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The Void of an Earthly Father

I am a couple of days removed from my three-year anniversary of my surgery. Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with that “loss” feeling of growing up without a father. One of the more difficult struggles of my surgery and recovery was not having a dad around for me. This has also been one of the harder struggles to explain to people. I guess I have come to the conclusion that unless you have had a near-death experience and had to go through that without a father, it would be hard to understand.

I have been able to “Stuff” this issue for a long time, but while I was waking up from my surgery, and everything was coming into focus around me, not having a dad standing over my bed really hit me hard. How I longed for a sentence at that moment that started with “Son……”

There have been many times in the last thirty-six months that I have longed to place a phone call, hear a “father” pick up on the other end, and get to start the conversation off with “Dad, I need to talk”. I don’t have that and it hurts. I am not sure why it hurts more this anniversary than the past couple, but it does, and I am sharing this hurt.

Words cannot explain how thankful I am for the spouse that God has placed by my side and for the children that I have been given. Without them I would be lost.

Proverbs 31:26-31 (NLT):

26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

 

– Walt

 

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Three Years!?

_MG_1622Today as I reflect on another year removed from my aortic dissection, I am amazed at how quickly the last twelve months have passed by. This past year was not without its physical difficulties, but I am continuing to improve as each month passes by.

Statistics show that chances of an aortic dissection re-occurring is highest in the first 2-3 years. There is some relief that I have moved out of that time frame. My situation is unique as a tear still exists on my aorta, but I am continuing to trust the Lord during the times that I fall into a worrying mindset. I am thankful that during my last check up a few months ago, the existing tear has not increased and remains stable. My aortic valve continues to leak, but that, too, has not worsened.

One of my biggest struggles is the discipline of remaining under my life long ban of not lifting more than thirty pounds, along with not participating in any over strenuous physical activity. It is not easy!

As I reflect on the night of October 8th, 2010, I am surprised at how vivid the details remain and that it still doesn’t seem very long ago. I continue to have frequent night terrors and struggle with the inability to sleep, but I am trying the best that I can to accept this as the new normal, and focus on the things that I am still able to do.

Frequently I am asked how I can be prayed for, and I appreciate knowing that there are many people who are aware of my daily health struggles and lift them up to the Lord.

Even though I struggle with all that has happened to me, I am thankful for the opportunities to give the credit to Jesus.

As my recovery continues, I am thankful for each day with my family that God allows me to have.

 

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You’re my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my Portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus You’re all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands.

 

– Walt

Two Years?

Today was the two-year anniversary of my aortic dissection, or what I like to call “My Miracle”. As this particular October the 8th approached, I am surprised at how emotional I am. I deal with some form of ailment each and every day, so to me it doesn’t seem like two years. There are times that it seems like a couple of months. As I reflect on another year of limping through life, I give praise to God each day for the extra time that He has given me. I don’t handle things correctly from time to time, but I know that when I cry out to God He will hear me.

Something that I have put more of a priority on since that day in 2010, is appreciating the time I have with Sarah, Gabe and Hope. We all are aware that we could die at any moment, but I doubt that my kids thought that when they went to bed on the evening of October 8th, 2010, they may never see their dad again.

Something that I cherish above all else as a result of my near death experience is my close relationship with God. I came close to having the privilege of being in His presence and getting to see my Grandma Hill again, but God had other plans, and I need to accept that He knows best.

Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thank you to the friends and family that have been with me from the day this all happened. I have gained new friends through this experience, and have become more close to others. I have not been easy to get along with due to my many ailments and bouts of depression, but the Lord has certainly sent some people my way that continue to be an encouragement to me on a weekly basis. October 8th will always be a day that I will look back on a relive some of the trauma that I went through, but I know that I have special people around me to support and pray for me.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

– Walt

A Treasure in a Jar of Clay

Today I made a trip to the U of M Cardiovascular hospital. It seems that no matter what intentions I have of leaving an appointment encouraged, it always ends up being a discouragement. Today I did not receive any terrible news, but as I sat waiting to see my cardiologist, I could not help but realize that this is now my life for as long as I live. Daily reminders of what happened nearly two years ago, physical restrictions that can be frustrating and periodic trips to the hospital for checkups.

My cardiologist said that my aortic valve may be leaking a bit more than it has in the past. I return in six months for blood work, echo cardiogram and a CAT scan. These tests will reveal the condition of my aorta, heart and valve. In the mean time, I have an appointment with my electrophysiologist in a couple of weeks to discuss the next steps in eliminating my heart palpitations if at all possible. I also need to keep exercising and try to take care of myself that best way that I can.

