I just wanted to wish all my HVJ peeps a Merry Christmas. I hope all your new valves are working well. Mine is!!
This year has been eventful for my wife's health. At the end of June we found out that she had stage iv lung cancer, which is usually pretty bad. The good news is that we actually caught it fairly early and we've had some successful treatments. Her oncologists encouraging worlds to us were, "We're in good remission. Let's go for the cure."
This time last year I was trying out my new aortic valve. It was a rocky few months, but all is good now.
God has amazing timing. Last year was the year of my health issues with my heart. Just a few days ago we learned that my wife has some suspicious growths on her brain and lungs. We are not sure what all of this means, but we will probably be spending a few weeks getting it all sorted out. My wife has more life in her than anyone I know, so I know she will do great-- whatever comes her way. We learned a lot from my surgery last year and we know God is present every moment of this journey.
God has been so good to us.
For all of you starting this heart valve adventure … it gets better every day.
It's been about five months since my surgery, and I realize I haven't updated in a long time.
I've been feeling pretty well, even though work is keeping me incredibly busy. I'm really looking forward to Christmas break and the little bit of downtime that will come with it.
Last week I flew for the first time since my pacemaker was installed; fortunately it was pretty uneventful. My electrocardiologist did a reading on my pacemaker and said I've been having a number of tachycardia issues. My cardiologist wasn't overly concerned, so I guess I won't be either.
Really the only lasting things I have are a rapidly fading scar, reminders to take my daily Coumadin doses, and a very loud, clicking valve.
As I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, I was reminded how God has blessed me with this new cardio-hardware which will let me live many more wonderful years.
It was ten weeks ago today that I went in for open heart surgery.
I had my INR checked today at the hospital. (It was a bit low, but will get it sorted out.) It felt really strange to be back at that place. I hadn't been back for a couple weeks. Even though the whole experience of surgery was only a few weeks ago, it feels like it was a completely different life and time. I'm back into the full swing of life and keeping busy with work, and July feels like a million miles away.
My mind reminds me that I had surgery and I've got a scar to prove it, but it's honestly a bit of a vague memory. Hopefully, that is encouraging to those facing upcoming surgeries. It's pretty traumatic when you're in the middle of it, but it won't be long until all is back to normal (if there is such a thing as "normal").
I'm now in my eighth week of the post-op world. Terri and I met with my cardiologist, Dr. Krishnamurthy (probably my favorite doctor I've ever had). He said all looked great. At the end of the visit he told me (with a twinkle in his eye) to get out of there because he had sick people to take care of.
I've been driving and finished my first full week of work. Fortunately I have a non-physical job so it's no too demanding on the ol' ticker.
I started back at the gym this week too. I got a heart monitor which is helping me keep track of things. One really cool thing: I found out the gym equipment is linked to the heart monitor, so I don't need to wear the watch part to the gym.
I'm still not 100% sure of what kind of heart beat range I should be aiming for. The rehab nurse said between 120-130 is good. But I'm not sure if that range should increase over time. How much can it increase? How quickly? If anyone has ideas, let me know.
I'm glad to see a lot of good progress amongst the HVJ family.
I had a great six week check up with my surgeon, Dr. Winkler. He said everything looked like it should. He cleared me to drive, which is good since I've already driven a couple times this week (I'm such a rebel). I think Terri has been willing to give up her chauffeur job a few weeks ago.
Dr. Winkler said that in two more weeks all restrictions are off. I can do whatever I want, even start weight lifting with light weights. Wow! I think I'll start up group power in a couple weeks. For any chest work I'll use uber-light weight.
I had rehab today. I think it will be my last since I'll be crazy busy with school. I have a plan for doing cardio work on my own, so that should be good.
My open heart surgery was four weeks ago from today. After a few days of slipping some, I'm feeling pretty good lately. The stabbing pain I was feeling has changed into a mildly annoying random pain. A few days ago it felt like I was being continually stabbed with a steak knife near the bottom part of my incision. Now it just feels like an occasional pin prick.
My INR levels are staying pretty well within the limits. I started cardio rehab this week; I feel very young since I'm about 35 years younger than everyone else. This has been pretty humbling. A few months ago my usual workout consisted of 30-40 minutes of the treadmill going about 3.5-4 mph; with hill-like inclines; then I'd do an hour of weight lifting. Now, I can only do about 1.8 mph for about 25 minutes, and I'm not allowed to lift more than five pounds-- so I can't really do any lifting. Baby steps, right?
