Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Valve!

A year ago today my mom went through open heart surgery and had her atrial valve replaced. She had a rough time with the surgery and the few days immediately following. Here are some of the emails I sent out to the family as all this was going on.

January 25, 2007: Hi everyone...just wanted to let you know that my mom is being admitted to ****** Hospital this evening. She's had an atrial valve (in her heart) issue for several years now and has been doing fairly well with it because of her diligent workouts at the YMCA. She knew that she would eventually have to have atrial valve replacement surgery. In fact, her plan was to discuss the surgery with her cardiologist at her semi-annual appointment this afternoon. She thought that if she had it now, she would be all recovered for their annual trip to Myrtle Beach this summer.

She saw Dr. R at 3:30 this afternoon and he told her to go to ****** Hospital as soon as she could. Apparently she was in atrial fib, which in layman's terms means that her heart was beating extremely fast. She said that they couldn't even take her blood pressure because it was beating so fast. Dr. R said that she will be admitted and will have a heart cath done tomorrow. I asked her if she would stay in the hospital until they did the surgery and she said that she had asked Dr. R the same thing and his response was to take one thing at a time.

So for now, all we know is that she is being admitted this evening (they were en route when she called me) and will have a heart cath done tomorrow. I will let you know how things go with that when I find out.

January 29, 2007: Hi is the latest news on my mom:

Saturday they x-rayed her teeth. Around 4:45 pm today they took her to the dentist there in the hospital, just as Ted and I got there. When she came back, she said that the dentist examined her teeth and cleaned them. Apparently this is all part of what they now do before heart surgery.

She commented today that this whole ordeal is no longer "fun", hahaha. I can't even imagine.

Ted and I were there Friday night when the cardiologist came in to talk about her heart cath results. He said that there was good news and there was bad news. The bad news is that her aortic valve is in TERRIBLE shape. The good news is that there are NO blockages! Although that's pretty much what we thought, it was nice to hear it "officially."

Her surgery is scheduled for 8:00 am Wednesday, and at that time they will replace her aortic valve with a tissue valve, formerly known as a "pig" valve, and NO, it does not really come from a pig! The nickname has something to do with the tissue that the valve is made of and how it's similar to that of an animal....or something like that.

As you can imagine, my mother is not the best patient in the world, HOWEVER, considering everything, she's not doing too bad. She can tell me all about each nurse she's had, and even called the dentist "a red-headed dago"....can you believe it? And he was a very nice man! He said she was a little ornery, imagine that.

And for those of you wondering how my father is handling all of this...well, he's actually doing quite well. I've told him to let me know if he needs anything and he keeps saying that he's in good shape. This evening mom said that if dad needed anything from the store, he would go get it himself. I asked her if he'd ever been to Buehler's before (our local grocery store) and she replied that she thought he had been in there once...a L O N G time ago!

I've suggested that she come here to our house to recover when she gets out of the hospital and that dad could come too, but they both said thanks, but no thanks. I understand that she wants to be in her own house, but I just thought it would be easier and I could do their laundry and cook for them and everything would just be right here. You know how independent she can be.

Thank you all for the good thoughts and prayers...we really appreciate it. If you could keep the prayers coming, that would be great too. Apparently this is a pretty routine surgery for all those involved...EXCEPT the patient! It should last around 3-4 hours and I will let you all know how she gets through it.

