If you’ve been following our Facebook, you already know what I’m about to tell you! But we’ve been so quiet here on our blog, and we wanted to update anyone who isn’t on Facebook on what’s been happening!
A little over a month ago, Daddy came home from work early. He’s in construction, and has his own business, so sometimes if he finishes a job earlier in the day, and can’t really start on the next one, he’ll come home earlier than usual. So that didn’t seem terribly odd. But then he said, “Tell Cassia to go get her stethoscope”. You didn’t have to tell her twice…she loves any chance to “practice” on us that she can get 😉
She listened to his heart and discovered it was “buzzing” or “purring”. It was so loud that we could hear it just by giving him a hug. He noticed it that day while he was working, so that’s why he quit early, because he was pretty sure that wasn’t normal! Cassia happened to be on call for our local EMS station, and she got called out right after listening to Daddy’s heart. She ran out the door saying, “I’m not an Advanced EMT but that’s not normal…you should to to the ER!”
So he and Mommy did!
I think all of us were a bit worried, but tried to think that “everything will be ok”. After all…Daddy is strong…nothing will happen to him 😉 However, I kept thinking about how our Grandpa Richardson suddenly passed away from a heart attack when I was eight. My grandpa had emphysema and had smoked for years, so it was an entirely different situation, but it still was in the back of my mind and I was fearful.
They came back from the emergency room, and the doctor said he thought it was the aortic valve, and that he wanted Daddy’s yearly echo cardiogram (which was scheduled in a couple of weeks), to be rescheduled to be as soon as possible. (Daddy’s always had mitro-valve prolapse, and goes in for yearly echo cardiograms to keep an eye on it.) The soonest we could get it rescheduled was a week later…”unless something changes” they told us.
Daddy still went to work, but brought one of us along so that we could help with some of the heavy lifting, or just running to get tools so that he could take it easy. A few days later he had brought Noah with him to work, and around noon he called to say that he was feeling dizzy and lightheaded (which were some of the signs they said to watch for) and that he thought he should probably go to the ER again. I drove Mommy to where he was working, so that I could bring Noah back home.
I was *ahem*...speeding…a little bit! 🙂 The road I had to take to get to where Daddy was working is very winding, and there is hardly any place to pass a slow car. At one point, I saw a big truck pull out ahead of me. “Oh no!” I thought, “he’s going slower than I want to go for sure! God, can you make him turn off the road or something?”
I was coming up on him pretty quick, and right before I was about to slow down behind him, he pulled off the side of the road, let me pass, and pulled back on!!! God…you’re amazing! 😀
We got to the house he was working at…it was good to see that Daddy was still himself, and still okay. I was going to drive Daddy’s truck home, while Mommy took the mini van to the ER. I’ve only recently started driving Daddy’s “big” diesel truck, so as we were walking towards it Noah told me, “It sure will be funny if someone sees this little girl driving this big truck!” Lol! Excuse me sir…but who is the little one here?! It cracked me up!
I came home and found out that the girls had been praying for Daddy ♥ I updated them on what I knew, and we kept waiting for any updated texts Mommy would send us.
This time they took him to South Bend, and got the echo cardiogram done right away. He stayed in the hospital overnight and we heard that his aortic valve was getting weak, and letting a lot of blood “backwash” when it wasn’t supposed to. That was why we were hearing the “buzzing”. You are born with 3 leaflets in you aortic valve, but Daddy was born with two, and the valve was just getting worn out.
Interspersed with being worried, we’d get texts from Mommy that made us laugh. Daddy was the youngest patient on the stroke unit (apparently they put heart patients there as well), so he was popular with all of the nurses because he could pretty well take care of himself, and he would get up and walk like he was supposed to 🙂 Plus, it isn’t very often that they get to hear a heartbeat like his so loud and clear, so several nurses and students came in wanting to listen to it. They would poke their head into the room, and Daddy would tease, “Are you one of those?” Daddy would tease them that he was going to charge them for their education 😀 One student listened to it and said, “Wow! That is so cool!” then he caught himself and said, “I’m sorry!” But our parents assured them that they didn’t mind, and that their EMT daughter said the same thing!
