Saturday, October 30, 2010

Something's Different

I really paid attention today, and it seems that my 'center' is different.  Since my heart operation, things have changed.  Not a lot, but it's noticeable.  A couple of my close friends have made comment to me about it.  According to them, I'm more 'present' and more accurate in my speech.  What I know is that I seem to feel more 'no nonsense', and less willing to put up with some of the more frivolous socializations of life.  Drives me crazy in fact.  If it's on TV, I'll shut it off.  If it's happening in the room around me, I'll leave if I'm able.  And I certainly don't participate.  When I've tried that, I feel cranky and my words end up sounding rude.  Rude is not a word that would have every described me before. 

Things aren't totally settled yet.  I'm interested to see how things are when the 'shifting' has settled down a bit.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I'd thought I didn't have expectations about my healing process, but apparently I do. This morning I woke up somewhat disgruntled that I was still moving slowly, still holding onto chairs and keeping close to walls.  I guess some part of me thought that at 6 weeks out I'd be buzzing around like nothing had happened. 

I was reminded that not only did the Dr. say 6 - '8' weeks for the most 'basic' healing, but he also said that it often takes a year to feel 'normal'.  Oh yeah.  And then, I am also reminded that it was 3 weeks into my healing process that I went back into the hospital for another heart procedure, which would have slowed things down a bit too.  OK.  I give.

But very normal things are happening around me, even though I'm not very good yet at participating fully.  With this first cold snap in the weather, the battery in my car died.  Not that I could drive yet (just a few more days!), but Dorie couldn't take me to my Physical Therapy a day ago.  My downstairs neighbor, Dale, was very kind and took my car into the shop and got it fixed, including a new battery.  Thank you Dale!

Today, I'm heading up to the Academy for a few hours to see what I can do.  I'll do my best to ease back into everyday living, and be happy with it.  Well,... (ahem) maybe just not complain so much that I'm not doing more yet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sore muscles

Oh, I'm paying for it.  I can tell the muscles in my body have not been very active for a month.  Each time I stand, walk, sit,....  Well, let's face - Move!  - the muscles in my body hurt.  I'm going to especially have to get some exercises to get my back stronger.   I've struggled with osteo-arthritis in my back for years.  But I've stayed active enough that it's usually been workable.  Today though, it hurts.  Part of the process, I guess.

First 'real' day

Well, mostly.  I was up working solidly yesterday.  I canned tomatoes, cleaned kitchen, cleared up some old papers, and made chicken soup for dinner.  I sat down a number of times to rest in between and had one short afternoon nap.  I can tell my muscles are not used to being up and going much, because my whole body is sore this morning.  My energy is good though.  This is such an interesting process.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Full Circle

At the beginning, my first post on this blog I mentioned the song by R.E.M., "Everybody Hurts".  I've been considering that thought again today.  Even though I was careful, I can tell my chest muscles are tired from working in the Garden yesterday so soon after open heart surgery.  Tired, and a bit sore.  So what.  I'm sure many people have soreness in their body for one reason or another.  The arthritis in my back, hips and knees hurts.  My sleep is often interrupted at night for one reason or another, rather than being totally restfull.  Who's isn't?  Some nights, and days, are better than others, for each of us.  And not just physically, but emotionally too.  I had an ice cream shake today, and wondered afterward if I'd eaten too much.  Such a common thought, wouldn't you agree?

The details and circumstances of our lives may be different for you and for I, but the feelings are so much the same.  Joy, wonder, grief, suffering, pain, humiliation, awe, amazement, sadness, happiness, peace.  The bottom line is, 'Everybody Hurts'.  Right now, about something.  And right this moment I feel connected with every living being on this planet.  If you breathe, I know you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The last Garden hurrah

Dorie took me to the garden today, and we gathered what we could - in the constant, drizzling rain.  I sat on a chair and pulled tomatoes off all the vines Dorie had pulled up and put in a pile in front of me.  I was so glad to feel just well enough to be able to really help.  There is more that could have been done today, but I did all I was able, then Dorie and I went home.  I was amazed when I realied we'd been there for over 3 hours.  The rest of the day was rest.  Tonight the wind comes, and then snow is forecast.

My strength is coming back.  My spirits are good.  The body does what it does.  I'm grateful I have it at all.

