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Facing Open Heart Surgery with Confidence

Here’s how we’re facing open heart surgery focusing on the positive and how important it is to be your own best advocate.

Boy, it’s been a long time.

I know I haven’t kept up with regular posting, here or on social media.

And that’s for a reason.

God sun rays from New Harmony, Utah
New Harmony, Utah

Trent and I just got the worst news of our lives and honestly, we have been reeling.

So allow me to go back in time a bit and share where this all began, but before we go there, let me make this clear.

This isn’t a “Heart Disease Prevention” post or anything clinically or medically driven. This is simply our personal account of facing open heart surgery and how we are personally approaching the challenging days ahead.

Strange Physical Symptoms

This all began shortly after our first round of COVID back in 2021.

I would have never thought that I would be thankful for getting COVID, but if it wasn’t for this virus, we wouldn’t have discovered this massive problem.

A few weeks after we recovered from the Rona, Trent started getting weird sensations in his chest. Energy surges out of nowhere.

After a few visits to our GP and a gastroenterologist, the Dr. suggested it may be his heart and ordered Trent to wear a Holter Monitor for a week.

We found out he has something called PVCs – premature ventricular contractions. Basically, his heart rhythms get disrupted and result in a skipped beat followed by a huge beat.

As explained to us, they are typically benign and many people live with these for years without any heart disease. It was normal and we were told that no meds were needed.

So we went about our merry way.

Then round 2 of COVID came in June 2022. That seemed to make those PVCs stronger and Trent noticed he was really tired.

Family Scares

Soon after that, news came to us that Trent’s brother – basically his doppelgänger, just older – needed a stent placed for an artery blockage.

That scared us enough to put a call into a cardiologist to finally get these PVCs and new symptoms checked out.

We LOVE our cardiologist. He’s down to earth, a fellow believer, and very likable. Plus, he dabbles in music which, of course, won him over in our book!

He ordered a second Holter Monitor to wear as well as a nuclear stress test.

The monitor results came back totally fine which also confirmed his awesome EKGs, but it still didn’t answer all these other symptoms he would get.

The stress test was going great at first. Trent’s heart isn’t enlarged, and his valves work great, but the Dr. didn’t like something from the reading.

He ordered Trent to have a wrist heart catherization done so he could really get a good look.

This procedure alone was frightening enough! And what we were most worried about was that Trent would need a stent placed.

Trent almost backed out. I’m so glad he didn’t!

The Day We Got The News

We were in good spirits that day – joking around with the staff and making plans for the evening.

They wheeled Trent down the hall and it wasn’t long until he was back.

The look on his face said it all.

His words to me were, “It’s not good, honey. I’m so sorry.”

Prayer walk labyrinth in Henderson, NV
Prayer Walk Labyrinth in Henderson, NV

While Trent was in the procedure room, the Dr. asked to get his colleague on the phone. He knew that didn’t sound good.

That Dr. grabbed Trent by the shoulder with such force and said, “It is by the Grace of God that you are here today getting this done.”

There are 3 arteries in Trent’s heart with an 80-90% blockage, including the infamous widow maker.

Our only choice is to have open heart surgery.

Facing Open Heart Surgery with Confidence

The rest of that day we were numb.

Did we really just hear what was said? That couldn’t be right, could it?

Trent is just days away from turning 47 and is in perfect health otherwise.

How could we be in this situation?

We made the necessary phone calls to loved ones the rest of that day and time and time again, the news was met with complete shock.

There aren’t any congenital defects, and in all of Trent’s medical history, no one ever brought up the importance of heart disease, despite having high cholesterol readings since he was 21.

So while the doctor delivered overwhelming, and devastating news, the surgeon’s assistant who talked with us also gave us much confidence.

Trent and I celebrating our 25th anniversary in Charleston

Trent is in a stable condition, so going home was fine even though a huge surgery would be needed.

The assistant explained the procedure to us – Coronary Artery Bypass Graft surgery – also called a ‘cabbage’ in layman’s terms from the acronym (CABG).

Since Trent is so young, recovery should be quick and easier than others.

At this time, we still don’t have a date for the surgery scheduled.

We meet with the surgeon next week.

And to be honest, the waiting has been most difficult. When you’ve been told there’s a ticking time bomb in your chest, you kinda want it to be fixed – like, now!

We’ll know more after we talk with the surgeon, and I will share a follow up post letting you know what is coming our way.

But since the assistant gave us such confidence, we believe that they are triaging Trent’s case properly and are safe to wait for surgery.

