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Kerry's Heart Valve Journal

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Kerry Thomas

Leesburg, Virginia,

United States


My Diagnosis

Mitral Regurgitation




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Rock and Roll Half Marathon

March 17, 2013

I did it! I completed my 7th half marathon (but first in 5 years) yesterday with 25 friends from my neighborhood. It was an awesome, fun, emotional day. I felt great...slooooow, but great...the entire way, and the only thing that hurts today are my feet and ankles. I obeyed my heart rate monitor and my max HR the whole way, even though that meant losing a pack of friends on a really steep, long hill. Even the threat of slushy snow tonight can't dampen my mood today!!

6 months down!

October 16, 2012

Hi everyone, I haven't posted in a looong time, but I do check in from time to time to read how everyone is doing. I try to post encouragement whenever I can as well. Last week I passed the 6 month mark. The best part? I didn't even remember it was my "anniversary." I am feeling great now with energy like I had 5 years ago. I am still not running more than a few minutes at a time, but that's OK because I get a great workout doing a few miles of intervals. I completed a mud run (walking around most of the obstacles) and two 5ks. I know I will continue to get better.
I want the people who recently had surgery or are waiting to get one thing out of this: BE PATIENT! Around 3-4 months I was so discouraged and thought I should be better than I was. Looking back it seems so silly now. I barely have any bad days and it still is ONLY 6 months. I think that's why I didn't post on here for so long, I would have come across as too down. Please take the time to let your body heal and respect what it is telling you!!
Best wishes to all my fellow HVJ's :)

Happy Birthday to me!

May 27, 2012

I think it is tacky to promote your own birthday, but this year I don't care! I have never been so happy to be another year older. I hope everyone else is enjoying this long (hot) Memorial Day weekend.

6 weeks down

May 25, 2012

Hi! I haven't posted in a while. This Wednesday was 6 weeks since surgery. Last week was hard, physically and emotionally. From Tues-Thurs I was feeling dizzy, kept getting those annoying ocular migraines, my chest hurt, and I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest at times. After much discussion and some poking and prodding, the official diagnosis? Take it easy. Now that is where the bad emotional part comes in...I felt that I not only was taking it easy but that I was positively lazy. I wasn't able to bump up anything at cardiac rehab all week and was taking 3 hour naps every day. I even burst into tears at rehab when the nurse told me to be patient. It doesn't help that rehab is on the 5th floor with a view of a beautiful area where people are running all up and down the streets. I figured I had no choice but to listen, so I managed to do even less for a few days and now I feel fantastic.
This week I worked for 4 hours on Tuesday (with an assistant), was able to bump up at rehab, was much more productive around the house, and took a WONDERFUL trip to Old Town Alexandria yesterday with my running buddies. I have to keep reminding myself that all of that is awesome for 6 weeks after heart surgery. The trouble is I want to be like those rock stars on here that are running 2 miles at 6 weeks. I guess since that isn't happening I have to just let it go. The hard emotional part is just doubting if you will ever get there. This week I am much more confident I will.
Praying for Karen as she is in surgery right now!
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Started cardiac rehab

May 8, 2012

Hi everyone! My blood work came back and the only thing out of the ordinary was anemia, so they have upped my iron and the dizzy spells have almost completely gone away.
I started cardiac rehab today. I was the youngest person there by 20 years, but the two nurses in charge are young and "get it." I told them I was nervous about doing too much too soon on my own and that is why I wanted to do the rehab even though I passed my stress test yesterday with flying colors. I did a warm-up, 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 on a recumbent bike and 10 on something called a Nu Step that is like a seated elliptical. Then I stretched...boy had it been a while! That was the hardest part of the whole thing, lol. They said I will be jogging in a couple weeks! whoo hoo! The worst part of the whole visit was being told I need to lose 3 more inches off my waist. Sobering.
Overall this has been the fastest 4 weeks of my life. Daniel said the same thing last night. I know there are so many people on this site who had surgery last week or are coming up on surgery very soon. Hang in there! Once you are recovering things get better every day and you will be amazed at the progress.

three weeks (almost)

May 1, 2012

Tomorrow is three weeks since surgery. I had appointments with my primary care doctor and my cardiologist the last two days. Everything looks great (incisions healing, good ekg, etc) except for my still-too-low blood pressure and elevated heart rate. I am barely within normal limits on both counts, but the low blood pressure is enough that I do have symptoms, mainly dizziness. I had a ton of blood work done, so we will see what the results are. In the meantime I am supposed to take it easy. I can still walk, but slow pace. I am also supposed to drink Gatorade and eat salty snacks. The cardiologist said most people in his office never hear that! He really didn't seem too concerned though, and said he thought my body and heart were still "recalibrating" from the surgery. He added "I don't think you will need a transfusion or anything." Well geez! I didn't even know that was an option...thanks a lot!! I prefer to think I just need iron pills or higher dose of thyroid medicine or something else simple the blood work will reveal.
I really am feeling great though, so I can't wait to see how good I feel once this is sorted out.

