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26 August, 2015

A Roundabout on the Road of Recovery

We are tired. Jeff is nearly three weeks post-operative and doing well in most aspects, but his sleep pattern is not yet re-established to his normal. Pain isn’t the issue. Being post cardiac surgery is the issue. All systems of his body are going through reset, and we read that sleeping is one behavior that is not quick to reset to normal.

So it feels like we are stuck in a roundabout, not quite getting to where we move forward on this road. But we haven’t stopped! Jeff continues to walk several times a day, adding up to at least 60 minutes of walking. We often drive to town so he can walk on even, flat ground. Sometimes he walks the gravel roads in our wooded setting. It has more ups and downs but he manages them well. The scenery is peaceful, giving rest along the way.

The surgeon’s nurse told Jeff last week he is doing very well. He was released to increase his activity as tolerated, given hints for increasing sleep, encouraged to continued deep breathing and coughing and ideas to try to increase his appetite. His wounds all look great and give every appearance of healing without complication.

Then we hit a bump in the roundabout. Jeff spiked a fever last night. His body temperature reached the number making it a must to let the nurse know. Jeff had a couple of conversations with her today. We all agree. No obvious reason for the spike in temperature, so let’s watch and see where it goes from here. Keep doing all the right things. Stay on the road.

So today we are resting more, reading aloud and looking for shade in which to walk. The environmental heat is too much for our weary bodies. The cool of shade brings refreshment for our pace and our minds. We enjoy leisurely strolling together, adding up steps and minutes as we strive to get through this portion of the road of recovery.

Every night we write out our list of things for which we give thanks. It nearly always includes the many people praying for us. We need it and folks give it. The faithful persevere so we can move forward on this road. We are forever grateful.

17 August, 2015

Another Marker on the Road of Recovery

I brought Jeff home on Friday. How amazing is that?! Open heart surgery, replacement of a valve and the ascending aorta on Monday, 16 hours under the influence of anaesthesia and sedation, and he comes home four days later? Wow! I continue to stand in awe of God’s creative genius in giving the human body such healing ability. Amazing indeed!

And while at home Jeff continues to walk forward on the road of recovery. We are learning a new pace in daily life, somewhat like what we learned whenever we added a child to the family. Sleep—eat—rest—activity—rest—eat—sleep—activity….and so on.

Getting home is a huge marker. Figuring out a new pace, one that varies slightly every day but continues to move Jeff forward is another marker on this road of recovery. There aren’t pre-drawn maps to help navigate this very individualized section of the road. But, as we listen to those “Heroes of the Scar” who have navigated their own versions of this road we glean helpful landmarks that give greater courage in walking this territory unknown to us. We are grateful for these who are heroes to us.

Jeff is doing well. Incredibly well. God gifted Jeff with astounding tolerance of pain and he is getting along well without narcotics. Today he asked for a haircut, so I drove him to town and he had his hair cut. He walks around outside, even up slight inclines and tolerates activity well. He sleeps well in a recliner loaned to us by one of our heroes. His appetite is gradually increasing, as is his knowledge of the new regimen of medications he now follows.  He enjoys visits with friends and family dropping by. Jeff is doing well. We are grateful for every step forward.

Our schedule fills with appointments, beginning with the anticoagulation clinic. Jeff will be taking “blood-thinner” medication to prevent blood clots forming around his artificial heart valve. We will be learning how to monitor his blood level of that medication and make necessary adjustments in his dose to keep his blood appropriately “thinned.” We have a lot to learn and we are grateful for those who will teach us in the process and for those who cheer us on.

Daily several cards arrive in the mail, both digital and physical, bringing cheer and words of encouragement. Many, many folks are walking this journey with us. People from all around the world, in many different time zones, are traversing this trail with us, praying and cheering us onward. We are so, so grateful for our fellow travelers.