New Emotions and Fears

While we are facing this open heart surgery with confidence, there definitely have been lots of ups and downs, for both Trent and myself.

And yes, I am including myself in this journey.

In marriage, you stand by your partner, fighting the same battles they do and offering help and support whenever possible.

I watched my own parents battle cancer for 25 years, even though it was only my father who actually had the cancer.

Stuff like this affects the entire family, not just the patient. So if you are a loved one or caretaker of someone facing open heart surgery, you are in this fight, too! And your emotions count as well.

Food

lime green basketweave knit coffee cozy wrapped around a white mug

This is a new-to-us fear.

I know! Strange, right?

But, yes – we are somewhat afraid of what to eat. I mean, it’s wrong eating that got us into this predicament and change has to happen.

And when the proverbial ‘they’ say to eat such and such in moderation, what does that really mean? Once a week? Once a month? Nothing seems crystal clear from the research we read.

We hope to meet with a nutritionist to help us learn what foods to avoid and that should qualm these new fears.

In the meantime, we have thoroughly cleaned out our fridge and pantry of any heart damaging foods and have replaced them with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Hopefully this will spark some new recipes that I can share here as well as learning how to revise our favorite meals with healthier options.

Finances

This isn’t a new fear for us. We have definitely been here before.

Being self-employed, we often have to store our nuts for winter, since income sometimes ebbs and flows.

But we are also afraid of the financial burden coming at us like a comet.

How much does open heart surgery cost?

The initial numbers we’ve seen seem high enough to immediately suck the air out of our lungs, even at 80% coverage by insurance!

As always, I try to be as transparent as possible whenever we tackle our DIY projects by sharing the total cost with you.

So I will likely do the same in this circumstance in the hopes that it may help someone facing open heart surgery like we are.

What We Have Learned So Far

Despite our fears and upended emotions, we have learned a few things that I desperately want to share and I pray this touches your heart.

Become Your Best Advocate

If Trent didn’t push his GP to refer us to a cardiologist, we would have never known of his Coronary Artery Disease.

As we were told, year after year, that he is young, healthy, and without major symptoms, there’s nothing to worry about.

But Trent listened to his body and kept pushing until he got an answer that made sense with what he was feeling.

There are still some outlier symptoms that baffle us, and it could be Long-Covid related, or something related to this whole thing.

So until those symptoms subside, we will keep pushing for a solution that helps.

No one knows your body like you do, and many times, the medical community treat some patients like a hypochondriac.

Stay firm and get that second or third opinion to make things crystal clear.

Hope

Smily face rock
Smiley Face Rock from Zion National Park

You have to have hope.

So often, I find myself clinging to despair, when the much easier option is to do a 180 and cling to hope.

Did you know you have a choice? I forget that, again and again – even multiple times this past week!

But yes – attitude is a choice.

And attitude will be key in a successful recovery for Trent.

That’s not to say we won’t face tall mountains that we must climb. But with a positive attitude focusing on the good things rather than the bad, we can get through this.

Let me share a story.

When my own father was battling cancer and needed a stem cell treatment in a ward with 20 others doing the same, he once told me that he knew who would would make it and who would not.

As he walked the halls past each room, there was something he took notice of.

Those who got up each morning and opened their curtains, got dressed and out of bed and tried to move when physically able – those were the ones who were thriving and doing well.

Then there were those whose rooms stayed dark and there was hardly movement, noise, laughter – just silence. Those were the ones who he knew had already given up.

That sparked something in my Dad to keep going and stay hopeful of a positive outcome.

And guess what? My Dad indeed beat cancer!

Attitude is everything.

Trust

Stack stones from Zion National Park
Stacked Stones from Zion National Park

This long waiting game, desperately wanting to speak with the surgeon, has been so tough.

We have lots of questions.

And we need lots of answers.

But we also know that we need to trust that the surgeon believes that Trent’s case isn’t urgent.

Letting go of control is a difficult thing to do, especially when you are putting your life in someone’s hands.

But we are learning to trust more each day.

Faith

I once heard a pastor describe the biblical translation of faith.

Having faith is not something you obtain or muster up or gather enough of.

He referred to is as faith-ing.

An action verb of something you must do over and over.

That action verb gets lost many times in the translation and can leave us feeling as if we need to “have better faith.”

When, in actuality, you just need to practice faith better. It’s an action we must take, that gets us from point A to point B.

We have many friends praying fervently for us, and boy, do we feel those prayers!

And I’m seeing God’s Almighty Hand in all of this.

