Sunday, March 15, 2009


An Open Heart Journal
LifeCare Hospital. Fort Worth
Day Ten
March 15, 2009

As a whole my rehab here is progressing better than I expected in just ten days. I am getting a lot of physical therapy and even though it seems elementary (kicking the ball back and forth to the PT) the reality is that it is working. I am slowly able to take more walks and have finally been allowed to walk when ever I want as long as I use my walker. This small privilege lets me go to the patio and sit in the sun - glorious, glorious warm sun. I think it is the first time I have been truly warm since my open heart surgery. If I could just take that heat back indoors with me. Little things mean a lot when you’ve been inside for three months and six days.

If there were a time stamp on my blogs you would see that much of my writing takes place between four and six in the morning. There is this thing I call “Hospital Time” which any of you who’ve been in the hospital knows that at 4 a.m. is when generally the lab comes and takes blood. Now this is a process that means turning on every light in the room, wrapping a tight rubber band around your arm, and in my case, trying to find just one more place to draw blood that hasn’t dried up or developed scar tissue in the last three months of being poked and prodded. And then they turn and leave expecting you to return to sleep.

Okay, I hear those who know more than others and you’re wondering why I don’t have a PIC line in my arm to make this easier for me and everyone else. (If you don’t know what a PIC line is you can Google “PIC line” but most website definitions require a medical dictionary to understand it,) The simple definition is that it is a catheter line inserted into the arm and guided toward the heart. They can be left in place for a year and are used for patients to receive long term IV medications. In 2005 several different radiologists made numerous attempts to put in such a line taking several hours and putting me in incredible pain and stress. All of this only to discover that my veins are too small to even get the guide line in a few inches. I swore off PICA lines after that day.

So every nurse, lab tech and doctor asks me why I don’t have a PIC line by now seeing that one more IV will be impossible. I’m just praying I can get out of here without the need for another IV (blood transfusion, IV antibiotics, or pain meds). If I need anything via IV they will place the port in my neck - yuck!

So here I am, an acute cardiac patient but I have no IV line, no telemetry monitor and frankly I just don’t look sick any more. In my physical therapy group I am the youngest, most healthy looking patient in the circle. In fact, more than once I have been mistaken for the Physical Therapist.

Then last evening I almost didn’t get my supper. The gal came in with my tray, saw me sitting in a chair and left - with my food! She returned a few minutes later, looked at me, looked at the empty bed and again started to leave. But she turned back around and said, “Well, she isn’t here but I’m going to leave her tray here for her - is that okay?” I gave her a funny look and she read my last name off the tray and I said, “That’s me.” not thinking this would come as a great shock to her. She was surprised and embarrassed and I was just happy to get my food.

What I really wanted to do was to open up my shirt and show off my open heart surgery scar but I knew that would be rude. Can I help it if my outside doesn’t rightly picture my inside.

When I walk slowly across the room no one expects it because I don’t look sick. When I use my walker I look somewhat silly - like a kid playing with a friends crutches. But what they can’t see is my heart beating so hard I feel it against my ribs and my lungs screaming because the oxygen is being blocked by dozens of calcified nodules.

But isn’t that the case with many of the people walking around. Before September 4th I had no idea that the left side of my heart was totally diffused and calcified. In fact, since then I have learned that more women die of heart disease than all the female cancers put together. Why? Because, like me, they don’t know. I was told many times while working as the “Living Well Manager: that I looked wonderful, younger than my 54 years, and was a very hard worker. The outside looked great while the inside was deteriorating.

I think the very same could be said about hundreds or thousands of us who spiritually look great on the outside but have spiritual heart disease in the inside. We can go through life denying or just not knowing but eventually that spiritual heart will fail.

Despite how I may look on the outside the reality is that the left side of my heart is medically inoperable. The doctors have done everything possible and now it is up to me to learn how to live with the heart I have left. Every doctor who has come into my room today has told me the same thing. This is my reality - in the natural.

Do not think that by seeing or speaking about my situation in the natural or medical sense that I am denying God’s ability to heal my heart once and for all - I am not. Nor do I believe that by looking at my situation honestly I am disqualifying myself from being healed. I DO believe God heals and more than once I have experienced His healing - even after honestly accepting where I was and even saying it out loud. I am very much an optimist - but I am also practical and honest about my weaknesses and strengths.

In this case my strength is fully God’s strength and His ability to bring me through or out of any situation according to His will. And I will trust Him to do for me what ever is going to be best for me, for my family and for all those I come in contact while on this journey called Heart Disease. The truth is, I shouldn’t be alive - but I am. I shouldn’t be able to do all I can do physically - but I can. I shouldn’t be hopeful that I have many years of life before me - but I do. THAT is the evidence of God’s strength in me and all the proof I need to know that He loves me, is caring for me and that He is continually giving me Life in its truest form.

With every heart beat I feel and hear I know that it is God is Who keeps it beating regardless of its condition. And with every heart beat I will trust, praise, worship and obey Him.

This is...

From the Heart,
Kathleen Anne Gabrielle