October 31, 2012
In the craziness of losing both my grandfathers I forgot to post about my recovery. Since my last update I have come a long way. I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think that I will eventually feel "normal" again. I still have quite a ways to go, but I do think I will get there.
At 5 weeks I started visiting my local chiropractor for help with my pain. I have been struggling with back pain directly on my ribs that were spread for surgery. I also still had quite a bit of pain at my incision line and especially on my sternum. Neither my surgeon or my cardiologist thought I needed cardiac rehab or any physical therapy, but I knew I wasn't improving in these areas. I stopped by to catch my chiropractor on what had happened and he immediately offered to help. I was blown away when he discussed so many details about what my ribs and chest endured during surgery. He explained exactly why I hurt in each place and it all made perfect sense. I am not a chiropractor believer for all ailments of the body. I think that there is a balance between their treatments and general medicine. But he hit every point I needed with my pain. He educated me on how my ribs were moved for surgery and how they moved back. We talked about how my chest wall was stitched back together. He then put me through several therapies and worked on my ribs with massage. It was totally encouraging how much rib movement and less pain I had after my first visit. I have continued seeing him since that first appointment and I am moving closer and closer to my goals. My ribs now move and flare with breathing like God made them to do. My back pain from the ribs being moved during surgery has resolved. My incision pain and sternum pain have also improved through massage and returning my posture back to normal. It has taken daily exercises and stretching to get my shoulder to relax from their tense state of protection. In just five short weeks from surgery I had rolled them forward and drawn in as a defense mechanism to protect my sore ribs and incision. Resolving these issues has really helped me to be more positive about my long term recovery. I was getting to the point of think that I might always have pain in certain areas. I am so thankful to see that decreasing and normal life to be returning.
On my 6 week anniversary Jay and I ran our first mile. This was an awesome moment for me. For the first time, I actually felt different. During my recovery many people have asked if I felt better. Of course they are referring to my heart and it's pre surgical symptoms. Well, I didn't have any symptoms so I couldn't say that I felt any better or worse cardiac speaking. I really got to experience that when I put my heart to the test with a small run. It was only a mile, but I felt totally different than I usually do a mile into a run. I was not overly out of breath, my heart didn't feel like it was beating up my throat and out of my chest. My chest wasn't cramping or "getting a stitch" in it. I wasn't coughing. I felt like I could easily run several more miles. I...felt....good. Before this run I didn't realize that these were symptoms of something wrong. When I have run in the past I just thought I was that out of shape. I would remind myself that I wasn't a teenager anymore training for competitive cheerleading and just blame it on being older. I would blame my symptoms on the physical effects of having two kids, being tired from everyday life, being heavier than I was as a teen, and being thirty years old. I never in my life would have dreamed I had a serious medical problem with my heart. I just dreamed up different ways to train harder and increase my endurance. Whew! Knowing what we know now about what was going on in my heart . . . . that is so scary. God was holding me so tightly in his hands and protecting me from all the possibilities of my congenital heart.
During this stage of recovery I have also received a letter from the hospital and FDA about drug administration. With the meningitis scare and the resulting recall of many New England Compounding Center's medications they were required to inform patients. I was sent a letter because I was administered one of the recalled drugs during my surgery. One of the medications they gave me to stop my heart for surgery was since recalled. There had been reports of some heart surgery patients getting sick after getting the NECC cardioplegic drugs. Luckily I have had no symptoms and do not feel sick in any fashion. After talking with my cardiologist, he consulted his colleagues and infectious disease doctors about how to test me. They concluded that there was no real way to test to see if I am going to get sick. He had me come in for an office visit to listen to my heart. He felt that he could hear any changes in heart sounds that could be indicative of an infection. I checked out clear and he says my heart sounds wonderful. We are going to continue to check it every 3-4 weeks until I am out of the 12 week danger zone. Of course all this news is a bit alarming, but I have tried not to worry about it and put it out of my mind. There have been no patients here in the area that have gotten sick so I am going to stick with that optimistic thought and move forward.
With all my recovery and progress I have to daily remind myself that I am still healing and not 100% yet. I am still limiting my lifting, pushing, and pulling. My body lets me know very quickly when I have done too much. I still cannot do much higher than shoulder level without being reminded that I have had surgery. We encourage Mary Kate to climb in and out of her car seat so that I don't have to make those awkward motions to situate her. I am thankful for my small chest size because I am still unable to wear a bra. I am sure my friends think I have given it up forever. I haven't, I just can't stand anything on that incision yet. Hopefully I will get there in the next few weeks. I am just extremely glad that I don't really require a bra. Jay and I are continuing to run and increase our distance. I have to be careful though because since I cannot wear support; my incision sometimes swells the morning after a run. The past eight weeks have been a physical and emotional roller coaster. I have great days and then I have not so great days. I am just very happy that the not so great days are becoming fewer and are being overshadowed by my accomplishments on great days. This has been one heck of a journey and I am so glad to be coming down the home stretch. Again, I cannot say it enough, but I would have never been able to survive this without God's healing and everyone's support and friendship. Thank you all so much. I am so extremely blessed!