Episode 55

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Published on:

18th Jun 2024

Comprehensive Guide to Building Your Heart Surgery Medical Team

Boots presents a comprehensive list of professionals you should consider hiring in episode 55. This is a must-listen for anyone prepping for open-heart surgery. She reveals the secrets to building an all-star team that sets you up for a smooth journey and triumphant recovery. Ever thought about the importance of a heart surgery doula, an ultra-involved mental health therapist, or how your dentist could impact your heart health? Boots breaks it all down, sharing wisdom on why these roles are game-changers. Plus, get a sneak peek into some game-changing lifestyle considerations like naturopathy and dietitian guidance that can speed up your healing. If you're serious about living your best life post-surgery, this episode is packed with insights you won't want to miss. Tune in and start assembling your winning team today!

Get the health care team list HERE!

Listen to Boots and Michelle's interview in fueling heart health here.

Listen to Boots's story here.

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How to connect with Boots

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @openheartsurgerywithboots or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

Boots Knighton

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Open Heart Surgery with Boots

Transcript
Boots Knighton [:

Assembling your care team is one of the most important aspects of preparing for open heart surgery. Let's talk about that and all the things you need to consider when hiring your team in this episode. Let's get right to it. Thanks for joining me today. I am so happy you are here and the topic today is so important. I've heard from several different listeners in the last few weeks, one from Australia. Hello all my australian listeners. Welcome to this podcast.

Boots Knighton [:

I'm so glad that you have found me. I've heard from a gentleman there and then I've also heard from a gentleman in France. And it's just amazing to know that this podcast is now being heard internationally. I knew that was happening, but then when I hear from listeners in other countries, it just confirms it. So I think we're approaching 50 countries. That's 50 where open heart surgery with boots has been downloaded. So it's really heartwarming for me, pun totally intended, that listeners are finding this helpful even abroad. And wherever you are in the world, I always want to hear from you.

Boots Knighton [:

I do answer all the emails I receive and you can email me boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. yes, I know I haven't changed my email over to open heart surgery with boots yet, if you're just now finding me. I was calling this podcast the heart chamber, and then I realized that I could be found by even more people if I change the name. So a little quick backstory there. So again, my emails boots at the Heart chamber podcast. All right, enough with the housekeeping. This is such an important topic and I had to figure this out myself. So let me help you figure it out faster.

Boots Knighton [:

So that is assembling a team that's going to help you get through open heart surgery and then get to the other side. Okay? And I mean, this could really be for any surgery. So if you're listening to this and you're remembering that your friend has to have surgery for some other reason, please send this to them because this is applicable to no matter what surgery you're facing. We all deserve to have the just right team for us to achieve the results we are looking to have on the other side. So for my heart surgery, I didn't just want to survive it. I wanted to thrive and I wanted to get back to the life that I was living before my heart made itself known that it needed help. Now, a whole separate topic which I will get into at a later date is there was no going back to the life that I had beforehand. And you just need to let that go.

Boots Knighton [:

Be prepared for miracles. Be prepared to be changed in ways that you just won't be able to match up or pair up with your previous life once you get to the other side. But like I said, that's a whole nother can of worms ball of wax. However way you want to say it, you just can't go through open heart surgery and then expect to be the same old person. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. It just isn't possible. So, with that being said, assembling the right team is key, because you, a, want to survive the surgery, and b, you want to avoid as many complications as possible, and C, you want to completely kick ass afterwards. Right.

Boots Knighton [:

I mean, why not? I mean, if you're going to go through heart surgery, you might as well come out the other side, being ready to, like, blow it up. All right. Live life out loud on purpose. Heart wide open. Okay. All right, so let's start with, like, the most uncomfortable part of it, which is insurance. Now, I don't know what it's like for folks in other countries, and I do want to hear from you, actually. I want to know how you cover heart surgery in other countries.

Boots Knighton [:

Now, I did just recently record a news brief where, in Zimbabwe, of all places, heart surgery is free in the United States. It's ridiculously expensive. And I know that when I was originally facing heart surgery, it was in the height of COVID I did not have health insurance. Oh, my gosh. But I was part of a health share, and that ended up being a really poor choice. That's going to have to be its own mini episode. And I was facing a really steep bill because I was originally gonna have my surgery at Stanford, and we were looking at $450,000 just for me to have the heart surgery. That was day of.

Boots Knighton [:

And then luckily, Covid shut me down, and we couldn't go to Stanford for the surgery, so I ended up doing it more regionally, and it was only. Only $58,000. And luckily, the health share covered a lot of that. But again, that's like a whole nother episode that I will make sure I cover soon. Regardless, you need to know if you have health insurance, what it's going to cover, and if you don't have health insurance, there are ways to work with your hospital, at least in the United States, on how to pay for a necessary event that is heart surgery. Okay, so your insurance company is number one. I will say that since heart surgery, I now do have health insurance, and I had several different choices. I live in the state of Idaho.

