Oct 9, 2012

I Have an Addiction...

To what?  JAZZERCISE!!  That's right. I am addicted to it.  I love it and kind of can't live without it.  A good friend of mine and former Visiting Teacher teaches the class.  She is working on becoming a certified instructor of the "Jazz"(say that in a French accent, it's more fun).  She has been kind enough to teach us at the church for free until she has a place to teach.  It is a killer workout(I sound so sporty, don't I?) and you sweat a ton!  It's works pretty much every muscle I have, even ones I didn't know I had.  We don't Jazzercise to any 80s songs(yet, I will have to discuss doing "Physical" by Olivia Newton John with Allison soon), it's mostly today's "hottest hits," and it is so much fun.

I have gone when I have been tired and cold.  I have gone with a stomach bug and other illnesses.  I can't seem to keep myself from doing it.  I go every time Allison has it.  It makes me happy and I have lost 9lbs. just by doing it.  I stand up straighter with good posture and I have gained so much muscle.  The best part about all of this is that BFF Janelle is just as obsessed as I am!!  She is really good at it too.  I have no coordination, so I have had to work very hard to get the routines down.  But Janelle just picks it up so naturally, I'm kind of jealous.

I have decided that once Allison is certified and has a place to teach that I will continue to take classes.  I don't know if I could function without it, haha.  Maybe, just maybe, if I get really good, one day I will teach.  It actually sounds like an achievable goal.  However, I will have to fake peppy, that obviously isn't me, haha. As I come to the close of this blog post confession, I would like to leave you with this little gem that my good friend Logan found for me:

May 9, 2012

I Feel So Domesticated

I have made all of these myself!!  Want the recipes?  Check out my recipe blog: Look Mommy! I Can Cook!

May 7, 2012

Playing Too Hard

I love this little boy!!:

I Am Thankful

I recently went through my third miscarriage in a row.  While I have many factors that could cause a miscarriage(Factor V Leiden, Rh Negative, Hypothyroidism), the Dr. hasn't been able to pinpoint exactly what caused the miscarriage.  I am still waiting on some test results.
The day after I started to miscarry BFFs, Kari and Janelle showed up at my house with flowers and pizza to cheer me up.  Then we just hung out and they lifted my spirits(in so many ways! ;) ).
Because I am Rh Negative I had to get a Rhogam shot.  I was still bleeding, so they wanted me to get it the same day they drew my blood.  The lab was going to be closed by the time my shot would be ready so they wanted me to go to Labor and Delivery to get it.  Yeah, I know, cruel.  I called BFF Kari to come and take me(we tried BFF Janelle, but she was unavailable at the time).  I was doing okay.  I went to the front desk and explained that I was there for my shot.  The nurse was a little confused so I explained that I was told to go there since the lab was closed and that they said I needed to get the shot right away.  She started filling out some forms and making calls.  They were trying to figure out where to put me.  Then she asked when my due date was.  I said that I was miscarrying.  I didn't have a due date anymore.  She suddenly changed her demeanor.  She was really nice.  I turned away to try and compose myself, but it didn't work.  I just started crying.  She apologized to me.  She thought she had made it worse.  I assured her she was doing nothing wrong.
Then they decided to put me in a delivery room.  It was so hard.  I had all five babies at this hospital.  The room was all too familiar.  I looked around.  I looked at where the place the baby as soon as it is born.  It was so hard.  I just started crying.  I couldn't handle all of this.  I didn't want to associate this room with a bad memory.  Kari hugged me and we just cried.  I had to wait a total of an hour for my shot.  I wanted to get this whole thing over with so quickly.  Finally I received my shot and was allowed to leave.  Kari bought me some ice cream and I headed home.
Whenever I feel the most sad and depressed about miscarrying, I have the sweetest thing happen:
This little guy shows up and smiles at me and comforts me.  He always seems to know, even when I am not crying.  He just knows how to cheer me up.  If he is my last, I will be happy to cherish every moment of his young life, along with my other kids.  I love all of my children and I am so grateful to have given birth to such wonderful, beautiful, responsible and happy children.
Since I have moved to this house that we currently live in, I have been blessed to have not only wonderful ward members and neighbors, but I have been blessed with wonderful friends.  I never thought I could find such great people that I could have so much fun with and feel so comfortable with.  They have lifted me up at times when I thought it would be impossible.  They give me hugs against my will.  I know I say a lot about these two, but I just feel so blessed everyday to have them in my life.  Thank you Kari and Janelle!!  I love you guys!!
Even though I have faced many difficult trials in my life, the Lord has always been mindful of me and has blessed me in many ways.  I love my family, my friends, my church and my life.  I am thankful.

Apr 30, 2012

Adventures in Open Heart Surgery Part 4

(Warning: Pictures may be too graphic for some readers)
I drove home in a fog.  It was about 4:15am and I was exhausted.  I was in such shock.  I was replaying the events of the day in my head.  It was unreal.  I came home and couldn't seem to unlock my own door.  Christian had been sleeping downstairs, waiting for me and opened it for me.  I replayed the events and my shock to him.  We just talked for a little while.  I walked up to my room, my mom had picked it up for me and gotten my bed ready for me.  I climbed into bed and tried to sleep.  I couldn't turn off the light.  I didn't want the reality of me being alone while Mark almost dying to be real.  I prayed and heartily thanked my Heavenly Father for allowing so many to help and save Mark's life.  I also thanked him for his love and comfort as well as all of the prayers and love I had received from others that day.  I finally fell to sleep at about 6:15.
About 7:30am, my mom came in to talk to me.  I told her everything.  I started crying so hard.  She came and held me while we cried together.
"Oh honey!  I wish you didn't have to go through all this.  I have never had to experience this sort of thing at such a young age and with little kids all around.  I am so sorry.  I would go through everything with your father again if it meant you didn't have to go through this."  It felt so nice to have my mom there, to cry together. I felt so much love and validation from her in that moment, it was the best feeling I had had in a while.
The kids started to wake up and I decided to let the boys stay home from school again with all that was still up in the air.  Suddenly the phone rang, it was Dr. Mitchell.  He said that they had just brought Mark our of anesthesia and that he was responsive.  He needed me to get there quickly.  I threw on some clothes and headed out the door.
The drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity.  I couldn't get there fast enough.  Clocks by Coldplay was playing on my stereo, it was a good fast driving song.  As soon as I parked I started to speed walk as fast as I could.  It just wasn't fast enough.  I started wondering if it would be wrong to run in a hospital.
I finally got to his room.  I got right up next to him and I could tell right away that he recognized me.  It was such a relief.

