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!
Tomorrow is the big day of my heart surgery. I’ve spent the last month wrangling with the insurance company to make sure it’s approved for in-network. The link below is a concise description of the surgery. I’ll let you know how it goes! Finally got nervous and overwhelmed yesterday. Cried today when Little One’s preschool teachers told me good luck. Sigh. Let’s close this bad boy up and get on with it!
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!
Today our family helper, Leslie starts with us. I had placed an ad last December for someone that could help part-time with child care so that I could continue to work remotely. Although Little One attends preschool, it is only from 9-11:30 and by the time I drop her off it’s like I’m on my way back to get her! So we were fortunate enough to find a local mom who is willing to come help while her kids are in school. When I wasn’t able to drive, she was also a godsend in her willingness to help me get to appointments. I am excited to have an extra hand around, and some relief for Little One from having me with her all day!
The other exciting part of today is that the Executive Director of a local fostering agency is coming by to speak with me and my husband! He has a training class coming up soon that he’d like to get us in. I have a bunch of questions for him and I can’t wait to hear about possibly working with him and his agency. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Check out this nonprofit raising awareness and hope for young stroke survivors…
I know my blog got run over by stroke updates, and I can’t promise that won’t continue to happen! But as my husband and I discuss our future birth control options, we are scheduling meetings with the foster care agencies I’ve been in touch with since last December. I am super psyched that these agencies will come to my home to meet with me and my husband. It’s such a departure from the foster world we were thrown into in North Carolina. As each day goes by, we settle more into our new home and our new routines. But also it becomes apparent that our family is not settled, it’s not whole. Little One desperately wants someone to play with, and while we do the best we can, in the end playing with adults is just not as fun as playing with other kids! We just think on a different level.
Next week we will meet with the program director for a local foster/adopt agency. He’s been so kind and we’re anxious to hear if my medical condition will change our approach at all. We are hoping to fast track through the application and homestudy process since we got so far last summer and we have everything put together already. This particular program director seems anxious about us getting certified, and he has a training class coming up that we could fit right into. Can’t wait to meet him!
My husband and I are discussing non-pill forms of birth control since I’m not supposed to get pregnant. I still haven’t met with the cardiologist who will give final say on my heart condition and pregnancy, but we’ve been told by every doctor after the stroke that I am not to get pregnant. Not that we’ve been sucessful since Little One anyway, but it is a different situation being told that we can’t try versus trying and aren’t able to get pregnant. So we have to discuss our options with long term birth control. Anyone have experience in long term birth control? Shots or IUDs or vasectomy? My husband is pretty averse to getting a vasectomy but at this point I’m not sure I like any of the other choices any better!
I had a very exciting birthday last week. And it wasn’t because we had a party! Around lunch I began to have similar issues as I did the previous week, when I had a stroke. My head felt fuzzy/weird, kind of like I was light headed but knew that wasn’t it. My right arm felt weak and floppy, but I could use it and everything was balanced to my left. I was scared out of my mind. Of course, we had gotten so much snow and the roads were terrible so we called 911 and an ambulance came for me. I felt badly and didn’t want to leave but my doctor wasn’t in his office due to the weather so we really had no other choice. I had to leave my mom and Little One, who was doing a good job of being brave and stayed next to me, comforting me and rubbing my arm while the EMTs were here. My mom told her I got a ride in the big red truck for my birthday, so she seemed relieved.
While it sucked going to the Emergency Room on my birthday, I did meet an excellent ER doctor who questioned why I hadn’t seen a neurologist before my doctors decided to perform heart surgery on me. What he said made sense, let’s make sure this stroke was really heart related and not otherwise related. So I got a new MRI, some bloodwork and then they sent me off to a larger hospital in the region, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. I must commend the local hospital, Evangelical Community hospital, for all of their kindness, helpfulness, and efficiency in all of my emergency matters. All the tests and results were run STAT and everyone was very kind to welcome me to the area and were genuinely concerned with my well being. I know for a lot of the nurses who were around my age that it really hit home that even healthy young people can have random scary health matters.
At Geisinger I had a bunch of tests performed, like an MR Angiogram, leg ultrasound, TEE, on top of a ton of coagulate tests done on my blood. My neurologist and his team of residents took good care of me and the nurses on my floor were awesome. I was excited to be the “easiest” patient on the floor for them. After 2 and a half days at Geisinger, my doctor was ready to send me home. He said that because of my genetic pre-disposition along with prolonged sitting with all the driving I’ve done over the last couple of weeks, I developed a blood clot in my leg. While most people would have discomfort and their clot would either dissipate on its own or with help from some medication, because I have the PFO (genetic heart defect), my clot could pass into the other chamber and onto my brain. There it got stuck in my occipital nerve and messed up my vision. We can close up the hole in my heart, and I have a consult later in the month to talk to the cardiologist about that surgery, but I still run a risk of the clot ending up somewhere else, like my lungs. So I am on aspirin and Plavix now, along with Lipitor, to keep my blood thinned out so I don’t keep making clots. I am not allowed to drive for at least 6 months, depending on how my vision returns. Unfortunately with strokes, unless you catch them super early they end up killing brain cells. I am just lucky enough that I was not paralyzed or worse, and just have to deal with the eye issues.
I continue to have follow up appointments with the neurologist, opthamologist and the cardiologist. I am hopeful that there are resources in my area for low vision deficits along with some kind of exercises I can do to regain my sight or at least some of it.