Episode 39

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Published on:

27th Feb 2024

Finding Joy in Simplicity After Life-Changing Heart Surgery -39

In episode 39, Boots Knighton, with her signature blend of warmth and wisdom, opens up about life before and after the operating room. As Boots recounts the trials of her recovery, you'll find yourself drawn into a narrative filled with practical advice on managing post-surgery health and emotional well-being. From the surprising impact of diet to the tactics for coping with hospital stays, this episode is packed with insights. But it's not all serious – hear how Bob Ross's serene landscapes and the antics of woodland creatures brought unexpected joy to Boots's journey. Eager to learn how to turn a health crisis into a pivot point for a fuller life? Let Boots's story inspire you.

The episode with Josh Dech can be found here: https://player.captivate.fm/episode/910773ce-49d2-45cf-a7fc-55a596725013

email a screenshot your review to be entered to win a bag of coffee to boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

If you are looking for something specific - here's where you'll find it:

06:09 Boots turned her hospital walks into a daily game.

09:16 The importance of gut health and pooping.

11:36 Excessive vomiting after surgery due to medication.

17:03 What you choose to watch on TV is just as much a part of your diet as what you put in your body.

19:26 Friend's unwavering support and nourishment mean everything.

22:18 Watching animals brought comfort after heart surgery.

26:14 Overcoming challenges can lead to extraordinary outcomes.

30:06 Gratitude, love, hope, inspiration, healing, share, and please leave a review.

Boots Knighton has been an educator since the late 1990s in all facets of education including high school science, middle school mathematics, elementary reading, college level ecology, ski instruction, backpacking, and experiential education. Her greatest teacher has been her heart thanks to a surprise diagnosis in 2020 (during the pandemic) of three different congenital heart defects. She is now thriving after her open-heart surgery on January 15, 2021 and is on a mission to raise awareness through her podcast, The Heart Chamber: patient stories of open-heart surgery and recovery, that heart surgery can be an incredible opportunity to begin again in life and live life wide open.


How to connect with Boots

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @theheartchamberpodcast or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript

We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at connect@37by27.com.

Boots Knighton [:

On today's last episode of heart month, I dive into, okay. Now you've been through heart surgery. You're in the hospital. I share some tips and tricks on making that a more pleasant experience, and then also a few things I did after open heart surgery that I found were really imperative to such a positive outcome. I hope you enjoy.

Boots Knighton [:

Welcome to The Heart Chamber. Hope, inspiration, and healing. Conversations on open heart surgery. I am your host, Boots Knighton. If you are a heart patient, a caregiver, a health care provider, a healer, or are just looking for open hearted living, this podcast is for you. To make sure you are in rhythm with The Heart Chamber, be sure to subscribe or follow wherever you are listening to this episode. While you're listening today, think of someone who may appreciate this information. The number one-way people learn about a podcast is through a friend. Don't you want to be the reason someone you know gained this heartfelt information? And if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram, 2 different places, at Boots.Knighton or at The Heart Chamber Podcast. You can also find me on LinkedIn as well as Facebook. But enough with the directions. Without further delay, let's get to this week's episode.

Boots Knighton [:

Hey. Welcome back. Thank you so much for tuning in. This is the last of my heart month episodes. I hope you have found them helpful. Do send me an email either way. I'm always looking for feedback, boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I have just wanted to share from my remodeled heart to yours now that I'm 3 years into this heart journey since my open-heart surgery. My perspective has understandably changed. That whole cliche of time heals all wounds is true. And I want to offer that up as a little nugget of hope that if you have found me, first of all, I'm so glad. Welcome. And if you or someone you love has just recently been diagnosed, my last episode, I go into that and, like, what I did when I was facing my diagnosis. And I just want to say, I've got you. You're not alone.

