Tag Archives: heart surgery

One Year

One year ago today, my heart stopped for 20 minutes. Isn’t that crazy?!? On average the heart stoppage time for having a pulmonary valve implant is 45 minutes. A heart can go 3-4 hours on “pause” for transplants.

I’m very thankful for my less than average stoppage time. I credit it to not having the typical brain fog that often follows open heart surgery. I’m also extremely grateful that the Creator of the universe allowed his creation to understand the human body so well as to be able to have the knowledge and skill to do heart surgery. And I’m grateful I was created at this period in time, where I could live a full, mostly healthy life.

Since One year ago:

HEALTH
My health has been great. After the initial healing time, I’ve had more energy and have been able to bounce back better from full, exhausting days or lots of time spent out in the heat.

HOME
Because of such a surprisingly easy and quick recovery, I was bored and started looking at houses. This resulted in us listing our town home to sell. Because of our location and price point, we received 7 offers in 4 days. We found a new home (that we LOVE!) that met our needs and even checked off some hard to find wants (my large kitchen!). Within 4 months of heart surgery, with the help of many family and friends, we moved.

ADDING ON
With cardiologist approval, we found out at the beginning of this year we are expecting our third child. We couldn’t be more thrilled to add to our family. And as I suppose is normal, this third pregnancy is flying by. I can’t believe we are already at 18 weeks.

FINANCES
We are very fortunate to not owe on any of the heart surgery medical bills. We have been sticking with Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and the only debt we have is on our new house. We’ve been working really hard on not buying items we really would love but just don’t have the funds for right now (like a new grill) and God has surprised us with some fun stories of perfect used items that “fell into our lap” with very minimal expense. (Like our “new to us” grill. Free from a neighbor two streets down. We just had to buy a couple of small replacement parts.)

OTHER ADVENTURES
*A week after moving in, we “crashed” the national night out block party a street over
*We participated in our new city’s Trash Bash, our little family picking up trash on 3 streets and allies near our home.
*I found an amazing facebook group dedicated to women with CHD. It’s the first time I’ve ever “met” anyone born with a similar heart condition
*We participated in the neighborhood spring fling party, winning 2 of the 5 raffle prizes (I finally have a porch swing!). The party also included the ribbon cutting for the new butterfly park so the boys each got to release a butterfly
*We completed a 16 week marriage enrichment class
*Our oldest son had eye surgery to correct his crossed eyes
*I’ve been able to read at least 1 new book each month since we moved. I love reading, but when our oldest was born, I put that hobby on the shelf.

It’s been a busy year. It’s been a fun year. It’s been a surreal year.

We are looking forward to another full, fun year, with many, many more heart healthy years to follow.

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Filed under baby steps, cardiology, family, friends, grilling, health, housing, marriage, moving, reading

6 months!?!

I had surgery on May 31st. I guess because November 31st doesn’t exist, that makes today 6 months post op. How is that even possible?!?!

Just yesterday, I finally looked at the couple of pictures JJ took of me when I was in the ICU, still asleep. It was a little emotional. Kind of made me sick to my stomach to see all the tubes and buttons and wires and things. However, I’m glad he took them and I was finally able to see them. (I won’t be sharing them here. Sorry – too personal.)

I will share one story from the ICU. When I started waking up, they wanted to know if I was awake enough to have the breathing tube removed. Of course, it was impossible to talk (since I had a tube down  my throat), so I motioned with my hand for a pen. Also – not easy to do because I was tied to the bed. Some patients start ripping out wires and stuff because they aren’t thinking straight on all the medicine. At first JJ handed me a pen – which was so frustrating because he stuck it in my left hand. I could not simply just move and set it in my right hand, as I’m right handed. When they finally got it all figured out, I wrote them a note. To Paraphrase:

“On one hand, I would really like this tube out so I can speak. On the other hand, I do feel really sleepy still.” [Insert them asking me if they can untie me or if I was going to start pulling out the IVs] “My brother had an aneurysm. He did that. I will not.”

So there you go. Drugged up Debra still thinks fairly clear – however – the nurses, then the anesthesiologist, and later my surgeon thought it was hilarious. The anesthesiologist and the surgeon both asked to take a photo of my note. Apparently, in 30 years of work, no one had written one before. Which I found shocking. But then again, I was at a children’s hospital. Many of their patients can hardly read, let alone write.

