I stumbled across this discussion on the Google News alert
I have set up for pericardiectomy. I had a pericardiectomy on July 24, 2007 and am alive because of this surgery. My story appears to be different than everyone else's here. At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I underwent both chemotherapy and radiation. While the treatments saved my life, the radiation caused damange to my pericardium. It wasn't until 2004 that I came to understand that something was wrong. After undergoing two bouts of what everyone thought was pleurisy, I found myself in the ER unable to breathe in spring of 2004. I was in cardiac tamponade and my resting heart rate was around 125. We later discovered that I had about
a liter of fluid around my heart.
For 3 years, we did our best to manage my pericarditis with medications - toprol, furosemide, aldactone, potassium, naproxen. But, as the years went on my conditions worsened. Shortness of breath, swollen legs and feet, fluid pooling in my abdomen, achiness, fatigue, exhaustion, racing heart. When I finally had to ask for a handicapped sticker for my car because I couldn't even walk from the parking lot to a store, I knew it was time to do something about it.
My husband and I went to Mayo for a consult, but eventually opted to have the surgery done at Froedtert/Medical College of Wisconsin. We had an absolutely fabulous cardiologist (who had been trained at the Cleveland Clinic) and cardiothoracic surgeon and felt comfortable going there.
On the day of surgery, my kidneys and liver were in desparate shape. A 5 hour surgery showed that my pericardium was as thick as 10mm in points (should be around 1-5 mm) and was literally stuck to my heart. While I would admit that my 3-1/2 days in intensive care were pretty lousy, by the time I moved to the regular cardiac floor, I was already feeling a whole lot better than I had in years.
Today, I am doing terrific. We are in the process of weaning me off the diuretics. Hopefully, I will only have to stay on metatoprol. The doctors have been ecstatic with my progress and expect me to live a long healthy life.
I do have lung damage, but it's really hard to know if the pericarditis had anything to do with this condition or if radiation was the sole culprit. Net, net, I have difficulty being around smokers and I'll never run in the Boston Marathon, but who does? I just celebrated my 50th birthday last month and am thrilled to be alive!