Boots Knighton [:

That the heart journey is next level. It's a soul journey that I wish the medical community would honor and recognize more. And it's one of the many reasons why I started this podcast because I went through all of this physically, and then I got to the other side and I was like, my soul is different. What about that? Is there something for that? Because I don't know who I am, and I am different. And my perspective, like, it was I came out of heart surgery and the world was in technicolor, whereas before it wasn't exactly black and white, but it wasn't coming in very clearly. And I come out the other side. It's in technicolor. It's crisp. It's like the most recent version of all of our technology, but in soul form. 3 years into this now, and I'm still getting acquainted with my upleveled soul. I don't even know if upleveling is the right description. I mean, you're following me in my journey too. Like, where I'm at on this day and this recording could be very different than a week from now and a week ago. Right? Like, every day is this new version of ourselves. Just know that if you're just recently diagnosed or someone you care about is recently diagnosed, I can't say this loudly enough. Help is coming. Help will arrive. There will be a solution or a resolution, and it will get better. It just does. I've lived 45 years now, which isn't old. It's not young either, and I don't profess to know it all by any stretch. I've also had quite a few challenges in my life, like, really big ones. And I can tell you it always gets better. You have to keep that in mind on your hardest darkest days.

Boots Knighton [:

Today, let's get extra real. Okay? I want to make sure I'm not being like miss toxic positivity. And I am not at all professing that, like, you can, like, smile your way through this whole thing and it's going to be, like, happy go lucky. No. No. No. No. No. I'm just giving you these actual things I did that made it less hard and less scary. So, you're now in the hospital either for yourself or your loved one. Okay. So, hopefully, you've done the visualization. You've got your community around you. Now you're like to the other side. You've made it through open heart surgery. You're doing the work of recovery.

Boots Knighton [:

And it does start in the hospital. So, I just started making it a game. I'm an athlete and I have this app on my phone called Strava, STRAVA. And I would use the Strava to, like, map my walks around the hospital. And I started to use those, like, every day, I would try to take a few more steps. And then when it was time to come home, I would walk my driveway, which is beautiful. I'm so lucky. The I live up on this bluff in the Tetons of far Eastern Idaho, and I have this very peaceful place to walk. I realized I am so lucky. And I hope you have a green space or a beautiful neighborhood or somewhere where you also can walk. And if you're in, like, a big city, I hope you can get to a park where you can start to really connect with nature or at least connect with other humans and get yourself outside each day walking. Because I think that was such a big first literal step for me, but also the 1st emotional step for me. And I'll tell you why.

Boots Knighton [:

I remember the 1st steps. I was still in the ICU. And my husband, I'm so glad I had him film them because in my mind, I was, like, the fastest ever. The nurses could not keep up with me. It's so funny, like, how your mind plays tricks on you. And, of course, now I go back and watch the video, and they're all like, oh my gosh. This woman is moving so slow. I mean, I just had open heart surgery, like, hours before. But I was visualizing and picturing myself walking into my new life. So many people who've had open heart surgery, especially if their hearts were stopped like mine was, say it's your new birth date. And for me, it's just this, like, next iteration of life. I have even found myself describing it as my bonus days. And I see it now as I was taking the steps to the best life, I could ever imagine for myself. And with every step, I was getting deeper into that visualization of the best life I could ever imagine for myself. And that with each next right step, I was creating my new reality of health and wellness and strength. I was a heart warrior. And there were some other things I needed to do in the hospital too that weren't so glamorous.

Boots Knighton [:

I needed to poop. Can we just talk about pooping and it be, okay? Because it is a necessary, I mean, such a necessary life function that I don't think we truly understand the importance of. And there was an episode that I covered back in December with Josh Dech. And he and I went into the importance of gut health. It was episode 28, Reimagining Heartcare: Gut Health's Crucial Role in Surgery Recovery. So, the walking is important because being mobile is so necessary for preventing blood clots and getting your blood circulating and, you know, the mental emotional part of walking into your new life as a heart warrior, manifesting the most amazing life you could ever dream of. Because you just went through heart surgery, so why not go big, right? But then there's the other necessary functions, so pooping. So, don't do what I did. I knew that I would have issues with constipation.

