Christmas Day came and went without a tree. I love decorating for Christmas and the tree is my favorite, but I just didn't have time to get one up and decorated. As a matter of fact, there were other decorations that stayed in their boxes in the spare bedroom and that’s where they’ll stay until next year, hopefully, a better year. 2020 has been very difficult to say the least and I had been looking forward to the Christmas Season to be the bright spot, but it wasn't the Christmas I was planning or hoping for. No parties, baking, shopping (I had to buy everything online) and fewer decorations. It was much more low-key and maybe that’s by design. Maybe God stripped away the frivolous to help me focus on what Christmas is really all about; the birth of a child that would bring hope to the world. Jesus wasn’t born with a lot of fanfare in a palace to a prominent family, but in a stable to a poor couple who were traveling. But doesn’t it seem appropriate that our Shepard was born in a stable?
I should have known that 2020 was going to be a challenging year when I started the year with a root canal and it went downhill from there. Plantar fasciitis, a severe reaction to the Shingles vaccination, and surgery to remove my gallbladder among other, non-health, issues. I had to go through the cholecystectomy alone. Because of Covid they wouldn't let my husband in the surgery center. It made me think of all the people having to go through heart surgery alone and how scary and lonely that must be.
The day after Thanksgiving I was back in the ER passing a retained stone. Oh holy cow, that was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life! There were several patients in the ER with Covid so it was a little nerve-wracking and sad. I was just beginning to feel normal again when we had to travel to Tennessee because my father-in-law had fallen and broken his hip. The surgery went well but other problems were discovered and we started on a very painful journey that ended with the passing of a much-loved man, just five days before Christmas.
So this was the year without a Christmas tree. God took away the distractions so we could get back to basics and put the focus where it should be, on His Son and the miracle of His saving grace. This was the year of deepening faith and strengthening resolve.
I will be praying for each of you as you go through your journey and you are welcome to reach out to me anytime if you need someone to talk to or pray with. God bless you all!
First Ironman 70.3 in the books! And just 20 months after surgery. God is good :-)
Never give up on your goals. It’s easy to become depressed when you get the diagnosis, to think your dreams just evaporated, but with God anything is possible!
No Reason to Fear
Journal posted on June 9, 2019
Did you know that God tells us in the Bible 365 times not to fear? That's once for every day of the year! My favorite verses are Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." He wants us to turn to Him and to trust Him. He can do what we cannot!
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26.
I'm getting stronger and feeling good! I completed another sprint tri and this time I won my age group. I didn't post that to brag, but to show you what's possible. My strength and ability comes from my Heavenly Father who loves me and always has my best interest at heart. All that I am, all that I have, I owe to Him.
Sprint triathlon six months post-op. Wahoo! Never give up on your goals. Just find the right team to help you get there. And don't forget to include God on your team!
6 Months Post-Op
Journal posted on July 20, 2018
I have been lax in my journaling so an update is well overdue! I'm doing great! I went through Cardiac Rehab and highly recommend it. It was such a confidence builder and I loved getting to know the other patients and hearing their stories. It was as good for me emotionally as it was physically. I actually miss going!
I'm running, swimming, biking, strength training and doing yoga. I will compete in my first triathlon since surgery a week from Saturday. My cardio told me to do it just to do it and don't try to race it. He's concerned about me doing too much too soon and I can understand that so I'll follow his recommendation. It's amazing to me that I'm ready to do a tri just 6 months after surgery!
It pays to be healthy and fit going into surgery so don't use your diagnosis as an excuse to sit on the couch and eat more than you should. Eat a healthy diet and exercise as much as you can, even if it's just walking for an hour a day. Do some body weight exercises except push-ups and sit-ups. I was told to avoid those until after surgery and my doc gave me clearance. Open heart surgery is very traumatizing to your body so you want to be as healthy and fit as possible when you go in. Your body will thank you!
The two pieces of advice I have:
Use Biofreeze gel for the back pain (mine was pretty intense!) and
Keep looking forward. There will be times (especially in the beginning) when time seems to stand still and you wonder how you're going to get through it, but over all, the time passes very quickly and you will be amazed at how fast you progress.
