On Wednesday, September 20th, I went to the Heart Hospital ER because of a pacemaker problem. It's not a new problem, but it had gotten worse. One of my pacemaker leads was stimulating my phrenic nerve, which is the nerve that controls your diaphragm. That resulted in me feeling my pacemaker shocking me all the time. I am paced 100% of the time, which means that my heart needs a shock to initiate every single heart beat. If my heart rate is 80bpm, I feel it shock me 80 times a minute. It's not comfortable, and we knew it needed to be fixed. Unfortunately that meant another heart surgery. My 5th heart surgery since April. I was scheduled to see my heart surgeon the following week, but I just couldn't stand it anymore, so my doctor said to go to the ER so they could see if they could adjust some settings until it could be fixed. So that Wednesday night in the ER, they lowered the pacemaker settings enough to where I didn't feel it as much. The only problem was that they had to lower it so much that there wasn't much of a safety margin. They said they would have to keep me in the hospital if they kept the settings that low, so they ended raising the settings a little so that I could go home with a good safety margin. But they had still lowered it enough for me not to feel it as much.
Unfortunately, the relief from the setting changes only lasted about a day before I started feeling it shock me again.
On Saturday, September 23rd, I passed out at home. Thankfully I was sitting down already and didn't fall. We called the on-call doctor again and he said to go to the ER. What happened was that the pacemaker settings were too low, so I had a couple of skipped heartbeats which made me pass out. They had to raise the pacemaker settings so that wouldn't happen again, which meant that I felt it shocking me even harder. Here you can see it jolting my body.
I'm not sure if the video is working, so I apologize if it's not...
The ER doctor talked to the on-call cardiothoracic surgeon and he said to admit me so they could get the surgery done sooner than later. They also admitted me to keep me more comfortable until surgery since it was so painful and uncomfortable. It made it hard to breathe too.
So, I was once again admitted to the Heart Hospital on Saturday, September 23rd. They got me a room really quickly and put me in the ICU Step Down Unit. They stopped my Coumadin in anticipation of surgery and they started me on IV Heparin to protect my heart valve while I was off the Coumadin.
The hospital gets really quiet on the weekends, so not much happened on Sunday. They tried to keep me comfortable and there was talk that my surgery would be the next day.
My parents were actually out of town when this all happened. My dad had a work conference in Phoenix, so my mom went with him and then they went to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and a couple of other places! My aunt stayed with me while they were gone and she's the one who took me to the ER that Wednesday and then the ER Saturday when I was admitted. My parents got home around midnight on Sunday night. I was so glad that they were scheduled to come home then and that they didn't have to come home early or anything.
On Monday morning my cardiothoracic surgeon said that he would do my surgery that day at 2:30pm, so they started prepping me for surgery. I had one of my favorite nurses that day! The surgery he would be doing was a Thoracotomy. They said a Thoracotomy is one of the most painful surgeries to have, even worse than open heart surgery. But it fixed the problem!
My parents, brother and I before my surgery
They took me to surgery on time which is a miracle because hospital time is usually really behind. Surgery only lasted a couple hours and I came out with a 6 inch incision on my ribs on my left side, a chest tube, and an incision a few inches long where my pacemaker is in my chest. I also had a 3 lumen central line in my neck. They had a hard time getting a line in because I've just had so many. But surgery was successful! They placed an epicardial pacemaker lead on the outside of my heart.
I am highly allergic to the tape dressing they have to use, so I got horrible hives. This next picture is when they were changing the dressing. I was on IV Benedryl around the clock because it itched and stung like crazy.
It was sutured to my neck so it wouldn't come out. You can see how red it was from the allergic reaction.
After surgery, they had me on continuous IV Heparin so that I wouldn't get a blood clot in my mechanical heart valve since they had stopped my oral blood thinner (Coumadin) for surgery. My Coumadin range needs to be 3.5-4 so they kept me on the Heparin until it reached that level.
The chest tube was removed after a couple of days. If you have had a chest tube you know how painful and uncomfortable they are so it's always a relief when they come out! Removing the chest tube is extremely painful but it's nice to get it out.
