People are coming to my house!

I don’t know if you heard, but next week – it’s Thanksgiving. Next week. Thursday. Like five days from now. What does this mean? Well it means that I’m going to eat and drink like it’s my job on Thanksgiving day of course! Where are my cookie pants? But I realized as I was walking home from the bus stop today that it also means there are going to be people. In my house. People whose names are not Corey, Mason or Damian. Whose last name is not Fleming.

As I came to this realization, I walked through my front door. And do you know what I saw? I saw dirt. A LOT of dirt. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like imminent hosting responsibilities to make me look at my house in a new light. I clearly had not even glanced at my floorboards in months, because I saw a layer of dust befitting an abandoned building. Guess what else I saw. Brown grout. I looked at the poo-colored grout in my tile floor and thought, this could really warrant a call to child services. I think if my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law saw my grout they might use the “f” word. You know – “filthy.”

Since the preschool that I’m subbing at didn’t call me in today, I thought, now is the time to attack this dirt! I changed into my grubbiest clothes, put some music on the TV (does anybody even have a radio anymore?), and I broke out the green sponges that could scour the hide off a cow, got down on my hands and knees and got down to it! I am happy to report, many hours later, that my grout looks good. I have hooker knees now, but the grout – it’s good. Good non-poo-colored grout.

I still have to buy food/plan a menu/wash stuff/get booze/find my underwear – I mean, wait. Scratch that last part. This isn’t college anymore. Anyway, let’s face it – prepping for a holiday, even one as wonderful as Thanksgiving, is a boatload of work. So instead of freaking out about the 800 things I have left to do, today I am focusing on the fact that my kitchen – and my grout! – is clean.

Happy Thanksgiving-prep time, everybody!

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An Interview with the Heart Child

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We all know what I think about about the heart child and his miraculous journey. But what does HE think? I got the idea from wordpress, (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/daily-prompt-details/) and I interviewed Corey to find out. I did this while he was trapped in the bath tub with his brother. He couldn’t just run away from me with bubbles plastered over every inch of his body. Here is what the 8-year-old with tricuspid atresia had to say:

Q – Corey can I interview you?

A – Yes.

 

Q – What’s it like to be a heart child?

A – Fun ’cause you get all the attention.

 

Q – What’s the best thing about being a heart child?

A – You get to have a cool big scar.

 

Q – What’s the worst thing about being a heart child?

A – You can’t go on roller coasters or anything with G forces.

 

Q – Does anybody think you’re weird because you’re a heart child?

A – No.

 

Q – Was having your big surgery scary?

A – No it wasn’t, because I got all the pizza I wanted any time I wanted it.

 

Q – Is there anything else you want to say about being a heart child?

A – Uh, no.

 

Q – Do you win all the “biggest scar” contests?

A – Yeah. That’s the best.

 

Q- What’s it like to have a brother with a regular heart?

A – Cool because he doesn’t get as much attention.

 

Q – Did you like being a Make-A-Wish child?

A – Yeah, because I got to fly over volcanoes in a helicopter. And I went with honeymooners. Also there were a lot of watersides.

 

Q – How do you like school?

A – It’s good. I get all As and all CDs and one B. And I play a musical instrument.  I play strings and I have a winter concert on December 10th if you want to come.

 

Q – Is there anything else you want to say?

A – Uh, I want Mr. Gold from Lego Figures!

Well doctor, am I going to live?

Usually when we go to Hopkins for the day, it’s related to Corey’s CHD. But not yesterday. Yesterday was for me.

My own heart is weaker than normal. This is a result of viral myocarditis, which means that a virus attacked my heart and left me with scar tissue. The attack and resulting scar tissue weakened my left ventricle. And it didn’t just happen once. It happened twice. A cardiac MRI (otherwise known as 90 minutes in a dark tube spent holding my breath – panic attack anyone?) showed two spots of scar tissue in my heart. Two viral attacks. Lucky me!

