Matters of the Heart, Part 26

You know there’s always an extra story… nothing is ever as simple as we think. It’s always an adventure!

Friday morning started way too early. We were at the hospital at 6 am. Mind you, that’s the time I’m usually getting up! I’d told Ben several times I was going to call an Uber to take him, but I got up and took one for the team, as the saying goes!

When we arrived the waiting area for surgery check in was packed! Obviously Fridays are as heavy a surgery day as the rest of the week. We were prepared for a long day, but not nearly as long as it turned out to be.

Check in was as smooth as ever, although Ben wasn’t called back til almost 7:00 for pre-op preparation, which meant I didn’t go back with him til 7:30. Two of the nurses remembered us from our previous visits, and although they were happy to see familiar faces again, they did say they hoped it was a long time before we were back.

Yeah, we felt the same way!

Everything progressed as usual until one of the nurses came in to go over post operation procedures for pacemaker surgeries. Not a big deal, right? This wasn’t his first one.

But things had obviously changed from five years ago, because one of the first things we were told was that he couldn’t drive for four weeks!! Excuse me? That’s 90% of his job, and no one ever told us that, nor was that the protocol the last time. Of course, Ben told her that wasn’t going to happen. I was afraid he was going to cancel the surgery!

She nicely explained he would have to talk to his doctor when he came in, and that certainly was his plan! He also would have to wear a sling at night to keep his arm stabilized in order to minimize the possibility of the pacemaker wires being dislodged. Good point. And he would have a new monitoring device to take home so that the new pacemaker could transmit information at night back to the monitoring station at the doctors’ office.

I guess because the last time we went through this it was an emergency procedure, we didn’t have all these instructions beforehand. Nor would we have had very many questions, since he had no choice that time but to have the pacemaker installed.

But this was a new device, one which would not only prevent his heart from going into Afib and hopefully eliminate his fluid buildup and shortness of breath, but would also deliver a shock to his heart if it started going too far into Afib again. As the nurse told us, patients who’ve experienced such an event said it felt like a horse kicking them in the chest. And then she proceeded to give us further instructions on what to do if the device did deliver a shock, including calling 911 immediately.

We knew she had to tell us these things, but that didn’t sound promising. However, we were told that possibility was not very likely in his case, since his device would be set to only go off to shock him if his heart rate went above 180, and normal rhythm is around 70.

Ok. That sounded hopeful. Of course, I wasn’t the one having surgery…

At one point I was worried that Ben would decide not to get the new pacemaker and just leave the hospital.

But when the doctor came in to talk to us, he told us the driving restrictions were only for two weeks, and explained that was because they didn’t want to risk the wires being dislodged or pulled out due to any sudden driving moves. Or because his shoulder would likely still be sore from the surgery, and his driving reactions might be slower than usual.

That made sense.

Of course he’d have the usual restrictions on not lifting or carrying anything over ten pounds, not walking the dogs with that arm, etc. that we already knew.

The doctor also added that he would be leaving the old pacemaker in and merely disabling it, rather than making another incision and disrupting the chest again, so fortunately there would be an easier recovery and less chance of infection.

So Ben was finally more at ease, kidding around with the nurses and technicians like his normal self. Our daughter had arrived earlier with our 3 month old granddaughter and she’d put little Ryleigh on the bed beside her dad. So of course he was telling everyone he’d come in for heart surgery and had a baby instead! And a really cute one, too!

We even told the doctor how my coworker had said they should just leave the old pacemaker in and make it a USB port or a warning light that would blink if there were a problem. Funny how our minds work sometime. But it helps distract us from the stress of what’s going on around us. (And the doctor thought those comments were great!)

So after all this we were finally ready. Or as ready as we’d ever be. We were ready for Ben to be back to his normal self. To be active again. To climb stairs without getting winded. To be able to go bike riding again. And on walks with our two dogs. To play with our granddaughters and not be worn out.

When they came to get him this time we believed it was finally going to be the end of a long journey.

But suddenly I had this little feeling of unease. Nothing I could really put my finger on. I dismissed it. And after we told him goodbye, Ashley and the baby and I went to the waiting room once again while he was wheeled off to surgery.

Another two hours or so and it would be over, and all would be good! Right?

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 27.

No Parent Should Ever…

….ever, not ever, have to bury a child.

It has to be their worst nightmare; one that never ends. One that demolishes your life.

I seriously cannot imagine, nor do I ever want to. I pray daily to keep my daughter and son-in-law and their children healthy and safe.