January 31, 2007: Hi everyone....well, it's been a long day, even though it's only 4:15 pm. We all got to the hospital by 6:30 am and got to spend some time with mom before they took her down to the surgical waiting area. When they took her down there, we were able to be in there with her while the nurse anesthetist came in and talked to her, and then while the surgeon came in to talk to her. After they took her, we went out to the cardiac waiting area. They had a family liaison who was just wonderful! They also gave us a beeper and told us they would beep us a couple of times throughout the procedure, and then we were to call and they would tell us what was going on. Michele, our liaison, told us exactly what would be going on and when we could expect to be beeped from surgery. She was a wealth of information. Dad was there, as well as Aunt Dolores, Ted, and I, and Spence. The waiting room we were in was just for our family and had a TV in it. Each cardiac surgical patient family had their own waiting room. They beeped us right after they had opened her up. When I called, they said that they had started and all was well. Around 12:20 they beeped again and when I called they said it was finished and everything had gone well, THANK GOD! They also said that the surgeon would be out to talk to us in about 20 minutes or so. When he came out, he said that this valve replacement DOUBLED the blood flow through her heart immediately! I think she was in worse shape than any of us thought. We were told that we would be able to see her in about an hour to an hour and a half, so we went and ate lunch. When we got back, it was only a few minutes until they said we could see her.

At this point I can honestly say that I really and truly didn't know what Ted went through when he first saw me after my hysterectomy, my colon cancer surgery, and my colostomy take-down. WELL, I DO NOW!

Mom basically looked like a drunken sailor! They were keeping her well medicated and she was asleep and would remain so for at least 4 hours. She has a central line in her neck, a tube down her throat, and on a ventilator. Dad and Spence chose not to go back to see her...and I totally respect their choices. Some people can handle that, and some people can't, and they know that they can't. If it was a stranger, then that's one thing, but to see a family member like that...well, that's something else entirely.

Aunt Dolores, Ted, and I went back and got to talk to her nurse and see her. At that time, they said she was doing great. Her heart rate was very good, her BP was very good, and her pulse ox was very good. In cardiac ICU, they have one patient per one nurse, so we know that she is getting undivided attention. She will probably be moved to the step down unit tomorrow sometime.

We have all been SO impressed with ****** Hospital. They have been extremely professional and have kept us completely informed of every little thing. Not only have they taken excellent care of mom, but today they made sure that we were comfortable and right on top of things. We can't say enough good things about the staff and facility. Everyone we came in contact with introduced themselves to us and told us what their role was. They each asked us if we had any questions or concerns after they finished telling us what they needed to. Mom even said the other day that the food was pretty good too!

She will probably go off the vent sometime tonight or early tomorrow, and get the tube out of her throat. Probably sometime tomorrow morning she'll get the central line out and they plan on having her up in the chair twice tomorrow and walking on Friday! She will have NO external stitches! Modern medicine just continues to amaze me...

Thank you all for the prayers and good far they've worked in our favor!

February 1, 2007: Hi everyone...I just got home from the hospital a little while ago, and Mom is doing pretty well. She is still in CVSICU (cardiovascular surgery intensive care unit) but will probably be moved to the step down unit in the morning. She was still on the vent when I got there because she was not breathing deeply enough on her own. Although she was able to breathe on her own, it wasn't deep enough. I was able to talk to her and she could nod or shake her head "no" in addition to wiggling her toes and squeezing my hand. One of the anesthesiologists came to see her and checked everything out, then told the nurse to take out the vent. They asked me to step out for that, so I took a little walk. When I got back she was looking so much better. She was even opening her eyes a little and trying to mumble. Over the next couple of hours her slurred speech improved and she was able to communicate a little more. She said she was not in any pain, but was just so tired. She still sounds like a drunken sailor too!

She commented at one time that if she had known it was going to be this rough she wouldn't have had it done. Uh, sorry Mom, it was going to be done. Period. Then she said that she felt like hell. I told her that she'll feel a little better each day.

She grinned and almost chuckled when I told her that Dad had to take care of a few things at home today. He discovered last night that he had a tire going bad on the car, so he had to deal with that this morning. When he got home, he realized that the furnace had quit working, so he had to call the repairman for that and wait while he came. I told him not to bother coming up (He had called the nurse to see how Mom was and when she was finished talking to him, she gave the phone to me.) today because (at that time) she still had the vent and o.g. tubes down her throat. He really couldn't handle seeing her like that, so if he waits for tomorrow things will be much better for him.