Boots Knighton [:

And I wanted to be able to travel down to the University of Utah in Salt Lake. That's our regional hospital, and I'm right on the border of Idaho and Wyoming. And my cardiologists happen to be over in Wyoming, in Jackson. And so I wanted to be able to travel over into Wyoming to still see that cardiologist and go down to the U if I needed to. So I specifically chose an insurance that allowed me to travel and also had air travel. And unfortunately, I needed air travel just a few months ago when I broke my leg, because my heart has, you know, it's tender, it's got a lot of special aspects to it. I was born differently, as I like to say. I didn't respond well to the trauma of the accident, and I had a heart attack, so I had to be flown to a bigger hospital.

Boots Knighton [:

So you'd never know what is going to come down the road after a heart event. And I'm so thankful I had the foresight to think about that because it ended up saving me literally $62,000. I mean, the life flight was insane, but it was all covered. Okay, so insurance company heart surgery doula. That would be who I would think about for number two. And guess what? That's me. I am now going to offer one on one heart surgery doula services. Now, that's a mouthful, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while, and I really want to be a heart buddy to fellow heart patients.

Boots Knighton [:

And so you can either take me in your ear in this, via this podcast, or I am actually willing to meet one on one with heart patients to help you navigate this thing called heart surgery. So I'll circle back to that. But I would love to be considered part of your team. Okay. The next person that I really strongly recommend is a mental health therapist. So insurance is definitely number one most important therapy. So important. I would say that's the second most important.

Boots Knighton [:

Even over your surgeon, even over your cardiologist. And I'll tell you why. The therapist is going to help you cope. No matter how good you have it in life, heart surgery just sucks. There's just no ifs, ands, or buts about it. And it doesn't have to suck really hard if you have a therapist with you. So I lucked out in that I had already had a very established relationship with my therapist, and it was because of her that I was able to handle waiting for heart surgery and then having to go through some medical gaslighting because it was like it was a crazy five months before I had my surgery, and I suggest you go back and listen to my story. But it was just so necessary.

Boots Knighton [:

And what we did was we actually did EMDR prior to surgery, and then after surgery to process, getting ready for it and picturing myself doing well afterwards. And then the. We process the residual trauma effects of the surgery and being in the hospital and all the things. So I can't recommend enough having that third party mental health provider in your life. And usually insurance covers that. Okay, the next one might surprise you. A naturopath, or at least a more holistic doctor. So, at least in the United States, I know this is true, where, you know, we've got so many talented medical providers, but they all tend to live in their own silos, right? So we've got our cardiologists, we've got our internist, we have our bone doctors, which I know all about now because I broke my leg a few months ago.

Boots Knighton [:

Everyone lives in their own silos. And a more holistic approach is really needed in order to heal the whole body. And a person I wish I had had with me going into open heart surgery was someone who could help me get my inflammation under control. I didn't even know I was struggling with inflammation. And it's just something that is so under explored. It's just not explored enough with our health. And you will have a much quicker healing time, less pain, less chance of, say, side effects from anesthesia and other medications. It just will set you up for success.

Boots Knighton [:

And so, unfortunately, naturopaths aren't covered by insurance, and so this would be an added expense. But if you think about what they can do for you as far as, like, speeding up healing time, taking in the whole body approach, it actually could probably save you money down the road and save you literal heartache, because the heart understandably gets really ticked off after it's had it touched by surgeons. And so just think of that naturopath as being that other cheerleader on your team who's just overlooking the entire system that is the entire human body, and just checking all the check engine lights, right? And being like, okay, what else do we need to be thinking about here? Because the surgeon, the cardiologist, they're just focusing on the heart. They're not making sure your kidneys are okay and your liver and doing the detoxification process and all of that. It's all important. All right, physical therapists, key. You've got to get your chest healed, working again. So this means going to cardiac rehab and all of that.

Boots Knighton [:

It should be included in your insurance. You should be referred to cardiac rehab. I was not, and that was not okay. I didn't know any better. And I think that because I was an athlete, they just thought I'd be okay just getting along in life on my own. And I know I would have benefited from cardiac rehab. So make sure you get signed up with cardiac rehab and physical therapy or a combo that will be key to getting you back out and living your best life quicker than you can shake a stick. Okay, next person.

Boots Knighton [:

Dietitian. Oh, my gosh. Do I wish I had had a dietitian. So I was visited in the hospital by a dietitian. I do remember that. But it was one time, and it was like when I was deep in heart surgery and I couldn't think, and I was all cloudy from anesthesia. And I remember being on a heart healthy diet, but what did that really mean? And now I'm working with a dietitian. In fact, I interviewed Michelle back in January, and she has completely changed my life for the better.