"I love you," he said.
"I love you too," I responded.
The nurse approached me.  "Did he recognize you?"
"Yeah, he did," I said smiling.
She put her hand on my shoulder and smiled, "That's REALLY good!"
I felt so relieved.  Dr. Mitchell came in to talk to me and Mark.  He asked Mark if he remembered anything from last night.  Mark responded, "I remember I thought I was dying.  I was so scared.  I remember seeing my mom."
Dr. Mitchell put his hand on Mark's shoulder.  "Yeah," he said with a pained sympathetic look.  "You were in a pretty bad state last night."

Mark's hands were more swollen the night before, if you can believe it.

The rest of the day was filled with Mark's siblings visiting.  Mark received a blessing of healing and comfort from his brother Brian and brother in law Mark.  I felt so bad for Mark.  He was in so much pain.  He had four chest tubes in(2 on either lung and 2 on either side of his heart).  He was on morphine, percocet and a super anti-inflammatory, but the chest tubes rubbing on his lungs was excruciating.  He was in and out of consciousness, but only conscious because his pain was so much.  He had many kind nurses.  I sat and talked with one and she said that she had heard about me.  She said that all the nurses were amazed by how calm I was during the night before.  I figured out why they were whispering about me that night.  :)

This picture was taken about 3 or 4 days after surgeries.  Normally, things don't look so gruesome, but they ripped the tape off to do the second surgery and it ripped his skin off along with it.  The middle bandage is where is heart tubes were, they had just taken them out.
A couple of days in the ICU and Mark was ready to go to the cardiac floor of the hospital.  By this time Mark was going on 2-3 assisted walks during the day.  They had him standing his first day in the ICU.  It was so difficult and painful for him, but he pushed through.  The cardiac rehab people would come in with a wheel chair, the would put the containers with his chest tubes in the wheel chair and they would slowly walk around the hospital.  It was so important for him to get all the fluid out and walking was one of the ways that would happen.  Another way he could get the fluid out was by coughing.  He had a heart shaped pillow that he would hug every time he would cough or sneeze.  He hated it, but he had to do it in order to get his chest tubes out.
These are what the chest tubes drained into.  They would measure how much Mark was putting out every two hours.  Believe it or not, he filled these up and had filled up part of another two.

The lovely chest tubes that were by his lungs.  These were the cause of most, well, probably all of Mark's pain in the hospital.
I do have a picture of the nurses pulling these suckers out, but I will spare you.  The nurse is showing how much of the tube was inside Mark.  It was about 10 in.  Most of the time Mark had these in they had to "strip" them.  They grab the top(closest to his chest) with one hand and squeeze, then with the other hand they would squeeze while sliding their fingers down to remove any clots that might block up the tubes.
There were a lot of ups and downs in the hospital, but after over a week in there he was able to go home.  He was so glad to finally be home.  He missed the kids and the outside air.  He felt like he was going crazy in the hospital, so they let him leave a couple of days early.
 Due to the narcotics, Mark was either freezing or sweating.  This made him quite miserable and not so pleasant to be around.  :)
 He couldn't sleep much at night, but he managed many a cat nap through out the day.
He was on oxygen for all but a couple of days while he was there.  This was after his chest tubes were taken out.  It hurt to get them out, but he was feeling much better, enough to even give me a smile.

Mark has had atrial fibrillation a lot since he has been home.  They are still trying to regulate it with medication.  He struggles from time to time with pain in his chest from certain physical activities, but over all, he is a miracle.  He returned to work after about 6 weeks at home.  He graduated from cardiac rehab early. Life seems just a little more normal.  We still have to go in to see the surgeon to get his INR(coumadin, blood thinner) level checked to prevent blood clots with the mechanical valve.  Mark said the surgeon talked about me last time.  He said that I was so amazingly calm when Mark was basically dying.  He said that he was amazed because no one is ever so calm when those things happen.  I suppose that's why they never asked me to leave the room and I got to stay there the whole time until he was taken to surgery.  It made me feel good to know that I did the right thing and that I wasn't just in the background.
I am so grateful for the many, many meals that were brought to my family, even when I wasn't home to feed the.  I am grateful for all of the love and support of all my friends, family and strangers.  I am thankful for the many people who babysat my kids or offered to babysit them.  I am thankful for the people who came and helped me clean my house when I wasn't home enough to do it.  I am thankful for two of the best friends anyone could ever have asked for, Kari and Janelle who put up with my kids, my tears and my psychosis.  They knew that Mark wasn't the only one who needed visitors at the hospital and visited me.  They kept me fed.  They kidnapped me regularly to help me stay sane.  They cleaned my house more than once.  They made me feel normal.  I hope everyone can find a couple of friends that they can feel so close to.  Last, but not least, I am thankful for my Father in Heaven who took care of Mark, me and my family.  He was always there, no matter how alone I felt.