Boots Knighton [:

A lot of heart surgery or a lot of just surgeries lead to constipation. It's because of, like, you've been laying still. You've had all these drugs pumped into you. You're not on your normal diet, and you're probably not drinking enough water. So, all these things lead to getting your system backed up. Well, if you go back and listen to that episode with Josh Deck, which I hope you do, because it completely blew my mind in the way I thought I understood the role of the digestive system. But you've got to get your gut moving because you've got to get the toxins out of your body. And by toxins, I mean, all the different chemicals they put in your body. I have an actual printout of all the medications that were pumped into my body during open heart surgery. And I ultimately threw up 25 times post open-heart surgery. And when I go back and I look at all of those different chemicals and medications put in my body, no wonder I threw up so many times. My body was just trying to get it out. But the best way to get it out is to get your colon moving again. And so, what I did because I knew at least somewhat knew how important it was to have a bowel movement and you just feel better because constipation just is not comfortable. So, I drank Smooth Move tea, which is a pretty pleasant tasting tea. I brought it myself, but I was so desperate to have a bowel movement that I drank 2 cups of it, 2 teabags, and that caused such an uncomfortable overnight for not only myself, but the CNAs who had to clean up after me. I will just leave it at that.

Boots Knighton [:

So just leave it to 1 teabag. And I'm not trying to be crass or rude, but having a bowel movement is so important for your post recovery. Again, go back to listen to Josh Dech's episode. It was so informative on how important it is to have a bowel movement every morning, but particularly after heart surgery. And the other thing is also, you know, that's when you immediately need to start working on the inflammatory response of having your chest cut open. And so, getting all these toxins out is going to lower your inflammation. I wanted just to eat whatever I wanted, and I'm not pooh-poohing the comfort of pudding and saltine crackers. Sometimes you just need to have something on your stomach after surgery.

Boots Knighton [:

But let's just call it for what it is. Like, in my most recent hospitalization with breaking my leg 9 weeks ago, I was appalled at what they offered me afterwards. It was all these, like, processed foods that had dyes in them. They were obviously not organic, high in sugar. And I just had a major trauma to my leg and then a surgery, and I'm so swollen and retaining fluid, and they're just giving me so much more sodium and sugar, which only exacerbated the entire inflammatory response my body was having. And you're going to find the same thing. It happens when you get to the other side of heart surgery. And so, I want to challenge you to think about that.

Boots Knighton [:

I don't blame you for going for comfort food. And I want to invite you to think about that a little differently and maybe have a loved one have something for you because the hospital's likely not going to have it. But a food that isn't as inflammatory as sugar and other processed chemicals. Because your body has just been through an epic, and the last thing it needs is, you know, a little Debbie cake or pudding or Jello that has all these dyes and chemicals in it. That takes a culture shift, too. Because our society, at least in the United States, for my American listeners, we know how to comfort ourselves with food. And guess what? When I broke my leg, I went right to chocolate pudding. So, I am not, like, preaching from, like, higher chair here where I have it all figured out.

Boots Knighton [:

But I just know having been through all this now, and now I'm trying to get my inflammation down again, that it really does start with the moments you wake up from surgery. I know. Not fun. I'm like the no fun police. So, you're still likely in the hospital for a few days. Hopefully, you've had a bowel movement by day hopefully on the 1st day after surgery. That would be so cool. But hopefully, at least by day 2 or 3, you are pooping properly, peeing, you're getting your chest tubes out. Boy, that is a real party. I just want to tell you now, having your chest tubes taken out is a special level of sensation that cannot be replicated. For me, it didn't really hurt. It was just so creepy. So, just be prepared for that. My husband actually left the entire hospital building when I have my chest tubes taken out. It is just this weird creepy thing. You have to do it. You have to get through it. It's over really fast. And once your chest tubes are out, it's like all of a sudden, you're healing, your speed of healing just multiplies.