Yes, there are many important markers along this road and we celebrate the passing of each one. But among the greatest markers of all is a grateful heart, and today that is what holds our attention. We are so, so grateful for all these things and all these folks. They keep us moving forward and remind us to be grateful all along the way.

Please let us know what fills your heart with gratitude today. We would love to celebrate together!

Christine, for Jeff too

13 August, 2015

Learning is a Continuous Process

Thank you for praying for relief of Jeff's nausea! It was a bit relieved when I went to rest Tuesday night, but it came back in a surge through the night. When I arrived Wednesday morning, Jeff, his nurse and I agreed to try more unconventional dosing to try to get him lasting relief. So, off I went to a grocery store to buy Jeff a Coke. (They had not wanted him to have Coke before, for very valid reasons, but it was time to change course.)

Sure enough, within a few milliliters slowly sipped Jeff began to get relief. Through the morning he completed the Coke and he has not experienced much nausea since. One again Coke proves it worth in my lineup of effective therapeutics. :-)

Through the course of Wednesday Jeff put in three laps around the unit. He went through his paces with a respiratory therapist and a physical therapist, each giving us very helpful information. An occupational therapist helped him practice how to best dress and undress, how to get in and out of the shower at home and how to pace his activity with rest. These are all important things to learn for adequate protection of his severed-now-healing sternum. Jeff also enjoyed visiting with loved ones stopping by to offer prayer and support. What an encouragement!

Today (Thursday) the final tubes and wires used for administration of medication and internal monitoring were removed. He is a free man! Jeff is no longer tethered to any devices (except the mobile heart monitor that fits in a pocket of his hospital gown). This also means he no longer has to have his blood checked every hour, which is a most welcome change .

We have been told we are on target for discharge home tomorrow. Yay! Please pray for keen minds to learn all we need to today as we continue with therapists, nutritionist, and others. It is also vitally important Jeff get adequate rest in between all activities. His stamina is low, which is totally expected and normal at this junction in the road of recovery. We need to learn the right pace to his days.

We say a huge, "THANK YOU," to the people praying for us. We are doing well and we are rejoicing much. It is a great relief to be at this point. It is a privilege to share with Jeff's caregivers that people all over the globe are praying for them and for us. We are grateful for the active participation of prayer warriors!


12 August, 2015

Lots of Miles Covered

I continue to be astounded at the capabilities of the human body. To see Jeff "coming back" after being under general anaesthesia for many hours and having had open heart surgery is a great testimony of God's creative genius evident in our bodies. Jeff is doing great!

By early afternoon Jeff was off all supplemental oxygen, off all medication to regulate his blood pressure and heart rate. Just like that, after having his heart handled, cut and repaired it just took right back to its work and resumed normal duty without any problem. Thank you God!

Late afternoon he was down to only two IV lines in place and was able to make the big transfer from the Coronary Intensive Care Unit to a "regular" room on the cardiac floor/ward. He is comfortably settled into room 667 of St. Vincent Hospital, Portland. Getting off the elevator on the sixth floor brought back a flood of memories to me....

I saw a nervous new graduate nurse following her nurse mentor off that same elevator and approaching the nurses' station, listening as her mentor introduced her to many as, "This is Christine, our new grad, joining us on 6 East." As we got Jeff into bed in his new room I remembered dozens of patients I had cared for in rooms just like this one and I felt a familiarity in where to place his items, etc. I chuckled to myself.

How like my God to bring me "full circle" in a sense. My very first nursing job after graduation was on the 6th floor of St. Vincent Hospital. I never imagined then it would one day be the cardiac floor (it wasn't when I worked there) and that I would be caring for my husband after open heart surgery in that very space. Had I been able to see behind the veil I would have seen that was just one small piece of all that God was orchestrating and arranging in preparation for all people and things to be in place for Jeff to have his surgery now, there.