Boots Knighton [:

You need someone having you keep a food log and hydration and really thinking through the nutrients that you need to not only heal from open heart surgery, but then to continue to thrive. And Michelle's philosophy is, let's treat the body with food and not use supplements. Supplements can bog down your kidney function, your liver, and it's really kind of a way for, you know, different practitioners to make more money, is to sell you supplements. And so Michelle and I are, like, rocking it now, and I cannot believe how well I am doing. And I just wish I had found her three years ago, right after my heart surgery, or even before, actually, because we have been working on inflammation and a few other things for me. And if I had been doing that prior to open heart surgery while I was waiting for surgery, I know that that would have set me up for even better success. And to go with that, the next person would be a gym coach or yoga instructor or Pilates or all three. Really? All three, if you can afford it.

Boots Knighton [:

I'm grateful in that I have had the same coach for several years now. So she knew who I. Who I was in the gym prior to open heart surgery, and now afterwards. And she just knows my heart so well and how it performs. Also having her hold me accountable, making sure I'm always active anyway. I love mountain biking. I love skiing. I love mountain climbing.

Boots Knighton [:

And so it's just natural for me to be active every day. But if that is not your scene, which is totally fine, it is still so important to work with someone who can kind of get you out of your head and start to build those really positive habits of being active. And it's one of the best things you can do for your health, having someone hold you accountable. Weight training, so important, all the different, like, getting your core back. Like, my core muscles were really compromised from the chest tubes. Obviously, my chest muscles were, and I was able to get back to my activities pretty quickly because I was back in the gym starting to fire all those muscles. Okay. I am just now getting to the surgeon and the cardiologist because they're going to come into your life anyway, and hopefully, they're only with you, especially the surgeon, for a short time.

Boots Knighton [:

All the other folks I mentioned prior to this are with you for the long haul, like, fitness, diet, mental health. To me, that's lifelong, right? Like, if we're gonna be a human, having a human experience in this crazy world, we're gonna have mental health. Things come up. I feel like it's a chore to keep on a really healthy diet. I like having that accountability. I love pushing myself in the mountains, so I'm gonna keep working with a coach, but I am trying not to see a surgeon ever again. And. And I'm trying to keep myself out of my cardiologist's office.

Boots Knighton [:

Now, I do still have a bicuspid valve, so I don't have the luxury of never going to a cardiologist again. But as far as I'm concerned, the reason why I originally had surgery that has now been resolved, and we don't need to, like, go back and rehash an old story. So the surgeon's role, at least in the United States, is to keep you alive. It's to fix you and then send you on your way. It's kind of sad, really, because, like, I loved my surgeon, and I would love to keep him in my life, but he is just on an assembly line fixing hearts, and that's just how. How it is here in the United States. So he was an important choice, and I definitely actively chose him, but I didn't completely hang my hat on the situation because I knew if it wasn't him, it was going to be someone else. I mean, obviously, you would prefer to go to a top rated surgeon at the top rated hospital, but insurance also dictates that if you do have the means to travel, it is worth researching your congenital defect that you have or whatever is going on with your heart and find the best hospitals.

Boots Knighton [:

So, obviously, Cleveland Clinic is known for bicuspid valves. Stanford University in the past has been known for myocardial bridging, although that's kind of shifting a little bit. There's also a hospital in Chicago, but I'm starting to hear about other hospitals around the United States that are really becoming well known for various heart maladies. So just do your homework, and then you can find Facebook groups for just about any defect out there. So go on into those forums and find out where other people are having their surgeries. For your cardiologist, I want you to think about this. When you meet with he or she or they, look at them and think to yourself, do they have the health that I want? Think about that. And really with any of the people that I have or, you know, positions I have recommended for your team, I want my coach in the gym to be extremely fit, because if she's fit, then I know she can help me get the goals that I want to achieve.

Boots Knighton [:

Well, the same is true for cardiologists. So my cardiologist happens to be a mountain biker, a skier, a climber, a hiker. So I know that she values what I value. But I have to ask you, if you are sitting in front of a cardiologist who's overweight, who smokes or vapes or is an alcoholic, is that really the health that you want? And can you truly trust that cardiologist to advise you on what's best for your health? So this is where you need to have your discernment muscles going, right? And be like, is this the right person for me? Because I know that that's important for me. So make sure you ask your cardiologist some questions, like, what do you enjoy doing? What do you eat for, you know, three times a day? What do you think about research? How are you staying on top of the latest cardiac research? That's another question that I asked my own cardiologist. It's a really big deal. You want to make sure that they are up to date on the latest research for heart health, things like that. Okay.