After the first viral attack, which happened around the time of Corey’s birth, my ejection fraction (ef) was 45% at its lowest. A normal ef is between 55-70%, though many experts consider 50-55% to be borderline normal. 45% is abnormally low. So I asked my cardiologist what my long term prognosis looked like. He hedged. This led me to believe that I was on borrowed time. He also told me that more children were out of the question. That news hit me like a sledgehammer in the face, because I only had Corey, and he has a life-threatening condition. What if I was doomed to have only one child, a child with CHD? 

Because I am a firm believer in a second opinion, I went to Hopkins and got one. My Hopkins cardiologist, Dr. Schulman, disagreed with the other cardiologist and gave me the green light to have a second child. And thank God, I had my beautiful healthy-heart Mason.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Another viral attack occurred, leaving my heart weaker, requiring me to take medication and dedicate myself to an exercise regimen that would strengthen my weak left ventricle. Which I have done, and happily my heart function has improved. Unhappily, however, Dr. Schulman advised me not to have the third child I wanted so badly. I was hoping for a little sister for Corey & Mason. But having a third baby would have meant leaving the babies I already have. I chose to stay with them. It was the right choice, but it still saddens me. Nobody should have that choice taken from them.

So where am I now, six years after the birth of my second child? Six years after the second viral attack? Has the medication and exercise worked? Am I still on borrowed time? How long with the boys have their mother? Will I live to meet my grandchildren? 

To try and get some answers to these questions, I spent almost all day at Hopkins yesterday. There’s been so much new construction recently that Hopkins has more towers than a medieval castle. So I got there at 7:20 AM, checked in at the wrong tower, hoofed it to the right tower, and then finally had everything in order and plunked my behind in the waiting room chair at 7:55. At 8, the nurse came to get me, and it took 90 minutes to get my echo done. That’s a long echo, but not too much of a surprise. My shortest ever echo was 45 minutes – I am hard to image. ??? I’ve heard this grumbled at me so many times by so many different techs that it must be true. I wish they’d give me a lollipop and let me watch “Shrek” like Corey does for his echos. 

I finally saw Dr. Sculman in the afternoon, and the news was good! Better than I hoped, actually. He showed me my heart. My ef has improved to nearly 50%! And there are no signs of hypertrophy (thickening of the heart wall). That’s the big concern with a weaker left ventricle. But all the exercise is keeping the muscle strong. Yay!

And that wasn’t the best news. The best news I got yesterday was that I will in fact live to see my grandchildren. Unless something else kills me, of course. But my heart is not going to give out. Dr. Schulman didn’t hedge on this point. He said with confidence that I look good and should continue to look good for decades to come. I love that guy.  

The Fontan – the final surgery in the reconstructive pathway.

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This is (hopefully) the last graphic picture I have to post, because (hopefully) the Fontan was Corey’s final surgery. Every year, on April 21, we celebrate Corey’s Fontanniversary. The anniversary of the day he had his Fontan surgery, April 21, 2009. The last surgery in the three-stage reconstructive pathway. We waited for the Fontan for years. All the time that we waited, I felt a fog of fear drifting over me. I tried to push it away and live my life with Corey, enjoying the time we had together, but it was always there.

Handing Corey over for surgery was extremely difficult every time. With the B-T shunt and the Glenn, he was a baby. That was awful – he was so small and helpless. But the Fontan brought a new set of challenges, because by then Corey was a four-year-old child. He walked, he talked, he asked questions, and he felt fear. We had to figure out how to get him through without scaring him. We had to feel our fear and hide it from him. It was a whole new ballgame.

April 21st came, and Corey had his Fontan. We hoped it would be a textbook event, as the previous surgeries had essentially been. It wasn’t. In the wee hours of the morning on April 22, the PICU staff discovered that Corey was bleeding internally. He had to go back to the OR. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen my husband truly terrified. Up to that point, Corey was on the path. But at that moment, he was off the path. Back to the OR he went for emergency surgery. And thankfully, he came through.

