Friday, March 31, 2006

So, Here's What Happened...Part 2

I finally got home to Houston and my mom and both took me to the doctor that the majority of my family uses. He used to be a family practitioner, but now is an OB-GYN. Of course, we still use him for everything. So we went to this doctor, and HE IS A GENUIS. One of the first things he did was get on his cell-phone and directly call a cardiologist friend of his on his personal cell. He arranged for me to drive directly over to his office for an immediate echocardiogram and an EKG. Keep in mind that up to this point, nobody had any kind of clue that my heart was even involved. At the cardiologist office, we discovered that I had pericardial effusion, which is when there is fluid built up in the sac around the heart. I was told that we would treat this through medicine and to go home while they processed some of the blood work they had done. So, I went home to rest. It was that very afternoon that I had the most unbearable chest pain. It was just like the kind you see on TV, where the 80 year old man clutches his left arm and falls on the floor in utter agony. Yup. It was just like that. I was laying there crying out loud and heaving. My dad was upstairs and says that he thought I was laughing or something. He came downstairs to check on me, and man, you should have seen the look on his face. I feel so bad for my parents. I scared the daylights out of them. Haven’t they been through enough? Really! My dad immediately called my mom and the next thing I know I am at the Sugar Land Methodist Emergency Room.

It was here that I met my Cardiologist. Here is another one of those things that shows just how much God is in control. My doctor just happened to be and the Sugar Land ER at that time. He does have a rotation there, but he primarily works at the Main Methodist Hospital at the medical center. . He is the son of one of the three top doctors associated with the DeBakey Heart Institute and is known for being just as smart, intuitive, and kind-hearted as his father. Everyone who heard who my admitting physician was, always would tell me how lucky I was to have gotten him. Of course, we all know that luck had nothing to do with it. It was definitely God’s favor. Dr. Raizner has done a fantastic job taking care of me, I am very pleased with the care I have received. He was the one who realized the extent of my condition, and recommended that I be admitted and transferred to Main Methodist Hospital, which one of the TOP hospitals in the nation.

You know what this means, don’t you? It means an AMBULANCE RIDE!!!
Keep checking posts for my First Ambulance Adventure!

My Own Bed

So, I have been sleeping upstairs the last few nights. I still camp out downstairs during the day, but I wanted to start sleeping in my own bed. It works out pretty well because by the time I get to the top of the stairs, I am exhausted and fall straight to sleep. Yay for my bed!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Best Weekend Ever!!!

This post is dedicated to Lauryn Pritchard!!! Thanks for the best weekend ever!!!

One of my best friends from Harding came down to visit me for the weekend. We met at the JFK Airport in New York, and ended up being potluck roommates for our semester abroad in Greece. Ever since then, we have been super close.

This weekend was awesome because I had a whole lot of fun and finally began to feel like a semi-normal person again. Well, as normal as one can feel riding around Target in an electric wheelchair that sounds like an 18-wheeler backing up. :) Yes, I went out in public this weekend!!! Hooray! It was physically tiring even though I didn’t do much, but emotionally it felt SOOOOO GOOOD!!! It’s funny how you take so many things for granted. Something as simple as going out in public is so exciting!!!

I am now resting at home from my busy weekend, but I am definitely feeling great! Thanks to a great friend who knows exactly how to cheer me up! Yay for ghetto nails, tenderloin, brown eyes, and loft apartments!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shoutout to the Armenians

Parev tsez! Eench bes eck? Lav eck? Yes goozem eem hye paregam ner yev eenger nereen uhsem PAREV yev yes tsez shad guh seerem!

Ha! Don't you wish you knew what that said!?! It's secret! I'll never tell you, white people! Hee Hee! :)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's Wrong With Sevahn?

It just occurred to me that I never did say what they know that I do have for sure. I had severe PERICARDITIS. (Something they don’t see happen randomly to healthy 21-year-old girls too often, hence the bestowing of the title “medical anomaly.”)

