sarah's Heart Valve Journal

Joined December 3, 2011

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My Story

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    I am from: negaunee, Michigan

In my own words:

Hello. Thank you for taking time to visit my blog. My name is Sarah and I am 31 years old. I have had a heart murmur and mitral valve prolapse all of my life. I had my first heart cath when I was 2, but I don’t remember that one : )
I was having symptoms (like palpitations, super tired, short of breath), but blamed them on other things. Thanks to my fabulous, wonderful, in-tune physician, Dr. Cindy Anderson, at my yearly exam she listened to my murmur and wanted to follow-up on what she heard and the fact that I hadn’t had any testing in several years. She ordered an echo and that was that. I thought that it was, “no big deal” and proceeded.
When I returned to her office for follow-up for other issues, and hoping to hear about the echo results, I was a little dismissive at hearing what she had to say. I quickly realized I needed to start listening. She felt I needed to have further testing, with a better picture of my heart, with a different kind of echo, that looks at the back of my heart, a “TEE” or transesophageal echocardiogram. Dr. Anderson was clear, calm and kind in her explanation. I will always remember and appreciate that. I asked her for clarification, something along the lines of, “is this a big deal?”; still not thinking anything was really “wrong” with me.
Preparing for the TEE was a bit frightening. I would receive a light sedation for the procedure and that was the first time I would have something like this as an adult, (besides my wisdom teeth). I kicked my online researcher into high gear. I began searching for every possible outcome that may be found on this test, and then the road that may follow after that outcome. None of them were roads I had ever planned on driving down, or wanted to take.
The day of the TEE was made much easier thanks to my aunt Adele who has worked in the cardiology office for over 20 years. She also is one of the most trusting and calm people I know. The nurse who admitted me and was with me during the TEE was also amazing, Jonell, and her kindness will not be soon forgotten. When I was still drowsy and the test was over, it was Jonell who helped me understand what the cardiologist had just told me. “Do you understand that you have to have open-heart surgery?” No. No I really did not copy that. I wasn’t sure if I was that drowsy or if this was really happening. Jonell helped me transition from that harsh news to somewhere towards acceptance.
So, now, here I am, giving you the Cliff’s Notes of what’s brought me to where I am now, preparing to have my mitral valve repaired or replaced. Thanks to a self-proclaimed “loud mouth” and awesome patient advocate, I was able to expedite my appointment with my cardiovascular surgeon. That was truly a relief. Waiting around is the biggest anxiety. I’ve been face-to-face with and chatted with several celebrities by I’ve never felt more in awe of anyone’s presence like I did talking to my surgeon, Dr. Baldwin. I was confused about this after my appointment, because I talk to several physicians on a daily basis. Then my boyfriend reminded me…this one would be saving my life. He was helping me on a much different level than the other physicians I chat with at work. After a thorough talk with the surgeon and his nurse practitioner I received the date I’d been waiting for! My surgery date is December 14.
Since my career is focused on preparing children for medical procedures, mostly surgeries, I feel I am at an advantage going into this event. I am intimately familiar with the OR, the admitting process, the very competent, compassionate staff…but what I’m not as familiar with is what it’s like to recover from open-heart surgery. I’ve seen infants do it, yes. I’ve been with countless children as they’ve had their chest tubes slid out (I’ve even distracted them in Spanish while we’ve done it), I’ve prepared countless children for what it’s like to see their parents and siblings on a vent, I’ve seen my own father on one…but I’ve never been on one. Even though there’s a bit of unknown for me, I will use it to my advantage what I am familiar with. I will let my own words echo, the words I speak to the children. “it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel afraid, it’s okay to hold someone’s hand, it’s okay to ask questions,” and most of all, “I know you can do it.”
If you’re reading this, again I thank you. Thanks for being part of my support team! Your kindness is appreciated. I will keep you updated along the way. Either my friends or I will update this blog along my recovery journey.
<3 srh
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