There is never a day without symptoms. Some days are downright debilitating. Then there are days that I wish it was all over and I didn’t have to go through the pain any longer. I have been trying so hard to verbally be more positive when talking about how I feel, and then there are days that I just lie about how I feel so I don’t have to be a Debbie Downer.

Recently there have been days that I look at my wife, daughter and son and how much joy I have had in the last several months spending time with them. There are times that I am overcome with emotions when I think about how close my family came to not having a husband or daddy around. I can relate to not having a father in my life, but I didn’t lose mine in a tragic accident. I am thankful that God spared my children the pain of losing a father.

I will be thankful for the extra time that God has given me. I recommend that you do the same.

A friend of mine sent this verse to me just a little while ago. It was an encouragement to me, and I am continually thankful for the friends that won’t let me drown in despair.

 

2 Corinthians 4: 7-9:

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

 

 

Hope or Despair

Hope “Is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life”.

While my health continues to be a parachute that is constantly dragging me down, I have felt “off” in many ways over the course of the last several weeks. I have been asking the Lord if he could please enlighten me to what is causing this feeling. An answer has not been given until today. The word that kept popping into my head was “Despair”. When that word comes to mind, I quickly shake it off as something that is too intense to describe my “feeling”.

Today I received my answer with help from a letter from the folks at Ransomed Heart Ministries. In the letter, John Eldredge talks about how he has recently been in need of hope. As soon as I read this portion of the letter, I quickly looked up the definition of “Hope” which I included in the first paragraph.

What grabbed my attention though was the word that is considered the opposite of Hope —- Despair. What is Despair? When you click on the word “Despair” in Wikipedia it links you to the definition of “Depression”. The actual definition of depression is not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was these sentences; “Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It is a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, and a side effect of some medical treatments”.

Thanks to John’s letter, I was reminded that my God is greater than all of this! Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

I will be spending some quiet time with God and listen for how he can fill me with the hope that I so desperately need.

Many have asked me how I am doing on the new medication that is being used to treat my migraines and subsequent symptoms. I started round one of my dosage on Thursday, May 10th. The four days that followed were awful!  I was tired all the time, sluggish and extremely irritable. By Tuesday, May 15th I started to feel a little bit better, and as each day passed, I continued to improve. I can tell that some of the medication side effects will continue to stay with me. This coming Thursday, May 24th, I start what I am referring to as round two, which is an increase in dosage. Two weeks after this, I will begin round three of yet another increase in dosage. I am praying that the result of each dosage increase is not the same as the beginning of the treatment.

While I am very thankful that I am not currently suffering from the migraines, I am still fighting off discouragement of being told that nothing can be done at the present time with my PVC’s. The PVC’s (extra heart-beats) continue to be a daily battle for me, and keep me from ever having a restful night’s sleep.

I appreciate those that ask how they can specifically pray for me. I am forever grateful that I have so many that ask me this question. I do not take it for granted. A swift answer always comes to mind. Please pray that 1) I can avoid the overwhelming discouragement that takes me into its grip often, and strangles me until I cannot breathe and 2) That I will adjust to the new medication and continue to avoid the migraine and symptoms that come with those.

Yesterday, May 21st I celebrated, along with Sarah, eighteen years of marriage together. The Lord has given me a wife that has taken the commitment “Through sickness and through health” to a whole new level. This past year has been more difficult than the first seventeen years combined, but I know God has a plan, and we have become more trusting and reliant on him than ever. We are thankful for this lesson that we have learned and continue to learn.

 

Neurology Report

During my last appointment with my cardiologist, the doctor recommended me to an in-house neurologist to consult with about my ongoing migraine symptoms. My appointment was set for March 19th.

The Neurologist, referred to as Dr. Z, was very kind and thorough. He asked a lot of questions before providing feedback. The symptoms that I am having which include flashing prisms, ringing in my ears, partial blindness and headaches are undoubtedly related to the dissection.

The symptoms that I am experiencing started within weeks after my open-heart surgery, and it was suggested that I see an ophthalmologist for an examination and MRI. Dr. Z requested to look over that MRI and decide whether or not he wanted to order his own MRI.

Soon after my appointment with Dr. Z, I was scheduled for an MRI at U of M Hospital.

On May 7th, Dr. Z called me with the discouraging news that the MRI had shown that I had two vessels that had been bleeding in my brain at some point and would need to be monitored. Most than likely this was caused by the dissection and/or the open-heart surgery. It is difficult for the doctors to make all the connections between the bleeding vessels, migraine symptoms and PVC’s, but I am quite sure that the dissection not only broke a lot of parts within me, but that all of these broken pieces have yet to be found.

