It's hard to believe 6 weeks have already passed since June 27th. Some days it seems like yesterday and others like forever ago. This past week has been a taste of what my immediate future will be like. My Mom has gone, sports have begun and "school stuff" is in full swing. Tomorrow is the children's 1st day. Cate will be in 5th Grade, Ella in 4th and Griffen in 1st. Juggling was once an act I could list on a resume, but lately my body continues to remind me of the magnitude of recovery required from open heart surgery.
There are times when I feel really good and full of energy and others when I get very tired and my chest feels heavy. Finding a balance between the 2 is my goal for this coming week. I tend to push myself to do "one more thing" until I really begin to feel the hurt before resting and that's definitely not the right course.
I think it's hard to compare my progress during weeks 2-4 to now. During those early weeks my primary goals were to rest, walk and do my resistance exercises and for the most part I felt really good. I've quickly realized driving here and there, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, doing laundry, caring for the children and family pet make for very full days. Things most of us active moms take for granted that we do day after day after day. I have always been one to never stop, it was rare for me to sit down during the day, I even eat standing up most of the time. Someone recently wrote that I'll look back on all of this one day and have a new appreciation for "normal". I can certainly see that as I sit and think about tomorrow.
For those of you who know me well, I'm usually not at a loss for words. I love to talk to people about everything. I enjoy camaraderie very much and get excited about life in general. One thing I'm struggling with a bit now is that I grow very tired after extensive talking, and I am hoping this will go away as my overall stamina increases. My precious 4th Grade Girl Scouts are going to need a leader with energy not to mention my 3 sweet children.
I'm going back to see Dr. Wolfe on Tuesday as my incision has decided not to absorb a couple of the stitches they put in. Apparently this is fairly common and is known as "spitting a stitch". Who would of ever thought there is such a thing?? They will remove the stitches and all should be well after that. It's the crazy little day by day, week by week things that keep this interesting for sure.
No matter what the circumstances, I still give thanks and praise for all of the wonderful things that have come from this journey. I can't even begin to say "thank you" enough to all of the people who have prayed for me, called me, visited me, sent me cards, flowers, food and gifts. It's been amazing!
Ironically, the medical books say it's not uncommon to feel depressed after this type of surgery, and although I wouldn't say I'm depressed, I have been crying easily lately. Some because I've felt overwhelmed at times, others when I see a friend's face and feel their love and compassion, or just when I realize this has been quite and ordeal.
So I'll close by asking you to continue to pray for me to be strong and to heal according to God's will, to be humble and not afraid to ask for help, to admit to myself when I can't go on and need to rest, and to just be able to say "I can't right now" without regret.
"The Lord searches all the earth for people who have given themselves completely to him, He wants to make them strong..." - 2 Chronicles 16:9
With just over 2 weeks before school starts back I'm feeling the need to spend as much quality time with my children as possible. Kids are amazing. They don't worry about the future, they rarely think about the past, and live life to the fullest in the present. We adults can learn a lot from them.
As I sit at our office desk with a pile of "to-do" stuff, I can hear them in the den playing and laughing with their grandmother. I'm going to join them as soon as I'm done writing this. I don't want to wake up one day and wish that I had spent more time with our kids while they were young. So, if you are a parent like me, stop and take time to be with your children. They are only young once.
I had 2 wonderful friends stop by today, one bringing flowers and the other the most awesome bag of goodies. Magazines, a great book called Love Does, a candle, Tic Tacs and gum, bath salts, the works! Wow, once again I am amazed at the generosity of the friends we know. My heart is full with gratitude.
As crazy as it sounds this surgery has been a blessing to me. It has affirmed my trust in the Lord on so many levels and it has allowed me to experience true friendship and grace.
I do have one question to other heart valve patients. How many of you have had clicking in your chest after surgery and how long does it last? I thought for sure I had popped my collar bone out of place the other night in the shower. I get these crazy bone shifts when I turn or reach for things. Needless to say it makes me very aware of the seriousness of my operation and the time still needed to mend. The Doctors assure me I have a nice callous of bone that has developed over my sternum but I still get the "willies" when I think about it.