Things that He put in place weeks ago, unbeknownst to us, are to prepare us for this journey we must take.

Please Pray For Us

If you have read this far, thank you so much for being a part of our family. It truly means the world that you care this much!

We are so very thankful for you!

We love to share our lives with you, and it has been difficult to find how exactly to communicate what has been happening, especially when we didn’t have the answers.

If you can, we are asking that you please pray for this battle before us.

That we have strength, patience, and continued faith to get through the roughest of times – be them physical, emotional, or financial.

We plan to share this on social media and will give updates when possible to allow you to stay a part of the journey, so be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok – whichever platform you choose.

Whenever I am able, I will take a moment to update here as well.

And I hope to continue with my home decors and DIYs, but I’m also giving myself grace to post when I can.

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36 Comments

  1. Hi, I hope everything works out well for both of you. Believing it will is the first step. There was a weeklong docuseries on preventing and reversing heart disease by Jonathon Landsman who put it on featuring different experts on heart disease prevention AND reversal yes even of plaque. You can purchase it which I did. Jonathon Landsman has a mission to HELP PEOPLE PREVENT ILLNESS AND REVERSE DISEASE WITHOUT DRASTIC SURGERIES OR TREATMENTS AND SO DO HIS GUEST MEDICAL EXPERTS. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WILL SEE ON MAINSTREAM MEDIA. I hope you check it out. He is always putting on new docuseries. The heart one just ended. 365 Health Jonathon Landsman. He is a TRUE HERO for helping HUMANITY become their BEST SELF. Best Wishes

  2. Thank you for your prayers, Kim! I feel the exact same way about Trent and we are so very pleased that he is mending well on this side of things!

  3. Will speak your name to our Lord daily to ask for his love, grace, and mercy for you all.

  4. Thank you so much, Hannah! We celebrate our 26th in just a few days and your sweet words were just the encouragement we needed!

  5. Praying!!! May God hold yall so tight right now. Praying for full healing and yall to get a 75th wedding anniversary!

  6. My prayers are with you and Trent. I would be lost without my husband, he is my rock and God sent. Im glad Trent is ok, never take him for granted, just love him

    Love Kim XOXO

  7. Praying for you both and the doctors. God is good!

  8. I don’t know much, but I know for sure the same one thing that you know…. neither of you is walking alone.

  9. I will be praying for you and your family….I know what you are going through…my husband also had open heart surgery (at 60 years old) also due to clogged arteries…he ended up with quadruple bypass surgery (when we had only thought it would be a triple)…as with your husband, my husband felt some strain (for mere seconds) in his chest just 3 times …always after dinner…he ended up with the same procedures as yours to finally determine what was the issue (he actually passed the stress test with flying colors)…thank god for amazing doctors who took it upon themselves to go the next step and check every box)….the news was devastating…and the operation ended up taking 10 hours…much longer than anticipated ironically due to my husbands great shape and his resulting muscle mass! …and it was excruciating to wait until the operation was over and I could talk to the doctor…recovery was not that bad…my husband had a few complications (reactions to medicines, his body adjusting, etc) along the way….but happy to report that he is fine (this was 5 years ago)….you will get through this..it is all very scary…and you never think it will be your family who will go through this…but having total faith in your doctor is a wonderful first step ….keep remembering to thank God for everyone who found this out now when it can be taken care of….will be thinking of you❤️

  10. Dear Jen and Trent,
    You must feel like you have been hit by a bus!
    What a blessing that Trent continued to press for more tests.
    There is a surgeon in the USA called Caldwell Esselstyn, he treated Bill Clinton when he had his heart problems. He has a great website with many resources that you might like to check out – https://www.dresselstyn.com/ . There is a group of doctors in USA that are all on the same page with what causes heart disease and treatments that are alternatives to surgery. A book you may find interesting is The China Study by Dr’s T Colin Campbell and Thomas M Campbell.
    May the Lord guide you in through this time.

    Blessings
    Heather

  11. I will be praying for you both and your family. My husband had emergency CABG done when we were away from home, in Dallas BUT our children and grandkids were with us. Also other family was with us, too. The doctor that did my husband’s surgery (triple bypass) was also a believer and prayed multiple times with him. My husband was only 54 at the time. He is today mostly healthy and has resumed his activities and started a few more. We give praise to God and a family of believers and tons of prayers.
    Hang in there it will get better.