We first thought he was going to have surgery right away, but in the end, they sent him home and told him that while it wasn’t an emergency, to schedule the surgery as soon as possible.
“I wouldn’t wait until next year,” said the surgeon.
“So this winter?” Daddy asked.
“Sooner than that…I wouldn’t even wait until this Fall.”
So it was scheduled for June 14th. Daddy and Mommy told us that they said it felt weird to be scheduling it, like it was an everyday occurrence!
The good news was that his heart was still strong and pumping well, there were no blockages, and it was healthy in every other way. It just needed a new valve. Even his mitro-valve was fine. They checked that, because they figured if it needed replaced, we might as well do both at once!
As the time got closer, we all got a little more stressed, I think! There was an underlying current of uncertainty. The surgeon does aortic valve replacements three times a week, and we found out a lot of our friends had this surgery done and were doing just fine. But we were still kind of nervous. Daddy is a quiet guy, but we’d ask him how he was doing, and he said he was ready for it to just be over. The day before his surgery I did the grocery shopping. I get tired shopping for eleven people to eat for two weeks, but I love grocery shopping. But that day I got stressed out, and as soon as I came home I went upstairs to my bedroom and cried. Over grocery shopping for pity’s sakes! I wasn’t even sure why it stressed me out so much…other than I knew that Daddy’s upcoming surgery was worrying me! 😀
The weekend before June 14th, the hospital called to let us know that his surgery had to be pushed out to June 17th, which is also Mommy’s birthday. That worried us more, because we all saw a difference in Daddy from just a month before when we first found out about his valve. He was getting a lot more tired than usual, and tiring out quickly. They had another doctor’s appointment before the surgery, and they told us that nothing had changed with his heart, which gave us a sense of relief!
I asked Daddy if he wanted to go flying before his surgery, because I knew he wasn’t going to be able to for a little while afterwards. He teased me, “You’re just looking for an excuse to fly!” But he wanted to just as much as I did, so we flew down to Grissom (KGUS) and visited the Grissom Air Museum together 🙂
FINALLY, June 17th came, and we got up early to see Daddy and Mommy off. Then we got around and went to the hospital about an hour later. Five of us girls went to be there during the surgery, and Susannah, Charissa, and the boys stayed home. We got to see Daddy a couple more times before he actually went into surgery. We were only allowed to go back two at a time, so a volunteer brought us back. She saw Daddy and said, “That’s your DAD?!” We said that he was, and she said, “He looks younger than YOU do!!!” Lol! Then later a couple more of us went back, so she told a guy she was helping, “Just a minute, I need to take these girls back to see their BROTHER!”
Daddy in the F4 Phantom cockpit in the museum
Mrs. Forti, a lady from our church, drove all the way from Fort Wayne with a birthday cake for Mommy, and to keep us company during the surgery. Then our pastor and his wife ALSO drove from Fort Wayne and stayed with us during that time. We had brought books to read and things to do, but it was wonderful to have people to talk to so that we weren’t all just sitting around thinking about the surgery!
