG in 3-10? I had the surgery for a rare congenital anomoly that would have killed me had I not had the surgery. I used to be vibrant and involved and energetic. Now I don't really care about much and have a "whatever" attitude. I am very quiet and don't feel like talking and/or being with people, even friends. What has happened to me? Where is the old me? I've talked with my cardiologist and surgeon about this but they have dismissed me and tell me that "pump head" really does not happen much if at all. I told them I disagree completely--something has made me a different person. I even look different....help.

 

Janbp answered...

Dear mama04---I would love to email with you and talk more about your situation--if u r interested in doing that, give me your email address & we will discuss it! Janbp

 

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mtpockets answered...

I just would like to say that, I truly wished we would have been made aware of this kind of thing before my father had his bypass surgery. Guess it is my fault for not researching but in this day an age you would think that doctors and nurses would make you aware that your whole life could be turned upside down when its all said and done. My father had his surgery in June 2010, and almost exactly a year to the date of that surgery, he came home from the road (he was a truckdriver) and walked in to announce to my mother with whom he just celebrated 50 years of marriage, that he did not love her anymore and had not loved her for awhile now. Talk about the shock, I mean they had their problems, just like any marriage but this was the bottom for them, he divorced her 2 months later. I decided to look this up because someone told me this sort of thing happens with bypass surgery and I was shocked to see so many posts. I have not seen my father or spoken to him since these things have taken place, its really a shame that things turned out the way they did because of Open heart Surgery.

 

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Janbp answered...

Yes, there is absolutely NO excuse for patients and their family members not being given ALL the necessary info prior to the surgery, so that informed choices can be made, instead of having horrible surprises happen afterward! Let me also add that I am so sorry to hear of you and your family's unhappy experience!

 

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flower3 answered...

I am so glad to have found some answers on this site. I had bypass surgery when I was 44yrs. old. I am now 53, and I have not been the same since my surgery. My husband of 36 yrs. is ready to leave me, and i can't say that I blame him. My whole personality has changed, I don't even know who I am anymore. I went from a very laid back, slow to anger person, to an angry and bitter person. I am constantly depressed, and I already had depression before the surgery, and have been on zoloft for yrs. One minute I am fine and the next I am grumpy, moody, and mean with my words to my husband. I have also isolated myself and have no interest in life. I know the surgery saved my life, I had 5 blockages, and had quad bypass surgery. There was one blockage that couldn't be repaired and less than a year later I started having angina again. So now I am on disability, and have been since about 1 year after my surgery. Thanks for letting me tell my story, and I wish everyone here the best!

 

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Marksarts answered...

I am an artist. I had tripple bypass last November, 2011. Since then, I have gone thru a hyriad of emotional problems. I am depressed and recently have bocme vey angry and Irritable. Unfortunately, when I used to get irrritable, i could work it out. Now it excalates out of control. Two months ago, I lost all desire to paint. This si my livelihood and I have no desire to create. This is very disturbing to me. The cardiologist keeps saying this is common for six months after surgery and he says I will be back to normal in 12 months. I certainly hope so.

 

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Janbp answered...

I am very sorry to hear of everyone's difficulties but I cannot say that I'm surprised. Also, sadly, I would not expect your doctors to own up to any knowledge of post-heart-surgery difficulties. There's lots of evidence that, as a group, they know all about bypass-related personality changes in patients, but have agreed among themselves not to admit to it. It's "lockerroom talk" to them. I believe that if enough people start really demanding answers from cardiologists they may finally be forced to start fixing this terrible problem!

 

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Marksarts answered...

Exactly right. If enough people have the knowledge that this is happening, People might choose not to have the surgery done and that will start effecting the bottom line of both the hospitals and the Doctors. I have been in the medical field for 38 years and it is very corrupt. It is all about money, Patients and their wellbeing is secondary and even tertiary. I will never have another cardiac proceedure done. Never again.,

 

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Tybird answered...

I just had 3 down this July 06 2012 was sent home on the 11 . I was taking care of my mom and my stepdad. On the July 11 my stepdad when to to the hospital . He hasn't been well for past year and half. I was viest him everyday . Well July 20 he past away in the hospital . I had POA Heath so I can to make the call no CPR . He has told so many times he don't won't that. Well all the family blaming me for his death. Two weeks early before he past away I was in surgery. It's been a month sence my bypass now. I was feeling a hole lot better before the bypass then I do now. I'm really all alone. I wish I never had the bypass done it was the biggest mistake I have made I'm 46.

 

Janbp answered...

I'm so very sorry to hear about your young son and have not known of the problems caused by bypass machines being used on children, but I'd have to assume that the effects would be the same as on adults, and there are definite problems with them! Best of luck to you!

 

fmjoe answered...

So, what is the answer. I too had CABGx5 a year and a half ago. I still don't feel well and get tired quickly. They ran pricy radiologic stress tests etc and find my heart and all systems are healthy. The only change was two weeks ago they halfed my dose of the betablocker to almost nothing. It hasn't helped. I am disinterested in most everything and instead of being my kind, motherly to everyone self, I'm angry and easily irritated. I didn't have depression before the surgury, but as a medic, I see the signs I am depressed now, plus other stuff. Yet, the Dr. isn't listening and doesn't want me on anything else. He and the Cardiologist says it is part of it and it will pass. I say BS that it has been over they year they said. I'm fed up. There have been times that If I were not as solidly sane and with the strong Christian beliefs I have, I'd have hung it all up permanently. So, what is the answer?

 

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Janbp answered...

To fmjoe: I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles! Sadly, I've been studying this problem for 8 years now, & what I've found is that the docs really don't have any answers for it & just wish we'd all go away with our complaints! That's not right of them, of course, but they aren't readily admitting to bypasses causing damage & don't have any solutions, anyway. The problem is that the heart/lung machine can cause brain damage to occur, which I have found to be irriversible. The only thing I can figure might help is a combo of psychotherapy & meds, but I'm no doctor & really don't know. I'm trying hard to work on this problem, & believe me, if I find any answers I'll be sure to post them on this page! I so much wish everyone well with this!

 

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fmjoe answered...

So add to the rest, I fell out at work Monday and spent two days in the hospital without results. They don't know what happened, but I suspect it is the beta blocker. I was sent to a psycho therapist last year, but I got fed up with it. I don't open well to others anyway, and when I don't have a root reason for feeling this way, what the #$% am I supposed to tell them? I really don't want to be on more drugs,, but at this point my life isn't worth a stitch. The only thing that keeps me here and together is my faith. Do I just tell the doc to put me on something?

 

Tally answered...

My husband had seven artery bypass surgery at 45 yrs old about 13 years ago. His heart stopped before they could get him on the machine, so they had to manually pump his heart for a few minutes until they could connect him. They were worried about brain damage, but sense he could carry on a conversation, they thought he was OK. Well he has never been the same . He would occasionally get angry before the surgery but after the surgery he became constantly angry and depressed. He took this out mainly on me but also on the kids, luckily he wasn't a violent man. He could not work so he was always around. Some days I would see the old him but mostly not. I got where I hated him, and he me. It destroyed our sex life and all intimacy. I should of probably left him but for the sake of our children I stayed. He took antidepressants for awhile but they just made him sleep all the time, and they only helped a little bit. He smoked pot whenever he could, which I wasn't happy with, but at least it made it where he wasn't angry all the time, just stupid. I put up with the stupid because at least he wasn't yelling at me. Well after ending up in the VA psych ward for the second time they put him on antidepressants again plus anti anxiety pills three times a day. He is finally starting to act like the man I married. I had completely forgotten what had attracted me to him. Is this a cure?, obviously not but it is at least an answer where the person, and those around them, don't have to live in constant fear and depression. The thing that really bothers me the most is that he was never told that there is a natural way to stop and reverse heart disease that has been scientifically proven. All he would of had to do was go on a Vegan Diet. This information was never given to us and I never knew about it till the last five years. The medical community should embrace this cure but there is no money in it for them. They should provide diet counselors, nutrition coaches, cooking classes and weekly or more therapy for at least a year in helping people with this new change of lifestyle. It is difficult with a lifetime of eating one way to change, but once you get started and know what to do it becomes a way of life. Don't believe it?, read Dr Esselstyn's book on it. The whole medical community knows about this but they don't want you to know because then you won't get their expensive bypass surgery and they will be put out of business. The same reason they don't want you to know of the after affects of bypass surgery and how it can completely ruin your life.

