Thursday, January 14, 2016


It was January 7th when I was informed I would need open heart surgery.

I went into the hospital emergently in late December with a left renal infarct. Essentially, my kidney had a heart attack. I can't describe the pain, and my parents had to call 911 to have it all handled. I'm grateful I was with them. And for 16mg of morphine IV. That led to a two week hospital stay.

[Backstory: I was staying with my folks after a routine cyst removal on an ovary the week before.]

Tests were plentiful, however several of them didn't work out.

[Second backstory: I had gone into the ER on Christmas because I felt as if a blood clot was developing in my left leg. I have a history of these (also called DVT) and wanted to be sure there wasn't another one. I had a CT scan done however it was ineffective due to "weird" vessel formation and the contrast was gone by the time they needed to scan me. The ultrasound on my leg was negative so I went home.]

On my admission for the kidney deal, I was given an IV into my left arm, same as they'd done in the emergency room on Christmas. Just before discharge, the hospital doctors switched over and the guy coming in decided he was not okay with my low oxygen levels.

[Third backstory: I've always had low oxygen levels, migraines, etc. and have been told that that's just the way it goes, it's probably due to chronic bronchitis and stress levels.]

This doc orders up a nuclear medicine test which will not only infuse gas into my lungs to see how my ventilation (air supply) is, but will inject a special liquid into my bloodstream to check the perfusion (how great the blood supply is to my lungs). I'm lying there watching the computer screen, and noticing that the perfusion fluid is ... not going to my lungs. The radiology tech grabbed the monitor, said "It's not going where it's supposed to go, I'm seeing things I'm not supposed to see." and before I know it, there's 6 people in the small room with me having a discussion on what the hell is happening with the test. One gal says, "I have seen this once, but it was back in school."

Super. Now what?

The hospital doc blows into my room at about 9 pm that night with a look on his face, and I'm all, "Oh God, this isn't great."

He tells me that evidently I have two superior vena cava (SVC). This is the big vein that take the blood from your head and upper part of the body into your heart so it can go into the lungs and get oxygen. Well, while I have one SVC that is where it's supposed to be and is doing what it's supposed to do, I also have a second SVC that goes smack into the left atrium of the heart. Do not collect $200, just mess with me and go straight to jail. I also have two pulmonary vessels instead of four, however that is not as crucial.

[Physiology lesson: The left atrium of the heart contains the oxygenated blood that goes down into the left ventricle and is pumped out into your body. Because I have deoxygenated blood going into that left atrium, it mixes with the oxygenated blood and therefore, bam... low oxygen levels.]

So, of course, I'm like, "I'm a mutant."

Also, "Holy %$&@ that explains a whole hell of a lot."

So I met the next day with two cardiothoracic surgeons and a whole lot of other people. It was determined that I have a very high risk for stroke, especially since I've already had two or three clotting issues. I was put on Eliquis, a medication that reduces the risk of stroke and other blood clot problems. On top of that, I received injections into my belly. I was already on oxygen, however was told I'd need to be on oxygen at home and wouldn't be able to drive or work for quite some time.

Those of you who know me know that I'm also a full time Master's student as well as the President of a nursing association. Yeah. This was hard to take. I went from 100 miles an hour to zero within the space of a couple of days. So grateful for understanding Board members and leadership within my hospital.

So, as of now, I'm waiting to reschedule a special CT scan of my heart since my exam didn't go well yesterday. They have to reduce my heart rate in order to get a really good look at the system and my heart refused to go below 70 (it has to go, and stay, below 60). I have a cardiac team of probably about twelve people at this point including a pediatric surgeon since this is a congenital abnormality normally caught in infancy.

I will be updating here frequently. While I am an RN, I am not a cardiac RN. Hospice and oncology are my specialties and I have a learning curve, too. I appreciate my family and friends who continue to support me through phone calls, cards, gifts, visits, and text messages. I can't thank you enough for helping me get through this. The hardest times are at night when it's just me and reruns of CSI on television. I find myself researching and reading and looking at photos of other women who have had open heart surgery. I find myself making lists in my head of things that I will need for whenever this surgery may be.

Thank you for reading.

Mom was with me 24/7

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  1. You will successfully see this through and will be back at work bitching about those long 12 hour shifts. :)

    From Dad.

    1. Thanks, Dad, and I appreciate you and mom so much for being here!

  2. Good grief! That's a lot going on. Sounds like your docs have a plan and hopefully you'll be good as new very soon.

    1. Thank you for your comment... we may have a different plan now. Thank you for your friendship and support :)

  3. Rooting for you Corinne. You are tenacious and quite a fighter; you'll get through this!

    1. Thank you so much! I like the word tenacious :)

  4. I'm currently waiting to schedule my second OHS, should happen in the next few weeks, I wish you all the best for a complication-free surgery and recovery!

    1. Thank you, Lis. It turns out that they may not need to do surgery - but I have to go through a few more tests to be sure. I'll keep you in my thoughts and wish you the very best. xoxo

  5. Thank you, lovely, and hugs right back at you :)