Matters of the Heart, Part 30

As I said in Part 29, I didn’t expect to have a Part 29 of this series, let alone a Part 30. But here we are.

Looking back, Ben and I have been dealing with his heart issues for 36 years. We’ve been married for 37 years. What does that tell you?

Deciding on having the Watchman procedure done was easier than the steps involved to actually get the procedure itself approved. And it certainly wasn’t his doctor’s fault.

There were several tests he had to have first, including a new EKG, and echocardiogram. Those were simple and of course showed he was a good candidate for the procedure. 

Then he needed a second opinion from another cardiologist in his group. Time was ticking until the end of the year, and we were getting a bit antsy. 

But that appointment was finally scheduled and the doctor confirmed that with his history he was definitely a good candidate for the procedure 

Now to get it approved and scheduled before the end of the year. With Thanksgiving and Christmas affecting schedules as well.

But our doctor assured us we’d get it done by the end of the year, and we’d get a call from the office as soon as it could be scheduled.

We just didn’t realize we’d get the call just five days before the surgery date, with two of those days being a weekend. It was scheduled for TWO DAYS before Thanksgiving! And we found out on Thursday which was the Thursday before Thanksgiving Day!

He’d be the first surgery of the day, which meant we had to be at the hospital at 5:30. In the morning! And I am NOT a morning person, which meant we’d have to get up at 4 am to get ready and be there that early. Ugh.

Well, we’d take what was available. Which meant frantically rearranging both his and my work schedules, as well as finishing putting up all the Christmas decorations! Fortunately we’d started early, and if you followed the stories about our 8+ Christmas trees, plus the Christmas ledge in our two story foyer, well you can imagine how much we needed to get done since we were having Thanksgiving dinner at our house.

I finished all the big trees, and he finished the ledge. Boxes for the decorations were still sitting around which needed to be put away, but I figured our daughter and son-in-law could do that since Ben wouldn’t be able to lift anything for several days after the procedure. Talk about rushing around…!

But plans don’t always go as planned, shall we say. The night before his surgery he got a call from his doctor around 6:30 PM. From his doctor’s personal cell phone. (Yes, we have that number.) That’s a call you don’t ignore.

And you guessed it. Surgery was postponed. The insurance company still hadn’t approved it. We weren’t happy at all. However, as Ben told the doctor, “my wife will be happy she doesn’t have to get up at 4:00 in the morning.” He said the doctor laughed himself silly over that comment! After apologizing profusely, the docotr promised they would reschedule as soon as they got the word from the insurance company, and it would definitely be before the end of the year.

Things did work out for the best, though, because not only did I not have to get up before the crack of dawn, we were able to put all the decoration boxes away, and I didn’t have to beg for extra help from our daughter to get Thanksgiving dinner ready. And Ben was able to play with the grandkids on Thanksgiving without being concerned about his incisions. 

But how was this going to affect our Christmas plans? Would we have to scramble to change other things?

Fortunately, the next week we got a call rescheduling the procedure, for the following week. Our doctor must’ve remembered Ben’s comment about early mornings, though, because the new surgery time was 1:00 in the afternoon and we didn’t have to be at the hospital until 11:00 am. That worked really well, at least for me.

Then we found out the insurance company had actually approved the procedure at 4:30 pm the day before the original surgery date. They just didn’t notify the doctors in time.

Go figure. But it did all work out for the best, since Ben had a week’s vacation already scheduled for the following week after the surgery to make recuperation easier.

Surgery went perfectly. In fact our doctor told him he’d done hundreds of these procedures and usually he had to do a little maneuvering to get the device precisely where it needed to be, but this one went in perfectly the first time! Thank goodness!

Ben will now be on blood thinners for 45 days after the surgery while the tissue grows over the device to seal it in. He will then have a CT scan to be sure everything is going well, which we’re sure it will. Then he will be on a different blood thinner plus baby aspirin until 180 days after the procedure and then no more blood thinners; just a daily baby aspirin.

Naturally we’re all pleased with the results, and so glad he made the decision to do it.

What’s ahead in this saga now? Hopefully only 6 month follow up visits that will show everything is still doing well.

After three heart valve replacements, two pacemakers, and now the Watchman, I think he’s had enough.

We are so thankful for all the great doctors and nurses he’s been fortunate enough to have over the years, and I do have to say that the last two cardiologists that have been caring for him have been the absolute best!

