Get ready for sauna weather. 31 degrees, 29 degrees..humidex in the 40’s over next few days. Thank goodness for air conditioning… I feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t have it.
- Acknowledge the Situation. Sometimes people try to stay in denial when they face a tough situation. …
- Develop a Plan. Brainstorm potential ways to deal with the situation. …
- Seek Help When Necessary. …
- Change What You Can. …
- Identify What You Can’t Change. …
- Develop Coping Skills to Deal with Your Feelings. …
- Focus on What You Can Gain.
Have you ever reflected on your life and wonder how you got through some of the tough bits. Everyone has their own life experience and stories… All I remember are the funny parts of the experience. I think I cope with humor or sarcasm…
I was actually thinking back to when my husband, Mike, had to have his 1st heart surgery and then his second and then lung surgery. Then I thought about me getting breast cancer… What’s next? No sense focusing on the unknown.
Most of my good friends have heard some of these stories. It was 2002, my youngest was only one and we had only been in our new house for about 1 year. I remember thinking if we had only known or had a crystal ball we wouldn’t have moved from my other house which was near paid off.
Every time we had dinner, my husband would turn beet red and need to lie down because he was having trouble catching his breath. His Doctor finally sent him for some tests. He came home after the appointment and me being me, said, I was right, right? “You have to quit smoking and you have asthma or an allergy of some sort? Right?” Back then he had about a 2 pack a day smoking habit. Good news he only smoked in the garage in our new house which was good because I was allergic. He said “Great news! My lungs are clear and I can continue to smoke but the “ticker” isn’t working so good” And so it began..
We found out he was born with a congenital defect and his aortic valve had 2 flaps versus the regular 3 that he should have had. His heart was pumping but because of the missing flap, blood was flowing back into his heart or regurgitating and it was quite enlarged. He wasn’t given any special instructions on what he could and couldn’t do and was told he could continue to work til he got a call for the surgery he required. What was worse is that Mike wasn’t allowed to do the standard stress test on the treadmill. Stood to reason he should have probably been told to limit his activity. Nope?! If you think about it, the stress test was probably stopped because the doctor would have been liable… Mike is a carpenter by trade and very physically active and he did continue to work while we waited for next steps. We had a few scares between March and July of that year rushing him to the hospital a few times when his heart got tachycardic. Basically it was beating really fast…
We spoke to the surgeon and we had choices to make, human cadaver, bovine, pig or mechanical. We had no idea what to pick and the Doctor insisted it was for us to decide and he wouldn’t make any recommendations. I basically pointed to a family picture on his desk of his wife and daughters and asked him what would you pick if it was one of them? He promptly said pig valve giving us details on why he would pick that one. Now with that decision out of the way, we had to wait for the phone call to get the surgery date. I recall his surgery orientation and the nurse saying that normally the surgery would be 4 hours but our surgeon would do it in 2 hours. I quickly asked whether he skipped steps. Apparently Mike’s surgeon is world renowned and people would come around the world to watch him because he is that good.
So July 19th, 2002, we headed downtown Toronto for the surgery. I did all the research on what to expect and Mike didn’t want to know any of it. I needed to prepare myself and I personally find knowing what to expect soothes my soul. Likely another one of my coping mechanisms. Plus I remember using work as a distraction as well. It all ended up going very well.. They kept him in ICU or the Intensive Care Unit overnight which was standard of care. When I visited him, I remember feeling faint because he was doing what I call the “fried bacon” and I thought he was checking out. I asked the ICU nurse about his intermittent tremors. The nurse was fabulous and he was already on top of it and had already paged the doctor for a consult. Doctor assured me he was just coming out of the anesthetic quickly and it was no cause for concern.
The best part was Mike’s witty comments and quips while he was in his drug induced stupor. He was in and out, eyes closed and with impeccable timing would open his eyes and quip something. Even better Mike doesn’t remember any of what he said…. For example, the ICU nurse, Peter had a Tim Horton’s coffee he was sipping and Mike quipped, “what he has a coffee in here? Well, next he will bringing in a case of Molson Export” This happens to be Mike’s favorite beer… Apparently he was making all sorts of remarks when I wasn’t there and the nurse asked me if this was his usual behavior. I laughed and said absolutely and I think he was almost back to normal. The nurse figured he was a card and needed to be dealt with.
When the night nurse came on duty and was reviewing his chart, she exclaimed, “Ohhh” Alarmingly, I asked whether there was a problem. She said “No, his hemoglobin readings are fantastic, look at his color, he looks great”. Mike who we thought was sleeping opens his eyes almost like it was on cue and says “Well, you should see me in a suit!”
One of his brothers, John, headed downtown to visit Mike after surgery. John said he asked a nurse where he could find Mike. The nurse said, “oh, he is gone!”. John was about to have a meltdown thinking his younger brother bit the bullet. The nurse quickly clarified that he was released from the hospital. You think they would pick their words wisely. Mike was actually out of the hospital within 3 days. Yup we survived and have funny stories to share.
