To be totally honest with you guys, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to swing my Loving Lately post this month. The sh*t basically hit the fan last Friday night and our world blew up a little. Loving Lately has hands down been one of the best things about this year for me. I take writing for the blog very seriously and my writing process and timeline is usually pretty planned and precise. But this post? Well this post is going to be messy and raw and vulnerable and probably unedited. I was questioning what tools, what wisdoms, what resources I could even share with you all. It seemed like absolutely nothing. Because the truth is that for the past few months, and more recently the past week, I've felt like I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. 2 car accidents, spontaneous arrhythmias, and year-end madness had me maxed out emotionally. I am beat down. I do NOT feel strong. But then I realized the power of being vulnerable. The power of asking for help. The power of sitting with your pain. & I think most importantly, the power of gratitude.
A week ago today Mike had finger surgery to remove (a 99.9999% likely) benign tumor. Since the tumor was sitting directly on a nerve, they opted to put him fully to sleep. Surgery took about an hour and Mike came out of it totally fine. 4 hours later, Mike was borderline unconscious for 10-12 minutes. I admit, I have an irrational fear of my loved ones dying. Post my car accidents, this fear has been amplified. Mike can attest to this, I was always worrying something was going to/had happened to him. It was awful. And then....my irrational fear became a reality and played out right in-front of me. I can't go into further details - as the entire thing is still so fresh and so traumatic. I truly thought he was dying in front of me. I was on the phone for over 10 minutes working to keep him stable while the 911 operator walked me through what to do. After hours in the ER they ruled out a seizure, stroke, heart attack, etc. and chalked the whole thing up to an extreme, delayed reaction to anesthesia that resulted in a vasovagal syncopal episode. (which in English means your blood pressure and heart rate drop and you pass out) The next few days were kind of a blur, but we did manage to enjoy Christmas and our families were so incredibly wonderful. As my dad pointed out, it's ironic that my last post was all about caregivers and then this month we needed so much caregiving. I don't feel I'll ever be able to fully express my gratitude to everyone. For the first legitimate time I was able to directly ask for help. I was fully honest with how I was feeling. I was sitting with my pain, as heart piercing as it was. Mike and I had completely swapped roles at this point, as I was now the supportive spouse and he was the patient. One of my biggest intentions for 2018 is to deepen my gratitude - and I think that's one of the greatest lessons to come out of this horrific scare so far. We gained such a greater appreciation for what one another had been experiencing before this role swap. It allowed us to connect on a deeper level and gain a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for each other.
Anyways, days post the incident we still couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right. That reaction was too extreme. At Mike's follow-up appointment for the finger the surgeon agreed and recommended that he see a cardiologist and possibly neurologist. We were able to get him in with my cardiologist the next day. Guess who has an undiagnosed congenital heart defect?! Can you even believe it? He has what's called an ASD or atrial septal defect with redundant tissue and an atrial septal aneurysm combined with a pretty low heart rate. They think the massive pass out was attributed to vasovagal syncope, but since his heart rate is already low, it almost bottomed out temporarily (along with his blood pressure). It is such a blessing in disguise that this happened and we found it and can treat it now. This is the defect often involved when you hear of athletes or other seemingly perfectly healthy and in good shape people dropping dead from cardiac arrest. Or ending up in the neuro unit after having a stroke. I have to say I'm relieved that we have an answer and a plan of attack. But I know this has been tough on Mike. I've known about my CHD my entire life, he's never once thought he had any significant health issues. He and Allison can now totally relate: thinking you are perfectly healthy and then having a bombshell dropped on you. I definitely foresee a post about this down the line :)
I don't know about you, but I certainly believe in fate. I mean....what are the chances that Mike has a Congenital Heart Defect? All this time he's been such an integral member of the CHD community as a support figure, a loved one. He's learned so much about the heart and advocated so much on behalf of the CHD community. Little did he know, he was a warrior right alongside of us the whole damn time. The hole is scheduled to be repaired in mid-January, before he returns to school. School. To be a registered echocardiographer. The exact profession that led him to his diagnosis. CRAZY! This whole thing still blows my mind.
Did you know that every day the heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles. In a lifetime, that is equivalent to driving to the moon and back. So, when you tell someone you love them to the moon and back, you're essentially saying that you love them with all the blood your heart pumps your whole life, which I think is equally as meaningful. (slowrobot.com)
I think it's safe to say that Mike and I have each other's whole hearts. Each year more curve balls get thrown our way and each year we perfect our swerving skills. We were put together for a reason. In sickness and in health just gained even more meaning in our marriage.
As we head into 2018, we are going to disconnect and forget the world. To rejuvenate and rest and reflect. To heal pain. To set intentions.
What intentions do you want to set for the new year? Don't forget those that involve sitting with pain. Freely feeling your emotions. Being messy and imperfect. Make sure what you are feeling is real, no matter how hard it may be in the moment. Find the courage to breakdown and the strength to rebuild.
Allison and I wish you & yours the happiest and HEALTHIEST of holidays! Bring it on, 2018!