Adventures in Open Heart Surgery Part 3

It was explained to me that I would go to the same waiting area I was in before.  This time I would not have a liaison since it was after hours.  They assured me that they would send out a nurse periodically to let me know how everything was going.  I headed down to the surgical waiting area.  I was well acquainted with it.  I just stood there in the doorway and stared.  I saw a woman there.  It was about 9:30pm, so I politely asked her what brought her there.  She told me that her husband had broken his thigh bone that day so they were putting a rod in.  She asked me why I was there.  I said, "Oh, my husband is having open heart surgery...again...today."  She said she was sorry and asked his age.  "36."
"Oh wow!" she said.
It was at that moment that I realized the seriousness of what had just happened and what was currently happening.  I felt as though all the angels that were keeping me afloat in the ICU had followed Mark.  I felt like collapsing.  I went and sat down and decided I needed to tell someone.  I called my mom and explained what I could in that state.  She realized it was serious and said that they were going to go and have family prayer.  Then I called Mark's sister, Jeanette.  I was crying at this point.  I explained to her what I could and she suddenly interrupted me, "Do you want me to come over there?"
"Yeah," I said crying.
"Okay, I will be there in 15 minutes."
I knew I needed to call Kari.  I didn't want her to feel like she had to be there(even though that's what I really wanted).  I called her.  "Kari?"
She could tell I was crying, "Oh my gosh, Danielle.  What's happening?"
"They had to take him back into surgery."
She sounded upset, "Do you want me to come over there?"
"You don't have to.  You need to be with your family.  You've been gone all day."
"Danielle, they're fine.  I'm coming right now."
Jeanette arrived and I explained things in better detail.  She began calling Mark's siblings to let them know what was going on.  I posted a status on facebook so that I wouldn't have to make a lot of phone calls.
The next thing I knew, Kari was there.  She was crying.  "Danielle!  I knew I shouldn't have left.  I had a feeling that I should stay with you, but I ignored it!  I knew I shouldn't have left you.  I'm so sorry."
I assured her that it was okay.  No one knew this was going to happen.
Suddenly a male nurse came in and let us know that Mark was now on bypass.  I knew again that this meant his heart was not beating for the second time in one day.  It all still seemed surreal.
Jeanette's husband, Nate came for a little while when he got off of work.  We all chatted for a little while.  Time still seemed to drag.
Once Nate left I started to feel very tired.  I only slept 2 hours the night before.  It was about midnight.  I kept refreshing my facebook page thinking, somehow, that I would receive updates on Mark's progress.  I didn't get any updates for a long time.  As late as it was, so many people were commenting on my status.  So many of them were saying that they weren't going to sleep tonight until they knew everything would be okay.  Others said that they were praying for us and thinking about us.  I couldn't believe the outpouring of support and love from so many people.  My family members were all posting and asking for prayers on our behalf as well.  I couldn't believe the responses they were also receiving.  It was amazing.  It brought me such a peace and comfort.  I knew so much that I wasn't alone.  People on earth and in heaven were helping us and supporting us in any way possible.
Around 1am I started to feel a little drunk.  Apparently, I started saying weird things and acting really weird. I remember Jeanette and Kari laughing at me a lot.  I felt so weird and I thought I was doing a good job being normal.  I remember worrying that the Dr. would come in to talk to me and think that I was too crazy and wouldn't let me see Mark.  I vaguely remember something about corn dogs with hot tamales in them and Kari pushing me down, trying to make me sleep.  During this sleep deprivation psychosis, the nurse came back in to tell us that they were transitioning Mark off the bypass machine.  I didn't know how he was doing and the nurse didn't tell me.  A little while after that he came back to tell me that he was off of the bypass machine and his heart was beating again.  I still did not know how he was doing.
I remember talking to the nurse and him gradually getting closer to the exit.  Kari said that I was yammering on about who knows what and the whole thing seemed very awkward to the poor nurse.  I have no idea what I said, but he was nice enough to pretend like I wasn't completely out of my mind.
Around 2:30am Dr. Mitchell came out to tell me how everything went.  I was on a second wind and felt quite alert and aware of things.  I could tell his demeanor was so different compared to the first surgery.  He looked so tired, but had a very serious face.  He sat down with me to explain what happened:
"Now, you know we intubated him.  We thought that would help stabilize him, but it just wasn't working.  We had to work quickly to get him on bypass.  Normally this takes an hour to an hour and a half.  We had him on bypass within 22 minutes.  We were really having to work fast to get him on it.  Once we got him on bypass he got severe pulmonary edema.  Now, the body had a lot of fluid and our lungs are like a couple of sponges and his lungs just soaked up all that fluid.  What this means is that because of the pulmonary edema, we could not get enough oxygen to him the entire surgery.  No matter what we did, he just couldn't get enough.  You know that we went ahead and replaced the valve.  I had to use the largest size of valve and I probably could have gone larger, but they don't make them any bigger.  As soon as we got him off of the bypass machine his pulmonary edema went away and he had a good urine output, so that problem is gone.  The problem now is that he went a long time without enough oxygen.  This is very serious.  We aren't going to bring him out of anesthesia yet.  We are going to let him sleep until about 8 or 9 in the morning.  Then we will wake him up and start asking him questions like name, the year, who is the president.  Things like that.  I am going to need you there when he wakes up because we are going to need to know if he recognizes you.  They are still getting him situated in the ICU.  He's been through a lot, so it's going to be a little while still, but you can head on up to the waiting area up there."
Jeanette headed home and Kari and I headed upstairs to the ICU waiting area.  I was so anxious to see Mark again.  I knew he wouldn't be conscious for a while, but I wanted to see with my own eyes that he was okay.  There was a younger man sleeping on one of the couches in the waiting area.  I wondered who he was there for.  In places like this you realize so many people are dealing with scary situations and you get curious as to what their story is.  Kari laid down on the couch and I sat anxiously, waiting for them to tell me I could see Mark.
It was just after 3:20am.  "Kari, maybe they just forgot that I am here.  I'm going to check if I can see him yet."  I headed down the hall and saw one of Mark's nurses coming toward me.
"I was just coming to get you," she said with a smile.
I got to Mark's room and I felt so relieved to see him.  I pulled up a chair and sat next to him.  I held his hand and just looked at him.  He looked terrible.  He was so swollen that his eyelids couldn't close.  His hands were huge and he had more IVs than before.  He was still on the respirator and would be until morning.  I put my arm on the bed-rail and laid my head on it.  I just held his hand and rubbed it.  I still had a huge hurdle with the brain damage situation, but I was just happy to see that he was alive.
As I sat there, I struggled in my mind with going home and cleaning up, perhaps getting a little sleep or just staying until they woke him up.  I decided I really needed to rest a little bit and the ICU(with its evil hard chairs) was no place to do that.  I kissed his hand and went to wake up Kari in the waiting room.

