Blogging and Praying that I never forget these days . . . .

More Fall Soccer

October 13, 2012

Union's Butterfly Launch

October 4, 2012
Max's school has a butterfly program every fall and all the classes get to participate.  He was super excited about the day and seeing all the butterflies.  The classes all come outside and sit around a central location where all the butterflies are placed.  They are in different containers awaiting their release.  When school starts each fall different classes starting learning about the butterflies and raise them in their classrooms.  The learning is incorporated throughout the school.  In class they make art projects like hats, wings, and costumes to use during the program.  Their music teacher designs special songs and rhymes for the the grade levels to sing.  Each of these lessons help the students to learn the life cycle, migration, and importance of butterflies.  During the program all this work is used as the classes take turns performing.  Then at the end of all the performances the butterflies are released.  It is wild and crazy, but very special to watch as they take flight.  The take short flights from person to person as they dry their wings before the big flight.  Then as they feel confident they fly up high and away for the winter.  I am very excited at these special learning experiences Max is getting already in his school career.  I cannot wait to see what other neat things he will get to so this year. 

Our nephew, Trace (5th Grade), reading part of a story in the program.

Maddie and Linden


Mary Kate trying to help her butterfly take off by blowing on it


Max held several butterflies before they took off

They kept landing on Bebe

Bebe and Big Daddy

Max's teacher-Mrs. Miller-Shannon had several land on her too, this one liked her pretty hair.

Losing our Pa

October 3, 2012
On Wednesday, we lost a very important man in our family.  My grandfather, Pa, went to be with our heavenly father.  We are all very sad about the abscnce his death with create, but we can smile at the thought of him visiting with his son and many other in heaven.  A few weeks before his death he told my Mom that when he got to heaven he was going to be really busy.  Confused my Mom asked him what he meant, and he replied that there were lots of people he needed to catch up with and ask questions to and that no would be able to contact him because he would just be too busy.  Too funny, but that was our Pa always planning, researching, and learning. 
I was priveledged to get to share the following poem at his funeral:

For My Grandpa Pa

© Ilona Blake
I know we are all feeling a little bit sad,
That we've lost our Pa, our friend and our dad
Together we have cried an ocean of tears
As we feel so empty and hold many fears

But Pa would want us to know he's in a good place
And that he watching us all with a smile on his face
As we have made him so proud, as proud as can be
That he has raised such a beautiful and special family

Thinking back now I really must say
I feel lucky and privileged to have known Pa to this day
For in my life, you have played a special part
The memories I will treasure and keep close to your heart

For me I am glad my little babies he got to meet
And for all of us, be grateful, his life is now complete
To each one of us he has loved and cared
And a family, be thankful for the good times we shared

Although he has gone we will always be together
And his spirit will live on each one of us forever
When you look to the sky, look for the brightest star
As that will be Pa looking down on us from afar

And now I would like to thank the good Lord above
For blessing us with our Pa with his kindness and love
Dear God, if it is not too much fuss
Take extra special care of our Pa as he is very dear to us

Pa if you are listening say a prayer for us every day
Be sure to protect us and guide us on our way
We know when God called you, you had to go
But we want you to know Pa we miss you and love you so
Lieutenant Commander Blevins in 1952
Naval aviator

As a Navy Pilot he flew the B24 Liberator in WWII and Korea.  This is a picture of him waving out of his plane's window in approx 1942.

1942 - 19yrs old

U.S. Navy Retired Lieutenant Commander Laccie William Blevins, age 89 of Gallatin, passed away Wednesday, October 3, 2012.  Graveside Service, with full military honors, will be Saturday, October 6th at 2:00 p.m. (EST) at Oak Grove Cemetery in Rockwood, TN.  Mr. Blevins was born August 20, 1923 in McCreary County, KY son of the late Rev. Maynard and Rosetta Smith Blevins.  In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by son, Laccie William “Billy” Blevins, Jr. and brother, Amon Blevins.  He is survived by wife, Carolyn King Blevins of Gallatin; daughter, Ann Parsons (Rand) of Gallatin; brother, Conley Blevins (Jean) of Whitley City, KY; sister, Pairzida Jones of Greensboro, NC and Irene Crain of Dayton, OH; grandchildren, Jessica Kelley (Jay) of Gallatin, Joshua Parsons (Holly) of Smyrna, Jonathan Parsons (Josie) of Murfreesboro; great grandchildren, Max Kelley, Mary Kate Kelley and on the way Charlotte Anne Parsons.  During LCDR Blevins tours of duty as a U.S. Navy aviator during World War II he flew over 50 combat missions. He was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber and saw service in North Africa, Gibraltar and England before transferring to the Southwest Pacific fleet.  He was recalled for active duty for two years in the Korean War and served aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals on four consecutive occasions.   He worked for Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc. where he retired after 32 years from Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant in 1985.  Online condolences may be submitted at    Family Heritage Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

