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Willow Park, Texas,
Severe Aortic Stenosis
The Patient's Guide
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My First Re-Birthday. Praise God!One year ago today, I was getting my breathing tube removed and adjusting to life with two new heart valves. I've been blessed in so many ways since that day. Three months after the surgery, I was walking around the Grand Canyon and exploring the caves in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Last month I was swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Mexico in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean. In between, I've been so blessed to be able to spend time with my family and friends and grow stronger in my walk with the Lord. I'm so grateful to all of you. Jim and I were reminiscing last night about what an incredible time it was one year ago today. We are so blessed to have so many friends who reached out to us at that time and many times since. We are eternally grateful. Again, life is good. My prayers are with all of you that read this and are facing the unknown like we were a year ago. Stay strong and pray. You will get through it. Life will go forward and in much better health. God Bless all of you. P.S. It was Jim's idea for the somewhat corny subject line. Those of you that know him I'm sure aren't surprised. :)
So thankfulThis is jim. I'm writing here today to give thanks to the talented medical professionals who diagnosed and then fixed mollie's heart condition. It's because of these men that allows me to celebrate this thanksgiving with my family intact. I'm also thankful to Adam Pick for having the foresight to create this forum for people to share and celebrate this journey of heart valve replacement and repair. Today is truly a day to praise God and all He has provided.
2 1/2 months out (for Chris and Jeff :)))I'm so terrible at keeping my journal up to date. Please forgive me and know that I appreciate all of your support!!
Surgical follow up appointmentsMade our follow up drs. appointments in Austin Tuesday of this week. The EP (pacemaker dr.) said everything looked great. Dr. Oswalt also gave me the driving go ahead and said everything appeared to be healing and moving forward just fine. He gave me a RX for cardiac rehab which I plan to start next week when my girls start school.
For Chris and Jeff :)I can't believe I'm only 12 days out of surgery. I'm feeling remarkably well. I had the pacemaker procedure on the 6th so that delayed my recovery slightly. The incision site and area around my left pectoral muscle is quite sore, but in general I have been feeling better every day.
Home Sweet HomeJust wanted to provide a quick update on my status. Jim and I arrived home from Austin yesterday afternoon. Jim and I had spent the past 3 days at the house of our dear friend, Dixie. She is the mother of one of my best friends and a college roommate, Keva. I also was showered with love and visits from Robin (another dear friend and college roommate) before we left and while in Austin. I love you both so much! The use of the house and their friendship is priceless. My sister in law's family flew the two of us home privately. A 3 1/2 hour car drive was quickly changed to a quick 45 minutes in the air-start to finish. That also did not involve security issues my new pacemaker would have created :) The Enis' are a wonderful couple and we can't thank them enough. It has been so good to be home and see my Grace and Emmy. They have been such sweet and brave girls through this time and I love them and have missed them so much. Jim's mother, MaryAnn (Nanny), arrived here Tuesday of this week to help out and keep the girls until we got home. We don't get to see her and Poppy enough- so her trip here to help was also a much overdo visit and bonding time for all of us.
Guess where I am now...Praising GodThis is Mollie and it's been my first chance to write since I was discharged earlier this afternoon. Jim and I are at a friends' place in Austin for the next few days. The pacemaker adds a little more to the recovery in terms of pain and movement at the beginning but I'm so grateful to be out of the hospital and to have my valve repaired and be under God's grace. I'm not going to mush on about how great my husband is......but HE IS. He is a rock and a Godly man and takes the best care of me.
One more..and hope fully last...bump in the roadPretty good night for Mollie. She's in the chair and sitting up as much as possible. The bump is that the two chambers of the heart are still not communicating with each other. Our doctor requested a consult with an electrophysiology cardiologist. After meeting with him he suggested a pacemaker be implanted since she's 4 days post-op. If her heart does regain its normal rhythm weeks or even months later, then the pacemaker will still be an important safeguard. Not the best news but still could be much worse. I've learned over the last several hours of my own research that pacemakers arent the suitcases they used to be and you dont have to be Dick Cheney to need one. The heart itself is doing great. Still no problems with the replacement valves. For that we are very grateful. She tolerated the pacemaker procedure this morning well. My own heart breaks for her because she was just getting into a little bit of a groove and now this. She got an MRI compatible pacemaker and we're told it will not affect her lifestyle in the least since she isn't a welder or a hockey player. She should be moved out of ICU today I'm hoping. If we don't get out of here soon, they'll be admitting me too. Please keep the prayers flowing. We've been so blessed by all of this.
