Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lake Eddy and Superior

I went up north this January for many reasons, and I couldn't have picked a better time to go. There was the January thaw that warmed the teens up to the thirties allowing people to walk outside without worrying too much about the cold or starting up their vehicles in the morning.

I took the time to go to a past campground and play around, as seen above. Lake Eddy was completely frozen though softened from the thaw. Remnants of holes in the ice and outlines of sheds were visible in most directions, along with the boot prints that lead toward and away from them. I was, however, alone so the foot prints are not as far from the shore as they could be and the snow angel was made with extreme caution.

On friday, I ventured even further north and did some shopping in Marquette. I parked my car and explored the shore of the superior. The whole lake was obviously not completely frozen and I ventured about as far as I could onto the lake, without going swimming. From any view you could see the reflection of the sun off the top of the ice, prints of prior explorers, and shifting icebergs swaying some distance away. Cracks, ravines, and familiar rocks also peeked through in a few spots. There was a picture almost everywhere you looked, so here are a few. The last picture is of the sunset on my drive back to town.



Friday, January 15, 2010

January 15, 1960 Open Heart Surgery

January 15, 1960. 50 years ago today. I was blessed with a new life. One that was longer than the 13 - 14 years of life expected with the heart I was born with. I have been able to cobble together the names of some of the doctors on the team that took new technology of open heart surgery allowing me to live a normal life. They are Johnson, Glickglick, Houston, Lawrence Wolf.
Pulmonary valve stenosis is a heart valve that does not open fully. The valve is an I.D. tri-lobe flapping open and closed pushing blood through the heart. Mine needed to be clipped and trimmed to allow the amount of blood flow needed to be an adult.
There are spotty memories of those days I spent in St. Luke's Hospital. It may have been my tender age of 3 years, 9 months, 1 day. It may have been the drugs I was given. However, here are a few of the memories.
I enjoyed buttered toast and grape jelly out of a package seated at a child's sized table the day I arrived. I still love that combination.
I begged to have a pillow to lie upon inside the oxygen tent. It soaked from the moisture.
I saw my first and last angel (so far). He was sitting on top of an oxygen tent that was pushed against the wall. He was dressed in spotless bright white shirt and pants. No wings, no sound.
I woke to IV drips in both arms. They were strapped to boards to keep me from bending my elbows. I remember no pain or discomfort.
Before I left the hospital I was shown a baby in a crib on the other side of a small window. The lights were low and he was sleeping. The nurse told me that baby was not as lucky as me, because the doctors could not fix his heart.
My mother took me to the hospital and stayed with me the first day until I fell asleep. I remember her coming daily.
My father brought me home. I was wrapped in a light colored turquoise blanket. It was the same type of Winter day Cassie was born on. The day was a bitter cold day that was bright and crisp and clear. The kind of day the snow is so cold it will squeak beneath your boots and your breath seems to freeze before it leaves your mouth. The Winter I missed in Ft. Knox. Oops, a small detour just happened.
This was a remarkable amount of one-on-one parent-child time for the second born of 4 children (at that time).
It was the ideal time to be born, if you had to have a bad pulmonary heart valve. Earlier, and the technology would not have existed. A little later and other not so effective treatments would have been used, so I've been told.
I never questioned the hospital trip. It was a time when most children had tonsillectomies. I understood children needed to be tweeked to grow up healthy. It was not too far a leap to accept open heart surgery as one of those childhood things.
I was told relatives donated blood in exchange for the blood used for my surgery. Blood had to be purchased in 1960.
I was told one of the doctors was willing to write off his portion of the bill if my parents could not pay. They found the money.
There are scars in the bend of both my elbow and in my groin because there are limited veins in a 3 year old. There is the scar on my chest. There were no ribs removed as is common with adults. They were bent out of the way then put back when the surgery was finished. To date they are held in place with 3 or 4 twists of wire that look like tiny coat hangers on the X-rays. Then there is the mystery of my dented butt. I was told it had something to do with a shot I was given that collasped the muscle tissue.
One of the first things someone asks after they discover this medical anamolie about me is how I am doing. I am as well as anyone who is 53+ with a full time job, a husband and two grown children. The majority of my aches and pains are due to being a woman of my age, not a heart patient. Will I ever run a marathon? No, but most people don't. Am I under constant medical care? Is one visit a year to the cardiologist considered constant? (BTW: he was brought to St Lukes by the same doctor Houston who was part of the original team.. Talk about a small world.) Some time while I was growing up the AMA decided people with heart valve surgery should premedicate with antibiotics before dental cleanings. At 27 someone told me.
There is the frustration of dealing with people in the medical profession with limited knowledge about open heart surgery and way too small an opinion of what the 'patient' knows.
The OBGYN group that delivered Phil was left because one of their MD new hires wanted to know why no one had told me not to get pregnant. I was there for a prenatal visit with my second pregnancy. Her justification for such an absurd statement was because women die in labor.
I cannot tell you how many times I was pulled out of class to speak with the newest school health nurse who thought it was her mission in life to make sure I saw the cardiologist, immediately. I was sent on my way with yet another note for my parents. This went on through my freshman year of college. Good grief, my mother pointed out my symptoms of heart trouble to the GP. He made a note of her concern in my medical files. She was my first line of medical care, not my last.
I cannot join a health club without a permission slip from my cardiologist.
I needed a permission slip from my cardiologist to donate blood.
A simple waiver should be sufficient. I have 50 years living with the effects of this surgery. What is someone who sees me 10 - 15 minutes once a year going to know that I haven't figured out already?
So far, it has been a very full life. The love of my life, children, extended family...... Old friends and new friends, work and God. The occasional bump in the road. I guess it has been a normal life. The most remarkable thing I have done has been to live a normal life after that gift from a team of remarkable doctors.
In case you are interested in where medicine has gone since 1960. The last time I asked, stenosis of the pulmonary heart valve is being treated using something similar to angioplasty. We live in wonderful times.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010

Happy New Year 2010 to one and all! We had visitors last night to bring in the New Year. The two younger ones are still asleep. They filled their time with games and videos.