Pericarditis is when too much fluid collects around the heart and causes severe inflammation and pain. Normal people have about 40 cc (1-2 oz.) in their pericardium…I managed to have about 400 cc (about ½ a liter) and then drain at least an additional 400 cc from the tubes they inserted in surgery. If Pericarditis goes untreated it can lead to heart failure, which is really close to where I was. It puts the heart under tremendous pressure. Mine was beating at around 140 bpm and not very efficiently. My blood pressure also kept dropping dangerously low. At first the doctors wanted to try and reduce the fluid through medicine, specifically steroids. After about a week in the hospital, they saw that the fluid was actually increasing rapidly and becoming fibrous, so the only option was…[cue dramatic music]…HEART SURGERY!!! The doctor literally walked in and said, “You have to have heart surgery tomorrow morning, we can’t wait.” Come to find out that if we had waited any longer to do the surgery, it may have been too late. But not to worry, because God is always looking out for me! He is so good! :) Despite the rumors, no, it was not open heart surgery. There was no bone broken at all. They did it through the cartilage below the sternum. The surgery they did is called a “Pericardial Centesis” and they inserted a “pericardial window” and took a biopsy of my pericardium. They make a 5 inch incision in your chest and insert a rubber tube that comes out below the incision. I literally have an exclamation mark scar on my chest now…it’s pretty sweet!
Anyways, I had a rubber tube coming out of my chest collecting my “heart juice” for about 8 days after surgery. The point is to create a drain to reduce the amount of fluid that is collecting around the heart. Now I am on some serious amounts of steroids, along with lot of other junk, for the next couple months which basically help control the fluid buildup. For anyone who has ever had to take steroids (legally, I mean) YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THEY SUCK! They really screw your body up. But it’s either feel crappy from the medicine or heart failure, I think I’ll take my chances with the meds.

So what do I do now? Well, according to the doctors, I was severely sick and my body had a lot of trauma, and it will take a long time for me to recover completely. But it is better to slowly and completely recover, than to try to do too much and relapse, so…I have been instructed to stay home the rest of the semester and devote myself to absolutely nothing but recovery. Yay! I am actually excited about this. A girl knows how much she can take, and let me tell you, there is no way I could go back to school. I am to cut all stress out of my life and just focus on controlling the side effects of the drugs and slowing gaining my strength back. I am thinking that pretty soon, I won’t even need a walker. I am giving myself about 1-2 weeks and then I really do think I will be walker free! Here’s hoping!

So, ultimately there are two options of what is really wrong with me:
Option 1: I have some kind of Auto-Immune Disease or Rhuematological disorder, which is the true cause of the Pericarditis and inflammation. The Pericarditis is just a reaction to that. If it is this option, I may have a disease that won’t go away, but not to worry because with the proper care, the symptoms are all controllable. People can live full and happy lives with these things. It just takes an entire lifetime devoted to taking care of your body.
Option 2: I had Severe Viral Pericarditis. This is the better of the two options, because if it really was some random virus that attacked my heart, it can heal and won’t necessarily recur. I will recover 100%.

Let us all be praying that I am dealing with Option 2! I have a great feeling that I am. God can heal anyone from anything. We all saw what happened with Anaheed. He can completely wipe away whatever I have. Who knows!

They have done tons of testing and will continue to do so, and so far I am coming up with mixed results. When they first started testing for the auto-immune disorders, I was coming up positive. As they continued with much more complex and specific tests, the results came out negative. I confused them yet again. The doctors kept saying that this was really odd. They don’t understand. But I know what happened. All this time that I am in the hospital, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN PRAYING. If you don’t believe in the power of prayer…well, let me tell you something…IT WORKS! My entire family, entire church, entire Harding campus, all my friends, and all my friend’s friends, and all my parent’s friend’s friends were praying.
I mean, seriously, how do you explain that I started out testing positive, then all of a sudden the tests started coming out negative!?! GOD!!! Isn’t He amazing?!? Yes! Yes He is! And the truth is that even if it isn’t viral and it doesn’t go away. He is still amazing. No matter what happens. Even if it does end up being something much more serious, even if I have to deal with problems the rest of my life, God is still amazing. My family and I will always feel this way. Without a doubt. No matter what! :)

First Follow-Up

I just got back from my first follow-up doctor visit today. I went to my cardiologist and had more blood drawn and testing done. They did another EKG and a heart ultrasound. The truth is that there is really still no update. They are just monitoring me at this point. I have millions of more doctor appointments set up and tons of drugs to take, so right now we just have to see what happens. So far, things are on track...well, as on track as they can be considering that we still don't know what is going on. The good news is that I am feeling a little better and getting a little stronger everyday, Praise God!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Airline Testimony

I started feeling really bad, really fast. I called my parents and of course they insisted I come home right away. My dad immediately bought me a plane ticket for early the next morning with Continental Airlines. Houston is about an 8-9 hour drive from Harding. I couldn’t even sit up in a chair for 5 minutes much less sit in a car for that long, and I surely couldn’t drive. I generally fly Continental Airlines when I can because it is a non-stop, one hour flight. We made all the proper arrangements, and everything seemed to be in order. All I had to do was survive through the night.

