Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Repair in Cyprus:
From diagnosis to recovery
This is a lovely testimonial from our patient Patrick Dale, sharing his entire experience of undergoing a minimally invasive mitral valve repair surgery, from diagnosis to recovery, as well as giving several nutritional tips.
As a lifelong exerciser, non-smoker, and healthy eater, I was shocked to be diagnosed with a heart problem during a routine medical examination by my doctor, Dr. Kyriacos Charalambides of the American Clinic, Paphos.
I’m only 53, so it was the last thing I expected to happen.
He noticed I had a heart murmur and referred me to cardiologist Dr. Petros Mavrommatis for more tests, who I saw the very next day.
Dr. Mavrommatis discovered a significant mitral valve prolapse which meant blood was flowing back into my heart between beats. I had no symptoms to speak of, but, as Dr. Petros explained, it could cause serious problems in the future, so it was best to get the valve repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
I was referred to Dr. Ioannis Tzanavaros and Dr. George Shiakos at the Cardiac Innovation Center at the Apollonian Private Hospital in Nicosia. Prior to my initial consolation with them, I underwent several additional tests to confirm the diagnosis.
On meeting Drs. Tzanavaros and Shiakos, they explained that they could repair or replace the valve using a minimally invasive technique that was new to Cyprus. In fact, they had only recently taken delivery of the equipment needed to perform the surgery.
Rather than opening the entire chest to gain access to my heart, they would go in through a small incision in the right side of my upper ribs. This would mean less pain, a shorter stay in hospital, and a faster recovery – all of which sounded good to me!
The doctors took the time to explain the procedure and answer my questions, so I felt very informed and happy to proceed with the operation. In fact, I was keen to get it done as soon as possible.
Coordinating with their super-helpful and efficient secretary Larissa, the appointment for surgery was quickly arranged. Before my admission, I needed to get some blood tests and a COVID test, all of which went smoothly, thanks to Larissa’s help.
Unfortunately, the surgery was delayed by a few weeks because of COVID. Despite this, it was only a couple of months between the initial diagnosis and the day of the operation. GESY proved itself to be very effective, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
The day of the surgery soon arrived, and I made the journey from Paphos to Nicosia. COVID restrictions meant I had to go into the cardiac department alone as no visitors were allowed.
Admission was a straightforward process, and soon as I was in my pajamas, the nurses started preparing me for the operation, which was scheduled for the following day. Everyone was friendly and calming and did their best to put my mind at rest. I also got a chance to talk to Dr. Tzanavaros and the anesthetist, who were both very reassuring.
Early the next morning, I was wheeled down to the operating theatre, and the surgery began. Needless to say, I didn’t feel a thing as I was under general anesthetic.
Several hours later, I awoke in intensive care. I was wearing a pressurized oxygen mask, which I found uncomfortable, but apart from that, I felt pretty good. The mask was soon removed, and the doctors told me that everything had gone well. I had a catheter, a chest drain, and lots of other wires and tubes and was monitored constantly.
The pain was minimal, although I felt a little tired and weak, and I think I then slept through the day and the following night!
The next day the physios arrived to encourage me to start moving. They also helped me sit in a chair for a while, which was tiring but the first step to getting my strength back.
Over the next few days, I started to feel stronger and was able to sit for longer and go for short walks around the ward. The physios came by each day and gave me exercises to do.
The food at the Apollonian Private Hospital was also excellent, and I was surprisingly hungry despite having just undergone heart surgery. The only thing I missed was decent coffee – but that’s a very small complaint!
After a couple of days in intensive care, I was moved to a nearby ward where the tubes and wires were gradually removed, and monitoring was reduced. It was nice to be out of intensive care because it meant I was getting better, and things were much quieter, making it easier to sleep through the night.
I expected to be in hospital for 7-10 days, but the doctors discharged me on the sixth day. I was still a little weak but could walk and move around unaided, though I did get tired quickly.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to be going home and saw my early discharge as a great indicator that everything was going well.
Once at home, I relaxed and rested but, within a day, was able to head out for short walks. I gradually increased the distance until, after about ten days, I was walking 5km per day.
Because the surgery was minimally invasive, post-operative pain was never much of a problem, but it made sleeping on my right side uncomfortable. I also had some mild discomfort if I moved my right arm too much or coughed, but day by day, this quickly improved. Ibuprofen helped, but other than that, I didn’t need any pain medication.