Jeff covered amazing mileage on the road of recovery yesterday. For that we are very grateful. The unfortunate part is that he felt miserable all along the way because of prolonged effects of the drugs used during surgery and in the immediate hours afterwards. But by late evening he was finally able to take a bit of nourishment and felt his head was clearing. We prayed for a good sleep and off I went to get my own rest.

We are doing well, thanking the Lord together many times a day for the privilege of being on this holy experience. We rest in God's "healing, holy Presence." We are grateful that people all around the world are lifting us and our needs in prayer, and we take pleasure in telling Jeff's caregivers they are being covered in prayer. We continue to strive to steward this chapter in our lives for God's honor and glory.

Today's goals:

  • get up and moving, steady on his feet and able to walk on his own
  • increase his food and fluid intake
  • get adequate sleep when needed
Again, we thank you for being interested and praying for us. We thank God for you all!


11 August, 2015

He did it!!

Officially now in Post-op Day 1. He did it! Jeff's heart surgery is done. We are now on the other side of The Day.

Jeff's body endured a great deal yesterday. "The surgery went well and had no surprises", said the surgeon. Jeff slept, as planned by the anesthesiologist, until early this morning. The first goal was for him to breathe well on his own and get the breathing tube out. That took place very well and Jeff was minus the breathing tube by 3:00 a.m. today.

He is still groggy and wishes his head would hurry up and wake up, but he is progressing well. He is talking, taking ice chips, moving around a bit in bed and doing his best to wake up more. His body is maintaining his blood pressure well with no assistance from medication. He is now on the long, hard road of recovery.

Goals for today:
  • wake up more
  • get out of bed
  • start eating more than ice chips
  • be able to do without a couple more monitoring devices
Thank you for praying! We feel the Presence of the Lord, the prayers of his people and we are both strengthened and comforted. Thank you for praying! 


09 August, 2015

In the Fullness of Time...TOMORROW!

The Day is tomorrow. We are mindful of it and we are ready for this. All is well. God is in control.

My heart never ceases to praise our God. He created Jeff exactly as he is. Just a few short weeks after the conception of Jeff his heart began to form. It followed the inherited genetic coding to form a bicuspid aortic valve and a weak wall of the ascending aorta. God knew that genetic coding would one day lead to surgery for Jeff, and still God allowed it. God set that as part of his fearful and wonderful making of Jeff.

In all of time before and since then God has been orchestrating all things to make it possible for Jeff to have this surgery at this time. He put in the heart/mind of a youth to set his course to become a cardiac surgeon. He arranged the education for many professionals to design mechanical heart valves, Dacron woven tubes to use in place of blood vessels and so much more.

He let us to Tenwek and then to Uganda, then back to Tenwek for a week of training others when Jeff had a brief physical exam that revealed his heart murmur at just the right time. God built all facets of our ministry team, surrounding us with people who love us and pray for us. God provided for our colleagues to be well prepared to unexpectedly add our responsibilities to their own in this season.

Oh yes, God is in control and we thank him. We praise him. We are in awe of him and all of his works, for our good, for just such a time as this. We could never have imagined such a chapter in our story. We had no idea of the magnitude of God’s working out of our sight, in our lives, for our good, for this now.

We are not surprised. We know this of our God. But we are delighted he gives us glimpses through the curtains separating past-present-future, into that space where it is all at once, and lets us see more of him. Oh, the thrill to our souls. The strength to our faith. The peace in our spirits. Blessed be our God!

“In the fullness of time…” is a phrase in Scripture that now means so much more to us. This is God’s fullness of time for Jeff to have his heart repaired. We know that. His intimate care down through the ages is so evident. We love him and come what may, we trust him. All our hope is in him.

In answer to questions, cards can be sent to our Newberg address: P.O. Box 1236, Newberg, OR 97132

I will be doing my best to keep information about Jeff’s condition flowing outward. Jeff is the technological one, but with help from my kids I hope to keep people informed primarily through this blog. Thank you for praying. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being the Body of Christ to us.