  12. I will pray for you and Trent. I do feel your pain as I have been through this as well. My husband had his first heart attack at 49. He had five heart attacks and seven stents before his triple bypass in 2014. Today he is doing well and is 76 years old. He has kept his weight in check and plays lots of golf and tennis. You are going through lots of fear and it’s so hard but keep your faith and know you are in good hands with your doctors. Praying for you. 🙏🙏🙏

  13. Praying for you both and hugs to your family! I enjoy your blog so take the time you need and we will “see” you later when Trent is all well.

  14. My 65 year old husband never had a pain in his chest. Not one. His GP had a hunch and ordeed a test (that we almost did not do because it was not covered by our insurance) and the results came back funny. So, he sent my husband to the cardiologist for a stress test. In the middle of the test the doctor was on the phone sharing his current stats. She came over to me and said he needs to go to the hospital right now. He was admitted to the intensive care unit that day and had surgery a few days later. Come to find out he had 95% blockage in 5 of his artieres. He had a quintuple bypass – something I had never even heard of. He spent two weeks in the hospital overall. That was 2 years ago and I can say it was a tough road those first few months. Today he is back to his old self and really doing well. And all of this because his doctor had a hunch. I call it a gift from God!
    My point is – the hospitals deal with this all the time. It is new for you but not for them. They had my husbands care down like clockwork as to what he would need before he even needed it. I am sure your husband will have a great outlook once he is on the other side of this!

  15. We know what you are going through!
    My husband ended up at the hospital after 14 days with Covid. That is where they found he had developed AFib. They did a cardio version and it didn’t hold. So praise God the doctors kept taking tests until they found three blockages and also the widow maker. My husband got through the Heart surgery and was out of the hospital in 9 days! Praise be to God! This was last year and he is 57 years old. So everything will work out fine! Praying for your family!

  16. Many prayers are going out for your recovery and health. attitude is everything and you have a great one.

  17. My sweet sister in the family of Christ, I feel like I know you, and I definitely know your struggle here. My prayers will be going up today and forward until answers are heard.

    As I was reading your post about the emotional journey you are on, I was reminded of the word “Intentional”. I see intention in your life plans and processes on a regular basis from budgeting to (now) self advocacy. Sometimes intentionally noticing on a micro level is the only way for me to stick with any life practice or discipline- such as “faith-ing”. For instance, in nutrition they call it conscious choices- intentionally noticing the plate size, utensil, portion, benefit of each food to the body, and chew each bite well. It takes a little bit of imagination sometimes since I don’t fully have the knowledge of what an apple does to my body, but Google can quickly tell me!! What I find in micro-noting these disciplines is a thankfulness in just how God has woven all things in creation for my good. Each vitamin and mineral from the soil glorifies him in keeping his most precious creations healthy and active to give him glory. Such miraculous beauty in the small things! I hope you are encouraged to put your refined skills of “Noting” to work as you navigate this faith walk together. Also, you are not alone. You are never alone.

    I recently did a 7 day bible study called “Holy Noticing” in the YouVersion bible app. I would strongly encourage you to check it out when you can.

    Continued prayers for health and healing in your marriage, bodies, and spirits!

  18. Good morning Trent, I am so sorry you have to go through this, and I KNOW how scared you are. As a heart CABG survivor, I can’t stress enough to get this done asap. Don’t mess around and don’t hesitate to do it. I personally believe that you probably have familial hypercholesterolemia, and either your mother or dad have passed it to you and probably the rest of your siblings. Please ask your doctor about this. I have had high cholesterol since an early age, and it has nothing to do with what you have eaten, but the gene that runs in your family. I have 3 sisters and a brother, we all have high cholesterol, as are my 4 children. I went through 9 stents due to artery blockage and finally a triple bi-pass 11 years ago. At the time, I knew nothing about this and figured due to my awful diet, I had done this to myself. No, as my cardiologist said, I could eat dirt and it would still be the same. Our bodies just produce too much cholesterol and that’s what is adding plaque to your arteries. I am 76 in a couple months and I have felt so good since my procedure was done. I didn’t even realize how weak I was, I thought it was just age. You are so young, get it done. My youngest son, just 37 at his first heart attack, kept waiting and working, and he’s had 4 major heart attacks! Thank you Jesus, he’s finally healthy but neither he nor I take anything for granted.
    I’m sorry but I just tell you straight, this is not a pain free surgery and it takes a good while to recover, but if I can do it, you can too! You are lots younger than I was when I had my surgery. I’m not going to just stop living and neither are you. We just sold our B & B, not because I can’t do it any longer but I want to spend time with all these grandchildren and the 5 and 1/2 greats we have all over the place. I will be praying for you and watching your blog for an update. God bless you and it is a family situation, I have a wonderful husband that was there through the whole thing for me and pulled me through it. I am a fighter and so are you. I am on Facebook, mostly so I can’t keep up with all the kiddos I have, but I am Shirley Wessel Thompson, and I’d love to heart from you if you would like to post or PM me. Also, you have my email and I will answer if you have questions or just need a heart buddy. Bless you Jen, hang in there. I know how scary it is for both of you. Love and prayers for you both.
    Shirley