Then fast forward 10 years later in 2012, a few months after Mike’s mom passed away in May. So 2012 wasn’t the best year. I was preparing to write my PMP or Project Management professional exam to get my designation after which we were planning to spend a week in beautiful Collingwood on Georgian Bay. We had planned that Mike would go camping with his buddy up north for a few days with our younger son and then head to Collingwood after I finished my exam. So it’s August 22nd and the phone rings. I remember telling him how thoughtful he was to call and wish me luck on the exam. He agrees that this is exactly why he is calling but I could tell it never crossed his mind. He was calling to let me know he was in a hospital up north. And so the adventure continues… He suggested I go forth and write my exam and head up after I was done. He didn’t tell me he was in ICU with congestive heart failure. I only found that out after I called the hospital back and spoke to the ICU nurse. She assured me he was resting comfortably and he had fallen asleep. I had looked into cancelling my exam making several calls but it was a very complicated process so I took Mike’s and the ICU nurse’s advice and decided to write the exam. Funny, I was extremely nervous about writing the exam until the moment Mike phoned and told me he was in the hospital. My anxiousness quickly evaporated, exam writing stress was gone. I was focused to just get it done and the outcome didn’t matter to me anymore. Mike getting sick helped me pass my exam…or at least helped me focus and prioritize. Maybe a small bit had to do with studying! LOL. It wasn’t worth putting my energy into stressing over a dumb exam. The good news was that I actually passed!
Word of advise, if you ever get sick in Cottage country, transfer to another hospital. We told the hospital about his valve history but they didn’t attribute his condition to that. I argued with Mike to perhaps transfer to his “home” hospital but he refused. He was irritable because he hadn’t smoked for a few days. The hospital up north released him. For the next 2 weeks we were in and out of our hospital getting test after test done. They thought he had pneumonia, then, they sent him for CT scans to see if he had cancer. We kept asking if they were sure it wasn’t his heart. We took it upon ourselves and just decided to make an appointment with his cardiologist for an eco-cardiogram. The eco was done but it had to be read by the cardiologist so we were again sent home.
Each night Mike couldn’t sleep basically because he couldn’t breathe. He would pace all night and basically take short breaths every few seconds. We had been to the hospital countless times each time being checked and released. He told me that he really thought we needed to go to emergency once again. It may have been like the 8th time..can’t remember…but we had been going there so often we should have had a frequent patient card punched. Mike isn’t one to ask to go to emergency…so you know it was serious. Actually most men I know would avoid all doctors. I was getting frustrated because we had essentially been there every day and were getting no answers. Our vacation was essentially spent in Resort O Hospital. So we agreed I would drop him off at emergency this time and he would have to go it alone so I could get school supplies for my son given school was starting the next week. After school supply shopping, I got home around 3:30 pm. I picked up my messages and his cardiologist’s office left a message that they needed to see Mike. I called their office knowing I would be hard pressed to speak to anyone late on a Friday of a long weekend. I left the message that Mike was in emergency again and if he was released we would definitely see the cardiologist the following week. Luckily, the secretary called me back and told me his valve was failing and if he was in emergency he wouldn’t be released. She suggested I pack a bag with his stuff. She also said she would fax the scans to the emergency department. I was elated to final hear they identified the root cause. While I am packing up a few things, Mike calls and told me to pick him up because he was being released. I told him not to go anywhere. I mentioned his cardiologist called and without question he said ” Well, I am heading back to the yellow zone” This was the waiting zone in the hospital.
The emergency nurse confirms she received the faxes from Mike’s cardiologist. I insisted on speaking to the doctor. In the meantime, Mike is hooked up to an IV bag with antibiotics that they ran through him because they thought he had pneumonia.
The doctor sees me and insists Mike is free to go. I told him I would gladly take him home but asked him to please review those faxes again. This time he looks and turned to Mike and apologized and said he had to stay. I swear had he sent us home…not sure Mike would have lasted. My sister-in-law always tells me she thinks I saved Mike’s life. I never really thought about it but maybe I did. It also confirms why I have trust issues with healthcare professionals. It isn’t that they aren’t good but they are only human and can make mistakes and you need to be persistent. Doctors are like mechanics…some are good, some are better than others and than there are Dr. Dick’s.
His valve was failing and his heart was not pumping enough and his lungs were filling with fluid. The best part Mike quit smoking and hasn’t smoked in 6 years and counting! I guess if you can’t breathe you are motivated to make life changes. I never would have thought he would quit before this because he really enjoyed smoking.
And so the fun continues…. He was in the hospital for over a month and in and out of ICU. He moved back and forth in rooms and had many different neighbours. They also treated him for endocarditis…basically an infection of the heart valve and gave him sooooo many antibiotics that his kidneys were shutting down. Meanwhile he didn’t have that condition. Frightening times but I do remember the funny stories. For example he was moved to one ward and late one evening texted to tell me his neighbor couldn’t make it to the bathroom and had pooped right in front of him. Poor guy..the pooper and poop see-er. Mike’s bed was next to the bathroom. I showed up the next day and was sitting in a chair next to Mike’s bed and asked the whereabouts of the poop incident. He looked at me and said “Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t lick your boots.” No more words required.
There are soooo many more funny hospital stories during this time… I can’t even think of all of them..and I have to end this blog sometime.
Not sure what you think of when you look back at experiences you have had. I hope you can look back and see what you gained from the experience. Maybe you learned something?! Maybe you can share your experience and it helps someone else. Maybe there was some joy even in the darkest of times. Maybe you feel lucky…I do in a way feel lucky. Maybe you can find something to help you persevere… More importantly applaud yourself for muddling through the tough situations.