3 Week Follow up Visit

September 26, 2012
This morning Jay and I set out on an adventure for the day.  I had a follow up appt scheduled, but we were going to try to go to the mall for some retail therapy and have lunch.  Well, if you know me, I like to shoot for the stars!  Big expectations for myself.  We made it to the mall and I tried on some clothes in the first store.  Do you know how hard and painful it is to pull on jeans?  Much less try on several pairs of "skinny" jeans.  Mistake.  I was out of breath and in pain before we left the first store.  Whoops.  One of my mottos during this thing called recovery had been "You don't know how much you can do until you try it, then you learn."  (and usually sleep the whole next day)  Well, after getting jeans I tried to hide my pain and we started walking through the mall.  It is a mall that is shaped like a giant donut so you have to make the entire loop to see certain stores.  Let's just say that I didn't see many at all.  Jay and I only got 1/4 the way around before I had to sit down.  At that moment I wasn't sure I would make it back to the car much less lunch and my appt.  Jay let me rest and then we s.....l.....o.....w......l......y walked back to the food court were we started.  I couldn't  hardly breathe to decide where to eat, so I found a table to sit and Jay decided on lunch and brought it to me.  Pitiful.  Christmas shopping is around the corner and I can't even walk the mall.  What's a girl gonna do?  Patience, Jessica, patience. I have to give it time.  I will get there, just not today. 
Jay and I then went to my first follow up appt.  We had an afternoon appt with Dr. Drinkwater.  The appt went well and he basically told me "good job, now have a nice life."  I was shocked and asked him to clarify.  He told me that my incisions were all healing beautifully and reminded me that I didn't have any complications to report to him.  I was not having any symptoms that I shouldn't have post op.  He said that the shortness of breath, pain,lack of endurance, and palpitations would all resolve in the next few weeks.  I was given clearance to exercise as tolerated and live my life as normal as possible.  Of course I am still restricted on lifting, pushing, and pulling until the end of my twelve week recovery period.  He politely allowed me to see my TEE images from the surgery.  He actually kind of chuckled when I asked to see them.  I guess your typical open heart patient doesn't want to see how bad their heart looked during surgery.  It was really neat when he pulled them up on the computer.  He clicked through them and you could see the entire surgery before your eyes.  He even had some 3D shots of my valves and the hole.  Cool stuff for a nurse to see.  It was at this point that I asked him to use my phone to photograph the repaired picture that I posted earlier in the blog.  Again, he laughed at me.  I am so glad he thinks I am comical....or not you usual patient.  He instructed me as we walked to the door to follow up with my cardiologist and try not to have to ever see him again.  Ha.
After my appt, Jay and I went over to the heart floor to see my CV ICU nurses.  This was a huge moment for me because they worked so hard on me.  As I posted earlier, I was not the easiest patient while I was in the unit.  I didn't like the tube from the ventilator and everytime I woke up I got angry trying to get it out.  My nurses Brandon and Kory were awesome.  They kept me calm and informed on what was happening.  When we arrived for our visit Brandon was actually getting ready to go home early.  I am so glad we caught him before he left.  I took him a Superman cup filled with gumballs as a thank you for his exceptional care.  I also took Kory a Superwoman cup with gumballs.  She works nights so I wasn't able to visit with her.  It was fun to listen to Brandon recount his shifts with me.  We laughed as I tried to explain the bits I remembered.  He helped me my filling in the blanks that I slept through.  This was all important to me to help understand what all happened while he took care of me.  It was a step in my recovery to be able to see the whole picture.  I am so thankful that God gave me such wonderful caring nurses during the most crucial part of my recovery.  They were both angels looking after me as my body awoke from surgery.  Thank you God for giving them a role in this important time in my life.  They have both made a huge difference in me.