I didn’t sleep at all that night because I was in intense pain. I just dealt with the pain instead of going to the ER, purely because I knew I would be home the next morning. I knew my parents could take me to some real doctors and I was pretty fed up with Arkansas docs at the time. Finally, it was morning, and the phone rang. My dad called to tell me that all flights to Houston Intercontinental had been canceled due to fog, but that he arranged another flight with another airline because we both knew there was no way I would last another day here and I was definitely too weak to try for stand-by. My dad found a flight with Southwest Airlines that had only one stop in Dallas and no plane change that left that very morning. It ended up being cheaper than the Continental flight, there was no assigned seating and I somehow ended up being the first person on the plane, I sat in a front seat with extra leg room, and fell directly asleep for the next 2 hours. All these things I totally attribute to God watching out for me. The most awesome part is that the Southwest flight took me to Hobby Airport. What difference does that make, you may be wondering…well, it made all the difference in the world.

The fog that I thought was a terrible inconvenience, forced us to find an alternate flight, that forced me into another airport. I don’t know if you remember but on February 22, 2006 there was a security breach at Houston Intercontinental and all of Terminal B, the terminal I was supposed to be arriving at, was evacuated and people were standing outside for hours that day. I know that I would not have had the strength make it.
Looking back, I can see that God was totally in control. A situation that started out being absolutely terrible, ending up helping me tremendously. Just think how easy it would have been to be angry and have the attitude of “Why is God doing this to me?…Why fog? Why now? Why today?” I think that sometimes, actually most of the time, we can’t see the bigger picture, and what we can see seems like it is random cruelty from God. But we must remember it never is. We have to remember that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. We must persevere as Job did. We must trust Him. If we do, he will go so far as to make even the littlest details work out.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Doctor Visit from Hell

I talked about how my roommate skipped her classes to take me to the doctor in an earlier post. This was the doctor visit from hell. The one where I blanked out for about 2 hours. I came to, in the middle of the nurse taking my blood pressure and saying it was too high. I came to, just in time for the doctor to come in with a prescription for anti-depressants. This MORON had the nerve to tell me that he thought I was depressed. So, naturally, I told him he was totally wrong and that he didn't know what he was talking about. Being that I am majoring in the medical field and minoring in psychology, I have taken enough classes to know that I was NOT depressed. I WAS SICK! I didn’t know what I was sick with, but I knew things were not well. And if I was bummed out, it would be because I had been feeling like crap for 2 months straight. Granted, I have no idea, what I said to him in my "unconscious" state, but still...I did tell him that I had been unconscious in his very office, but he didn't seem to think that this was relevant. You should have seen the look on his face. He looked shocked that a patient would defy him, and even more shocked that the patient knew the names and types of drugs he was recommending, the symptoms they were supposed to treat, and was in a bad enough mood, to point out to him that this was a ridiculous prescription. HAHA. Before you go feeling sorry for this should know something. When I rejected the antidepressants, he prescribed me sleeping pills. Harmless sleeping pills, right?

When I mentioned this to the doctors in ICU, they were furious. According to them, if I had taken even one of those sleeping pills that night, I would be dead. It is so weird to type those words. I would be dead. Praise be to God, though. He is my protector. I know He is the one who guided me, and gave me the insight to reject antidepressants and sleeping pills. Obviously, the Arkansas doctor didn't know about the massive amounts of fluids around my heart (or the fact that it was beating at about 140 beats per minute which is way above the average). He didn't realize that the pill would have put even more strain on my heart, and it would have probably stopped it in my sleep.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a word of caution to all: Be your own caretaker and take responsibility for yourself. Just because someone has an M.D. does not make them a smart person. There are so many talented and wonderful doctors out there, but there are just as many idiots out there too. Please do your own research! Check out WebMD. I did, and it helped me immensely. I almost self-diagnosed just from doing my own research online. It helps when you can go to the doctor and have ideas to bring to them. They are people too, and can just as easily make mistakes. Please, please, please take the initiative to teach yourself things. It will make such a difference in how you are treated by the doctors and nurses and also in the care you receive.

Another word of caution: Be careful with what drugs you take. Just because a doctor prescribes it, does not mean you need it. Some doctors will give you drugs just to keep you quiet. Some do it for promotional reasons and benefits for themselves. There are alot of drug companies out there just to make money. Don't get me wrong...I am NOT anti-drugs. I believe that God has blessed us with the knowledge and science and means of producing these things to help make lives better. However, like all things, drugs can be abused. Particularly things like anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I wonder what the world would be like if less people depended on pills and more people cast their worries and burdens and cares on Jesus. I personally think it would be a whole lot better.

So, Here's What Happened...

It was the week between Christmas and New Year's that I started feeling sick. I thought it was just a typical cold, you know, just the normal old sickness that goes away in a week or so. Except that it never did go away. I have been consistently ill since then...the entire year of 2006.

