adult congenital heart

Day 1404: Bloody Hell

Greetings from Tufts Medical Center. The bleeding from Wednesday’s incision has been relentless. It’s been a bloody hell for me, my boyfriend/nurse Michael, and my clothing.

I just took this photo as I am waiting for them to start an IV and re-suture the incision.


Bloody hell! Which look do you prefer?

Categories: adult congenital heart, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 64 Comments

Day 1373: Dreams

Yesterday, my  12th day after open heart surgery,  I fell asleep and had a dream of  being lifted suddenly by unseen hands and carried, very rapidly, as I lay flat on my back, through many rooms and hallways. In the dream, I thought, “Oh no!  Ghosts are taking me away!” I screamed in the dream, the dream faded, and I woke up in my  bed at home.

Somewhat of an expert on dreams (because I’m a psychotherapist), I asked myself, “What did that dream mean?” And I realized the dream captured the dreamlike experience  of being wheeled down hospital hallways into  operating rooms, which has happened to me more times than you could possibly dream between the ages of 10 and 63.

Then, I got ready for my dream of a friend, Carol, to pick me up and carry me to my appointment at the Coumadin/Warfarin clinic at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, to find out if I would be able to eat all the foods of my dreams on this new medication.  The nurse there, Kathleen, was a dream, as she allayed my fears and told me I would probably be able to eat whatever I wanted (including chocolate!), as long as I did so consistently.

Then, I told Carol I wanted to drop in on members of my Cardiology Dream Team at Tufts Medical Center, who hadn’t yet seen me since my surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on September 21. I assumed my appearance would exceed their wildest dreams. And while most patients wouldn’t dream of dropping in unexpectedly on their doctors, my cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes has demonstrated (see my previous dreamy blog post here), that he is fine with my doing that.

The next hour was like a dream.  Dr. Mark Estes showed up trailed by five students and told me I looked like a dream — better than he had ever seen me in our decades of working together.  I told Dr. Estes that I might have been dreaming, but I thought I had heard various people at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota state that my heart was in a normal/sinus rhythm after the operation, instead of its usual atrial fibrillation.

Let me explain why my heart going out of atrial fibrillation and into normal/sinus rhythm, even for a limited amount of time, would be a very unlikely dream come true.

  1. My heart went out of normal rhythm and into atrial fibrillation almost exactly three years ago today (described in this here dreamy blog post).
  2. At that time, my doctors agreed it did not make sense for them to try any non-surgical means to return my heart to a normal rhythm, because the atria were so stretched out from my leaky valve that my heart would almost definitely return to a-fib.
  3. When I had my last cardiac procedure in May of 2015, Dr.  Estes told me that my fibrillating atria were even bigger — “the size of a grapefruit, instead of the normal size of a walnut.”
  4.  My other cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem,  had a dream: he hoped that the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, when performing the open heart surgery twelve days ago to replace my leaky valve, might also use a surgical technique (called the Maze technique) to try to get my heart back into a normal rhythm.
  5. When I discussed that possibility with the Mayo doctors, they all agreed that the added surgical time of two hours was NOT worth the risk, since the chances of any technique returning me to normal rhythm was highly unlikely.
  6. At that point, I let go of the dream of my heart getting out of atrial fibrillation, and instead focused on preparing myself for the heart valve replacement surgery.

So when I told Dr. Estes yesterday that I thought I had heard people at the Mayo Clinic say that I  was out of a-fib after my surgery, he looked like he thought I was dreaming. He said, “Ann, if your heart DID get back  into sinus rhythm post surgery, that would have lasted for a very short time. I am skeptical it happened at all.”

And then everybody  — Dr. Estes, the students, Carol, me, and others — watched yesterday, as if in a dream, as we accessed the data stored in my pacemaker/defibrillator to see what kind of rhythms my dreamy heart had been generating recently, when I’ve been awake and dreaming.

As if in a dream, my dream team cardiologist, Dr. Mark Estes, announced to all of us: “You’re in sinus rhythm.  And you’ve been out of a fib and in normal rhythm consistently since your surgery on September 21.”

I responded, “My boyfriend Michael would call this a Christmas miracle.”  I heard Carol say, dreamily and sweetly, “Today is the Jewish New Year.”  Everybody looked happy, like in a dream or in a special on the Hallmark Movie Channel where the heroine does better than anybody dreamed possible.

