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I'm baaacck, w/open heart surgery "reasons"

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HELLO AGAIN, EVERYBODY!

I'm not sure any quantity or quality of words or time will ever be able to express my appreciation for ALL of your well wishes, thoughts/prayers.

I'm well, mostly. My 4th open heart surgery (11/11/2011) was successful (my "big heart" is no more)! However, I was taken in for another surgery (evening, 11/12/2011), after I became unresponsive for a time due to internal bleeding around the surgery site.

I still hurt/ache and am cold at times, but I'm coping and TRYING to follow "doctors orders" as MUCH as possible. The pain is more "annoying" than anything. Recovery is going VERY SLOWLY (it seems, since I haven't had energy to DO much), but better to be slow'n'steady than fast'n'crash....

I went outside a few times to walk, late morning/early afternoon, Friday, 11/25/2011. It was nice to get outside in the GORGEOUS NOVEMBER WEATHER, but it also made me jealous of anyone who could drive ... because it would've been an AWESOME day to drive my cars....



POST-SURGERY PARTY
A few people asked if I am doing something special after surgery. Not sure; if so, I'll post details later.


OHS LOG
#1 = 11/1977 ... original pig valve installed (replace pulmonary valve I was born without) @ Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital
#2 = 03/1987 ... replaced original pig valve (growing out of it) @ Chicago's CMH
#3 = 01/06/2003 ... replaced 2nd pig valve (calcified) & original pacemaker installed @ Chicago's CMH, done by Drs Backer & Mavroudis
#4 = 11/11/2011 & 11/12/2011 ... 11/11/2011 edition replaced my "too big" aorta/aortic valve @ Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, done by Dr. Russell ... it was 5.6 at middle; 5.3 at root. It is now 3.6. 11/12/2011 edition was to reopen me to remove/repair bleeding that had caused me to momentarily become unresponsive that evening.


DRIVING ABILITIES
Return in about a month; when they do, only my daily driver 1979 Caprice Classic will come out of storage. My MCs have to wait until spring to be cleaned...and have needed repairs...despite the "driving friendly" weather we've had this November....IRONY ROCKS!

WORK RETURN
Set for 01/06/2012, the 9-year anniversary of my 2003 OHS.


RECOVERY PROJECTS
I haven't done much yet, but I hope to...

...plan my 2012 ROAD TRIP (GA/FL, along east coast & into northern MI) & perhaps a short trip to STL along parts of Route 66.
http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/roadtrips/roadtrips.html
http://picasaweb.google.com/knightfan26917

...WRMN's request from a few weeks ago to host part of their CHRISTMAS EVE RADIO BROADCAST. We'll see if I can get it in the budget in a few weeks....
http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort/radioshows.html

...finish putting my room back together (new carpeting & major re-arranging)

...read new books, etc.

...Nephew Time
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2636914604358.2152622.1300282613&type=1&l=00a2f5dccc

...my route 66 story...NO new chapter YET....
http://whenthegoingisgood.com/category/route66/

...organize a few things a bit better

...visit the groups/message boards, as possible

...misc.



BEST REASONS TO HAVE OHS

* Stay alive

* Unfailing support of family and friends
I doubt I will ever be able to personally thank each of you, or respond to every Email, call, post, PM, etc. Maybe if I had another 100 years....

* Caring healthcare workers
Without the surgeon and a very quick-acting (hot) nurse after I became unresponsive Saturday (11/12/2011) evening, things may be different right now. Luckily, I came to on my own, but without the nurse, who knows.

* 7a and 8a TNT showings of "Charmed"
Why ELSE would you get awake at 4a?

* 3:30p local showing of "Jeopardy!" & 6:30p local showing of "Wheel of Fortune"
Perhaps inspiration for another of my "Jeopardy!" contests; it's been a while. It's nice to see some things don't change.

* Hot female nurses
No joke. If I thought for a second I had a shot with any one of them...oh my goodness...I'd go back to the hospital in a heartbeat. Pun intended.

* Drugs

* Vacation time
Sarcastically added since MOST employers tend to see needed surgery as a way for an employee to take an extended vacation. Thus, they force you to use vacation/sick days before disability benefits kick in. For me, that meant using 5 of my newly-minted 15 vacation days for the October 2011 - September 2012 time period. Oh, fun.



WORST REASONS TO HAVE OHS

* Cheerful early wake up calls
Unless you enjoy being pried from a deep sleep at 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a or 5a (or combo) by an overenthusiastic nurse, with a huge smile on her face, telling you that she needs to take blood and/or give you more drugs. Actually, that doesn't sound all that bad.