Mar 11, 2012

Adventures in Open Heart Surgery Part 2

The nurses started calling the pharmacy for more meds.  They couldn't seem to stabilize both his blood pressure and his heart rhythm.  I could tell the surgeon was starting to worry.  Suddenly Mark started throwing up and things started to get slightly more frantic.  His blood pressure shot way up then dropped to that the top number was in the 50s and 40s.  They started suctioning him out while still trying to find the right combination of meds to stabilize him. Then they put him on a BiPap machine to force air into his lungs.  He started talking to me.  "I'm scared.  I'm scared."
"I know sweetheart.  You're okay.  They are taking good care of you."
"I don't want to die."  His eyes were open just little slits.
"You're going to be okay."  He was so scared it was just heart breaking.  I couldn't do anything.  The surgeon got the ultrasound tech there to do an echo-cardiogram on the heart.  The nurses kept asking me if I was okay.  I would tell them I was fine.  I felt very peaceful.  I stood by Mark and held his hand.  I continued to tell him everything was going to be just fine.
Mark suddenly opens his eyes wide.  "I see my mom!"
"You see your mom?"
"I see her!  I wish you could see her!"(he later described her as being dressed in white with her hair done and smiling at the foot of his bed)
"She's just here to take care of you.  She's being a good mom."
He nods.  I back off down by his feet while the nurses work on him and rub his feet to let him know I'm there.
Then he tries to sit up, "Danielle!  Danielle!"
I run up by his head, "I'm here.  It's okay."
"I couldn't see you!  I thought you were gone!"  His shoulders relax and he lays back down.
"I'm not leaving you.  Don't worry."
They start the echo.  I heard this strange noise coming from the ultrasound.  I thought maybe Mark was coughing.  I realize that it's his heartbeat I'm hearing.  It has no rhythm and sounds like whooshing, slushing and gushing.  I have never heard anything like it.  The number of nurses is starting to increase.  I see the worry on the surgeons face.  He is on and off his phone.  He is coming in and out of the room, shouting different meds.  I hear him mentioning the OR.  He brings another doctor in to look at the echo.  They seem to be in agreement about something.  SAM?  I don't understand what they are talking about.  I ask the nurse standing next to me, "What is SAM?  What are they talking about?"
"I really don't know.  This is beyond us here.  You'll have to wait until he can explain it to you.  Are you doing okay?"
"Yeah.  I'm okay."  I realize my body is trembling, but I still feel so calm, so at peace.
The surgeon is rubbing Mark's shoulder asking him how he's doing.  He is such a kind sweet man.  He has so much worry on his face, I feel bad for him.   Then he approaches me quickly.
"Mark has this rare heart condition known as SAM.  Did he have one of those 24-hour heart monitors?"
"Oh!  He did!"  he shouts to the other doctor.  "Dang it!  They thought it was A-Fib(atrial fibrillation)!"  He turns back to me, "He has what they call Systolic Anterior Motion or SAM.  This is caused when a person has the extra tissue growth problem, remember when we talked about that?" I nod.  "Okay, well the combination of the Mitral Valve Prolapse with the extra tissue growth causes the flap of the mitral valve to be sucked into the aortic valve, blocking that valve.  Now, he had this before, but it is rare and so easily confused with A-Fib we didn't realize that's what it was.  But when we repaired the valve and tightened everything up it pretty much just made the SAM worse."  I nod, just trying to take this all in.  He talks so fast. Everything is in such a rush but feels like slow motion.
"I need you to come in close," he says.  He gets right up to Mark's ear and I lean in close.  "Mark?" Mark nods.  "You have something called SAM and it's causing the flap of your mitral valve to be sucked into your aortic valve, blocking the valve.  Do you understand me?"  Mark nods again.  "Now, we have to get you into the OR right now.  We're going to have to go in and just replace the entire valve with a mechanical valve.  We just can't risk trying to repair it again.  Do you understand?"  Mark nods.  "I am so sorry you guys."  Dr. Mitchell feels so bad you can see it on his face.
"It's okay," I say.
"We're trying to get the OR prepped as fast as we can.  I don't know if you can tell, but his numbers are just not good.  Let me show you what's going on with his heart."  He walks me over to the echo.  It is immediately obvious to me that this is not what a normal heart looks like.  He explains the problem and I can clearly see what is happening.  I start to feel a little scared, but I still felt calm and peaceful.  It was as though everything around me was moving so quickly, but I was floating there, just watching it all unfold.  I felt this incredible trust in these doctors and nurses.  They were so serious, but I trusted them with everything I had.
I walk over to Mark and hold his hand.  "Mark?  Do you remember what Dr. Mitchell said?"  He nods.  "Are you okay?"  I felt such a spiritual presence around us.  It was so strong.
"I'm scared."  This whole time with the BiPap it was so difficult to understand him.  His mouth was so dry, his voice was really quiet and it sounded like when someone tries to suck in a deep breath while talking.
"You're scared?" He nods again.  "I know sweetheart.  Dr. Mitchell is going to take good care of you.  Everyone is doing a really good job.  We are getting a lot of spiritual help right now.  I feel it."  Mark is fading in and out of consciousness.
"Mark?" a nurse says.  "We are going to have to put the breathing tube back in, okay?  I'm going to give you something to make you sleepy."  I suddenly realize the room is completely full of nurses(I counted 12 or 13 total), the doctor, the surgeon and the ultrasound tech.  I start to back up to give them room.  They have been so kind, they just working around me most of the time.  They look at me and whisper back and forth to each other.
Dr. Mitchell approaches me, "The OR is almost ready.  We've had to bring people in from home so it's taking longer than what we'd like.   He is just having a rough time getting oxygen so we are going to go head and intubate him now, okay?"  I nod.  "Are you doing okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."  I really did feel "fine" despite everything going on around me.
"Why don't you go have a seat over there."
"I'm fine."
"Well, a lot of people pass out if they have to see this, so I just want you sit down for this."
I sit down and try to see Mark.  I am telling Heavenly Father to let Mark know I was there.  I start asking my dad to be with me.  Suddenly I know he's there.  My dad is right beside me to my right with his hand on my shoulder.  I look over and it was like my mind and spirit could see him, but my eyes could not.  I could almost see his outline.  I look over at Mark and realize that he, the nurses and doctors are completely surrounded by spirits.  They have encircled the room.  I felt so peaceful.  It was like I was on sacred ground.
The nurses were intubating him and the tube they were using was too big.  They have to try again.  Mark is so floppy.  The top number of his blood pressure was staying in the 40s, it wasn't going up anymore at all.  They get the second tube in and secure everything.  I stand up and walk over to rub his feet again.  Suddenly he starts to throw up again and there are all these crazy beeps.  They frantically stick a suction tube down to suction it all out.  Then he starts to come out of it.  They haven't been able to put restraints on him and he's trying to sit up, reach his arms out and kick his legs.  The nurse have to hold him down.  "It's okay Mark!" they shout.  "It's okay!"
The surgeon runs in, "Okay, OR is ready.  Let's go."  He walks up to me.  "Things are pretty serious right now.  That's why everything is so rushed.  You doing okay?"
"Yeah.  I'm fine.  I trust you completely."
He smiles.  "Thank you.  Now we're going to get in there and replace that valve completely.  You look tired.  Do you want to go sleep and I will just give you a call?"
"No.  I think Mark would want me here."
"Yeah, he probably would," he smiles.  "Since this is an emergency, I won't have the liaison to give you updates, but I will send a nurse out periodically to let you know what is going on."
"Okay.  Thank you so much."
He gives me that comforting smile.  "It's going to be okay.  I'll see you later," and he runs off after Mark.