On April 28, 2009, the fog of fear that was with me for so many years finally lifted, and we brought Corey home. He was pink. So pink! His oxygen saturation levels were at a record high in the upper 90s. His energy level went through the roof! And there it has remained to this day. We did it!

Let’s have a wedding and major surgery in the same week!

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I’m trying to power through the recreation of Corey’s CHD timeline. Let me start by apologizing for hitting you with another graphic photo of Corey post-op. You’re not experiencing deja vous. I posted a photo of Corey after the B-T shunt yesterday. This is a photo of Corey after the Glenn.

And with that, let’s get to it. On July 13, 2005, at around five months of age, Corey had his Glenn surgery. My brother – my only sibling – got married that same week on July 16, 2005. And thus I win the “worst timing” contest. Our pediatric cardiologist literally hid behind the giant hippo bed in the exam room when he delivered the news. I wish I had a picture of that.

Corey had his Glenn as scheduled, and my brother had his wedding as scheduled. Did I mention that the wedding was on the west coast while Corey’s surgery was on the east coast? Yeah. Good times. I flew across the country the morning of the wedding, slapped on my bridesmaid’s dress, attended the wedding and the reception, slept like the dead for five straight hours, got up, flew home, and went right to the hospital the next day.

Leaving Corey in the hospital was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But he was stable and surrounded by people who love him when I left, and he was stable and surrounded by people who love him when I got back. And on July 18, 2005 they sprung him from the hospital. My baby rocked his second surgery, and he came home stable for the first time.

Life was much better after Corey recovered from the Glenn.

How do you hand your child over for surgery?

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There’s only one answer to that question: you do it because you must. Nobody wants to kiss their child’s head and watch them fall under sedation. Nobody wants to leave the OR wondering whether they’ll ever see their child alive again. I’ve done it four times with Corey. I hope I never have to do it again.

Corey had the B-T shunt surgery as an emergency on March 9, 2005. He was barely two weeks old. Just a little tiny baby. And he seemed fine. But the home pulse oximeter told a different tale. Corey’s oxygen saturation levels were in the toilet. We checked him in through the ER at Johns Hopkins, and he had his first surgery.

We were a terrified sobbing disastrous mess before the surgery. I bit all my fingernails off during the surgery. And then Corey showed us what a little spitfire he is. He fought his way through the surgery with no complications. Corey came home on March 15, 2005 after a short textbook recovery. He was one tiny being with so much strength and personality. He still is.

Five Little Boys (Plus Top 10 List III)

This weekend we went to visit my college roommate (Sonja) and her family. She has three little boys, all under the age of seven. We have two little boys. In this scenario, 3+2 = Crazyville. To be fair, the boys were all really good. It’s just that each child individually possesses a massive amount of energy coupled with the brains to cause all sorts of wicked trouble. Put all five of them together and the destructive power rivals the Tasmanian Devil’s. They’re all wicked cute, though. And they know it. And thus we do not sell them on eBay, but instead we laugh and quote their zaniness.

Here’s the latest top 10 list, courtesy of Sonja. These are all things she’s actually said. Except one – I made one up. See if you can figure out which one.

Top 10 Things a Mommy Never Thought She’d Have to Say

10. “Get the shark out of the refrigerator!”

9. “How did poo get on the wall?!”

8. “Hold still – I have to cut the helicopter out of your hair.”

7. “Stop rubbing the carrot on your foot!”

6. “Please EAT your piece of chocolate. It is not a crayon.”

5. “No, I’m not going to help you put the sunglasses up your pants.”

4. “No, guys, don’t pee on that bush, pee on the other one!”

3. “Don’t forget to take the pizza out of your pocket before bath time.”

2. “The peanut butter goes in your mouth, not in your brother’s eyebrow.”

1. “Don’t pick pieces of chocolate off the baby’s face and then EAT them!”

The next post will be about Corey’s B-T shunt surgery. Until then….