When I glanced back at what my last blog post was about, I saw the title “Heart Surgery Week Recap.” While I thought that was a post of the past, in God’s eyes, it was the just beginning of a new story and journey for us. If I knew that I would be in a helicopter 24 hours later, my body failing me in numerous ways, I would have tapped out long ago.
Over the past 3 weeks, every piece of who I am has been challenged. Challenges that I find myself still working through. Me being the crazy blogger I am, I often thought during those difficult hours, how I just needed to write a blog post to express my struggles, but was to weak to do so. Now that we are entering the healing side of all of this, I find there are many parts of my life that I have to piece back together. And the one place I find myself piecing together the puzzle, is through this blog. So bear with me, as I try to journal my inmost thoughts on this blog, as we decipher what our new normal is. Thank you for walking this journey with us.
If someone asked me how I felt, I would say fragile. Fragile almost in every sense of the word. I feel fragile emotionally, fearing the next bad thing that might happen. The next test. The next prognosis. I feel fragile mentally, when in a blink of an eye, I start crying over missing Mazy, wishing at times that things aren’t as they are, and wondering how my life will not be the same for at least the next 6 months. I feel fragile spiritually, as every part of my spiritual heart I feel has been chiseled at as well. My spiritual heart is so moldable right now, which I know is a good thing, but that also means lies can enter in easily too. I feel the most fragile, physically. Yesterday, Dan helped me wash up. As I looked at my body in the mirror for the first time in 2 weeks, I saw scars, tape, wires, countless bruises, a broken sternum and ribs, sunken shoulders, and a body bloated with fluid. My eyes started to well.
But the truth is:
MY WEAKNESS IS GOD’S STRENGTH.
Though I have felt weakness in the past, those feelings don’t hold a candle to the weakness I feel at this moment. My personality is coming back, my legs can now walk, I can lift my arms above my head, but I am no where near to the person I was even just 2 weeks ago. God has brought something anew in me. I will one day gain the strength back that I once had, but it could be a year. I will one day not be so frail in every sense of the word, but I have to be patient. And I stink at being patient.
But God sent a gentle reminder to me last night at 11:30pm.
A cardiac nurse practitioner stopped in to see how I was doing. Really though, it was God sending Stephanie when He knew I most needed it. She started to walk with me through my journey up until this point, wanting to understand the full story. As I started to speak, I heard AeroMed fly over. I got choked up. Through tears streaming, I told her I just fear. I am carrying so much fear. I fear reverting back to where I was. I fear another heart surgery. I fear not healing. I just fear. As she listened to my words, she looked me in the eyes and said Kristin, you have every right to fear. What you went through, scared us at the University of Michigan. The symptoms you presented were far beyond normal for a routine cardiac patient. There was a reason I was flown in. She said the cardiac doctor was so worried that he was trying to get everyone he could, to try and help him with this case because he knew something was seriously wrong, though they could not pin point it. Of course I did not understand the severity of it at the time, though lying in the Emergency Room ICU should have been a clue. They told me they put me there because they wasn’t room on the cardiac floor, but like Dan said, I think it was because I needed to be there. God protected me.
Stephanie went on to say that it’s not normal to have 2 open heart surgeries, entering 2 different ways, in less than 3 weeks. It’s not normal to be carrying around the amount of excess fluid I am. I carried so much before my first surgery and then before the second, my heart didn’t have enough time to adjust. She said imagine carrying 4 2-liter bottles of pop in a grocery bag. That is the amount of excess fluid I am carrying right now. 8 liters. When I imagined walking out of the grocery store with those 4 2 liters of pop in hand, that picture made it real for me. No wonder I feel so weak. No wonder I am fatigued. No wonder I get short of breath.
You may wonder why they don’t just take the fluid off. Don’t worry, I wish the same thing you do! In reality, ridding the body of fluid is difficult because it’s a balancing act. After I had Mazy, I passed almost 30 lbs. of fluid in 4 days. At that time, my body could handle it. Right now, if they cleared all the fluid right away, I would feel very dizzy, my blood pressure would go crazy, and my pulse would rise. So we have to approach it from a slowly, but surely way. With a new valve as well, it will take months for my heart to adjust to “normal.” The surgeon wants to be very careful to not overwork my heart, protect my kidneys, and do it the right way. With that said, not that it was done the wrong way – in fact, the surgery was done perfectly. God just had different plans. As much as I want to be home and am feeling home sick, how much I want to kiss my sweet Mazy, hear her footsteps in our house, be on the receiving end of her nursing skills, I know I don’t want to leave in a helicopter again. This girl wants to stay grounded this time around.
I met with a physical therapist today and it was a good reality check for me. I was hoping I could bypass all therapy, but after doing some more exercises with the PT, I have a LONG ways to go. If you know me, I will push myself and do my exercises to the T. I have kept up on them since the first surgery and as my body as allowed, but after having ribs broken, a sternum cut through, muscles cut and torn, and skin incisions, I realized I need to swallow the pride and get some help. I will be having in home PT for the first 30 days and possibly have to go to outpatient cardiac rehab after that. But I’ve come to realize, I will do anything it takes to bring Kristin back to normal. I yearn to have that strength back. When I walk, I look like I’m a 95 year old woman who hasn’t gotten out of bed for days. That’s NOT Kristin! Just put that image in your head!
This journey has been long. It’s been so draining, daunting, and challenging, but God WILL take me to the other side. I want to believe that 100%, but with my human worries and fears, I find myself falling short. But at least God doesn’t give up on me. He’s been faithful every step of the way and what a promise that is to me!
I am one fragile and weak woman right now, but God’s strength is carrying me through, when I can’t carry myself. He is constantly lifting me up, under the shoulders, lifting my chin up, making me look in His eyes, planting me on my feet, saying “Kristin, I won’t let go.” And when I’m weak, it’s easy to fall, but thankfully when I do, God picks me right back up.
Our weakness, is God’s strength.
If you’ve wondered what I look like these past few days, here you go! Hospital gown, robe on, compression socks to help with fluid, upper leg skin overflowing with fluid, with my tennis shoes for style. Oh, and how could I forget about the most beautiful accessory of it all? My wound vacuum, pacemaker, and tubing on the pole? Lookout runways!