 

Janbp answered...

Wow, Tally-your story sounds SO much like ours, & no, the drugs aren't a cure & they won't give you your husband & life back, but they may help a bit to make things more livable! Oh-I definitely believe that docs know ALL about the problems with bypass surgery but have NO interest in fixing the problem or warning people about it because that will cost them too much $!

 

Janbp answered...

And fmjoe--I'm so sorry to hear of your additional problems...& I sure wish I could tell you what would help you, but I can't. Im no doctor, that's for sure! I guess it's best to try different things & do what makes you feel the best!

 

fmjoe answered...

Thans Janbp. I'm on a mild antidepressant zoloft now and it is helping. I didn't realize how bad I had gotten till I read my post here. I talked to the physician himself and he was very caring about it.

Tally, I am a Vegan. I have been for 25 years. The Vegan diet is not a cure, nor does it reverse the effects. Vegan diet vs Vegetarian means there is absolutely nothing from an animal even if the animal doesn't die from its use. That means all vegatable and mineral matter and no cheese, eggs, bird's nests, insects, or other products.

 

Janbp answered...

Fmjoe: Very glad you have a caring doc...we haven't been as fortunate. Hang in there & if I learn anything that can be of help I'll be sure to post it here!

 

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mom_2 answered...

My Mom had quadruple heart bypass surgery two weeks ago. She woke up after surgery full of rage and anger. She's a completely different person. She says she'd rather have died than had the surgery. Her left main artery was blocked over 80%. She's upset that we (her family) "pushed her into having it". She's already started back smoking and has no intention of quitting. Me, my adult daughter and my disabled father are suffering the bulk of her antics. Mainly my poor dad who is there 24/7.

Before her surgery, she'd at least smoke outside so as to not make everyone else sick from the smell. Now, she doesn't care. She lights up whenever, wherever. My dad watches my small child after school. It's the light of his life. My child is getting physically sick being over there. I am going to have to make the hard decision to stop this. My dad and child will suffer greatly from this. I believe that my mom as she is now could care less. I will not have this conversation until after Christmas so not to disrupt our holidays. I will have to make other arrangements for my child in the meantime.

My mom totally woke up a different person. I have no doubt. It's KILLING me. I am thankful that she's alive and she can be mad that we "forced her into it". I am proud to say we saved her life. But this price is way too much toll to pay for my family.

Constantly praying that she comes out of this state. The sooner the better.

 

Janbp answered...

Dear Mom2: Sadly, none of what you said is surprising to me, but rather, the norm. I wish I could offer you some hope that your mother will improve, but in my experience w/this, that doesn't seem to happen. If anything, they worsen over time. It's now been way over 8 years for us & my husband has never changed back to his old self at all. It's a terrible thing to have to watch your loved one become so different & not be able to help them!
But to me, even more surprising is your mother choosing to start smoking again! I'm a former smoker myself & know how hard it is to quit, but smoking after heart surgery is really not good! Is she on any antidepressant meds? Sometimes those can help a bit. Other than that, tell her doctor that she's changed & get his advice for what he thinks you should do.

 

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afirkin answered...

I am so glad I found this page. I had triple bypass 15 months ago. I thought I was just crazy. My dad had open heart surgery and he did not have these problems. My husband looks at me like I am crazy. I am not the same person. I can't remember anything, I can talk to someone one day, and then remember nothing of the conversation the next day. I have back and shoulder pain. I am depressed. I just want to be me again. It is so nice to know that I am not alone in this. Why are they not researching this problem? People should be warned of the possibility of personality changes, body aches and pains. It has been 15 months since my surgery. I am still foggy. I can't remember at all. I used to be great at math, could do it in my head. Now I am lucky if I can do it on paper.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Hello! This the Christmas 2012. This is the day my only brother called me to tell me I did not need to bother him with any telephone calls anymore, he no longer had a sister! ... He had Tripple Bypass Heart surgery exactly 12 months ago. We were close until then and had recently gone through the difficult times of caring for a mother with cancer, for 5 years, which had united us even more. But in the past 12 months he has had erratic behavior, getting mad fo nothing, with little things that happen in life: taxi caught in traffic, internet problems, etc. In these 12 months he has already told me twice he didi not need to have me as a sister, he has a wife, two daughters and one grandchild. I insisted, called back. I have no children of my own and they are my family. Better, they were. Today Ii got a Christmas gift not to be forgotten. It is the 3rd time. I won´t seek him out again. But his personality changed, REALLY CHANGED. He is 60 years old, and the doctors told him he now can live to be 100. He might, but he will be alone. I feel very saddened, for all of us.

 

carbeauty answered...

I am on verge of leaving my 47yr old partner.Since his double bypass 4 yrs ago he has severe mood swings creating mountains out of molehills,being petty,miserable and critical of everything i do. He never takes me out preferring to go fishing for days on end and still coming back in a foul mood. We were due to get married before his heart attack but now the subject never gets raised. We sleep in separate rooms due to me not tolerating his rants. Doctors dont want to know when you tell them you are suffering a highlevel of emotional abuse and that he needs help. As i write this i am looking for somwhere else to live away from the man i love. This is the real cost of not offering help with the after effects of heart surgery,lives destroyed.

 

Aligar answered...

Some of these comments sounded like what my husband is going thru. I noticed it immediately and the doctor prescribed anxiety medication for my husband. But my husband swears he doesn't need them and doesn't take them consistently or at full dose. I am suffering because he is not the same and I see a difference in his personality. He was always high strung, high anxiety, and prone to sad moods. It's only been magnified since his surgery 3 yrs ago. On top of the heart surgery he is a diabetic and going blind. I want to help but feel helpless.
Thanks to those of you who know and acknowledge that something is different. I hope you seek help when it gets to be too much.
Seek professional help. The heart and mind work together and when one is out of sync it DOES affect the other. I hope that the medical community does more research into this problem. I will pray for the families going through this situation. It sounds like it is tearing families apart. It is straining my family.

 

steve@37triple+1CBAG answered...

hi great site great input from everyone here and im very sorry to hear of all the problems people have had. i also am in the zipper club, i had a triple+1 4 years ago and as some have said stress was a massive input into my heart attack, i had the new procedure where the operation was done without the use of a 'bypass machine', thus the bypasses were done with heart beating as is meant to be. Now as for the temper thing, i was 37 and a great life at that point and great kids. Angry is not the problem or should i say wasnt the problem with me. It was the shortest of fuses, i didnt become any more of a ass than i already was lol. but i did notice that if i asked for instance = what drink would u like? with just 2 options the choice is a small one i know that, but why the hell does it take 5mins to decide!!!! i have taught both my children to think before jumping in and making mistakes, but now i feel i want a simple answer to a simple question and as quickly as possible. the frustration with the ermms and arrrs are the thing that drives me mad !!!!!! 4 years gone by now and im 41 and i have found a women that makes me happier and happier as every day goes by the tantrums have gone and life is good. it can be broken trust me all it needed for me was someone that truely loved me to make me see how much i want to make her happy. Please everyone that has gone through this needs to take a look around them and see that life can be low sometimes and the proceedure can drag u down but you have been given a second chance and in some cases like my father he has had 2 sets of bypass and 3 sets of stents over the years so i have loads to look forward to because i love someone enough and she loves me enough to realise LIFE IS GOOD.

