The Stars Lined Up
I am a married, 49 year old mother of 3. My children are a 17 year old boy, a 15 year old boy and an almost 9 year old girl. It has been a year and a half since my open heart surgery. It's not always the first thing I think about each day! My biggest concern still is erratic sleeping patterns.
10 October 1998
The stars lined up for me on July 20, 1997. It was a bright Sunday morning. I had been up early, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet time. My husband and two teen-age sons had just returned from delivering the Sunday papers. My eight year old daughter was still in bed. At 6:30 a.m. I experienced excruciating pain in my jaw. It was so intense, I knew something was wrong. My husband didn't question me when I said I needed to go to the emergency room.
By noon that same day I was undergoing open heart surgery to repair a dissecting aorta. I'm skipping so many details, but everyone one that knew me was shocked. I had always had regular check-ups and was always considered to be in good health.
I spent 12 days in the hospital and the following year recuperating. This fall I returned to my elementary teaching job on a half-time basis. I feel pretty good, but do need to fit rest periods into my schedule. I've found the world hasn't slowed down, but I have. In some ways I feel much wiser than I did before. But, keeping up with work ,and family does take a lot of energy. I'm trying to learn pacing.
I continue to take Toprol XL, a beta-blocker. I've also been using an anti-depressant and sleep medication. I have great doctors. They tell me I'll never know why this happened. I don't feel like the question why consumes me. I do feel like I could use support from others in my situation so I welcome contacts.
I'll already add the disclaimer that I'm not too speedy in replying - priorities, you know.
Update 12 Jun 1999
My narrative's title, "The Stars Lined up for Me", still holds true. My first-born son, Joe, graduated from high school this week, my daughter is performing in her dance recital today, and my 16 year old son is into football and sports in a big way and hoping to be QB next year. I just completed my first year of teaching (half-time) since my open heart surgery. It was the most satisfactory year of my 26 years of teaching. My husbands family from several states is gathering here for a family reunion celebration this week. I really feel up to it. Thank you all for good wishes and for being there. I had no knowledge of aortic aneurysm and no inkling that it would happen to me. I feel blessed.
Update: 20 July 2005
My blessings have been many since my emergency surgery to repair my ascending aorta took place 8 years ago today. My health is good. I continue to meet with my cardiologist annually and have heard the wonderful words, "things look good, no change in size, descending aorta with false lumen looks a-ok." I did change to monitoring by MRA instead of CT scan. After 5 years of annual CT scans I had an allergic reaction to the dye used in the CT scan. Doctors said not to worry. They would premedicate me for the next annual scan. Well, even with the predisone and antihistamine pre-meds I had an allergic reaction and ended up in the ER for a bit. I broke out in hives before leaving the scan area. My blood pressure was low and this time I was a bit more scared. My husband had to be called again... so MRA it is.
I still take my Nadolol and actually am still on a small dose of an antidepressant. I'm reticent to change anything that seems to be working well! I am also taking a compounded hormone replacement, which seems to have helped my menopause symptoms. (I do have reservations about continuing with the HRT, but my doctors do not have a concern.) Seems like the normal aging process and open heart surgery repair accompanied by sleep issues etc. all hit at once; the routine I'm on is working well.
The blessings have been many - 2 sons graduated from high school, one from college, my wonderful granddaughter was born, my daughter started high school and I am able to keep up with her active schedule. We've traveled to family reunions and have been able to attend other joyous family events (usually 2000 miles away).
I retired from my 34 year teaching career this past June. My husband continues to work in the commercial construction industry, my daughter will be a sophomore in high school this fall, my sons live in town and our beautiful granddaughter just turned 2. I joke that I'm going to be a stay-at-home mom when the school year starts again. I know I've learned to cherish life in the past 8 years. Someone said during my recuperation year to 'give yourself thhe gift of time, and let others do for you,' words that I pass on to others when medical crises hit.
Thanks to the many authors who have contributed to this site. I have signed in many times over the years and found support, comfort and information.
Prayers and thoughts of gratitude and hope continue to be with you.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Mary Ellen King
© Copyright 1998 Mary Ellen