Preparing for Open Heart Surgery Checklist

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‘To be prepared is half the victory’

Miguel De Cervantes


Whether you have recently received a diagnosis or preparing for heart surgery it is understandable to feel stressed and overwhelmed.  You are not alone.  We are here for you. To help ease some of the stress I thought I would create a checklist of things you may consider doing before going into surgery to help you be prepared and focus on your surgery and recovery.
As Steve’s surgery date was getting closer I was constantly making “To Do” lists for the home and business so that I was prepared to be at the hospital for as long as needed and not have to worry about unfinished business.  Since I had created these lists I condensed them and created this checklist for you with the help my friend Michelle who also had heart surgery around the same time that Steve had his.
Please feel free to download this user friendly ‘Preparing for Open Heart Surgery Checklist’ by signing up to receive newsletters.  I have also taken a moment to share what helped Steve and I as he was recovering at home on the Resources page.  I hope you find these suggestions helpful!
I would like to leave you with one thought.  Besides this checklist one of the most important things you can have during this time is the love and support from your family and loved ones.  In addition, in our experience surgery was the first step.  Recovery, on the other hand, is nothing but a marathon that will require patience and perseverance for both patient and caregiver. I did not believe it until we started to experience it for ourselves.  I will be happy to share some of those thoughts in a future post.


  • Educate yourself on diagnosis and your condition and understand short term and long term outcomes
  • Ask cardiologists questions
  • Referral to heart surgeon
  • Obtain 2nd medical opinion from cardiologist or surgeon
  • Research heart hospital and surgeon’s ratings
  • Ask heart surgeon questions about his or her surgery success rates and experience with treating your condition
  • Choose heart surgeon and hospital. If out of state see below
  • Contact your insurance company or Medicare for deductible and co-payments
  • Create organizational binder for all medical information and appointments


  • Review life insurance policies and beneficiaries
  • Create a budget for your recovery
  • Review or apply for disability policy if applicable
  • Have main caregiver apply for Paid Family Leave where applicable. CA offers Paid Family Leave
  • Apply for FMLA where applicable
  • Contact human resources at work for assistance
  • If you handle all accounts make sure your loved one will have access
  • Pay bills that will be due during your surgery and early recovery


  • Stay positive about your upcoming surgery through meditation, prayer, and keeping a journal
  • Surround yourself with supportive relationships
  • Read similar stories for encouragement
  • Designate a main caregiver to care for you
  • Plan on 24/7 assistance for a minimum of 6-8 weeks
  • Create a home support system of family and friends
  • Continue eating a nutritious diet and get plenty of rest
  • You may want to schedule hair and nail appointments in advance
  • In some cases a dental cleaning is recommended as well.  Your heart center or cardiologist will advise
  • Email family members hospital address and phone number
  • Share your contacts with your loved ones to help them stay connected with others
  • Consider filling out an Advance Directive and designate your agent(s).


  • Organize areas to help avoid tripping and falling
  • Prepare to have extra pillows on hand
  • Consider borrowing or buying a recliner
  • Organize things you would enjoy during your recovery such as movies, books, or other light hobbies
  • Consider buying a pill splitter
  • Consider renting a wheelchair for your trip back home
  • Consider getting a white board with markers to track meds, times, and symptoms or a notebook
  • Consider buying a blood pressure gauge and thermometer
  • Consider obtaining a shower chair as some patients report feeling lightheaded during showers especially when the water is too warm
  • Have cardiac unit’s number on hand and dial 911 in emergencies
  •  Consider renting walker if advised by medical team
  • Petsitting arrangements
  • Babysitting arrangements
  • Groceries
  • Clean home
  • Laundry
  • Car maintenance

Traveling out of state for surgery

  • Ensure that out of pocket expenses will be covered
  • Contact hospital for patient hospitality resources
  • Make travel arrangements
  • Purchase travel insurance in the event there is a change
  • Car rental  and insurance
  • Make hotel reservations-ask for patient rate


  • Ask if your loved one is able to spend the night in ICU
  • Arrange for hotel stay for caregiver if hospital is more than an hour away
  • Pre-surgery labs the day prior
  • Follow all pre-surgery instructions provided by health care team
  • Ask for validated parking for yourself and guests
  • Caregivers:  prepare to advocate for your loved one!

Packing for patient and caregiver-Prepare for 3-5 days at the hospital.  Sometimes it can be longer.

  • Button down shirt for men and women
  • Comfortable pants like sweats to wear home
  • Comfortable and sturdy shoes
  • Undergarments
  • Cell phone with charger
  • iPad with charger
  • Notebook with pens and pencils
  • Cash on hand
  • Snacks for caregiver
  • Medications
  • Glasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Saline solution
  • Makeup
  • Book or magazines to read
  • Baseball cap (that is what my husband wanted a couple days after surgery)
  • Picture of your loved ones if having out of state surgery
  • Remove wedding rings and leave valuables at home
  • Sanitary pads for women
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Dentures
  • Hearing aids
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Personal hygiene wipes
  • Water bottle
  • Razors
  • Hand lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Eye drops
If you have any questions or comments on how we can improve this list please do let me know.
Wishing you a successful surgery and recovery.


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