 

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Janbp answered...

Once again, I'm so very sorry to hear of everyone's problems...but sadly, I'm not at all surprised. I'm not sure that it will help any of us or our loved ones, but in the not-too-distant future I will be making definite efforts to expose this and make the medical community start to change how they deal with bypass patients. I cannot, here, tell you how or when I will be doing this, but trust me--I will have a way to attempt it. These problems need to be made known and get addressed! I hope that it can help you a little to know that someone is trying to help.

 

Been There Am There answered...

I think there is something our loved ones need to understand, and I am going to try to explain it in the best way I can. With lots of words, because there is no other way to explain a feeling and the thoughts that go with it.

There is a moment when you are wheeled into the operating room, a very special moment where you are completely alone in your head, thinking: "THIS is it. Your emotions are OFF. You just signed a consent form that states that you may not make it, and you still agree to go through with the procedure on the chance that you will. (Believe me, when your chance of survival is only 20%, that signature means something !) You don't know whether you will open your eyes again. EVER. You don't know whether you are leaving your children forever. They are only 9, 14, 17 and 19 years old. You are their mother. THAT moment defines the rest of your life when you DO open your eyes again, because in that moment you finally realize that you have absolutely no control about anything in your life, specially not about your own...life. It is the moment your SELF, as it has been, dies. The person who wakes up is different in many ways. In my case, the person who woke up has lost keenest memory there ever was. The person who woke up knows that making plans is a totally useless activity. How the heck would you know whether to accept an invitation to (fill in activity) on (fill in date) if you neither know whether you'll be alive, or even feel like going? The person who woke up wasn't really me, and never became me again. "Me" is what I am now.

I'll back up to the time I was about 16 years old, when I woke up in the middle of the night with palpitations that shook the bed. This would repeat off and on throughout my life until age 35. An additional symptom appeared at that time. Pain down my left arm, along with shortness of breath and palpitations, racing heartbeat. Diagnosis: stress, anxiety, heartburn. Nerves. High strung. "Here, take some Maalox". "Let's try Prozac", "have you seen a psychologist"?

Age 46. Get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school and yourself ready for work. Get a load of laundry from the basement, feed the dogs. Pain slams you into the wall, you run into the bedroom, sit on the bed, elephant is sitting on your chest, instinct kicks in and you fight the pain using Lamaze breathing (you are the mother of 4 after all, you know how to get through pain). Husband in bed holding your hand while you breathe through whatever the heck it is that is hurting. 15 minutes later it's over and you get the kids on the bus and drive to work. But your legs are shaky, you are walking on rubber. On your lunch break you decide to make an appointment with that little clinic next to work, maybe you can squeeze in an appointment for next week.

They ask you what they are seeing you for. You describe the elephant on your chest. "The doctor will want to see you right now, can you take a seat?". The ambulance is called and you find yourself in the emergency room, with some unknown ER doctor telling you you have had a massive heart attack and they can't figure out why you are still alive. You have a triple by-pass next day, but only after asking the cardiologist and the surgeon whether they are out of their effing minds. They kept you awake during the angiogram because you demanded proof that there really is a triple 75-80% obstruction in your coronary arteries. So....it wasn't anxiety after all? (Interestingly, your family physician does not want to give you an appointment after the surgery,......).

Aren't you glad I won't tell you about the 14 years between that day and today? Let's just say that I went against ALL the doctor's warnings and I lived my life the way I did before the surgery. I did not cut down on anything, cut out anything, lowered anything, avoided anything, and I'm still here. I work and have worked a full time, high-stressed job, and still do. I raised my children to adulthood.

I did not turn into a mean, cranky, horrible person, but I turned into a person who does not make plans, committments, or promises. Nothing really "gets" to me emotionally. I know my emotions are still there, buried deep inside of me, but I don't let them come to the surface anymore because if I did, it would affect my heart. The adrenaline generated by emotions affects me so greatly that my blood pressure shoots up, my left side gets numb, and my heart hurts and starts racing. I don't get short of breath, I have all the energy in the world, I dance, I bowl, I walk the dogs for hours, I run......but upset me, and my heart reacts instantly.

No, we are not the way we were, and I know every one of "us" is different. I mourn the person I lost, the one with the good memory. Today, I'm lucky I remember my name. I have learned not to give a damn (or I pretend not to) when my feelings are affected, but some of the people in my life enjoy antagonizing me although I have begged them not to. I have explained that their behavior causes a physical reaction I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. Excess production of adrenaline that causes very scary and dangerous symptoms. I can't tell them to adapt to my physical needs, it would be cruel to them. In order to "save" myself, I have become a hermit. I choose to be by myself whenever possible in order to avoid conflict. If that makes me "cranky" and "mean"........the people in my life need to get their definitions straightened out. In my mind, I'm removing myself from their company in order not to get an adrenaline jolt that WILL make me turn into a cranky, mean, and cruel person. If they would just allow me to stay detached from my emotions, everything would be perfect.

As far as the doctors are concerned, I'm glad my present family doctor is one who honors MY way of life by not telling me what I need to do. I've obviously done SOMETHING right to be still alive 14 years later. As for me, I will live as long as I am meant to. Not one second less, nor one second longer, but that does not mean that I am going to have anyone dictate to me HOW I have to live. Not the doctors, nor my children. If that makes me selfish, it's about time I am.

This post is not cranky and not angry. It is ASSERTIVE.

Love and hugs to all.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

This is extremely important. I had bypass surgery in 11/12. I was put on Metropolol. Since surgery my persoanlity changed drastically. I am an artist and I lost my desire to paint, I became irritable, angry, depressed, and obsessive, I gained 50lbs because I was obsessively craving sugar, I told the Dr several times about my symptoms. His response was, do you want to see a psychiatrist? Eight days ago, I took myself off of the Metropolol. I am now back to who I was prior to this surgery, I am already loosing weight, my depression has gone away, I no longer am obsessed with sugar, my energy has returned and I have completed 2 paintings, the first in over a year. Stop the Metropolol. It is toxic, read the contraindications. I also had truble with memory and finding words. That is now back to normal as well.

 

mom_2 answered...

We are now at about week 10 after my Mom's quadruple bypass. I am beyond thrilled to report that she is getting back to "normal". We've been able to talk about things that happened and things she said. She doesn't remember any of it at all and is quite embarrassed about most of the things that happened. It's all water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned. I got my miracle that I prayed so hard for ... I got my Mom back!! I am eternally grateful. I am hoping that some of you will get your miracles, too.

 

carbeauty answered...

I am sitting here in floods of tears after my partner displayed a monumental mood swing,the cause being 2 hospital appointments arriving for the respiratory clinic (he is thought to have lung disease which hasnt been helped by continuing to smoke like a trooper after his double bypass i daresay?) When i get upset that he is abusing his second chance at life i get shouted and sworn at. We were due to go away on the day of one of his appointments and believe me it is a rare thing since the bypass~a trip i had organized, a chance to laugh,relax and try and reignite the old feelings i thought. Because i asked him to ring and postpone his appointment i have been called a selfish bitch for not putting his health first. Since surgery he is constantly putting the dampener on things,problems where none exist,turning something i am lookinf forward to to something i am dreading. Needless to say i have cancelled the break,i have to leave him for the sake of my sanity. For 5 years i have been his nurse and carer,always at his bedside reassuring him things would be ok. As his personality has emerged post surgery into this angry and abusive individual,i feel that i have lost all sense of myself. There is nothing to stay for,no future to build with a man who who would rather go fishing for days on end or veg out in front of the t.v. I would say that the man i loved who had such zest for life and me is never to return. The point has been reached where i need to go,grieve for losing the man he was and rebuild my own shattered life. Is that selfish?

