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.