A many-splendored love and hope story

August 11, 2009
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Superman and Lois LaneSo then there was Superman and his Lois Lane.  In this allegorical superhero story my Cardiologist and Internist are represented by this famous pair.  Although they didn’t do the hunting nor the cutting and correcting, these two gave light and warmth where it was needed…and they are married and in love.  Through the use of modern technology and know-how my Superman Doctor found the damaged tissue in my heart.  And my Lois Lane Doctor, she knew how to relate to me; regular human to regular human.

Superman Doctor was an interesting man because I imagine when he’s dressed in normal clothes, nobody would suspect him to be a doctor.  He’s a very soft-spoken man, so matter of fact with his diagnosis, you wonder if and how they could be true.  My doctor had a much easier time being who he was, he wasn’t burdened with a secret identity, and he didn’t labor anyone with long explanations of how he knew what he knew.  He had a white coat.  And like Superman’s signature spandex suit, that made him pretty credible.

Dr. Superman with his sparkling teeth and handsome voice located the most dangerous puzzle piece of all; the vegetation within my heart.  No, we’re not talking about vegetation like a carrot with a mean face telling my heart  to  “stick ‘em up.”  But that’s an interesting cartoon scene to let play out in your head.  The kind of vegetation I am referring to is built up dead bacteria tissue; unwanted, unnatural and the kind that causes inflammation of the heart valve. Once this build up of the dead bacteria was found, it had to be removed before it broke off and settled somewhere important, like in my veins, or gasp-in my brain.

Nerve racking stuff ay? I mean who wants to be held up by a vegetable?  Sometimes all of this medical talk, diagnoses, drugs and crazy cartoons going on in my head made me feel quite emotional, scared and lost.  Thank goodness for my Lois Lane Doctor. She was my Internist, and the sincerest of all my doctors.  Just because she’s not represented by a Superhero does not mean she lacks the moral fiber of the rest of the gang.  She was super in her own right, and kept all of the other hero egos in check.

She was so caring and the most relatable doctor.  Some might call it bedside manor but I recognized it as sincere consolation. Without the power to fly, an iron suit, or a Russian accent, she helped me by being a regular human being. My Lois Lane doctor was tough as nails, strong willed, and wanted me to be the same.  She kept me grounded and let me cry when I wanted to cry.  She even cried with me a few times.

These two doctors were wonderful together and apart.  I am so glad my heart was mended with a little love around.

I am beyond grateful for the whole team of doctors and nurses who gave me my life back, stitched and fixed.  For them, I’ll make sure to live life harder and better because thanks to them, I have a second chance!


The fanboys could have seen this coming…

August 1, 2009
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Iron Man

In the 1980’s, after a minor brainwashing incident was straightened out, Black Widow joined forces with Iron Man in the superhero team the Avengers.  Sorry fanboys for my predictability.  I will now explain the ways my Cardiac Surgeon is like Iron Man (Iron Man 2, 5/7/10).

My Iron Man doctor was a smooth talking, confident and absolutely trustworthy man.  Was he wearing an iron suit? No, that would be silly and far too literal. What he did have was great power.  With complete self-assuredness he could have convinced me it was necessary to cut off the end of my pinky because it was a Monday and I would have believed him.  But he didn’t do that.   He told me I needed heart surgery, and that he would be my surgeon.  And just like that, I had blind faith in the man as if he was wearing the hot-rod red suit of a superhero.

I did process all of the things he told me before the surgery.  He said I would experience discomfort and that I’d need rehabilitation.  I would have a significant scar.  I could possibly have the valve in my heart replaced with a synthetic valve (requiring me to take blood-thinners for the rest of my ever), or that I could have my valve replaced with cow or pig tissue (requiring repair surgery after 10 years of wear and tear, and also making me very uncomfortable with eating cow or pig products).  He said I would be okay, and somehow all the other things he told me sank into the background and I never once wondered about what would happen if I were not okay.

And then, as if keeping me cool lukewarm about having open heart surgery wasn’t enough, he willingly took my 25 year old life in his hands, he cut my chest open, cut my ribs open, pulled my ribs apart, cut the tissue around my heart open, cut my heart open, cut my mitrovalve,  and fixed that all up.  Then he got all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put Heather together again.

Thanks Iron Man Doctor, you’re one of my heroes.  But wait, where’s the love in these character profiles….

Dark spider-like Russians save lives

July 14, 2009
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Black Widow DoctorMuch like the infamous Marvel superheroin Black Widow, my Infectious Disease Doctor had red hair, a thick eastern European accent, and a keen sense for finding danger.  The physician equivalent of Black Widow’s traditional martial artist/sniper-spy training is my Infections Disease Doctor’s training in discovering curious bacteria and figuring out how to kick its ass, whether with martial arts or some serious antibiotics.  My Black Widow doctor knew what she was doing, and thank goodness for that, because if she didn’t there would be no heatherwritesablog for you to read!