If any of you reading this have any heart issues, or have loved ones with these issues, please be encouraged. It’s not always as bad as it seems. Yes, it’s scary, but look what we’ve been though over the years. And if you have questions please feel free to message me with questions.

And Ben is still going strong after all of this!

Matters of the Heart, Part 29

I really didn’t expect to be writing another installment of this series. After all there’ve been 28 installments so far, the last one being in September of 2019. A little more than two years ago.

Certainly enough stories, right?

Well, you would think so.

But after the last heart valve procedure, which is still doing very well, thank goodness, both of Ben’s doctors determined that he was a very good candidate for a device called the Watchman. This device is implanted in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. It permanently closes off that area of the heart in which blood clots can form for patients like Ben who have a history of atrial fibrillation or AFib (which can lead to a stroke).

AFib patients, even those with pacemakers, like Ben, are on blood thinners daily to prevent blood clots from forming. This particular device prevents such clots from forming, thus eliminating the need for patients to take blood thinners daily, which in Ben’s case have also caused a number of blood vessel ruptures in his left eye, which has had numerous recurrences of iritis, which is another story altogher.

Naturally we had a lot of discussions on this procedure, as it’s only been around a little over ten years, and we’d never heard of it. But we did a lot of reading about it, and after several talks with his doctor, we decided that it was the right thing for him to do. Particularly since it was a non-invasive procedure in which the device was inserted into his heart through an artery in the groin, much like his last heart valve replacement. An overnight stay would be required, which was no big deal.

There were several tests that had to be done prior to getting final approval by the cardiology team (not to mention his health insurance, but that’s another matter entirely).

But before we could start the process, Covid hit, and although we’ve been extremely fortunate and neither of us or his medical professionals have contracted it, all elective surgeries were put on hold until further notice.

Of course the Watchman is an elective procedure. So we were on hold. For quite awhile. About 18 months or more.

We kept checking with the hospital and his doctors and finally the restrictions on elective surgeries were lifted. We made an appointment as soon as we could with his doctor to discuss the next steps.

When we were finally able to get the appointment  with his doctor we all quickly decided this was the best way for him to go, and proceeded to schedule the testing involved to be able to apply for approval not only within the cardiology group, but also with his insurance company for their approval.

Nothing is ever simple, though. And we also needed to do the surgery by the end of 2021 to avoid a huge out of pocket expense, since he’d already met his deductible for that year. And it was already early in October 2021.

So the process began…but not without a few complications along the way. Of course.

Read the next installment of “Matters of the Heart, Part 30″, to be published on January 24.

Matters of the Heart, Part 19

Sometimes you just go through a day, through the motions, and when it’s over you think back on it and just have to say, “What in the world just happened? And why?”

The day of Ben’s scheduled heart valve replacement surgery was that kind of day. Without a doubt. We’re still shaking our heads in amazement.

Of course the night before the surgery neither of us slept well. I went to bed very early because I was so emotionally drained and almost immediately fell asleep. Ben on the other hand was fine, but woke up at 3 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. He just couldn’t wait to get the surgery done so he could start feeling better.

As soon as we got to the hospital that morning things progressed quickly and quite smoothly. Everyone was wonderful and he was back and prepped ready to go within an hour. Two of our best friends were there with us and we were all joking around and laughing, waiting to get “the show on the road!”

He was supposed to be taken for the procedure at 1:00. But by that time we still hadn’t seen the doctors or the anesthesiologist, so we knew things weren’t on time. Which isn’t unusual with heart surgery, since there are so many complications that could occur, especially when a valve has to be replaced.

The nurses kept apologizing, but of course it was out of their control. Finally his main doctor cane in to let us know two of the cases before him had been more difficult than planned, which of course took longer, but they were certainly going to get his done that day and as soon as possible.

Now heart surgery is something not to be rushed, not to be taken lightly. Although we were anxious, and just ready to get it over with, we all understood that the others before us deserved the same care and precision surgery that Ben would have.

So we waited as patiently as possible. Ben had had nothing to eat or drink since 9:00 the night before and he was starving and thirsty and miserable. The nurses gave him a damp sponge swab to rub in his mouth, which he called his “lollipop.” That helped a bit, but….

By 3:30 we were truly wondering if it was going to happen that day. But they had assured us…

The anesthesia team finally came in around 4:00, explained to us about the sedation, and said it would be soon. Hooray! And at 4:40 they came and got him finally! I said my good byes at the door to the OR suite and went to the waiting room, checking my watch to see when I should be expecting an update, which I figured would be about an hour.

