This past week has been unlike any other and surely one for the books! If you have been following our journey recently, some of this is going to be repetitive and possibly boring, but one reason I blog is for the personal journal aspect of it. For me, much of life is about looking back over time and seeing how God has blessed us, given us grace for the moment, and proves Himself faithful, time and time again. Looking back through blogs and through time, I see glimpses of this consistently in our life, and I can’t help but share these glimpses with you!
Looking over this past week, I turn back to the Psalm I left with at the end of the blog the night before my surgery – Psalm 121. During my most difficult times in the hospital, when all had left was words to cry out to God, His help was there – I just didn’t always believe it. When I thought He was slumbering, in the wee hours of the morning, His healing hand was upon me. The Lord watched over every minute; every second. But even a Psalm that is filled with so many rich promises, still takes faith to believe in. Especially when things get hard. But once again, this Psalm has proven faithful – that OUR GOD is faithful! Every test, every challenge, only makes this Psalm more and more real!
So here’s a recap of my open heart surgery week!
Thursday afternoon, we said our final goodbyes to Mazy, as Dan’s parents picked her up for the week. I was starting to become a mess if I let my mind go there, but I kept telling myself that it was just for a short time and that in the end, this was better for all of us! Here we are, on the road to Ann Arbor.
Dan’s parents bought us some candy for the ride – very fitting for the journey!
Friday morning came quickly and before I knew it, I was lying prepped and ready to go! Dan and I said our final goodbyes and to the operating room I went. It always amazes me, staring up in a room like that, knowing that was where I was going to get my heart fixed. Still just as surreal the 2nd time through!
Dan had the difficult part of waiting for the surgery to be complete. He told me he just wanted to zone out and try not to think about it, if he could. Wise choice! Thankfully it was a quick surgery, only 2 1/2 hours, rather than the 3-4 that was expected! That meant everything went as planned and the surgeon was able to reconstruct my mitral valve!
I struggle looking at this picture, but then I look at it as a reminder of how far God has taken me. My life held together by tubes in my chest, neck, and mouth, but my heart being held together by the very hands of God.
The ICU sure requires a lot of machines, but when you think about it, isn’t it incredible, the technology God has given us, to hold life together through these very man-made machines and God’s sovereignty? Mind boggling to me!
I have to chuckle at this picture because I remember it being taken, thinking I was smiling really big. Ha! That is the biggest fake-looking smile! Though I truly felt good at this point. I was drinking hot broth, which is the most soothing thing after having a vent down your throat, and thinking I can do this!
Another crazy smile, but again, I actually felt great still at this point. The whole neck tube was a bit of a bugger though! It wasn’t but a bit later when I started to have the severe nerve damage issues, which the doctors and nurses called an electrocution to a damaged nerve.
I usually don’t care about my hair – like at all. I’m a pony tail girl through and through! But this sweet nurse walked in, saw how much hair I had, and said “girl, do you want your hair up?” I hadn’t thought about it, but when she looked at it, it was all stuck in my tubes, taped to my neck, and quite a mess. I thought why not? Well, that became her thing – even though she was not my official nurse, she came in and checked my hair when she was on shift. And even more so, she would just stop in and see how I was doing. I was the youngest patient by about 20-30 years (edging towards the 30), so seeing someone young was a bit of a different scenario. Teisha was a special nurse that left a special place in our heart. She was extremely positive, so encouraging, and made me feel like a million dollars in the ICU. After trying to eat a meal, she could tell I wasn’t the least interested. She finally said “Do you even like that food on your plate?” I usually did – I LOVE broccoli soup. But she said I had to view meals differently right now. She encouraged me to order a WIDE variety of foods that sounded good. So the next time, I ordered pretzels, lemon ice, pudding, cheerios & milk, and Sprite. And you know what? I ate almost every bite after about 2 hours! She was right. I sure miss Teisha, though I would prefer to run into her outside of the ICU next time!
