Thursday, August 27, 2009

Living Life on Overdrive: the surgery

To continue this drawn-out saga:

As I was saying, that little nurse just snatched my Mister right up and dragged him kicking and screaming down that long corridor to the surgical prep area without even letting him hug me or kiss me. Or tell me how much he loved me. Or hated me, because I had pretty much threatened him to have the surgery.

Okay. Not really. The traitor went willingly without uttering one word of protest.

I sat down and tried to read my Bible, sitting there by myself, praying they'd come get me soon so I could see my love. All I could think about was seeing him and touching him again before they split him wide open.

Finally, they called me back to see him. After getting to spend about 1/2 hour with him, they came to tell me that they would be carrying him back to the surgical area. It was really, really difficult not to cry. But I didn't. At least not outwardly. I don't remember what we talked about. Probably mostly the IV in his arm, the surgery itself, and some mushy stuff that I won't share.

The rest of the day can be read about in my April 29th post.

After the surgery and Sugar Lips was released from ICU into a regular room, I thought things would be smooth sailing from there.

Dream on, sister.

We ended up spending three more weeks in the hospital. After all of our planning and praying, not much ended up working out like we had hoped. Because Mister's valve had significant damage and calcification, it was replaced with a mechanical valve. This meant that he would have to be on coumadin for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately for my husband, he was too healthy. I've always known that he had a rebellious side and it showed like crazy during his hospital stay! To make a really long story short, it was taking longer than usual for the coumadin to work, and his body rebelled against the heparin that he was on. This caused all sorts of very serious problems, some quite scary, and we were practically back to day one. It would take ten more days for his INR to get to the correct range.

In the end, it worked out that we entered Piedmont Hospital on April 10th and left May 2nd.

And truth be told, we don't have one complaint about the entire experience. God is too good to us to do that. Even though many of our prayers were answered in a totally different way than we'd hoped, God was still good.

For one thing, we were blessed by an amazing support system back home. My mom and mother-in-law took care of the kids, our friends fed the animals (the chickens, dogs, and rabbits . . . NOT the kids!), and another friend drove our daughter back and forth to school so that she could be here for the surgery.

After we got home from the hosptial after being there nearly a month, we fully expected that everything would return to normal right away. Will we never learn?

One thing I did learn from all of this is not to really have any expectations of how something will turn out, especially when you pray and ask God to take control. Once I get something set in my mind, all I am doing is setting myself up for disappointment when it doesn't turn out like I want it too. But only God knows what is best in each of our lives. If I would learn to set my mind to follow God's will and purpose, then I would be more content. It's been a hard lesson to learn but I am glad He is a willing, patient teacher. I'm just not so sure if I'm a willing, patient student.

One of the most disappointing things about being in the hospital that long was missing our sons' 18th birthdays and our daughter's first prom. But the kids were really understanding about it all. I think we're all just glad that we'll have their dad around to celebrate other important events in their lives.

And even though there was a period of adjustment when we got home, we had some amazing people providing meals for us for THREE weeks! Do you know what this means? I did not cook a meal from the first of April until nearly the beginning of June! We had so much food! It was just overwhelming the amount of time and effort other people put into ministering to us during this time.

Tomorrow morning will mark the twentieth week since our lives were changed and a long-time prayer of mine was answered. A year ago I was very angry and bitter towards my husband because he would not take care of himself and had not made any effort at getting his valve repaired. Last December, when he became so ill with that virus and was forced back into the doctor's office, I had prayed only days before that God would restore our marriage and make it better than it had ever been. I confessed my sins of anger and bitterness to Him, asking Him to take care of my husband's heart for me. Little did I know that by humbling myself before the Lord like that and confessing my wrong attitude, He would answer my prayer so quickly.

Life this summer has been a strange mix of having my husband home until July, getting adjusted to my new job, not having my boys around much since they have graduated and are working now, and lots of other changes.

For so long my life just went along gently down the stream, like the song says. Things will never quite be the same again. But that's not a bad thing.

