14 January 2016

A Full Heart

Here it is 2016 and I see that 2014 nor 2015 were very active years for this blog.  To say that the last two years were rough would be making light of just how rough they really were.

Two years ago this week I was told that I needed to have open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve.  That we needed to put the call in to the American Red Cross and get my husband home.  The call.  The call was talked about and prepared for but you never want to have to make the call.  For those who are not familiar with the call, American Red Cross is ready to make contact with military members in the event of an emergency back home 24 hours a day, every single day of the year.  This is not just a blessing to be able to reach them, but to get them home without any expense to us.  A blessing indeed.

The surgery went well and the recovery began.  When you are prepare for the surgery the medical team gives you a lot of literature on what to expect.  Me not being of the "typical age" for valve replacement patients (they REALLY need to work on that, I have met SOO many people my age and younger who could have used some age-appropriate literature) there was a lot of "in your old age..." talk that made me instantly overlook a lot of it as not pertaining to me and therefore not important.  A topic I came across multiple times was the emotional recovery.  Again, I contributed a lot of this to the mentality that I'm young and super excited to be alive (pending the best outcome of the surgery obviously) what in the world would there be to make me depressed??  I could not have been more wrong. Sure there is the physical recovery from having your sternum sawed in half (seriously) and being helpless for a while, not knowing just how long you would need someone else to wash your hair, brush your hair, dry your hair, oh and nearly EVERYTHING else that I took for granted to be able to do on my own. I was frustrated and when I get frustrated over something I SHOULD be able to do and control I get emotional, ah there comes the emotional recovery part.  I also get a bit mean when people help and I'm more or less in denial I need that much help.  Did I mention this all took place on the first day home? Yup, awesome.

I was pretty determined to overcome every obstacle within my allowed limits to be as self sufficient as possible, as soon as possible. I managed to figure out how to wash my hair without over extending my arms, as well as other little things for myself.  I managed to just give into other obstacles telling myself, "this is only temporary, be thankful" but it was hard.  I couldn't do simple things like wipe down a counter after my mom or husband cooked and did the dishes.  The motion of my arm was too great.  I felt useless to everyone else.  My biggest limitation was picking up our daughter O.  I don't remember the exact amount of weeks I wasn't allowed to pick her up, but it was too many.  She was 14 months old, had just moved halfway across the country to a new home and gotten her daddy back from his first deployment.  Now she had a mommy who could not pick her up when she cried, when she fell, when she was frightened or when she simply wanted her mama.  I had previously thought that the night before the surgery was the worst moment in my life.  I had a heart to heart with God asking Him to allow me to live through the procedure to be her mama, pleading not to take me away from her, wondering if she'd have any memory of me if I died.  It was a low point, but the worst part of this whole experience was still to come.  About a week after being home it was no longer a painful moment of having to let someone else swoop in for O, or even me having to tell her I couldn't pick her up.  It was when she stopped wanting me when she fell, got scared, or wanted to cuddle.  It was like having my heart ripped out without the precision of surgical tools.  I became angry, not at her, not at anyone, just angry.  I spent time with my back turned to those who were here so I didn't have to watch.  I worked on projects to avoid the reality of it all.  No one around me understood what was happening, except those I had met online in support groups for heart patients.  My phone became my escape and my therapy.  The friends I met online from the beginning had called me, text me, sent me flowers at the hospital and would have surrounded me physically if they could have, they understood, they really got it.  So how about that emotional recovery?  Well it was far more than I ever imagined it would be.  I would not have made it through if it weren't for those friends who understood and the family that tried their best.

To say the least the next year was very, very, very difficult. I had read and was told it would take a full year to recover, I thought that was ridiculous.  Physically it was around 6 months, Emotionally and cognitively it was at least a year.  There is still a lot of things I have no memory of, things I should remember.  They say it's a side effect of being on a heart and lung machine and the tiny air bubbles that go through to the brain.  It could be worse, just don't be surprised when I really can't recall something that happened right before the surgery or shortly after.  I had gained weight in my "inactive months" and was even more miserable with myself trying to become active again.  I had anxiety about overdoing it, pushing too hard too fast, and just generally scared of everything.  It was very hard to just live and find my place again.  I soon decided I had to let go some and made new friends who now mean the world to me, found a great babysitter for O so we could have date nights and went back to school.  It was a lot at the time but gradually balanced out and evolved to more of the normalcy I missed, which I needed, we all did.

In 2015 I continued school, became more active in the FRG and even went back to work part time.  I was accepted to grad school in September and graduated undergrad in December.  The university doesn't hold December commencements so I will "walk" in May.  Pretty darn proud of myself.  I couldn't have done it without my mom or husband who never stopped believing in me.  Thank you.  I love what I do and know that it is not what I am meant to do forever but I am definitely meant to be there at this time in my life.  When your daily conversationalist is a growing toddler you really forget the value of adult conversation and feel a little disconnected from the professional world.  God really does know where you need to be, putting full faith in Him had been a hard lesson for me for the last year.

That pretty much sums up the major events since 2014, hard to believe it's 2016 already.  It really is true, that which does not kill you, WILL make you stronger!  I'm proof, what more do you need?

Cheers to a new year!

♥ g