I think 3 weeks post op is like being in limbo. I am feeling good enough that I don't just lay around all day, but yet I am not back to regular activities or work. Thank goodness I have sweet friends who have taken me to lunch and come by just to hang out or go on walks. I think I would begin to feel very isolated otherwise. Tomorrow I am catching up on thank you cards, and I predict I will get emotional!

two weeks...wow time flies!

April 25, 2012

Two weeks ago at this time my heart was being restarted and today I feel almost like myself again...amazing! I hit a few more milestones this week: sleeping in my own bed, almost flat; my first sneeze this morning; walking 20 minutes straight; going to my son's baseball game.

My mom left this morning which made me sad, but it is also great to get things back to more "normal." She was such an amazing help with driving, laundry, dishes, cooking, shopping, etc. that I will definitely notice her absence the first few days.

Some thoughts that may be t.m.i for family and friends, but helpful to the HVJ friends having surgeries soon:
~ I can't put up incision pics like Paul because almost all of my "holes" are in R rated spots. My groin incision is healing great, and I only ache down there if I sit in a chair too long and then start moving again. Not bad at all.
~ My chest incision is going to be virtually invisible because it is almost all exactly along the bottom of my right breast. It does poke out a little towards my arm pit, but not much. I don't know if it is permanent, but right now it is having the strange effect of making it look like I got a lift on only one side.
~ The only other visible marks I have two weeks after are the central line hole on my upper left chest, and my chest tube hole under my right armpit. Neither one hurts at all.
~ I only take one or two tylenol a day now (last pain pill was Sunday), mainly late afternoon when my chest starts to feel achy, but I am not ready to drive or be super active because I get dizzy very easily. Not horribly dizzy (not going to pass out or anything), but more of an annoyance.
~ I have the same mid back/shoulder blade pain that so many others mention. I get relief by rolling against a tennis ball on a wall.

That's all I can think of right now, send me a message if you have questions.
Thanks for all the wonderful support!

one week post-op

April 18, 2012

Wow, that week went fast! I went to the surgeon this morning about my lungs, and they said that while I do have some fluid it is not bad. I had already cleared up so much from yesterday with the extra breathing exercises and the Benadryl that no additional medication is needed. Also, it has rained all day so that should knock away some of the pollen.
Looking back at the first week:
The Good: no leakage in my valve, feeling so much better than I thought I would, getting the suite in the cardiac unit because that's all that was available (my kids are quite sure that I had the same room as Dick Cheney had a few weeks ago), all the love and support from family and friends.
The Bad: throwing up in ICU with the breathing tube still in and panicking that I would choke to death (I didn't know there was a suction tube down there too)
The Surprising: gaining 12 pounds in fluid in 48 hours, what little appetite I have even a week later, how routine these procedures are to everyone at the hospital.

I figured everyone on here was exaggerating a little bit that the waiting is the hardest part, but it is so true!

little set-back

April 17, 2012

Hi everyone! I have had congestion ever since I left the hospital, and I think with the pollen count about a million I was doomed. I have been trying to cough even though it hurts and using the spirometer, but I still managed to get some fluid in my lungs. I had a chest x-ray today and it has 4 little arrows on it pointing to spots. I go to the doctor tomorrow at 8am. Any tips from anyone who has had this happen?
Besides not being able to get a deep breath I feel fantastic.

2 inches?

April 15, 2012

I just re-read the journals my mom posted and had to laugh that Dr. Massimiano told them my incision was 2 inches. I guess he wanted to reassure them, but let's just say 4 minimum.
To everyone asking about the On-Q pain pump...Daniel and I took it out today. The wires under my skin were tiny, but much longer than I thought. Probably 8 inches. The first one tugged a little bit but I didn't even feel the second coming out. I would say Yes, it definitely made a difference in my pain. I'm not in horrible pain today, but sure do feel the incision more. I think it is a great invention because it allowed me to get up and moving so much sooner. The whole time in the hospital my groin incision hurt worse than my rib incision.

three days down

April 14, 2012

I had my first full day at home :) No matter what you are feeling it is always much better to be in your own house. My friend Pam came by today with flowers and a card, and I had a couple of calls from family, but besides that it was a very quiet day. I actually watched all 8 hours of Lonesome Dove from beginning to end. Didn't think I would ever say that! I walked to get the mail and there was a Runner's World magazine...not sure if it is taunting me or encouraging me, but my mom said encouraging so I'm going with that.
My pain is not bad unless I cough, which sadly I am doing a lot. Clearing my lungs I guess combined with all this darn pollen. When I cough it shoots straight to a 10 on the pain scale, but overall I can't complain.
I just read through all the entries everyone posted while I was in surgery and ICU...thank you!!

hi everyone!