I was absolutely amazed at how much she improved from the time I got there a little before noon until when I left at almost 5 pm. She had gotten some ice chips and had done the spirometer, or however you spell it, a few times. That's the thing that you have to breathe into and make the stupid ball go up, so you don't get pneumonia.

At one point I asked her if she knew what day it was and she said it was Wednesday. I told her it was Thursday and she turned and looked at me, like she didn't believe me! I told her that she basically lost an entire day. She asked what time it was and I told her it was around 2:45, and she didn't believe me. The nurse verified the information. Then she asked me why I didn't go home. I asked her if she thought it was 2:45 am and she said YES. Oh my...this is really good stuff to keep in mind for a later date, hahaha!

Anyway, she's doing much better and will probably be moved to step down tomorrow morning. Again, thank you for all the prayers and good thoughts!

February 2, 2007: Well this afternoon around 3:00 pm Mom was finally moved out of CVSICU and into the Step-Down unit. She's still sleeping most of the time and the anesthetic is very slow to get out of her system. She had trouble last night swallowing some pills and couldn't eat any jello, so apparently they had to put another tube in her today. Dad went and spent the afternoon with her and is still there at this time. I stayed home today and tried to get caught up on things here and did some laundry for Dad. I called her room a little after 3 and spoke to Dad. Mom was "with it" enough to direct him to answer the phone when it rang, so that's a good sign. None of us (including her) knew how sensitive she was to anesthetic, but now we do, and that's something to keep in mind in case she ever needs it again.

Hopefully she'll snap out of this soon...and be back to her old self, resuming her matriarch role in the family! I can say though, without a shadow of a doubt, that Dad has really stepped up to the plate and has taken care of things at home very well. I'm really impressed with him!

February 3, 2007: Mom seems to be doing a little bit better. She went for two very short walks today, down the hall a few yards. She also sat up in the chair for a while. She has a feeding tube in her nose and the yummy white liquid stuff that they had to put into her tube (can we say YUCK?!?!) was making her nauseous. Apparently she threw up before Ted and I got there for her earlier feeding. She was also a little light-headed. In addition to all that, she was in atrial fib again.

We were there when she got a feeding around 3:00 and I mentioned to the nurse (very nicely, of course) that perhaps if she fed her slowly it might not be as bad. That's exactly what she ended up doing, and it took about 10 minutes to get a can of that stuff in the feeding tube.

Dad was there most of the day, Aunt Dolores also came to see her, and my brother was there for a little while, in addition to Ted and I. Dad left before the rest of us, and it was somewhat comical to hear him mention that he was going to stop at Buehler's to get some groceries before going home. It was suggested that he make a little list, but he swore he didn't need one. But then Spence found something to write on and wrote things down for him. On his way out the door Spence asked him if he had his coupons, hahaha. Dad is really handling things at home very well. I'm so proud of him. This whole episode has brought out a side to him that we haven't seen before. When Mom was told that she really needed to use her spirometer again (the device she has to blow into that forces her to take deep breaths to prevent her from getting pneumonia) I asked her if she wanted me to help her and she shook her head "no" and pointed to Dad. I asked if she wanted Dad to help because he was gentler with it and she shook her head "yes!" Imagine that...

Ted and I left for a while around 3:30 (we met some very good friends for dinner, who happen to live fairly close by), then we went back to the hospital around 7:00 pm. Mom was sleeping in bed, looking as relaxed as you can under these circumstances, and we didn't wake her up. She woke up on her own around 7:30 and I asked her if she was able to keep her last feeding down and she said yes. That was good news. She said that she didn't feel nauseous or light-headed. That was also good news. But the best news was that her nurse said that she converted back to normal rhythm around 5:00! Hopefully it will stay like that now.

