Tuesday, October 25

I Survived the Tube!

I'm back from my second trip to UCLA. Yes, I had my cardiac MRI done. Having an MRI is fascinating. Actually I had a Magnetic Resonance Angiography since they gave me a contrast agent to show my heart and blood flow. They shot some magnetic material (gadolinium)  into me to take a series of images while I was laying in a tube like tunnel. If you are claustrophobic, it might be quite challenging. There isn't much room and you can't see out. The machine does all kinds of things that cause it to make really loud noises. You have to have headphones on to not only protect your hearing, but also to hear the instructions from the technician running the machine. The really cool thing was that I brought my iPod and they plugged it into their sound system so I could hear my own music in the headphones. The music would then cut out anytime the tech talked to me. She gave my breathing instructions just like when you get a chest x-ray. However, I sat in what I will call the tube for about 1 1/2 hours. During that whole time she intermittently tells me when to get ready to hold my breath while she catches images. The hardest part of being in the tube is lying down on the table in it for such a long time. Other than a pillow for my head and a pillow under my knees, it is a hard surface table.  Between her breathing instructions I was able to shift my legs a bit, cross and uncross my feet, wiggle my fingers and toes, and stretch some. I just wasn't allowed to move my torso or it would make the images blurry. She gave me positive reinforcement telling me what a great job I was doing being still and holding my breath for sometimes 20 or 30 seconds. Really it wasn't that hard, but I guess since it goes on over an hour you want to encourage people. It can take up to 2 days for the doctor to get a chance to review the results so we shall see. I know it went well though.
I'll get back to you about the other aspects of my trip to Los Angeles, the same day President Obama was there AND that it rained for the second time that month. The same times I was there. Trust me it's gonna be good.

Thursday, October 20

Thank You, But We Are Done.

Today we got confirmation that my husband’s request for retirement was accepted. I say 'we' because when your husband enters the military the whole family does too. We have spent 20 years serving this country. We spent 10 years as an enlisted family and 10 years as an officer’s family. Due to deployments, assignments and a remote tour, we spent 6 years of our first 10 living in the same place. We have lived only the last 6 years as parents. Over the 20 years we have lived in 17 different homes, apartments, and/or condos, only 5 of which we owned. We still own 2. It has brought us places we never would have chosen, introduced us to great people, created little families of friends around the world, shaped our characters like nothing else could and made us very reliant and dependent on our faith and relationship with God.
The Lord led my husband into the military and we feel He has led us out as well. It wasn’t something we contemplated for months. It really took us by surprise. I always thought we would have plenty of time to decide and process this major life event.

We own a home in Tucson, Arizona. We have rented it out since we left. Our ideal tenant is leaving this month. We started considering if we wanted to hire a property management company and what our long term goals were with our home in Tucson. This brought up the direction of his career and our future with the military. We had been in Vegas for two years and as an Officer that makes you eligible to be moved. He just got his line number for his promotion to Major. His field in the Air Force is small so he knows who to talk to about where he stands. He had been told he was on the Top Ten List for his field and rank of officers to be deployed. We had a fairly good idea about where his next choice for career opportunity was going to be on the East Coast. We took a look at what our goals are and what we want to be doing in 5, 10 and 15 years. Most importantly we sought the counsel of some Christian men who have retired from the military and we prayed.
It was literally just days later my husband was submitting his request to retire.  We didn’t want our home in Tucson to sit empty for long, so he requested a waiver to expedite the process. It can take the government 4-6 weeks to let you know your request has been approved.

Alert, the answer to "when" is coming.
It took only 2 weeks to get his official retirement date of March 1, 2012. He has 80 days of leave/vacation built up that we have to use. So that brings his last day of actual work to the first full week in December.
Did you get your answer? Pick a day near or around December 9, 2011 and you got it.

Yes, we are going to move in less than 6 weeks so our home can be rented out as soon as possible.  We just closed on the refinance of our Vegas home, 3.75% fixed interest rate making our monthly mortgage payment $230 less per month. We can rent out our Vegas home at fair market value, pay a property manager and landscape company while still clearing a little bit to save for repairs. It may actually turn out to be a true investment property.
The only reason we could justify staying in longer, past our 20 years, would be for the safety and security it provides us financially. We are a family of Christian faith so that did not make sense. Our safety and security is in God.