Boots Knighton [:

What are you choosing to watch on TV while you're resting in the hospital? That matters. It was really interesting. I only watched the painter, Bob Ross. There happened to be a channel where Bob Ross was just painting these beautiful scenes over and over again, episode after episode, and it was so peaceful to watch. He was such a calming presence. Obviously, these were recorded many years ago. And I've never watched him since. And I think back to that a lot. And it was just what my nervous system needed was just calm, repetitions of painting, painting these peaceful scenes. Are you going to watch that? Or are you going to watch a horror flick? Or the news? Oh, goodness. The news. Like, really think about, like, what you choose to take in with your eyes is just as much a part of your diet as what you put in your mouth. So, think about what you're going to choose to take in, in the hospital in its entirety.

Boots Knighton [:

That also includes your visitors. Now I had heart surgery during COVID. Lucky me. So, I could only have my husband who is a comedic. He is a standup comedian, I tell you. So, I was set for, like, positivity in the hospital, but I really want you to think about curating your visitors as well. So, diet, what you're choosing to watch on TV, your visitors, and then also, if you're reading, if you're able to read at all, I couldn't read. I could just basically stare at the floor or Bob Ross or talk to my husband. I would talk to my parents on the phone. A few friends I would talk to on the phone. You're going to be tired. You're going to need to sleep. You're going to have some pain. So, just be careful with, like, who you're choosing to bring in to your room. That includes the TV. Whatever channel you turn on, you are choosing to bring that energy into your room.

Boots Knighton [:

That all matters. And I just want to extend that to going home. All of those matters. So, for me, I was so lucky. One of my nearest, dearest friends, Denise Hardy, she is just the best. She drove 12 hours to come stay with Jason and I for the 1st week once I was home. She was waiting for us when I got home from the hospital, which was everything. Just to have a person who loves me unconditionally. She has been a dear friend of mine since 1999, and she has loved me through the worst versions of myself and celebrated the best versions of myself. So, for her to be ready for me when we came home from the hospital when I was so vulnerable was everything. And she cooked for us, she cleaned, and she did it because she wanted to. She offered. She wanted to be there. Do you have someone that you can have waiting for you like that? And then, I had a meal train set up for the next 2 months where friends and loved ones brought us food. And they would come and sit, and they would just witness me as I was getting stronger every day, and they would nourish us with their food. It was so beautiful.

Boots Knighton [:

And it wasn't just helping me. When we allow other people to help us, it helps them too. We may never know the ways that they are helped, but giving someone the permission to show up for you, it just allows this vulnerability and compassion and empathy to grow, which I think we all could agree on, we need more of in our society. I've said in recent episodes that we aren't meant to be, like, independent souls who go through life on our own and not depend on anyone else. We aren't wired for that. We literally are not wired for that. We are wired for connection. We are an interdependent species.

Boots Knighton [:

So, when we allow others to show up for us, when we allow ourselves to show up for others, we are honoring our inherent need as a species for connection. A few minutes ago, I shared about the fun game of Strava and, like, walking and how I try to walk more and more every day. And that I had this beautiful driveway at home, here at home where I can go on these beautiful walks every day. So, I kept that game going when I got home. And there was this tree that I walk to every day, and I still do 3 years later. It's the most beautiful blue spruce that's on my property. It is an absolutely magnificent tree. And the year of my heart surgery, this whole family of squirrels, they developed this intricate, I call it the squirrel highway system, where they had all these different paths under the tree, and they would stash all their nuts in all these different places and then go and get them each day. And I got such a kick out of watching, like, which highway would they use today and at what time. And there were also these 2 nuthatches, which is a type of bird here in the Intermountain West. And I just love them. They're like the most beautiful little bird and they have the most beautiful song and they talk and there were 2 nuthatches living in this tree this particular winter. And I would, like, hope to see them and then see what happened with the squirrel highway overnight. And it just became this, like, grounding moment for me each day.

Boots Knighton [:

I would try to walk a little further. I would map it on my Strava, and then I would go check-in on the squirrel highway and see if I could check-in with my Nuthatch friends. It was kind of like we were all checking in on each other. I would like to think they were concerned about my heart, but more than likely, they had no clue. But it was so grounding for me to, like, have that dependability each day on nature and on myself that, like, I knew I could walk a little further. It gave me hope. I could check-in with my animal friends. My dogs were always walking with me. And one of my cats, he loves to go on walks. It was such a beautiful time. It was so simple. All I had to focus on was my healing and manifesting the best life I could after open heart surgery with the support of my friends and my husband and my mom and my dad. At the time, my mom was still alive. I've shared she did die 9 weeks after my open-heart surgery, which is a whole another episode. But at that time, we were still talking. She was able to talk. And it was a really beautiful time. And for this last episode of heart month, I want to leave you with that.

