Sunday, April 27, 2014

Family History Journal: Health

Question 20: What medical issues have you dealt with?
I have been blessed with good health. The only times I have been hospitalized were to deliver my babies. I have only broken one bone on my body...the big toe on my right foot. I never had to have stitches for injuries. Never had a concussion. Never been badly burned (well, I have been sunburned on several occasions but not severely sunburned...enough to peel and be uncomfortable but no third degree burns of any kind). I get colds and viruses. When I first started teaching I seemed to get laryngitis each year. I've had chicken pox...and that was the pits. I hate to itch. Hate it! An I got the chicken pox in fourth grade the week before Christmas. I had to miss a week of school. And that year my school had man made snow delivered to our playground and each class got to build a snowman. (Growing up in Phoenix, we didn't have real snow...this was a big deal. A once in a childhood opportunity.). My class won the snowman building contest and if I remember correctly their picture was in the newspaper. And I missed it all. Missed the Christmas party. It was miserable.

But other than chicken pox, I have really been blessed with good health. No chronic health problems, no serious illnesses or injuries.

The hardest health challenge I have experienced was not my own, but my daughter's. When Ella was four months old, the pediatrician noticed she had a heart murmur. We were referred to Primary Children's Hospital. We took Ella up there for a chest X-ray, EKG and echocardiogram. We had a wonderful cardiologist, Susan Etheridge. And we discovered that Ella had VSD...ventricular septal defect...or a hole in her heart. It is the most common congenital heart defect. There was a chance it may close on its own, so they wanted to watch and see...every 3-4 months, we returned to Primary to see Dr. Etheridge and to have more echoes and chest x-rays. When Ella was 18 months, they decided she did need surgery. It was scheduled for December 17, a Thursday, at 1 PM. Ella was 19 months old. The surgery would take about 3-4 hours and they expected her to be hospitalized for 4-7 days. In order to perform the surgery, they have to crack the rib cage, stop the heart...then use a pump (like a pacemaker) to keep blood flowing, and put in a little patch where the hole is. The heart would then heal around the patch and she would be fine. It was scary, because they have to warn you of all the things that might go wrong...her heart might not start again, it could mess up the electrical impulses between her heart and brain, etc. etc. As if I wasn't nervous enough. While they performed me surgery, they found a second, smaller hole in her atrial valve. That hole was small enough they would not have performed surgery to close it...but it may have led to migraines or other minor problems...and since they had her open, they sewed that hole shut with a couple of stitches. Pretty miraculous.

It was hard to go through, but I know many others have experienced much harder things. And there were miracles along the way. Ella had to have RSV shots because children with VSD are prone to respiratory infections and other issues...but Ella hardly even got colds in her first 19 months. She was able to wait until she was 19 months old to have the surgery rather than having it earlier. The surgery went perfectly, and she healed much faster than they expected. By Saturday night, they wanted her to move around a bit and so Alfredo took her in a wagon for a ride. She wanted to get out and walk, and he asked if that was okay. They said yes. She didn't just walk...she ran. H was chasing her, hoping she wouldn't fall and open the stitches in her chest. Sunday morning she was released...3 days (and not even full days) after the surgery. We got home and she was climbing stairs and running. She was so resilient. One of Alfredo's adult friends had open heart surgery a couple of months before and he spent weeks in bed and coughing or laughing put him in tremendous pain for quite some time. Here Ella was laughing and running and doing so well. It thrilled and worried me (that she would fall and get hurt). I know that her quick recovery was due to the prayers of so many family and friends and the priesthood blessings she received...as well as the wonderful care she received from doctors, nurses and others. And while I would not wish something like this on anyone, I was overwhelmed by the love showed to our family by neighbors, friends, ward members and family. Meals, gifts for our kids, phone calls to see if we needed anything from the grocery store, and so on. I felt an outpouring of love that has only been rivaled by the weeks immediately following my call as Relief Society President. Often, in the years since, when I have felt lonely or unpopular, I have remembered that experience and have known that many people love my family...even if I wasn't able to see/feel that right that moment. It has been a sustaining experience.

Six weeks after her surgery, Ella got RSV and influenza B. She was hospitalized again for a couple of days. Again, it was scary...and yet comforting to see the wonderful care she was receiving, to know that she would be okay, and to feel the love and support of those around us. By one year after her surgery, her heart was completely normal. There was a noticeable difference in the size of her heart when they showed us chest X-rays from before/after. After a year a half, we were told we didn't have to come back, we didn't have to inform anyone that she'd ever had heart surgery (like the school or sports teams) and she had no activity restrictions. She should live a long and perfectly healthy life.

I am grateful for how blessed we have been!