 

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Janbp answered...

To carbeauty: no, it's not selfish because, to be honest, you can't expect it to get better. I have found, to my extreme sadness, that it doesn't. Take care of yourself. I would, if I could, do the same, but I'm not in a position to do so now. I hate to sound depressing, but I've already been reduced to tears twice today by my husband, and this has been going on for nearly 9 years! It still shocks me every day that someone can change that much, but this is frequently the result of bypass surgery. Trust me, I'm continuing to work on getting this problem the attention it deserves.

 

DeaneRenata answered...

I have never had my heart replaced; I have the same one that I had when I was born. I keep asking my doctors for something entirely different. I'm 25 years old now, but ever since I was a child I've always been quiet, nonsocial, and I was wanting to get my personality checked to see if my personality was making me that way I was. I kind of want to change. I want to be interested in life in general, that is a problem for me because when I wake up I feel like I am not interested in anything. So I was doing research in how to make myself get interested in life again. I have talked to my doctor about this. Instead of helping me he asks me to not send him such long questions in an e-mail! Because of that I have being trying to turn to other physicians who will actually listen to me. I do know that my cholesterol is higher than it is supposed to be (yes that is bad; it needs to be lowered but not being a doctor myself I need help in lowering it), but I am not sure if that has anything to do with personality (I thought that personality had to do with the brain and was thus a mental health problem).

 

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MR RSP answered...

It has only been 3wks since my triple by pass. I am amazed at all the negative answers. I have been on antidepressants for a bout 4 mths I was told I needed a by pass 6weeks ago I am glad to say that so far i feel much better. My office staff were telling me way before my surgery that they had noticed my personality change for the negative. Now I have only seen or talked to them maybe 6 times since surgery and they have seen the old happy me coming back I feel the old me too. Even in the hospital I could feel it. My surgery has not been with out the speed bumps but heck I am here. I was depressed reading all those negative stories I just can't wait to get back in the saddle. My blood pressure has always been great iron low but no big deal. My new thought going forward LIFE IS A GIFT THAT IS WHY THEY CALL IT THE PRESENT. I am excited about finding the new me. Good luck to you all. Oh yes my rose colored glasses broke almost 20 years ago

 

Janbp answered...

Great! Bypass surgery certainly doesn't always create a negative personality change, but all too often it does and patients should be warned about that. They aren't. Physically speaking, you've had the blood flow to your heart muscle restored & assisted, so that's a good, positive thing. We all do what we can with what we're given...I just have a problem with people NOT being given ALL the facts regarding this surgery. That is wrong.

 

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cooldragon answered...

Greetings all... in December 2011 I had a triple by-pass. I have a pretty casual attitude about life and death so I wasn't worried or stressed about it. And I had already had two lots of surgery (lung and facial cancer) in the two years previous. I was a fairly social bloke, been a singer/guitarist, yachtsman, retail shop owner and so on. I'm married to a great woman. Oh, I should add that I was 71 years old at the time. I didn't have any heart attacks, but I did have angina and was inhaling some red stuff when I had an attack. Anyway, eventually they discovered that I needed a triple by-pass which I duly had. My arteries were about 80% blocked. The surgery was successful and I was out of hospital in a week. Great stuff! Unfortunately, although I sort of expected it, I came home totally lacking in energy. I was told it would pass... it hasn't. It's got worse. On top of that I have no focus, no enthusiasm for anything at all. I have withdrawn as much as possible from local interaction (I live in a small village) as people irritate me. Chattering irritates me. Noise irritates me and now my wife irritates me. It's not her fault, I know... I haven't played guitar in almost three years, and my creative mind has died. Not a good thing for a published poet and writer. I am also short-tempered, and want to be left alone. I get short of breath often, and suffer apnea. My doc says it's stress that's making me short of breath, irritable and continually tired, and she may well be right. Alas, the knowledge doesn't help, and because of the emotional baggage I seem unable to lift myself up out of almost continual depression. I'm also drinking a lot which again doesn't help my brain, but does dull the day. My desire is to lock myself away in a room and drink... no noise, no talking, no people. So I battle on... loved ones cannot expect to understand... and that's not their fault or a criticism. I also had a brush with cancer and they can't understand how one feels surviving that either. Well, that's about me. Thanks for dealing with my ramble.

 

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bigmistake answered...

I don't know whether the surgery changed my personality, or the subsequent events. But I used to be an optimistic person who was compassionate toward others. Now I am angry and bitter. I really don't like people at all. And I would not say I am a pessimist, but that I am a realist and see how rotten people are and what a lousy world this is.

I was told by a cardiac surgery that I had a substantial risk of imminent death. I was operated on three weeks later to replace my aortic valve. I had been monitoring it for years, so, it did not come as a surprise. I was 37.

I had just moved to a new city and started a new job five months earlier. It took me about three and a half months to start feeling like a human being again. I was so tired, and I could not concentrate. I could not work. I had a professional job, and I could not get the work done. They fired me about 8 months later.

I was unemployed for over 3 and a half years thereafter. I had to move from Florida and relocate to Pennsylvania and move in with my parents. I am now employed full-time, but I am underemployed and earn a lot less than I had.

I hate Pennsylvania and I hate being underemployed. I hate that I have no financial security because I lived on all my savings for that time. I hate that I have no life of my own, and that I am stuck in a dead-end job in a dead-end region with no hope.

I have had other things go wrong (my father passed away about 2 months after I returned to Pennsylvania, a caregiver for my mother stole thousands of dollars worth of items from me), and I really hate my life. I used to exercise about 3 or 4 times per week and try to be healthful in my diet. I still try to eat healthfully, but I do not exercise anymore. I gained 60 pounds. My mother is in her 80s, and failing in health.

If I would have known what butchery open heart surgery is, how horrible it is to go through and recover from, and what my life would be like afterwards, I never would have let a surgeon touch me. I would have have died in Florida years ago. What a blessing that would have been. The only good thing is that I chose a tissue valve, which is suppose to last 15-20 years. So, I am approaching the half-way point in the life of my new valve. I only have to be around here 7-10 more years until my valve fails and then I will be out of this rotten, God-awful world. It cannot happen soon enough for me.

So yes, I certainly experienced a change in personality. The person I was prior to surgery never would have felt this way about the world or about other people.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Hi, from my side, i didnt had eart suregery but rather facial surgery. I was born with a facial birthmark enough big to be teased and such. Te problem is I tought having it removed eould be better but its wrong ! Cuz it has changed my facial shape ( i had so much great face shape before - even tho i had this brownish birthmark) and now , at least im not laught at or people dont laught of me the way they did but im stuck with a disfigured face for life ! And it hurts my untouched face has aspiratons to meet women and auch but my part iof face who had surgery always "get on the way" and now its hardfor me to meet new people.. At least with my birthmark on, i could stil meet people that wouldve loves me like i am, but now its bitter to have a facial disfigurement as just girls dont look at me much now... Sometimes i just scare girls or sumthing .. Get into awkward situations .. And yes eentually my personality changed to fit the new criterias of my face... Like im often closed, nonchalant, mean, not compassionate enough, etc. And i wasnt like so before.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Like others in this forum, we, my family and I, were not informed of the psychological damage that may be caused after a triple by-pass. I can't recall any doctor or anyone else, telling us about any of this. Only now do we have some understanding as to why our mother lost her 'beautiful self' after she had her surgery. Mum had a triple by-pass last year in July and unfortunately, I have to say, it did her no favours because she seemed miserable most of the time since leaving hospital. But she never complained and she tried to hide it from us so we never really knew what was going on with her. We were reassured many times that her life would improve afterwards and that in time, she would feel more energetic, be able to do more, blah, blah, blah.......well sorry, something went terribly wrong, What? we'll never know, and 9 months after her surgery she's gone. We should've, would've, could've done something more but that's not going to happen for us now, so for all of you people who are living through the depression or whatever else you are going through at the moment, families to, please be patient and hold on..don't let go.