My friends and family have been very supportive. My sister-in-law visited from NY this last week; it was so great to spend time with her! My wife has been the greatest caregiver ever. She and Scamp took me on a great walk today. I'm feeling like my breathing has become stronger over the last day or two.
Anyway, the journey continues and work is only a couple weeks away.
Warning! If you have a queasy stomach, you may not want to view these pictures. If you are curious, click on my photos to see some pictures from the first week after surgery. Everything looks much better now!
I'm now seeing why this recovery thing is so up and down.
Over the last couple weeks I've felt great, but I feel like I've taken a big step back today. On Friday I took a long walk in our very hilly neighborhood. On Saturday we went on a long car ride (about 6 hours) to an amazing family reunion. Late last night, however, I hit the wall. Sometimes when I take deep breaths I feel a very sharp pain towards the bottom of my incision; it really hurts. This has effected my breathing, and I feel pretty wiped out. I'm just hoping this is part of the long journey and better days are just around the corner.
Anyway, I am loving keeping up with all my HVJ partners and happy to see everyone progressing so well.
I met with my cardiologist yesterday and things are going well. When I met with him my blood pressure was really low (I had also felt pretty faint whenever I would stand and walk); he ended up taking me off the blood pressure meds and I think that's helping a lot. He said everything looked good.
I also had another INR (the level of blood thinning) check. It looks like my levels are staying right in a good range. That's a huge blessing since a lot of people take a long time to get that regulated.
I went to a meeting with the cardio rehab place. I think I'm about 30 years younger than everyone there. Ha! I think it will be good to know where my limits are while working out. I hope to get back to the gym as quickly as possible.
So over all, things are going well. I'm still trying to find the healthy balance between staying active and getting enough rest.
Thanks to all who continue to support us with prayer and encouragement.
It's been about a week and a half since the surgery. I'm actually feeling pretty well. The pain is being managed with Tylenol and I've reached the top setting of the spirometer a couple times. I think I'll try to sleep in our bed tonight (I have been sleeping on the couch). I'm also getting my appetite back.
The last two days Terri and Scamp (our Cairn Terrior) took me for walks in the park. Tomorrow I go in for a test of the my pacemaker and an INR check.
I'm very thankful for my wife, friends, family and Netflix streaming!
It's been a crazy week! I went in for open heart surgery last Thursday; this morning I'm sitting in my living room drinking coffee and watching The Today Show. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
The Salem Hospital rocks. We were taken care of very well. There was good communication every step of the way. Some nurses were better than others. The best was Qaheed ("Waheed") from Nigeria. He was full of compassion and humor. He was the only nurse who changed my gown and cleaned a layer of surgery goo off of me (after surgery you look and feel like you've been dipped in a vat of Cheetos dust). (He told me "For the ladies I change their gown twice and wash their hair at least once.") I admitted to Terri that I formed a bit of a man-crush on Qaheed. The worst experience was with a nurse who was trained in the Navy. Right before her shift, a different nurse had put in an IV without properly reporting it in the paperwork. This bothered Ms. Navy Nurse a lot. She came in late at night and said that since the unreported IV was not properly cited she wouldn't use it and was going to stick me again and put in a new one. Her guiding principle was "everything must be done by the book". Since my guiding principle is "common sense trumps mindless bureaucracy," I firmly told her she was not going to insert a new IV and she would use the the undocumented one.
I learned that medical professionals are bit like third graders when it comes to using sticky tape. A third grader's philosophy when using tape for crafts is "the more the better." I think I've had more flesh-ripping tape stuck all over my body than is used nationwide every Christmas in wrapping gifts.
Cardiac surgeons are superheroes.
Open-heart surgery patients go through a lot of emotions. One minute I'm filled with awe when I realize I've gone through a massively invasive procedure that will allow me to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. The next minute I'm depressed by the realization that my traumatized heart is not 100% safe yet; I'm also dramatically dependent on others (I can't open a cupboard by myself).