Dr. Z spoke to me about an additional medication that he wanted to try that may help to limit the occurrences of my migraines. I am currently taking a medication at the onset of the symptoms, but told the doctor that I am more than willing to try anything in order to limit the occurrences. Dr. Z stated that he would first consult with my cardiologist and electrophysiologist prior to placing me on an additional medication.

A couple of days later I received another call from the neurologist. After speaking with my other doctors, it was determined that the heart ablation that was soon to be scheduled would be unsafe. During and possibly after the ablation, blood thinners are administered. Because of the bleeding vessels, utilizing the blood thinners could lead to death. I was now faced with the reality that my life could have been spared by finding these trouble spots in my brain, yet I am now unable to move forward with the heart ablation and will have to live with the extra heartbeats that are limiting my capacity to function comfortably throughout each day.

In addition to reducing my aspirin dosage, I am now on the preventative medication in hopes that it will limit the symptoms of my migraines.

The last several months have been exhausting with an ever-increasing amount of tests and discouragement. I am currently faced with an ever-increasing list of residual effects of the dissection. This list includes a leaky aortic valve, a left over tear in my aorta, PVC’s that consist of over  fifty-percent of my heart beats, a couple of trouble spots in the brain and migraine symptoms that plague me nearly each day.

While I am forever thankful to the doctors that had a hand in sparing my life a year and a half ago, there are many days that I yearn for that perfect body that I will have when I am in the presence of the Lord.

God has surrounded me with friends that check on me nearly each day, and He has also gathered a small army of those that pray for me often.

My next scheduled appointment is with my cardiologist on August 29th. I am praying that no further complications present themselves prior to this date so that I will have a small break from medical appointments.

 

II Corinthians 5:1-4:

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! (The Message)

 

 

I apologize for not updating more often. I know that there are many out there that are holding me up in prayer, and would like to know the latest information on my condition.

When I left off on March 7th, I had an appointment the following day with my electrophysiologist. During this appointment it was determined that the best course of action would be to have the heart ablation procedure. This was not the news that I was hoping for, yet I was desperate for anything that would relieve me of my constant PVC’s. The electrophysiologist informed me that the damaged/scarring area of the heart was most than likely the primary area where the PVC’s were originating from.

This area will be the focus during the ablation. Unfortunately, this is also an area that contains the most electrical workings of the heart so it could be tricky. If the electrophysiologist nicks any of these electrical areas, there is a decent possibility that I could wake up with a pace maker. The electrophysiologist also wanted me to undergo a cardiac MRI and a heart catheterization prior to the ablation in order to provide a road map for the surgery. I was discouraged as I was not looking forward to adding two additional procedures onto my already growing medical file.

I was informed that I would receive a phone call in the next few days to schedule the cardiac MRI, heart catheterization and ablation.

Within days, I was schedule for the cardiac MRI which would take place on March 23rd, and a heart catheterization. The heart cath was scheduled for March 26th. The ablation was tentatively set for April 16th pending the outcome of the MRI and cath procedures.

On March 23rd, I arrived at U of M Hospital for my cardiac MRI. I was not sure what to expect, but after two grueling hours in a tiny confined area, and having to do over one hundred breath holds I walked away exhausted and extremely discouraged. I also knew that within forty-eight hours I would be undergoing my heart catheterization.

The heart cath procedure itself was bearable, but for me the recovery was horrific. A lot of it had to do with the discouragement of going through yet another procedure with very little break in between. It has only been eighteen months since my aortic dissection, but because of all the ongoing complications from the dissection and the non-ending tests, it continues to seem like the open-heart surgery was just recently.

I realize that I fall into a less than five percent category of those that survive what I went through, and I am continually reminded of the miracle that God has accomplished in my life, yet I was unprepared for the reality that although I was spared, the dissection broke many parts and caused a lot of collateral damages that I will have to battle for the rest of my life.

As April 16th continued to draw closer, I was dreading going through another procedure. The week prior to the ablation, I received a call from my electrophysiologist office. The results from the heart cath did not satisfy the assurances that the doctors were looking for in order to safely continue forward with the ablation. My electrophysiologist needs to consult more thoroughly with the heart cath doctors before moving forward with the ablation. As it stands today, I am still waiting for confirmation on whether or not the doctors can safely move forward with the ablation.

While all of the testing and procedures were going on, I had to meet with a neurologist concerning my ongoing battle with migraines. I will be writing in the next couple of days about those appointments and the discouraging results.

I have ended many of my blogs thanking those that continue to reach out to me and encourage me with prayer. I would like to continue that practice as it means more to me that words can express.

 

 

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