At home in Alabama and doing great! Walking 2.25 miles most days, too cold today though. Off all meds except Aspirin and Iron. Back pain is almost completely gone, but those internal stitches are annoying. I'll be really happy when those final dissolve! Right now my biggest issue is cabin fever. The doc doesn't want me going out much due to the threat of the flu so I feel like I'm under house arrest. My hubby takes me for a drive once in awhile which usually involves a trip through the drive thru at Starbucks. Friends have been bringing us dinner most nights which is very much appreciated, but their company is even better!
I can't get over how good I feel just 3 weeks post-op! I can go up and down the stairs, sleep horizontal (that is such a big deal for me!), and walk 2.25 miles. Praying I keep doing as well as I am now.
Dr. Stelzer and Mount Sinai were extremely good to me and my family. The CSICU nurses let my husband and my mother come and go at will all night and the floor nurse let my husband stay with me in a reclining chair. They were always friendly and available if I needed anything. I can't say enough good things about them. Dr. Stelzer spent an hour with us at my post-op appt. We were flying home that afternoon and he asked us to send him an email when we got home so he would know we arrived safely even though it would be late. And he responded to our email immediately! He is so accessible to his patients. Definitely makes you feel better and a little more relaxed.
I'm up to walking one mile on the treadmill twice a day. I walk slowly to keep my heart rate down so it seems to take forever, but I still enjoy it. I'm sleeping better and the back pain is much better, but the sites where the EKG patches were now have an itchy, painful rash. My hubby went across the street to the drugstore and bought some hydrocortisone cream. Hopefully, that will take care of it. Seems odd that the rash wouldn't appear until 3 days after discharge. Oh well.
The first few days after surgery were every bit as difficult as I thought they would be, however, my recovery has been much faster than I thought it would be so I'm very happy. So hang in there and remember, "And this too, shall pass."
The surgery went really well. It's been a rough few days, but I'm feeling SO MUCH better today! I was discharged from Mount Sinai yesterday afternoon and now we are in an apartment until next Monday then I get to go home. I had a problem with depression in the hospital, but adjusting my meds and getting out of there has solved that problem.
I understand now why God brought me to Mount Sinai. I'm Ross number 636 for Dr. Stelzer but he said he had never seen a valve like mine before. It was a first for him. In spite of that, he had the experience and knowledge to do what needed to be done. God is truly merciful and loving!
My body didn't respond in the typical way. My kidneys got rid of the excess fluid right away and my blood pressure and heart rate are normally low anyway so when they pumped me full of diuretics and BP meds it dropped too low (85/50) and they had to give me a fluid bolus to get it back up. I have a minimal amount of swelling on my chest, but never had any in the feet and legs.
They did an echo while I was still in the hospital and it was normal. NORMAL! I haven't had a normal echo in 13 years. And there's no more murmur. So amazing!
My chest feels really tight and it hurts a bit, but most of the pain has been in my upper and middle back. It got pretty bad and I was not prepared for that. My husband went to the drugstore and bought some Biofreeze (after getting permission from the surgeon) and that helped a lot. I highly recommend it. I've been using it for a few years now after intense workouts and tough races. Turns out it works great for back pain after heart surgery, too.
Thank you all for the prayers and well-wishes. You have been a blessing :-)
I'm praying for those of you who are still waiting for surgery. God be with you!
Got in late last night. After being shut down for two days because of the storm and then the flood at JFK, Newark was a zoo, but at least we’re here. Having breakfast at the Corner Cafe then we’re going to get some groceries. We are staying at an extended stay hotel that is actually an apartment building. We have a one bedroom with full kitchen. Pre-ops tomorrow then surgery on Wed. He said I should be in the hospital about 5 days and then another week in the apartment. We’re scheduled to fly home on the 22nd. Flying a week after open heart surgery is scarier than the surgery itself! I know it will be a huge relief to get home.
We’re going to the Natural History Museum this afternoon to try to relax and have a little fun. God has given me all kinds of signs that I’m going to be fine. It’s going to be hard, but I will be fine. Just ready to finally get it over with!