My symptoms presented as asthma/flu-like symptoms. Over the course of the next three months, my symptoms changed and progressed. I had difficulty lungs actually hurt. Then, I started getting muscle spasms and twitches. I started experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, and couldn't do even the simplest things. Walking up the stairs absolutely wore me out. The weird thing was, that I had never in my life experienced anything like that. Throughout all this, I went to 5 different doctors. They did blood tests and chest x-rays. They told me that all the back pain was probably because I bruised a rib or pulled a muscle from all the coughing. They gave me painkillers and muscle relaxers and told me to wait it out. So I did. At one point, my parents even flew me down to Houston to see my own doctor, who said the same thing, so I went back to school. With the meds, I started to feel a little better, but I knew I still wasn't 100%. About one week after I came back to Harding, the muscle and back pain got unbearable. I couldn't go to class, I could barely make it from the living room to my bedroom. My wonderful roommate took such good care of me. [I love you Amber!]

That very day I started experiencing chest pain. Yes, chest pain. My right arm and leg went numb. My fingers developed splinter hemorrhages within a day, and became increasingly painful. That's when I knew that I did not have asthma or a bruised rib and that I couldn't wait another minute. Whatever it was, was serious. My roomate skipped her classes to take me to another doctor. It was at this doctor office that I blanked out, for the first time in my life. I cannot remember what happened in the next two hours. My roomate said that I became extremely incoherent and couldn't remember where I was or why I was there. I have NEVER in my life not had complete control of my mind. That alone was a scary experience. I called my parents, who insisted that I fly home right away. My dad bought me a flight for early the next morning. Keep reading the posts for the "Airline Testimony".

Finally I made it home...the rest of the story to be continued later...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Have A Walker!

I have been home for a couple of days now...and I am feeling pretty good.

It's truly humbling to go from being an independent college student, who had the next 5 years planned out, to becoming someone who can't even sit up in bed alone and has no idea what the next week holds. I am totally dependent on my family for physical support. We are all totally dependent on God for emotional support. I have complete faith that He is in control. And that is what gives me strength and joy everyday. Our spirits are high because we have God in our lives and we know that everything is going to be perfect, because He is perfect. I don't know what will happen, but I pray that His Will be done. As long as it is in God's Will, things will be good! I truly believe that. That is why I can laugh and joke and truly be happy, throughout this whole ordeal. The joy that God gives you in hard times, when the world tells you that your situation sucks (which it does), and the peace that passes all understanding is amazing and truly miraculous. God is soooooo good!

- Phillipians 4:7 -
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I am happy to report, however, that I am getting stronger everyday!!! I am now strong enough to get up and walk around without help. By walk around I mean that I can move from the couch in the living room, where I now permanently reside because I have yet to master the stairs, to the guest bathroom...all on my own! Hooray! I can't go very far without becoming exhausted, but I still feel like I accomplish more everyday. Things are going well. Praise God!

Ooo! Guess what? I have my very own walker! How cool is that! I'm just like that old man on Family Guy. All I need are some tennis balls to put on it. That would be sweet. You know what else is sweet? I have a nurse that comes to MY house to check on me! I am kinda enjoying this being waited on hand and foot stuff. If you gotta be sick, might as well go all the way, right? [note sarcasm] Seriously though, I would give up all the attention and service in a heartbeat... [heartbeat? get it? because my heart is the thing that is messed up and i had heart surgery and stuff...hahahahaha...sigh] We can all blame the meds. Anyways...

A lot of people are still confused as to what is going on, and to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure either. I am still awaiting a diagnosis, and will still be getting more testing done. I have the first of a series of different doctor appointments on Tuesday, so hopefully that will prove informative. But seriously, don't hold your breath. Don't worry, though, I will be sure to update you when I learn more. I will also be posting the events that took place in the hospital. Apparently, people want to know all the awesome details. And as an added bonus I have some pretty awesome pictures!

Until then...Have a super day!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Hey Everybody, 4 days in ICU, one heart surgery, and a total of 15 days later...I am HOME from the hospital!!! Let me tell is sooooooooo good to be home! I was severly ill with some kind of mystery illness (and they still don't know what is wrong...I have been declared a medical anomaly...yes!) I am at home recovering and continuously seeing doctors and being tested. It's going to take a while to heal, but God is so good and He gives me strength every day! I trust Him completely and know that He has awesome plans for me (Jer. 29:11). He is healing me! I just want to thank everyone for the calls, emails, concern, and most importantly the PRAYERS. Keep em' coming! I love you all!

Since I will be home for the next couple of months recovering, I needed something to keep me occupied. Ron Clarkson geniusly recommended that I start a blog. Thanks Ron! God is working in my life in such a powerful way, and this is a perfect opportunity to share with the world what He is doing.