* Hospital food
They TELL you that you HAVE to eat in order to be stronger, yet MOST of the food they serve prepares you for the world of dieting. I don't think I finished ANY meal, except for the hot chocolate, which I had MULTIPLE cups of at every meal ... because it was Nestle's Rich Chocolate version. I was surprised they had a brand name. I thought I was on drugs. Oh, wait, I was. But, I have proof; I brought a few packets home.
ONE EXCEPTION ... Chicago's soon-to-be-former Children's Memorial Hospital has the BEST food. I ate every meal in its entirety, as I recall, after my 2003 OHS.

* Drugs
Yes, I listed this as one of the "BEST REASONS", but it is a double-edged sword. It's nice to feel loopy instead of in so much pain, but when that loopiness makes you think things happened that didn't or think things didn't happen that did, it isn't so rosy.

* Visits from strangers
I know this is a bit odd coming from me (given my love of road trips and meeting people), but to be fair, my road trips are to meet people I WANT to see and converse with, not doctors, nurse practitioners, mental/social care workers, therapists (physical and occupational) that really do NOT know me and insist on going over details that I ALREADY KNOW FROM PREVIOUS SURGERIES.
I had the unlucky happening Thursday (11/17/2011) of reading about the death of a long-time friend from montecarloss.com, David Denn ... right before the social worker stopped by to check on how I was feeling. David's death was NOT a surprise. He had been fighting cancer and the last I had heard, it wouldn't be much longer. But, stumbling across MCSS to see the banner across the top of the page saying "RIP David Denn" just killed me. I will so miss his ALWAYS and OH-SO-POSITIVE reports/posts, no matter how bad the news was at the time; people tell me I have an upbeat outlook to life, but not as much as David's. I had hoped to meet him in person June 2011 when I was in PA, but his health worsened some that weekend and we were not able to meet. LIFE IS TOO SHORT, PEOPLES. Get that through your THICK skulls.

* Financial issues
No matter what people tell you, this is no "get rich quick" scheme. In fact, it is the opposite. My lack of a "newer" car to drive daily and a place of my own testify to this. I am VERY good at handling and budgeting money. However, I can't afford to NOT expect medical expenses. I haven't wanted to look at my bills or checkbook since I got home, but I will need to do that soon, to pay bills.... I'll stop there.

* TV selections
This Chicago hospital didn't even have the digital versions of 2 of Chicago's very own stations (9.2 and 26.2, 26.3, 26.4), which have awesome daytime (Classic primetime) programming day in day out. And, whatever station is showing "Golden Girls" (I think, Hallmark?) was not part of the cable package. Bah humbug.

* Male nurses
Unless you are a female who likes to look at hot males all day. But, THIS male prefers to see female nurses. Male nurses just irritate me. I'm NOT trying to be harsh, but remember, my "big heart" is no more....

* A repeat performance ~24 hours later
My OHS went well, 11/11/2011. But, Saturday evening, I was unresponsive for a time and had to be whisked into the OR again. Came out of that OK, but when the doctors and nurses are standing around telling you that everything will be fine, even though they have to open you up again, you wonder. Luckily, I didn't see my life flash before my eyes, but I kept saying, "oh no. Oh No! OH NO!"
After the anesthesiologist, I believe, said, "You'll be fine. You have the best team available right now", I remember thinking:
'Uh oh. I know how this goes. I watch TV. The hated/loved character survives a surgery of epic proportion only to relapse 24 hours later, and the so-called best team is somehow not able to reverse it. The hated/loved character dies, setting off a firestorm of reaction, in more ways than one. And, the network has gotten rid of a popular character and saved money. Wonderful...JUST MY LUCK!'
Or, maybe I just write too much.



SSsssooooo ... what've I missed?



Cort | 38.m.IL | pigValve + paceMaker + cowValve | 5 MCs + 1 Caprice Classic
CHD.MCs.CC + RoadTrips.hobbies.RadioShows.us66 = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort
"You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile" __ Thurl Ravenscroft __ 'You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch'
 

Superbob

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All I can say, Cort, is you are amazing, man! Love reading your accounts, especially about the hot (female) nurses. ;);) (Indeed, from making my Mended Hearts rounds, I have already picked out my nurses in case I have to have a heart "makeover" any time soon. ;) )

It's so great to be reading your thoughts about such a wide variety of topics! :smile2:
 

OldManEmu

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Welcome back Cort.
It will be easy to remember the date, a once in a century event 11/11/11.
Hot nurses, must be a good hospital.
 

hensylee

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Hey, Cort. Goodness, you do stir up the bunch! There was a great flurry of activity with everyone keeping up, it's a wonder we didn't bump into each other.