As I alluded to in a previous post, the bacteria in my body was not acting like it normally would.  It was in disguise, in evil form; a Russian Spy!  Haemophilous ParaInfluenza (b) normally affects the respiratory system, causing a cough or pneumonia before it starts knocking on the heart’s door causing stupid high fevers and bad feelings all around.  Without any warning, the elusive Russian spy bacteria in me wasted no time and shot straight to my heart.

Most doctors would have been thrown off by my lack of symptoms, maybe they would have ruled out this bacteria from the start.  But not my Black Widow doctor, no!  She could recognize a spy from a three-day-old blood test.  In this episode the superhero Black Widow doctor figured out the evil Russian spy bacteria’s plan, and squashed it like you would squash a regular spider on the wall with your flip flop.  Except she didn’t do the squashing, that would have been distasteful.  Instead she called upon a friend. A charismatic, confident, box-office dominating friend…

Frodo and Sam succeed again

July 7, 2009

Not too long ago I had two honorable sidekicks.  I called them Frodo and Sam.  They had a very important task; an epic quest of sorts; to prevent any trace of bacteria from seeking refuge in my heart.

For 50 days the dynamic duo was with me.  Disguised as two tubes of a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line, Frodo and Sam entered my left arm through a vein in my arm, which went through my shoulder and almost reached my heart.

Frodo and Sam in my arm

Frodo (the red tube) was responsible for injecting courage, strength and Rocephin into my body. Sam (the purple tube) was holding the map, interpreting progress of the courage, strength and Rocephin by drawing blood for lab tests.

With each day that passed, they brought me closer to a full recovery.  At the end of their 50 day journey, they left me, to return to the Shire.  I am grateful for their bravery and miss them like I would miss the last little section of my pinky if it was ever cut off, which I hope it never is.

Beware of expensive things

July 7, 2009
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What is terrifying, already discounted, and framed on my wall as a threatening reminder to all who fall in love with me?

my heart!

My hospital bill!

Consider this; the average female heart weighs 8 ounces.  Hi, I’m an average girl.  8 ounces of gold is worth approximately $136,000. You can see that I have a heart more than twice as valuable as a heart of gold!  So, unless you have a couple of bricks of gold handy, be very careful with my heart because if you break it you buy it, and then… you broke!

Payback can be bloody

June 29, 2009

At multiple times in their lives, both of my parents have needed blood during surgeries they have had.  I have always tried to donate blood to repay that debt.   The problem was, I’ve always had an irrational fear of needles.  I must have tried to donate at least 5 times, feeling sick, hyperventilating, almost passing out at a mere finger prick test kept me from donating 80% of the time. I was successful only once, and successful still means passing out while my blood was being collected.

During my surgery I was given two pints of blood, plus palettes, from a total of three donors.  So let’s say I owe my parents 3 pints of blood, plus three more for myself, that’s 30 attempts at donating and 6 episodes ending in a panicking nurse pulling out the smelling salt.  I need a blood bailout!

It is pretty amazing to think that I have little cells floating through my body that other people made, and that those cells were floating through their bodies only days (platelets must be used within 5 days) or weeks (red blood cells must be used within 42 days) before.  Unnatural but beautiful too.   So thanks donors, and hey- I’m gonna try and hit ya back, or maybe the government will.

If you’re gangsta, you’ll have one in 6 months

June 12, 2009
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The chickens are down with it

Now that I am certified badass with an ‘I’m tougher than you’ scar on my chest, I am qualified to start a new trend.  Move over Flaver Flav and get a freaking watch.  Forget about gold chains, platinum and diamond encrusted nameplates!  Who wants to represent with foolish trends or tired jewelry?

Gangstas West and East coast unite!  I have taken it upon myself to bring you together, with this new trend.  I ask you all, what is the best way to show your status?  To show off something that symbolizes wealth, exclusivity, and tenacity.   I am happy to tell you that Rocephin, my current I.V. antibiotic medication is just that.

Not only is this stuff is expensive, it is contraband (unless prescribed), and it can kill Russian spy bacteria, so it is gangster in its own right.  What perfectly symbolic bling, right?! Who needs precious stones when you can have bacteria murdering liquid?  At $400 a shot, this is better than gold, and it’ll give you way more street cred…trust.

The trend has officially begun and it’s spreading from Echo Park.

...it's cool

Peace-get some.

© Hdiddy Enterprises

Don’t spinal tap me!

June 11, 2009
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A Spinal Tap removes a small amount the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal chord by using a big scary needle.  The spinal fluid is like the brain’s smart food, it has proteins and nutrients and microscopic Cliffs Notes books in it.  By analyzing this smart liquid my doctors would be able to determine whether or not I had meningitis.