Boots Knighton [:

Just entertain the notion that open heart surgery could be the most beautiful chapter of your life. I can't think of another life event. Now granted, I have not had children, so I cannot speak to that. So, give me the grace there. I was not able to have kids. It didn't work out for us. I've grieved that and I've moved on. So, for those of you who've had kids, I'm sure you might have a different response to this. But for me, what open heart surgery did was it simplified life from that moment forward. It's like it wiped the slate clean for me. I got to start all over again with a, I feel upgraded soul, with a life filled with more meaning and purpose and joy that was not accessible to me prior to open heart surgery. My life is beyond all expectations, dreams, and visions at this point. I can hardly wait for the next day to come because it is just one serendipitous moment after another. And it's all because of what open heart surgery did for me, mind, body, and soul.

Boots Knighton [:

It is my ultimate lottery ticket that I've won. And I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. It doesn't mean that it wasn't easy. It doesn't mean I wasn't terrified and cried, and I was angry, and said WTFs for, like, the first 6 months before and after, actually, on a lot of days because it's hard. But as I said at the beginning, it always gets better. And what if it not only got better, but it was beyond your wildest dreams. And what if you made any challenge in your life like that? What if you approach any challenge in your life with that mindset of what if this really hard thing ends up being the best thing that ever happened to me, and then it just blows the lid off of what you ever could have dreamt for your life. What if you say that to yourself? What if you just approach every challenge that way.

Boots Knighton [:

So, thank you so much for being on this ride with me that is open heart surgery, hope, inspiration, and healing. This podcast is also beyond my wildest dreams. And as a gift, I want to offer up my favorite coffee. My absolute most favorite coffee by Doma Coffee, DOMA. I love them. I love their coffee. I only drink their coffee. And I want to send you a bag of coffee from me to you.

Boots Knighton [:

If you leave me a review, The Heart Chamber Podcast review, wherever you get your podcast, take a screenshot of it, and then email it to me, boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I will enter you into a drawing where I will choose, depending on the number of people I get, 1 to 2 winners where I will send you in the mail a bag of my favorite coffee. But you got to leave me a review. It's really important for independent podcasts like myself to get more reviews to help me reach more heart patients. So, help be part of the movement. Get more reviews going. Share this with your friends. And then also, I will be opening a Facebook group in March that I'm so excited about where we can dive in more intently and be a support to each other. And I'm only opening that up to people who financially support me. This podcast does cost money every week to bring to you, the listeners, and I want you to have a say. I want you to have ownership in this podcast. And so, if you go to my website, theheartchamberpodcast.com/support, you can find 2 different ways to support me financially. You can just leave a simple tip as much as you want, or you can sign up for a monthly membership. And so, the people who sign up for membership in March will be, like, the inaugural members of the Facebook group. And I have some other things I'm working on through The Heart Chamber Podcast. I'm going to slowly be announcing through Facebook only in March and April, so I want to make sure that you don't miss out on that.

Boots Knighton [:

So, thank you so much for joining me today. From my remodeled heart to yours, I love you. You can do this. Come back next Tuesday for more hope, inspiration, and healing.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you for sharing a few heartbeats of your day with me today. Please be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast wherever you are listening. Share with a friend who will value what we discussed. Go to either Apple Podcasts and write us a review or mark those stars on Spotify. I read these, and your feedback is so encouraging, and it also helps others find this podcast. Also, please feel free to drop me a note at boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I truly want to know how you're doing and if this podcast has been a source of hope, inspiration, and healing for you. Again, I am your host, Boots Knighton, and thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another episode of The Heart Chamber.

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About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots 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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