Here, six months later, things continue to go really well. I feel great. I have much more energy.

Other than my hypothesis that my heart is smaller, therefore more efficient, therefore better circulation, therefore my wisdom tooth came in, everything is dandy. But seriously, my tooth (which I didn’t even know I had until my pre-op dental clearance appointment in the spring) came in and it came in quick. In the spring I was told “It may come in, in a year, in several, maybe never.”  When I went to the oral surgeon at the end of October, one little edge had cut through the gum. They said “Oh – At your age? It will probably be a very slow eruption. It could sit right there for years and make hardly any progress at all.” UHM!!! 4 weeks later the entire tooth has come in. It does make my face hurt a bit but – hey – it’s not heart surgery so I can’t complain too much. I’m having it pulled on December 8th. Can’t wait. I’m tired of trying to brush it way back there.

Beyond health stuff are enjoying the Advent season. We decorated and turned on the music the day after Thanksgiving. I have a few fun things planned for the boys, baking and such.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our Christmas tree and nativity.

christmas

 

 

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Filed under cardiology, christmas, health, holiday

12 Weeks Post Op

There’s that.

Recovery update: 

Still hurts to cough and sneeze, but not as much. Laughing and singing also still hurt, but it’s greatly improved. Yesterday, I became aware of the fact that bumps in the road, when I’m not driving, no longer hurt! Hooray!

House update:

Selling side. We closed yesterday, so we are now officially renters. We are allowed to be here until September 26th.

Buying side. We saw around 20 houses (I probably lost track of the exact count).  House #19 looked really promising, but the night we went to see it, a rain storm knocked out power. Even seeing it in without electricity, we thought it was a strong possibility.

We set up another viewing for the next day along with house #20, that popped up as a new listing. Honestly, house 20 looked just ok online, so we figured might as well take a quick look at it in person before we go back to 19. We recruited my husband’s brother to join us because we wanted his opinion on 19 (and as the carpooling worked out, he saw 20 as well).

To our surprise, 20 was so much better in person than in pictures. It had a great layout and was more move in ready than 19. House 20 was also located in our preferred side town. By the middle of the day, house 20 became our new favorite.

We wasted little time and put together an offer on 20 by the end of the day.

Because of this market, we knew it they would probably get multiple offers. We were told they would be deciding at 7pm on Monday.

We didn’t hear anything yesterday so went to bed thinking “I bet they chose someone else’s offer and we are the ‘break up’ call they are putting off until the morning.”  To our surprise and delight, they accepted our offer!

So here we go… we are in the option period and if all goes well, we hope to close at the end of September, just in time for when we need to be out of our “Rental”.

2016 – the year that God continued to surprise us over and over and over again.

*Bonus Info* it’s a 4 bed, 2.5 bath! Just like I mentioned in my previous post, it’s what we really preferred. A little higher than our goal price, but we stayed in our reasonable range, just shy of our maximum.  And for what it’s worth, our maximum was determined by us, based on how much a month we want to pay/can afford per month for a monthly mortgage, NOT based on how much the banks would let us borrow.

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🔥🔥🔥

We spent almost the entire day out of our house. 

Somewhere around 9-10 showings today with a few more scheduled in the next few days. There is also an open house tomorrow. Hooray!

Please pray for wisdom in accepting the right offer, should any be made.

Please also pray for wisdom as we start looking at homes. 

It’s a sellers market. Easier to sell than buy. We are on both sides of this market.

On a completely different note: I got a complimentary ID card from the company that made my heart valve. It has my doctor’s name and surgery date as well as the serial number of the valve. I’m not sure why, but this cracks me up. I have a serial number inside me! (Hope there is never a recall!)

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Getting ready to list

There are a few minor items to finish on the house and one major project (updating our master bath).

It’s been such a tremendous blessing to have JJ’s parents here helping. I know Z has enjoyed it.

Learning to paint with grandma.


One project I was dreading was painting our master bedroom. To my relief, it was knocked out in a day – mostly thanks to Marsha the painting machine.

The old color is on the left. The newer, lighter color is on the right.


For my part, I’ve been mostly taking care of the kids and in my “down time” cleaning the kitchen. (Hooray for self cleaning ovens and Norwex!) While everyone is tired and it’s been a lot of work – JJ & I are both pleasantly surprised at how much my energy capacity has increased. I’m so glad we are doing this now instead of a year ago, pre new valve.