I've been struggling with some 'restless leg syndrome' type of stuff during the night.  I wasn't expecting this at all.  I am awake and moving around for hours, trying to get comfortable.  Last night I gave in and took one of the pain pills I'd saved from my heart surgery.  I've tried to go without them as much as I could.  It just felt better that way.  But last night, it helped to take one.  I was so grateful for the sleep.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The excruciating itches of good healing

The itching!  Yikes!  All down the center of my entire chest.  Arghh!  It can't be scratched because the entire area is still much too tender.  And scratching doesn't relieve it anyway.  The itching goes deep because the wound is deep.  And Everywhere itches!  The long line down the center, the lower holes where the drainage tubes were, the 'owies' where all the clamps were that held my chest open - higher, lower, and to the sides. Battle scars.

But, good news!  I got to sleep comfortably all the way on my side last night.  Ahhh.  Bliss.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tears and Gratitude, Fears and Faith

Two amazing days.  Yesterday, Wednesday, I had a wonderful surprise phone call from a friend visiting in India, and an email from a friend in Israel who've both been following the blog.  Their heartfulness and their caring were tangible and I felt it deeply.  Ummm.  I then opened some of my mail, and opened some great, supporting and loving letters and cards.  So much!!!.  There is such a deep well I have available to me to draw upon.  The messages I receive constantly, from so many sources, help me feel so loved and supported through all of this.  Many tears and much gratitude.

I also re-opened some of the 'scary' surgery bills I have not yet been able to cover.  Oh dear.  Seeing the totals on some of the pages gave me such alternating feelings.  "Oh no!  How am I going to do this."  (Breathe, Gwyn.  Ways are being made available.)  "But the dates are so soon, and I am so unable."  (Faith, Gwyn.  Be still. Wait, with faith.)  "But the fear about this feels so huge!"  (Peace, child.  You are loved, and your problems are known.  Just listen, and accept healing, moment by moment.)  Fears and Faith.  Bouncing back and forth!  Truly human I think.

I returned yesterday to Physical Therapy for the first time since the second surgery last week.  I worked hard, they watched me closely, and it felt good.  When I came home, I fell into bed and slept for 3 hours.

Today, Thursday, I went to the Cardiologist for my after-surgery checkup.  After a long check-up, and another EKG, he told me (trying to hide his beaming smile), "Your heart is working at 100% of what it should be.  I just texted your surgeon with the good news and he is very happy.  This result is exactly what this procedure was designed to produce."  The Dr. also said not everyone ends up with as good of a result as I am getting.  Wow!  Another marvelous miracle!  The thought came:  "I'm a 'poster child' for this."  I'd skip and dance if I were able.

When I got home, I napped another 3 hours.  Then I decided to open the new bill that had come in the mail today.  Oh dear!. Fears and Faith again.  Oh, wait - there is another envelope that slipped out of the pile.  I almost missed it.  As I opened it, a personal check fell out - just big enough to cover this new bill entirely - with $8.00 to spare!  How incredible!  Many tears, and much gratitude, again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So quiet, and so full

I've been strongly moved to resting many times yesterday and today.  I am following my body's signals.  As best I can, I am ignoring the chatter of my analytical brain as it gives arguments for this or that.  It looks how it looks.  I am in a supportive environment, for the most part.  I'm grateful.  More and more, from my resting comes wisdom.  It's as if there are those unseen who are waiting until my body and mind are at rest, to give their messages.  Each time I arise, I feel refreshed, awake, ... and more wise.  In between, I do my best to go in quietness, and just see what is next.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The body talks

I didn't think that I tried to do too much yesterday.  It seemen to be a 'regular' and 'getting better' day.  Maybe my body was just talking to me. Maybe it was just  time for my body to really rest.

Dorie took me to the Garden, and I came home with tomatoes and green beans and peppers.  I sorted and washed everything (slowly, taking my time) before I ate lunch, took my pills and then lay down for my usual nap.  I planned on sleeping for an hour or so, and then getting back to the vegetables, if I was able.  At 6:00pm I woke up.  I noticed that I felt pretty good, but my mind was confused.  I didn't know what day it was, what time it was, or even where I was located.  I must have 'gone' somewhere I haven't been for a long, long time.  For the next few hours I was drowsy, in and out of sleep, and went back to bed for the night at 8:30pm.