You can imagine how I felt when the charge nurse came into the waiting room ten minutes later asking for the Newell family.

Her first words were “your husband is fine” which calmed me down. But now what??

It turned out that just as Ben got wheeled into the OR, as they were getting ready to transfer him onto the operating table, the word “STOP” was shouted out. Which of course stopped everything. A patient already in ICU was in a life threatening situation which required members of his cardiac team to be dispatched to that patient. Which of course delayed Ben’s surgery.

The charge nurse and I had a brief conversation, and I assured her we understood. After all, if my husband were the patient in critical condition, I’d want the team to switch to his care from someone who wasn’t as critical, even though it meant Ben would have to wait even longer. Or possibly get bumped to the next week.

So it was back to the holding area, and back to waiting. By now it was after 5:00, and we knew chances of having the surgery that day weren’t good.

And we were correct. His doctor came in around 6 and apologized profusely, but explained the other case was going to take at least three hours and by then his team would be too tired to do our procedure. Since they only do them on Wednesday’s he told us he would bump someone else from next Wednesday and put us either first or second for that day. So after a very long day we were sent back home. Ben was exhausted, thirsty, and starving, after almost 24 hours without eating or drinking.

And by the time we got home he was almost too tired to eat.

So once again we’re waiting for Wednesday. This time we’re the second case. Once again he’s back on extra fluid pills and extra potassium to try and minimize the shortness of breath. And of course he’s fatigued.

Several people have asked us if we were angry over what happened, and the answer is absolutely not. Disappointed, yes, but why would we be angry? Someone’s life was at stake, and as I said before, if Ben were the one whose life was at stake, I’d want them to take care of him over someone else. That’s how it works. And hopefully the person who was in that life threatening situation is ok. We may never know, but we’re certainly going to ask.

So once again we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and this time we’re really hoping it’ll turn out to be sunshine!

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 20, which will be published a few days after the procedure is successfully completed next week.

Matters of the Heart, Part 18

I said last week we’d publish again after the surgery. Well, the surgery is supposed to be tomorrow, but as I’ve said many times before, you just can’t make this stuff up….

Exactly one week before the scheduled surgery, Ben got a phone call at 3 am. Of course he didn’t answer since he didn’t recognize the number. But since I was out of town with our daughter and her new baby, and there had already been one time I’d needed him in the middle of the night and he hadn’t answered, he decided to check his voice mail.

It was the nurse from his cardiologist’s office calling. His last bloodwork had come back and there was a critical problem with his potassium level, and she needed him to call back right away.

In the middle of the night???

But he called, and had to leave a message. And then stayed awake the rest of the night waiting for her to call back, and wondering what in the world could be so wrong! And was it that serious??

And of course he didn’t get a return call until 7:30 in the morning.

His potassium level, as she’d said, was critically low; it was supposed to be no less than 3.5. His was 2.5. And if it didn’t get up to an acceptable level by surgery time, well, you guessed it. Another postponement until it was where it needed to be.

Evidently with all of the extra lasix he’d been taking, plus the stronger fluid pills, his potassium pills should have been increased as well, but obviously no one on his medical team had thought of that.

So now we had another potential postponement as well as an even bigger problem if the potassium went any lower.

He was to immediately double up on the potassium pills, and take the double dosage twice a day. Cutback on the Lasix. And eat bananas, which are high in potassium. And if he started feeling light headed again, he was to call the office, since that’s a symptom of too low potassium.

His blood had to be checked again on Monday. And if the potassium was still too low, then he would have to go in for an infusion of potassium to get the levels up.

So he started the extra meds immediately and ate extra bananas and avocados, both high in potassium, and both foods he really likes. He also received three phone calls to check on him on that Friday. One from each of the surgeon’s offices and one from the Heart Hospital. And no wonder….

I had googled low potassium and discovered that a level of 2.5 could be life threatening, requiring immediate medical attention, especially in a patient already having cardiac issues.

It seemed that light at the end of the tunnel was still a train that hadn’t veered off on another track yet.

Saturday night he said he could already tell a difference because he was getting short of breath again because of the fluid buildup. But he’d take that as long as the potassium levels increased.

And of course Sunday just brought more fluid buildup and more fatigue. He was able to take me to breakfast for Mother’s Day, but had to go home and rest so we could go out later for dinner.

Monday morning he went to the lab for his bloodwork to check his potassium level. Only to be told there were no orders called in there for him to be tested! Why were we not surprised??