I was terrified at the idea of a needle being poked from the outside world to the inside of my spine.

Spinal Tap Needle

All I had ever heard about spinal taps was how painful they were.  But for me, the procedure turned out to be more uncomfortable than painful.

Luckily, my back was numbed with lidocaine and I had another human’s hand to hold to keep me connected to real life.   The doctor warned me that he was essentially going in blind; driving a car with a blindfold.  I had to be his eyes.  So when he hit my vertebrae I had to say so.  This was not hard because whenever this happened an involuntary ‘eek’ ‘ack’ or ‘ayiyi’ blurted out of my mouth.  After several of these expulsions, my foot started twitching.  Suddenly, I turned into a puppet.  Slurring my words I said “Whas going on, my FOOT!”

Which foot? The doctor asked.  It was so hard for me to think.  I remembered, the left hand makes the letter L, but my arms were crossed, and I was laying on my side, so my legs were crossed over one another too.  Plus I was sedated, and drooling a little bit, which was distracting.  Twitching away, I realized it was my left foot.  Feeling confident in my decision, I proudly said “Left!”  After my final answer, the doctor reassured me, he was almost there.  Almost there meaning he went too far and hit my spinal chord, but I couldn’t blame him, he was driving blindfolded.

Once my brain food was collected the doctor told me I might experience some Spinal Tap Headaches.  The little bit of fluid that was removed from my spine changed the level of fluid surrounding my brain, as well as the pressure of the fluid in the spine, causing intense headaches when you sit up from laying down, stand up from sitting, or sometimes just turn your head. The headaches were maddening.  But eventually they went away, and I turned back into happy Heather once again.

Thank you family!

June 10, 2009
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I am lucky.  So so lucky.  Lucky that I had the most supportive and caring family ever.  This has hopefully been the most traumatic experience of my life.   I really don’t know what I would have done without the comfort of these three very important people.  They were my breath blood and heartbeats when I needed them.

Dad-thank you for the flowers from the muffler shop, for dealing with the kitchen sink noodle explosion in my apartment, for sharing the gummy penguin snacks* with me, for being in LA 12 hours after I was in the ER and the following 15 days after that, and for being such a wonderful father.

Mom-thank you for your support in my second week in the hospital and two weeks after, for saving my water bottles in case I need them again, for talking to me that night at 4am until I was calm enough to go back to sleep, for safely driving my Prius, and for being such a wonderful mother.

Melissa-thank you for calling incessantly and wanting to be next to me with mom and dad in the hospital, for learning how to do laundry for me, for making that beautiful cake, for keeping me calm and bringing me back to reality, and for being my wonderful big sister.

Dad, Mom and MelissaIf my family were gummy snacks they would be sweet and funny like these penguin treats

*DeDe- thanks for supplying these Penguin snacks!

Vampires and their Tabasco sauce

June 8, 2009
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Vampires like the spice.  My arms were bruised to prove this. Do they mention that in the Twilight books?  Well then those Twilight books are probably all made up.

What Twilight forgot to mention

Day, or night, sometimes every 15 minutes, sometimes only once a day, no matter what, the vampires always came for me.  I could not escape!  Some nurses blood thirsty animals were kind and apologetic, “Yes Miss, we need more blood again” they would say.  Some would start cleaning the target vein in my arm before I even woke up.  Not okay.

I understand these preternatural beings need to make a living.  And they are in fact legit employees, they have earned their hospital scrubs.  It’s like when the FBI hires ex-criminals to work for them.  They are by nature bad, but good at what they do.

Most of the time these hospital workers would come around and collect my blood in vials labeled with my name, birth date etc.  But then every once in a while, one would come into my room with a glimmer in his eye, and two Tabasco sauce bottles in his hands.  “Not the Tabasco bottles!” I would plead.

Now, it’s fun to pretend, and let your imagination run away with you.  Obviously.  I was on drugs, so my memories may be extra dramatic…but one specific night, a nurse actually responded to my pathetic plea “Yup, it’s hot sauce time!”  Funny… but terrifying.  Funny if you’re not visiting my room at the bewitching hour of 3am… but terrifying if you are.

I absolutely loathed these Tabasco blood drawings, and all the others in between.  During the first 9 days of my hospital stay they took so much blood I was starting to think maybe the vampires were draining my blood hoping my fever would go away the way they used to do in George Washington’s day.  That didn’t work out well for George though…revelation! Maybe it was a vampire with a plate of hot wings waiting in the next room who performed the bloodletting that killed our first president, only enjoy our forefathers’s  blood for his own culinary delight.  This is a horrifying theory, but it could be true.  America should boycott vampires.  Do not watch TV shows or movies about them, and do NOT fall in love with them!

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Hi! My name is Heather and I write a blog :) I hope you enjoy!