Yesterday began the 2nd half of my recovery. We had a great appointment with Dr. Wolfe and his staff. He listened to my lungs and said they were clear and to my heart and said he did not hear any leaking at all. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." This was music to our ears.
I was given clearance to drive again, to lift things 20lbs or less, to do light exercise and to resume my normal activities within moderation. If at any time I begin to feel tired or pain, I am supposed to stop, take some Advil and rest until feeling better. Sounds easy enough right?
While I know all of this is great news, I am also being realistic that it may be several more weeks and possibly months before I'm fully recovered. There is still a lot of healing in the sternum and the nerves and tissues surrounding it. I just keep reminding myself that each day is a day closer to being back to my usual self. : )
There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't recall some part of this journey and all of the special people who've been on it with me. I am humbled by the love and support of my family, my friends, our neighbors and our community and offer my sincerest gratitude.
I thank God for another day to know and love Him and by whatever means he chooses to increase my faith today, I commit myself to that glorious end!
I'm excited to say that I will be traveling back to Northeast Georgia Medical Center today for my post operative appointment with Dr. Wolfe. In my usual fashion, I have a list of questions for him about my recovery thus far and what to expect over the next few weeks.
It's been another full week of good hours and some "not so good" hours. My body tells me when it's time for rest and as long as I listen to it, things usually improve. Fortunately, I've had so many friends stop by to walk and bring us wonderful meals which always brightens my day. This summer has been better than most because of the smiling faces and warm hugs of these special people. I really enjoyed my sister's visit a couple of weeks ago and wish she lived closer than Birmingham.
I'm anxious to meet a new friend today when I go to Dr. Wolfe's office. Ironically a lady here in Atlanta faced with a similar aortic valve condition as mine reached out to me through this journal and coincidentally has an appointment with Dr. Wolfe today also (wonder who orchestrated that??).
This journal has been a tremendous part of my healing, and I sincerely appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post words of encouragement and well wishes.
I will be in touch after my appointment, but until then...
"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24
I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted. A lot can happen in 7 days. Overall, I feel like I'm making very good progress. I've realized I feel the best during the 1st half of each day. I guess that's really not a big surprise as Mark and I normally get up at 5:30 each day because we both feel our best early in the morning. Of course I'm sleeping in until 7 or so these days. I've also learned that talking a lot no matter what time of day can really zap my energy.
I managed to sleep through the night 2 more times this week which makes me super happy each time. I'm working my way down to taking the pain medicine at bedtime only and using Advil and rest during the day. Rest is so important and so hard to make myself do at times. My normal speed is "busy" and being at home night and day makes it hard to resist busy-ness.
I was so fortunate to have had friends visit every day this week. Most days we incorporated a walk which is what I loved and desired. I'm so grateful for the sunshine we've had after all the rainy weather. I'm walking about 2 miles a day and doing my resistance band exercises as prescribed. I keep reminding myself it's only been 2 weeks. It's only been 2 weeks.
I go to see my cardiologist on Monday and to Dr. Wolfe the following Monday. I'm looking forward to both. I'm interested to ask about a few things I've been feeling to see if it's all "normal". For some reason I've had a lot of soreness behind my right shoulder blade and in my neck. I told a neighbor today that some nights I wake up and it feels like my pillow is made of rocks instead of feathers. I guess I expected to be tender on the left side where my heart rests. I also still have a little bit of a cough. Seems I always have to cough in the morning when I first sit up. I also noticed today that my lungs feel heavy if I lean over to pick something up. The only other thing is at times I'm very aware of my heart beat. Sort of like your heart feels when you are nervous - like it's in your stomach or your throat. I felt this at the hospital and Dr. Wolfe assured me it was normal and reminded me I have a really strong heart. It's just a strange feeling at times. I try to do some deep breathing to relax my thoughts and slow down the beat.