A call to the Heart Hospital was made, and he was told his doctor’s office was to have sent the orders over. Fortunately the hospital went ahead and handled it right then, and he finally had his blood drawn and went home to wait for the answers, which of course didn’t come that afternoon.

What did arrive in the mail that afternoon though, was an envelope from his doctor’s second office location which he doesn’t normally go to, with, you guessed it, the blood test paperwork for him to take to the hospital for the testing…totally opposite of what he’d been told last week!

But finally Tuesday morning he got the call that his potassium level had raised high enough for him to have the surgery without having an infusion!! I have to say I was so relieved I almost cried, and I’m sure he was certainly more relieved than me!

So tomorrow is the procedure, and he will come out of the operating room with a new heart valve which won’t be leaking! He will start feeling better and be able to resume normal activities once again. Please keep us and the entire medical team in your thoughts and prayers.

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 19, to be published as soon as I can have an hour or so to breathe and de-stress and write!

Matters of the Heart, Part 11

This is as good a time as any to talk about the emotional toll the last 12 months have taken on us. Or should I say on me. I know it has on Ben as well, but I cannot write from his perspective.

As I said before, these heart issues affect the patient physically, but also all of our emotions, our daily lives. It’s stressful, not only on the person actually experiencing the problems, but on family and friends. It can change the course of your entire lives. It certainly has ours.

And it’s continuing to do so, and most likely will continue for some time, as our story continues.

I cannot speak for Ben, because all I know is what he tells me, which is not a lot, or often, unless I ask, and keep asking. I know he’s worried, and I’m sure he’s scared, but I also know he’s trying to protect me from those fears.

After all, he has all of the physical symptoms to contend with, and the actual surgery, as well as the emotional stress. That has to be even worse.

Of course, I don’t tell him a lot either about how I’m feeling, because I don’t want to worry him. Or upset him. However, with all we’ve been through recently, and all we’re getting ready to go through, I think it’s time to talk about it.

Because all of this takes more of a toll on you than you realize. A lot more.

There are times that your mind starts racing, imaging all kinds of things that could happen. “What if’s” are hard to stop, once you start thinking about them all.

What if he’s not able to have the surgery the least invasive way? What if he has to have his chest cut open a third time? How dangerous is that, really?

How long will it take him to recover? What will be involved in his recovery this time? How am I going to take care of him as well as help our daughter who’ll most likely be having her second baby by C-section about that same time? Her husband can’t do it all and work at the same time.

Will Ben be able to continue doing the things he enjoys? Will he be able to continue to work, even though it’s only part time, and how long will it be until he can go back? What happens if he can’t?

We have a two story home. Should we start planning to sell it? Where would we move? What could we afford if he can’t work? And how in the world could we physically accomplish that actual moving without a ton of help?

And the really tough ones I don’t want to think about…should we update our wills before the surgery? Our medical directives?

What if he ends up eventually needing a heart transplant? How would we be able to handle that? I can’t even fathom it, but yes, your mind goes there as well. Several people have even innocently asked me that question without knowing all of the story.

And then there’s that thought that worms its way into my mind in the early hours of the morning when I just can’t sleep…what if he doesn’t make it?

It’s natural to have those thoughts, those fears, especially with all we’re going through. He’s my husband. I love him. And I’m worried.

There are a lot of nights I wake up and listen to be sure he’s breathing. I remember a good friend of my mother’s whose husband had severe heart problems saying the same thing. Now I know what she meant.

There are those who’ve told me that I don’t have enough faith; that I’m not trusting the Lord enough. That if I really believed I wouldn’t be worrying because I’d know my husband was going to be all right. That I need to pray more. That if we prayed more the Lord might heal him without surgery.

I’m sorry. Please don’t tell me these things. Or anyone else going through something like this. Don’t insult me or try to tell me I don’t have the faith you do, because that’s what you’re actually saying. You are actually judging without even realizing it. Unless someone is actually experiencing it, they really have no idea.

They aren’t in my place. They haven’t been in my place. And I hope they never are. Because if they were, or they had been, they’d most likely see things differently.

I trust my Lord. I believe in the power of prayer, and I’ve seen it work. Many times. And I do pray for him. But there are times that our humanness comes out and we get scared. We go through the “what if’s” and we find our minds going in places we don’t want to be. We cry. Sometimes we cry til there are no more tears. Many, like me, are careful to not let anyone see us cry, because we don’t want our weakness and fears to show to other people. We want to appear strong, when on the inside we’re crumbling.

