Full Circle x 2?

Hello everyone! Well, it’s again been about a year since I last updated this blog,, and, what a year it’s been! After much thought and emotions I decided to make a career change last spring and moved to the Stanford cardiology department (outpatient) from the VA ICU where I spent nearly 20 incredible years. The reasons for the transfer were multiple and although I miss the ICU dearly, my back and shoulders do not as I was suffering from chronic pain daily due to some old volleyball injuries.
I spent my first 6 months at Stanford as a part time float nurse coordinator in Cardiology and had the wonderful experience of working with several different outstanding cardiologists. I’m incredibly appreciative and amazed at the expectations of excellence in patient care AND the leadership support that makes it possible at Stanford. This part time work allowed me to improve my work/life balance but also made me realize that I do better with a full plate and stay more organized the busier I am (in other words I’m a slacker at home if I don’t have a little fire under my butt). In late November, I moved to a new position within the same department as a fulltime nurse coordinator with the Transcatheter Heart Valve Clinic.
My family and I had an amazing trip to Hawaii in June but during that trip I had a hard time with the heat and staying hydrated. I also caught some viral illness that left me with nearly daily low grade fevers for about 6 weeks. A couple of weeks after our trip I landed in the ER at work with tachycardia and some concerning cardiac symptoms. The doctors ruled out a PE as I’d just been on a fairly long flight back home and after one night in the ER I was sent home with instructions to stay hydrated.
Fast forward a few weeks and I still was dealing with fatigue and some shortness of breath. I was offered a spot in a study that allowed me to have a free gated coronary CT scan with our brand new state of the art CT scanner at Stanford and I jumped at the chance. I underwent the CT scan in late July and a few days later received the shocking report.
The outstanding physicians at Stanford sat me down and reviewed my CT images with me, sharing their concern that my graft is likely closed off and that I need to start considering what my plan of action will be. I was still feeling fairly good so took this knowledge to Kaiser where I underwent a stress test and passed with flying colors and no further workup.
Over the next several months I continued to live life as usual, having a slight increase in some concerning symptoms but nothing that impacted my daily life. Then, in early December I had an episode of chest pain and profound shortness of breath while walking up the ramp at the Oakland Coliseum after a concert with my family. This is when I knew something was seriously wrong.
I’ve spent the last month or so dealing with this shortness of breath anytime I exert myself (stairs, chores, carrying groceries, etc.). It’s very disconcerting and that, coupled with the occasional episodes of chest pain that are becoming more frequent have been very worrisome.
I had already switched insurance to Stanford during open season back in November so when my new insurance became active I immediately went to see our adult congenital cardiologist who just so happens to specialize in coronary artery anomalies. I’d worked with him over the summer a few times in general cardiology and he’s a fantastic physician and person. He has specialized training in cardiovascular imaging as well.
My first appointment with him and his team was a few days ago and after reviewing my history, my CT scan from last summer, and my risks, we’ve decided my best option is for a 2nd open heart surgery. This time the surgery will be done by one of our amazing congenital heart surgeons who operates on both children and adults. Because of my very rare anomaly my best/only long term option is for translocation of the pulmonary artery and unroofing of my left anterior descending artery (on the CT they also found my LAD is covered in some heart muscle so may also be compressed). I’ve been scheduled for surgery in late April and my husband Larry and I meet with the surgeon in a week and a half. It will be done on the children’s side of the hospital and I will go to the pediatric CVICU post operatively.
While this news is terrifying, shocking, and downright crazy, I can’t help but appreciate how lucky I am to again have access to world class care and the skills of a world class surgeon. It is going to be a long wait and I”m hopeful everything will turn out ok, but, as many of you know, there is no such thing as a routine surgery.
I’m going to continue to focus on managing my stressors, blood pressure, and enjoying free time with my family. I am continuing to work fulltime and am striving to make a difference in our patient’s lives.

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Where has the time gone?

Hello everyone! It’s been over 2 years since I’ve updated this blog but I’m happy to say I’m still here and still going strong! I’m coming up on my 5-year CABG-versary on March 25, 2015 and I’m feeling great! What I’ve learned in these past years is that family and friends you can trust and cherish are the most important things in life. I try to live every day to the fullest and although my fitness isn’t quite where I want it (more due to some chronic old volleyball injuries flaring up), I still make it a point to at least walk a few times a week. My goals this year including completing a 5K in August and possibly a metric century bike ride as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. My family and I are also going to Kona in June, my first time to the Big Island! I’m looking forward to sun, sand, and spending some quality family time with my husband and son. All in all, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty good year! What are your goals and dreams?

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Two and a half years!

Well, it’s been almost 10 months since I last updated this blog but that’s only because I’ve been out living life! This past week (September 25th) marked my 2 1/2 year post-op anniversary. In some ways I cannot believe it’s been that long, it seems like it was just yesterday. At other times it seems almost surreal that the whole thing even happened!
2012 has been a challenging year overall but it’s also been a ton of fun! We went on vacation to Texas in June to visit friends and had a fabulous time despite the fact that our son was sick the entire time. Upon returning home we all were sick and he got sicker, finally being diagnosed with mononucleosis! I didn’t even know six year olds could get mono but we I learned the hard way. After 9 days of high fevers and the associated miserable symptoms he finally improved but was pretty much isolated all summer because of fatigue and we didn’t want him spreading it to other kids. Once August rolled around the whole family was back to normal and back in action.

