Monday, June 18, 2012

Trust me, we know.

I always find it entertaining when we meet new doctors and nurses. The same goes for the residents, fellows and interns that follow them around. Kevin's case is for sure an interesting one.

A particular surgeon told me once that Kevin was a "walking miracle." I agreed.

Everyone within the VAD team, Transplant team, nurses, etc, all knew Kevin and his case. Nothing was a surprise. First encounter with meeting a new doctor was just about three or four weeks post transplant. I remember sitting in the room with Kevin, the doctor was reviewing his medical history, asking questions, all the normal stuff. And out of nowhere the doctor looks at Kevin and said "Wow, you were a good save." Insert more doctor asking questions here. He said it again "Wow you were a good save. I mean, a good save, ya know?" YES, we know. Kevin and I joke about this comment all the time....sure it's true but to say it over and over again to the person that was actually saved...really? Trust me, we know.

After the tumor was detected it seemed as if the crowd of doctors, nurses, residents, fellows, and interns got bigger and quieter. Like everyone had to hear what the surgeon was saying. Hanging on their every word, waiting for the next plan of attack.

Kevin had surgery on his left arm a couple of months ago (that's another blog for another day) and during pre-op all the residents, fellows and interns that were on the case were looming around his bed. You could hear them discussing Kevin's we weren't in the room which I loathe... "heart transplant, wow. and a pheo too? what happened to his arm? why is he here?" Some would think they were whispering but we heard every word. Others would approach us with the "wow" kind of questions and their eyes would be lit up like they were five years old and it was Christmas morning.

Just recently a new doctor was in awe of Kevin's case, reviewed the history, and brought us back to the night he had heart failure. She said "I'm surprised they were able to get a balloon pump in you." Insert dumbfounded looks on both our faces here. She continued "Because if they didn't it would've been lights out." Insert uncomfortable laughter here. And then the doctor must've been in serious awe because her next comment was "Wow you received a heart transplant all the while having a pheochromocytoma tumor? Do you know how lucky you are that you didn't crash on the table?" After the doctor left the exam room Kevin and I both looked at each other, full knowing how lucky he was. How lucky we were. How every doctor and nurse that crossed his path had a part in saving his life.

As we approach the one year anniversary of getting the call for a new heart.....every day for us is one more day. One more day of thanks, one more day of love, hugs, kisses, and yes, even the usual wife nagging.  Putting my head on his chest listening to his heart beat on its own.....well, trust me, I know. I also know that this past year, learning to live post transplant, in most ways is like healing. It all takes time.

Thank you once again to our donor family. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you not only saved my husband but you saved my little family of four.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pay it forward

I guess it all stems from my childhood. Remembering the example my parents had set for me, my brother and my sister. My father was a volunteer paramedic with our local first aid squad in addition to being a full time police officer. My mother always donated her time to a variety of charities throughout my childhood. Both of my parents always helped out...whether it was organizing blood drives, raising money for a good cause or a family in need, knitting hats for babies in the NICU, cleaning up local parents always gave back. And brought us as kids with them, teaching us first hand about paying it forward. It was just something they did and continue to do today.

I recently spent a Sunday afternoon with my twin mom friends volunteering at SOVA, a local food pantry that provides free groceries to more than 12,000 individuals each month. We spent the afternoon organizing the food that was donated to SOVA into boxes, preparing them to be shipped or given to any local families that needed help. These local families include parents that don't have jobs, some homeless, families where both parents work but perhaps don't make enough money to put food on the table. You get the idea. We actually boxed over 2000 lbs of food, literally a TON.

The friends I speak of are the same friends that volunteered with me at Operation Gratitude, an organization that ships care packages to the US military deployed in hostile regions. The same friends that gave blood at the Cedars Sinai blood drive I organized almost a year ago, two days post heart transplant for Kevin. The same friends that donated over 250 children's books with me to Cedars Sinai children's ward in honor of the doctors & nurses that saved Kevin's life.

Ya know the drive home from SOVA last week really hit me. Tears running down my face. It got me thinking about when Kevin first came home with the LVAD, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. The first thing we saw when we entered the house was a potted rosemary plant with a piece of paper attached to it that read:

"This is a thanks giving tree - planted and nourished by all of your friends. We are all so thankful for your friendship. Thankful that Kevin is on the mend and home. Thankful for life. Thankful that we can lend a helping hand. This giving tree will continue to bear fruit. You may have already received a few of its fruits in the mail, or delivered to your doorstep, over the past few days. More fruit is on its way. We hope you have a super fantastic Thanksgiving together as a family, under one roof. We love you!"

Attached to the giving tree were about two dozen gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations. And we must've received two dozen more by mail. Kevin and I didn't have to worry about putting food on the table for almost three months. It enabled us to focus on his recovery and discovering our new normal.

So on that drive home from the food pantry last week, it made me realize that my little family of four was on the receiving end of my friends' decision to pay it forward. How unbelievably grateful we were then and how unbelievably grateful we are today.

And again it all stems from my childhood. My parents have influenced me so much that doing the right thing just comes natural. I'm hoping that Kevin and I have the same influence on our boys.

So what does paying it forward have to do with living post transplant? Let's just say it's given me direction.