The nurse came out every hour to give us an update…she was encouraging and explained everything so well. They were starting the surgery. They were working on the valve. The heart was beating on it’s own again. Then four hours later, they were DONE! The the surgeon came out and told us about how it all went, and told us that Daddy was their “poster child”…it went so well 🙂 Since Cassia is an EMT, she is fascinated with this type of thing, and the rest of us are pretty interested as well. Cassia asked if they have to shock the heart to get it to beat again, and the surgeon said they do sometimes, but usually they just have to massage it a little, and it starts beating on its own again 🙂 How cool is that?! It made me think about how gentle God is with us as well…when we feel like we can’t go anymore…that our heart has stopped…he doesn’t shock us into going again, but gently massages our heart until it beats again. ♥
He told us that Daddy got a cow valve. Depending on the size that they need you could get a pig valve or a cow valve, so we had a lot of joking about that beforehand, and we tease about it now 😀
The nurse came and let all of us go back to ICU at once, and it wasn’t as “scary” as I thought it might be to see him with all of the tubes and wires. He was just starting to wake up a little, and he’d nod when we’d talk to him. Once he was moving his hand, so I tried to hold it. But he kept moving his hand like he was trying to shake mine off, and I realized he was tapping the bed. I thought, “What does he want?” so I teased, “Do you want me to sit on the bed?” He communicated “no” with his hand and kept tapping, and then pulling on the blanket. Suddenly it clicked. “Are you cold? do you want another blanket?” and he nodded ever so slightly. So I told the nurse and she got him another one. It was a small thing, but it made my day that I could understand him and help him a little 🙂 He winked at Anna, which totally made her day!
We left that evening (Mommy stayed the night), and by the time we got home we heard that Daddy had been extubated, and that he was teasing the nurses asking for a double dose of the pain killer 🙂
We all went to visit him on Saturday, and it was SO good to see him sitting up and talking and eating. The boys couldn’t go back to his room, but they FaceTimed with him 🙂
By Sunday (Father’s Day), Daddy was out of ICU, so EVERYONE got to see him 🙂 We stayed for a good part of the afternoon and visited with him. He kept us entertained 😀 The pain meds they gave him were causing him to hallucinate, so he’d mention that the door hinges were falling off of the door, or that one of the boys was on the counter, or other things. He knew it wasn’t actually, but he had us laughing so hard! Uncle Darrell (his brother) and Aunt Jenny came to visit, and that was when he saw the door hinges moving. He teased, “Give me my phone, I need to take a picture…because they’re moving!” 😀
Father’s Day 2016…so happy Daddy is on the mend!
The surgeon originally said that Daddy could possibly come home as soon as Monday or Tuesday, but then on Tuesday the upper part of his heart started going into an irregular rhythm, which sent the nurses running into the room. That worried us again, and Mommy had to be gone all day that day, away from Daddy, so she was especially worried. A big THANK YOU to the many friends on Facebook who assured us that the same thing happened to them and that they were doing just fine now. The nurses told us that it was somewhat normal for that to happen, and that it happens in about 40% of patients. While we believed them, it was even more comforting to hear it from people we knew who had actually gone through the surgery 🙂
On Wednesday DADDY CAME HOME!!! He texted us when they were just a minute away (the hospital is an hour away), and we all ran out to greet them and hug him (gently) 😀
He is doing really well right now. He has eight nurses (us!) reminding him to carry his pillow (you always have to have that with you in case of a sneeze or a cough…you hug it so you don’t break open the wound), or to make sure he has his medicine, and not to overdo anything. Cassia made a chart for all of his meds and checks his blood pressure, pulse, temperature, etc. twice a day. It’s nice having an in-house nurse 😀
He can’t go back to work for at least three months, so we get to have him around the house for a while 😀 To those of you who already knew about this and have been praying, THANK YOU! We can feel it, and they are helping! And to those who have just found out with this blog post, we would so appreciate more prayers 🙂 The surgery is over, and Daddy’s doing well, but pray that he continues to heal quickly and well, and that he doesn’t get too bored!!! Daddy is such a hard worker and a server, so sitting around is really hard for him! Also pray for Mommy and the rest of us to have peace, and that we’d be able to keep encouraging Daddy 🙂
P.s. As you can imagine…we are suddenly aware of the heart, other people’s stories about the heart, songs about the heart, etc! 🙂 One amazing story we heard demonstrates that our thoughts and our words do have power 🙂 A surgeon who had finished doing heart surgery on a lady, but the heart would not start again. There was nothing wrong with the heart…it just would not start. The surgeon was a Christian and he got down on his knees and said, “Mrs. Johnson, this is your doctor. There is nothing wrong with your heart. Mrs. Johnson, if you can hear me, I need you to tell your heart to beat again.” And it did!
And that story, inspired this song: