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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Two Years Ago

On Thanksgiving Day, I thought I'd share with y'all an archived post that explains why - despite our feelings of gratitude tinged with sadness this week - why the Husband and I shall always feel especially grateful to God during the week of Thanksgiving. From the archives...

I thought I should share with the blog's hundreds of ten readers the story of how Tonggu Daddy nearly died. Most of it remains a blur, but basically, the Husband caught a simple stomach virus that wrecked havoc on his body two years ago this week. I'd first like to point out that I caught the same virus and didn't cause any Extra Drama. My body, being Superior and Five Years Younger, weathered the storm quite well. (I like to remind him of the age difference at every available opportunity. I'm sure you understand.)

In response to the virus, the Husband's immune system became confused, kicked into overdrive and started attacking his heart. That's SO not an accurate medical explanation, but you get the idea. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why exactly this immune system confusion occurred. The Husband WAS out of town, unsupervised, for a few days prior to his illness. Did his immune system enter into a gluttonous daze after too much delicious San Francisco cuisine? Did it perhaps get drunk due to his close proximity to Napa Valley? What, exactly, caused the delirium? The doctors labeled it a Fluke, but it does kind of make you go hmm....

To better explain the exact heart issue, I need to provide you with a few visuals. Let me run to the kitchen for a minute to grab some supplies:

Go ahead and laugh. But this is exactly how the Husband's primary cardio doc explained the situation to us. You see, your heart isn't simply sitting inside your body, beating away, with no protection -- think about all of the friction that would result if your heart muscle continually pounded against other internal organs. God, in His infinite wisdom, created a fluid-filled sac called the pericardium for your heart to rest inside.

The Husband's amazing cardio doc explained that this sac is kind of like a piece of Saran Wrap coated in butter. The butter represents the fluid that lubricates the area, so that the heart - beating madly away - doesn't cause friction and, therefore, stress. (Oh, and don't be so name brand conscious ... I didn't have any Saran on hand, but Glad Clingwrap is the SAME thing!).

When the Husband's immune system got drunk became confused, fluid (the butter) built up in-between his pericardium (the saran wrap) and his heart (the orange), causing pressure and stress. It mimicked a heart attack. His heart muscle actually began to die. (For all of you Medical Types, his fluid levels were above 650 ... exactly what fluid levels I can't remember - as it was all a blur - but I'm sure you can put two and two together to guess. You are Medical Types, after all.)

They ran tests. And more tests. A famous doctor visiting from Johns Hopkins performed an angiogram, which is typically an Old Person Test. During the procedure, Amazing Cardio Doc and Famous Doctor discovered something: the Husband is deformed. (Shocking, I know.)

Behold a NORMAL human heart. Do you see the three arteries sticking straight up out of the aorta? Do you see how the left one sits alone, while the two on the right form a short Y shape? The Husband's heart doesn't have a Y. Instead it has three distinct arteries, with no Y in sight.

This created Quite a Scene in the OR. The team of doctors deemed the Husband an Interesting Case, Worthy of Med School Classroom Discussions. Not only was the Husband a good thirty years younger than most acute myopericarditis patients, he also has a Deformed Heart. Oh, they practically drooled when looking at the test results. They also informed us that the Husband's deformity likely saved his life.

We became Instant Rock Stars in the Cardio Unit. Hospital employees I'd never met knew me on sight, presumably because, while I don't exactly look like a spring chicken, I also don't look anywhere near sixty-plus years old. Also, since most cardiac patients are elderly, doctors and nurses in the cardio ward don't typically see Success Stories. The vast majority of their patients do not leave the hospital and, if they do leave, they typically return within the year. We provided the staff with an amazing Thanksgiving Week Story. They released the Husband late in the evening on Turkey Day, and oh, we felt so thankful. God is a Good God.

I do make light of this situation now. Sixteen months Two years can provide lots of Perspective and Humor. You should know that the Husband couldn't work for almost two months after the hospital released him. For the first two weeks home, he slept almost 16 hours a day. He didn't truly return to 99% until the late spring. But he survived. And we thank God for that.

We also laugh a bit. Amazing Cardio Doc told us, so long ago in that hospital room, "I really think a year from now this is going to be one of those stories you tell others once you've had a few beers -- starting with, 'hey, remember that time I almost died?'" At the time, we looked at him like he'd recently escaped a mental hospital. Of course we didn't believe him... at the time.