Mister has been back at work for eight weeks, has lost forty pounds, and will have another sleep study soon to see if he can come off of his CPAP machine. And though there are still some scary times with him being on the coumadin, I am glad to know that God's hand in at work in our lives.

Thanks for reading all about our many adventures over the past year. If you're still awake, drop me a line and let me know what's up with you!



Living Life on Overdrive

I just looked at the date of my last post: April 29th! How can that be? I think I can answer my own question: life has been on overdrive around our house since last September. And I cannot for the life of me find the brake! This thing has gotta run out of gas sooner or later! Seriously!

Have you ever felt like your life has just totally taken over and left you behind? I think that's what has happened in this tiny little house, located on a quite cul-de-sac, that's situated in a tiny little neighborhood. Life has just gotten big! And some things in life that were important at one time now seem really small and insignificant.

Although I really enjoyed sharing my life with you when I first began this blog, and you really seemed to enjoy reading about all the craziness going on in my head, things began to slow down, er speed up, late last spring ('08). I think that I'm the one that began to slow down! By early summer, the updates had pretty much dried up. Readers were even writing me, begging for me to write more. But I just didn't feel like sharing much. I think everything was so overwhelming that I couldn't sort through it all enough to make any sense from it.

It's not that I didn't want to write and keep you updated. I really, really did. One thing that happened is that, after subscribing to and reading lots of other blogs, I felt like my blogged lacked something that others had. Mine somehow just wasn't good enough. I'm really hard on myself. A perfectionist. An all-or-nothing sort of girl. Another thing is that, with a life like mine, something gets left undone every day. Sometimes lots of things get left undone. Important things. Mundane things. Sometimes, everything but the very basic things. Mister and the rest of the gang just better be glad that there is clean underwear in the clothes basket. Forget folding it. Who's going to know if your underwear is wrinkled from being tossed in the clothes basket and forgotten about for five days?

Things got so wild around here that even Bertha Mae has disappeared. I still haven't found her. I really wish she'd come back. I miss that girl. Life is no fun without her. There really hasn't been any four-wheelin', mud-slingin', or bra-buying events going on to write about. It just seems like life has been so serious lately. It's so hard to find humor in life like I used to. And, to be blunt, that fact just sucks rotten eggs!

So, exactly what has been going on for the last 12 months? Here is a little outline:

