Category: The Doctors

Advocate

Another short stay in the hospital has reinforced the concept that as patients we need to advocate for ourselves better.

It’s not necessary to get frustrated, anxious, angry, etc. Being kind, polite, and calm has been the way I’ve been able to get my point across to my medical team the last several times I’ve seen them either in an outpatient or inpatient setting. That’s not to say I’m not frustrated, anxious or angry; I’ve simply found that succumbing to those emotions doesn’t help me get what I need. What I need is to be heard! If they hear me then ultimately, I receive the care I need, not the care they “think” I need, which by the way, wastes a lot of time.

What’s the point of getting frustrated with the nurse who’s simply waiting on the doctor to put in the orders for your medication? Why get angry at the pharmacy tech because they’re out of Tamiflu and you have to go to another pharmacy to get it, it’s not their fault they’re out. And will getting anxious make a procedure go smoother, or test results come faster?

Most of the people we encounter on a regular basis as we go to and from our medical appointments didn’t go into this line of work to get rich. They started off with a desire to server others and care for them. By treating them with dignity and respect, they hear us, and in turn we get the care we need. I’m not suggesting this as an absolute, we’re always going to encounter the medical professional who doesn’t want to hear what we have to say, but I believe that’s the exception and not the rule. It’s all in our approach and how we advocate for ourselves.

Week 19…The Flu!

I spent the last 24 hours in the hospital because I have the flu. Kind of a bummer for a person who had a heart transplant 19 weeks ago, but my stay could have been longer had I not advocated for myself and made it clear to my medical team what I was expecting regarding my care.

Please follow my medication schedule to the best of your ability. I have it down to a fine science and deviating can sometimes cause problems. After being given a detailed list of my meds and when I took them, they made every effort to follow it; not to perfection, but good enough. I certainly appreciated the effort. I don’t feel “that” bad, and my blood work would suggest I’m stable, so let me go home and be sick in my own bed. It’s people like me in a hospital that makes hospitals huge germ factories. They had me in isolation, but every person in and out of my room was a potential carrier of my flu ridden germs. My doctor found my argument for release to be totally valid and put in orders for me to be released right away.

Now, I’m home in my little apartment, drinking my own bottled water (cold), eating my own food, laying in my own bed, not spreading my flu around, and significantly more comfortable than I was in the hospital.

VOICES of Amyloidosis

This is an awesome project! I didn’t participate because at the time I was dealing with the whole heart transplant thing and was pretty sick. But if you want to see what the face of Amyloidosis looks like watch these videos. They aren’t long but their full of amazing information and stories.

VOICES of Amyloidosis Part 1 of 5

VOICES of Amyloidosis Part 2 of 5

VOICES of Amyloidosis Part 3 of 5

VOICES of Amyloidosis Part 4 of 5

A First Look

Here’s a first look at the Post Its that I put on the wall in my ICU room while I was waiting for a heart…there are over 200. Included are also the number of days I waited for a heart in the ICU and the names of the doctors, nurses and aids that took care of me.

This is Hard

A heart transplant is no joke. Today is 9 weeks since my surgery and I’m still too weak to be on my own. I’ve been out of the hospital for only 3 of those 9 weeks and before the surgery I spent 14 days waiting. So in 9 weeks I’ve been hospitalized 3 times for various things and now, in week 8 and a half I got a cold, so I’m stuck in my apartment with a runny nose and a cough, so much fun. Thankfully blood tests have shown I don’t have anything serious.

I’m tired, shaky (tremors), medicated to the max, weak, and trying to fight my way back the best I can. More than anything I’m BORED and not always in the best mood. We can blame the steroids on the weepy mood swings and sharp attitude. 

Cardiac Rehab is 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m able to get thru it most days but some are much harder than others. Once I lost all the water weight I gained over 2 years I realized I had no muscle mass left, so building up the muscle in my legs has been a challenge. We’ve started working on my arms and just 3lb weights are kicking my butt!