I have the best wife ever. Terri has literally been by my side every step of the way. She selflessly watched over me when I was completely helpless. She showed me more love and tenderness than I could imagine. She valiantly captained the K-Team. All of my family have been incredibly supportive.
God is good. He gives and takes away. Every breath is a gift from him whether we acknowledge it or not. I'm so thankful he has given people the knowledge and talents to work wonders.
When I became a grandfather earlier this year I proudly adopted the moniker Pop Pop. With my new upgraded cardio-hardware, I'm now known as Robo Pop Pop!
Thanks to all who have visited (for those visiting pre-pacemaker, sorry for sleeping through your visit) and have shown concern. Onward to recovery!
Hi all, Terri here again. After a very busy July 4th, where Kent kept himself busy all day in the hospital with his new found energy, we checked out of the hospital at about 1:00 this afternoon. We are so relieved to be home!!
Kent is a bit worn out from cramming so much into yesterday (lots of visits, walks, medical tests, staying up late, and NO naps!) But he assures me that he will be back tomorrow to tell the story from his point of view. It's his one assignment for the day!
Love the fact that this site is here for friends and especially for fellow “Valvers” so we can share stories, learn from each other, and not feel alone. Blessings to you all, and if you are on the front end of this...I know it's scary, but learn what you can, find doctors you trust, and keep your faith-you'll need all three! I'll keep following your stories, and look forward to hearing all the amazing things you are able to do post-surgery!!
Today turned out to be a very good day! We woke this morning knowing that today held another procedure that seemed a bit scary. Kent tried to eat some breakfast since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink after that, and like you Jeff, the fruit was what tasted the best to him.
We decided to try and pass the time until the procedure by watching some movies. We watched a couple of them while we were waiting. Or I should say, I watched them, and Kent catnapped through them.
I think Kent’s biggest fear was that he’d gone through this whole procedure only to feel worse than before. That coupled with the fact that he was worried it wouldn’t work for him, and he’d be stuck in this “I can’t do anything without being exhausted” state forever. We tried to hold on to all the facts saying this would make things so much better, and the knowledge that God is in control, and SO many people were praying for us, but it’s always a little freaky when someone is going to mess around with your heart again.
About 45 minutes before the scheduled time for the procedure, Dr. Patel came in to talk to us. He was so great, and really took the time to explain exactly what was going on with Kent’s heart, and what he would do to make it get its rhythm back. In fact, at one point when I couldn’t quite understand what he was trying to get across, he just drew us a picture on the white board and gave us a little mini-lesson. (I made sure to take a picture so we could refer to it later).
They were running a bit behind at the cath lab, so they finally took Kent at about 3:00 and told us it would take about an hour. I spent the wait time with Hannah, my mother and father-in-law, and our good friends the Zinks. Having folks around sure helps to pass the time! About 4:20 got the message from the nurse that Kent would be back to his room in about 15 minutes, and that everything went well.
As I was telling the news to everyone in the waiting room, the Dr. walked by and I caught him in the hallway. He explained that the procedure went well. He place two leads on Kent’s heart; one on the atrium, and one on the ventricle. Kent had a lot of scar tissue on his heart, and the first ventricular spot he tried to place a lead on worked for a bit, but wasn’t a great spot. So he found another spot that he was very happy about. So now the chambers of his heart are communicating! What a relief!!
When they brought Kent back to his room, he could already feel a difference, and I could see it. His color was so much better, and his mind much clearer than before. He also said he couldn’t hear his heart making the weird slow “wooof, whish, wooof, whish” sound that he’d been hearing since surgery. Yay!!!!!!! (Christy, those !!!! are for you!!!!)
He was able to eat quite a bit more than usual for dinner, and may even get up tonight for a little walk! He is anxious to begin the real recovery phase now, and we are so happy to be through this latest ordeal. He may be here at least one to two more days since he lost a couple of rehab days, but I know he’ll make the most of it, and work as hard as he can to get out of here!
I’m so proud of him!!
Thanks for all of your encouraging words…they mean a lot!
Well, we knew there would be ups and downs on this journey and today we are coming down from the top of the hill a bit. The ups: Kent is recovering from the physical assault on his sternum and pecs quite well. He is not in much pain-mostly 2 on the scale today, and isn’t taking any narcotics-just Tylenol and something called Toradol which is an anti-inflammatory drug I think. The downs: his heart has decided to beat out of sync. ☹ Today has been a day of figuring out what we need to do about that.
