Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Heart

     This past week was the 6th anniversary of my open heart surgery and I also had my annual checkup with my cardiologist, Dr. Kim. I first met him in the spring of 2005 when I ended up in the hospital with a heart infection. At that time I had known about the mitral valve prolapse (which means the valve doesn't close properly and blood regurgitates back into the previous chamber) in my heart for about 9 years and had been going down to London for my checkups for about 5. But I experienced extreme fever and chills at the end of April and was in the hospital (St. Mary's, of course, especially with their new cardiac centre) for several days after they determined it was a heart infection. I had to take some pretty powerful IV antibiotics and in fact had a PICC line inserted which stayed in for 6 weeks - it entered my upper arm and then travelled down an artery right to the heart. We rigged up an IV pole and I had to "hang a bag" twice a day to administer the vancomycin. It got kind of interesting when I pulled it out at a staff meeting or when cheering on the youth during volleyball at the Pitch & Praise camping event that year. I missed a fair bit of school during that time as well, which is pretty rare for me (and there was a lot more of that to come!).
     As a result of the infection, and the desire of Kitchener cardiologists to intervene more quickly, I saw a surgeon that summer, Dr. Ashe, who suggested we look at repairing the valve in the Fall. Here's an excerpt from the email I sent out the week before my surgery:

We set the surgery for mid-November but it was complicated by another possible heart infection a few weeks ago, when I ended up in the hospital again for 5 days. I'm now giving myself IV antibiotics (again) 3 times a day to fight that. The surgeon also feels it's better to get in to fix the valve more quickly and so now the surgery is set for the morning of Thursday, October 20th.

Beth and I have been very impressed with Dr. Ashe. From what we understand he would be recognized as one of the top heart surgeons for this kind of procedure in Canada. Plus, he is a very down-to-earth person to talk to, giving us lots of his time to answer questions and explain what he will be doing. As well, because St. Mary's Cardiac Centre is one of the newest around, it is equipped with the latest and greatest technology to ensure success. We feel very fortunate to have these people and this facility about 100 steps from our house.

Through reading of material, and at the pre-surgery clinic yesterday we know that recovery from heart surgery does take some time (for example it says I can't drive for a month!) and work. I certainly feel up to the challenge but am realistic enough to know it will be no "piece of cake". My last day of teaching will be this Friday, Oct. 14 (I've been working mostly 1/2 days the last couple of weeks). 

Finally, I've been very aware, over the last few weeks especially, of people's care and concern for me. Many have asked questions and wonder how I'm doing. Fortunately, at this point I feel pretty normal, health-wise and am in no pain (this of course will change after the surgery;)). I know that many are praying for me and I can't properly express how much this means to me. I certainly believe in the power of prayer and have seen a lot of evidence in the past months of how God's hand has been on this situation I find myself in. I so much appreciate the support everyone has shown to me. Please continue to remember my family (Beth and the children, my mom and dad). It's been said that it's often more difficult in these circumstances to have to stand by and watch a loved one go through it.

     I wish I had saved the updates I sent out after the surgery but the things I remember most are:
  • driving up north the weekend before the surgery, listening to a new Sara Groves CD when the song "It's Going to Be All Right" came on and I started weeping, as it spoke so clearly to me and my situation 
  • waking up after the surgery and having such a deep sense of thankfulness (which I apparently expressed over and over and over!)  
  • a terrible day (the 6th) in the hospital, where I got sick in the morning and then felt my body was in some sort of shock as every tiny noise was very jarring
  • Pastor Stan coordinating and working on building a new roof over our family room as I was in the hospital recovering 
  • the lovely taste of a homemade grilled cheese sandwich when I got home from the hospital
  • standing at our back window in the middle of the night experiencing an intense sort of euphoria (possibly drug related) and appreciation for life 
  • the love and support of so many people, especially my family 
  • the accomplishment of walking up our stairs for the first time, or walking a bit in front of our house
     Obviously this kind of event changes your life in significant ways and gives a new perspective on many things. My scars (chest one not very noticeable but they took an artery from my left arm to do a single bypass while they were in there) are a vivid reminder of how much I have to be thankful for. Oh, and my appointment with Dr. Kim went fine, though I did wear a Holtor monitor for 48 hours to make sure my heart is not in atrial fibrillation (in which case I'd need to go back on the blood thinner I took for many years pre-surgery).

No comments: