Hello my dear friends! I’ve been wanting to write but wasn’t up to it in the hospital and then I’ve kind of been trying to figure out how I wanted to go about writing about everything that’s been going on. I’ve been trying to decide how much I want to share, which does make me feel better, but sometimes also makes me feel vulnerable. So – what I did was I just wrote and let the words flow. I ended up deciding to turn this in to two posts because they are so long. This first one is about surgery day, leading up to it and after. Thank you for holding my hand through this part of my journey.
As many of you know I had heart surgery this past Thursday to implant a small device called an Amplatzer Septal Occluder which would close up a hole in my heart that we believe is how the blood clot traveled to my brain causing the stroke. Leading up to the surgery was incredibly stressful and particularly the day before when I received a call that my insurance had gone from approving the surgery to putting it into pending. My entire day Wednesday was filled with unimaginable stress dealing with the insurance and the whole time us needing to be driving to Houston. We finally decided to get on the road at 9pm and hope for the best. At 7am on Thursday morning I hit the phones and (thank God) got approval literally as we were parking in the hospital garage. It was such an odd feeling. I was glad to finally be approved but was hard hit by the, “Oh dear Lord – I’m having heart surgery today.” Normally, I kind of prepare myself before surgeries. Read my scripture, spend time with the boys, and just get to a better place spiritually and mentally. And so I went in to the procedure feeling very unprepared in many ways. Yet calm in others knowing I had God holding my hand. I asked for the chaplain before going back in to surgery and I’m glad I did because it gave me a sense of peace.
Photo courtesy of @theglitterguide
Everything went well in surgery but, unfortunately, I had some complications after. I have to admit this one wasn’t as easy as some of my others. For one, I woke up in extreme pain. The doctors place sheaths in my leg which is how they send the device up to my heart. Due to being on so many blood thinners they couldn’t remove the sheaths. This meant when I woke up (and apparently according to my nurse I woke up much sooner than I was supposed to) the sheaths were still in and were going to need to stay in for a bit until my clotting levels got to where they needed them to be. Lastly, in addition to my regular IV they had to place an arterial IV which is very large and, unfortunately, ended up sitting on a nerve. Not to mention, my throat was killing me from the breathing tube. All in all – it was an awful way to wake up.
The Amplatzer Septal Occluder that was implanted to cover the hole.
Everything was looking relatively good until they tried to transfer me to a cardiac ward. When you have the sheaths in your legs you can’t move AT ALL. You can’t sit up, bend your leg, ANYTHING – because it’s directly in a major vein. Anyways, the nurses went to roll me to the bed in my room and all of a sudden I felt this pinch in my throat and I couldn’t breath. I could hear myself making this awful noise in my throat which now I know is called Stridor. In a blink the room was filled with a trauma team, my doctor, another cardiologist, the anesthesiologist and a million other people I didn’t know. I could feel a weird closure in my throat and then finally it began to come and go as they began breathing treatments. It was definitely one of the scariest moments of my life (right up there with the moment I knew I was having a stroke). It caused all kinds of issues and put my heart in to Tachycardia, and frankly just wore my body out.
Finally as the breathing treatments began to help I was transferred into ICU. Due to the issues I was having my doctor decided to leave in the sheaths and the arterial IV through the night so that if anything happened he would already be prepared to go straight in to surgery. My doctor came in again (Dr. Silva) before heading home and I can remember how I thought it was special that he sat down on the couch to talk to Russ. Not just about me and the heart stuff but just chit chat in general. Not many doctors take time to do that. He’s one of the good ones and is incredibly talented – he also makes me laugh (I could hear him coming down the hallway SINGING when I was waiting to be taken back to the operating room).
Worst selfie ever – during the breathing treatments.
The night was probably my worst ever in the hospital. From the pain, to being on the breathing treatments, to a ton of infusions they started to have to do through my IV, to my heart beating irregular – it was just awful.
I always try so hard with my surgeries to limit the amount of pain killers I take because I don’t like how they make me feel and frequently cause me to vomit (additionally, I just hate putting stuff like that in my body). But after even the Hydrocodone couldn’t touch the pain my nurse gave my hand a squeeze and said, “Why don’t you just take the morphine sweetie and give your body some rest.” At that point, I gave in and watched as she squeezed the clear syringe in to my IV. As I waited for it to kick in I can remember thinking if I could just escape from the pain I’d be OK and could make it to tomorrow. And as the dull lull of morphine rolled over me, I felt the pain slip further away and my exhausted body finally slept.
And I did make it to tomorrow. It wasn’t an easy tomorrow but it was a new day. I remained in ICU and finally the nurse was allowed to pull out the arterial IV and then another cardiologist came in to finally pull the sheath out of my leg. I believe his name was Dr. Hale and I won’t forget him as well because I can remember him holding my hand and talking calmly to me during my breathing episode. I remember I thought he looked so young but so kind. He’s another one of the good ones that has been blessed by God with a gift and I told him that when he left me that day and I hope he never loses it. The sheath removal sucked big time. They have to pull it out and then press heavily down on the area for a while to keep it from bleeding. Then they placed a sandbag on the area for two hours to ensure clotting. You try having someone press down on a new incision – makes you pretty much want to punch them in the face!
We stayed in ICU the rest of the day (Friday) and then I was transferred to a regular cardiac ward around 11:30pm. Poor Daddy Russ downgraded from a couch to a make out chair and I felt so sorry for him. But it was nice to sleep without someone coming in every hour and I also was finished with the breathing treatments.
Out of ICU!
Finally, on Saturday I was released! Dr. Silva was more comfortable with me staying in Houston (and frankly so was I) so I’m staying at my Dad’s house until Tuesday. I have a check up then and will hopefully be able to go home. I miss the boys a ton and Daddy Russ went home to be with them so I miss him too.
My Dad has been spoiling me like crazy and I haven’t been doing much besides sleeping. I’m like a weak, newborn puppy. It takes everything in me to walk to the kitchen and then I feel like I need to go back to bed. Not to mention I’m still very short of breath which should resolve itself.
My sister and Dad donating blood during my surgery. How awesome is that?! #savelives
As I lie in bed I can’t help but do a lot of thinking but I’ve been really trying turn that off because it leads to me being anxious and overwhelmed. This post is already long enough so I think I’ll stop here and write about all that in another. Plus, I’m tired again and think it’s time for a nap.
I love you all dearly. Thank you for caring about me and taking the time to read this BOOK that I’ve written. I feel like I’ve had so many people beside me through this part of my journey. Daddy Russ and my family have been unbelievable. I hate that I worry them so much and I hate that they’ve had to sit in the hospital waiting for me to come out of an operating room so many times. I don’t know how they do it and I love them so much.
You’ve all been my prayer givers, uplifters and WARRIORS. Thank you for that.