  • August '08: Family vacation to the beach for 8 days; come home on the 22nd, take oldest daughter to college on the 23rd. Go back on the 30th for parent orientation. Boys enter senior year of high school.
  • September '08: begin a journey with a new GYN that keeps me in her office every month for 6 months straight.
  • October '08: Ultrasounds reveals cysts on both ovaries. One is smallish, the other is nearly 7 cm across. Start a round of birth control pills that make me feel like you-know-what. Oh, yeah. Joy of joys. Got my mammies grammed. :) All was good with that!
  • November '08: Finally make it to the gastro doctor for some serious pain that's been going on for over a year. He does tons of bloodwork and orders some imaging tests. Take the four kids and my mom to TN to visit my aunt; pick up daughter at school on the way home. Take her back 7 days later. A trip up there and back is a six hour drive, minimum. All that driving and I'm not even getting to be on vacation! Good grief, Charlie Brown! Began suffering through some sort of allergy that had not acted up in a long while; finally figured out that it was caused by eating ground beef!
  • December '08: Had visits with three different doctors this month: endocrinologist, gastro, and GYN. Endo turned out great; gastro treats me for a h-pylori infection and performs an endoscopy, as well as orders an ultrasound and scan on my gallbladder, says I gotta get the gallbladder out; GYN does another ultrasound and says I need to get that cyst out. She decides that the cyst can come out when the gall bladder does to save having to have surgery twice. Make the trip to pick up #1 daughter from school for Christmas.
  • December '08, part II: Hubby comes down with a terrible infection and ends up home from work a week. Looses 15 pounds (good thing that happened in a bad way!) and gets in trouble with his primary care for not having more extensive testing to find out the damage to his mitral valve. Pretty much gives him no choice but to have a new echo on the heart. See a heart doctor the next day. She schudules a sleep study for him and puts him on meds to lower his blood pressure in order to take pressure off the heart. Will have to be on a CPAP machine. Cardio sets him up to have a cardiac MRI at the Fuqua Heart Center in Atlanta because the regurgetation seems to be moderate to serious. This just gets seriouser and seriouser by the minute.
  • December '08, part III: God gives me peace and lets me know that He'll be doing amazing in our family in the coming year.
  • January '09: Hubby and I continue spending all of the family budget on doctor visits. Hubby has an MRI, an appointment with a pulmonologist about his CPAP, visit with a cardiac surgeon to find out if he'll need heart surgery, and a visit his regular cardiologist to follow up about everything. I have appointments with a general surgeon and my GYN to get my surgery set up.
  • January '09, part II: Do you ever wonder why God does what He does when He does it? Well, if I never did before, I do now! After praying for a while about a part time job that has flexible days and hours, God opens wide an opportunity to work for our local 4-H. What I had been doing as a volunteer for 9 years, I was now going to get paid!
  • February '09: Started my new job on February 2nd. Had surgery on February 9th to remove my gall bladder and the cyst . . . but ended up having nearly the entire left ovary removed because it was so big. On the 18th leave for our church's couples' retreat for three days. Things otherwise are quiet this month. Wait IMpatiently for Mister to decide when to have his heart surgery.
  • March '09: Though there isn't a lot on the calendar this month, the things that ARE there are big: 4-H District Project Achievement, which takes WEEKS to prepare for, finally arrives. We are there for an entire weekend. It is hard to be away from Mister, but Baby Girl gets FIRST in her project area and will get to go to State Congress in July! The boys come to the 4-H center to receive green/white cords to wear during their graduation. I continue working at my new job and begin to get things ready for the boys' graduation in May, including a 4-minute slide presentation that will be shown during the ceremony.
  • March '09, part II: Mister and I spend a lot of time discussing when he should have his surgery. He really wants to put it off until summer, but the surgeon and I really want him to have it sooner. There is the possibility that the heart will just give out, even though he has no symptoms. There are things to consider, such as when #1 daughter gets out of school for the summer and planning the surgery far enough out that Mister will be home in time and recovered enough to be at the boys' graduation. Finally, he sets a date: April 10th. Later in the month he will begin have pre-op visits for his heart catherization (to see if he has any blockages that will be fixed during the heart surgery). I send out a plea to the world for prayers for my man. People cry. People pray. People just begin to realize how serious this will be.
  • April '09: Before Mister can have his mitral valve surgery, he must have a heart cath. I threathen to kill him if he has clogged arteries on top of everything else. :) God is merciful to Mister and the heart cath is 100% clear! I don't have to go to jail for murdering my husband. On April 3rd, we head to Piedmont Hospital for the pre-op visit for his big surgery. We hit traffic and are late. We get there. We spend 3 hours there filling out paperwork and trying to figure our way around the hospital. We are tired. We eat cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. We are happy. I buy a netbook computer to take to the hospital.
  • April '09, part II: The day before his surgery, we are called back to the hospital for more bloodwork. There may be an infection that will keep him from having the surgery. Praise the Lord it came back clear and the surgery will procede as planned. I buy a new camera at Best Buy. We head home to pack bags and get everything ready. We go to bed very late and get up too early. Mister must be at the hosptial by 5:45 a.m. This means we get up at 4:00 a.m. and leave by 5:00 a.m. As soon as we get to the hospital, they snatch him away from me and take him back to the prep area! I am NOT ready! Wait! I didn't get to hug him or kiss him . . . or tell him how very much that I love him.

Wow. This is getting so long. I will close now and continue in a new post.

Glad to be back.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hang on! It's a wild ride!

