Last Thursday, I remember typing up my “Until Next Time…” post, realizing that the next time I’d blog, it would be with a reconstructed and healthy heart.
And now I sit here, doing that very thing.
To be able to sit here and tell you that GOD has healed my heart through the hands of our surgeon, feels like I am telling you about a far-off dream. It doesn’t seem real, only because this is something we have prayed for, since the day we first found out about my heart issue years ago. I remember when I woke up on Friday, Dan telling me that my heart was fixed. It’s done. It’s over. It’s behind us.
I feel I was cured from a disease, given a new lease on life, and given a new day. I can officially say, I am a recovering heart failure patient.
The road has been very bumpy and has challenged me more than I could have every imagined, but again, I sit here now, with the same thoughts – may God be given the glory and praise for His healing hand.
Thursday night, Dan and I drove down to Ann Arbor to stay at the Med Inn (connected to the U of M hospital) so that we didn’t have get up so early Friday morning. On our drive down there, I received a call that started off by telling me that there were some very sick people on the ICU floor, which doesn’t leave room for new cases. With that, they have had to look at the whole case load and decide who is a priority and who’s surgery they will push back. You can sure bet I started to sweat, panic, and feel like I was going to have a heart attack. We already had the night reserved, we had sent Mazy off to grandpa and grandma’s, and I was prepared in every way possible – as prepared as I could be.
Then she said…Dr. Bolling looked at your case and said we have to do yours. She’s a young mom who needs to get back to life. And with that said, they bummed the first case out and pushed mine up to the morning case, arriving at 5:30am. I started to cry. Another complete God-cidence because we didn’t have to wait all day, not eating, for this impending surgery. Much, much, relief.
We stopped at one of our favorite restaurants and I broke every sodium rule by having a sub with loads of meat on it, but I assure you, I enjoyed every bite! After settling in, we skyped with our friends from Minnesota, figured out where we had to go in the morning, and called it a night. Didn’t sleep great, not due to worry, but trying to get used to a new bed again. The morning came, Dan and I prayed, shed a few tears, had some tough conversations, and went on our way. We were READY. The day had finally come.
Before we knew it, I was prepped and ready to go. Dan and I said our goodbyes, fist-bumped, and there I found myself, lying on the table where all the fixing would occur. As I started to go under, I kept thinking about how beautiful our God is. How He led us to this point, how He’s got this…and off I went.
The surgery lasted about 2 1/2 hours, and the mitral valve was completely restructed. I was put on a heart-lung machine to keep the rest of my body alive, as my heart and lungs were stopped. Isn’t that just mind-boggling? The surgery couldn’t have gone better and by 11, Dan talked with the surgeon. I was put in the ICU, which is routine after open heart surgery, vented, and hooked up to more machines than one ever needs to see. As I lied there lifeless, trying to pull out my vent, tapping my leg twice, telling Dan I was “tapping out,” and mouthing “out,” I finally made it to the time when they would remove it. Apparently I was going to set the floor record for getting it out the fastest (there’s a competition between the nurses, obviously within the parameters of health safety), but the x-ray people were late, so I had to hang on a bit longer. Clearly I was ready for it to come out, as I tried to pull it out and did everything I could to get it out (after being tied down). Once the vent was removed, there was freedom for breathing on my own and thus began recovery, in my mind.
The next few days were more challenging than I could have ever imagined and they were a test of my faith. For some reason, I had confidence I could conquer this surgery with ease. Ha! I was proved wrong and my pride was taken down a notch. I had severe nerve damage they believe, that caused excruciating pain. They attested it to like being electrocuted in your arm on your nerves, as they turned up the voltage. I would agree with that description. It was pain that caused me to double over, start to pass out, tap out, scream, and even bite a pillow, trying to release the intensity in any way I could. This is completely unlike me and I’d like to say I handled it like a champ, but I didn’t! The doctors and nurses were doing everything they could, gave me the highest dose of morphine they could health-wise give me, and after about 15 minutes in each episode, it would die off. My body would shake and shake for a while after the rush of adrenaline pain, and I would almost “pass out,” but fall asleep for about 1 or 2 hours after, as my body recovered. My body just couldn’t take it anymore. It was intense and as the doctors said, it befuddles them, but they believed it would eventually subside. They were right – by Sunday night, I had my last “episode.” It was so hard to hear the nurse hold my hand during those times and tell me “Kristin, we have done everything we can right now…”
Looking back, I wish I would’ve had more faith to just say it was okay and that I’d be okay, but during one of the last ones, I just cried out to God and felt He was so distant because it wasn’t going away. But that is a circumstantial presence that I was believing in. It was a lie. He never left me. He was always there and even CLOSER during that time, though the pain wasn’t going away. It didn’t mean He loved me less, but I sure was frustrated. I was discouraged early Sunday morning after an episode and told Dan I just couldn’t do it anymore. My body couldn’t take it, mentally I was exhausted, and spiritually I was doubting. But Dan kept telling me, God’s got this and Kristin, you can do this. I kept repeating those words in my head, until I believed them again.