Boots Knighton [:

This next one I didn't know was important until about a year ago. Your dentist. Now, during COVID when my heart made itself known, going to the dentist was extremely difficult. And then my heart became a thing. And then my mom died. And long story short, I ignored my teeth for about two years, and I tried going back to my original dentist. He had since retired, and I had been hearing about bio dentistry. And so I started looking around for local or regional bio dentists, and I happened to find one about an hour and ten minutes away, and it was the best decision I ever made, switching to this biodentist.

Boots Knighton [:

Now, I don't have dental insurance, but my insurance is so great that I can actually submit my cleaning bill. I go twice a year to have my teeth cleaned, and my insurance company will cover the cleaning bill. My general health insurance, they won't cover cavities or anything like that, but they will cover the cleaning bill. And I'm also going to do, hopefully later this summer, an episode with my biodentist. And I've heard this several times, even recently, that our mouth is the window into our health, and our mouth health directly impacts our heart. And my dentist was telling me that all the meridians in the body, and if you know anything about acupuncture, which I will get to that in a second, all of the meridians in our body run to our teeth. And so you want to make sure you're taking really good care of your teeth, because as you take good care of your teeth, you take good care of your heart. So everyone else I mentioned, so important, and so is your dentist.

Boots Knighton [:

So be sure that you're flossing, be sure that you're brushing at least twice a day, and obviously not eating a ton of sugar. All of that directly impacts the heart. Okay, so some honorable mentions. That was a lot. Our team is so important, as you can tell, and others that you don't have to pay but are just as important are your friends and family. I want you to really think about who you allow in to your heart journey. Like, really think about who lights you up, who validates you, who supports you, who shows up no matter what kind of day you're having and says, I am right here. They don't try to solve, they don't try to save.

Boots Knighton [:

They just hold space for your journey because this is a long one and you need folks who are going to be with you on your hardest days. When you're in pain, you haven't showered, you can barely get dressed. I mean, there's going to be tough days. But guess what? You do get over it. You do get through it. And you get to the other side and you look back and you're like, oh, that was that. That was heart surgery. Wow, that went by really fast.

Boots Knighton [:

At least that's what happened for me. So think about the people that you choose to have in your inner circle who you can really trust. Hopefully you have a partner. Hopefully you have family members who just show up unconditionally. And if you don't, I mean, that's why I have this podcast. Put me in your ears and take me with you. Join the community. Join support groups.

Boots Knighton [:

Do not go through this alone. To that end, think about some other people in your community. Are you part of a religion? Like a faith based community or spiritual community where you could talk to a pastor or a priest or a rabbi? What works for you? I'm not a religious person per se, but I did appreciate talking to spiritual people who helped me get out of my head. So, like, my therapist served one role, but I still needed more of like, the spiritual component. It was incredibly helpful. And there's also podcasts out there for spirituality, for religion. Like, the beauty of living in the 21st century is connection is really just like a finger click away. Don't navigate this alone.

Boots Knighton [:

And then lastly, like I was saying, about the importance of the dietitian. Think about having a meal train. So in the United States, we have this neat thing called the meal train. I think it's like mealtrain.com. that's what we did. And it's when all of our community signed up to bring us meals on each day. And so I had so many wonderful visitors who brought me like home cooked meals for about two months. And it was just awesome.

Boots Knighton [:

And I also, we also did it recently for when I broke my leg, my husband and I. And it was just really fun to bring folks into our home and share a meal. But you may not be up for that. You might live in, you know, a very rural community. And now in the United States, we have like, meal delivery services. I just recently took advantage of a hungry route. I was really busy this spring with some things and so, so I ordered meals that would be delivered to our house and it was incredibly time saving. And so you can have really good, fresh food delivered right to you.

Boots Knighton [:

And you don't have to like, go anywhere because usually we heart patients have driving restrictions, at least for the first four to five weeks. So if you are living alone, it doesn't mean that you have to go without eating good food. Food. So that is the support team. I just want to empower you to be the CEO of your health. And you have the right to hire and fire your medical team. They are here to serve you, to help you. And the moment any of them show up and make it about themselves, or if you find that they don't have the health that you want, then you get to politely say, I am going to go find someone else who can best help me achieve the goals I am looking to achieve, plain and simple.

Boots Knighton [:

So reach out with questions, comments, concerns. I'd love hearing from you and if you are interested in my heart surgery doula services, I would be honored. Send me again an email bootsheartchamberpodcast.com and let me know who you end up hiring for your team. So that's it for today. Come back next week where I will talk more about preparing for open heart surgery. I love you. You matter. Take care.

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About the Podcast

Open Heart Surgery with Boots
A podcast for heart patients by a heart patient
Formerly called The Heart Chamber Podcast, Open Heart Surgery with Boots airs every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots Knighton explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
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