Sure, we move back with only the certainty of 38% of our normal annual income, but we will be a family who now has time to spend together. We will no longer have to adapt and support my husband’s job with the military. We will be free to choose.
We will move back to our Tucson home with the whole house air filtration system (our allergies should be so much better), whole house water filtration system and solar hot water heater. We will start another chapter in our lives. We are not the same family that left Tucson and we have definitely benefited from our Vegas experience. A whole new world of opportunities is open to us. As freaked out as I am about the quick change, I am excited too.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…….33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

Oh, I still have to get to California for my appointment Monday at UCLA for my cardiac MRI. Life moves very fast around here. Blink and you might miss it.

Wednesday, October 19

Almost a Clear Bill of Health for My Holy Heart

I'm still trying to get over my lost post. As far as our trip to Los Angeles for me to go to UCLA, it worked out well. I had some test done, met with the doctor and learned what I already suspected. Yes, Praise God, my holy heart is healed! The doctor said after reviewing my cardiac catheterization test, which he received first, he was a bit confused as to why I was referred to him.
It was all in the timing of how he received and saw test results. He said, other than some tricuspid regurgitation, my heart is fine. There is no measurable hole. A few days later he received and was able to review my transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). He said that with the TEE test results it would appear the hole was there and causing issues.

My TEE was done one month before my cardiac cath. That one month, a key event and special moment was critical. Hundreds of people started praying after we told everyone about my TEE results. After my TEE it seemed pretty evident that I was facing open heart surgery again. Due to all my allergies with general anesthesia and pain medication, I was looking at my possible death and/or extreme pain.

On March 28th, I had the opportunity to attend a Michael W. Smith concert. I spent a great deal of time worshipping the Lord during that concert. Afterwards I got some quiet time in my car waiting for traffic to clear out of the parking lot. In those still quiet moments of reflecting on how moved I was by the concert, I swear to you I heared an audible voice say to me, "You have never asked Me to heal you, so ask Me."  I was shocked, amazed and cried out, "Oh My God, you are so right, I never have." I always trusted that God was with me through everything and that His hand had been with the surgeon in 2002 and other professionals through out the process.  I never asked for a healing. Even after the surgery when they were trying to find something to give me for the pain that I wasn't allergic to, when I cried out in severe pain, I cried, "Jesus, please take me home now, kill me and take the pain away." In that time of excruciating pain I never said, "Please heal me, Jesus."

It wasn't until that moment in my vehicle with His presence there that I realized I should and could ask for a healing. I thought healings were for other people. I'm not in pain so why would I ask for God to heal the hole in my heart?  I finally accepted that I was able to ask and receive His healing. I said, "Lord, clearly I wasn't listening, forgive me my ignorance, and YES, please heal my holy heart." 

The next morning after the concert was my cardiac cath test. The test that contradicted my TEE results.  The test that the UCLA doctor saw first. The results that confused my local cardiologist and led him to refer me for a 2nd opinion. The test results that the UCLA doctor cannot reconcile with my TEE results.

Monday, October 3rd I had a cardiac stress test at UCLA. I ran on a treadmill while hooked up to all kinds of wires. I raised my heart rate to 170 without having any cardiac distress and did pretty darn good according to the UCLA staff and cardiologist. My oxygen levels stayed healthy too. So when I met with the UCLA cardiologist he said that the hole, if there is one, doesn't seem to be presenting any issues. It is only because I have tricuspid regurgitation that my numbers are not exactly 100%, but are within the normal range. Due to the enlargement of my heart after 32 years with a hole, my tricuspid valve is stretched and flappy. It just isn't closing sufficiently to control the flow of blood. So instead of a holy heart, I now have a flappy valve heart. It has a cool swoosh rhythm to it too. Depending on the stress I place on my heart may effect the symptoms I see and feel.  He is having me get a cardiac MRI just to confirm his diagnosis about the hole and valve as well as not releasing me to do any aerobic exercise until after the MRI. Unless the MRI test results are abnormal, he said I have plain old tricuspid regurgitation and I will feel better if I just "Loose some weight, eat healthy, and exercise." He clarified with, "Well with the exercise just wait until after you hear from me about the MRI,"

So, I am scheduled to get my MRI on Monday, Oct. 24. I am looking forward to having this whole process over and done. I am excited to be able to return to walking with some running mixed in there soon. I will be a walking miracle! I am going to look to see if there is a 5k I can sign up and do for Spring 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. Oh, that will be another blog for another day.

