In April of 2002 while I was pregnant with our baby angel, Abigayle Joy Patrice, we learned that I was dying unless I received heart surgery to replace my aorta which was stuck in open position. My heart was so swollen that it took up all of the space in my chest. I never would have had any symptoms if it had not been for my pregnancy. Abigayle was born on April 17th. My cardiologist in Denver wanted to put my heart surgery off for 3 months so that I could gain some strength after giving birth. At that time, we were planning a surgery in July.
Instead, I was lifewatched from the Wichita County Hospital to Denver in May when things went from bad to worse. By the time that I arrived in Denver, May 15th, doctors needed to wait to do surgery until they could strengthen me some more. I spent 8 days there while that was being accomplished. My life-saving surgery was done on May 23rd--9 years ago today. It was absolutely one of the most terrifying days in my life. There was no guarantee that I would ever see my loved ones again. At the time, Leighlyn was 5-years-old and Abigayle was 5-weeks-old. Leif and Lori Christensen took great care of our babies for over 3 weeks while I was in the hospital. Thank the Good Lord!!!
Mama, Aunt Neva and Stan's brother, George Blau, were in Denver to support Stan and I. Surgery took longer than expected for just removing the old aorta and installing my new mechanical heart valve that took its place. After the doctors had broken my ribs and pulled out my heart to work on it, they discovered that I had a previously unknown aneurisym in my heart. It was so close to rupturing which would have surely killed me, that the walls in that vein were so thin that the blood's bubbles were quite visible. It was also removed and a tube that is basically a very tiny PVC pipe was inserted so that the blood could continue to flow through my new mechanical heart valve.
After several hours, the surgery was completed and I was returned to the Intensive Care Unit where my doctors believed I would remain for the next few days. They did not believe that I would be capable of being removed from the life supporting respirator for 48-72 hours. They also did not think that I would wake up again until sometime the next day.
Instead, nurses contacted the surgeon the same evening and told him that my condition had improved so quickly, that the respirator was probably no longer needed. He came in to see for himself. He agreed so they took me off of the respirator. All of them were very surprised with all of this. Later that night, I awakened with the worst sore throat ever! The tube is plunged through your mouth and throat. I am sure that if the patient were not asleep when the tube went in, the pain would be HORRIBLE! It probably was no joy when it came out either. LOL! About the time that I noticed the severe throat pain, I realized that my chest hurt also. When I touched my chest, I realized that there was a very thick pad (of guaze) on top of it. Finally, it sunk in that I had just survived my surgery!
This pain was the most intense that I had ever had. Since doctors and nurses were not thinking that I would waken that soon, they had never given me a button to push to gain my nurse's attention. The pain continued to increase so I had no choice but to holler for her even though my throat was RAW. My nurse was not happy about me waking up so quickly. As a matter-of-fact, she was downright rude about it. I imagine that she was expecting an easy 12-hour-shift. I will not name the hospital now but it had a policy that there was one nurse per every patient. Until that evening, my nurses had just been the best. This woman had a boyfriend who was also working in the ICU. She was more intent in hanging out with him instead of me.
While I waited to get my pain medication, I remember praying to God to just take me right then and there. Just at that time, God presented me with two visions of my little darlings waiting in Leoti for me to come home. At that point, I apologized to God for my previous prayer and just asked him to help me get through the days ahead of me.
My surgeon and cardiologist were amazed when they came in early the next morning to see how well I was doing. They had never seen a patient who had gone through my previous surgery do so well so quickly. My stay in ICU was no longer needed. I was then taken to the Cardic Department of the hospital where I would remain for the rest of my three weeks.
After that, I came home to begin my life all over again with my two dollies. It took several weeks for my ribs to be totally mended. During that time, I could not lift my baby. Someone had to give her to me. I could not sleep in a bed for about 3 weeks. We were very fortunate and had a Lazy Boy sofa that reclined at each end. That is where I slept. It took me about 2 months before I was able to sleep on my side and 3 months before I could sleep on my stomach. The thing that took Stan and I a full year to get used to was the very loud ticking of my new valve. Over time, I learned that if I laid on my left side or my stomach, the noise was lessened. My doctors had agreed the the size of my heart would go do some but would never be the normal size again. Just a year later, tests revealed that my heart was the normal size. My doctors still cannot believe it!
Today, I am doing very well as far as my heart is concerned. I continue to see my cardiologist who is very pleased with my heart condition. My rapid recovery is due to my Lord. When I had my surgery, the Mechanical Heart Valves were brand new. Little is known about how long they should last. Some experts believe anywhere from 20-30 years. For as long as I have a MHV, I will have to take blood thinners so that the blood goes through it easily, therefore, reducing my chances of a blood clot there. When it is time for my next replacement, we will decide whether or not another MHV will be installed or if we will go with a natural animal valve. Natural heart valves do not last as long as the MHV do usually. Therefore, major surgery is required more often. Once I receive a natural valve, I will no longer need blood thinners.
My aneurisym was produced by my Tachysus and Giant Cell Arteritis which were discovered right after that surgery. They continue to attack my brain. That is what is responsible for me seizures. My neurologist has prescribed the best seizure drug that I have ever taken. My seizures are better controlled now than they had been since 1981.
My health problems have convinced me that no day should be taken lightly. Every day given to each of us, is truly a gift from God...