When it's said that we need to 'listen to our body', I guess I had a prime experience yesterday.  In a lot of cases, maybe we know what our body needs by just doing what it wants to do.  Then we can say "Oh... I must have needed that."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Little bits of doing

I'm used to 'doing', and just pushing through the 'not feeling well'.  That's not smart now,... and it's not even possible.  Day by day I am measuring my recurperation in little pieces of 'doing', and then needing to rest.  My 'doing' times are getting longer, and my resting times are getting shorter.  During my resting times, I'm not always asleep anymore.  I'm often awake now, and noticing that I'm wishing I were 'doing'. 

For example:  I don't have the energy to cook the new recipes I see on the TV shows yet - only the most simple ones.  If  the recipe is more complex (my favorites), I get halfway through and have to leave it for Marcia to finish later, or I call Dorie and see if she can come over and finish it for me.  Unfortunately the finished product never seems to taste as good as when I used to just 'whip it out' all by myself.   Hmmm.

And I've been noticing.  I've been holding off some feelings of frustration that I haven't been able to just jump back into doing things.  And then last night a good friend had some thoughtful, wise words for me.  She reminded me that there will be times in the future when I will look back and wish I could just lie down and take a nap - That I will probably be so busy that 'quiet times' will be at a premium.  She's right.  I forgot. 

Again - To every thing there is a season.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great analogy

My daughter, Ranna, just send me a great story she discovered that explains what it's like when you just don't feel well.  I love it.  It really tells the tale for so many of us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Understanding and forgiveness

As I am resting lots and lots, I am having much time to ponder.  I'm amazed.  Even though I yet have much healing to do, my heart is working better than it ever has before - at least as long as I can remember.  All of my life I have heard accusations that I was "faking it" whenever I just wasn't feeling well.

Yes, I believe children often try to pull the "I'm not feeling well" card to get out of something they don't want to do.  I probably have too,

But more than not, I've been told by parents, siblings, spouse, others "Come on, it's not that bad" and "Buck up, you're not really hurting" and "I'm sure if you really tried you'd feel just fine".  Now I know they just didn't understand.  Neither did I.  Following their lead, I've been hard on myself as well.

Now I can forgive them - and myself.    Forgiveness is such a balm.  An amazing peace comes with it.  Ummm.  Nice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moan, groan

I was told this wouldn't hurt much afterward.  I was told wrong.  I don't feel very well today.

But, it was another miracle.  The Dr. went in to fix one problem - found it and fixed it.  Then, he found another problem while he was in there.  So I got two for the price of one - again!  I had to stay longer, got home later last night, and my 'ouchies' are bigger, but I'm glad to have the problems taken care of.  They tell me it will take a few days before I feel anywhere near 'normal' - and that's without being just 3 1/2 weeks out of open heart surgery.  So I'm just going to take it easy for a few days.  One fun thing: I'm told there is more obvious color in my cheeks now than before.  That's cool!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Well, well...

Thumpity, thumpity, thumpity - twice as fast.  Heart still racing.  All night, all day - again and still.

When I went into the Heart Rhythm Lab, they took one on my new medications away, just until after the procedure tomorrow.  It's the one that helps keep my heartbeat steady.  Well, my heartbeat certainly has not been steady for the last few days.  I called and told them what was going on, and asked for advice.  I was told that I probably wouldn't die (comforting) but to keep the phone handy for 911.  I don't think they were kidding.  My sense is that I'll be OK, so I'm not terribly worried, but I'm being extra careful just in case.  I was told that the Dr. will need my heart beat to be racing so he can see exactly where to do his work next to the AV node. 

When I met this Dr., he was somewhat aloof.  The message I got was that he knows his stuff, and he'll do a good job, but any interation with the patient is really a chore.  If he could have, I think he would have said, "Just get out of your body, leave it here, and pick it up in a few hours when I have it fixed."

