End of the Year Review

2014 will not go down in my memory as an excellent year. It has been excellent in some spots but overall in nature it has been really difficult. I have learned a lot this year, but in most points I wish there had been a different path to these life lessons.

The beginning of 2014 started off rocky with my frustration with the home mortgage business, namely with Wells Fargo. They approved us for a mortgage on our new home for up to $320,000 and then were trying to deny us a mortgage for half of that. They tried to deny us based on not being able to use the documents that my husband’s employer sent them, which were sent in standard business format. Mayhem ensued because the movers packed up our North Carolina house when we thought we would be able to get into our new house so then our household goods had to sit on trucks until we could close on the new house and move in, weeks later than anticipated. So my daughter and I were technically homeless (we stayed with my mom but were not planning on doing so) and we had to pay extra for my husband to stay in his apartment.

Next to the rocky start of 2014 was on my drive from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, to get settled in our new house and finish unpacking. I was driving and thought that I got a full-on migraine with blurred vision (which I used to get a lot, especially in stressful times). Unfortunately it lasted until the next day, so I called around to get an emergency appointment (I didn’t have any doctors set up since we had just  moved). After a nerve wracking doctor’s visit and emergency trip to have an MRI done, the doctors concluded that I had a sizable stroke which was putting pressure on my brain and affecting my vision. I spent my birthday in the hospital, hooked up to IVs and having all sorts of tests done. Finally I was released with aspirin, Lipitor and Plavix in hand, to take the rest of my life to prevent any more strokes.

It was also in the hospital that the doctors’ found a hole in my heart, one possible cause of the stroke. I had heart surgery in May to close the heart.

June came and my husband started his last few semesters of (online) school to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in anticipation of applying for MBA programs in January. Not only did he end his education program with a 3.8 GPA but he did so while working full time and being a hands-on dad!

In July we were approved as foster parents for the state of Pennsylvania and one day later received the referral call for our three children. We accepted placement two days later after never seeing them or meeting them in advance.

The next month and a half are a blur, as I worked hard to acclimate the new children. I quickly realized the advantages of the start of school with three school aged children! I worked hard to get the oldest two in appropriate counseling programs.

The adoption of our kids went through as previously scheduled on National Adoption Day, which was celebrated in our area on November 7th. There was a lot of speculation leading up to the adoption of whether it would occur as planned, and therefore didn’t give our families a lot of time to plan to attend. We held a fun party for the kids and their anxiety levels went down substantially after the adoption.

In December my beloved Uncle went to the hospital for a scheduled catheter procedure much like I had in May and never left. He suffered a brain aneurysm and the swelling in his brain never went down. He was taken off the respirator on December 17th and passed away peacefully and swiftly. I miss him all the time. I regret not seeing him recently, but the bond we had will never fade.

My husband ended the year in the top 1% nationally for his position in his company so we will be getting a pretty awesome vacation in May to celebrate.

As I look back on 2014, I learned a lot but only through major struggles. There were many health scares in 2014 and it was possible for a while that I’d never get to drive again because of my vision. It was also very scary that the doctors were not sure what caused my stroke and therefore could not prevent another one. Although my husband and I had already decided to pursue foster to adopt it was sad to get the news from my cardiologist,  neurologist and OB/GYN that it would be very stressful on my body and dangerous should I ever get pregnant again. There something different between having miscarriages and trouble getting pregnant versus having doctors tell you that you shouldn’t get pregnant.

Well, here’s to 2015 and having a great year!

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Easy Peasy

My heart surgery on Thursday turned out to be a piece of cake. What usually takes around an hour and a half took about 45 minutes for me. Everything ran as smoothly as it possibly could go. I got some good calming medicine and some topical numbing but I was awake for the whole thing and watched it unfold on the screen. I saw the camera scope go up my veins to my heart, then I watched as they threaded a second tube in for the actual device to be in my heart. I watched them measure the size of the hole in my heart and listened as they debated what size of device would need to go in. I watched them carefully place the device and open it up, umbrella like, in my heart. My doctor told my husband that I was very brave. It actually was calming to me to be able to watch and see what was going on. I’m sure I would have freaked out if something went wrong and I was listening but the whole operating room was such a strong and confident environment that I wasn’t worried. I guess the good medicine helped too! I laid on my back, flat for about three hours after the surgery. They took out the two catheter tubes and then I laid for another hour or so. Finally I got to sit up for a bit then I got to walk around! I had my breakfast/lunch around 3:30 and I was home before 5. I was happy to see Little One. My mom said that when Little One got up (I was already gone for the surgery), she wouldn’t look or talk to my mom. So she asked if Little One was nervous. And she said yes, I am nervous because Mama isn’t here. Poor thing! I hope this is the last of it and she doesn’t need to worry any more. I am sure it weighs on her little mind and I don’t want her to stress about me being sick. I am not very sore today and I took about a mile and a half (slow) walk this morning. I took a nice nap this afternoon and soon I will get to shower and take my bandage off! I could not be more pleased about the whole procedure and recovery thus far. Definitely much better than I was expecting and makes the whole process worthwhile!