We met with the pediatric surgeon and liked him, but he has only performed 100 Ross Procedures and I’m just not comfortable with that so Tony and I flew to New York City to meet with Dr. Paul Stelzer at Mount Sinai Hospital. He seems to be the expert on the Ross . I didn’t want to have my surgery in NY! That’s going way outside my comfort zone so I prayed and asked God if that was really the right decision. Then I opened my Bible to a random page and saw Ecclesiates 11:1, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” I didn’t understand what that meant so I read the commentary at the bottom which said “Be adventurous, like those who accept the risks and reap the benefits of seaborne trade. Do not always play it safe.” Wow! Ok so I guess we’re going to NY!
We talked with Delta Airlines and they assured me that they will take good care of me on the way home. Flying just a week after surgery is not a pleasant thought! We booked a room at the Marmara Hotel and so did my parents, sister and brother. I'm so happy they will all be able to go!
My husband and I are both emotionally exhausted. Just ready to get it over with and start the healing process. I know God is with me and will take care of me. I'm praying He gives me peace.
I was supposed to have my AVR yesterday, but it didn't happen. They took me to the OR, got me ready, then did a last minute TEE and discovered that the valve the surgeon chose was not going to work. Apparently, the chamber is smaller than expected and the flow area is narrow due to musculature so a prosthetic valve would not increase the flow any more than I have right now. So the surgeon decided not to continue. Glad he did the TEE and didn't cut first! It was quite a shock to learn this after waking up in PACU. I was devastated because I was ready to just get it over with! It was even more of a shock to my family. The nurse called out to the waiting room just an hour after they took me back and told them that the surgeon was coming out to talk to them which, of course, scared them to death. They thought something had gone terribly wrong. My mom told me that my poor husband completely fell apart. I really hate that they had to go through that!
The surgeon told us that the only viable option for me is the Ross Procedure and he made an appointment for me with a pediatric cardiac surgeon who does it. I will go to the appt but I also want to do some research. The Ross is complicated and most surgeon's don't do it so I need to find someone who has done a lot of them and does them routinely.
We have been thrown for a loop for sure! I thought this would be a straight-forward AVR and was feeling very lucky I didn't have the complications some of you have had. That changed in a heartbeat! Advice is welcome!
My surgery will be at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN next Wednesday. We drive up there tomorrow for all the pre-op stuff and a teaching session. I think I have everything ready. Bought a recliner and several shirts that button down the front. I have already laid everything out, but will wait to pack until Tuesday. We travel to Augusta, GA this weekend to watch my training partner compete in the Augusta HIM race, the race I was training for when my cardiologist called and said "stop." It will be bitter sweet for me, but I am so excited for her and I know one day I will get to do it, too!
God has really been talking to me the last few weeks, getting me ready for this and letting me know He is with me and everything is going to be fine. A few weeks ago I had a moment when I started second guessing my choice of surgeon. I told God "I'm not at peace with this! I don't care who you choose, I just need to know without any doubt. I'm so not at peace!" Then I pulled up Facebook on my phone and saw that my friend had posted his daily devotion. The first line said "Be at peace and trust in the Lord." I felt warmth as if God was giving me a hug and I knew. I started bawling like a baby! He has done a lot of things like that lately. It's amazing just how much He cares for us.
It's going to be a hard journey, but there are wonderful blessings waiting for me. I just have to keep my eyes focused on Him.
Hello everyone. My cardiologist informed me a few weeks ago that my aortic stenosis is now severe and that I need surgery to replace the valve. I have already met with one surgeon, but neither my husband nor I liked him. I'm a triathlete and was in the middle of training for my first Half Ironman Triathlon when this happened and my goal is to get back to training after recovery. This surgeon evidently does not have any experience with athletes and told me to "find something else to do." So I have an appointment with a different surgeon on Monday. I would really like to have a mini-thoracotomy instead of a sternotomy. That makes finding a surgeon more difficult as most don't use that technique. Any recommendations?
Hopefully, I'll find the right surgeon for me soon so I can get this behind me and get back to my life!
I really enjoy reading all the encouraging posts you guys write to each other. What a great group! I'll let you know as soon as I have a surgeon and surgery date.