Heart surgery stuff

Here’s the clearing house for all the heart surgery stuff.



I have an appointment with Dr. W the surgeon a day after I talk to the sleep doctor.  I’ll have more to report in about 2 weeks.


Sleep Apnea and the lack thereof


Last Wednesday I went to see the Pulmonary and Sleep Apnea guy, Dr. “S”.  First, you meet with their respiratory therapist and they test your breathing: lung capacity, strength and how well the gas exchange is happening between yer blood and yer lungs.  The respiratory therapist and I got on like a house on fire; it was wonderful to meet her and I hope I get to see her again.

I did all those tests, and then one has to fill out a ten page questionnaire about one’s sleeping habits.  FYI, I’m a fairly light sleeper and I’ve had insomnia since I was a little kid.  Then, Dr. S comes in.  He’s seen the readouts from the breathing tests and then he reads my questionnaire.  He told me about 5 or 6 times that my lungs are “great” or “really excellent”, and then he told me that he really *doesn’t* think I have sleep apnea (neither do I.  I mean I snore, but it’s a quiet little snore).  Usually people with sleep apnea are always falling asleep or are about to; I have trouble falling asleep even when I’m really tired.  He wouldn’t even do a sleep study on me he said, except that the surgeon asked for one.  I was really happy to hear that my lungs are so good.

So I go off to the scheduling person and the first available appointment is not for 2 weeks, but I take it.  Then I have to schedule a follow up appointment with Dr. S to talk about the results of the sleep study and that not until February 17th!  I sign up for that one too.

Dr. W, the surgeon, said that he’d meet with me after we got back the results of the breathing test and sleep study.  At that point, he’ll decide whether he’s gonna do the surgery or send me off to the guy in Nashville.  Grrr….

Now that I’m feeling better – since I’ve been talking ALL the medicines they’ve prescribed for me and I’m healed from the catheterization – and I’m no longer feeling like I’m gonna drop dead at any second, I do begin to wonder if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.  Today, I will call and leave messages for the surgeon, the cardiologist and another therapist (on another issue) to find out if they really wanna wait until the end of February or early March to do this thing.  I was given to understand that I needed this sugery done rather soon – like by the end of January. Believe me, I’m not in a hurry to have any surgery EVER but if it truly needs to be done, let’s do it.  Tests are groovy, but let’s not waste time and my insurance company’s money.  There is still the nagging question about how this all has happened, but I want off this merry go round…..


The latest account

January 18, 2009 ·

So I went to see the heart surgeon on Friday. He was running late…way, way, WAY late I’m afraid.

We waited in the waiting room for over an hour and then in the exam room for another hour plus.  Fortunately, I had my knitting and I was resigned to doing whatever it took to see him. Dr. “W” was obviously having a bit of a day, and I was not, so that made it OK and I took it easy on him.  I liked him – he shoots straight from the hip, and he makes jokes about cardiologists to boot.Essentially, I do not have a date for surgery yet because he wants to dig deeper into the cause of what’s wrong with my heart.  He thinks I have sleep apnea and that’s whats causing the problem. I won’t tell you all the yadda yadda except to say that my heart valve looks normal…except that it doesn’t close right in a fairly serious fashion.  So I have to go do a sleep study (won’t that be fun?).  In fact, by the time we got out of there, it was too late to talk to the sleep apnea office because it was after business hours!  So I have to wait until Monday when they call and we’ll schedule that.  Finding out about the sleep apnea is very important because it will help me post-operatively and keep it from happening again…..but it might mean MORE surgery (!).  Then Dr. “W”  also thinks I would do better with a different kind of operation; intead of going through the sternum and opening me up that way (grisly, isn’t it?), he thinks maybe I should go up to Vanderbilt where a surgeon friend of his goes through the left side between the ribs -= less invasive, but a newer and far less common operation.  And of course I usually sleep on my left side……

This was upsetting to me because I was all geared up to have the surgery ASAP and now I have to wait: wait for a call, wait to make another appointment, wait to have the sleep study, wait and make another appointment to see Dr. “W” and then decide if I’ll be doing this here or going up to Vanderbilt…which means another appointment and so on.  Patience is not my strong suit, but I must learn I suppose.  I’m better about it today.

So stay tuned to hear about the latest delay; in the meantime, I’ve got a joke for you.

Q:  Is the quickest way to man’s heart through his stomach?

A:  No!  It’s straight through the chest wall with a sharp knife.


Ticker update and the whole story

January 13, 2009 ·

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!


the long and short of it, meal plan Monday and FO’s

January 12, 2009 ·

First off let me say this:


The amount of support I’ve gotten from everyone has been nothing short of amazing.  I have been moved to tears over and over again by everyone’s comments and emails – thank you is really a very weak phrase for the depth of my gratitude.

So I will be having heart surgery in the next two weeks; it cannot be put off because the “bad” valve is beginning to weaken my overall heart function.  The date will be set in the next couple of days, and I’ll let you know.  No, they do not know what has caused this – other than this wonky mitral valve I am rather healthy.

Last Friday, I had a cardiac catheterization and the good news is that I have no arterial blockages at all.  it was an extremely strange sensation to fell the tubes probing around in my heart I can tell you.

(there’s more to this post, but none of the rest of it has to do with my heart)


Some news for today

January 7, 2009 ·

I’ve just found out this morning that I must have open heart surgery very soon – probably before February.  For those of you who know something about this stuff, I have severe mitral valve regurgitation.  This has come as rather a shock to me, and I’d so appreciate your prayers.


  1. Ah, I found the header in your blog so I’m onboard with the clearinghouse now…hugs and prayers from here.

  2. Hi there, I was wondering how you are? I am 39 and have MR, terrible symptoms, the paramedics have been called 4x in the last month. But my dr wants to put off surgery. My oxygen level has been around 84. I’m trying to figure out why he would put surgery off. Can you tell me how you are doing?


  3. Hey there, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

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