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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yay! I get to have major heart surgery!

I know, "Yay" is not what most people say when they get scheduled for major surgery.  It's not usually celebrated.  In fact, whenever I tell people I'm going in for open heart surgery in a few days, they usually say "Oh no!  That's terrible"  or something like that.  But I really am grateful to be able to have this surgery.  Yes, I'm nervous and no, it's not something I would have planned.  And certainly yes, I'm going to miss spending the glorious days of Fall in the garden, picking tomatoes, squash and beans.  I'll be letting my body heal instead.  But my heart will have a new lease on life.  Happy news.

Here's the story behind why I'm celebrating this event.

Within the last twelve years, two of my younger sisters have suddenly and unexpectedly died from mysterious heart trouble of some sort.  My youngest sister died at the age of 40, leaving four young children motherless.  Two years later, another sister died while she was cooking dinner.  Neither one had been diagnosed with any heart trouble beforehand.  They'd had various health complaints from time to time, which they thought were no different than anyone else.  Me too.  "Everybody Hurts" I've always thought, just like the R.E.M. song.   

However, this last 9 months I've really had a struggle keeping my stamina up. I had a rough Fall and Winter  healthwise last year, so I thought I just needed to exercise more and build my strength. I worked on it all Spring and nothing really helped.  If anything I was getting worse.  Shortness of breath, coughing, waking in a panic at night because I couldn't breath.  Mostly, I just thought my asthma was acting up.  I also had swelling in my feet and legs, but I've had that for years so I just put up with it. But it kept getting worse.  And I noticed my heart has been hurting.  Not like heartburn, but more dull - just a low aching.  I'd never had that symptom before.  I talked to my physician about each of my symptoms separately at different times, and she gave me recommendations for each one individually.  Nothing seemed to help.  Things just got worse.

Here's the really interesting part.

Last January, very unexpectedly, I adopted a little 'rescue dog', Lacy. I hadn't planned to get a dog, but it just felt like the right thing to do.  And not just any dog, but this dog.  It didn't make any sense at the time.  Lacy is old, deaf,.... and she has congestive heart failure.  In fact,right at the first the vet said she wouldn't last long and that she wouldn't be a good candidate for adoption.  But, for some reason, it was important to bring her home anyway. At her medical checkup recently, the vet explained in detail about all of Lacy's symptoms and drew a picture of Lacy's heart and why it wasn't working well.  As the vet talked, all of a sudden a light went on for me.  "Lacy's symptoms are just like the symptoms I'm having!"

I rushed in to see my physician and put all the symptoms together, like the vet did when she explained about Lacy.  "I'm concerned that I might be having heart trouble", I told her.  She listened a long time to my heart, and then got me in for some very fancy tests the next day.  A few days and some more tests later the cardiologist told me, "Cancel your life for awhile.  You have aortic stenosis and you need a valve replacement - and maybe a bypass - Soon."  Apparently there really was a serious problem with my heart.  The valve that takes all the oxygenated blood out to my body was closing down.  With my heart at 30%, no wonder I haven't been getting much oxygen and my heart has been hurting!  He also said that the problem is genetic, and suggested that my sisters may have had similar heart issues -  Undiagnosed and Untreated!  Within a few day I'd met with a great surgeon, and got my surgery scheduled for September 16th - next Thursday.

My physician has been telling the story in her office now, of how a little doggie saved her patient's life.  But even better - because I received a diagnosis in time to have my heart fixed before my valve closed down entirely, my dear 88-year-old mother won't have to bury a THIRD adult daughter prematurely!

So I'm excited. (My mother says she's excited too!)

It's been a mad rush getting ready in such a short short time, and there's been a lot to do.  Mostly trying to find funding for all the costs because I don't have insurance.  It's not possible to tell exactly what the total costs will be until the bills are all in, but I've filled out a ton of applications for financial aid, and it looks like most of the bills will be covered.  'Most' - That's the key word.  So far, there  is $7-8,000 that I haven't found coverage for yet, so I must admit that's still a worry.
As for updates: I'll post on this blog until Sept. 15th when I'm admitted into the hospital for the last run of tests before surgery. Then some friends have told me they will keep updates going in the comments section until I'm home and have recovered enough to post again.  After that, I can expand the conversations into farther reaches of 'matters of the heart'.  Oughta be interesting!

Please post your comments or questions. I'd love to hear from you.

P.S.  I'll try to get a picture of my rescue dog Lacy posted before I go into the hospital.  I guess the word 'rescue' can be used in two ways - She was rescued, and she rescued me back.

4 comments:

Aceofspace said...

As you are aware, my hear is deeply attuned to your wondrous heart. You are the most generous, loving and kind woman in the world, deserving of the grandness of a new physical heart.

I am with you, with my whole heart and soul !

Looking forward to a most successful outcome on Thursday and a quick and fun recovery space, filled with love and laughter . . .

My deepest love and affection to you my sweet friend.

- Stace

Gwyneth McNeil said...

Stace, you truly bring a brightness to my life and warmth to my heart. Even though my physical heart needs some mending, my spiritual heart still works just fine, and I feel your love.

Amy said...

Dear Gwyneth, Geni says we are related so I guess we are. My Grandfather is George A. Jenkins. We must be some sort of cousins. Thanks for posting the link to your blog. I think I like you a lot. You will be in my thoughts and prayers during your coming adventure. Amy Novakovich Holler

Gwyneth McNeil said...

Hi Amy,
I'm just now well enough to 'catch up' on my blog a bit. Thanks so much for writing! I really appreciate it. I just wrote to you on Geni.com.
Gwyneth

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