Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heart of my Heart

So, where on earth have I been as of late?  Why mostly right here at home, sleeping, or in the ER, ICU or in my doctor's office.  The past two months of my life have been a medical adventure which began this way...

For about three weeks beginning the end of March, I noticed that both of my ankles were swelling quite a bit.  By morning, the right ankle would look normal again, but the naughty left ankle still remained looking as though it belonged to an elephant.  Fortunately, the ankle was not gray or wrinkly.  It was just huge and puffy.  In the back of my mind I thought I ought to check it out, but my VBF, Val had flown from Indiana with her mother, my "little mom" Dolores, for a lovely 10 day visit, and I thought the clinic visit could wait until they returned home.  A little voice (there is a lesson here, so pay attention) in the back of my mind kept bothering me, so I decided to call my pharmacist to inquire whether any of my prescribed medications could possibly be causing this puffy ankle incident.
 My lovely pharmacist, Danette Gibbs (whom I now refer to as my "Angel Pharmacist") listened carefully to my description of the ugly and uncomfortable Puffy Ankle syndrome, and assured me that none of the medications I take could be the cause.  Then, with slow and clear ennunciation, and a very firm tone of voice, Danette told me that I MUST call my primary doctor as soon as I ended my call with her, and further instructed that I MUST see my doctor today, ASAP, because the swelling of one limb can be a sign of - HEART FAILURE!  Let me tell you, those two words will grab your attention and not let go!  So I did as instructed, and my doctor's nurse said I needed to get to the office ASAP - like NOW!  Which I did.

Another lesson for today, is that when you visit your doctor and notice that everyone at the office is hopping around you and a number of people are doing things to you simultaneously, something is not right.  I was shot up to Cardiology for an EKG and promptly returned to my doctor with the paper in hand.  Well, Dr. Kitty Howells (how can you not love a doctor named Kitty Howells?), explained, I had atrial fibrillation, which is an early stage of heart failure. 

That means that the atrial chambers of your darling heart, instead of beating with nice, solid, regular beats, spend their time making little fluttering irregular and fast beats.  Put your hands out in front of you and flutter your fingers around - that's sort of what's happening.  The big deal with this is that the heart is beating inefficiently, and blood isn't being moved around in your body the way God designed it to.  Those fat ankles of mine?  Pooled blood because my heart beat wasn't strong and regular enough to move the blood up my legs.  And the really bad thing is that you have a very increased chance of having a stroke because the blood can pool in the heart and form nasty clots that can shoot to your brain and leave you in a pitiful condition. You can look up atrial fibrillation on Google if you want to learn more.  And to make this experience even more fun, the following Sunday I had all the symptoms of a heart attack and was admitted to St. Francis Medical Center in La Crosse for a couple of days!  I even got to stay in the ICU.  Great nurses and care at St. Francis - it's the best!

So, I began taking coumidin (blood thinner - want to prevent clots) and metoprol (it reduces the rate of heartbeat - sort of like putting a governor on your kid's car so he can't drive over 50mph) to hold my heart's rate down (hopefully below 100 beats per minute) during the a fib incidents.  Jolly right, you say.  However, the 48 hour heart monitor I wore revealed that my heart is in a fib 41% of the time.  So, the docs say to increase the metoprol.  That was until I documented a weekend in **!l where I'd just come out of an a fib incident (mine last 2 - 3 hours or so) and then go right into another one.  By the way, a fib incidents leave you feeling weak, dizzy, a little sick, nauseous, headache.... awful!  These a fib attacks were so bad that my fingernails and toenails all turned blue..... over and over and over.  It was a bit unnerving.  Oh, did I mention that my husband was off in Canada fishing and I was at home alone - in the country - 30 minutes from the nearest town?  I think it must have been lack of oxygen to the brain (this also happens) because I was never frightened and never had the thought that I ought to call someone!
 My heart was having a party like a 17 year old when parents are gone for the weekend.  This is an experience you really don't want to share!

The Monday after the party, I called my doctor and fortunately, got right in.  None of us know how I managed to have the good sense to have my daughter, Amy, drive me to LaCrosse, but it did happen, thank the Lord.
And wouldn't you just know that as we walked into the clinic, I started to see stars and the hallway began swirling around, and someone grabbed a wheelchair and plopped me down into it and I got zoomed into the exam room.  I got to have the mother of all the a fib incidents of my big adventure, and my doc was able to get a lovely EKG printout of it - glory!  She called Cardiology and they said to give me some fast acting metoprol, get my heart rate stabilized and send me on home with a new increased dosage to further slow down my heart rate.  I'm glad a good doctor told me long ago that medicine is an inexact science and that much of it is trial and error.  Excellent reason for clean communication with your doctor!.

 Several people have asked me if I've been frightened throughout all of this.   I've not felt any fear throughout all of this because 30 years ago I asked forgiveness of my sins, and asked Jesus Christ to be my savior and I know that when I pass from this place, I will go to my real and eternal home with Him.  If you've wondered if Jesus is real, He is.  If you've wondered if He loves you, He does.  If you think your sins are so big that He can't or won't forgive you, He will and He does.  I want you to know and understand that God the Father has known you before time eternal began, before the earth and everything seen and unseen was formed and He has always loved you and will continue to love you.  He loves you so much that He has given you free will - the right to ask Him for forgiveness and eternal life, and also the right to turn your back on Him and live your life as you please.  I can tell you that having lived a life without Him and in sin (I matured in the 60's, your imagination can fill in the rest), that there is a huge difference in my life since I met Him as my Lord and Savior.  My life now is joyful, peaceful and complete.  This is not to imply without trial, because we all share that, but I have a source of strength, courage and love to run to in my times of trouble.  If you need hope and healing in your life, it is so simple.  With all your heart, ask forgiveness of your sins, ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, and then begin your new life.  Find a good Christian church, read your Bible, find a Bible study.  Contact me if you want more info!

Now, back to the a fib story.......

It's all about timing - heart timing in my case.  The new metoprol dosage was certainly doing its job of keeping my heart rate down.  My heart rate was so slow that I've basically been sleeping for the past two weeks.  Not kidding.  I'd get a phone call, and fall asleep listening to whoever had called!  I couldn't make it through a page of reading, or a bit of television.  What?  a blog called Summer Kitchen Quilts?  You gotta be kidding.  I'd have to head over to the bed for a bit of rest or find myself dozing off sitting up.  You could say my timing has been all off.
So, DH and I have been to see the clinic cardiologist who specializes in heart electronics, and I'm beginning a new drug which (hopefully) will deal with the poor rhythm of my heart.  I take my first dose tonight.  You should also know that atrial fibrillation is the most common heart condition, and normally easily managed.

I'm hopeful.  I'm positive.  I'm profoundly grateful.  God is wonderful and His love is boundless.  I'm not giving up on anything, but putting some plans on the back burner to just simmer for a bit while we get my heart back on track

With a heart full of love to you!

 If you want to know more about Jesus......

1 comment:

  1. Oh Angela,
    I am CRYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I knew I loved you, and here we are sisters in Christ!!!!
    We also have some things in common. I am 55 and have a serious heart condition, plus many other problems with my health. How can this be I keep thinking? I am young! Aren't I???
    My mom died April 27, 2010 and she had Atrial Fib. I am missing her so much today because today is my birthday, and she was my world. We quilted together...she was one week away from being 83 when she unexpectedly died. She had worked up until she entered the hospital to get her upper respirtory help with IV's. Then her heart gave out. I was raised by her alone, and am an only child. She LOVED Jesus with all her heart and He was her life, so we will someday be together again. Thank you so much for your testimony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cathy