The children are active and enjoying their summer. Cate has a birthday coming up next weekend so we are trying to pull together a simple party. We continue to be blessed by friends, neighbors and co-workers with cards, flowers and food. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
Mark is doing great! He's my best friend and biggest fan as I am his. We go for a walk together holding hands almost every evening and this time together is priceless. I think he's probably a little tired of having to hear "how is Natalie doing?" Poor guy, I always joked with him saying that he was buying a defective model in me. He really is wonderful and is always helpful with the kids, the laundry, everything!
I'll end by saying I am blessed beyond words to know so many wonderful people and ask God to continue to bless me more each day. I thank Jesus for always being there on my right side holding my hand and for protecting me from evil.
Have a great weekend everyone and keep the messages and prayers for healing coming our way.
I think we are going to have to start work on an ARK soon. It has been raining since Wednesday and even though I painted my toenails sky blue to remind me of brighter days coming again, this much rain can damper anyone's spirits and energy level!
It's been a couple of tough days- with more chest pain which I'm chalking up to the sternum trying to heal and reconnect. I had a dream last night about the saw or blade used to separate my chest. Truly my only scary thought before surgery was that. I haven't ever watched a surgery and until I'm better I won't.
Enjoyed a wonderful visit from Nicole Kitchin yesterday. We were able to walk and talk together for a while and it was just what I needed. I welcome any friend to come walk with me as I have to walk at least 3x per day for 15mins. There are only so many hours I can sit or lay around reading or watching movies. I try not to nap during the day so I can sleep at night. Oh how I look forward to the night I can sleep on my side again.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July. Many of our local fireworks celebrations were cancelled due to rain. My Mom and I are watching the PBS program that aired on Wed nite from the Capitol -vey nice!
Loved seeing my kids yesterday, also realize how energetic and active they are. I'm definitely going to take friends up on their offers to help.
Thank you to my CRHP sisters for the generous gift from Instead of Flowers. Have a great weekend everyone and please keep the healing prayers coming.
For I will restore your health and your wounds I will heal says the Lord - Jeremiah 30:7
It's day 2 at home and things are going well. I'm sleeping at least 8 hours each night and managing mostly on Advil each day. Yesterday I was able to go 8 hours on the anti-flammatory before needing a pain pill, today it was 12 hours. I'm walking often and doing my rehabilitative exercises as prescribed. We continue to be blessed with wonderful friends and neighbors bringing cards, food and flowers! I think this is the most flowers I've ever received and my home looks so beautiful. Thank you everyone.
I've had a few visitors and have talked about my surgery several times. It's really hard not to tear up each time I relive the moment I heard from Mark that Dr. Wolfe was able to repair my valve and didn't have to replace it. For those of you who have been following my story for the last several months you know that was what I asked each of you to pray for..."that my Doctor would be able to repair my valve and not have to replace it".
Keeping my own valve was the best possible outcome of the 190 minutes of surgery that Dr. Wolfe performed. I know without a doubt that God perfectly orchestrated everything that occurred. We knew from the beginning that Dr. Wolfe is a genius - a man that God gifted with the ability to see the human heart just as He created it. It was his passion for heart surgery and God's will that has given me a new lease on life! For that I will always be grateful. Fortunately, I had the chance before leaving the hospital to personally thank Dr. Wolfe for spending the extra time on me to perform a very complicated Bicuspid Valve repair that have never been done before. I've been told that my Doctor was very proud of himself and so am I!!!!
There are at least 3 other God moments that I could share but I'll save of those for later posts.I've enjoyed a quiet house these past couple of days, but must admit I really, really miss my 3 children and our sweet little puppy Sophie. I'll get to see the children on Friday and Sophie comes home on Sunday. I know the kids are having the time of their life at "Camp UB" in Big Canoe. Cate sounded like it was Christmas morning on the phone earlier when telling us about getting their nails painted red, white and blue today before going to see Despicable Me 2. Re-entry into 1040 Ridge Tarn is going to be tough for them I can see. Praise God for Mark's parents, his sister and her family from Florida for being there to help with our kids. Thank you everyone. It truly takes a village. I would be remiss if I also didn't give a huge "thanks" to my loving and loyal Mom who is my Daytime caretaker here at home. She's still trying to convince me I need to hire someone to help with the laundry. It is insane I know.