Over the years I have known people who have lost children. One woman, the daughter of a very good friend of ours, lost her baby girl to SIDS at the age of only 3 months. I remember it as if it were yesterday. How she walked into the nursery and found a blue, unresponsive infant, and frantically began doing CPR as she shouted to her oldest son to call the ambulance.

No warning. No indication of any problems. Suddenly she was gone. And nothing could bring her back.

A devastated family. A life cut far too short. I remember this mom saying how she felt going out to buy her daughter the most beautiful dress she could find to bury her in, because she’d never be buying her a prom gown, or enjoy the very special time of going with her to pick out her wedding dress.

A few weeks ago we attended the funeral of a 28 year old man, the eldest child and only son of a co-worker. The young man had been an exceptional student, an athlete, and had everything to live for…until he was diagnosed with a rare and extremely deadly form of bone cancer.

He fought hard and went through procedures and surgeries which we cannot imagine, even losing a leg. He fought to the end, his family alongside him, including his fiancée and love of his life, who he had proposed to only a few months before he passed away.

Once again, a devastated family. A life cut far too short. As his father said as he gave his son’s eulogy (and I have no idea how he managed to get through it) he left behind all that he still wanted to do. He left behind the love of his life, and the life they never had a chance to establish.

But he ended with this reminder…”the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I am also reminded of the mass shooting victims over the past several weeks as well as the past several years. Too many to count. Families lost children; some lost more than one. Suddenly life as they knew it ended, and will never be the same again. The grief will never stop. It doesn’t matter whether you know your child has a terminal disease and you have time to say goodbye. Because you’re still clinging to that tiny piece of hope that there will suddenly be a miracle. A child’s death is still something that should never happen.

Time heals, but there are certain things that not even time can completely heal. And all we can do is cling to our faith.

Parents should not have to bury their children.

Parents, the next time you’re awakened at 3 am by a screaming infant be happy that child is there crying, breathing, and calling out for you. What if your nursery were suddenly forever silent?

The next time your toddler has meltdown #20 of the day, imagine what it would be like to never hear that again because your toddler is no longer there to have a meltdown.

The next time your middle schooler refuses to do what you ask him to do, talks back to you, and runs to his room and slams the door, imagine what your life would be like without any other episodes ever taking place again, because he’s no longer there.

The next time your high school student defies you, lies to you, or gets in trouble, before punishing her, imagine what life would be like if she were no longer there. Tell her you love her, and then deal with the problem.

The next time your adult child makes you crazy with worry, forgets to call, or tells you he doesn’t need your help any more because he’s grown, as you’re dealing with your hurt feelings, and trying to decide what to do, think about what it would be like to no longer have that adult child alive and well.

Parents, go hug your children. Tell them how much you love them. If they’re grown and living away from you, call them or face time them. Tell them how you feel.

Because tomorrow is not promised. We only have today. And today doesn’t last forever.

Matters of the Heart, Part 25

This Friday is supposed to be the day. Hopefully it will be Ben’s last heart procedure for some time.

It’s been a long five weeks since the last one…you know, when he was supposed to get his new upgraded pacemaker. And didn’t.

Although he received a double ablation in preparation for the new pacemaker, these last few weeks haven’t been all that easy. There have continued to be problems, which are still going on even as I write this.

It actually began the night he came home from the ablation. Walking up the stairs that night the shortness of breath was back. And his heart rate was up to 90, although it was at 70 when we left the hospital. His weight was up to 171 and it had had been 167 when we were at the hospital. How did all that fluid that come back so quickly???? And his fingers were so swollen he couldn’t get his ring back on. And it hadn’t been like that at the hospital. The on-call PA said it was all normal and if it weren’t any better the next day to let them know.

And it was ok. UntilFriday morning when his Kardia app told him he was back in Afib….

It was back and forth like that for the next week, but he was at least able to go to work. He was terribly tired when he got home, but he did it.

Then on a Saturday 20 days after the procedure he got in the pool for the first time and tried to swim. He only went 1/4 of the length and was so short of breath we thought we were going to have to help get him out.

We went to an early dinner and when we got home he leaned over to pet the dogs and got extremely dizzy and lightheaded. We took his BP several times and it was 66/46!

Fortunately when we called the doctor’s office the PA on duty was his doctor’s PA, who knew all about his case. She emphasized his heart was still adjusting to the ablation and since his heart rate was fine, we shouldn’t panic. (Right!!) She told us to cut back on two of his meds because they tended to lower blood pressure. And to eat some salty food! Salt on a low sodium diet?

But we fixed him some salty popcorn which helped and his BP was up to 83/77 when we went to bed. The next morning it was normal.

