Living with the LVAD involves a lot of precautions, such as safety at home, staying active, and being more stringent on hygiene matters (washing hands often, brushing teeth, showering, or regularly changing the dressing area where the cable comes out of your tummy at).
What I get the most questions about is how I shower with my HeartMate3 LVAD system. The electronic components of the LVAD pump may stop working if submerged in water. So, bathing is not allowed. However, one can take a shower after some preparation.
In general, a person’s breastbone should be healed within four to six weeks following open-heart surgery, and sternal precautions should be lifted at that time. I was allowed to shower about a month after my procedure. It started out as a very tedious and tiring process lasting two hours or so. Then, with time, I gained enough energy that I went from taking a shower every 3 to 4 days to every other day and now, I have enough energy to shower daily.
Showers are definitely doable. It is just a little bit of extra work. Obviously, I can’t just jump right in. So, prior to taking showers, I have to ensure I protect the LVAD driveline. But I have adapted rapidly to the new norm and I have accepted it all. I can be taped up and my equipment in my shower bag within about 5 to 10 minutes.
Also, I don’t take a direct shower in the usual sense. I use it a handheld device and that helps because I am less likely to wet the dressing or any part of the cable. But I look forward to taking a shower whenever I want, using the correct procedures. And we also try to plan the dressing changes right after when I do shower.
In the beginning, I have had a few incidents where my water leaked into self-adhesive film protection. But fortunately, my dressing remained clean as I caught it early enough. I also tried a few systems until I began using two 8×12’ films, which I overlap horizontally in the middle of my stomach. And before that, I place two paper towels between the dressing and the self-adhesive films. These soak in the moisture or any water that would pass through.
Thank you for reading!
p.s.: If you are a fellow LVAD patient, please feel free to share your notes and experience. I would love to trade notes and learn new tips and suggestions.