Anyone who has to undergo heart surgery, their families included, should be fully informed as much about the negative affects surgery could have, as they are about the positive ones, It would save a lot of pain and heartache for the patients and especially their families when dealing with problems that may occur later on. To you all....All the Best.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Yes bypass surgery can indeed affect a persons personality. A different person entered my husbands body after his surgery, normally a very caring and loving person is now not interested in sex, nor does he want to do anything about it. His answer is we all get old. I'm only 61 and I still want to be active sexually. Do I still love him yes very much so but I was not prepared for such a drastic change in the man I've been married to for 30 years.

 

Janbp answered...

Dear Anonymous: I understand...oh boy, do I ever. Unfortunately, in my experience, not only does the person that had the bypass not believe that they've changed, they aren't open to discussing it, getting help for it or for their relationships, which suffer greatly. I'm so sorry to be discouraging, but this is a discouraging situation, & I wish I could pass along suggestions for what could work, but I've not found any & it's been nearly 10 years that I've been trying. :(

 

beth123 answered...

I am dating a wonderful man who underwent triple bypass a month ago. I am so grateful for your questions and replies as I thought it was just 'me' not realizing heart surgery can change a person's personality. I notice he has grown cold towards me and it hurts, is stubborn and so is overdoing it. This man always calls me on our anniversary of first meeting, last night I had to call him, as we were saying goodnight he said "I will probably call you tomorrow" the day of our meeting - I felt like telling him to forget it! Now I have a better understanding of how he feels. I have a feeling his feelings are going to change towards me, as I am reading where happily married couples are having problems, I hope this isn't so, but now I am better prepared. May God Bless all who this affects ....

 

Janbp answered...

Dear Beth123: I'm so very sorry & also once again not surprised to hear of your situation. I'd like to offer you hope of improvement but I can't, because after so many years I've not seen any in my marriage, which before the bypass surgery had been very good & loving-we were the couple who held hands & giggled together, always. Now I cry every single day. It's so sad & unbelievable, even now!

 

Hardturning answered...

Hello everyone, My best wishes to those who have a loved one who has struggled with any negative change in personality after Heart Bypass. In my own case I know I am different although in many ways some of what I experience is a actual increase in what I best describe as negative behaviors such as increased anger and general grumpiness. I also have noticed that some days my thinking is not very clear at all. I will express more on the issue in the near future yet for now I will add a few points.(forgive me if it is more than a few) First I do believe the personality changes people experience are real. I wish doctors would not ignore it like it will go away. Second I do think there are some things which can be done to help out yet I think they do not accomplish the desired results mostly. Surviving surgery is the major accomplishment and so this issue is a major annoyance to deal with yet I would not be able to deal with it if I were not alive to do so. I have found that my mind set is key because if I can just get a grip on myself cognitively and try to act rationally even faking it if I must things can go a lot better.Throw into the mood issues depression and a understanding that our spouse sees us as a kind of different person now. It is a shock to us. A community is so important to this issue as unless we describe what we are going through no one would notice except for the loved ones who see it first hand. I have heard many stories of how people have just left a marriage of many years or that they become promiscuous or display other negative traits whereas before they did not behave in such a manner. In my case with anger I feel terrible if I get overly angry and my conscious will not let me forget it either. I hope anyone who prays will keep us and our families on their prayer list for sure.

 

Daized and Confused answered...

I am 58 years old, and had a double heart bypass end of October 2012, it has taken me a few months to re-gain my strength, stamina, confidence. I carry out contract Purchasing work and it took me from January to May 2013 to find a contract. I'm now working away from home. Over the last few months it has been a roller coaster of a ride. I've lost just over a stone in weight, eating as healthly as I have ever done. I drink the occasional beer. I know feel better than I have done for years, I didn't realise how ill I was (angina / breathlessness) my fitness is improving, I'm diabetic but this better controlled. In the last 2 months my creativity has increased dramatically, I always was a positive person, but now I'm "nuclear". I have so many creative ideas going on in my head, it's hard to keep up. My emotions are all over the place, one minute I could cry and collapse in a heap, the next I can have a controlled argument with somebody whose crossed me or given poor service. I'm finding it a very interesting ride, but I think I need to discuss with my Doctor, as I'm finding it hard to cope with. I don't want to upset my family and friends who have been so supportive over the last month. If anybody has thoughts or ideas I would be grateful.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Hi

I had not have bypass but an aortic valve replaced. I also had some severe problems after and I think the lung machine damaged my brain. Since the surgery I noticed a personality change in worst! I m angry all the time, fallen out with all neighbours and friends I even snap at close familly. I turned nasty and I didn't use to be. I m waiting for CBT and tried anti depressants two different on e but both times I almost killed myself because of them. So I do think heart surgery causes a personality change but I hope I ll come back to normal after CBT. I m now scared of my own shadow, anxious, sad, scared of everything and irrational at times. From time to time I recognise the good old me but I hope I ll get the CBT before is too late for me. I m 39 and had the valve replacement part year

 

LaurelMaxene answered...

Hi all, I am so sorry to read everyone's emotional problems after by-pass surgery.

My husband - who had triple by-pass and a valve replacement just over three years ago, aged 68 - had a different personality change, as he now cries and becomes visually emotional. He is so very embarrassed.

In ICU, after his surgery, he began to endure what was to become weeks/months of horrendous, and torturous hallucinations, wherein he was in a prison camp tied naked to a chair and undergoing torture. In the first days in the ICU, he begged me and the famiy, not to come up to the hospital, as 'they' would get us too.

Our son stayed with him through the first night, holding his hand, and reassuring him that he was not tied down to a chair or bed (there were pressure pads on his legs ), that the walls were not caving in, and that the television set and heart monitors, were not there to harm him.

It was a dreadful time for us all, especially as we had all believed that the drugs had sent him 'mad'.

Before surgery, he was, and still is, the most wonderful man I could ever have married, and he is so very caring and loving.

However, he now cries so very very easily, especially if anyone brings up the subject of his surgery and the ICU recovery. He cries in front of family, friends and third parties, and he hates that he does this, as it causes him great embarrassment. He even cries openly, during a sad movie, at home or at the movie theatre, or during any television segment dealing with an animal suffering, etc.

After his surgery, he talked freely several times on a daily basis and he let his emotions flow every time. I listened and at times, cried with him, as I could feel his pain and suffering.

He says these talks helped him through the after effects, so thankfully, he did not go into depression.

All I can say guys, is that if you have a loved one going through this drastic surgery, please allow them to talk and talk and talk. Be there for them, be an excellent listener, ignore their outbursts where possible, and talk quietly with them, even holding their hands.

My hubby and I have been married 50 years next year, and love each other dearly, so we couldn't bear to think of life without one another.

We have been so very lucky I guess.

But I thank God that we were especially blessed during this very difficult time, to be able to come through it all, safely and with our sanity.

Good luck to you all, folks.

 

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Truly Blessed answered...

