Another open heart surgery. How did we even get to this point?
After being brought to the Emergency Room ICU, I had many tests run. I had an ECHO of the heart and chest cavity, which was excruciating, due to the fact that if anyone even put a finger on my skin near my gall bladder, I would double over in pain. It was incredibly intense. So let alone an ultrasound probe that had to dig in, I was grabbing onto the sheets and grinding my teeth. At that point, they assumed there was some infection and that I also had pneumonia, after a chest x-ray was done.
After seeing the results of my blood tests, they thought I for sure had a gall bladder infection because it was severely inflamed and the goal was to take it out later that day, on Wednesday, November 1. Unfortunately, the only way to remove it was to open up the area, which I was told, was quite painful. At that time, I did not know I needed another open heart surgery. So, what’s one more surgery? Well, then after another test, they thought they would just drain it for 4-6 weeks, and then remove it. Okay…I’m telling you, the diagnosis was changing by the hour.
Then things took a turn for the worst.
My heart surgeon stopped in and took one listen to my heart and no joke, for two seconds. He said “that is not the same heart I heard last Wednesday.” He believed that the heart valve was infected from the bile that built up in the gall bladder, causing it to leak. Therefore, the repair did not hold and he would have to go back in and repair it, if not replace the valve with a pig’s valve.
We were devastated, as I mentioned in the previous post. How could this really be happening?
The next day brought on several tests to try and determine EXACTLY what was going on. By this time, I was moved up the cardiac ICU. Our minds and emotions were going every which way because the doctors had such a hard time determining was what wrong. I was told that the cardiac doctor was extremely worried and had everyone on my case that he could, to try and determine what was wrong. They said I was a rare case that befuddled them and had him scared. I’m thankful they did not tell me that at the time, but it just goes to show how serious of a situation this was.
Anyways, after more testing, the doctors ruled out any gall bladder issues. I had a hida test performed, where a machine is placed over your chest cavity and a dye is injected into the body, that flows through the gall bladder and eventually to the small intestine. The test would have been fine if I had eaten, but I had not eaten or drank anything for the past 3 days, so it was all on an empty stomach, which made me cramp up and nauseous. Not only that, but I was unable to lie flat on my back, which the test required because I had 3 broken ribs and a large incision from my previous open heart surgery 2 weeks prior. For ONE HOUR, I doubled over in pain, turned Dan’s thumb white, and made the machines that recorded my vitals go berserk. After experiencing the most excruciating pain I have ever felt and almost passing out a few times due to the pain (which I wish I could have), the nurse finally caved. She was getting extremely frustrated with the technician because my vitals were sky rocketing, but I couldn’t take any pain meds because it would interfere with the test. Finally, with 18 minutes left, she firmly said I had to get something in me or he would have to stop the test. She gave me a pain med that wouldn’t interfere and within minutes, I finally took a deep breath and exhaled with somewhat ease. My body finally stopped shaking from the pain, and I was able to lie back and breath, with my vitals regulating.
Finally I was able to lie back and BREATHE during the hida test.
The test proved that for sure, there were no gall bladder issues, but that there was an incredible amount of fluid that was built up around my heart, gall bladder, and liver, that would cause very similar symptoms to that of a gall bladder infection. Thankfully though, no gall bladder surgery was needed. One positive step in the right direction!
On Thursday, November 2, after getting a tube inserted into my neck called a swan, with no sedation (I wouldn’t recommend that), I then had a TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram). They were not going to sedate me due to my instability, but I BEGGED them. My nurse knew what happened with my last test (the hida test) and how my vitals went crazy, and after weighing the risks, the doctor realized that my body could not take any more pain. I had told Dan, I could not do it. I could not do one more test. I told the doctor I could not do it. Not that I was chickening out, but hours before, with getting that IV in, I was in so much pain again because the test took much longer than expected, my body just couldn’t do it. I’ve learned the neck is a sensitive area and getting a 1/4 inch tube inserted into it, being fully awake, is no fun. Usually those are inserted during a surgery, well, of course I was under different circumstances! Although, we had an answer to prayer – they sedated me for the TEE.
This is a picture of the swan (large tube) that was inserted into my neck.
The TEE proved what we thought to be true – that the valve repair was toast. After my first open heart surgery, we knew it would take time for the heart function to get back to normal and unfortunately, my heart was pushing too much blood through and caused the sutures in the valve to give. The tissue around the valve had calcified, causing my valve repair to fail. It was nothing the surgeon did. In fact, he performed a perfect surgery and my valve repair was perfect for what we believe was at least 9 days. I had lost at least 30 pounds of excess fluid at this point, but God had a different plan.
I would have another open heart surgery that weekend or on Monday. The reason the day was unknown was my body and heart were not stable enough to have another surgery at that point. My original surgeon was gone to Vietnam, but he recommended another surgeon who specialized in transplants, but also was known for his expertise in re-do surgeries, so I would have him as my surgeon, which again we thought, was only God’s perfect timing. A surgeon who was also known for re-dos? Only God. And only His mercy. In fact, he was willing to come in at any hour, to do my surgery, knowing the sensitivity of the situation. Unfortunately, I would now have to have this surgery done through the sternum and would possibly have to have a full out replacement. That meant we had to go back to the question of a tissue or mechanical. Decisions we thought we were done making, but now had to revisit, during a time that was already so difficult.
But God made it very clear to us through the peace He was giving us, that I was meant to have a tissue valve, if that was the route needed. God sent just the right people to encourage us and help us make that decision. Nurses, cardiac fellows, doctors, who all took the time to sit down with us and give us their thoughts, off the record. To this day, we believe they were sent by God, to give us that tangible peace that we so desperately needed. Our minds and emotions were so drained, that God knew we needed them to help make a logical and right decision. A tissue valve it was.
Despite how devastated we were, God proved Himself over and over, that He was in control. We already had been given many opportunities to share our faith and gave us peace that surpassed all understanding. All along, we prayed that whatever it took for God’s name to be furthered, then that’s what we wanted. That is a nerve-wracking prayer to pray because little did we know that it would lead to me having another open heart surgery. But if that meant God’s name would be furthered, then that’s what we wanted. Was it easy to accept? Not at all. We cried. We wondered why. But God’s grace and mercy truly was showered on us, despite the extreme difficulties of the days leading up to that point.
Little did we know that our faith would soon be brought to the ultimate test in the wee hours of the morning on Friday…
More to come.
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**If you get a chance, pray for our sweet Mazy. She has been struggling with sleep lately and has been waking up, crying for mommy and daddy. Her world has been thrown upside down with my health and my inability to care for her, but Dan has been 110% dad! I think she fears we are leaving her again, but we are going no where, we pray. Please pray that God would rip the enemy out of her and that her fears and worries would subside. Also that she can rest at night, knowing she is loved and belongs, so that Dan and I can get the rest we need. Thank you!