This has been quite an ordeal for her. I feel so helpless when I see her suffering like this, and other than just trying to be there, and encouraging her, and praying for her, I don't know what else to do. None of us have ever seen her like this and even though we know that she will be feeling better soon, it's just difficult for us all. Like I said, Dad is handling it well, but you can really tell how much he loves her by how he is with her. It reminds me of how Ted was with me when I was in the hospital with my cancer surgery. Maybe we just don't give some of these men enough credit...until we find out that when push comes to shove, they CAN rise to the occasion.

Okay, that's it for today. All in all, a wee little improvement. I know this is redundant, but we all really do appreciate your thoughts and prayers...they mean so much to us!

February 5, 2007: This morning mom got her feeding tube out and it IMMEDIATELY made a HUGE difference! It's as though she started improving by leaps and bounds each hour of the day! She ate a few bites of a REAL breakfast, then again ate some of her REAL lunch, and then ate some of her REAL dinner! She went for a few walks too, and can even go to the bathroom all by herself now. It's just amazing how that darn feeding tube was holding her back in so many ways. She is doing so well now, that the surgeon has signed off on her, and when the other doctor signs off, she can actually COME HOME!!! This may even be as soon as tomorrow, believe it or not!

I know that I'm very pleasantly shocked at this turn of events, and couldn't be more thrilled for her! We all know that it's been everyone's good thoughts and prayers that have gotten her to this point, and for that we are all eternally grateful!

If she IS released tomorrow, once she feels the bone-chilling temperature of 1 or 2 degrees (that's ABOVE zero, for you folks who think 40 is on the cool side!) and a wind chill of -15 (yes, that's MINUS 15) she'll probably want to head back into the hospital for another day or so....nah, on second thought, maybe she won't!

I'll let you know tomorrow what the verdict is.

February 8, 2007: Well, I am very pleased to report that our beloved patient is FINALLY home! I was beginning to think that she just didn't want to leave the wonderful confines of ****** Hospital...I mean, after the stories she shared about her wonderful physical therapist and occupational therapist. I think she's going to miss spending quality time with them. And of course there's the fact that she just LOVED it when they woke her up every couple of hours to do this or that. (Maybe I should tell dad to wake her up every hour or so, just for old times sake, you know?).

Anyway, she was finally declared "ready to roll" this morning and they got home early this afternoon. She has very few restrictions, and that's good for her. However, she can't drive for FOUR weeks...and we know what THAT means! Not only is dad going to be taking care of a lot of things around the house, but his most important assignment will be that of chauffeur! (For those of you who may not realize it, mom would go "somewhere" every single day...I once told dad that a lesser man would take it personally! Whether it be off to the YMCA, to get the daily paper from out-of-town, or to stop and pick up the Drug Mart ad that might or might not show up in the mail on that same day, or to stop at the mall, or run to the bank, or stop by the post office...she just went SOMEWHERE!)

I spoke with her on the phone a short while ago and it's just amazing how much better she sounds! She's not out of breath as she talks and she isn't coughing all the time. She's extremely glad to be home and ready to have dad minister to her every need. I told her how well he did with things while she was in the hospital and we agreed whole-heartedly that he definitely rose to the occasion! He surpassed all of our expectations, and now that we know what he's capable of....well, let's just say that he won't have any excuses to not have that household running perfectly, hahaha!

We've all been truly blessed with the modern marvels of medicine and are so grateful for what not only those marvels, but the medical personnel who can execute them. Without the combination of those things AND your prayers and good thoughts, this entire ordeal may not have turned out as well as it has. Believe me, we are thanking God for everything right now!

And here we are a year later and she is doing absolutely FINE!! We had Mom and Dad over for dinner tonight, and even had a cake that said "Happy Birthday Valve" on it. How cute is that?!?!

And for those of you looking forward to the next chapter of "Cindi and Ted," it will be coming very soon...possibly even tomorrow!


Adam said...

Yeaaaaaahhhhh Mom!!!!

Happy One Year Birthday!!!

I just celebrated my second anniversary from aortic valve replacement myself.

Again, congratulations!


Paulie said...

What a wonderful end to her journey!