And speaking of nurses, Cassandra, the one on the left, truly became my friend. She was younger than me, but I had her all 3 days when I was in the ICU, during the day shift. She knew when to push me, when I needed help, when I was discouraged, and when I was in good spirits. She had been through a lot with me, so she knew what I needed. At times we found ourselves talking for hours on end, which helped pass the day, all while taking my vitals, giving me more meds, making me walk, which I needed, etc. She was INCREDIBLE. Have to love the ICU and that one on one care you receive!
Ready to take my first steps!
Getting ready for a walk was quite the ordeal! Prepping all of my machines to take with me, was about a 15 minute process, but it was well worth it in the end!
Those were difficult first steps, especially since my left leg was experience nerve damage and was half-numb/asleep, but I made it to the nurse’s desk that day!
The view from my ICU room and the gorgeous sunset God had painted for us that night!
Another hair picture! I have to chuckle at my pictures about hair b/c again, it’s unlike me to do much with my hair, but being a young woman, having open heart surgery, you forget about the daily things done with ease each day. I wake up, brush my hair, throw it up in a bun or ponytail, and go on my way. Then all of a sudden, I am unable to even get my arms up to even touch my hair. After 2 days, I finally asked my mom if she would brush my hair…it felt so, so good after getting a sponge bath that morning!
God knew I needed Cassandra during my ICU stay! She even blessed me with a special trip outside, which is NOT common, I learned! She had to get special permission, but that meant the world to me, to breathe in fresh air, right before getting moved to the step-down unit! Being in the ICU was a good reality check for me. When you are stuck in your own room, hooked up to umpteen machines, it’s hard not to get frustrated or wish the time away. But as I took a walk around the ICU floor that Sunday, we ran into a large group of people who were weeping. It hit me that the person on the other side of the glass, likely passed away. As I walked further, people were still held together by the very tubes I was, coming out of surgery. Their life depended on them. I was told that there were some extremely sick people on the ICU floor and it made me tear up. Here I was, sitting outside. Cassandra saw another young woman also outside, and she said she had a special story. She had been there for over a month, and she had some severe heart issues. She could not go anywhere out of the room, unless she literally had 8 doctors and nurses with her. Our eyes locked, I smiled at her and she the same, but even typing this, I can’t think about her without crying. She looked so fragile. She was maybe 40. Maybe. Her life prognosis didn’t look good. And there I sat.
God knew I needed to see what I did, to get past the fear I was experiencing from the pain I had. It was serious at the time, but I was able to come out of it. I looked at that woman, and what did her future hold? Where was her hope of getting better? To this day, her face is still etched in my mind. Little does she know, that she was motivation for me to keep going too.
The day after making it down to the step-down unit, I went through some physical therapy. Thankfully I am young enough, where I did not have to go to a cardiac rehab place after my hospital stay, like most heart patients do. While going on my walk, the PT asked if I wanted to try stairs. I immediately almost said no, but then I thought, I haven’t even tried! I was still dealing with PTSD as they said and didn’t want to do anything to cause that nerve issue, if I could. But I accepted the challenge and was able to do the 3 stairs with relative ease. I felt I climbed Mt. Everest and conquered the world!
Monday night, Dan’s brother came to visit, which was perfect timing. I was struggling a bit that afternoon not feeling well, but by evening, I was a different person. We had so much fun hanging out and it sure felt good to laugh again and Dan sure enjoyed the extra company! Thankful he took the time to come and visit!
While Dan and I were in Ann Arbor, Mazy kept plenty busy at grandpa and grandma’s house! Oh how loved she is! I don’t think it even phased her that we were gone, which is such a blessing! They painted rocks together…
Ate ice cream together…
Went to the carousel…
And Mazy learned to sew! She made us both fleece socks!
Back to the hospital…trying to reteach my body how to move was difficult. After having my rib muscles cut through completely and my lungs deflated, I had to learn how to lift my arms up again. Every attempt took much concentration, but I would say I have full mobility back! I may be a little slow, but it’s there, folks!
On Tuesday, we were surprised by two more visitors – the Vriezemas! Tim had an appointment at a nearby clinic and they were able to stop by after they were done! So SO good seeing them, since our schedules since moving back have been so incredibly busy! To see their smiles, hear their encouragement, feel their love, and pray with them, was motivational. Definitely made our day!
My last supper, Tuesday night! I was actually craving tacos, and thankfully, they were able to make it cardiac friendly! They had a whole cardiac patient menu with a LARGE plethora of food options, so I made sure I ordered what I knew was hard to make low-sodium at home.
Leaving the hospital! Surgery complete.
On our way out the door, we ran into my surgeon, Dr. Bolling! I was so thankful we did because I wanted a picture with him, before we left! Only God could’ve orchestrated that! Though he made sure I got out of my wheelchair for this picture!
There is nothing like being home! It has been an adjustment, especially for Mazy, but she has been SUCH a trooper! This has changed her life in many ways. She’s adjusted to daddy doing about 90% of everything, mommy not being able to play with her on the floor, and not being able to snuggle like we used to. I can hold her on my left side though, but even that proves to be difficult at times. The one request my surgeon had was to walk, walk, walk. It’s easier said than done! It’s amazing how out of breath I get, but each step further is one step forward in the process!
Saturday morning, Mazy asked me to paint her fingernails. I didn’t think I had the mobility and stability, though I hadn’t tried. Well, a friend had come over to help me blow dry and straighten my hair, but apparently Mazy was telling Dan she wanted them painted. He knew he couldn’t, so he decided to take her to a nail salon! I had no idea they even went there, until she came home with exquisite nails! No offense Dan, but I knew he didn’t do them! Dan walked in to the salon around the corner from our house, told the lady he needed to get his daughter’s nails painted because his wife had just had open heart surgery. Mazy wanted blue, so Dan showed her a few blues. She chose one, hugged it tight, until they were ready for her.
Dan said she did not BUDGE. Not a millimeter. I have painted hers before and she’s always been really good, but I would’ve thought she would’ve been too shy. But she had all the ladies there were in LOVE with her! And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love seeing a younger guy with his young daughter in a place that typically is meant for women? HOW ADORABLE and yes, this melted this wife AND mother’s heart! Mazy even sat completely still for drying session! Needless to say, I think they will be going back someday!
While Mazy was getting her nails done, I was getting my hair done. Before surgery, I was talking to my friend about what I could and couldn’t do. The subject of hair came up and I told her, half-jokingly, that I wouldn’t be able to dry or straighten my hair. Again, you are going to think I’m obsessed with my hair! Granted I don’t do this after every shower anyways, but when I do straighten it, I don’t have to wash it for another couple of days, which is nice. Well, I decided to ask and sure enough, she was over the next day! Like I said, even though I’m a ponytail girl, you don’t realize what you can’t do, until you can’t do it. What a blessing it was to be served in this way, through a friendship!
Mazy’s beautiful nails! She even has one that is sparkly on each hand. Gotta love the look of nails done and sippy cup in hand :).
When mommy has to go for a walk, that means it’s time for Mazy to get out too! She buzzes around on the scooter as fast as I can walk!
Finding things to do with Mazy that doesn’t require sitting on the floor, high exertion, and lots of work to set up, has been challenging, but fun for the both of us! We color together A LOT, play with playdough, and on Saturday I thought of the idea to make a Cheerio necklace. Pretty old school, but it kept her busy for awhile!
If anyone has any other EASY ideas of things to do with a toddler that wouldn’t require much planning or work on my part, let me know! This is a bit of a learning curve for her and I, so I am open to any and all suggestions!
When I look back through these pictures, I just see God’s blessings, over and over again. Gifts of family, gifts of friendship, gifts of servanthood, gifts of love, gifts of grace, and gifts of God’s perfect timing. Psalm 121 to me, is described through pictures, in this post. I can’t help but cling tight to that Psalm as I continue in this recovery process!
When you look back at the “pictures” of your life, I am sure you can see Psalm 121 as a reflection of it as well. Isn’t our God good?