What Would You Do With $18,000?

Right now the total of my medical bills following my stroke, doctor’s appointments, tests, an ambulance ride, 2 ER visits and 2 nights in the neurology wing at Geisinger Medical Center (Hospital) is at $18,000. Granted, some of the tests have been denied by insurance totally and some do not seem to be covered completely when they should, so I am hoping that amount will come down quite a bit. But man, this medical crap is expensive! Especially for something that couldn’t be prevented! Right now my insurance has been billed a total of almost $100,000! And I haven’t even had my surgery yet! Last night when my husband looked up the grand total we started dreaming of what we would do with $18,000, other than paying for medical bills. What would you do with that kind of money? Go on an exotic trip? Take your kids on a cruise, first class style? Buy a new car? I can assure you that I wouldn’t use it for a two night hospital stay!

Tomorrow is our second meeting with the Program Director of the foster agency we like, and our first meeting with the Permanency Specialist. I read over the 100 page Orientation Manual since our last visit, so I have a bunch of questions for them! Hubby is all ready too, so it’s looking like we’ll be able to start training while I go through recovery! We had some good soul-searching over the weekend and we are both ready to go forward with matching an older sibling group. We figured out logistics and even bedroom layouts!

Heart Surgery

So I am having heart surgery on May 8th. Well, that’s the tentative date at least, waiting on health insurance pre-authorization. It’s hard to say and I don’t like thinking about it. My mother will come back in town for at least a week. I have to be careful for at least a month, being careful with any type of strain or  lifting as the artificial piece heals. I look forward to (slow) long walks and healing for the beach/pool! For all you medical followers out there, I am having a PFO closure. It is an outpatient surgery, done with a catheter. The surgery takes about an hour. About 80% of people have full closure right away, and most of the other 20% will have theirs close within 6 months. So I will have several check-up echo-cardiograms to make sure it’s in the correct spot and that it’s healing.

I am glad that I’ll be working on my foster care certification as I recover!

Foster Update

As I posted last week, I will be going in for heart surgery soon. I am hoping that it will be in April so I can recover before it’s pool time! In Pennsylvania the pools don’t open until June so I will have time to heal. I love to swim and so does Little One, so I expect to be living at the pool this summer! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I spent this weekend replying to emails I had written with other agencies in our area, so we can meet with them and see how we fit. Then, while I’m recovering from my surgery, we can use the time to get licensed! One of the program supervisors even told me she is “super excited” to meet us!

We have one meeting scheduled with her for next week, and I am waiting to hear back from two other agencies. Depending on how those meetings go, we might visit the initial agency again to meet with their permanency specialist. I didn’t want to waste her time if we were questioning how good of a fit that agency is. We are looking forward to finding an agency and getting started!

 

Heart Surgery

Well, everything is on hold now. After waiting 5 weeks to be scheduled with the cardiologist at Geisinger, and after calling every week trying to schedule an appointment, the doctor himself called me tonight. I guess it hit home with the ladies in cardiology scheduling that I am 32 and I have a hole in my heart… what am I going to keep my l life on hold while I wait to hear from them?? So the cardiologist was super nice and apologized for the scheduling problems. He called as soon as he heard about my situation. At 7:30 tonight! Crazy. I almost fell out of my chair. He said that he performs PFO closures on three merits: the age of the patient, the size of the PFO, and the patient’s personal beliefs on  having it closed. Right off the bat I hit two of those three. So my husband and I will go in for a consult in the next week or so, and then I will probably have the surgery performed. This definitely puts a hold on all of our foster/adoption plans. I am sure that I will not be cleared by my doctors for probably 6 months after the surgery.

A What?

So I have been gone almost two weeks from my blog. I missed everyone! The first week I didn’t have internet at the new house and was only there for a few days, unpacking and painting, before I drove down from PA to Charlotte, NC for my nephew’s baptism. So it was a crazy week! Then this week has been rather challenging so I apologize for dropping off the face of the planet. Monday I had a stroke. Yup, not what you expected to hear! I will turn 32 on Wednesday, so I didn’t even think a stroke was possible. Read on if you want all the details!

Monday I drove with my grandparents back from Charlotte to our new house in PA. Like the drive last Thursday, it was so nice to sit in the car for hours and not worry about packing or unpacking or cleaning or painting or what a mess the movers made of all of our nice things. Ugh. Until we were just out of Winchester, VA and I lost my eyesight. Or rather, part of my eyesight. I thought I lost everything in my right eye. Ten years ago, I got migraines on a regular basis. Migraines with visual disturbances. My doctors chalked it up to working under hideous fluorescent lights and stress. They went away. Monday felt like a migraine. It came on fast and I felt nauseous along with a headache. And I couldn’t see. That was totally normal for my previous migraines. My grandmother got us safely home and I went to bed early, hoping to sleep off the rest of the migraine and be ready for a full day of unpacking on Tuesday. 