Union Elem Fun Run Awards

September 21, 2012
Friday was the awards for the Fun Run at Max's elementary school.  In August, the kids collected donations and pledges per lap on the school's track.  Then they had a special day where each class went out and participated in a run to have their laps calculated.  On the awards day the kids were given prizes for most money collected and most laps ran.  The school's goal was to raise $20,000.  Much to the principal and teachers' surprise the kids raised almost $40,000.  The kids were all very excited and proud of themselves.  The child that collected the most money was in Max's class with $1,600.  During the awards he got first pick of the prize toys.  He chose a new iPad to take home.  Max received a medal for the amount of laps he ran.  He won second place out of all the kindergartners with eleven laps.  His best friend, Will, won first place with twelve laps.  For fifth grade, Trace won first place for number of laps.  It was a neat day to see the kids pick out prizes and receive medals for a job well done.  I thought the school did a really good job recognizing them for their efforts in helping raise money.

Soccer Game #2

September 15, 2012
Max started his new soccer season the weekend following my surgery.  I was excited to go watch his second game.  Jay carried my chair and set me up to watch.  Max had a great game.  He has moved up to the older league now and plays with the boys that are under 8 years old.  I think he is one of the youngest kids in this league because of his birthday.  He played really well with the kids and I don't think you can tell he is so young.  Their team is now 2-0 after this weekends game. 

Recovery at Home

Once I got home from the hospital my recovery was slow.  I spent the first week on the couch asleep.  Between the pain med and nausea meds it was difficult to stay awake.  When I was awake I found myself discouraged at how weak I felt.  Typically, I am a busy bee and never sit around the house.  It really played on my psych to have to lay on the couch.  I still needed Jay's help to get up off the couch or to sit up from laying down.  I was totally dependent on him for just about everything.  He was a great nurse and helped to calm me down when I got frustrated at all my inabilities.  It is a crazy feeling to go from 110% independent to completely dependent on one person. I am very thankful that my strength is returning and I am becoming much more independent. 
Our meals calendar started on Monday after we arrived home on Sunday.  So on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays our dinner was cooked and brought to us.  This was a huge burden off Jay's shoulders to not have to worry about cooking.  It also gave us a good time to visit with people.  Some friends brought it by, visited for a few minutes, and left; and others brought food over and stayed to eat with us.  Like I said it was a nice time to talk with others and feel the outside world other than our house walls.  It also motivated me off the couch and up and moving even when I didn't feel like it.  In ways it brought me back to reality from my spot on the couch.
We spent those first days at home, but by late in the week I was begging to get out of the house.  Thursday Mary Kate had a renal ultrasound at Vandy.  She had some UTIs this summer and we had to follow up with an ultrasound to check structures.  Thank goodness, everything came back clear and healthy.  I did relatively well getting out of the house.  Of course I was dog tired when we got home and slept most of the next day.  We went to Max's soccer game on Saturday and then on a field trip to Kroger on Sunday.  I was thrilled to be getting out of the house.  These short trips made me feel more like myself.  I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