Bump in the roadLast night Mollie started having some more pain especially in her right shoulder and around the chest incision. The meds helped but she was uncomfortable nonetheless. The girls were able to visit yesterday afternoon. That was great for all. We're so thankful for Mollie's brother Ben and his wife Stacy. The girls are not a concern of ours at all thanks to Ben and Stacy. Mollie took a couple of walks around the floor which was good but also very tiring. That might have contributed to her pain last night. We're still in ICU because of the temporary pacemaker. All other signs of recent OHS have been removed. There may have been an interruption of her heart's conduction system due to the sutures placed around the heart valve. She had a pretty sick little valve. Hopefully we'll get that issue resolved soon so we can get home. Please keep the prayers coming. I won't rest easy until we're out of here. I read all of your wonderful posts to Mollie and it really uplifts her spirits. We're so very blessed.
Another good nightWe're almost 48 hours post-op. Mollie is essentially free from everything except for the internal pacer wires. Hopefully the issue with her heart's electrical system is due to the swelling in the heart following the surgery. She's still in ICU for now while they monitor that. Her new valves seem to be working great. Im so thankful to God for that. She isn't in much pain at all thanks to the meds and she was able to sleep pretty well last night. She is up and going to the bathroom with assistance. Keep the prayers coming as I know you all will.
Remember the 80's? Not so tubular anymoreAnother step forward this am. Chest tube and catheter out. The less tubes the better. Once we get her natural heart rhythm back, the pacer lines can be removed. Ill be relieved when that happens. She's trying to rest (if that's ever possible in a hospital). I was thinking at about 3am this morning that if there was this much activity in jails, there'd be no prisoners. They'd stop committing crime to just stay out. The hospital and staff are very nice but it's still a hospital. I keep asking about pain meds. They're probably trying to run a background check on me. Its not for me people..although if you have samples....For our Texas friends that know what Central Market is, there is a huge one right next store to the hospital. That's been a lifesaver. Please keep the prayers coming. Until we get out of here, I won't feel comfortable.
A good nightAs we start day 2, last night went smoothly. Mollie had an incredible nurse, Brenda, who was very attentive to her pain and was able to keep her comfortable all night. She is very hoarse this morning but in great spirits. Brenda gave Mollie a sponge bath and brushed her teeth which helped Mollie's mental outlook tremendously. We're hoping to get the chest tubes out sometime today. The plan is to get her up and start moving around which I think will be good. They're getting her up in the chair for breakfast. Hopefully not too painful but it's another step toward recovery. I hear from the nurse that if the pacer lines can come out, Mollie would be able to take a hot shower.
Thanks don't even come closeI want all of you to know that I have read all of your messages to mollie. I'm not sure she'll remember but I can assure you she heard them. I will respond to each one when things normalize a bit. I just wanted to make sure you all realize how much they meant to us and especially to me in this roller coaster of a day. Mollie continues to improve although for those of you that have been through her journey know, the time spent in ICU can be trying. We have been blessed with an amazing nurse that is controlling the pain. Again please know that we send our love and I'll continue to give updates as needed. I've also learned in my encampment that I really need to get an ice chip machine. Greatness.
Listening to Mollie's heartThe nurse let Mollie listen to her newly constructed heart. Before today, she had a murmur that you could almost hear without a stethoscope. I hope she remembers her reaction when she didn't hear a murmur. I wish I had it on tape because I'm afraid she might not. There is slight rubbing sound like two balloons being rubbed together but we're told that is not uncommon after her type of surgery. She has good pain control thanks to the meds...and her first request was a ginger peach tea from Central Market..with lots of ice. A great ending to a long day.
ICU & no breathing tubeI can't believe how good Mollie looks. She has some swelling from all of the fluids that were pumped into her but the nurses tell me that won't last. Her hair looks great which I know Mollie would love. They just took out the breathing tube and in typical Mollie fashion she was cooperative throughout. The nurses tell me many people freak out when they remove that tube. I'm certain I would. She is still out of it but getting that tube out is another big step. I'm eager for her to wake up.
Two sweet words: In RecoveryJust met with Dr. Oswalt. The Ross went well. Her bicuspid aortic valve was very calcified and her aorta had a small anyerism as a result of the calcification. He repaired the aorta and reinforced the new root with Teflon strips. Her pulmonary valve looked great and was a great fit. He also said her old aortic valve was a true bicuspid which is not common. He said she may have some additional soreness because he had to do a little more tugging because she is such a small person. The next 24 hours are crucial so please keep the prayers coming. Ihope to see her in recovery in the next hour. I can't wait. Praise God.
Surprise visitThe weather is Austin this morning is amazingly comfortable. Nice breeze and shade in front of the hospital. As I sit on a iron bench under a huge oak tree and occasionally dab my eyes reading all these wonderful emails and texts and posts, up walks a dear friend from FW. He and his wife are in our small group at church. He says he was here on business but I like to think I know better. Im glad he came when he did because i think the hospital was going to call security to make sure that crazy bald guy (me) was ok! We laughed about several things unrelated to this surgery and then we hugged and he left. Just like that i was re-energized and upbeat. What a truly amazing God we serve, right? Also I just had some kid ask me if I was the wrestler Steve Austin. Is that a bad thing?