Things were going so well up until after the surgery and I knew surgery would be a good test. But I am thankful I didn’t know what lied ahead. I couldn’t have prepared myself for that. In fact, they wrote on my chart that on Sunday, I was experiencing PTSD, with fear of what happened, so to be “aware.” I needed to be pushed. I didn’t want to go on a walk because I knew it would trigger it. I didn’t want them to draw blood because I knew it would come from the arm that it all started on. Letting go of that worry and not wondering when the next one would occur, helped me move on. It didn’t happen in an hour. It took me a good two days, to move past the fear. I doubted. I worried. And like I said, I was tapping out.
But we conquered and are now on the other side. Do I sometimes still worry? Admittedly, yes. But I am trying to re-teach myself to leave it in God’s hands. If it happens, it happens. He’s had this the whole time and even through that all, He always had it. He knew it would test my faith and I have to say, I’ve only come out stronger. I sure learned a lot through those times!
By Monday night, I turned a corner. It was still a painful and rougher day, with such exhaustion and chest tube pain, but by nighttime, I was sitting up, joking around, and I ate a decent supper. I slept okay at night (as good as one can sleep in the hospital with chest tubes), and Tuesday brought on a new day. My chest tubes were removed, which brought much relief, as they are long hoses that are woven through the chest cavity. Needless to say, they are quite uncomfortable. After those were removed, I was unhooked from more machines and tubes, which left me with my 24/7 EKG monitor. I have to admit though, I felt tipsy going to the restroom, not having my IV pole to hang onto, to walk! With all the improvements, I knew I wasn’t ready to go home, as pain was still something I couldn’t “quite” get a good grasp on. I was certain they’d send me home, but even after the optimistic surgeon saw me, he said “go home tomorrow.” I was honestly thrilled. You’d think I would’ve been ready that day, but I knew I needed one more good night and morning before leaving to feel confident about living life at home.
And it was a good Tuesday night. In the morning, I was given a high dose of diuretics and lost over 6 lbs. of fluid in 2 1/2 hours. I was whipped and slept for 2 more hours that morning! By 11, we started the discharge routine and I was ready to go! I was confident and no worry-filled tears were shed as we said goodbye to our home for the past 6 days. As Dan wheeled me out, we saw my surgeon in the atrium, and I knew I needed a picture. He said as long as I wasn’t in the wheelchair! Standing next to the man who God used to heal me, was humbling. And off we went.
The drive went surprisingly well, though I slept for almost 2 hours of it, which helped immensely. We had to stop to get a shake of course (needed food in me for the meds and to stretch), and by a little after 2, we were home on Wednesday.
We were thinking we’d have Mazy brought home that night, but I knew it would be a tiring night with taking a shower, getting settled, and going to bed early, of course. So, we had Mazy brought back this morning. Oh have we missed her!! Seeing her in our home again, hearing her footsteps, feeling her love, nothing compares.
More on that to come.
I will leave it at that, but here are some pictures that I had taken from the weekend!
After having a vent in, cold sherbet tasted AMAZING! You can sure bet I ordered that or lemon ice for EVERY meal, including breakfast and lunch!
Tuesday night, I finally felt up to a game of Skip-Bo! I should’ve declined, since Dan beat me and now broke the 61-61 tie breaker! The nurses got quite a kick out of this…
My lemon ice!!
My home for the past 6 days! Laugh, but I miss my hospital bed! I miss the railings to pull on to help me get up, and the automatic reclining! After having heart surgery, you wish you had these things in your own bed!
The view out of the step-down unit (where I went Sunday night after the ICU). Michigan’s medical facilities just BLOW ME AWAY! Incredible, the amount of specialized care, that they offer!
The place where it all began! The Sam and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center! We couldn’t be more thankful for this place. I have nothing but good things to say about this place! The workers, the nurses, the doctors, techs, food service people, everyone! We chuckle at it now, but we only had one mishap, when someone tried to get me out of my bed by putting their hand under my right shoulder, where my 8 inch incision is. Dan became pretty defensive and we quickly said no, no, no, but poor guy didn’t know! Again, we kind of chuckle at it now, but other than that, we were treated with such care and love. I had the chance to have nurses over and over since I was there consecutive days, and ended up building relationships with them. Sure helps ya get through the day when your ICU nurse sits with you for an hour to talk about life! Absolutely amazing. Again, praising God for giving us a place like this!
I have much more to say, but I thought I’d save some of it up for future posts! I am excited to get back into blogging again! And I can’t close this without thanking you all for the support and love! Even though I couldn’t respond to messages, texts, and facebook comments very well (surprisingly I kept extremely busy), but I read each and every one of them! I promise! And we will continue to. Thank you for walking this journey with us :).