Mar 10, 2012

Adventures in Open Heart Surgery Part 1

Mark had really wanted his surgery to happen soon.  He was getting out of breath just getting halfway up the stairs.  His hands started swelling so that he couldn't get his ring off anymore.  He started to cough a lot due to the fluid starting to build up in his lungs.  The idea of having the surgery in less than a week was so overwhelming to me.  I felt that I had so much on my shoulders.  My mom and Christian were coming to Utah to drop Christian off at the Missionary Training Center.  Mark argued that it would be terribly convenient.  I didn't want to inconvenience anyone.  I just did not feel ready.  I called my mom and asked for her input.  She said that if Mark was feeling crummy then we should just get it done.  I gave in.
Originally, the plan was to come in at about 5:45, but they called and asked if we would come in later, at 8am.  We got to sleep in a bit more.  There was so much stress and apprehension around everything it was so difficult to sleep with this all on my mind.  I got about 2 hours of sleep.  At that point I had had a migraine for about 4 1/2 days.
When we arrived at the hospital they had Mark dress in a funky gown that had a heater that could be attached to it.  We were both feeling nervous and felt like the wait was an eternity.  Mark's awesome sister, Jeanette, came with her daughter to wish Mark well. She was able to meet the surgeon, Dr. Mitchell, and ask questions with us.

We said our goodbyes and they started wheeling Mark away to surgery.  Jeanette went home and I went to the waiting room with BFF Kari.
Kari had lost her father the year after I lost mine.  Her father died from lung cancer and had a difficult ending to his life.  We sat and talked about our dads and cried and hugged.  I was so glad she decided to be with me, I don't know how I would have handled it without her.
They started the surgery at around noon.  They had a liaison who would come about every two hours or when something big was happening to give us updates.  About an hour or so into the surgery she came to let me know that they had stopped Mark's heart and that he was currently on the heart/lung bypass machine.  This was strange, surreal and difficult to hear at this point.  I knew that he did not currently have a heart beat.  I just started crying.  It's just an uncomfortable thing to think about that aspect.
After about 2-3 hours they let me know that he was still on bypass and that the surgery was going really well. They had told me before the surgery that, because it was a repair, it would take about 5 hours just to do the surgery itself.  I knew that if the repair didn't work then they would go ahead and do the replacement as we had discussed.
Around 5pm they cam to tell me that he was off of the bypass machine, his heart started right up and they were checking for any leaks and such.  They wanted to be sure that it was a good repair.  Once they were sure they would close him back up.
Around 6:30pm the surgeon came out to meet with me.  He looked tired, but happy.  He told me that the repair was very difficult.  He said there was a tiny little leak but everything looked good and it went very well. I was so relieved to hear this.  I was so excited and anxious to see him.
At about 7:40pm I was able to go up and see him in the ICU.  They called me to let me know to come right then if I was to get the picture Mark wanted of himself with a breathing tube(yes, he is strange, but that's my Mark!).  I got up there, took the picture and just looked at him.  He was started to come out of the anesthesia a little bit.  He was pretty swollen(to be expected), but I was just so happy to see him alive.  They had me step out while they took out his breathing tube.  I still watched him through the window because I was just happy to be able to see him.  Kari stayed with me and we hugged and cried.  Then we decided that I would be okay and she could head home to be with her family.