But those feelings are there, and they don’t go away.

That’s reality. That’s how it is. And when you really aren’t sure what you’re facing; when you know there are risks; and that those risks may have to be taken, it puts you in a place you don’t want to be.

And getting out of that place is hard. Very hard. It doesn’t make me less of a person, or less of a believer. It reminds me that I’m human.

We will get through this with the love and support of family and close friends. With very good, excellent, dedicated medical teams at one of the top heart hospitals on the East Coast. And because of our faith we will look back on this and say, “We survived another one!”

Thank you all for your support so far. It means more than you know.

And the saga continues in Matters of the Heart, Part 12, to be published April 8.

Don’t miss the previous stories in this series:
Matters of the Heart, Part 1
Matters of the Heart, Part 2
Matters of the Heart, Part 3
Matters of the Heart, Part 4
Matters of the Heart, Part 5
Matters of the Heart, Part 6
Matters of the Heart, Part 7
Matters of the Heart, Part 8
Matters of the Heart, Part 9
Matters of the Heart, Part 10

Matters of the Heart, Part 10

If you’ve been following my stories in this series, by now you’re probably wondering when this saga is going to end.

Well, so are we. And I can’t answer that yet. I wish I could.

When you’re dealing with a hurting heart, a damaged heart, you just never know. And when the damage is caused by rheumatic fever at an early age, it just seems the older we get, the more problems which seem to occur.

It’s not easy by any means. It’s very difficult for the patient because they’re the ones going through the physical part, the exhaustion, the procedures, the pain, as well as the emotional stress of wondering when they’ll ever feel normal again.

For the family, it’s a different kind of stress. We worry. We’re anxious. We feel the stress in different ways. These feelings are normal. And as much as we try to hide them from our loved ones, because we don’t want to worry them any more, well, it makes things even harder. We try not to show our stress, but sometimes we just can’t help it.

Waiting to have the cath was like that for us. Surely we could wait the two and a half weeks. It’s not a long time, right? Well in this case, yes it was. We just wanted answers. And for Ben to feel better.

Then we found out those answers weren’t going to be as quick as we’d like.

Because of his history with two previous open heart surgeries, he has what is termed a “hostile chest,” because of the scar tissue and two sets of wires holding his rib cage together. This condition makes a third open heart surgery more troublesome and complicated. More risky.

Therefore, they need to go in through the femoral artery in the groin if at all possible to do the valve replacement to avoid complications, and make it easier on the doctors as well as the patient. But in Ben’s case….nothing is ever simple!

Meeting with his primary cardiologist a week before the cath was scheduled confirmed that. The procedure they were hoping to do is called TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Never heard of it? Neither had we.

Simply put, it involves inserting a catheter with the new valve thru the femoral artery in the groin and replacing the valve that way, without having to open up the chest cavity. In Ben’s case this would be the best way to do the surgery, but he has to be a good candidate for it. And that can only be determined by a series of tests, starting with the heart cath, which looks at not only the valve but the arteries to be sure there is only minimal plaque buildup. If there was too much blockage that would prevent him from being a candidate for the procedure unless the blockage was handled first.

If the cath results were good, he would then need four other tests to be done, all of which would be analyzed in conjunction with the cath results by a team of surgeons to determine if the TAVR would be acceptable in his case.

Four other tests??? How long would that take?

Fortunately those tests are relatively quick and non invasive, but still, there is time involved. There is a pulmonary function (breathing) test, carotid artery ultrasound, a CT scan of the chest and abdomen, and X-rays of the mouth to be sure there are no bacterial infections in his teeth which could lead to that infection going directly to the heart.

Why didn’t we know all of this before? Good question. But nothing is ever simple when dealing with cardiac issues. It seems we learn something new with every doctor visit, every procedure.

The catheterization was scheduled for President’s Day, Monday, February 18. We were so looking forward to that day, getting the results and being able to move forward quickly with the other tests, and hopefully schedule the replacement. Everything was on track. We thought.

Until Ben woke up with a horrible throbbing toothache Saturday morning before the procedure. Of course… And the dentist’s office was closed, of course, and we couldn’t find our dentist’s cell phone number, which we had somewhere. Which meant he was in pain all weekend. I made him call the cardiologist’s office to tell them, and, you guessed it! The cath was cancelled due to the risk of the infection from his abscessed tooth going to his heart. Now he was not only short of breath, and exhausted, but his tooth was throbbing, making it difficult to eat, and giving him a pounding headache.