I got to go outside with my parents one Saturday and the weather was perfect! Don't be too jealous of my cute outfit! Haha
On Wednesday, October 4th, my INR (Coumadin level) was 3.5 so they stopped the Heparin drip and planned for me to go home the next day. Well the next day my INR dropped to 2.4 for no apparent reason. So they started the Heparin again and came up with a new dosing schedule for the Coumadin. They didn't want my INR to go up too fast or I could bleed internally, especially since I was on the Heparin too.
A week later, on Wednesday, October 11th, my INR was 3.3, which is almost in range, so they stopped the Heparin and planned on me going home the next day if my INR stayed stable. And it did! It went from 3.3 to 4.5 overnight!!
So after almost 3 weeks in the hospital, I got to come home last Thursday, October 12th!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Leaving the hospital!
I think she missed me while I was in the hospital!
I'm just so grateful for the care I received in the hospital. I got to know the people who delivered my meals, the sweet lady who cleaned my room each day, and other people that work in the hospital. In the hospital, the floor I was on also has the doctors' offices, and I've become good friends with the 2 ladies who check you in to see the doctor. I would go see them everyday on my walks and they are so sweet. They bought me a beautiful necklace just because and I'm so grateful for them! They brighten my day every time I see them!
I've become good friends with the nurses as well. We have laughed together, cried together, and prayed together. On my walks I would go from nurses station to nurses station to talk to everyone!
It was 3am one morning. At 3 or 4am they do blood work, vitals, and weigh you in your bed, so I knew I would be awake for a while. They take blood that early so the results are ready for when the doctors round in the mornings. I still haven't figured out why they weigh you at 3am, especially when they have to take all your blankets and pillows off the bed to weigh you. You're all comfortable in the middle of the night and they take everything from you. Doesn't make sense.
While my nurse was taking my blood one night, she asked me, "are you a Christian?" I said yes I am. She said she asks all her patients that question because one day we will stand before God and He will ask us if we told people about Him. I told her that God is how I've gotten through all I've been through and I wouldn't have gotten through it without Him. We continued to talk about God and she asked if we could pray together. So we prayed together and she asked me to pray for a couple of her other patients (obviously she didn't give me names of the patients and she didn't violate HIPPA).
Another nurse one night asked if we could pray together so she could pray for me. I really appreciated that.
It's really nice because in the ICU Step Down Unit, each nurse only has 2 patients. That gives the opportunity for your nurse to really spend a lot of time with you! I always enjoy talking with my nurses. We talk about everything.
I had long talks with the sweet lady who cleaned my room each day. Her mother-in-law passed away while I was in the hospital and that gave us the opportunity to talk about God and life a lot.
God is so good and He never leaves us.
When I was discharged, the nurses and I were saying that it was bittersweet because they were going to miss having me there! I totally agreed! But I told them I would come visit them. Between blood work checks, cardiac rehab, and appointments, I'm at the hospital all the time. It'll be a couple more weeks until I can start cardiac rehab again.
The people who work at cardiac rehab came to see me several times while I was in the hospital and they lifted my spirits each time they came! I really appreciated them coming. When they came, there were so many of them that they filled the room and it made me so happy!
I'm also so, so grateful for all your prayers, love, support, cards, and visits! You all have been such a blessing to my family and I, and I can't thank you enough!
I truly have the best nurses and doctors and the best family and friends!!
Here are some pictures of my room. We put the cards you all sent in the window!
My parents got me these beautiful flowers!
Today I'm enjoying a rare day when I don't have any doctor appointments! It's a beautiful day!
Please keep praying for me as I continue to recover at home! Yesterday I had my blood thinner levels checked. I have it checked at least twice a week when I'm not in the hospital. Yesterday my levels were way too low (2.3), so I had to start blood thinner injections in my stomach twice a day. I do them myself. It's risky for my levels to be so low because it means I could get a clot in my mechanical heart valve really easily. That happened in June, so it's nerve-wracking. But I will trust God's plan and try not to worry. Life is hard but He is so good and has never left me. He's brought us this far, and He won't leave us now.
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
Again, thank you for all your support. I love you all!