I had CABG X4 in April of this year after suffering 8 months of highly unstable angina. My G.P treated me for everything from Asthma to upper respiratory infections even though I mentioned in my first visit that I had a burning sensation in my chest anytime my heart rate increased, Anyway, I made it though the 8 months of daily, multiple angina attacks without dying or killing someone else on the highway while driving thanks to the good Lord above (I have no other explanation). I suffered a major angina attack on the way to work 10 miles away from home and being the genius I am, I decided it would be a good idea to turn my car around and make a mad dash for home because I didn't want to die in the middle of Santiago Canyon, A very dangerous road in O.C CA, that has claimed many lives and is riddled with roadside memorials that I see daily. I had to pullover at one point because I was sweating profusely and thought the fresh air might help cool me down. Of course, that did nothing so I jumped back in my car, ran the red light, and called home to have my wife call 911 and have the paramedics waiting for me. By this time, I was having a heart attach. I know how stupid this sounds, but I was determined that if I was going to die, I was going to die at home where I could say goodbye to my wife of 25 years. Anyway, I was rushed to the hospital where they performed an angiogram and the news was not good. No stents for me. They were going to have to crack my chest to repair 4 blockages ranging from 70-90%. My surgery was suppose to be a beating heart procedure, but due to a repair needed on the back side of my heart, it was deemed necessary that they stop my heart. I was on the heart lung machine for almost 4 hours. After the surgery, I bounced back and healed so quickly that my surgeon & cardiologist were extremely impressed. The day I was to be released from the hospital, I woke up to experience irregular heartbeats so I was quickly given Amirodione & Metaprolol for the next 24 hrs. I was released the following day after a 7 day stay and went home. When I got home, my wife had decorated the house with a "Welcome Home" banner and all the get well cards that had come in. I broke into tears at the thought of being lucky enough to once again see my home. That night and for the next 4 nights, I laid wide awake in bed. I could not sleep at all. My Dr. prescribed 4 different sleep meds before we finally found one that worked. I still require it to sleep until this day. I never had sleep issues before my surgery. I have also noticed that I sometimes have trouble concentrating when people speak to me on what they are saying or I lose track of the subject matter. I also have become very emotional and sometime find myself crying for no apparent reason (Like right now while I'm explaining this) Out of nowhere, I get these waves of fear that completely overwhelm me and take me to a very dark place. It doesn't last long, 1-2 minutes maybe, and then it passes. I forget things more than before and I have problems staying focused. This makes doing my job as an inside sales rep. very difficult and I fear that I may not be able to keep doing my job due to the high level of stress involved. That in itself creates more stress. I have also noticed that my body seems to run cooler and I get colder easier. I'm also noticing mood swings and that I'm a bit quicker to anger. I really have to work at not letting things upset me that never would have before my surgery. Sometimes I forget what I'm talking about in mid conversation which is very frustrating, not to mention embarrassing when it happens at work. I am so glad that i found this site. It's comforting to know that I am not alone in my feelings. I was honestly beginning to think I was a bit touched in the head. In spite of everything, I thank God for giving my surgeon the skills and the talent to do what he does so well and for blessing me with another chance at life. I for one, will not squander it. Please feel free to email me if you experience any of these symptoms or just need someone to talk to.

 

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waverunner200 answered...

Truly Blessed, Same here except 2x bypass. I had my surgery Feb 27, 2013 and went back to work the end of May. I'm currently suffering from depression and have now been off work 2 weeks. My job is highly stressful and have thought the last couple months that the stress is going to be the end of me. Once I get through the depression (insurance) I'm going to evaluate if the job is worth it. Home Depot may be the way to go.

 

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Abraxas1984 answered...

Here's my contention: that the positive impacts that results from these types of heart surgeries can be so overwhelming that they destabilize what was an otherwise functional and stable but generally accommodating psychological makeup and personality. That's how I've experienced my recovery from a recent mitral valve repair (it's been just over 4 weeks now).

Changes in my body and metabolism that developed over the course of three decades were corrected in just a few hours. Think about that: what was essentially an "over-clocked" heart that was not providing enough oxygen to my body now delivers an optimal amount while doing so much less work. That's an awful lot of change for a body - and mind - to absorb in what figuratively amounts to the time it takes to snap your fingers.

To my way of thinking, over the last three decades I developed a psychological and emotional infrastructure that was calibrated to the engine of a circulatory system that, thanks to the surgery, I no longer possess. To continue the computer metaphor, I've a legacy psycho-emotional software running on some new and more powerful hardware, and the adjustments to the new system are going to take some time, energy, work, and - undoubtedly - some real pain. Having overcome a few other medical issues in the past, such a transition was pretty much expected. And so far, those expectations have been met.

In addition, I suspect that cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons likely are aware that the impact of such surgeries on patients can be quite psychologically significant/destabilizing, but: 1) cannot predict the magnitude of those impacts on specific individuals, and 2) due to the division of labor and the body in medicine, they would never venture so far from their specialty. Or, put differently - any psychological impacts of these procedures are for psychologists to identify, address, and work through - not heart specialists. Right now I'm working with a psychiatrist with whom I had a previous relationship and who also had the same mitral valve repair; perhaps it's time for the creation of yet another sub-specialty?

Lastly, in the three weeks since I've been home from the hospital, it's easy for me to see that my perception of myself, others, and my feelings have changed dramatically. I've been more moody, noticed a real change in my values and priorities, seen my energy and interest levels fluctuate, felt more at home in my own skin, and, perhaps most importantly, noticed a real change in the magnitude and quality of my feelings. They are sharper, they are more "real," they feel more like my own, and, as a result, they are new, strong, and different, and hence almost foreign. Sometimes they overwhelm and frighten me, sometimes they take me by surprise. How could they not? They are so much more real as to be, by comparison, unreal.

In the end, the question I'm left asking myself is: are these new feelings really real, and, if they are, then what exactly am I to make of those clearly substandard feelings I was getting by on for all those years? I've been using those feelings (and the psychological framework that was built developed in concert) my whole life: was I in a sense "playing with real money?" Sure doesn't seem like it. What then am I to make of my pre-surgical feelings?

So, to end somewhere near where where this started, as someone who has experienced such a change "from the inside," I think I can say that with some authority that such a transformation is most definitely going to look like something different "from the outside." It couldn't not. The changes to a person can really be that profound. And we all have different degrees of insight into our own inner workings, and not everyone can express their thoughts, feelings, emotions (the conscious ones, to say nothing of the unconscious ones). So it stands to reason that there will be some who can go through such a radical transformation and be able to understand and cope with the impacts, and those that simply cannot. Perhaps those that don't respond psychologically post-surgery aren't suffering from any "failure" of medicine, but, as I believe myself to be, they are suffering from too much "success."

 

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bry2723 answered...

Absolutely is affects every aspect of your life. I had 6 Bypass surgery almost 2 years ago at age 38... Totally unexpected and all 6 arteries were 99% blocked. I have not been the same since! I struggle daily with who i am, why, what if's, etc..... It is getting better, but it is hard and as men, we do not give ourselves the chance to heal properly. It is also hard to find other like us to talk to. Especially men and women your age....

 

heartcarematters answered...

My husband had open heart surgery last year. It was definetly interesting and difficult to see him go through changes as many have already mentioned. My heart goes out to all the patients and their caregivers or care partners that are experiencing these difficult challenges. I wish we had been better prepared as well or perhaps given an indication that there might be personality or emotional changes. It grieves me greatly that so many people are suffering and cannot find their 'normal' selves again. I am also concerned about all the loving caregivers who are at the receiving end of the emotional upheavals. I hope we all learn from this and are able to go on with our lives but also share with those about to go through these operations. I will be exploring such topics in the future at www.heartcarematters.com because I feel patients and caregivers need a place to voice their concerns. I also hope that together we can encourage each other and find solutions on how to work through it all. Let's not give up hope!

 

100% helpful
GinnyO55 answered...