I woke up Tuesday and couldn’t see any more. I was worried it was a prolonged migraine, and I called around for an emergency appointment with an opthamologist. Granted, I have lived in that home not even 24 hours and I hadn’t transferred any records, found a primary care doctor or even looked at the options! (I found a pediatrician first). I got an appointment for the afternoon with an opthamologist and took a nap. My husband drove me over to the office since I couldn’t see to read, write or drive and I met with the physician’s assistant. She administered a visual light test, with little lights blinking in sequence and I pushed a button when I saw them. It became evident to me at that point that I couldn’t see any of the lights blinking in the bottom right sides of both of my eyes, not just my right eye. After the light test the doctor came into my room and called in my husband. Uh oh. Not good news. He said that he was clearing the decks at the local hospital for me to get an emergency MRI. He was concerned not with my eyes but with my brain, and what was causing the vision loss. I may have lost it at that point, scared about what an MRI was and what it meant for my health. It’s very emotional to think of what could be wrong when you don’t have answers, and to have a doctor you don’t know send you in for an emergency MRI.

My husband and I drove across the street to a hospital for the MRI. Imagine having the worst headache of your life and lying completely still for 45 minutes with blaring headphones and the noisiest machine of your life!! It was hell. They said my results would be done in an hour and my doctor would call me. And he did, about 7:30 pm on Tuesday. He said I had a clot in my brain that was impairing the lower right quadrant of vision in both of my eyes. He and the cardiologist on duty at the hospital guess that I had what they called a PFO, or patent foramen ovale. When we are born, the right atrium of the heart is joined with the left atrium for speedy passage of oxygen in the womb. Once we are born, this little flap called the foramen ovale, closes up so that the atriums are separate. Sometimes, this little flap doesn’t close. Or partially closes. This is called patent foramen ovale. About 1 in 4 people have this condition, so it is actually quite normal. However, most people don’t find out about it ever, or if they do they are 70 and have a stroke and find out then. Most people do not have surgery to fix it, they just have to take aspirin to keep blood clots from forming. So my opthamologist ordered an echocardiogram and a duplex (ultrasound on my neck to see the carotid artery) to check if I have a flap and if that was the cause of the blood clot in my brain. I also started taking aspirin that evening.

Wednesday I had the duplex and the echocardiogram. They told me I wouldn’t hear until Thursday. After bugging my doctor around 11 on Thursday, I found out that not only do I have the patent foramen ovale, it seems my flap is pretty big. So he referred me to a general practitioner who would have more experience on prescriptions to take and could refer me to a cardiologist. I saw the general practitioner on Friday afternoon and he told me what I had guessed that the other doctors hadn’t wanted to tell me–I had a stroke! I am 31 years old and I had a stroke. It’s just amazing to me. He said not only did I have a stroke on Monday, it was a “sizable” one and he was concerned that I would need surgery to repair the flap. He called the cardiologist while I was in his office, and hopefully I will go in on Monday or Tuesday to schedule the next procedure. Then we will decide whether I need surgery. Now I am on aspirin and Plavix, and I am on antibiotics for a nasty cold I picked up along the way. No decongestants for me, they mess up the aspirin!

So I do not have my vision back and I don’t know if I need surgery. I can see out of the top left parts of my eyes but that strain makes them hurt so computer and tv are limited. I am so humbled by my experience and the realization of how much more could have gone wrong. With this condition, it can strike any time, any place. Mainly when you are under stress or straining, so something like child birth would be a time they would be concerned. The doctor recommended to me that I do not have any more children via natural childbirth or it will strain my heart. He also said that I could have another stroke or a heart attack, so we are under watch all day and I am resting. I am very thankful that we didn’t have a car crash on Monday and that I didn’t have any paralysis. The impaired eye sight is annoying and will hopefully return, but it could have been so much worse. I am glad that it has been caught by talented and efficient doctors before it could have been life-threatening. All of you women with migraines need to start an aspirin a day regimen, and make sure you keep it on hand!

When we sat in the doctor’s office, I looked at my husband. He said he was glad that we were already agreed upon adoption and fostering. I don’t know what this means for our journey, but all I could think of last night was whether they would even accept an application from someone with a heart defect. We know we aren’t finished creating our family, and we were already on the path towards adoption. This just gives us that extra kick in the pants.

Some information on strokes that I have found helpful:

Signs you could be at risk for a stroke!

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/heart/articles/2009/05/11/stroke-7-signs-you-could-be-at-risk-of-a-brain-attack

Stroke Organizations:

http://www.stroke.org/site/PageNavigator/HOME

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/