I came and stood by Mark while the nurses got things situated.  I grabbed his hand and he squeezed back.  It was such a nice feeling.  After a little bit I started to notice his heart rhythm was a little off.  The nurses seemed calm so I didn't think much of it.  Then I noticed they started talking about his blood pressure.  A healthy blood pressure is about 120/80.  I didn't notice what the bottom number was, but the top on was in the 70s.  Another nurse came to join.  The surgeon came in and they started discussing his heart rate and blood pressure.  I asked one of the nurses if this was a fairly common thing.  She said, "Ummm, well...iiit happens from time to time."  Not really an answer that comforted me.  I felt really calm still.  Everyone seemed to now what they were doing.  Things started to change though, and change quickly...

Feb 28, 2012

Meeting With Mr. Surgeon Man

Dr. John Mitchell seems to be a really great guy.  I asked the nurses in cardiology what they thought of him and they had wonderful things to say.  Mark has a friend who had an aortic valve replacement done by him, he had great things to say.  We looked him up online and he was in the army and has lots of schooling and degrees(I imagine you'd have to if you were going to be a heart surgeon).
Today we met him in person.  He has done so many valve repairs and replacements, I imagine it's almost second nature.  Only 1.5% of the people he's had to replace valves on have died.  These were due to other complications, not having to do with the heart valve itself and they were all much much older than Mark.  Here was my facebook status update:
Update on Mark:  We met with the surgeon.  He is a really nice guy.  He explained everything really well and answered all of our questions.  He explained that most surgeons would not give us the option of having the valve repaired, but he says that in his opinion, he thinks that he can repair the valve.  He said that it would be a huge repair and that it wouldn't be easy, but he was willing to try if we were open to him giving it a try.  If he did the repair, Mark would probably have to have a replacement in the next 10 years or so.  The upside would be that he would not have to be on an anti-coagulant for the rest of his life(not until the replacement in 10 years or so).   He will probably have to have a replacement in 10 years, but he would only be in his 40s which would be better than having to get it replaced in his 60s or 70s.  Anywho, he can do the surgery in the next few days if WE want or we can wait until the 18th or soon after.  Mark is all about have it now, but I would like to prepare a bit.  I just want to get caught up on my life since I have the option before all goes crazy again.  Most likely the surgery will be the third week of March.
--Basically, there is a lot of healthy tissue and valve, too much even(which is part of the problem) he really thinks he can repair it.  Here's to the next step!!  We will pick a date in the next day or two and let you all know!!  Thanks again for all of your prayers, love, fasting, thoughts and food on our behalf.  We love you all and wouldn't be able to do all this without you and our Heavenly Father.

Feb 27, 2012

Anxious Anxiety

Normally, I am not one to stress or freak out.  Even when the nurses thought Mark was having a heart attack, I kept telling him it was probably just gas.  "Are you sure it's not gas? It could be gas.  Have you thought about it possibly being gas?"  Then when he started getting really nauseated and pale after his angiogram, "You're probably just dehydrated."  Violently vomiting in the background, "Yeah, I think you're dehydrated."  I tend to think most things aren't as big as what people make them out to be and down play them a lot.  When Liam was born and was constantly vomiting most of what he would eat, Mark was convinced it wasn't normal and said it should get checked out.  I didn't agree, so Mark took him in himself.  After the doctor's visit I was convinced.  I should probably worry more than I do, but that's why I have Mark, right?
It's not that I think Mark is going to die.  I realize that is a serious and real possibility, but this is the one of the first times that I feel genuine worry.  I don't like people trying to tell me how I should feel, so when I tell them what's going on, many of them down play it.  I will have someone say, "Yeah, my grandpa had a valve replacement.  It's not that big of a deal.  He ended up being just fine."
I say, "Well, there is a chance of death.  They stop the heart to work on it."
"I think you're worrying too much."
Here's what goes on in my head, "I am worrying too much?  They are opening up my husband's chest and stopping his heart.  I do believe I can worry a bit.  If it was your spouse instead of your grandpa or really old dad, would you not worry?  Would you not consider the chance that your young children might not have a father if something went wrong? "  I may sound mean and I know they are trying to keep me from worrying, but I am going to worry.  Until he is completely healed I will have some sort of worry.  He is my husband, the father of my 5 young kids and I love him.  If a really old man has this surgery and he dies, we would say that it was too bad. At least he lived a long life.  It would be slightly(sense some sarcasm?) more tragic for my husband to die at his young age and for me to be a widow at the age of 28 with 5 children aged 7 and under.
This surgery is a big deal, it's a big deal with an old man, it's a big deal with a young man.  It's open-heart surgery, it's a big deal.
My eye keeps twitching because I am not getting enough sleep.  I am stressing about my life, in general.  I am stressing about the kids, how will they handle this, how will they handle not being with their parents for long periods of time.  I worry about the financial aspect of the whole thing.  While Mark is out of work we will be getting about $1200 less a month.  I will be driving the car a lot more, how will I pay for gas?  I don't have my family here, I don't want to go through it without my family's support.  I never see my husband anyway, I am going to miss him while he is in the hospital.  Why couldn't I have finished my book long ago so that maybe I could have a little extra money right now?  Should I start taking jewelry orders to make some extra money?  I don't have time for that.  How am I going to have time, for anything?  I've never taken a Xanax, but it's sounding pretty nice right now.
I know I will have help.  I know I have a wonderful ward with amazing people who care so much.  I know it will all be okay, but I still stress I still worry.  I wish this was something I could have prepared for.  How do you prepare for a life-changing event like this?  I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders right now.  I have felt it a lot in my life(those who really know me personally understand this), it's just this time the world feels like it gained like 50 pounds.  I know I have been truly blessed in so many ways in my life, I know I need to just rely on my Heavenly Father.  Sometimes that's hard to do.  I don't want to feel like I've been punished for something, but I feel that way at times.  I want to ask why.  I know I am no one special.  I know that everyone has their trials and we are all equipped individually to face the particular trials that the Lord feels we can handle.  I just wonder why he thinks I'm so dang strong.  Some people totally freak out about their car needing to be fixed and I think, "Wow, I just had two miscarriages in a row, was diagnosed with pancreatitis, put in $900 to fix a car and now my husband needs open-heart surgery.  You're stressed?"  I know it's unfair to that person for me to think that way.  If they are crying and freaking out over their car, then they certainly can't handle what I have on my plate and so they will just have the car to deal with right now.  I need to be okay with this.
Speaking of pancreatitis, I had an "attack" or "episode" or whatever you want to call it the other night.  It's not the worst pain I've had with this, but it was pretty awful.  Feels like a flaming hot poker to the gut sometimes.  I kind of wish there was a surgery to fix this problem.
I had someone tell me that I probably had my miscarriages because the Lord knew that Mark was going to have open-heart surgery.  Really?  Who says that?  People who don't think before they speak kind of people.  I don't think people should ever bring up a miscarriage in such a way.  I think I was supposed to have those miscarriages for probably reasons I don't know yet.  I know it was a good way to finally get me to the doctor and get some of my other issues diagnosed and taken care of.  I think if I wasn't supposed to be pregnant when Mark had his surgery, I just wouldn't have gotten pregnant.  I think the Lord has that kind of power.  I know he does.
We are meeting with the surgeon earlier than planned.  We are meeting with him tomorrow at 10am instead of Wed. at 1pm.  I am anxious to get this thing scheduled.  I kind of want to fast forward a few months, I am not ready for all of this.  Are we ever ready for trials?  No.  We can never prepare for these things completely.  We just need to give this to the Lord and trust in him.  I am not going to mope and cry today.  I am going to pull up my big girl panties and face this head on.