I am sooo happy that you have successfully walked the mountain yet again. Let's don't do this again, hear? Just get back to your regular self and keep on driving.

I love the way you put together a 'story'. It must have taken you awhile to put it all together so well.

Keep on truckin, my friend.
 

Duffey

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Hey Cort,

Bout time you got back to documenting this latest account of a "walk in the park" . . . . NOT!:wink2:

You're lucky I didn't get more than a few gray hairs following Joy's updates.:eek2: And you will have to visit southern Illinois so the good folks of Hardin County will know who Cort Stevens of the varied prayer lists is. :smile2:

Anyway, I'm very glad to see you back and hope you can put the Christmas broadcast together. It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.:smile2:
 

Bina

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Cort, I totally LOVED reading your account of heart surgery recovery and can relate to so much of it. You are
a superb writer !
And imagine getting a real Nestle's rich hot chocolate....that is the one I drink every morning, 365 days a year.
You are right, slow and steady wins the race, enjoy every day with your family and friends.
((hugs))
 

ottagal

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So glad to read your post, Cort. Bless you! You have been a real trooper through this whole ordeal. I, too enjoyed reading your account and felt like I was right there with you!

May every day get a little easier for you. I agree...slow and steady wins the race.

Best wishes,
 

Cooker

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Cort, you are an inspiration!!! Glad you are on this side of the mountain "again":thumbup:
 

tobagotwo

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SSsssooooo ... what've I missed?
First, it's now 2034. While you were out, we created a perfect copy of the entire earth as it was in November, 2011, and that's where you're confined now. The only problem we had with it is that in this version, neither the President nor any of the Republican candidates seem to work right. We haven't been able to figure it out yet, but we're working on it.

Well, you're two ops up on me. I'm hoping to keep it that way for a while.

I'm so very glad you're in renewal mode. I find it a very peaceful time. I hope it's one for you.

Very best wishes,
 

njean

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Great to see you back, Cort! And I loved your story!!! :)

Take care of yourself and don't rush things! You'll be out and about in no time!
 

Kathy McCain

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Hi Cort!

It's great to hear you're on the mend! You must be one tough fellow, mentally, emotionally, and physically!

Hugs
 
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It's so great to be reading your thoughts about such a wide variety of topics! :smile2:
Thanks, Bob!


It will be easy to remember the date, a once in a century event 11/11/11.
Indeed!!!!! I'm kinda glad my surgery WAS postponed...lol.


Let's don't do this again, hear? Just get back to your regular self and keep on driving.
Sounds like a great couple of plans to me, darlin'. BTW, speaking of driving ... I SHOULD be in the Atlanta area sometime in 2012, if you are around and want to meet up again!!!!


You're lucky I didn't get more than a few gray hairs following Joy's updates.:eek2: And you will have to visit southern Illinois so the good folks of Hardin County will know who Cort Stevens of the varied prayer lists is.
Sounds good to me!

And, wait ... you mean you aren't getting gray hairs from following the "Pujols talks"???? ;)


Duffey said:
Anyway, I'm very glad to see you back and hope you can put the Christmas broadcast together. It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.:smile2:
Cool ... hope it works out. I should know in about a week or so....


Cort, I totally LOVED reading your account of heart surgery recovery and can relate to so much of it. You are
a superb writer !
Ah, thank you, Bina! Glad you enjoyed it!!!


I, too enjoyed reading your account and felt like I was right there with you!
He he heh ... being right there with me could be good or bad, depending on which part it is ;).


First, it's now 2034. While you were out, we created a perfect copy of the entire earth as it was in November, 2011, and that's where you're confined now. The only problem we had with it is that in this version, neither the President nor any of the Republican candidates seem to work right. We haven't been able to figure it out yet, but we're working on it.
Dangit ... that's not good. And, I see front-wheel-drive cars are STILL out and about, too. I would've thought by NOW they would've been banned ... LOL.


*
THANK YOU, all.

It feels good to still be among the living; guess I'm here for a reason. Now, I just need more energy, sooner rather than later! Course, more energy means less "online" time....