Hannah (our daughter) stayed with me at the hospital last night so we could tag team the sleep/care. We were all exhausted and actually got a pretty good night’s sleep. However, as the continual alarms pointed out, Kent’s atriums and ventricles were not playing nicely together. We kept hearing words like, “it’s not capturing”. Still not quite sure what that means.
Our surgeon’s PA, Josh, came in to monitor the situation, and began comparing the pulse rate he was getting to what was showing up on the monitors. The monitors were saying Kent’s heart rate was 80 or more beats per minute, but when Josh listened to it, and timed it the old-fashioned way, his heart was actually beating in the high 40’s. Kinda low! Kent’s EKG showed that both parts of his heart were now beating, however, they were not in sync with each other. Josh told us he would call the cardiologist in on this and have him come talk to us. (By the way, his name is Krishnamurthy, but I keep wanting to call him Koothrappali-ala Big Bang Theory)
In the meantime, Kent got up to go for his first walk of the day. He got out of bed and up to the walker much easier this time. I could tell he was working hard to complete his goal of “the middle of the nurse’s desk”. He looked a bit pale and seemed to really be breathing deliberately with every step. By the time we made it to the chair to sit up, he was quite pale and a bit clammy. He sat in the chair for two hours and then made it back to bed where he slept for another 3 ½ hours.
After that nap and lunch he was ready for another walk. He determined to go to the post past the nurse’s station. Again, he gave it all he got, and made it to that spot. Like before, he was very pale and clammy, but made it to his goal. He came back to sit in the chair, pretty worn out.
The cardiologist came in about 3:30, did some checking on the monitor, the external pacemaker, and listened to Kent’s heart rate. He confirmed that based on what he’s seen and heard, that the upper and lower parts of Kent’s heart were beating on their own now, but in such a way that caused his heart rate to be low, and not get any better.
Bottom line, he recommended we get a pacemaker put in. No more walking until after, so Kent is relegated to his bed That will put his heart into a regular rhythm and he should begin to feel better right away. That has been the most frustrating thing for Kent-his mind is ready to attack the challenge of the walking (and walk more quickly than the older patients he sees!), but his body won’t let him do it without becoming light-headed and risk falling. It was a bit of a shock at first, but the more we learned about it, the better it feels. He just wants to get on with recovery and be able to do the things he needs to do to get home.
Right now the surgery is scheduled for 2:00. It is done under a local anesthetic, so it shouldn’t put Kent back too far. We will meet our surgeon who will do this procedure tomorrow. He is someone who specializes in this, and our night nurse said he is the one he would pick to do this procedure on him.
We are trusting that God will continue to heal Kent’s body, and that what seems to be a set-back is really the best course of action for him. If any of you have had pacemakers along with the valve replacement surgery, please let us know how it went for you.
Grateful for another day…(sorry for the extra long post!)
It's hard to believe that 24 hours ago we were trying to get pain under control, figure out what all the beeps, chimes and tubes were for, and trying to get Kent to a comfortable place in bed. We spent a restless night trying to manage pain and nausea…Kent’s mouth was very dry, but doing anything more than wiping the wet sponge over his lips caused more nausea. It was a long night!
But what a difference a few hours can make in this process. Today…so much progress has happened! About 6:00am this morning the night nurse had Kent stand up for the first time. Scary, but he did great! He took a couple of shuffle steps to the scale where they weighed him to see if he was retaining fluids…results, only about 7 extra pounds.
Throughout the morning, the nausea got better, and one by one they began removing the multitude of IV lines, tubes, etc. in his body. By lunchtime, he was off oxygen, and was up sitting in a chair for half an hour. Once back in bed, he had his first food-yummy chicken broth.
He had a good nap after that huge ordeal, and when he woke, found out it was time to remove more tubes. Out went the chest tubes and the catheter (I had to leave for those...kind of freaked me out!) Once the tubes were gone, it was time for the first walk…He was amazing, or as the PA called him, a rock star! He probably walked about 40 feet in all, and then settled in the chair for a rest. One more walk scheduled for about 10:30 if all vitals look good.