That's all for today. My heart is full of love and gratitude as I enjoy another day giving thanks for my blessings.
Always nice to wake up in your own bed although we woke up at 3:30 a.m. since we forgot to change our alarm from last Thursday morning when we were leaving for the surgery :-(. That being said Natalie had a pretty good night after getting all the pillows situated so that she would stay on her back throughout the night. This will be one of the many adjustments she needs to make over the next 6 weeks. Now we enter into the phase of self control. As Natalie starts to feel better we know she will want to get more involved around the house. Please pray that she takes this time to rest and let God heal her body after such a major surgery. Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers. God Bless - The Uebelackers
Speaking for Natalie I think today we can finally believe that things will get better with each day. We met with numerous doctors and nurses yesterday to find the right medication balance for Natalie and she had a pretty good night of sleep. We had two special visitors this morning - Fr. Adam from our Church ( St. Jude in Sandy Springs, Ga. ) and Rob Stadler the News Director for Star 94 Radio Station here in Atlanta. Fr. Adam presided over a short service to pray for Natalie and a quick recover. Rob Stadler who had a very similar surgery at the same hospital with the same surgeon almost a year ago was kind enough to visit Natalie and offer words of encouragment as we head home today and begin the recovery process on our own without the aid of the wonderful Doctors and Nurses here at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. I am being optimistic that you might be seeing future updates on this Journal from Wonder Woman herself in the next couple days. God Bless - The Uebelackers
Four good hours of sleep then woke up with what felt like an elephant stepping on her chest. Once again we were told this is normal. The surgeon also told us that 70 and 80 year old patients recover from open heart surgery much better than young, healthy 40 year olds. The younger you are the tighter your muscles, tissues, organs etc. are and it is much more painful during the healing process. Older folks have more elasticity and the nerve endings are not as sensitive. Also, come to find out my Wonder Woman has not had a narcotic in over 24 hours. The docs also like you off pain killers asap so she has only been receiving anti-inflamatories and anti-nausea meds. After our meeting this morning we were able to convince the Doc to order up some stronger pain killers to make Natalie more comfortable. Looks like we'll be coming home tomorrow. They think she can leave today, but they are not feeling her pain. They said all of her numbers and progression look so good. She has done this with very limited meds which has made it more difficult so we want to stay one more day and leave when Natalie is feeling better. Another highlight for today is she gets to shower ( I know that will make her feel 10 times better ). The most amazing news we heard early this morning is that the repair made to Natalie's valve was the first of it's kind ever performed in the US. I truly believe all of your prayers allowed God to work through her surgeon to perform a ground breaking procedure. God is Good !! Love The Uebelackers.