It'd also be nice if I could find some COMFORTABLE sitting/sleeping positions....


DRIVING ... returns 12/12/2011...! Oh, how nice that'll be!



FOLLOW-UPs

My parents and I endured the Monday-morning-after-Thanksgiving rush hour traffic to go to my checkups at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 11/28/2011. The chest Xrays and EKG showed all well. I also met with Dr Russell's nurse practitioner, Amy, and my cardiologist, Dr. Mendelson. Both said that I looked good for all I've been through and that everything seems to be healing well.



KUDOS

As I mentioned, I don't think any quantity or quality of time is sufficient for me to express my appreciation for all the support through this latest OHS. But, a special thank you to 2 groups in particular.

1st Generation Monte Carlo Club...
...started an online card for me, which was shared w/other message boards:
http://www.groupcard.com/s/CyMQyBizahW/ee&ec=lpEbc5Zit0I
...AND sent a care package, including a smiley face mug, 2 cookies & a few other candy treats!

Hot Seat, formerly CarNuts...
...sent balloons for my PRE-SURGERY PARTY and a box of chocolates. It was supposed to be a surprise, but Steve had to call me the day of the party because the delivery was made in the morning, when the people that knew about the party were not at the restaurant! It all worked out...!



UPDATES

As in 2003, my sister kept people posted about the progress of my surgery. This time, she sent Emails AND posted updates to my Facebook wall. For me, it's surreal reading through some of them (noted times are central/Chicago)....


11/11/2011 SURGERY:
8:30a
1st update: they took Cort just a few minutes ago. He was in really good spirits (wanting to charge for his signature). Mom, Dad and I were in there when the surgical team was in there. The surgeon was very positive. We are heading to get a bite to eat.

9:45a
2nd update: They had a little trouble starting a line into an artery. Surgery began at 9:20.

11:35a
3rd update: Cort is now on the heart/lung machine and all is well.

2:08p
4th update: he wasn't completely on the heart/lung bypass until 12:15 - scar tissue slows down this process. The aortic valve is in place and they are grafting the aortic artery right now. I think the fact that they are grafting is indicative of them needing to connect the artery into the aortic arch, which prolongs the surgery. Things are going well. He will be in surgery for at least two more hours and that is probably when we will get the next update.

3:41p
5th update: he is off heart/lung bypass as of 3:15 and doing well - still a few more hours until they are done. At that time I think the surgeon himself will come talk to us (I hope).

4:51p
6th update: they are closing him up now and Dr. Russell should be coming out to talk to us when they are done

6:43p
7th update (last): The surgeon just left us. He sat with us for a good 30 minutes talking to us about the surgery. Cort should be moved to ICU within the hour.

They did not have to do anything with the aortic arch. the aneurism narrowed before the arch. the doctor used a maize (spelling?) to prevent future arrhythmia problems. his echo after the surgery looked good, and so do all of his numbers. They did not have to touch his pig's valve - everything looked good there. HIs lung function is also doing well, although there was a lot of scarring that adhered to the heart. The doctor used a cover over the conduit to make future heart surgeries a little easier to get in.

he was in surgery for approximately 8 hours. he was on the heart/lung bypass for about 3 hours. the procedure of placing the valve and the artery took about 2 hours and 20 minutes. it was a very large aneurism. the artery now is, and will always be, at 3.6cm.

They are going to wait until morning to wake him - they want him to be still through the night. around 4:30 tomorrow morning they will start to take him off the sedatives and they will try to get him off the ventilator as soon as possible. Eric and I will try to be back here at the hospital around 7:00 so that once he is awake he will see a familiar face (even if he won't remember). Mom and Dad will try to get here by around 10. They probably won't move him to a regular floor until Sunday or Monday.

When this valve does need to be replaced, technology now allows them to replace it through a catheter. Apparently the valve being replaced can stay in place as the new one takes over.

Thank you all for your prayers during this long day.

