Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seven Stents for Seven Lights...

An Open Heart Journal
March 27, 2008
Seven Stents - Seven Lights

On January the 9th of this year I went to my 6th day of Cardiac Rehab at Baylor Hospital in Grapevine. I was really enjoying rehab and doing very well. At the time I was up to doing 12 minutes on three different exercise machines including the treadmill, bicycle and NuStepper.

After getting my monitor on, having my blood pressure checked (it was 110/60 standing), and checking in with my "coach" I sat down on the bicycle to go 13 minutes. At the three minute mark I started to feel a little queasy which was a first for me. By the fourth minute everything in me was aching and the pain in my chest rushed up into my jaw - a feeling I'd never had in all of the past four months. My head began to sink and I remember the lady watching my heart monitor turning around to ask "Are you okay?" to which I replied with a small shake of my head and began to fall off the bike. Instantly there were four ladies at my side holding me on the bike until they could get a chair. I heard someone say my blood pressure was in the 200s over 90 and my heart rate had gone from 50 up to 113.

Things grew fuzzy after that but I do remember the several EMTs who showed up and my name being said over and over trying to keep me talking. I mumbled off my history and where all my meds were listed and after they found the envelope with my history, med list and doctor list I decided it was safe to just "go to sleep." But they wouldn't let me. I just remember wanting to lay down and quietly sink into the cloud I thought was beneath me.

Eventually, with several tablets of Nitroglycerin, an IV, and several children's aspirin my blood pressure came down - to 180/80. They wheeled me to the ER on a stretcher which I don't remember getting on and I found myself in the very same room I've been in three times before.

The nurse came in and took my blood pressure and took it again because she couldn't believe it could be so high. I was feeling a little more conscious at that point so I assured her that yes that was a fairly "normal" high blood pressure for me and to not be alarmed. The next 30 minutes were filled with chest x-rays, EKGs, IV meds to lower my blood pressure and blood tests. Once that was over I laid back hoping to take a nap. Except for the machine that was taking my blood pressure every 15 minutes and sending an alarm because of the high numbers I slept for at least an hour.

Then the techs came in to do another test - a sonogram on my legs to look for possible blood clots. I'd never had even a suspicion of blood clots so this scared me. My left leg was significantly
swollen and the doctor was concerned about a new development to add to my already growing list of system breakdowns. It would have been okay but for one small thing. The lead tech was training a student going through school to read sonograms. So all the way through the exam she was talking about the dangers of blood clots are and why so many people die of them. Suddenly, my blood pressure machine was shrieking. My blood pressure was back to 210/124. The tech asked if the test was upsetting me and I tearfully told her that just a few weeks before my former husband (and close friend) had died of a blood clot that literally killed him before he hit the floor. She apologized and kept the rest of her training quietly to herself.

It wasn't until I was transferred to the ICU that I was told that I had actually had a real Heart Attack. They were beginning to suspect that the open heart surgery I had in October had failed.

Note: The procedure I had in October was not the tradition bypass surgery. Because the problem with the left side of my heart is that it is over 90% defused and calcified, there are literally no vessels to which a bypass could be attached. Instead, Dr. Michael Savcenko performed what is called TMR - TransMyocardial Revascularization. The premise is that if they laser holes into the mostly diseases heart the heart will create it's own bypasses by growing more blood vessels. This is supposed to improve the oxygen and blood flow to the heart and decreasing or stopping the unbearable angina pain caused by lack of oxygen and blood through the heart. Even though the surgery is risky and rarely successful I agreed to the procedure hoping that in this case I would be one of the minority for whom it actually worked. The Dr. lasered 25 holes into my heart hoping it would work - evidently it didn't.

Now after enduring the pain, recovery and set backs of going through full open heart surgery I was being told that the possible reason for my heart attack was the failure of the heart to start growing new blood vessels before the holes healed and sealed themselves shut. I began to cry because at the time of the surgery I was told this was the last resort to resolve my chest pain. We had slipped back to square one and I couldn't see there were any other squares to move to.