Natalie enjoyed seeing the kids for the first time ( see "My Photos" above ). The rocky road to recovery has begun. We have a couple good hours then we have several with pain, nausea and anxiety ( all we are told are totally normal ). It seems counter intuitive, but all the things that are difficult and undesirable to do ( eat, walk, deep breathing ) are all the things that will make her feel better. After leaving the ICU we were transferred to a very small, dark room at the end of the hall with barely enough space to turn around. After the kids made enough noise during their visit today it put us on the radar and were we pleasantly surprised when the nurses offered to move us to a room twice the size in another wing. Now Natalie can get up and move around the room more freely. Tomorrow is another day and one step closer to a full recovery - God Bless - The Uebelackers
Day 2 - Post Op. Natalie had a fairly good night. The struggle has begun balancing pain, nausea and inflammation meds. They want to manage her pain so that she has the desire to walk the halls ( to avoid blood clots ) and practice her deep breathing to restore her lung capacity ( to avoid pneumonia ). Personally I think she looks great and has been working really hard on all the goals the nurses have given her. That being said she still feels like crap a majority of the time. They assure us ever day will get better. Natalie would like to thank the ladies of Livingston, Alabama who prayerfully knitted a healing blanket that she she has covering her chest. This blanket and her rosary from Jody McNicholas is providing her much comfort. Continue the prayers since Natalie still has a long road ahead of her. Love The Uebelackers
Natalie had a good night, but did not feel so good when they made her sit up in a chair early this morning. The nurses said they will push her to sit up, stand and walk since it is the best thing for her recovery. Considering she is just 24 hours out of open heart surgery the body takes awhile to adjust. Her vital signs are great and they are taking out all of the tube as we speak. Should be out of ICU by this afternoon. Depending upon how Natalie progesses she should be discharged Monday or Tuesday of next week. BTW - Natalie's birthday is tomorrow. She won't forget this one :-). The kids will be coming to visit her for the first time tomorrow. Thanks again for all the prayers and offers to help. Mark
Still not out of the woods, but the Doctor said the surgery resulted in the best possible scenario. He was able to repair the valve instead of replace. This makes him cautiously optimistic that Natalie will not require another surgery later in life. Natalie has opened her eyes and held my hand with her finger. She still is not breathing on her own, but they hope they can remove the respirator later this evening. She will be in ICU for one to two days. Thank you so much to all the prayer warriors who have been out in full force today and over the past several weeks. God is GOOD !!!
Natalie and I arrived at the Hospital @ 5:30 this morning. Natalie had a great attitude ( and smile ) see " My Photos " above. She went into the OR around 8:15. Won't have any updates till this afternoon. We love you all and can't thank you enough for the outpouring of love & prayers - Mark
Just enjoyed a nice dinner from Mellow Mushroom with my husband, mother, father and step-mom. Going to shower and do the 1st step of surgery prep. They gave me 3 giant wipes that I must use to sterilize my skin. I have to wear clean PJ's, sleep on clean sheets and repeat the wiping process again in the morning.
Received a call from the hospital about 5pm saying they would like us to be at the hospital at 5:45am (30 mins) earlier than originally planned. We are planning to pull out here at 4:30am.
This will be my last post for a few days, but Mark will let everyone know when I'm out of surgery tomorrow.
I have loved reading all of the guestbook entries and thank everyone so much for your love and support.
"I keep the Lord always before me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken." - Psalm 16:8
Just had a tearful "good-bye" with my children. I held them back until they were out of sight, and then the flood gates opened. I wanted to go to my CRHP (faith) meeting tonight, but I'm feeling exhausted. Planning to get a good night's rest and looking forward to tomorrow.
I want to offer my sincere gratitude for all of the thoughts, prayers, phone calls, emails and good wishes that have been coming my way. I am truly thankful for all of my blessings and ask God to continue to bless me more.
"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart: I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds. -Psalm 9:1
I woke this morning wondering if this is what Jesus felt like...knowing that it was necessary to endure a painful experience. Fortunately for me there are medicines to ease the pain. I have to pack the children's bags today and I find myself missing them already. Although they drive me nuts at times I don't like being separated from them for long periods of time, especially my 6 year old. He is very much a "mommy's boy". We love snuggling and praying together at bedtime and in the mornings. I'm going to miss that for a while. My girls will be fine as they always have each other, but sometimes little guy needs some extra attention. I've begun packing my bags for the hospital. My incision shield arrived the other day and I purchased 6 new pairs of Pajamas (all that button up the front) as I know they will be my primary clothing for several weeks. I'm finding so much comfort in friends and our community. It's been an outpouring of love and support. I love the devotional book and scripture - thanks Beth and Renee. Keep them coming. Off to another busy day!
I'm 4 days away from surgery and am feeling very loved and peaceful. While I still have to prepare the children to be with their grandparents and get some loose ends tied up around here, I am looking forward to Thursday. I'm hoping to do a little relaxing on Wednesday with a massage and a pedicure.