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.
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.
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."
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.