Guidelines and Checklists

Use the entries that follow as guidelines for constructing your own lists of things to do and issues to resolve, both before your surgery and during your period of recovery.

Think of the checklists as assignments. Include space for notes (with dates) as you address each issue, and give yourself tentative deadlines where appropriate.

More detail is available in the chapters cross-referenced here. Also, an extensive, nine-page Recovery Organizer is available for downloading on my website:

Remember: Advance knowledge is power.

First Steps (see Chapters 1 and 2)
❏ Designate an advocate-caregiver who will accompany you before, during, and after surgery (see Chapter 2 on care for the caregiver).
❏ Select the surgeon; get a second opinion.
❏ Choose a hospital.
❏ Check surgeon and hospital quality at
❏ Arrange a meeting with your anesthesiologist, if possible, at least twenty-four hours before surgery.
❏ Cultivate a positive attitude (see “An Exercise for Overcoming Fear and Envisioning Hope” on pages 48–49).
❏ Get your affairs in order as time permits:
     Update your living trust or will.
     Review instructions regarding beneficiaries, powers of attorney,
     and a living will.
     Prepare a list citing the locations of important documents.

Preparing for Surgery (see Chapters 3, 4, and 5)
❏ Draw up questions for the medical team and get answers to them.
❏ Compile your own medical fact sheet with details of your upcoming surgery.
❏ Make a calendar for scheduling forthcoming tests and appointments needed before surgery.
❏ Locate and begin a daily prepare-for-surgery program.
❏ Begin a daily journal.
❏ Join a local or online support group.
❏ Give consideration to what your level of functioning will be once you go home (see Chapter 5).
❏ Decide whether to seek short-term counseling.

As the Date Approaches (see Chapters 3, 6, and 7)
❏ Request take-home instructions and review them with a physician’s assistant.
❏ Watch the hospital’s educational video to get a solid sense of what will go on (see also Chapter 7).
❏ Download information on postsurgery day-by-day hospital care from the Cleveland Clinic’s website ( or your own hospital’s website.
❏ Prepare for your hospital stay and pack your suitcase (see Chapter 6):
     Collect CDs of calming music, as well as a good new book
     or magazines; inquire about coping strategies for heart
     surgery recovery from family members or friends.
     Compose a list of affirmations and read them daily.
     Choose the music or healing affirmations you will use under
      anesthesia on the day of your surgery.
     Consider arranging for Therapeutic Touch (TT) at the hospital.

Anticipating and Managing Recovery (see Chapters 4, 5,
8, 9, and 10)
❏ Educate yourself about the ups and downs of recovery:
     Consult your healthcare team about what to expect.
     Ask for advice from friends who’ve been through major
     surgery or members of your support group.
     Check the “Resources” section of this book for other sources of information.
     Expect the pace of your recovery to be uneven.
❏ Organize a “home team” to help you with:
     Meals and shopping
     Household chores
     Updating friends and family about your progress via a group
      email list or phone-call chain
❏ Ask your medical team for a list of issues to watch for once you’re home (do this before you leave the hospital), including those that would prompt a call to 911.
❏ Make a list of phone numbers to call for questions or concerns, including contacts to phone at night or on weekends.
❏ Get detailed information (before you leave the hospital) about the medications you’ll be taking during your recovery.
❏ Set up a journal in which you can record your progress. (This will be useful if you need help with snags or setbacks in your recovery.)
❏ Prepare a calendar to keep track of follow-up appointments.
❏ Line up sources of psychological and spiritual support.
Find the best doctor to advise you during the years ahead.

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