But last night eight months ago, after a couple of glasses of wine and some amazing conversation with Lizard and Terrapin, I caught myself saying... "hey, dear, remember that time you almost died?"

Time heals all. And makes most of it funny.


Michelle said...

What a story! I had read this before, but thanks for sharing it again. It reminds me to cherish each moment, as things can turn so quickly.

Still praying for and thinking about your family.


Aunt LoLo said...

A good God, indeed! Have a lovely Thanksgiving, telling stories and eating pie.

Laura L. said...

Wow, what a story. I'm glad you can tell it with humor now. You definitely have a lot to be thankful for.
My goodness, that sounds so much like something my family would say..."Remember the time I almost died?" :)
Have a great holiday and thanks for the smile.

Kerry said...

Amazing what a little time and perspective can do. I know you laugh now- but how amazingly tramautic for all.

My hubby almost died too in 2007 when his 33 year old colon exploded resulting in three major surgies that summer and a year that neither one of us remember most of. Also an old person's condition! So scary.

Let's be thankful for our hubby's today.


Peanut said...

and you, my friend, have a gift for making things funny... and apparently for describing medical stuff in layman's terms! You have much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving :)

Suzie said...

Yikes - what a story! Hope you all have a happy day :o)

Special K said...

Lots to be grateful for.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Dawn said...

Wow! Despite being able to "brag" about it, I'm hearing your thankfulness - loud and clear.

Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings!

LindaJ said...

I'm glad that you can look back on it with humor. Just like with ellie's accident, be try to be up beat and find humor in the situation.

Like last night when she wanted to trace her hand for a turkey. I started to trace her no hand and she started laughing.."mom that would be a turkey with no feathers"

Humor heals.

Kathryn said...

Wow what a story!!!!!!!! Happy to hear all is well now and you can look back at that with such humor.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Sabrina said...

Happy Thanksgiving and God is good! WOW! great story!

Sharie said...

This isn't the first time I've read this and it still amazes me! Thankful indeed!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Juliette said...

You are so very good at telling stories.
Glad the doctor was right and you can laugh about it now.
Happy Thanksgiving!

happygeek said...

I severely love the fact that you illustrated it for us with the orange.
So glad you got to keep your hubby.
What a harrowing experience to live through.

kia (good enough mama) said...

Ohmigosh, two years ago my cousin went through almost the same thing. Except his didn't get better. They removed his pericardium. Apparently it's a really rare procedure, but all the treatments they tried before the surgery had failed. It was so scary for our family. I can truly imagine how scared you must have been.

Mamatini said...

Not the first time I've read this story, but it is a good reminder to be thankful for the simple things: health and family. And I know what you mean about needing time and distance before you can laugh about such tragic moments. We are just now getting to the point where I can talk with some humor about the first 24 hours during which Papatini's bike wreck turned into emergency spinal surgery.

Carla said...

Wow. I so know what you mean by the time and perspective thing. I have one of those stories, except it involves too much spinal fluid, which BTW is what cushions your brain inside your skull...and you can imagine.

God is GOOD.

and I too am 5 years younger than Dh (actually closer to 6). It's a lot of fun at birthdays and such.

Janet said...

Yowsas. I'm glad you can laugh about it now, in a good way. That is amazing. God is soooo good!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Wow, what an amazing story. I'm rejoicing with you that it is a memory now. Happy Thanksgiving.

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

What an amazing story...I had never heard this one. He is so lucky....and now a medical marvel!!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Jennifer said...


Glad Tonggu Daddy is okay now!! As a Cardiac Nurse, I enjoyed this story and your orange explanation and visual. I am going to use that!


Alyson and Ford said...

Amazing... brought tears to my eyes, thinking of losing him. You wrote beautifully.
Thank you for sharing.... (again).


CC said...

Amazing and scary. No one wants to become the "show" for a hospital or med school staff. That is almost never a good thing. Might as well be on "House"! ;)

Praise God that TD recovered.

gritandglory.com said...

what a story.

what a God.

and i can't wait till time makes what i'm in right now funny...

Shellie said...

Thank God it is now just an entertaining tale!