Right now he’s only hooked up to the external pacemaker. We are praying that his heart’s own electrical system will gradually take over the job in the next few days. It’s been a bit of an ordeal to get the pacemaker and blood pressure (too low right now) regulated to the point that the monitors don’t beep every 30 seconds-pretty disconcerting and annoying as well-especially when Kent (and maybe Terri) want to rest. Praying that that situation gets worked out soon.
I’m so proud of all the hard work he’s doing and his “go for it” attitude. I can’t imagine going through all he’s gone through, and then having to get up and move through the pain. He’s amazing! He IS a rock star! He’s my hero!!
Until tomorrow...when maybe Kent will write!
It's been a whirlwind of a day, but with great results! After receiving the call at about 9:00am about going on by-pass, I was prepared to not hear from the OR again for at least 2-3 hours. Surprisingly I got a call about an hour and a half later stating that things went more quickly than they'd anticipated, they were taking him off bypass, and that they'd be done with the surgery in about 45 minutes!! Wow, what a flood of relief and joy! (and tears!).
His after-surgery nurse whose name is Scott, came and introduced himself, and told me they'd be moving him up to his room as soon as surgery was done, and I could check with the CVCU about 1:00, and I should be able to see him then.
About 11:15, his surgeon, Dr. Winkler came to brief us about the surgery. They replaced his aortic valve "the opening was VERY small", with the St. Jude mechanical, and were able to repair his aorta by resecting(?) the aneurism, and reattaching the aorta to itself. No artificial aorta! This is what made the surgery so much shorter!
When I first saw him, it was difficult, but he was in good hands. Special thanks to Pastor Kevin, who showed up about the time his pain was pretty bad and I was losing it, and stayed while they extubated him...that was HARD!
Fairly soon after he began speaking he was cracking jokes, and the first thing he said was, "Can I go home now?!" I LOVE HIM!!
Right now his pain has gone from about an 8 to a 4, and I hear him snoring, so I know he's resting! The nurse checked his chest tubes and said he's never seen anyone with less output...so that's good, not much bleeding. Lots of machines that go ding, though!
So grateful to everyone who came to wait with me, and to the great support of the K-team. Thanks mostly to my God, for sustaining me through the wait, and bringing Kent back to me!
Wow! What a day!
We arrived at the hospital this morning at 5:30, and they took Kent back for pre-surgery prep. After about 35-40 minutes I was able to join him as they continued working on getting him ready. He was very calm and ready to "git 'er done!"
We met our anesthesiologist who talked us through all the different things she would do before, during, and after the surgery. She was very nice, and even talked to me more about the cooling process (for some reason, 60 degrees is just freaking me out!). After she put his arterial IV in, the rest of the family and one of our pastors got to come back and see him. Then the doctor came in and gave us the "ready to roll" sign, and off he went.
I've received 2 updates from the OR, one when they started surgery, and one just now to tell me they've put him on bypass, and that he is doing well. Now the waiting...but I know he is in good hands, both the surgeon's, and God's.
The last few days have been fun. Terri and I have spent the time with some of our best friends. Tonight we grilled steaks and ate with the family: Scott, Tausha, Harrison, Hannah, Mom, Dad, Tammi (sister-in-law), Sharon (mother-in-law).
Today was spent getting things together, paying bills etc. I had to have the jeweler cut off my wedding ring. I know I haven't gained weight since we got married, so I guess the gold in the ring shrunk. Weird!
I go in at 5:30am to check in and the surgery is at 7:30am.
Thanks to all for well wishes and prayers. I've received some great comments through Twitter, Facebook and here. Terri and I know we are being prayed for. Terri will have a lot of support tomorrow. Her mom, sister, our daughter, son, daughter-in-law, grandson, my mom and dad, and Terri's sister-chick Beverly will all be there to support her.
We are truly blessed with incredible friends and family.
I feel pretty calm right now. I have a lot of life to live and look forward to living it with a bionic hardware update.
I'm also at peace with whatever happens. I told Terri there is no way I'm not coming through this surgery with flying colors. If, however, I choose to go bungie jumping on the way home from the hospital, I'm not worried about the bungie cord snapping. Because of God's gracious gift through his Son, I know my after-life will be so much better than my before-death. I also know that Terri will be taken care of very well.
The next voice you hear will be Terri giving the good news of my surgery.