Feb 23, 2012

Now, That's a Day I Won't Be Able to Purge From My Memory

These were all from the day before and day of Mark's procedure.  The goal was to find out if Mark's valve could just have a repair or if it would need to be replaced.  To find this out we scheduled a special procedure called a TEE.  This is where they stick an ultrasound probe down your esophagus to get a near perfect look at the mitral valve prolapse.  Instead of typing the story of the day, I thought I would share through my FB status updates and comments from people:
Feeling anxious for Mark's procedure tomorrow (7am has never felt so early!). Hopefully we can find out when his open-heart surgery will be. I will keep you all posted.
I received 34 comments from wonderful people.  It helped me feel so much more ready to face this day. Some favs:
Mary Brown: Jeff and I held a special fast for you and him. I'll continue to pray, too. Please call/message me if there's any way I can help you with ANYTHING.
Andrea Donegan:   Love and prayers headed your way sista! Love you both!.
The start of the day had friends and family with facebook statuses that expressed their concerns, thoughts and prayers on our behalf.
Mark is currently getting his TEE done. Trans-Esophogial something or other. They are giving him an amnesia drug, so he won't remember this. I heard an older couple talking and the wife said her husband had the procedure before, the husband's response: "I did?!" (16 comments of support and love)
Favorite comments:
Rebecca Weger Saying prayers for you guys and your family today.
Cherstin Hamblin Keeping y'all in our thoughts and prayers!
Jami Mortensen Hamblin I'm praying for you guys. And the doctors. :)
After Marks procedure:  Just spoke with Mark's doctor(Mark is totally out cold and drooling a bit). He was being optimistic and was hope that mark would just need a repair, but there is quite significant damage to the entire valve and so it will need to be completely replaced, and pretty soon before damage is done to the heart. :( This means it will not be his first and last open-heart surgery in his life.(31 comments of greatness!)
Favorite comments:
Chanté Harrell Hoehne You are not alone in this. You have a great ward family and we all love you guys and pray for you. And we will rally behind you throughout this :) I second what Jeanette said- what a blessing that the doctors would discover his condition and needs before it was worse. Big, big hugs your way.
Chanté Harrell Hoehne PS- I love that, even in the middle of such a trial, that you never lose your humor... And that you would mention Mark's drooling. He'll love that when he comes to ;)
Logan Mahan The Mahans love the Smiths. Keep us posted and we will keep you all in our prayers!
Danielle Jolene Smith Chanté, I don't know that he'll quite LOVE the drooling bit, haha.
Andrea DeShazer Donegan I'm so sorry! Hang in there the Lord is so mindful of you and Mark and will bless you both! Love you!
Jeanne Hansen DeShazer We are so grateful they have found this now. We'll get through this. He'll get better. Who knows, maybe once this is all done he'll find he feels better than he's felt in a long time, but didn't realize it wasn't normal to feel like that.
Julie Smith Pulsipher How can Mark not come out ok with a sweet wife and family like you! Call if I can help, love you.
Next update: Well, we got as far as the elevator and Mark started to feel a lot of pressure in his chest and bad pain in his chest. We are back in and waiting for the cardiologist. They've done an EKG and we are just waiting and waiting and waiting. Did I mention we're waiting? Mark has officially asked me what the results were of his TEE 5 times. That's some great amnesia medication!(11 messages of awesomeness)
Favorite comments:
Jennifer Martin James We're keeping you in our thoughts. I can't imagine how scary this must be for you, but he is in good hands. Hopefully you will get your results soon. Waiting is the hardest part. :(
Jon-Michael DeShazer We're praying for not only Mark's well-being, but also for you and your kiddos Danielle. We love you.
Danielle Jolene Smith Thanks guys!! We are still here waiting. They gave Mark a nitrate for his chest pain, no Cialis for Mark!
Chanté Harrell Hoehne Ugh. Poopy. But I really think the worst part of your day has yet to come. For you have not yet partaken of the food I am bringing you for dinner, bwahahahaha!!!!!
Next update:  
Met with the cardiologist. EKG was abnormal(vague much?). He wants to do an Angiogram(risks include: death, heart attack and stroke, to name a few). He talked with the heart surgeon and he wants him to check a few other things as well. We are here in Endoscopy and will be moved to the 5th floor(I don't know what that one has). There is a man who just had a colonoscopy and has serious flatulence(to be expected) he is forcing them out and saying how awesome they are. I look forward to the 5th floor at this point.(23 shows of love)