April 12, 2012

that really wasn't too bad! Having my gall bladder out was much worse (at least too this point.) made two and a half laps so far today. Going to take a little nap. Thanks for all the prayer- I seriously felt them!


April 11, 2012

Sorry I couldn't connect earlier. Daniel & I have spoken to the surgeon, Dr. Massimiano. He said it was a very simple surgery. There is a 2" incision & she was a perfect candidate for valve repair. There is now no leakage at all. We should see her in about 1 hour & she should be home by Friday. She is now being moved out of CICU to the step down unit. She was nauseous, but is feeling much better now.

The long awaited day

April 11, 2012

Kerry is off to the hospital. From early childhood Kerry has exuded peace, calm and confidence. It is good to see her back in the zone.

7AM The operation has begun. It should last until 11AM & we should see her about 1PM.

tomorrow is the big day!

April 10, 2012

I am so ready! I can't even explain how weird the last two days have been. I think I have taken the "eerie calm" to a new level. I have actually been in the best mood I can remember for a long time. My Mom got here today which is great and we enjoyed a nice lunch before she got her first dose of helping with our crazy schedule. She took Ryan to track while Daniel and I went to Matthew's baseball game (which they very nicely won 16-1 to keep any stress down, lol.)
I have to be at the hospital at 5:30am, so my alarm is set for 3:45am, yikes! I am very glad to be the first in the morning though. My Mom or husband will update tomorrow and I will write myself as soon as I can. Thanks for all the support and wonderful knowledge of all the other HVJ patients. I am soooo glad I found this site. I honestly feel it has a lot to do with my mood.
I put a quote on my facebook page that I want to share here: "God chooses what we go through, but we choose how we go through it."
Good night! :)

Pre-op day

April 9, 2012

My pre-op appointment was fantastic. The traffic even cooperated and I got there almost an hour early (for anyone who has ever driven on the Beltway in DC you understand what it could have been like and why I left so early...my least favorite road followed closely by GA 400.) Anyway, The nurses and staff were fantastic and they drew my blood without incident, which was an improvement! The nurse who did all my paperwork even gave me her cell number in case I thought of any more questions. I was so happy leaving there you wouldn't think I was there to get ready for heart surgery.
I met my friend Claudia for lunch afterwards and then we got a pedicure (mine to take OFF my polish for surgery.) The nail tech didn't understand why I didn't want polish, but once she understood she felt bad for me and gave me an extra long massage...aaaah!
I will try to take it easy tomorrow, but the "mom" in me keeps thinking of more things I should do before I go to the hospital. Even though I have an awesome husband, and I'm fairly certain they can find a grocery store, remember to feed the dog, etc. I can't help but want everything to be squared away as much as possible. All the laundry is done, so at least they won't stink ;)
Thanks to everyone who sent hospital packing suggestions, I really appreciate it.

hospital necessities

April 8, 2012

I know I've seen it posted on here before, but now I can't find a list of things you really were glad to have at the hospital. Can anyone on here post-surgery shed some light? Also, what did most of you go home in? I just realized today (with 3 days to go) that I do not own a single shirt that opens in the front OR a robe. I guess if I need to go shopping anyway feel free to pass along anything else you think I should have at the hospital or at home. Thanks everyone!

One week to go!

April 4, 2012

I'm glad I scheduled my surgery as soon as I could, because these last couple of weeks have been loooooong. I appreciate all the people on here who have been posting the last few days about their successes. It actually makes me excited to get to recovery.
I finally downloaded the guided imagery and positive affirmation recording Jeff S. suggested and think it is great. My son Ryan (the younger of my two boys for all my new HVJ friends, he is 12) helped me put that and a bunch of relaxation music and some of my favorite inspirational Christian rock songs onto his ipod. I think it made him feel good to help in such a concrete way. He cracked me up when he was previewing some of the relaxation music. He said,"don't listen to this unless you can get up and go to the bathroom, because it all has running water!"
We are leaving this afternoon on a quick college visit trip (Radford, Virginia Tech, and James Madison) with our friend Jeff and his two boys. I think I am crashing their guy's get-a-way, but I don't care because I need the distraction!