I should mention that before our vacation Larry and I completed the 2012 San Jose Gladiator Rock N Roll run. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in an event and my first obstacle/mud run. It was 4 miles of torture as it was on the trails of Mt. Hamilton above San Jose and was a very challenging and hilly course. Of course I trained minimally as I’d been battling plantar fascitis since January but I got through it! I finished in 1:34 and my heart rate was pretty much maxed out the entire time with no symptoms. Upon return to work I told my cardiac surgeons what I did and showed them a few pictures. After declaring I was “crazy” one said, “well, at least we know your heart works just fine now!”

Somehow the time has flown by and it’s now almost October. My son is in 2nd grade and loving it. I’m trying to still get rid of the damn plantar fascitis and get back in shape after resting for 5 weeks. All that 5 weeks did was get me out of shape so I’m back at it at the gym. My heart is doing well and although I’m kept on a short leash by my physician as far as appointments go I have no restrictions and am enjoying every moment. I’ve learned that there are times that medications need to be adjusted, etc. and that’s just the life of a heart patient.

That’s enough chit chat for now…we are on vacation now so it’s time to get back out there and live life to the fullest!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!
I can’t believe 2012 is already here! I’m coming up on my 2 year post-op anniversary and looking back I can’t believe it’s been that long! While I’ve had my ups and downs cardiac-wise I’m feeling great overall and am planning on doing (notice I said “doing” and not “racing”) a sprint triathlon in April, an obstacle course run in May (www.gladiatorrocknrun.com), and possibly an open water swim this summer. I feel blessed to have had my heart problem fixed and am gradually working my way back to fitness…it’s been a long slow climb but I’m getting there. I’ve also been constantly reminded of the importance of family, friends, and that it’s the little things in life that matter. Over New Year’s we took our son (6) to Reno, NV to spend a couple of nights at Circus Circus…while it was super crowded and exhausting nothing beat the smile on his face playing games in the Midway and winning stuffed animals. He also experienced a bit of snow for the 2nd time in his life (he was too young to remember the first time) and loved it. While I don’t think he’s the type of kid we’ll be able to get out on a snowboard at least it’ll be fun to go up and go tubing or sledding in it!
I’m asking each of you to consider what’s important in your life and what positive changes you’d like to make…for me, most of all it’s important to live life with no regrets…this was my motto 20+ years ago when playing volleyball and winning 2 National Championships and it continues now.

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Where does the time go???

Hi everyone!
Well, first of all I can’t believe Halloween has passed and the Christmas decorations are already out in Target! I came through my tonsillectomy relatively unscathed…it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I’d have thought it was even worse if I hadn’t had open heart surgery…compared to that it was a piece of cake! Three weeks after surgery, and one week after being released to exercise my hubby and I completed the 1st San Jose Firefly Run. It was a super event run at night with lots of runners in crazy glowing costumes and a DJ. All in all it made for a great, party-like atmosphere and we’ll definitely do it again! The rest of October was spent visiting a couple of pumpkin patches and a corn maze.
On my heart front everything seems fairly stable…I still get tons of PVCs but as long as I stay away from caffeine and too much chocolate they are ok. My MD has lengthened my leash and I now only have to see him every 6 months instead of every 3. Woo hoo! I’ll still be getting yearly echocardiogram’s just to track my cardiac function with all the PVCs.
I have a couple of websites I’d like to share as they have been very helpful in my recovery and return to an active life:

Don’t you all forget to take care of your hearts either!

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More surgery!

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, almost 6 months to be precise! Why? Because I’ve been out livin life! I’m now almost 18 months post-CABG and feel fantastic. After some med adjustments we seem to have finally gotten my coronary spasms under control and I haven’t had any angina since May…woo hoo! I’m enjoying the last days of summer and my son has started 1st grade already! I did get a bit emotional at the beginning of the school year when the thought crossed my mine that I’m damn lucky to be here! I now feel almost as if I never had surgery except when I look in the mirror and see my zipper.
But…I’m having yet another surgery (I’m now joking that surgery is my hobby, not operating, but being operated on!). I’m scheduled for a tonsillectomy on Sept. 21st. I’m actually pretty nervous because I had such horrible nausea/vomiting with my heart surgery. I know this is a minor surgery compared to that but I have to admit I have a little PTSD about the thought of going under the knife yet again…this will be the 11th time in my 41 years I’ve had some sort of surgery! And, I’m hoping it’ll be my last! I hope everyone is enjoying life and remembering what’s important! Family and friends!

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1 Year Post-Op Anniversary!

Hello All,
Wow, it’s been one year post-op as of Friday, 3/25/11. This year has been one of the most challenging of my life as far as recovering from the surgery, dealing with the “why me?” aspect, and getting back to regular life. I had hoped to bring in a nice cake for our ICU staff and have a potluck on Friday but life thwarted that. Our son was admitted to the pediatric ward early Tuesday morning of last week for a bad case of strep pneumonia. It was scary as his vitals were definitely out of whack when he was first admitted and he spent almost 3 full days in the hospital. He’s better now and at home recovering but this also taught me that it’s FAR harder being on the other side of the bed watching a loved one sick than it is being sick yourself. If I could have traded places with him I would have done so in a heartbeat.
I can honestly say that at one year I feel 100% better and far better than I did before surgery. I haven’t really had any angina episodes for almost 8 weeks now and I’m now working on improving my diet and being more consistent with my exercise (I usually have trouble with this in the winter time).
As far as spreading the word about women and heart disease I’ll be making a poster on that topic for a cardiology conference at work next month and will also be speaking at that conference and sharing my experiences as a patient. I hope I’ve been able to help some of our patients who are going through the same recovery and show them that there is life after heart surgery and it can be damn good if you make it that way!

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