The day of my surgery, I woke up at 4am. I loved on my doggies for a bit, before slipping on loose pants & a simple shirt. I had my husband draw smiley faces with a Sharpie on the bottoms of my feet, just in case anyone needed some humor in the OR. My hubby drove me, with the radio turned down low. We sat in comfortable silence; what could we really say?
I didn't want to think about my fears, about the "worst that could happen", about the risks or the dangers. I didn't want to think that I might not be "okay" when I woke up, or that the surgery might not work. If I wasn't sure before, my heart solidified it just five days prior, by doing it's "thing" just one more time, a last hoorah, a tough kick in the ass.
I watched the sun rise as we drove over the Trinity River, creeping up through the buildings. I suddenly felt at peace, prepared, calm.
"If something happens....." I began.
"Don't." My husband.
We sat in the surgical waiting area, with at least 20 other people. The room was quiet, but screaming and swirling with all the fears, hopes, and terrors of us all. There were people there in pajama pants & t-shirts, looking far sicker than I.
When they called me back, I squeezed my husband's hand, willing myself to find strength in his body. We walked side by side through the maze of hallways, making our way to a teeny room with two chairs. The nurse asked the usual questions, completed the usual body tasks. Then she inserted the IV, sat me down in a wheelchair, and gave me some of the strongest medication I have ever had. Within 20 or so seconds, I could not move. I felt both heavy and light. I couldn't speak. I gazed at my husband, who asked me if I was drunk. I giggled. Then all is black.
I open my eyes as I'm being pushed into the OR. I'm now in a hospital bed, and I have no idea what time it is. I glance to my right, and there is my cardiologist, with the usual quirky look on his face. I find that I cannot speak, and my eyelids are so heavy. I settle for a simple grunt, and then I'm gone.
I'm pulled out of this deep dark empty hole by my heart. It is pounding, skipping to it's own song, pumping air instead of blood. As I get closer to consciousness, I begin to want to be conscious. I want to see the computer monitors above my body. I want to see the inside of my heart. I want to see what my doctor is doing. I fight the medication, and open my eyes to a sheet over my head.
I lift my arm and pull the sheet off of my face. It is bright, white, clean. I see the computer monitors, and I move my head just so, trying to see the inside of my heart. My doctor looks up: "What are you doing?"
My response: "What are you doing?"
There are several nurses and an anesthesiologist to my left. I don't remember faces or names, but I remember giggles. A nurse grabs my arm and straps it down. Another person straightens my head, and my doctor says, "You should be out again in 3, 2...."
I am out. He is right.
I wake again. This time, my heart is skipping slowly, to it's own rhythm, and it's painful. I am confused. I feel as though my blood is going to pound out of my temples, and my throat feels constricted. This time, the sheet is not on my head, but my arms are strapped down.
"That feels like shit. Can I at least watch?"
My doctor laughs, shakes his head, and says "You amaze me."
I turn to my left and say to the anesthesiologist , "Please don't put me out again."
I come to as they are wheeling me toward recovery. I see my husband standing just outside the doorway of a waiting room, with an unexplainable look on his face. I hear someone tell him I am fine; it was successful, thus far.
When I get to my room, I look at the clock. It's been over 7 hours. I am starving. I am not yet allowed to eat, and I cannot move my feet-doctor's orders. Heavy sandbags are placed on my pelvic area, and every single person that comes in my room reminds me to keep my legs still. But all I want to do is stretch my ankles, which already have arthritis in them. They are stiff and for the love of all that is holy, can I just twist and stretch them for 15 seconds?!
No. I must keep the sandbags on for several hours, in the hopes that the femoral arteries in my legs will heal quickly, without clots. I am also told to keep neck movement at a minimum, so that the carotid artery can heal. I remember thinking they should have told me about this prior to the surgery, she who can never sit still.
I am wide awake and happy go lucky when my family visits, when they tell me I can eat, and when my doctor arrives to tell me that my surgery went well, other than my silly waking up. He tells me that I cannot get out of bed for another 7 or 8 hours, which annoys me, since I hate the catheter and just want to go home.
I sleep. I eat. I get woken up every other hour by heart monitors and nurses, checking me out.
I go home the next day.
That was July 2003.
In July 2005, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, in the same hospital. When I was released, they wheeled me to the employee elevator to take me to the car. I looked up and there was my cardiologist. I introduced him to my daughter, told him I felt wonderful, and thanked him.
I still have mitral valve prolapse, but don't need medication for it. My arrythmia seems to have been corrected by the surgery, so far. I am still very conscious of my heartbeat. It still wakes me up in the middle of the night occasionally. I still catch my breath when my mitral valve sticks and flaps and my chest tightens, on instinct. I still watch it closely when I work out, careful to keep it below 190 if I can. There is no pain anymore, no medication, no ER trips in the middle of the night, nothing I need to avoid. I could go back to running 3 miles a day, if I wanted, but I lost the desire, the passion for it, all those summers ago when I was so sick.
My ob/gyn still gets worried about my heart, and was a bit neurotic about it when I was pregnant. My heart is one of the reasons I ended up having a c-section (besides the HUGE FACT that my girl was stuck). It still gets out of control at times, and I worry. I worry that my heart finally defied me and created a new irregular electrical pathway, one that makes my mitral valve prolape worse. One that makes having another child an even bigger deal. One that will bring any idea of getting healthy to a standstill. One that could spin my life towards another direction, one filled with medications and ER trips and stabbing pain and throat constricting pain.
I pray each night that I will be allowed one more day, week, year, lifetime, with this healthy electrical pathway in my heart. And so far, so good. I am blessed.