  19. You are both in my prayers for a safe and speedy recovery.
    Love you both. 🙏🤗❤️

  20. Thank you for sharing this. I know it will be a light and inspiration to others. Lifting up prayers for strength, courage, the knowledge that you are in your Father’s arms and especially for a wonderful outcome. May you be a blessing to all who see your strong faith and may they be drawn to the cross because of it.

  21. Thoughts and prayers are with you both during this challenging time.
    My mom always reminded me that if God brings you to it, He’ll walk you thru it. Blessings.

  22. I am a true believer that God hears our prayers so I’m sending prayers for Trent and you I am so glad you kept saying “Hey, something is not right with me.” I’m 65, and sometimes medical people whether intentionally or not can make me feel like I’m just making this stuff up. Well I’m very well acquainted with my body so you keep fighting for all of us who need those professionals to listen and respond. Thank you for that!
    God is Great and he will be with you each step of the way. Love and prayers

  23. Praying for both of you. Praying that you will sense God’s mighty arms holding you close. Thank you for sharing.

  24. WOW!! I can say with complete confidence that God who is all able will guide you and bring you both through this with His merciful grace! I completely agree with you that this is a partner thing. My hubby lost his eyesight in 2008–happened in a 6 month period—from seeing normal to being totally in the dark. And yes, we also were self-employed with him being our primary income. So, I can confidently say that God takes us to levels of faith and trust that, at the time, we were not able to recognize that were available to achieve. And we also faced the unknown with laughter and humor–he was the most favorite patient in our DR office. While there is not a medical cure for hubby’s situation, this is NOT beyond our God’s ability. As a statement of faith, his Harley is still in our shed waiting for him to ride again! So, we will partner with you both in prayer to agree that God will do what He does best—to cover you with His feathers, hide you in the secret place and bring comfort and healing to you both. Speak to those things as though they are—I agree, your attitude is directly connected to the atmosphere you create. Create faith—“He is healed, his heart is healthy, he is whole in the name of Jesus”. Can’t wait to hear the awesome testimony that God does through this miracle!! ❤❤❤

  25. You did a wonderful job explaining what is happening in your life right now. Know that many are lifting Trent, you and your family up in prayer as you walk this journey. God will give you the strength needed for what’s ahead. He’s the ultimate healer and holding you in the palm of his hand. I’m here for you always with much love.
    Mom

  26. Hi,

    Thank you for sharing this. Your timing is perfectly matched, as I’ve been having the same symptoms. I have been dealing with it for 12 days. Got an emergency doctor appointment, where an EKG was performed and PVC’s identified. I will wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to further identify/confirm the symptoms I am experiencing. I don’t have any other pre-existing conditions, either. Very healthy, otherwise. I am concerned that this may be the effect of the Covid vaccine. Has this been questioned?
    My prayers will be for you both as you navigate this new development in your lives-

  27. Definitely praying, sweet friend! Praying for complete healing, that you and Trent will grow closer to our Savior and Father through all of this, and that you will feel His peace that passes all understanding! He is GOOD, ALL the time!

  28. Your whole family will be in my prayers, as well as the surgeon and all those who will lay hands and care for you.
    Marriage is definitely a journey taken together.

  29. Sending prayers for Trent and your entire family, Jen. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  30. Praying for you guys!!

  31. Hello! I’m sending huge virtual hugs to you.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to share a few resources with you (and your readers).

    –Caring Bridge: this is a free platform for keeping friends and family updated all at once. My cousin used Caring Bridge during his cancer treatment, and the family loved it. https://www.caringbridge.org/

    –Meal Train website: it’s free platform for planning a meal train. There’s also a reasonably-priced paid option for adding in things like chores and bedside visits. I set one up for a friend who lost her son, and she found it really helpful. https://www.mealtrain.com/

    Best of luck to you, and, again, giant hugs.

  32. Jennifer And Trent – so very sorry to hear the news. Will be praying for you. God is good. Focus on Hus faithfulness. Isaiah 46:4 and Isaiah 26:3. 🙏🏼