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Maggie Lichtenberg

Maggie Lichtenberg
The Open Heart Companion
Preparation and Guidance for Open-Heart Surgery Recovery

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About the Author

There are more than thirty-five known congenital heart defects, and I was born with one of them. My valve anomaly was so mild that it was never supposed to progress and give me trouble. As an adult I enjoyed two uneventful pregnancies. I had a rewarding 20-year career as a publishing company executive (Simon & Schuster, Bantam, Beacon Press). That career has been followed by an equally rewarding nine years in my own business as a professional certified coach (PCC), and consultant. Publishing coaching continues to be my specialty.

That said, my abrupt experience of a dormant congenital heart defect popping up to haunt me in my fifties -- requiring open-heart surgery -- is what inspires me to support heart patients to prepare in advance for the arduous eight to twelve weeks of open-heart surgery recovery. Anyone whose sternum is opened -- whether for valve repair or replacement (15% of open-heart operations) or for the more common coronary artery bypass surgery (85% of open-heart operations) -- is faced with strenuous open-heart surgery recovery.

Here's how it happened for me: Suddenly (and of course it wasn't really suddenly) I was confronted with having to choose open-heart surgery to repair the defective valve. At the age of 53 I had had my first arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm. Over the next few years I had an acceleration of arrhythmias. Then, within a six-month period in early 2003, my mild congenital anomaly progressed to "severe" status. The valve now "leaked" so badly it simply had to be fixed. I prepared myself very well for the July open-heart surgery, but never gave a thought to educating myself about what to expect during the convalescence. It is this omission - and plodding through an overly stressful open-heart surgery recovery myself - that impassions me to help others.

About the Book
The Book's Promise...

Every year in the US alone, 709,000 open-heart patients (current AHA figures) plod through an arduous convalescence. Very seldom are heart patients told what to really expect during the stressful open-heart surgery recovery period of 8-12 weeks. Far too many open-heart patients and primary caregivers don't proactively plan ahead for this very challenging time.

As a recent heart patient, I decided this needed to change. Through dozens of interviews, and weaving in my own personal story, The Open Heart Companion reinforces the wisdom that knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect during open-heart surgery recovery -- and planning for it -- makes the process so much easier.

While books on heart disease prevention and surgical intervention abound, most have no day-by-day advice once the open-heart patient has left the hospital. The Open Heart Companion fills this gap. It is the first book written with the focus on the long recuperation period with the goal of reducing fear and stress by simply planning ahead -- written by a heart surgery patient, for patients and caregivers.

The Book's Biggest Benefit:

Not only do Part One and Part Two prepare and empower you for your open-heart surgery operation, Part Three supports you during the difficult recovery gap between hospital discharge and when you are finally healed enough to enroll in a cardiac rehab program -- a stretch of four to eight challenging weeks.

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