How did this better-than-anybody-could-possibly-have-dreamed result occur?  I have a dreamy memory of a discussion, last week, with a Mayo Clinic EKG technician, who told me I was in normal/sinus rhythm when he visited me in the Intensive Care Unit.  Perhaps, we speculated, when they stopped my heart and then restarted it after the open heart surgery, that helped my heart’s rhythm — just how we often fix our phones, computers, and other devices  by turning them off and turning them back on again. Sometimes, the simplest solution works better than our wildest dreams.

After this dream of a visit with Dr. Estes, Carol carried me away in her car and drove me home to my dreamy boyfriend Michael. I told him the good news, as if in a dream. Later, when I shared the good news with my dreamy 18-year-old son, Aaron — far far away in the dreamy land of Scotland — Aaron texted me: “It sounds like a magical fairy wonderland situation over there.”

Magical and MUCH better than the scary dream that started out my dream of a day, yesterday.

I also want to say, at this point in this dreamy post, that it’s very possible that my dream of a heart with its shiny new valve might go back into atrial fibrillation — tomorrow, next week, or some other point in the future.  However, I wouldn’t dream of lowering my heart’s expectations right now — that heart of mine has exceeded everybody’s dreams for sooooooo long.

When I was dreaming under general anesthesia last week at the Mayo Clinic, my surgeon played dreamy music by our favorite saxophonist, the late Michael Brecker. On this dreamy day, 13 days later, here is one of my favorite tunes by Dreams, the 1970s dream team of Michael Brecker, his brother and trumpet-player Randy Brecker, the dreamily fabulous drummer Billy Cobham, dreamy bassist Will Lee, and other dreamily amazing jazz musicians.

 

 

Because my readers appreciate photos I take beyond my wildest dreams, here are all the dreamy images I captured yesterday:

img_5617

img_5618

img_5619

img_5620

img_5621

img_5623

img_5624

img_5625

You know what?  Yesterday still feels like a dream to me ….  too good to be true. And I don’t have any photos showing Dr. Estes, the medical students, Carol, Kathleen the nurse, or any of other people I dreamily wrote about in this post.

So …. maybe it was all a dream?

What do you think, my dreamy readers?

Dreamy thanks to all those who helped me create this dream of a post and to you  — of course! — for whatever dreams you bring, here and now.

Categories: adult congenital heart, celebrating, heart condition, heart surgery, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Day 1372: Short and sweet, warm and sincere

Today’s post title was inspired by a greeting card I saw, yesterday, during my first trip to a supermarket since my open heart surgery on September 21.

img_5610

This warm blogger is sincere when she reassures her readers that yesterday’s trip to the supermarket was appropriately short and sweet. Also, I had two warm and sincere people accompanying me for support — my short friend Deb and my tall boyfriend Michael.

Today’s blog post needs to be short and sweet, my warm and sincere readers, because my  sincerely awesome friend Carol will soon be taking me to a warm Warfarin/Coumadin clinic, as I sweetly work my way toward the right dosage of that medication while also eating the sweet, sour, and warm food I sincerely prefer.

Do any of my other photos from yesterday seem short, sweet, warm, and/or sincere?

img_5603

img_5607img_5605

img_5609

 

img_5612

img_5613

img_5614

img_5615

img_5616

For all of my readers who are celebrating the Jewish New Year today, here‘s a short and sweet, warm and sincere video:

If you leave a short and sweet comment,  I will reply warmly.

Short and sweet thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and to you — of course! — for visiting, here and now.

Sincerely,

Ann

Categories: adult congenital heart, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Day 1366: Did you even have heart surgery?

Yesterday, the doctors and nurses at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota kept asking me variants of today’s blog title:

Did you even have heart surgery?

I’m surprised they had to ask, because we’ve been planning this valve-replacement surgery for me since last May, and you would think the amazing staff at such an esteemed institution would know whether a patient actually had a scheduled  procedure, as I did on Wednesday.

Maybe they were asking whether I had really had heart surgery because:

  • my surgeon, Dr. Joseph Dearani, decided to discharge me considerably sooner than expected, last night,
  • my boyfriend Michael and I are flying back to our hometown of Boston today,
  • my very unusual heart was pumping even better than anybody had even dreamed it could, so soon after the trauma of open heart surgery, and/or
  • I look so friggin’ good.