Because I had no problem sitting, I returned to work quite soon after getting home. However, I tended to get tired and needed an afternoon nap most days. I adjusted my schedule so that I could work mornings and then take each afternoon off to allow for this.
Three weeks after discharge, I was back to doing lots of walking (10 kilometers or more per day) and even managed to go paddleboarding without any discomfort. The only thing I noticed was that I got out of breath more quickly than usual, but this was probably due to a loss in fitness and muscle mass. This is no longer much of an issue.
By five weeks post-surgery, I was able to start doing some light exercise, including push-ups, lunges, planks, etc. Other than a little general muscle weakness, I feel almost as good as I did before the surgery. There is no pain, and I’m getting stronger every day.
In fact, I have to remind myself to take it easy and that just because I’m pain-free doesn’t mean I’m 100% recovered. As Dr. Tzanavaros told me during one of my two follow-up appointments, it takes about four weeks to feel normal but about three months to get back to your pre-surgery state.
From initial diagnosis to hospital discharge and recovery, the entire process has gone more smoothly than I could have ever imagined. In fact, I sometimes forget that I’ve even had heart surgery!
Everyone involved was incredibly professional, friendly, and kind, and I felt like I was always in the best possible hands. I will be eternally grateful for the treatment and care I received.
I’ve always been a healthy eater, and I think that was one of the reasons I recovered so quickly after surgery. I don’t believe in diets per se, as things like Atkins, paleo, the Zone, etc., are usually unsustainable for more than a few weeks.
Instead, I just eat healthily 90% of the time, which seems to have done the trick. So, no faddy meals or weird supplements – just plenty of natural, wholesome foods. If you eat healthily most of the time, you earn the right to have the occasional treat. So, for example, I like to have a couple of biscuits with my afternoon coffee or a dessert at weekends.
A typical day of eating in the Dale household
Breakfast – Porridge made with half water and half milk, served with a quarter cup of blueberries and a little maple syrup or honey, plus a cup of coffee.
Porridge is high in fiber and slow-releasing carbohydrates, giving you long-lasting energy and keeping you feeling fuller for longer. It’s also a heart-healthy food. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and vitamins.
Lunch – Homemade vegetable soup and a bread roll.
Soup is super-easy to make and an easy way to eat several servings of vegetables. It’s also a good source of hydrating fluids. Choose 2-4 different vegetables, simmer them for 20-30 minutes in vegetable stock, and then blend them to the desired consistency. Add some grains if you want a thicker soup, such as bulgur wheat, rice, lentils, etc.
Other favorite lunches include beans or scrambled eggs on toast. While they’re not as nutritious as vegetable soup, they’re still pretty healthy.
Dinner – Homemade chicken and vegetable curry, served with brown rice.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring but does mean you may need to make your own meals. Takeouts are invariably full of unhealthy ingredients. It takes about 30 minutes to make a homemade curry, and it tastes great. There are plenty of quick and easy healthy eating dinner recipes on the internet.
Other favorites include:
Homemade cottage pie and green beans
Grilled pork chop and roasted mixed vegetables
Chicken stir-fry with whole wheat noodles
Baked fish, sweet potato wedges, and peas
With all our dinners, we make sure to include a source of protein (meat or fish), 2-4 different vegetables, and some grains or stretchy carbs. These meals rarely take longer than 30 minutes to cook.
Healthy Eating Tips
Always eat a filling breakfast.
Try to eat vegetables at least twice a day.
Drink at least two liters of hydrating fluids per day.
Snack on fruit, nuts, seeds, etc.
Enjoy the occasional treat but don’t overdo it.
Prepare as many of your meals as you can.
Cut down on sugar.
Avoid processed food whenever possible.
Eat plenty of fiber.
Ultimately, healthy eating needs to be something you can do most of the time. There is no point following a strict diet for a week if you go back to eating junk afterward. That’s why extreme diets do not work.
Simply eating more vegetables, fewer takeouts, and less junk food can significantly impact your health and weight. Eating this way means I’ve yet to suffer the dreaded middle-aged weight gain that many adults experience, but I’m never hungry, have lots of energy, and get to enjoy treats a few times a week.