Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy to be Home!

I am so happy to be home! I am also so grateful for the love and support I had as I went through my heart procedure this past Tuesday. What an incredible team of friends who helped me in caring for my 3 furkids and also supporting me while I was in the hospital ... my friend Vicki picked me up at 5:15 Tuesday morning to take me to the hospital and to be there while I was undergoing the procedure and to keep my family and friends up-to-date. The procedure itself only took 2 hours as my heart was cooperative and started firing off irregular heart beats right away, making it easy for them to locate the source of the problem. There was an area in the right ventricle of my heart that was causing the problem so my doctor burned that area in my heart. I remember getting loopy as they wheeled me out of the prep room and into surgery. I remember seeing all this fancy equipment and voices ... and then the lights went out for me. When I awoke I was being wheeled back to recovery. Everything seemed foggy to me. I remember someone saying that the procedure went well. It was hard for me to form sentences or to talk. I remember seeing my friend Vicki waiting for me in recovery as my bed was wheeled into the room. My chest was hurting and my heart felt like it was on fire. The nurse asked me how I was doing ... i mumbled that I felt a lot of pain in my chest. I remember seeing my doctor and he said to give me some pain meds for my heart which they injected into my IV. Shortly after they injected the meds the right side of my body started to tingle and get numb. I asked the nurse "am I supposed to feel tingly sensations?" She asks, "where are you feeling it?" I replied, "in my right arm." She calls my doctor back who then asks me to squeeze his hand first with my left hand then with my right hand. I squeeze hard with my left hand. I can't feel my right hand - it feels numb and weak. "Squeeze as hard as you can" my doctor says. In my head i'm saying "i'm squeezing as hard as I can." He asks me to lift my right arm, my right leg. I can't lift them. I am overwhelmed with emotions. I am just coming out of the anesthesia, my heart is still burning with pain and I can no longer feel the right side of my body. Vicki is holding my hand and rubbing my head. The nurse is lovingly asking me how i'm doing. Tears start to fall. What's happening? Did I have a stroke? I can't stop my tears. I am grateful for my friend Vicki and the nurse who gently wipe the tears from my eyes and continue to comfort me.

My doctor says he is going to have a neurologist come in to see me. In 5 minutes a neurologist shows up. He asks me to do a bunch of things. My left side is strong but I can barely feel my right side. I want to just cry. I can answer his questions. My brain seems like it's working fine so why can't I move the right side of my body? Why do I feel so weak? He tells me that he's going to send me down for an MRI of the brain/neck. In less than 10 minutes I am being wheeled down and within minutes have been transferred over to the MRI machine and am laying face up, motionless, for 45 minutes as I hear loud noises, feel my body vibrating and feel contrast being shot through my veins.

I am wheeled back to recovery where I remain for about an hour before I am taken up to my room. The pain in my chest has dissipated -- the drugs must be working. My doctor reminds me that they burned my heart so it's not surprising that I feel pain. I start noticing sensation in the right side of my body slowly coming back. The neurologist comes to tell me that the MRI comes back negative for hemorraghing and stroke. I am so relieved. He is able to tell the sensations are starting to come back and tells me that it could be my body reacting to the drugs. He tells me, with a smile, your brain is normal and I can give you a certified copy of that so that you can show that to your friends! :) It takes a little while but eventually the strength and sensation return to the right side of my body.

When I am up in my room the nurse tells me that I can get up to go to the bathroom. I have been laying still for several hours and the entry site on my leg that they use to get to my heart should now be clotted. I slowly stand up from my bed and shortly after I am up my nurse looks at me with concern and says 'you're bleeding. I need for you to sit back down on the bed'. I look down at my right leg and my gown is drenched with blood, there is blood on the hospital floor and my leg has blood dripping down. I didn't feel anything because there is still some numbness in my right leg. The nurse has me lay flat on my back. I'm feeling lightheaded and somewhat nauseated and like i'm going to pass out. The nurse applies pressure on the incision to stop the bleeding and they start fluids on me again. After that little bleeding episode I am back to bed rest and am told it will be another hour or so before they will let me try to stand up again. It doesn't surprise me that I had bleeding problems again ... they tell me it's uncommon to have bleeding problems but unfortunately I seem to fall into the category of the minority .... fortunately they only went through a vein (and not an artery) so stopping the bleeding wasn't too much of an issue.

As the day went on I started feeling much better. I regained full sensation of my right side, the chest pain completely went away and I had no more bleeding episodes. I was also told that my heart was beating in sinus rhythm, meaning normal rhythm. There were only occasional PVCs, which is 'normal.' I was able to sleep for 5 hours straight.

My cardiologist came to see me the next morning to check on me. He's such a great doctor and I feel so blessed to have him on my healthcare team. He said I gave him a scare with the  numbness on my right side and he was concerned that I had had a mini-stroke. I thanked him profusely for everything and for helping me get back to my normal heart rhythm so that I can now sleep through the night! For me this is the greatest gift after not having uninterrupted sleep for 2 and a half months! I will go back to see him at the end of July for a 2 month followup. We hopefully have one of my heart issues resolved for now and he said he will just  need to keep monitoring me closely for my other heart issue (left ventricular noncompaction - LVNC).  I ask him more about what we can do for the LVNC and if it is progressive. He says it is progressive. Eventually the structural weakening in my left ventricle will lead to weakening of my heart. There are also other things he said he needs to watch for such as arrthymia in the top chambers of my heart which could lead to strokes; he also needs to closely watch for electrical problems in the left ventricle of my heart which is more concerning that electrical problems in my right ventricle. I ask him how long will it take for my heart to weaken? He tells me it won't happen overnight ... "a year, two years, maybe ten, maybe more ..." The key is to stay on top of it. In my head, I say to myself ... this all sounds so familiar with the journey i've been taking to deal with the cancer/pre-cancer in my breast.

For now, I am simply grateful that the electrical problems have been resolved. I am grateful for the incredible people I have in my life ... and of course, my beloved animals (Ahnung, Missy and Mister) ... I am grateful to be able to put my head down on my pillow and fall asleep.

1 comment:

  1. What a frightening few days for you, Marilou, but I am highly impressed with the professionalism and attentiveness of your top-notch medical team (and Vicki). You are in great hands with many guardian angels watching over you, including your many many friends, both
    furry and human. I am so happy that you are on the path to good health with that same medical team keeping a close eye on you. Please continue to keep us updated.
    Best wishes to you, Marilou.
    The O'Sullivans