I've joked many times about wishing there were a "Checker Body Parts Store" nearby - Now would be the time to have one handy.  I don't know what time everything will be done tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll be able to post to the blog or not.  Dorie tells me she will update for me if the need arises.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Long Day

Heart racing most of the day.  I don't know why, but being more aware of it seems to make it feel worse.  No energy, cold sweats all day, feeling my heart thumping so much faster than 'normal' - Good thing I've had some relaxations skills to use.  I've used them all day.  My goal: Get through until Monday when I have the electrical repair done on the AV node on my heart.  Looking more and more forward to it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

For my Dad

It was good to talk to you on the phone tonight, Dad.  When you get this blog read to you, here is the name of what my diagnosis was - just as you asked.

I was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, so I needed a replacement aortic valve and also a replacement aortic core down into my heart.  They were both too small for my heart.  My cardiologist says that because this is genetic, all my siblings need to be checked for it.  Because it can also be stronger genetically for following generations, the cardiologist also says that all your grandchildren need to have their first EKG (echocardiogram) by age 30, and then again every 3 years thereafter.  That should catch it.

Tomatoes and one lone cucumber

Dorie took me to the Garden today, to see if there were enough tomatoes to can a few jars.  I think we found enough.  I'm pretty sure Dorie and Marcia will be doing the canning.  I'm just not up to it yet.

I walked the Garden paths slowly with cane in hand, and only got one foot tangled in a vine. Thankfully, I was able to get it out myself, and it wasn't hard.  Dorie had to keep following me around with a chair so I could sit down though.  I was a bit embarrassed about that.  I'm used to racing through, doing my garden duties, and leaving everybody else in the dust - At least it used to be like that -  when I was feeling more well.  That's been awhile, I must admit.  But last week I couldn't have done what I did today.  I have to remember that.  Progress is happening.

It was fun to emply out my pockets when I got home of one lemon cucumber, and handfuls of little, sweet yellow, and red, tomatoes.  Yum!  I was so tired though, I had to rest a few hours before I could even talk.  That's saying something.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marvelous times we live in

I visited with the Heart Rhythym Specialist today, and I will be having another procedure this coming Monday.  It was such a good thing that they got a good EKG of the heart-racing yesterday in Physidal Therapy.  Apparently those episodes are hard to get recorded 'when' it's happening.  I've had the episodes most of my life that I can remember, and never actually had an episode recorded, although there have been many efforts to record one.  Yesterday's was 'perfect', so they say.

So, they think I have more than one channel electrically triggering my AV node, right by my aorta.  They need to go in and put a dam on one of those ways, to stop the electrical triggering.  I'm not sure I'm explaining it correctly, but I hope that's good enough.  I'll be in the hospital for the entire day, but it's an outpatient procedure, so I will be going home for that night.

I asked, and was told that so much of this kind of treatment was not available 15 or so years ago when I was first tested.  They couldn't have done anything to help.  Now they can.  I'm nervous, yes, but also ever so grateful!  Right timing for so much that is going on with me.  I feel so very gifted and blessed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More excitement

I went in for my Physical Therapy today (Dorie drove for me), and after they'd strapped all the heart monitor stuff on me, taken my blood pressure, etc., they wouldn't let me on the machines.  They said my heart was already racing.  I've had a racing heart periodically for years, but now apparently it's really important to watch.  They laid me down, took a full EKG.  Afterwards, they called my own cardiologisist, Dr. Steve Horton, who came down to see me.  The Phys. Ther. team said they'd never seen Dr. Horton come down personally to see a patient before.  Pretty cool.  I then sat in a chair and kept busy wiping up from lots of cold sweats while everybody looked me over and did lots of tests on me.  I'd never connected the cold sweats before, for some reason.  I've just known I've had them, and that I haven't felt good sometimes.

Dr. Horton called and made an appt. for me at the Heart Timing Lab tomorrow at 2pm. They then wheeled me out to the car - they wouldn't let me walk.  I hope I'm learning to pay better attention to my body signals.  Apparently there are a lot I have simply ignored because I just didn't know what to do with them.  Or, (like the heart dys-rythym) they haven't had the fancy knowledge they do now, so they weren't able to really help me.  I've been tested before, and sent home with diagnosis of tachacardia dysrhythmia only.  That was years ago, and I've just thought it was something I've had to suffer through periodically.  Now, apparently, there is more they can do.  And with my brand new heart operation, they need to pay really close attention to it.