I just read this book over the weekend. It's about Ellen Charnley who had heart surgery (not valve replacement, but fixed wholes in her heart). She had a pretty tough recovery but ended up completing an Ironman triathlon only eight months after surgery. Wow!
"Put a Little Love in Your Heart" is the title of a Dolly Parton song; it's also what happened today.
Terri, Hannah (daughter) and I spent most of the day with some of our bestest friends ever: Steve, Laura (along with Step-funny and Abby), Keith and Bev. Steve, Laura, Keith, and Bev are the friends that we have experienced the best and worst of life with since our college years. We can be real with them; we can laugh with them; we can cry with them.
We had pizza, pop, root beer floats. We laughed till we cried. Terri and I were incredibly moved when they took quite a bit of time to pray for us. It was so humbling and uplifting. It was just what we needed.
Blessings to all.
Here's a fun list for my music loving friends: http://www.listology.com/list/songs-featuring-heart-title
Terri and I continue to ride the emotional roller coster. At times it feels like we're about to go down Niagara Falls in a rubber raft; the next minute it feels like I'm just undergoing a routine root canal. Where is Aristotle when you need him? (50 points to whomever can reveal the reference.)
I'm remembering my brother Kevin today; he would have been 52 today. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kevin passed last December after bravely fighting cancer for seven years. During that time he courageously underwent so many procedures that never guaranteed him much at all. The last time I saw him was in October; we both knew it would be our last time together. As we hugged goodbye, he whispered in my ear, "take care of your heart." So even though I'd much rather just pretend nothing is wrong (ah, denial), I will face this battle so that my big brother can be proud of me. I was so proud of him.
Ok . . . now to continue pursuing the balance between "enough helpful information" and "the deep ocean of obsession".
News Update: Release Date for Kent 2.0 set for June 30th
Journal posted on June 23, 2011
We talked to the surgeon's scheduling secretary and the date is official: surgery June 30th at 7:30am/Pre-op June 28th.
Receiving a fixed date makes it a little too real, Terri and I were a bit shocked when they told us the surgery would be next week. Over the last few days the emotions have gone through a million different stages: fear, hope, panic . . .
My current coping device is picturing Steve Jobs announcing my new heart features as an upcoming hardware upgrade.
Picture Steve Jobs in black turtleneck and faded blue jeans: "Kent has been a pretty good model, but we think we can make him better. Kent does pretty well in the classroom and working Apple gadgets. Lately, however, he's been crashing after extended periods of running simultaneous programs. Our engineers have decided to upgrade Kent with a new heart which will greatly increase his workload. Kent will now be able to NOT fall asleep after mowing the lawn and reading a newspaper. We think our customers will love the upgrade. We're calling the new model: Kent 2.0" The crowd goes wild!
It could happen . . .
Again, thanks for all the support. Terri (team captain of the K-Team) and I will be leaning heavily on y'all over the next few weeks.
I had my cardio cath/angiogram yesterday. The most painful part was the IV. My veins like to play hide-and-seek. I usually hydrate heavily when I know a nurse will be vein-hunting, but since I couldn't drink anything for 6 hours before, I was dehydrated. Inserting the IV was a bit like fishing for a deep-bedded sliver. Ouch! (Another strange experience: the nurse saying, "I need to shave your groin area." -- If I a nickel for every time I heard those words . . .)
The procedure itself wasn't too bad except I slipped into atrial fibrillation. They had to give me an extra dose of sleepy juice before firing up the paddles. The shock (which I didn't feel since I was out of it) got me back into a proper rhythm. (The Dr. said this slip into a fast heart-beat will likely show up again after surgery, but they can give drugs for it.)
Dr. Krishnamurthy did the cath. He said the arteries were clear and that the heart pressure was good. We were also able to meet with my surgeon, Dr. Winkler. Terri and I both feel good about him. He seemed to really care and took time for us even though it was already 6:30pm and I'm sure he would have rather been other places.
So it looks like I'll need an new aorta valve (mechanical) and part of the aorta itself replaced. Both Dr's Krishnamurthy and Winkler concurred on the fact that the section of aorta needed to be replaced since it was enlarged.
So right now I'm waiting to hear from Dr. Winkler's office about surgery date.