My Hospital Stay

September 5-9, 2012
After one night in the CV ICU I was moved to a regular room in the hospital.  Thursday morning Nurse Brandon moved me to the regular room about mid morning.  He must have drugged me (Thanks dude) again because I don't really remember much at all of Thursday.  Jay says I threw another fit and whined for him to walk beside my bed.  Brandon sent the rest of the family on up,  He gave in and let Jay walk with me and go up the staff elevators.  I am thinking Brandon put up with a lot in the 24 hrs he had me as a patient.  It was nice to be in a real room because Jay could stay with me all day and all night.  Neither of us enjoyed him having to go home the night of surgery.  I think I slept away most of Thursday.  I remember having lots of visitors in and out.  Once out of intensive care I wasn't hooked to any pumps or IV bags.  They had already taken the A-Line from my left wrist, my epicardial wire, and removed my catheter.  I just had a heart monitor, chest tube, and central line left on me.  When the kids got there on Thursday they didn't like all that stuff.  It took them a few minutes to warm up, but before long they were snuggled in the bed with me.  It felt so incredibly good to have them in my arms.  The cardiac rehab nurse got me up and we walked the halls on Thursday too.  I guess that is why I slept so much; Thursday was a busy day. 
Friday and Saturday were much of the same.  Jay and I would walk the halls as far as I could and then I would sleep.  The hospital food was less than desirable.  I am blaming this on the fast that I was on the heart floor.  This meant that I didn't get anything salted or seasoned and nothing fried.  I begged my nurse to order me some bacon one morning.  I explained to her that I wasn't a real heart patient and that I was not there for coronary artery disease.  She ordered it and in a few minutes they delivered me a to go box full of bacon strips.  Yummy!  I struggled with my appetite and nausea after surgery.  Nothing tastes as good as it sounds and most of the medicines make me nauseous.  I lost some significant weight while I was in the hospital and my first days at home.  I know I will put it back on soon enough, but it made me look even more frail. 
I spent most of my time in the hospital sleeping.  Jay watched ESPN the entire week while I dozed.  We were blessed to have lots of people come to see us.  Some days I think I had a revolving door.  I loved the visits and the chit chat that accompanied everyone.  It helped to keep me in touch with reality and not feel so bad.  I was extremely sore and Jay had to help me every time I wanted to move.  I could hardly even roll over without assistance.  When I was awake I enjoyed looking at all my messages on FaceBook.  As I have mentioned, Jay kept everyone update with my account and I had hundreds of comments to read.   Reading each post was so encouraging.  It made me literally feel that prayer bubble that our friends and family had created around me.  I cried and laughed as I worked through the pages of them.  It was therapy for my soul to see everyone who reached out to "touch" us during this journey.  Thank you, thank you to each of you it made a world of difference for me to have you travel this road with us. 
On Friday my nurse took my central line out of my neck.  It felt great to have that big thing gone.  Then on Saturday she took the chest tube out of my right side.  I still could not take deep breaths, but it was a huge relief for it to be gone.  The tube kept me awake at night because of the bubbles and it made my back hurt from being crammed in my chest.  I will never miss having a chest tube.  I was amazed at how well my incisions looked even right after surgery.  I had one in my right groin on my bikini line.  This one was for access to attach the CP Bypass or heart lung machine during surgery.  I also had on small one on my right upper abdomen where the chest tube was inserted.  My third one was of course under my right breast where they went in to do the actual surgery.  It extended from my axilla to my sternum, Later I found a tiny one on my upper right chest.  I guess it was for an instrument of some type.  All the incisions except my chest tube where glued shut on the outside.  There were no stitches or staples to see.  Everyone was amazed as how well the incisions looked.  I think we were all prepared for it to be ugly.  I should have trusted Dr. Drinkwater because he had promised that it would look good.
On Sunday Dr. Drinkwater came in and discharged me home.  I was so excited to get out of the hospital, but also very nervous.  I didn't like the thought of not being attached to a heart monitor.  It worried me that I had to pay attention to my symptoms and be in control if I didn't feel right.  Instead of a wheelchair ride to the car I decided to count it as one of my walks for the day.  Jay made several trips to the car with all our stuff.  Then when the time came we waved good bye and walked to the car.  It was an empowering moment for me.  I just needed to know I could still do it.


Heart Images

Below is a picture of my TEE when I found out my hole was going to require open heart surgery. If you imagine your heart lying on its side or tilt your head to the left you can see the heart. The bottom fish hook shape is my right atria. Where the tip of the fish hook ends abruptly is my hole. That tip should extend in behind the next 1/2 circle lines in the picture. That 1/2 circle is my aorta coming out of my left ventricle which is not in the picture. The color picture on the right shows the blue (non oxygenated blood) and red (oxygenated blood) mixing and crossing through the hole. There should not being any mixing here because there should be a wall to prevent it. It should be strictly blue on left (or bottom of picture) and bright red on the top of the picture where my left atria receives blood back from the lungs. Big Hole! It measured right at 3cm or around an inch across.

As you can guess this bottom picture is my hole after the patch was placed.  Again you can see the 1/2 circle of my aorta on the right side.  Now it has wall structure running all the way across to it's left on the picture.  Remember they patched the hole with a piece of my pericardial sac.  This is the  tissue structure that holds the heart.  Dr. Drinkwater said he stitched in a piece a little larger than a quarter to seal the hole.  The donor sac area will regrow and close.   It is very beneficial to use the patient's own tissue with this surgery.  Now there is no worry with rejection or device failure.  It is amazing to flip back and forth between the pictures. 
Hole. No Hole.  Hole. No Hole!

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