What next? How much longer would all of this take?

You just can’t make this up, as you will read in Matters of the Heart, Part 11, to be published April 4.

Don’t miss the previous stories in this series:
Matters of the Heart, Part 1
Matters of the Heart, Part 2
Matters of the Heart, Part 3
Matters of the Heart, Part 4
Matters of the Heart, Part 5
Matters of the Heart, Part 6
Matters of the Heart, Part 7
Matters of the Heart, Part 8
Matters of the Heart, Part 9

Matters of the Heart, Part 4

When we speak about matters of the heart, our heart skipping a beat, being heartsick about something, being broken hearted, etc., we’re talking emotions, not our physical hearts.

As you know now, this series is about physical heart. The muscle that sustains our very life. The type of heart issues which can be life threatening.

As you read previously in Matters of the Heart, Parts 1, 2, and 3, my husband has experienced heart issues since we were married a little over 34 years ago, thanks to a bout of rheumatic fever at the age of two. He’s had two open heart surgeries and numerous other cardiac procedures that we didn’t really know existed until he had to have them. And we’ve learned a lot more we you ever wanted to about heart problems.

After the pacemaker episode in the summer of 2013, I really thought things were stable; that we wouldn’t have any more issues. That all we’d need to do was keep up with regular doctor appointments, and everything would be fine.

Well, it was a nice thought.

And over the past several years I have learned there is no assurance that the problems are ever totally solved; that there will be many other times that his heart decides it’s moving out of regularity and into a whole other area of problems.

After the pacemaker episode, things began to normalize to a degree. We had our daughter’s wedding to plan, along with all the festivities involved. We were so thankful Ben was healthy and able to host their engagement party just a few short months after we’d almost lost him. After all, the Father of the Bride is a very important participant in the wedding! And Ashley and her dad are very close.

But Ben being Ben, I later learned there were things going on with him as the big day grew closer that he elected not to tell me. Or Ashley. Or anyone, for that matter, including his cardiologist!

Nor did he voluntarily tell me until a few weeks after Ashley and Chris’ wedding (which was beautiful and perfect!) when he was noticeably having trouble walking a couple of blocks to an auditorium for a graduation event. I questioned him about it, and his answer shocked me. “It’s like the nurse said; all the fluid buildup is causing me to have breathing problems, and I can’t walk that quickly.”

Nurse? What nurse?

Oh, the doctor appointment you forgot to tell me about!?? What else did she say??!! Oh, that if it gets worse you need to get to the hospital….??

That was on a Friday afternoon. He insisted on going to our daughter’s best friend’s pre-graduation dinner after the white coat ceremony we attended for her (a very important part of the graduation process for medical professionals), but the next morning when his breathing was so much worse we ended up in the hospital emergency room instead of attending her actual graduation ceremony.

Imagine how we felt when they rushed Ben through a series of tests…chest X-rays, blood work, EKG, etc., and were told he had congestive heart failure. And that very combination of words sounded to me like a death sentence. I had no idea what it meant, but I knew it couldn’t be good. We were both scared.

Simply put, congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a condition in which the heart is working harder then it should be, but still isn’t pumping at its full capacity. Because of this, fluid builds up around the heart and in the lungs, which makes breathing more difficult, and the heart work harder. Ankles, legs, and abdomen swell. Lightheadedness, dizziness, and exhaustion are also common. And yes, he had all of those symptoms as well.
Without treatment, the prognosis isn’t good.

CHF is not curable. Once you have it, you can only manage it. You’ll always have it, although you can control it by diet, exercise, and medication.

Because of the huge amount of fluid already built up in his body, he was immediately put on IV medication to cause him to eliminate the fluid, which meant several bathroom visits per hour. During the first two days in the hospital he lost probably 6 pounds of fluid, and a total of 14 pounds before he was released after almost a week.

Fortunately, at least so far, he’s been able to manage it. He’s on fluid pills twice a day, religiously counts the sodium in each meal to avoid going over 2,000 mg per day, weighs himself almost daily to be sure his weight remains stable, and tries to walk as much as possible each day. He sees his doctor every three months as well.

But there are still times the fluid starts to build up again, even with the pills, and the dosage has to be increased. It’s a never ending cycle. And yes, I always worry when he has problems starting to develop again. I can’t help it.

However, CHF isn’t the only issue we’ve recently been dealing with. And when it involves the heart, it’s not minor in any way.

And it continues in Matters of the Heart, Part 5, to be published March 6.