Favorite comments:
Danielle Jolene Smith Mark says, "Christian, this reminds me of you." In reference to gas man over there. I say it reminds me of most of my brothers.
Jami Mortensen Hamblin I wish I was there - I could come sit with you. :)
Don Poyssick I get off at five... do you want me to come bring you some decent food so you are not stuck eating the hospital or vending machine crap all night?
Cid Hart A worthy entry for the annals of "Funny Things You Hear in the Hospital"
Danielle Jolene Smith Don, that would be a beautiful thing. I weep at the thought. We are now on the 5th floor cardiovascular unit. It's seems so quiet without gasman *sniff sniff* (not that I'm sad, just residual effects from gasman).
Jon-Michael DeShazer Danielle, I love your humor. We need to write a parody of Carole King's "Jazz Man" and call it "Gas Man!"
Christian Noel DeShazer Haha thanks mark! That made my day! I'm glad my gas has had a lasting effect! Prayers Danielle!
Ward Livingston I've had two angiograms and I can tell you two positives. 1) it's a wonderful diagnostic tool--it clearly shows what's going on in the heart. 2) the drugs they give you are GREAT. He'll have a lot of amnesea, but what he does remember will be nice.
Danielle Jolene Smith That last sedation Mark had(this morning) he told me I was pretty. I am hoping to move up to beautiful status after the angio!
Tonya Collins Ward I'm in nursing school doing rotations on the cardiac unit and I observed in the cath lab this morning while one of my patients had an angiogram. It can be really scary to go through a new procedure and there are risks, but I totally agree with Ward. The diagnostic value of that type of test is wonderful. I'm praying for your husband, you and your kids, and his doctors and nurses. Hugs!
Kathy Meyer Hall So glad you have loving support all around you. Lots of prayers and good thoughts from us.
Next update: 
I am missing my kids and have an intense need to hold my little Alybabe right now. :( Long long long day. Did I mention this has been a long day? Looks like we won't be out of here until about 9 or 10pm. Lame!(21 comments of support)
Favorite comments:
Christy Bryant Nielson Call me if I can do anything tonight to help with the kids. We'll be here!
Christian Noel DeShazer Who is watching the kids?
Danielle Jolene Smith Just kidding! Geoff and Jessie.
Update on Mark: Mark just had his angiogram. All went well. All of the tests were clear. So, they will just do the valve replacement(psha! Just the valve replacement? doesn't sound right. be grateful for small miracles). They ended up having to go through the groin to do the procedure. Mark says, "I'm just glad I still have my junk." I am thinking of being grateful for his life, but you can see where his priorities are.(14 comments)
Favorite comments:
Dylan DeShazer I am glad his junk is ok. Lol. Good to here he is doing ok. When will they replace his valve?
Danielle Jolene Smith We meet with the surgeon on Wed. the 29th to schedule that. It will probably be pretty soon. They don't want to wait much longer.
Brandi Wilkinson We all know you were concerned with his "junk" too? ;)
Thomas Copeland Well.... there is something they probably didn't tell you... they probably used a Starclose Clip which stays in the femoral artery; now with that being metal.. he may find TSA paying close attention to his junk from now on.. lol
Cynthia Watkins I love the sense of humor the pair of you have!!!
Jeanne Hansen DeShazer Yeah. He's a guy.
Update on Mark: We are home safe and sound. We got home at about 10pm. Mark is doing well, he has to lay quite flat for most of the day. He is resting(as he has through most of this, haha). Alastair missed us or something and fussed and cried until about 1 am(I had been up since 5:20am), needless to say I am EXHAUSTED. But alas, today I must play catch up from yesterday's absence. Lots of laundry, cleaning and yelling at my kids(KIDDING! well, mostly). Mark was overcome by all the kind words, prayers and thoughts from you all yesterday(I was as well, you all are awesome!). He couldn't believe I knew such nice people(am I really that bad??). It actually brought him to tears. Being the mean person I am, I wished that I had brought my camera to document such a momentous event(and a test tube to find out if these were real tears), but let's just keep that part between us. :) (19 comments and 25 likes)
Favorite comments:
Danielle Jolene Smith PS-We will be meeting with the heart surgeon on the 29th to schedule the big day.
Joe Corless mark,, in tears,,,no way!.. gosh i love that guy!
Nikki Wood Glad everything went well yesterday! The surgery will go good just have faith and y'all be strong! At least take a nap today lol!
Kari 'Hendricks' Bryan I've got work to do this morning, but let me take your kids for a few hrs this afternoon
Danielle Jolene Smith Maybe I will...
Kari 'Hendricks' Bryan Um the correct response is Yes Kari take them away they will be ready for departure at 1:00 and will be returned when dinner arrives at 6:00.
Dylan DeShazer You do realize he can read this right? Glad he is home.
Shirley Lyman So glad that he made it through everything okay. Thanks for keeping us informed on how everything was going.
Sherry Bishop McKellar Just think what a fun blog post you can write now....
Beverly Berge Rockwood glad you are home and we hope for a speedy recovery -- and take it from your old young women's leader -- laundry can wait. just take it easy!
Jacob Clarin Bingham We are SO glad and relieved for mark and you. We love u guys and pray things will continue smoothly
Melissa Oviatt So glad he's home and doing well!!!!

That was one of the most difficult days I have experienced.  I was so overcome by the comments and private messages of support, thoughts, prayers and love.  I was by myself through this, but because of you all and our amazing Father in Heaven, I was able to feel so calm and peaceful and I managed to keep my sense of humor through the entire thing.  I didn't even feel the need to lose it until I went to bed that night, when I just sobbed when I baby wouldn't go to sleep.  I had been so overwhelmed by the emotions of the day in that moment, I just broke.  But I didn't break once while I was at the hospital trying to be there for Mark.  We will have a long road ahead, but we are past these few hurdles.  Thanks again everyone.  You all are my big giant rock of support!! 
PS-Alybabe is walking!!!