If there's one thing I've learned these past 20 days, it's don't have any expectations, especially if you've prayed about something. If you've asked God to handle something, let Him.

Another thing is this: learn to be flexible cause things are not always going to turn out like they (meaning doctors) say they will.

We arrived at Piedmont Hospital in downtown Atlanta on Friday morning, April 10th at 5:45 a.m. and it is now Wednesday, April 29th at 8:00 a.m. And we're still here.

Anyway, we had to be out the door by 4:45 a.m. on the day of surgery. That meant that our alarm was going off at 3:45 a.m. Had we been able to get in bed at a decent hour, this wouldn't have been so bad, but the day before the surgery Mister was called back up here to have more blood drawn as one of his tests came back a little higher than what it should've been. There was the real possibility that we may have to reschedule the surgery. That was not something we wanted to think about after all the weeks of mentally preparing ourselves for what lay ahead. Thankfully things came back within the normal range and things were going to procede as planned. Anyway, since we spent a good part of the day in Atlanta, this put us way behind getting things done at home, thus we go in the bed lots later than I wanted to.

Of course, this didn't bother Mister much seeing as how he would be knocked out for most of the day Friday. I, however, was very concerned about my lack of sleep, especially considering I would already be feeling like an exposed nerve for all the world to rub the wrong way. Or the 16 or so friends and family members who congregated in the ICU red waiting area with me throughout the day. Bertha Mae thought it was something akin to a big family reunion, but without all the fried chicken and pecan pie. I had to let her know real quick like that she needed to settle down and behave before I knocked her block off. And, push come to shove, I would have too. Thankfully we were both able to behave ourselves very well that day, despite our fatigue and concern over Mister. And so did all of our concerned family and friends.

(One plus though was that if things had gotten ugly, we were at the hospital, right around the corner from the emergency room.)

For all of my concerns about Mister's actual surgery and the long day that loomed before me, I am happy to report that all went well. The procedure itself began about 9:30, and by 1:30 in the afternoon, we were visiting him for the first time in ICU red. Even though he was still under anesthesia and he had no clue we were there, I was so glad to see him. Which made it incredibly difficult to leave him back there and not be able to come back again for two hours. Time past quickly though and before long he was awake. Not that he remembers any of us coming back there, though this is common in open heart surgery patients. Unfortunately, this would not be the only time that he would be having memory issues. More on that later.

Once everyone was assured that Mister was doing well, it was time for everybody to head back home. While it was somewhat of a relief for me to finally have some quiet time to think about everything, it also meant that I was on my own in a huge hospital.

To be continued.


Help! Rescue us!

Help! Being held captive by the nursing staff. Please send clean underwear, reading material, and some good food! Somebody grab my Wellbutrin from the bathroom cabinet. Will meet you by the elevator. Codeword: Will be wearing flowered pajama bottoms and a white t-shirt. Mister will be pushing a pole and wearing a hosptial gown (don't worry, it's tied up in the back).

Over and out.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Huge prayer request with some specific needs

Dear friends and family,

Our family is in a position of great need at the moment: Mister is scheduled to have heart surgery on Friday, April 10th. He was born with a condition called mitral valve prolapse. It is supposed to be a fairly benign condition wherein the valve does not close all the way. However, my husband is one of the few that has trouble. Basically the problem is that he has severe regurgitation with his, meaning that blood backs up into the chamber. It has been going on for some time and has caused the chamber to become enlarged. We found out back in December that he really needs to have something done about it, but it took a while for tests and getting everything set up.

While I covet your prayers for a successful surgery, I do have some very specific things that I would like for you to pray, if you don’t mind.

1. We will not know if he requires a valve repair or replacement until the doctor actually does a TEE the day of the surgery! That means I will be sitting in the waiting area and will have no clue what’s going on unless they decide to come out and tell me. We are praying for a repair as that is really the best route! If he has a valve replacement, it will mean being on a blood thinner for the rest of his life. This would also require that he have the more invasive surgery.