Monday, October 10

How does that happen?

I just spent a good 10 minutes typing up a follow up to my Holy Trip. Then as my fingers were flying across the keyboard, my paragraphs of text disappeared. What key did I hit to make that happen? I really would like to know since it has happened to me while writing out lengthy e-mails as well. It isn't like I am some mad typist. I only type about 35 words per minute with lots of errors. I watch the keyboard half the time too. I stay on the home keys and the main keyboard. I don't have stray fingers near the delete key or backspace since they are near punctuation I don't use. The program saves a draft of what you type. However, for some reason when I went to the draft it was blank. Sigh, now I don't have the time to whip out another version of my follow up. I will have to come back to it later. In the meantime be careful when your typing. Beware the mystery key on the central keyboard that deletes your work.

Saturday, October 1

Getting ready for my Holy trip!

Well, I am not as ready as I thought I would be. I have known this day was coming, but I procrastinated as usual. What is the big deal you maybe thinking? Or not?  Monday I go to the Cardiac Imaging Center at UCLA to find out how my holy heart looks.  Yes, I know I spelled it wrong, but I love the beautiful symbolism by saying my "Holy" heart.  Just in case you haven't talked to me lately or read here before: In a nut shell, I was born with a sinus venosus atrial septal defect (hole in my heart and a vein going in the wrong direction) that wasn't diagnosed or corrected until 2002 when I was 33 years old.  Seems that my corrective surgery may have failed since cells have a memory. I am a Christian in case you haven't figured that out yet. I serve a mighty God who I believe has healed my Holy heart. I am confident that God has a plan. Which is a fabulous thing because I don't have much of one.
I thought I had some plans. I was going to record me reading some books for my children, write some letters to them, record some video and create some great memories in case we discover that my life maybe shorter than we thought. Since I am not having any surgery or invasive testing done I put it all off. Heck I lived for 33 years with a gaping hole, so what is a few more months or so.

Open Heart Surgery to correct a defect isn't the big deal it used to be, but I have some co-morbidity issues and had some complications before. I am the less than 1%.  No worries, it is all in God's hands.

So I have a bit of a bucket list that I have been ignoring. I do say though that I have a peace about it. I have had challenges in life and this is just one more that I can face with the joy of the Lord. I figure we are all on borrowed time. Whatever I do have in place now will just have to do. Yes, I have a document labeled, "Leslie's Funeral Plan," on my computer to try and help my family get through it all confident that many decisions are already made for them.

I did follow through on one or two bucket list items. We are scheduled to have our family portraits taken tomorrow. We will have all four of us together in one place for photos.

We are going to take the girls to Disneyland while we are in California. I think it will be a great opportunity to create some great memories. I just have to remember to have pictures taken of me in them. I am the picture taker in the family so I tend to be missing in many of the events in our life. I can't blame anyone but myself for that. I don't like pictures that are blurry, off center, or have peoples eyes closed so I am a bit of a control freak with the camera. I don't take great pictures and I myself don't  photograph well. Sure the weight doesn't help, but I have a bit of a lazy eye, well really a lazy eyelid that droops, uneven eyebrows (thanks to a Merle Norman incident), I have scars, and now wrinkles. I don't particularly like how I detract from my beautiful family.  I do realize that most of my family and friends don't see those things so I have to get over myself and have the pictures taken.  

I have to remind myself of Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

However, photographs serve as reminders too of my disobedience.
1 Cor 6:19-20 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

Romans 12:1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

Anywho, I am a work in progress. I do try and I think that is all that God asks. So off to UCLA I go to at least deal with the exercise aspect of my efforts. Once I am cleared for aerobic exercise I will have no excuse. My holy heart can only get me so far, eventually my stubborn willful addicted brain has to join the fight too.

Oh, I am going to tweet my adventure. Follow me: ruready1st

Let me leave you with my favorite blessing:
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26