Good Sunday morning to you 🙂 As I reread my last post, I realized this update was way overdue but in all honesty we have been playing the waiting game. We met with the open heart surgeon in Springfield back in December. He was a REALLY nice doc with great personality & knowledge. If there had been no other option, Richard would have been happy for him to fix his heart. HOWEVER another option is available and so the doctor we saw the day after referred us to Cleveland Clinic, Ohio.
Christmas and New Year slowed the process down as the surgeon up there was on holiday etc. We finally got a call 2 weeks ago tomorrow from his nurse who talked everything through with us. Surgery was scheduled right then for Feb 1st. Reality truly began to hit and the countdown began. A LOT to get organized before we leave.
Cleveland (800 miles away) is the #1 heart hospital in the nation. They perform a LOT of these surgeries. We leave here (Branson) this Thursday. We are going to take 4 days to get there as we are going to be pulling our rig and due to the time of year, there are not many campgrounds open between here & there, not to mention we don’t want to be pulling in in the dark! First stop on Thursday as we pull out will be Discount Tires. The truck had new tires put on in November but whilst the camper tires do not have many miles on them, they have been sat pretty much since COVID so are not safe to drive a long journey on. The Lord has truly been going before us on this journey. One morning we were praying for the money to come in for the tires and that afternoon someone, who had NO idea what we had prayed nor that we needed tires, handed us a wad of cash to cover the cost of the tires!
As I researched campgrounds in Cleveland I discovered they were ALL closed! (Not surprising seeing as Cleveland is up on Lake Erie!) The same day, a friend of ours who knew what was going on told Richard of a church up there that had a summer camp. Dave is a missionary who has traveled around the US doing kid’s summer camps. This camp has one plug in for an RV/Fifth wheel etc. and Dave had actually stayed there last summer so has provided us a map of how to pull in etc. He called the pastor to ask if we could stay there and we can stay there as long as needed FREE of CHARGE! What a blessing!
Giving ourselves a day’s grace in case of weather etc. we plan to arrive in Cleveland next Sunday, Jan 28th. Monday will be a day off and then we have to be at the clinic by 7:45am on the Tuesday. They want to repeat some of the tests for their own records, which is understandable as it has been a couple months since the others were done. We then meet with the surgeon and anesthetist on Wednesday. Surgery is on Thursday. The plan is for minimally invasive (3-4 inch incision) where they will go in and repair the valve. Richard will be in ICU for 24-48 hours, total stay of about 5 days in the hospital. Once discharged, we have to stay up there for another 3 days before going back for a follow up appointment. After that we will be allowed to travel home so should be back here by Valentine’s Day.
The store will stay open whilst we are gone. Daniel will be there full-time. Michelle has taken time off so she can work 3 full days and Abby will be there her usual 2 days. Sue will continue to keep our shelves looking fresh and enticing 🙂 We are staying closed on Wednesdays for January & February and of course, are always closed on Sundays.
Richard has been doing REALLY well. He has lost a LOT of weight (deliberately). He has gradually been able to decrease some of the medications so the side affects are not as bad as they were at the beginning. Obviously he is not able to do his paramedic job but he has been coming down to the store 2-3 days a week just to help out for a few hours. He has also been able to keep up with computer work and the IT work on park. Due to this, he has actually been learning a new computer language! Exercise is very limited as he cannot walk up hills or for any long length of time but he has found that he feels much better if he stays active so even at home he gets up and walks around frequently. Hovis (parrot) will also “yell” at him if she wants to go out. She will keep talking (distracting him) until he takes her outside!
Life has definitely changed but in many ways, for the better. We are spending more time together and plan to do a LOT more exercising once he is able to start building up his strength again. Whilst exercise will be an option, the only good option will be to do it! Heart failure patients HAVE to keep moving. The open heart surgeon told us that he expects Richard’s heart ejection fraction will drop to 30% after surgery (At 60% when he had the last test done), but will heal given time. He showed us the live ultrasound of the regurgitation that is happening. One side of the valve is pretty much useless right now and there is a LOT of blood going back up the wrong way. Richard can actually feel it, but seeing it (like when you are pregnant and see your unborn baby moving around) really made it VERY real!
Throughout all this we have been SO SO blessed! Yes, we know this journey is not over but we are coming through victorious. We are SO thankful for our kids and staff who will keep the store running whilst we are gone. The timing has been perfect. The weather for the last 2 weeks, including tomorrow, has been FRIGID, icy & snowy. It would NOT have been a good time to travel. After tomorrow, the temps are supposed to rise into the 40’s and stay there. Hovis and Caleb are coming with us.
Thank you for your continued thoughts & prayers. We TRULY appreciate them.