Word from the OR1/2 way through and it's going well! Keep those prayers coming were almost there.
The wait beginsBill and I just left the most important girl in our lives in the hands of exceptional medical professionals. We all met with Dr Oswalt in the prep room and he was very reassuring and optimistic about the outcome. Mollie and I were praying silently while trying to remain calm when I got the most wonderful prayer from a dear friend on my phone. I read it aloud for Mollie and it was very calming for both of us. It was sent from heaven at just the right time and was such a blessing. The hand of God. I'll keep updating as info comes in. I did take a photo of Mollie in her blue surgical cap and we had a good laugh about that. Inside joke. Keep the prayers coming like I know you all are. Jim
This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be gladThis is Mollie's husband Jim. Wow I don't know if I can get through this but here goes. Bill (mollie's dad) and I are waiting in the lobby of the heart hospital while Mollie is getting prepped. Once she has her gown and iv's in we'll be able to go back and spend some time with her until they start the heavy duty meds. Last night was incredible. Mollie and I laid in bed and talked and laughed and hugged and cried until finally grabbing a few hours of sleep. This morning in the hospital was the first time Mol broke down. She has been such a rock throughout this and I've been the basket case. It felt good to release some of that emotion for both of us. I guess this morning it finally dawned on both of us that this is finally happening. I don't know if the people that work here know quite how to handle a blubbering bald 6'7 inch husband but they better figure it out because I'm here like an embedded reporter for the next few days. I'll write again once I know the surgery starts. I want everyone to know that we feel the power of your prayers.
Six hours to goToday was a roller coaster of emotions. The day started off early with my pre-op at the hospital. My girls were with Jim and me which I think really helped calm all of our nerves. My sweet daughter Grace is a worrier and it was good for her to get some answers. We did some last minute shopping after the nurses told me to bring some warm pjs bc the hospital is cold. I'm really feeling good about tomorrow. Its strange to believe how calm I've been. I truly believe the flood of prayers has made me so calm. It was hard to hand off my girls tonight but they couldn't be in better hands than my brother and sister in law. I know things will go well tomorrow. I just want to get to the recovery side.
Austin BoundWe are loaded up and overpacked for our trip to Austin. We dropped our little Shih tzu, Bandit, off with our dear friends Carol and Jim Shaw. He is one 1of 5 puppies born to their little dogs, Sophie and Jake. He is so sweet and spends so much time with our cat, Bo, I think he believes he is a cat too. We know he is in great hands- Carol has already sent pictures and a video ;)
One week until surgery..seems like one yearThe waiting is excruciating. I think my poor husband is having more trouble at this point than I am. He keeps saying that he wants the bad heart valve and the surgery because seeing those he loves in pain is the worst kind. I'm staying as busy as possible. My husband sent out an e-mail to our friends and family and I was immediately uplifted by so many positive prayers and wishes. I've been so richly blessed by God with such wonderful people in my life. My fellow Ross brothers Chris, Jeff and Stretch have been amazing. I know this sounds like a broken record and even though I don't write as often as I'd like to, this forum has been a Godsend. My date of surgery is now August 2nd. I'm ready to do it and get on the road to recovery!
The date is set!..YikesWe went to Austin yesterday and had a second consultation with Dr. Oswalt. We were very satisfied with the meeting and set the date for the surgery for August 1 at 8:15. It's still so hard to grasp the idea of having open heart surgery when I'm free from any symptoms. Dr. Oswalt said that informed patients who take the time to educate themselves about heart surgery before symptoms arise are the smart ones. Many people ignore the advice of doctors resulting in symptoms that can result in tragedy such as fainting while driving etc. The fear is still there and I'm sure will remain until after the surgery. After our meeting, we toured the heart center where the surgery will take place and my recovery will begin. We were shown around by a very nice nurse who immediately asked after we told him who my doctor was if we were having the Ross. He went on to tell us that our doctor has patients from all over the world come to have the procedure done by him. That was good to hear. Overall a good,reassuring trip. We remain anxious but are glad that we have taken the next step.
What to do?My husband (2 daughters) and I met with Dr. Ryan on Wednesday. We discussed the Ross Procedure and he thinks I am a good candidate. I love to hear a dr say, "If my child were in your shoes, this is what I would recommend for him/her."
Getting startedThis is my first journal entry. I don't know why it's been so hard for me to start it. I imagine that putting it off makes the impending surgery seem less real...
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