My husband had a heart attack at 37 and a 5-way bypass at 40. He literally went in one person and came out another. There is no way that it was just because of a 'life changing event'. He went From an easy going loving person to a confused, extremely abusive person, whose personality was nothing compared to what it was. We had a fantastic marriage for 20 years and it's been hell for the past 15. I tried to get help from Drs, etc., but absolutely no one would help, and treated me like I was neurotic. It finally got so physically abusive thAt I had to call the police and get a restraining order. This was a man who was my best friend and never in a million years would have hurt me. We went to numerous counselors, which either blamed it on me, or didn't do anything at all, a lot of them didn't believe me because he would act calm and easy going. We even had one tell him he was my 'enabler'. I went to my GP and asked him if personality change was normal, he said he'd never heard of it and gave me a prescription for Trazadone! (I live in a fairly small town, but we're supposed to have one of the best cardiac units in the region) Anyway, we finally went to a counselor, and he flipped out in front of her, so she believed me. She put him on an anti depressant, which just made him much worse. Then she tried an anti-convulsant med. that seemed to do the trick. He has slowly gotten better, is no longer violent, and is no longer on meds. He's much better but in no way is he the person he was before. And there is a lot of documentation of this type of thing after heart surgery. I'm sorry, it may be because of a life changing event for some, but complete personality changes aren't a rare thing. They think it has something to do with 'pump head'. It's been absolute hell, and I lost my best friend, which makes me so sad, I miss him. As others have said, we weren't warned or counseled about any of these types of problems. I was treated horribly by drs., counselors, etc. which has scarred me deeply. For some reason, drs. Just don't acknowledge this or talk about it. He is better, but his mind doesn't function as well as it did, his eyes looked different, kind of lifeless. To deadbug: you're absolutely right, and it's time Drs. started acknowledging it.

 

Janbp answered...

Oh GinnyO55, I understand. I really really understand! Your words are so close to what has happened to me and my husband that it's scary. Yes...this man had been my best friend for more than 20 years & would've rather died than hurt me. He came out of that bypass surgery WANTING to hurt me in any way he can. He reduces me to tears every single day. Because of our family situation & other things, I've not been able to leave him. Yes, we've tried counseling but like you, he's very calm & convincing when he wants to be so I end up looking like the one with the anger problem. Damn right I'm angry! I've been living in constant hell for almost 10 years & the docs won't warn people that this can occur or give them any help if it does! They won't even admit that this happens but it does happen ALL the time! It's a fact, & it's "pumphead", and it's a terrible medical reality that must start to be acknowledged! This man had been the best husband I could've ever asked for but since the bypass surgery he's been a monster.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Yes. Had several friends go thru it and family members. Since my partner did in October of 2013 I have since ended my relationship from beinfg tire of arguing. He is now right about everything even if he is wrong. Constant comparisons. Nobody is right around him. I couldn't take the stress anymore.

 

LaurelMaxene answered...

This is so sad that a relationship should end just when the patient needs so much love and support after such a big surgery. (I believe it is because the heart was out of the body for so many hours and the nano size microbes entered the heart during this time, when the heart was so vulnerable). I just cannot understand why doctors have never explained this possibiliy of change of personality to families, so they know what to expect. We also were not warned about the possibility of those dreadful mind blowing halllucinations of being tortured in a prison camp that nearly sent my hubby of 46 years insane - literally. But with the love and support of family, he has finally come out of it all, albeit he still cries a lot at the thought of the hallucinations. Do you think that with understanding, you could rekindle your partnership, because he is so vulnerable at this time? You must have seen something, in him, that you loved before the surgery. He probably doesn't even realise what has happened to him. Good luck with your future, with or without your former partner.

 

GinnyO55 answered...

To Janbp: I am so sorry that you had to go through what I did, it is so traumatizing. Our stories sound so much alike! What you said about your husband WANTING to hurt you was dead on. My husband would pick fights for absolutely no reason, then he would spend an hour putting me down and verbally abusing me, and he wouldn't stop until I'd start crying. Then he would storm out and stay gone for a couple days, leaving me totally confused and devastated, and he could have cared less. He had me to the point of feeling suicidal many times. To make matters worse, he little by little shut off contact with friends and people that we knew. He wouldn't let me keep the phone on the hook. I was pretty physically active and would walk a few miles every day. He would get furious if I tried to go for a walk. He watched every move I made and became convinced I was taking pills. Like you, I wasn't in a position of being able to leave, and my family didn't live in town and were completely unsupportive, they didn't want anything interfering with their perfect little lives. I begged my brother and sister to let me come and stay with them, but they said no. My family believes in toughing it out and handling problems on your own. One of the counselors decided to try Zoloft, which made him absolutely nuts. That night we got into a huge argument and I was going to call 911. He grabbed the phone from me and hit himself in the head over and over until he had a huge welt. Then he said, "I'm going to tell them YOU did this". Then he called the cops and they came to the house. And they believed him!. A couple of weeks later he got violent and I had to call the cops. I told them what he had done the last time, and they asked me if anyone could back me up. He had admitted it to my daughter, so the cop called my daughter and she verified it. He immediately cuffed him and arrested him. And I got a restraining order. He's no longer violent, thank god. I get more angry than he does and he stays completely calm. He's much better and more caring, but he's just not there anymore. He's just kind of checked out. I hope things are going better for you, God bless.

 

TrulyBlessed. answered...

I posted earlier (Truly Blessed) I have since gone to see my G.P and explained all the negative feelings and sadness I had been feeling and he told me I was suffering from extreme depression. He prescribed Mirtazapine once a day before bed. I am happy to say that after just a week, I was feeling soooo much more like myself. We may need to make an adjustment to the dosage but overall, I feel much better and happier. Get help if you need it. Depression is one of the side effects of CABG. The meds will not help with the cognitive problems I still have but at least I feel better and can once again laugh at myself.

 

100% helpful
LaurelMaxene answered...

hi TrulyBlessed

After reading your message above, I revisited your earlier post. This is my third post under LaurelMaxene, so you may like to reread mine also, to appreciate where I am coming from.

I am so pleased to see that you have some understanding of what is happening to you, as this is the first step to healing, and because of your positive attitude, you will improve each day.

You appear have a very supportive and loving wife and it is this one single thing - the devotion and caring of someone you love - that will get you both through your bad days. (My wonderful husband and I have just celebrated our Golden -50th - Wedding Anniversary, and devotion has become part of our love for each another).

Just knowing that you have someone or something to get up out of bed for each day, is precious.

Don't be afraid to talk about your problems, because you lift the weight from your own shoulders. This makes life so much more bearable for you, if another person (even a stranger in a forum) cares enough to listen.

Good luck with your continuing health. In the meantime, please do try to get off those sleeping pills if you can, as they can be very addictive, which in turn, may cause its own problems.

Keep your chin up ... and just know that you will get better! This applies to all our listeners.

Take care, and God bless!

 

TrulyBlessed. answered...

laurelmaxine,

Thank you for your post. I wanted to let you know that I am off my sleeping meds now. My "Happy Pills" lol, help me sleep. You are correct in regards to having someone supportive and loving make all the difference. Just two months after my surgery, my wife was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. It was a re-occurrence from a bout she had 23 years prior. After 6 moths of chemotherapy, she is once again in remission and happy to have her hair growing back.

God is good and he is to be praised for watching over and taking care of my wife and myself. The Dr's do what they do but ultimately, God is the great healer.

Hope things continue to go well with you and your husband & congratulations on your golden anniversary.

God bless you both.

 

onceahappywife answered...