I must admit it's kinda scary.  The Dr. told me that he doesn't want the worst thing to happen - that my heart might stop because it just can't handle all of this.  I don't want that either.  So tomorrow, it's to the Heart Timing Lab.  And no more exercise for me until I'm okay'ed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lacy - Her haircut of long ago - To give an idea of what she looks like now.

Gratitude reigns tonight

Still feeling good tonight - The best for days and days.  There may yet be dark days to come, but the memory of the light of today will help tide me through.  Marcia's parents came to visit - both with their own health problems.  And they gave me some clothes to help me through this 'in-between' time.  Perfect fit.  I'm so glad!  And Lacy seemed to feel a little bit 'odd' without all her fur tonight.  She wandered around and around, and then finally settled down on her bed.  Maryjo gave me a picture of Lacy from her last haircut (a long time ago), which will show something of how she looks now.

Good day so far

Today is so far SO much better than the days have been.  Yes, I still feel tired, and yes, I still walk very slowly.  But no nausea this morning, and I went with Marcia to get Lacy trimmed by the groomer.  Lacy looks so much smaller!  She survived OK, but was SO happy to get out of there.  Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, lick, lick, lick.  I'll see if I can post a picture.

It's wonderful weather - kinda rainy, kinda sunny, with dark clouds and white clouds and blue sky.  Really cool.  Yesterday I received a surprise 'Get Well Card' from my niece Kristin in Delaware.  Awesome.  I've always felt close to her.  I got into a size smaller clothes today.  I'm not familiar with this body.  It's really quite odd.  I feel better though.  It makes sense to me that if my heart wasn't pumping right, it would have taken a toll on my whole body.  We'll see where it settles.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Much needed 'coincidence'

I've been having such a difficult time with my healing process - not keeping food down, just not feeling good, etc.  Today I went in for my Physical Therapy and my Exercise Therapist, Mike, made all the difference in the world for me.  He told me of his own heart valve replacements - TWO of them - and he's only 26 years old.  He shared with me his own struggles with throwing up and having such a hard time.  Wow.  I'm not weird after all.  I wish I'd been given some small hint when I left the hospital as to what I could maybe expect.  It might have helped me put up with it better.  Mike's sharing with me has helped me a Lot!  Such a wonderful 'coincidence' that he happened to be there to share his experience with me.  I'm grateful beyond words.  On the way home I stopped by the local Iceberg and got a chocolate-mint milkshake.  It's the only thing that has sounded good to me for days.  It tasted as good as I hoped it might, and it even stayed down.  I'm celebrating!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What a surprise! Dark Chocolate.

A friend brought me a few dark chocolates before lunch today.  I could only eat one, but it tasted good to me.  And afterward, I found that lunch tasted better to me.  I didn't make the connection until I'd had another chocolate before dinner.  Surprise!  I found dinner tasting better to me as well!  Who would have thought that just a little piece of chocolate could make such a difference.  I would never have thought of getting a whole bag, but now the thought makes sense to me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

'So Good', for being 'So Bad"

Life is interesting.  I had a visitor tonight who went on and on about 'how good' I looked.  All I know is that the last two days have been really rough for me.  I haven't kept much food down the last two days until supper tonight, and I've slept a lot.  I suppose the body requires what it does to heal.  I'm feeling some better tonight though, and I'm glad.  I'm realizing that everyone has their own sense of what 'looks good', and what they think that means.  To me, right now it doesn't really matter how I 'look', but how I feel.  That matters a lot.  So I'll pay attention to that.

Dorie drove me down to the Garden today.  We were only there for a short time because I got tired quickly, but it was nice to be there.  I showed her which zinnia flowers were ready to gather seeds from, and I noticed that the Summer garden has turned to Fall.  The tomatoes and peppers are still going strong, but the squash and cucumbers look done.  There is a season to everything.

Friday, October 1, 2010

One Day Down

I didn't feel good yesterday.  A little better today, but not much.  My energy is down, the hurting is up, throat swollen and sore.  I've felt like crying and I haven't felt like eating.  I did my required weighing this morning, and it shows I'm 4 pounds down.  I would usually rejoice, but not this time. I'll weigh tomorrow and see what it says.  I remember that there might be some 'bad days' among the good.  OK.  Here was a bad one.

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