Mini pity party over

April 1, 2012

I had a little pity party today over my lingering sore arm, rash on my entire torso from my apparent dye allergy I didn't know I had, and all my friend's facebook pictures of wonderful spring breaks where it is warm, sunny and surgeries don't loom. Luckily it was short lived thanks to a phone call with my mom and step dad and Daniel grilling hamburgers out on the deck. I love my family! :)

Cath is over, hooray!

March 29, 2012

Everyone was right...the cath wasn't that bad. Too bad my iv experience was horrible. Did I mention I hate things poking in me? Well I can tolerate them if they are done correctly and serve a purpose. Yesterday the "best" nurse started my iv. It was very painful even after she took the needle out but I figured I was just being a baby. She mentioned something about that vein having a lot of valves she had to get past. Another nurse came in later and asked if it hurt because of the way I was holding my arm (I wasn't attached to anything yet.) I told her yes and she pushed down on it a little causing me to grab her wrist and yank it away...not earning any brownie points with the nurses! I heard them talking about it and after being reassured that it flushed cleanly the second nurse dropped it. Fast forward to me in the cath lab, on the table, already had the shots and incision in my leg and everything. I'm thinking I'm awesome because I haven't even had any "happy juice" yet and I'm not nervous or anything. They decide it is time to relax me a little and start the medication in my iv. Holy Crap! I've had two childbirths less painful than that. The next minute is a blur but I do remember being restrained because I guess I wanted to tear it out, I remember a lot of activity over by my arm and the head doctor telling them to stop it and cap it off. I was sobbing uncontrollably. Then the wonderful man had the brilliant idea to shoot the medicine directly into my artery where the cath goes. Instant relief. As they were finishing up I heard them talking about starting another iv. Even drugged I begged them not to, and I must have been a real mess because they agreed! I had to promise to drink fluids all day, etc. After finishing my bed rest a few hours later the nurse came to take my completely useless, never used iv out of my arm. She said "oh honey you bruise so easily." Actually, no, I don't, but at that point I was just glad it was over.
So, everyone was right...the cath was easy, and the rest taught me that the first and most important discussion at my pre-op appointment will be about the iv placement/insertion. I would rather get it right for the actual surgery, so hopefully yesterday served a good purpose.

Cath tomorrow. Not quite as nervous.

March 27, 2012

Thanks so much to my friends and new HVJ friends who have all helped to ease my mind about the cath tomorrow. For someone who has always been squeamish about needles poking a tiny way into my body for iv's, etc. the thought of something snaking it's way through my veins has been almost unbearable. Now I just want to hurry and get it over with. I believe it is like that with most things that you are nervous about. Ironically I talked to a doctor today who assured me it was no big deal, then confessed that he is supposed to have a TEE but has been putting it off. I told him that those were truly no big deal, so I think we helped each other out!
I keep reminding myself that all these procedures just put me one step closer to renewing my yearly trip to Jacksonville to see my great friend Kim and run the River Run. We haven't missed too many over the years, and I don't plan on missing many more...

So very tired!

March 19, 2012

Last night I got 9 great hours of sleep. I only worked 5 hours today (almost all of it sitting). Then I went to Target to pick up a few things. By now it is only 3:30pm and I am so exhausted I can barely drive myself home. After a little nap I am making dinner. So many people have asked why I don't seem nervous about the operation. THIS is why! Life has to get better when all your blood is pumping through your body like it should. I think I have been this tired for a while but was compensating with coffee. I quit drinking it about a month ago to help my heart, but it's sure not helping me, Haha!


March 17, 2012

I am laughing at myself...I guess I had two photos saved under the same name because my profile pic has been my husband's friend and his wife! I didn't even notice :) I uploaded a new one with two friends but it is not switching over very quickly. So, if you ae just checking out my journal for the first time those are some nice people-but not me!
Now my Mom has edited my picture because I couldn't get it to work. So many things that need fixing!

Met with surgeon

March 15, 2012

Yesterday I met with my surgeon (Dr. Paul Massimiano) and scheduled my surgery for April 11th. I liked him instantly and he did a terrific job of answering every question I had...even the silly ones. I told him I really want to run again, and he said I should be getting back to that about 3 months after surgery. Perfect! He also said I have a 90-95% chance of a successful repair instead of a replacement, so I am obviously hopeful that will be the case. The only real downer of the appointment was the news that I need to get a cardiac catheretization on March 28th. I didn't realize that would be done and was really hoping I was done with the poking and prodding until the surgery.

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