My husband had quad CABG June 4, 2014. He's always been a moody person and can reduce me to tears in a heartbeat but he is ugly now. Yelled at me the other day about a pork chop. A freaking pork chop!! I knew there would be anger but it's only directed towards me and it's about to push me over the edge. We have been together most of the last 20 years and married for almost 11 but this is hard! I've always walked on egg shells anyway but now? I just keep my head down and mouth shut. That's no way to live. We have a checkup with surgeon and cardiologist in a couple of weeks. I'm going to tell them about this. He'll blow up at me and we'll drive home in silence but if it doesn't stop soon, there will be lots of silence in this house! I commend those of you that have lived with it for so very much longer. I guess I'm just too thinned skinned to put up with it.

 

100% helpful
Janbp answered...

Oncehappywife; I'm so sorry & I do understand. I used to be a happy wife too but now just try to walk on eggshells & fly below his radar. He's always furious, at everything, but mostly me. Everything's my fault. Next month it will be 10 years since his bypass & sadly, things only get worse as the years go by. We were once so happy! We always held hands, always laughed together. No more, & the docs haven't helped us at all. My sweet husband died on the table that long-ago day & no one bothered to tell me. It's very very wrong.

 

100% helpful
LaurelMaxene answered...

OMG onceahappywife, why on earth do you put up with this behaviour from your husband?? Of course it is hard for you; it has to be! H e has been controlling you way, way too long - and it appears as though you have accepted it. Love should not be like this, and without it, there is no marriage only a couple living together. Would you put up this behaviour from a flatmate??NO! so don't put up with it with him. NO MORE! I encourage you to talk to the Surgeon; bring it ALL out in the open in the presence of the surgeon. This way, there is a witness to his anger - if he displays any. Then if he directs any anger to you on the way home, and to prevent a car accident, I would suggest you quietly and simply say nothing, or that you have had enough of his controlling you, and that you will no longer accept his behaviour. Then when you get home - and from now on - tell him that you will no longer accept his anger towards you, and further, that unless he agrees to, and accepts, some anger management counselling, you will report him for his abuse, and that he (or you) will have to live apart. If he is violent, then call the police immediately. Don't wait for it to escalate into something really bad. I know you will be embarrassed but that is better than being injured - or worse! There are any number of places you can go for support by clicking on the Report Abuse link. PLEASE...do not allow him to continue treating you this way.This is no way to live. I do feel sympathy toward him as heart surgery can bring the worst out in people - even those who have never been angry before. It is not known why but it does....and he does need your support at this time but that does NOT mean accepting his unacceptable behaviour In the meantime, remember that it takes two to make an argument. Simply ignore his comments/attitude toward you. If you are cooking a meal, leave his meal on the stove or aside, and take yours to eat in the lounge or other area - anywhere to avoid confrontation. I am no counsellor, but I cannot sit by and hear about other people's controlling attitude towards their wives, without my advice, such as it is.. Good luck to you - I hope everything works out for you in a very positive way. God bless and take care. p.s. Please help him through the six weeks after surgery, as he will need the support. His attitude may improve - but I have my doubts, in which event, you have some serious thinking to do which may change your future living arrangements. Again good luck!

 

onceahappywife answered...

Thank you Janbp and LaurelMaxene. The next two weeks will be rough and I do support him and I want him to get better but you know, after so many years of him being the way he is anyway, I keep hoping that this will go away. And to top this all off, and I know it sounds like a movie script, his 69 year old mentally challenged brother lives with us. I haven't worked in years because of having to run him to the doctors, bandaging feet (diabetic) and making sure he doesn't burn the house down! I'm tired, folks. I keep saying I'm going to run away to Tahiti. Yes, the ride home will be quiet, they always are. Haven't had anything to talk about in a long time except for the grandkids. ALL decisions are made by him but this one coming up, and I think it is, will be all mine. Thank you all so much. I am so glad I found this site. Wish I had a long time ago. Oh and don't worry about him being violent. He never has been. Never even close. But if he ever is, I will call the police. My sister's husband killed her and that is something that will not happen to her sisters! I'm sorry, my thoughts are scattered tonight. I'll try to be more coherent next time.

 

LaurelMaxene answered...

Actually, I think your husband's brother may be the root of all your probs. It is a tremendous responsibility having to care for another person - let alone one who is not only elderly, but mentally challenged. Of course you are tired; we all would be! He is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! Let you husband take care of him or find a placement for him in an appropriate facility, and maybe - just maybe - you and your husband's marriage could get back onto an even keel. Again good luck! Good luck. Please keep us posted.

 

miserablewife answered...

Same story--husband of 39 went in for quad-bypass, and came out someone I have never known. He is moody, unhappy all the time, never wants to do anything, has gained weight, eats tons of sweets, and screams his head off in anger! The night the police were called by concerned neighbors, for him yelling his head off, has really put me over the edge. There has got to be a way to get my husband back, because this is not working. He is currently on the max dose of an anti-depressant but obviously its not working.

 

LaurelMaxene answered...

hi Miserablewife... I believe that your heart is your soul. It therefore makes sense to me, that if the heart is removed from the body for several hours (four or more) to be operated on (and chilled right down in temperature), it may NOT go back into the body the same way, so the Soul suffers. I think that there is even a question mark as to whether microbes could enter the heart when it is out of the body. Who knows what affect any of this could have? Your husband is so very young to have gone through open heart surgery. If he wants to eat sweets, let him be. Sus out low fat or sugar free ones for him. He screams his head off because he is so frustrated at not knowing what is happening to him. If your neighbours are concerned, apologise to them, and explain what is going on and that you are both working through it. If they are aware, they won't be worried. Personally, I am so thankful that my husband's personality didn't change other than he will cry at the slightest sad story on the television or at the movies. But hey....we can both live with this as we were deeply in love both before and after the surgery, and have been married for 50 years. But according to all the messages above, so many, many other people who undergo open heart surgery, do obviously change - sometimes dramatically for the worse. I don't believe there is any magical cure for this other than maybe lots of patience, reassurance and time. But do walk away - or do anything else - to avoid confrontation with him. He needs to vent his anger somewhere - and if you are not closeby, it won't be directed at you. While it must be so, so hard hard for the carer when the partner 's actual personality changed after surgery, let's not forget that the patient would also be just as frustrated not knowing what was happening to him - hence the anger due to the frustration. Being on the max dose of antidepressants is not necessarily good either. They are rotten drugs and can definitely change one's personality, so please speak to your/his doctor to see if these can be slowly reduced (please do NOT STOP them suddenly as this causes BIG probs). You well may find a big difference in him in the short term. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer to this. If you loved your partner before surgery, love him just the same after surgery. He truly does need you to help him to work through all the anger, frustration, and sense of helplessness he may be feeling. He doesn't realise what he is doing is hurting you so much. It won't be easy, and if, and it is a big if, there is no progress and you cannot stay to help him, can you go live elsewhere for the time being and just call in each day to see him? If you have children in the home and they continually witness their father's anger etc., maybe this would be a very good idea for you all to live elsewhere for a while? Good luck. Take care of one another if you can.

 

LaurelMaxene answered...

Oh another thought MiserableWife...please consider counselling. I know a lot of people poo hoo this, but speaking from experience, I can assure you that counselling definitely does help. Your hubby can work through his feelings with the counsellor, and can then understand why he is feeling the way he is now. Just like your neighbours - knowing is understanding, and when he understands why he is like this, it will lead to his peace of mind - and his and your sanity - and you will both eventually learn the best way to work through all of this - together.

 

BB Queen answered...

My hubby had bypass surgery 26 years ago. I was warned at the time he could become depressed and he did. A few years later he had to leave his job he was so anxious and down. It was years before he began to get over it, with the help of medication. Several months ago he went in for an angioplasty and arrested. They revived him but he had a near death experience and said two angels were coming to get him. He felt at peace. Since then he has been happier than he has been for years. There is still so much we don't know about how the brain affects our well-being.

 

 
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