I will answer the question in today’s title as follows:

Did you even have heart surgery?

Yes! And I am so grateful. 

Do these look like photos taken by somebody who had major heart surgery less than a week ago?





img_5467








This person who had heart surgery and her caring caregiver, Michael, will be flying over the territories shown in that last photo. If we hit any air turbulence, I’m sure I’ll know I had heart surgery, even if nobody else can tell.

Did you even read this blog post today? Please let me know, in a comment below.

Categories: adult congenital heart, heart condition, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , | 90 Comments

Day 1340: What you need to know

What you need to know first about this post is that it was inspired by this patient publication from the Mayo Clinic, which I was reading yesterday:

IMG_4858

What you need to know about me, right now, is:

  1. I’m having open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic later this month.
  2. My only son is leaving for a five-year program at Edinburgh University in 10 days, and he wants to watch certain movies with me and my boyfriend Michael before he leaves.
  3. I am a group therapist who recently facilitated two groups where the members chose to focus on the topics “nature” and “appreciation.”
  4. I saw my cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, yesterday, and he was very encouraging about my future health.
  5. I am not particularly looking forward to open heart surgery, especially because it will definitely incapacitate me from blogging daily, as I have every day since January 2013.
  6. I don’t like being incapacitated.
  7. A person I greatly respect used the words “delightful,” “brilliant,” and “resilient” to describe me yesterday.
  8. I’m very glad to know that I’m resilient, since that implies I will recover relatively quickly from open heart surgery.
  9. I like cats.
  10. I have to watch what I eat and avoid too much salt.
  11. I have handwriting that can be difficult to read.
  12. I took lots of other photos yesterday, if you need to know:

IMG_4851

IMG_4852

IMG_4853

IMG_4855

IMG_4856

IMG_4857

IMG_4859

IMG_4860

IMG_4862

IMG_4863

IMG_4864

IMG_4865

IMG_4866IMG_4868

IMG_4873

IMG_4871

IMG_4872

IMG_4870

IMG_4874

IMG_4875

IMG_4876

IMG_4877

IMG_4880

IMG_4881

IMG_4883

IMG_4886

 

What you need to know is that I always try to make a grreat choice for music in my blog posts.

What you need to know is that when I  first understood, four months ago, that I needed to have heart valve replacement surgery performed at the Mayo Clinic, I created this YouTube video about that and shared it in a previous blog post:

You need to know that I’m more reconciled to heart valve replacement surgery today than I was when I first sang that song on May 31.

Anything you need to know or to express, here and now?

What you need to know is that I appreciate every one who helped me create today’s post and  you — of course! — no matter what you need to know, today.

Categories: adult congenital heart, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Day 1248: Did you ever wonder what was down the road?

I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what’s down the road for me, especially regarding my very unusual heart.  After years of  walking down a  life’s road where several doctors have disagreed  about what we should do about my aging, sturdy, reversed-road heart, I’ve decided to have valve replacement surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

I’m still wondering what’s down the road for me and my unusual heart, because there’s a chance that the surgery will make things worse for me down the road.

Yesterday, I wrote an email to my long-time-on-my-road cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, about my wish to ask Dr. Carole Warnes, the Mayo cardiologist, for some numbers and data about that possibly down-the-road negative outcome.

Seems like here are some questions to ask her:

What are the chances the ejection fraction will go down with the valve replacement surgery ? If it does, what are the chances it will go up again?

Are you wondering what was down the road in that email exchange?  Dr. Salem replied, like so:

I doubt that she will have an answer to your question.

Further down that same email road, I wrote back to Dr. Salem:

Some of the most profound questions in the universe have no answers.

A wee bit down that email road, here was Dr. Salem’s response:

…….yet

Did you ever wonder what was down the road for you? I can tell you what’s down the road in today’s blog post.

Photos!

IMG_2590

IMG_2585

 

IMG_2587

IMG_2589

 

IMG_2593IMG_2591

IMG_2594

Are you wondering what’s next on this blogging road?

Music!

First, “The Long and Winding Road.”

 

Next, “Ease on Down the Road.”

 

Finally, my boyfriend Michael’s favorite Down-the-Road song, “Road Runner.”

 

I wonder what comments are down the road for me today?

Red-brick-road thanks to all those who helped me down the road of today’s blog post and to you — of course! — for joining me on this road, here and now.

Categories: adult congenital heart, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.