RETURN TO OR, ~24 HOURS LATER:
11/12 @ 9:08p
i tried posting earlier from the road, but it didn't take...Please Pray! around 5:30 this evening i left Cort. While he wasn't completely comfortable, he seemed ok. they had gotten him back into bed (after him sitting up a good portion of the day), and his nurse was watching his oxygen level closely because it was low. his platelet count was also low, even thought they had been giving him platelets since the the surgery. he was bleeding more than they wanted. his nurse was in contact with dr. russell.
as we were leaving the city around 7 (after having dinner with family), i called to check in. Cort's nurse said that he was ok, but that his platelet level was really low, and that he was bleeding too much, and that he had been become unresponsive for a short time. directly afterwards he was alert and communicating again. However, they are taking him back into surgery to find out exactly what is wrong and to clear out the bleeding around the incision site. when i talked to the nurse, he was already intubated.
Mom and Dad are already on their way back to the city, if not already there. The last they talked to Dr. Russell around 8 i think, and he assured them that what is going on is not life threatening. however, it is related to the fact that Cort has had so many surgeries, and that he has had so many blood transfusions.
I came all the way home with Eric and JJ to get JJ into bed tonight. friends are taking me back to the city tonight so that i can stay all night. I am hoping that i can convince mom and dad to go home once Cort is back out of surgery to get some rest...
Please pray for strength and healing for Cort...

11/12 @ 10:19p
The surgery is over already. Cort's platelet count was really low and there was a lot of oozing blood around the incision site - they drained about 3-4 liters from the incision site. They are giving him a special kind of blood to get his numbers up where they should be. He will be on the ventilator overnight again. They will keep him in icu through tomorrow. The Dr said that while this is a setback, he will be OK.

11/13 @ 10:07a
Dr Russell was in to see Cort about a half hour ago. The oozing blood was all from the incision and suture site. His heart and the valves look good. Dr said it is rare for a patient to have an uneventful 24 hours and then go back into surgery, but that Cort is doing Just fine now. They will continue to treat him aggressively for his low platelet count, but so far it appears that his bleeding is under control. Dr said that because of the amount of blood transfusions he has had over the years, his body has built antibodies that attack foreign blood, so it takes more to find blood that his body will accept. He should be coming off the vent in the next hour as long as he makes the effort to take deeper breaths.

11/13 @ 11:46a
I am home now. Mom texted at 11 and said that Cort is off the ventilator. The do have him on an oxygen mask for the humidity to help loosen mucus. he is using a suction tube to help get mucus out. he is communicating well, and seems to be in better spirits. the last time Dr. Russell was in (just before i left), he said that they want to keep him resting in bed all day today. tomorrow they will work on getting him up in the chair.


Cort | 38.m.IL | pigValve + paceMaker + cowValve | 5 MCs + 1 Caprice Classic
CHD.MCs.CC + RoadTrips.hobbies.RadioShows.us66 = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort
"I can't stay on your morphine, cause it's making me itch" __ Pink __ 'Just Like A Pill'
 
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FINALLY!
I'm starting to get a BIT more energy ... and finding some comfortable sitting/sleeping positions, even with the pulled/aggravated muscle near/at my left breast. Slowly, but surely, despite the frustrations ... and hopefully soon will DO a few things....


My next APPOINTMENTS...
...12/22/2011 w/regular doctor (PCP)
...01/05/2012 w/cardiologist, including an echocardiogram & pacemaker check



I doubt I will have a POST-SURGERY PARTY; too much with the holidays and returning to work.



My Aunt Chris and I finished a puzzle she gave me for my OHS in 2 afternoons, 11/30/2011 & 12/09/2011. "Winter" side of the puzzle, w/clockwise, Fall, Summer & Spring:



Also on 12/09/2011, Aunt Chris, Uncle Carl and I went for a walk in Hawthorne Hill Nature Center, Elgin IL. Pics I took there can be seen (whether you are on Facebook or not) w/other OHS-related photos, including my PRE-SURGERY PARTY; the Nature Center walk pics are the last 5:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2636895683885.2152619.1300282613&type=1&l=7f835748ff



I've appreciated VISITS from friends...

...12/04/2011 = Jonny, who drove his 1978 Ford LTD Country Squire wagon to take me for a cruise:


...12/05/2011 = Drew, who was in town on business from Pittsburgh PA:



...and, of course, "Nephew Time", pic from 12/06/2011:




Cort | 38.m.IL | pigValve + paceMaker + cowValve | 5 MCs + 1 Caprice Classic
CHD.MCs.CC + RoadTrips.hobbies.RadioShows.us66 = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort
"When you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God" __ Kenny Rogers/Wynonna __ 'Mary, Did You Know?'
 

Duffey

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You're blessed with good friends, Cort. Of course, I think you realize and appreciate their value more than most of us.:smile2:
 

Lily

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Glad to read how well you're doing, Cort. And what a cute little fellow your nephew is. Continued best wishes :)
 

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