I laid in ICU wondering what would happen next. My Cardiologist, Dr. Richard Feingold, suggested that his associate Dr. Kevin Thelman come into the picture. I had met Dr. Thelman once before and I must say is one of the most handsome doctors I know. I take pleasure embarrassing him knowing that every nurse and patient he comes in contact with feels the same way. He was being brought in because he is especially gifted in the area of "interventional cardiac medicine." I certainly was a candidate for intervention - of the most divine kind.

Dr. Thelman said that he wanted to put in as many stents as possible and would be doing it in two stages. One stage on Wednesday the 14th and another on Friday the 16th. Knowing this would mean two more heart caths in the same week made me question his sanity but they explained that my diseased kidney could not handle all the dye needed in one day so they had to split it up so I could rest in between sessions.

Wednesday went surprisingly smooth and two stents were place in the front of my heart. Then came Friday. I went to sleep when they "asked" me to and woke up to hear that the doctors had successfully implanted five more stents in the back of my heart. I wasn't sure but to me that sounded like some kinds of record. Not one of my nurses, my roommate who is a cardiac nurse nor my other doctors had heard of seven stents. Not only did I have the notoriety of being the first at Baylor Grapevine to have a TMR but I had more stents than my caretakers could remember, It just seemed like somehow God had a reason for seven - not five, not six, but seven stents in my poor battered heart. So I began to ask Him for the reason.

I left Baylor to go to a short term rehab facility - an experience in life and death which I will not to into now. But on February 28th I was given the opportunity to leave for a couple of hours to attend a conference taking place that I had been looking forward to for months. Plus it was my roommate's birthday and she was leading the worship that morning. I so wanted to be there that I asked the Lord to send someone willing to pick me up and drop me off there in the morning.

I went in via a wheelchair and stood in the back of the room hoping to not disturb the worship which had already started. A couple of people saw me and there were tearful, joyful reunions and many hugs - all very encouraging and therapeutic for me.

In the front of the room was a small "room" set up. It was a chuppah tent with a small elegant couch - like would have been used thousand of years ago for the bride and bridegroom. I wanted nothing more than to go up and sit right in the middle of the tent and be "with" the Bridegroom who I knew loves me more than any earthly love can. But I waited.

At the end of worship my friends in the front row saw me and insisted I come sit with them. I refused the wheelchair and slowly walked up and sat in the closest seat I could find. Again there were tears, hugs and prayers of thanksgiving for my being there.

At the end of the teaching came my opportunity to sit in the the tent and I asked as many of my closest friends present (most of whom had traveled to Israel with me) to come pray for me, for my healing and for my continued walk through this valley while waiting for healing. I shared quickly how enlivening the two hours had been and how much I cherished their ongoing prayers. I also shared what I believe is the basis for a book that I am committed to writing based on many of my experiences during this time.

The ladies were loving and sincere as they prayed over me each having their own words and style of praying but all praying in unity. At the very end a dear friend from Missouri who went to Israel with us had a special word for me. She said, "I see the seven stents in your heart like the seven lamps (lights) of the Menorah lighting up your heart. May the light shine so bright in your heart that it is visible to men.

Of course, I cried knowing that this was an answer to my prayer that somehow God would speak to me about the seven stents and why seven.

The picture at the top of this blog was created by my daughter-in-love. It is a combination of a pendant I found at http://store.biblelandshop.net/1234567891213.html and a pictures she had available from her photography business. The verse is Psalm 73:26 and says, "My flesh and heart may fail me, BUT GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART."

The doctors or nurses don't clearly understand how I can do so well with only the right side of my heart and seven stents working full time. But God knows and He is the one responsible for my life - physically and spiritually. He can be fully trusted - by me and by you. I don't know what is about to happen in my life - there are many uncertainties right now. And honestly I have experienced more intense fear this week than even before my surgeries. But somehow He is going to bring me through these uncertainties like He has everything else and that is what I must remember. He didn't bring me this far to let me be abandoned even though that is what it may feel like.

So don't lose heart...I didn't, I can't and I won't. As long as my heart is still beating I refuse to give up...so don't you give up either.

From the Heart,