Sunday, January 21, 2018

1/22/18—Repairing My Heart

The view from my hospital room. This looks east toward my home.
When I was well enough, I got up, looked north and could see the
Washington Monument. This is how birds view the world.
It was cool to see them so large in my window, with
all the cares of the rest of my world so small.

This is my first post of 2018. Regular readers will know that this is the first time I've skipped so many weeks—and the longest we've been without an original post—since I began this blog 7 years ago. Fortunately, I have a good excuse. 

Since the year began, I have had three ambulance rides, made two visits to the ER, spent four days in the hospital, had five additional doctor appointments, got two CT scans, sat for three EKGs, received multiple new medications (and a CPAP), have had fluid back up into my lungs twice, and have been stuck by too many needles in my arms and hands to count. Before the month is over, I will have at least two more doctor appointments, including a procedure involving having an echo device shoved down my throat. Then, in February, surgery is likely. 

So it had been a busy month. Turns out I have a problem with my heart...both literally and figuratively. 

Before anyone breaks into tears on my behalf, let me say a few things. First, as heart problems go, it's not horrific. I have a bad valve that is causing atrial fibrillation (afib) and making fluid back up into my lungs. The valve may be able to be repaired by minimally invasive surgery or I may need a replacement requiring open heart surgery. This is practically considered "routine", even "common", and not as big a threat to my life as a heart attack or other form of heart failure would be. I am on meds to hopefully prevent recurrence and the risk of stroke. My outlook is bright.

Second, I prayed to my mother to help me find a solution to my shortness of breath and physical limitation issues. Within hours of that, I was in the hospital. And so this was the answer to my prayers. It was something I purposely manifested (though I didn't ask for it to happen so traumatically. I'll have to adjust my prayers in the future to accommodate more gentle means...haha.) With as upsetting and scary as this has been for me, I have never lost sight of it being a blessing. I am, at times, overwhelmed with gratitude.

Third, in many ways, I feel better than I have in five years. I won't beat a dead horse, except for to say, if your doctor tells you to go to a sleep study for sleep apnea, do it. I have resisted for many years. I mean, who wants to wear a mask to bed, amirite? Well, guess what? The mask is comfortable...even air-conditioned, so it's not hot in there. I slept all through the night the second night I used it. And within days I was noticing marked improvement in my breath and energy issues. All of this occurred in the week I was in the hospital and could be due to countless factors. But certainly avoiding the CPAP exacerbated, and perhaps even caused, my issue. (I have always had a bad valve, but I believe having severe sleep apnea for years is what caused it to fail at my age. I also believe it is a large part of why I have been suffering from breath and exhaustion issues for five years.) So choose your health over your stubbornness and vanity issues. </lecture>

Fourth, it's true what they say—you find out who people are by the way they respond when you're sick. And the good news here is that I was surrounded by people who cared and didn't even know it. First and foremost is my brother Robert, to whom I have given a hard time more than once recently. But he and his amazing partner rushed to my side in the ER. He got me home from the hospital. And the two of them have been to my house twice—once to clear out my hoarder's (aka junk/storage) room and the second time to clear the clutter from my kitchen so I can enjoy one of my favorite hobbies again. Both of these issues have been weighing on me for quite some time. And they were happy and generous enough to take that weight off my shoulders. 

But it goes beyond them. There is the sister I never talk to who has texted me constantly since this happened. She is a nurse, so she has insight and advice to share. And her son, whose recent wedding I did not attend, is a doctor and suggested a test for the hospital to give me that made a huge difference in my care. There's my sister-in-law who visited me twice in the hospital. And my other brother who walked out of my life years ago, who has shown concern and is printing me a functional heart valve (for fun) on his 3-D printer. 

Then there are the friends who have been checking in with me regularly, including one who mysteriously reappeared in my life a couple of months ago, only to be extremely supportive throughout this. There is another friend, who is giving up a day of her life to drive a couple hours each way to accompany me for my procedure. There is the neighbor across the street who took care of my dogs at the last minute and picked me up from the ER the second time I went. There are also the clients who have been flexible, allowing me to push deadlines a day or two because of my situation. 

And then there are my dogs, who have been traumatized twice this month. Mystic is very attuned to me physically, so she knows when my blood pressure is rising and comes over to be near me and comfort me. And Kizzie has broken character, becoming extremely protective of me (to the point of not allowing the EMTs to approach me, unfortunately. But it just shows how much I mean to him in his old age.) And Magick Moonbeam, who gave me a kiss on the lips when I got home from the hospital. That NEVER happens, but she did it special to show me she loved me. 

I hope I'm not forgetting anyone or anything. But the point of all of that is that I've been extremely humbled. And I've seen where my prickly side...the walls I've built around my heart...have contributed to the degradation of what lies inside. My life is forever changed, not just from the physical failure of my heart, but from the spiritual and social failure of it as well. Every aspect of my heart is due for repair in 2018. And I'm learning who—and what—is important enough to focus on moving forward. 

I can't express how fortunate I feel right now. Not just for the people in my life, but also for the second chance I'm getting. While I'm not out walking my dogs yet (partially out of fear) I am able to do more around my home than in years...most days, that is. Not for nuthin', one of my meds makes sweet taste way too sweet for me now, so I've cut back on that addiction. From hospital food to changing my choices, I'm also dropping some weight. And the "panic" and severity around my breathlessness is all but gone (aka, I no longer gasp for air after walking across my house or getting out to my car.) I still have quite a way to go, but for the first time in years, the end is coming into sight.


  1. "Within hours of that, I was in the hospital." On the face of it, not the sort of thing you'd want to shout Hallelujah! about. But I get it. Hell ya Hallelujah!! :D I'm so very happy for you.

  2. I’m your old neighbor and friend from Richards-Gebaur. Would love to connect! Jennifer Smedes the horse girl

    1. Holy crap! I actually looked for you on Facebook a while back! Whenever I think of you, I think of a dance we made up to "Can't Buy Me Love"! :D

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  3. Praying for restored health and a great 2018

  4. I just emailed you my friend. Yes we have lots to Catch up on and I remember the dance… And that I chickened out on doing the talent show, my bad.

    1. I remember performing it! For the entire 5th grade pod! Good thing I only lived there 5 months. I never had to face the shameful legacy of that dance again.