2. I would also ask that you pray for a minimally invasive surgery to be able to be performed. In this instance, they would not have to break his sternum nor would they have to make that huge cut down the front of his chest. There is a procedure wherein they are able to make small incisions on each side of his chest and use some sort of robotics to do the repair.

3. Pray for God to give wisdom to the surgeons.

4. Please pray that there will be no complications during the surgery. Specifically, I am concerned about blood clots, stroke, heart attack, infection, etc. Also pray for NO side effects from having to be on the heart-lung machine. There are some issues that can occur because of having to be on that machine and I am praying for there to be none.

5. Please pray for his heart cath on Monday, April 6 @ 9:45 a.m. They want to check for blockages, which will be fixed during the surgery. We are praying for NO blockages! This will complicate the surgery some and I am hoping that it can be kept as simple as possible.

6. Please pray for my peace of mind during the long hours in the waiting room. I am really not looking forward to that part! Having to sit there for such a long period of time and not know what’s going on will be very trying. My husband is my comforter (aside from the Lord, of course) and I will be lost without him there by my side.

7. Pray for our daughter to be able to get home from college at some point during this time. She will be preparing for final exams and such as she gets out of school May 9th, but she would really like to come home.

8. I don’t know what it will be like for some weeks after Mister's surgery as far as just the general daily stuff that life is made of. And our boys graduate on May 30th with the homeschool group. I feel like I will have to be solely responsible for A LOT during those couple months after his surgery. He will not be able to drive for six weeks or so after his surgery so I am adding one more to my chauffeuring detail; pray for God to work in that as well as I now have a job working 19 hours a week for the Extension office with the local 4-H program. They are very flexible about my schedule, but I imagine my husband will have a lot of appointments for several weeks following his surgery. Pray that God will give me the strength I need during this time when my support system (my husband) is going to be out of commission.

9. On a side note, our son takes his firefighter one test at the end of April. Pray that God will allow him to pass this test as he has been studying very hard. He is hoping to get on with the fire department soon. Our other son would like a job working in the jail after he turns 18. I am not thrilled about it, but it is what he wants. Pray for God to open that door if it’s His will.

God has worked in this situation so much already, even BEFORE we even knew about Randall having to have surgery. For instance, I do NOT, repeat NOT NOT NOT drive on the surface streets of downtown Atlanta by myself. But back in December, a full month before we went for his cardiac MRI at Piedmont, I had an appointment with an endocrinologist at Piedmont Hospital that I ended up having to drive to BY MYSELF! I had been putting off making that appointment for MONTHS, but I finally broke down and scheduled a date for early December. Normally I would’ve chosen someone around here, but there just wasn’t anyone around. Anyway, since I had to drive to downtown Atlanta AND get off the interstate to get to the office, I dreaded that like I don’t know what. But PTL I made it there and home with no problems. Now for the amazing part: my husband’s cardiac surgeon is in the SAME complex!! Is that not God? I knew right where we were going the first time we had an appointment with the surgeon. Good thing because I will be driving there on my own a lot in the near future. I am thankful God showed me I can do the hard things. And survive them!

Thank you so very much for remembering us during this very trying time. I am anxious to have this behind us, but I am not looking forward to having to actually live through it! I thought that I would be relieved to have the surgeries set, but the closer the time gets . . . well, I am sure you know what I mean. I just don’t know what to think. Though I do know that our faith will be strengthened during this time. God will be with us withersoever we go (Joshua 1:9).

Here is some information for you if you have any questions or want to know more:

Thanks again.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stay Tuned!

Believe it or not (and I hope you do believe it), I will return in all of my glory (ahem) very shortly with some new posts. Just give me a few hours to empty the brain of its contents. See, I am having lots of trouble remembering things right now and I'm certain it is because I haven't put my thoughts out there for y'all to read in a while. Gotta do a little spring cleaning up there to make more room for more things to think about . . . and write about.

See you shortly!