Ticker update and the whole story

I go and visit the surgeon on Friday afternoon, and I believe we’ll set the date for surgery then. I will post the date once I have it.

So many people have asked me about how this heart thing happened and/or how I found out about it.

You asked for it – here’s the story

Over the last year or so, I have been having difficulty breathing at times –  kind of like asthma attacks.  One of my closest friends, Tangela, has had serious heart trouble in the past, and I wondered if that’s what might be going on with me, so in Jan. ’08 I had a round of cardiac tests, and everything looked good though a small heart murmur was found.

I did a great deal of traveling from Feb. to Aug. 2008 and just thought I was tired from all the travel, and I would have these “asthmatic” episodes that were getting worse and longer in duration…so I would go back to my doctor and get looked at again. Eventually, I couldn’t sleep lying down at all because the wheezing and coughing was so bad – to the point where I had to cancel a gig on Labor Day weekend.  I absolutely HATE to cancel a gig, so you know it was serious.

In October my doc changed my medicine to something else that *does* work but I hate taking it (it makes my mouth taste funny all the time), and he said that I could take it as needed, and I didn’t need it at all during the entire month of November.  However, the first weekend of December I was driving – on my way to Atlanta – and I starting wheezing so bad I thought I was going to die.  When I got to the sound check that Friday night, I still couldn’t breathe well, and had to keep  stopping to rest after walking about 30 feet.  This was all a week before my 40th birthday!  Aack!

Of course I went back to my dr. (and started taking the “hated” medicine) as soon as I got home and said this is NOT asthma or allergies – we need to look deeper, and he agreed. I had a whole round of cardiac tests again that were inconclusive or clear.

On Monday, January 5th, I went to see a cardiologist, as my dr. said: as a precaution.  They did an EKG, he listened to my heart and said that he thought I might have Mitral valve Regurgitation (aka “MR”), but that the testing so far was showing different things, which apparently is common in women with heart trouble.  Women do not present “classic” symptoms of heart disease in most cases, so it’s really kind of up to oneself to pursue it.  The cardiologist wanted to do a Trans-Esophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) – it’s where they numb you up, put you to sleep and send an ultrasound probe down yer gullet and they take pictures of yer heart from inside yer body. So the very next day I did just that.

After I woke up, the cardiologist said that I have severe MR; the TEE is the “gold standard” test for MR  (and other valve malfunctions) because the chest viscera doesn’t interfere with the pictures and one can see the valves very clearly.  I would have to have surgery to repair the valve, but first I would have to have a cardiac catheterization to check out some other things first.  That was Tuesday, and I was in shock.  Before seeing the cardiologist I didn’t believe there was anything at all wrong with my heart except for the small murmur and I said as much to my husband Sunday night.  I was having breathing problems, right?  That’s the lungs, right? Besides, I’ve always gotten regular exercise – heck I even have a walking partner!

On Friday, January 9th, I had a cardiac catheterization (cath for short).  This is where an incision is made in yer femoral artery (dat’s in yer groin area, doncha know) and little bitty tubes are fed up through the artery  and into the heart.  AFter that, the dr.  will shoot radioactive dye into yer heart and take pictures of it as well as measure the blood pressures inside the heart…and even though you are given “happy medicine” during the procedure, you are mostly awake and can see the pictures that are being taken.  If it wasn’t so weird feeling, it’d be groovy.

I’ll spare you all the wacky details, but after loads of doctors looked at my cath and my TEE ( I was at The Heart Center after all), it was determined that yes, I must have surgery and soon.

God willing, I will only need a repair of my mitral valve and not a replacement.  If a replacement must be made, it’ll outlast my lifetime but I’ll have to take bloodthinners for the rest of my life, which of course I’d prefer not to do.

We did ask the cardiologist if he knew why this valve has gone “bad”; he said that it just happens sometimes.  It isn’t because of my extra poundage or anything else he could see.

I must say I am very grateful to have good doctors and good health insurance!



  1. Sista-in-law! You are in our prayers and thoughts. Your mom told us everything and I know in my heart that you will be just fine. Take care of yourself and drop us a line! If you need anything, just call!


  2. Teeny Tiny Rant: the reason women don’t present with “classic” symptoms is that the testing was all done on men.

    Best of luck to you, I’ll be keeping happy thoughts for you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this unexpected journey…it isn’t what you wanted or expected, and if I were you I would be very frustrated. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    I left a message for you on Ravelry, but there are so many other things you need to do, I can wait. Thank you for all you do, for all you are. You are a blessing, Helen.

  4. Hi Helen, I hope your appointment went well today. Thank you for sharing your journey with this illness. I have found it very theraputic to do that on my blog. We will be keeping you in our good thoughts and prayers.


  5. Ack! I am trying to contort my attitude about this into a more positive one. I know the past year has been difficult, and I am hopeful that this will be better and the healing will be quick.

  6. Helen –
    Just poking into your blog now that we’re re-connected…thinking of you, and so much more I want to read and catch up on. I’m happy you have good docs and insurance, too! Here’s hoping that all goes (went?) smoothly.

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