It’s been back and forth like this for the last two weeks. He’s very tired when he gets home from work and still has to take a nap. The shortness of breath hasn’t gone away, and some days is worse than others. He still gets swelling in his abdomen even though he’s on double doses of fluid pills. His feet are swollen off and on.

Fortunately his heart rate has stayed fairly constant, with no signs of Afib. That’s a positive.

And of course with all of this going on, even though he’s been told by the doctor’s assistant that the new upgraded pacemaker will take care of all of this, he’s still not sure it will. And I don’t blame him.

There’s just been so much….

So this Friday is the day. So far. And hopefully the beginning of a calm period in our lives. A time to

start going places again without worrying if he’ll get too tired to enjoy himself. A time to only take his vital signs once a day instead of four. A time to be able to lift his granddaughters and our little dogs without shortness of breath.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. And may there only be one or two more chapters of updates about heart surgeries and other cardiac procedures!

Stay tuned for Matters of the Heart, Part 26.

Why?

And when will it stop?

Sunday morning I was bombarded with news stories about the two horrendous mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Countless lives destroyed; forever changed. Senseless and uncalled for.

My first thought when I heard the first news reports were “why”? “Not again.” “Whats it going to take to stop these senseless acts of murder?”

And I have no idea.

But suddenly everywhere you turn, everyone has their answer. In some form or other.

Many people say it’s Trump’s fault because he uses so much hate speech. (And he does. Sorry, but if you disagree, tell me why so many of the things he says aren’t hate speech.) I demand more dignity and respect from the president of the United States.

But I do not put the blame on him alone, although he has contributed to this growing theme of hatred and intolerance in this country. Because others are playing into it as well.

Many politicians say the problem is access to guns, and we need more gun control laws. One presidential candidate basically said the heck with the second amendment [to the Constitution] and that we need gun control immediately. This is not the time to try and use this for a campaign nor is it time to jump and scream for things that may not be able to be done. Or should not be done.

Maybe these people need to read the Constitution, understand what it takes to change it, and then look into ways to pass legitimate laws to control assault weapons, buying and owning firearms, and realizing that guns are used by PEOPLE to do this. People who I believe have mental issues, because of their intense hatred for others. And these individuals will find a way somehow to get around the laws.

Maybe we need to actually enforce the laws that are already in place. What an idea.

One person even went so far as to put down another for speaking out by calling this individual a terrible defamatory name for a gay person, adding “he’s even married to a guy – what do you expect?”

What do I expect? I expect civility. Dignity. Respect for other people who are different from you and I and who have a right to their own life without being maligned by others who have a right to their own lives as well.

I expect individuals to be allowed to speak out without our president telling them they should go back where they came from! This further incites those who have no empathy and no compassion for others, who think those individuals have no right to live and need to be eradicated.

I am appalled that our president makes obnoxious and derogatory remarks about the plight of a certain city because the representative of that district is not of his political party, and then goes on to make sarcastic comments about that representative’s home being robbed. “Too bad!” That’s further contributing to the discontent and hate in this nation.

What next?

I hope and pray for no more mass shootings. But I will not be surprised, because unless we all work together to stop the hate speech, the intolerance for those who have differing views than we do, the acceptance of those who spout intolerance for those who disagree with them, the violence will continue.

Why?

Because we are too busy being offended by things which should not offend us. We are too busy turning a blind eye to injustice and the plights of others who are not in the same economic and social strata as ourselves. Whose skin color is different from ours. Who don’t have the same religious viewpoints that we do. Who don’t have the same sexual preferences that we do.

We are too busy being better than everyone else and ignoring the underlying problems that are slowly tearing this nation apart.

We are too busy being on one side or the other and refusing to sit down and negotiate with wisdom, cool heads, and common sense. And refusing to stand up to those who make comments designed to put down others and incite them to anger. Too blind to recognize and speak out against the words of hatred and insult coming from the side they’re on because to deviate from such blind loyalty would mean that maybe…just maybe…they’ve been wrong about certain things. And we can’t have that!

Now, I’m sure I’m already being de-friended by some people because I have voiced my opinion. But it’s my opinion, and I’m still entitled to it. Just as you are to yours. Until someone decides to try and figure out a way to take away that right in our Constitution.

Don’t think there’s not someone out there who might try.

I have no solution to these disasters, these horrible mass killings, but stopping the hate speech might be a good place to start. Understanding other points of view would be good also. Enforcing our existing laws might help as well!

I don’t want to hear about another mass shooting. But I’m afraid I will….

And all the finger pointing will start again. And the arguing. And the accusations.

Until we all decide to work together to solve these problems, and stop putting other people down who aren’t like us, whoever “us” may be, it’s not going to end.

How many lives will be lost, how many families destroyed, before we finally understand?