The hardest part of all of this are the heart caths and waiting for blood test results and heart biopsies. I’ve had two biopsies come back with minor cellular rejection; nothing out of the ordinary. Especially since they are still tweaking my meds. I have also had biopsies with no rejection so that’s good! In the grand scheme of things that can go wrong, rejection isn’t at the top of the list. All of my other organs working properly can be much more dangerous. Like my pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs etc. My pancreas finally kicked in and is managing my blood sugar properly, my kidneys were in trouble for awhile and they are finally rebounding, and thankfully my liver and lungs haven’t given me any issues. 

And my heart, it beats perfect, looks perfect, and the only reason I have some minor rejection is because they aren’t fully immunosuppressing me yet, but that is all part of tweaking my meds to get them just right. 

So, it’s hard, but I’ve come this far, I have confidence I can make my way back to being healthy again. 

50 Pounds! Really?

I wish I could explain what it’s like to have a heart transplant and if I could somehow make your body feel like mine right now, or allow your mind to go to the places mine’s been, I would absolutely share it. I’ve learned so much about myself and about my body in this process, and although it may seem like such a small thing, it’s become one of the most significant and trans-formative.

I’ve written before about my water retention issues, having to take truck loads of diuretics and electrolytes to just keep my body going; to keep my heart beating. It was a brutal balancing act I did for over 2 years. In that time I just kept gradually gaining weight; 5lbs up then 2lbs down. From a a healthy 145lbs to a life threatening 196lbs. I knew the water was there but as it sits it settles in your tissue and it no longer just flushes out of your system with a little diuretic, you have to force it out. All the while keeping your kidney function healthy and not putting yourself in jeopardy of needing a second organ.

Some doctors tried and they could get 10 to 15 off of me to give me a little break from the fluid overload, but it was never really enough. When your fluid overloaded and retaining that kind of water, you can’t breathe. It’s not in your lungs, but in the tissue around your lungs and heart to the point that it feels like someone is always squeezing the air out of you. Simply put, you can’t take a deep breath. Then I had some doctors who just ignored me and did nothing but watch me get bigger and bigger. Finally after being hospitalized at home one last time before travelling to Utah for my transplant I had enough and decided if the doctors couldn’t figure it out I was going to.

Obviously my diet had to change but not in the ways you’d think. Of course I was fluid restricted, and I drastically reduced salt intake, but I had to go beyond that. I had to move to an almost all protein diet, and for this veggie, pasta, rice, lover of cooking all things, this was a hard transition. Really the only things off limits in our house has always been brussels sprouts, liver, quinoa, and snails! I could get my husband and youngest son to try anything else and they would do it with joy, just wondering what suggestions (recipes) I attempted that night. I probably got more joy out of it than they did but they might debate me on that. Back to the point…food is an important part of my life and my family’s and having to make such dramatic changes was difficult but I managed to stretch that 15lb loss into a 25lb loss before getting to Utah.

All and more of that 25lbs I lost before the transplant came back in a very short period of time and has been causing some problems. Even the doctors thought I had walked into the hospital pretty close to what they call my “dry weight”, meaning not carrying any significant water weight. Today, as I continue to lose weight and I watch my body literally change in shape, man were we all WRONG! So wrong…just wrong, wrong, wrong. My real dry weight IS 145lbs and I’ve been packing around 51lbs of water. I’ve lost 29 of them so far so I have 22 left but they are literally falling off in pounds at a time from one day to the next. Yesterday I had no waistline and no hips, today I looked in the mirror and saw my hips for the first time in over 2 years. From there I took one of the deepest breathes I have been able to take in as much time. It was enough to make me weep.

It’s not about my weight, the weight it just the shocking number that brought to mind my ability to fill my lungs in a way I haven’t been able to for a long time. At this rate, given that I have a new heart, and my body is now able to shed the excess water it doesn’t need, I should be able to heal that much faster, get thru cardiac rehab, and get to the boxing gym to start my next career as a bad-ass kick boxer!