Lastly, yesterday we put out the “coming soon” sign in the yard. This is happening and I can hardly believe it.

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5 weeks

Yesterday was five weeks since surgery.

I’m down to just taking a children’s aspirin once a day. This will be for the rest of my life so I’m glad they are chewable and cherry flavored. My only other medicine is pre-antiboitics anytime I need dental care. But that’s like 2000mgs an hour before an appointment, so not something I need to worry about on a daily basis.

I had my last surgery follow up today with my cardiologist. Everything looks great! She said I’m the “poster child” for how they want it all to go.

“Next up” is my regularly scheduled appointment with her and the proceeding MRI. Because I had my last “typical/annual cardiology” visit with her last fall, I’m already on the books to see her end of October. 

From here on out (for hopefully the next 10-15, maybe 20, years), I’ll be back to seeing her once a year with a corresponding MRI or Echo.

As far as my restrictions, I’m less than a week away from having those lifted (July 12th). My mom will be here a few more days after that as I transition back to doing everything.

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Positive Thinking, it’s not what you Think

I’ve been thinking about this post for about 2-3 weeks now and with tomorrow being 4 weeks since my surgery, I thought I should probably write it.

Where do I begin?

I guess I will briefly mention that heart surgery is my fourth major surgery since 2002. The first three (gall bladder removal and 2 c-sections) were not the best experiences (UNDERSTATEMENT!) and I’ve been dreading heart surgery ever since. Not the actual surgery – but the recovery.

I tend to over think, over analyze, over plan, worry, get anxious, and spend all together too much time anticipating negative things.

Because of this, Philippians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Why? Because generally speaking it’s all about Joy.

Paul is writing from chains and he can’t “shut up” about being thankful and full of joy. He is excited about all of the things God is doing in spite of (or rather because of) Paul’s difficult circumstances.

The book as a whole is the antithesis of my negative normal.

Looking at specifics, Philippians has many powerful verses that remind me God is good and he commands me to rejoice. He commands me to not be anxious. He commands me that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” I should think on such things (Phil 4: 8).

When I was in college, I wrote the following, in large print, on paper:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 & 7

And then I stuck it on the ceiling over my bed. It was a very helpful reminder and many nights I stared up at it, repeating the words in my head, letting the peace of God calm my anxious heart.

I’m not bragging here. I’m telling you I have a REALLY hard time being positive and joyful. And I’m constantly challenged by God’s best for me, as spelled out in Philippians. He doesn’t give any exemptions or qualifiers. He just says “rejoice”!

What I don’t mean

At the same time, this joy, not being anxious, often also seen as “positive attitude” or “positive thinking” is NOT in the same as when people say things like “I’m sending you positive thoughts (or vibes or whatever)”.  There is not positive energy that exists in the universe as some type of currency we can pass around to each other.

This “rejoice” God commands is also NOT some type of guarantee that things will go well, here on earth. It’s not a magic formula. Think positive and you will have a wonderful life. Paul, writer of Philippians, is an example of that as he was probably killed for the faith. (See more here)

So what does all this mean in relation to heart surgery?

I am extremely grateful for the timing of how everything went. I’m thankful for the support network surrounding me. I’m thankful for the circumstances and the results.

I don’t specifically think I automatically am having a good recovery because I’m more joyful. At the same time I also don’t discount that perhaps God commands us to rejoice because he knows he built our bodies to respond better (scientifically speaking) when we are positive.

God loves us more than anyone can even wrap their mind around. He loves me more than my parents love me. He loves me more than my boys, or than JJ, love me. His commandments are an out flowing of that love. Because he is the definition of love and everything that is good, because he is all powerful and all knowing, because he wants the absolute best for me – he commands me in ways that are sometimes very confusing and backwards looking to me. Yet, I trust that he is who he says he is.

He wants the best for me. And in Philippians, he commands me to rejoice in all things and in all circumstances.

In summary – Positive thinking is not what you think. It’s not because I want things to go well. It’s not because things are going well. It’s because He loves me and he commands me to rejoice. And – in opposition to my negative normal – it is Christ in me, from which the Joy overflows.

To His Glory, forever. Amen.

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