Question for vets: Dr. Winkler said that part of the aorta fix will involve cooling the body down to like 60 degrees F. Supposedly this adds time to the procedure. Is this a common practice?
Thanks for all the support. It's great to have so many great people on my team. I'm thinking of calling all my supporters the K-Team *cue A-Team theme song swelling in the background.
It looks like I'm likely on my way to a bionic aortic valve, which means I get to be friends with Coumadin for a long time.
I was wondering if any artificial valve recipients still use old fashioned razors or have switched to electric razors for shaving. Or does it matter? It seems that a minor shaving nick could be a real bummer.
I was wondering if anyone else is/was confused about their symptoms. I have been thinking I'm asymptomatic, but I'm not sure if this is real or if I have been tricking myself into thinking I'm healthier than I really am. (Does that even make sense?)
Anyway, doing yard work recently brought on a bit shortness of breath. I'm not sure if this is due to asthma brought on by allergies (which I sometimes get) or if it is due to the fact that my aorta is limiting my blood flow.
Then I start to think that maybe I'm imagining the shortness of breath since my aortic opening is shrinking and my subconscious is telling me I should have some shortness of breath.
Anyway any thoughts from veterans would be welcomed.
I realize this is a bit random, but that is what journaling is for, right?
There's only a couple days until my angiogram. After that happens, things officially get into motion. The biggest concern now is timing. I need to get the surgery done ASAP so that I can be ready for Fall Semester.
I talked to the secretary of the surgeon we hope to use, and it sounded like the timing might work out.
Also, I had a good teeth cleaning yesterday. I've heard that you need to have clearance from the dentist saying there's good oral health. I actually have cleanings more often than usual and my oral hygienist said my teeth are in great shape. So as Bill Murray would say, "I got that goin' for me."
When I was young the doctors informed my parents that I had a heart murmur. The doctors monitored it but weren’t too concerned. As I grew older they informed me that I would need aortic valve replacement when I was older. When you’re young “when you’re older” is an eternity away.
Over the last few years I’ve been seeing a local cardiologist. I’ve received yearly echocardiographs and check-ups. A few years ago my condition was categorized as moderate. Last year my condition was upgraded to serious.
Last week I had my annual echo. Today Terri and I met with Dr. Wasenmiller. My heart condition is now “critical”. The technical cause of my problem is a bicuspid aortic valve. This basically means that my heart is having problems pumping blood. The aorta valve should have an opening of about 2.5 cm. My opening is now .6 cm.
Even though the diagnosis is pretty serious, I actually feel fine. I’ve been exercising regularly and recently enjoyed a 16 day trip to Scotland, England, and Ireland without feeling overly exhausted.
Anyway, Dr. Wasenmiller wants me to get a valve replacement sooner than later. So it looks like open heart surgery for me this summer.
I have to admit that this is a bit scary. After all, who wants to have someone crack your chest open, stop your heart, wire you up to a mechanical heart machine, cut your heart open, take out an old valve, sew in a new one, sew up your heart, start the beating again, and then wire your chest back up? Not me that’s for sure.
Even though the idea of this surgery is sobering, the good far outweighs the bad. I’ve been told this surgery is like being hit my a truck; that’s the bad.
Here’s a list of some of the good.
1. I live in an age where technology can identify heart problems before they get too serious.
2. Technology has perfected AVR (aortic valve replacement) surgery. There is a 97-98% success rate.
3. I have a non-physical job with downtime during summer.
4. My wife and I are very fortunate to have jobs that provide health insurance. (Huge blessing!)
5. I am in good shape and am not really suffering from typical symptoms. My recovery should be eased by being pretty healthy.
6. I have faith in God who is able to do the impossible.
7. I have incredibly supportive friends and family. My church family is the real deal. My extended and immediate family are the best ever. I never doubt their willingness to always be there for me.
8. I have the memory of my brother who passed away last December. Kevin bravely fought cancer for seven years. He endured some of the most grueling procedures ever without the guarantee of success. His legacy of bravery and good humor will be my motivation.
9. I have the most incredible wife ever. These next few months will be full of stress, pain, frustrations, fear, and hope. I know I can’t do this alone, and my partner and best friend of nearly 30 years will be by my side for the entire ride. Her love and support is the only reason I can do it.