Friday, January 29, 2010

The Reason I Celebrate

I arrived at UW Hospital on January 29th, 1996 and I was amazed that my cardiologist, Dr Catherine Otto, was already there as they wheeled me in to ICU. I didn't realize that the ambulance ride had taken us so long that it was now early morning. They transferred me to a bed and were just starting an echo as Dr. Otto talked to me. She told me I would be having surgery but that they would wait until Rick and the kids arrived to see me before they had to take me in.

Just then the echo tech touched her on the back and she turned and looked at the screen, then she turned back to me very calmly and said "scratch that, you've dissected, we're going to surgery now." (A few years later that same echo tech did my echo again and she described the horrible moment of putting that transducer to my chest and seeing the dissection and really grieving because I was so young and she thought I wouldn't survive...all while trying to maintain a professional and calm exterior) Everything kind of exploded into action then and I remember telling them that if I didn't get to talk to my husband and kids I needed paper so I could write them each a letter. So they brought me blank progress notes from the chart and I wrote to all 3 of them, telling them that I believed God was going to save me but that I wanted them each to know how special they were and how much I loved them. So they're busily prepping me for surgery and I'm writing letters. (I always feel like I need to apologize to Rick at this point because those were just a little hard to read) And that lack of fear, that peace that I described yesterday, remained.

As we got to the OR I asked if the whole crew was there who would be in my surgery because I wanted to talk to all of them before they put me under. So they all gathered around and I told them that I wanted them to act like I was awake as they did the surgery. I didn't want jokes made about my body, I didn't want any negative talk, I didn't want them speculating on how bad things looked. They all agreed and so I said we could go ahead. My mom joked that the surgeon had to leave the room to say "oh shi*" when he saw how bad my aorta was so that he wouldn't break my rules. But this is when the story really got easy for me. I was asleep as Dr. Salim Aziz placed a St. Jude mechanical aortic valve and an aortic graft made of dacron. I missed the drama that my family and friends lived through as they spent 16 hours saving my life. I missed when they thought they had completed the repair and did a transesophogeal echo and found that the dissection was actually longer and the graft needed to be longer as well. I missed when they brought me back to ICU and let Rick see me (he said I looked dead, I was super pale and on a ventilator with tubes and wires everywhere) and then found that I was bleeding and had to go back to surgery for the 3rd time. My Mom said that as time passed she went from praying to begging God to save my life. My friend Kristin said Dr. Aziz told her he had never seen someone whose aorta looked like mine actually make it off the table alive. He said it looked like a grenade had exploded inside my aorta; it was shredded. My family and friends remember the fear and the waiting and the warnings that being on cardiac bypass for 16 hours can cause some major brain damage. They remember me waking up, they remember wondering if I would know them, they remember me begging to have the ventilator removed and me crying for my Mom when they wouldn't do it. I don't remember any of that.

And I guess this is where the story could end. I could say that a team of very qualified and skilled medical professionals saved my life and I could be forever grateful to them. And I am, UW Hospital gave amazing care. But that's not where my story ends. What I do remember is just being wrapped in God's love. I remember feeling closer to him than ever before or since. I remember feeling his actual presence. And on the first day that I was really awake or actually lucid Dr. Aziz poked his head in my door and said, "you know you have a friend upstairs, right? You know I can't take credit for this." And I remember being so thankful and feeling like God had left me here for a reason. That I needed to make sure that the people God placed in my life knew how much I loved them and how much he loves them.

It's easy to let time swallow up the miracle. It's easy to get caught up in the cares and details of daily life and forget that each day is a gift. So that's why I tell my story, that's why I celebrate this anniversary. Every time I tell it I'm re-experiencing the amazing work that God did, and continues to do, in my life. I think that's worth remembering.

9 comments:

Tracey said...

Dawn, I thank God for you and the way you have touched my life.

gleestyle said...

You've have shared only parts of your story with me. Your story puts any blog about clothes and style to shame:) I have a profound love and respect for you, my friend. I am encouraged as I struggle through my issues. Reading this story is reminder once again God is faithful!

Kathryn said...

Dawn, thank you for sharing this story. It has really touched me. I remember coming to see you in the hospital. You were asleep and your mom came out to the hall to see me. I didn't know at the time how serious it was, but I do remember how pale and thin you were. You are a special cousin and I am so happy to be part of your family. God bless.

Karla Renfro* said...

Wow! What a powerful story and what an anniversary for you and your family.

You are amazing, Dawn. I love who God is to you, I love how much you love and seek Him, and I love the light you shine to those around you. Thank you for sharing your story and heart.

Roger P said...

Wow, where do I begin? I think I was avoiding reading this because I knew the memories it would bring to the surface. I am so thankful for our Lord and Saviour, for his decision that you would best serve him down here. He knew that you would be able to help guide others to a relationship with Him.(i.e-me) Thanks for your friendship as well as you being my sister in Christ. And of course for being my little sister! You have taught me so much and I am so grateful!

StHelensBull said...

Dawn, I got a little choked up reading this! You have been a friend to me for a very long time, and I hope to be friends for much longer! I'm not what you would call a "bible pounding christian" but I do believe, and I do put faith into every aspect of my life, in most ways others do not see. I truly appreciate being able to have you to bend a ear from time to time and hopefully for many years to come! God bless you and your family!

santexdeb said...

you are an amazing person and I am very blessed that God kept you in my life. Love you Debbie

Denice said...

Wow Dawn!! I really had no idea you went through that!! I just sat here with tears running down my face, imagining what you, Rick, and the rest of the family went through. God is so awesome!!! He completely wrapped you in His loving, peaceful, HEALING arms!! What a testimony you have!!! Praise God!! Enjoy your "anniversary"!! Lots to be thankful for!

Carrie Swanson said...

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I just read this. I can't believe it has been 15 years, but how thankful I am that it has been! I was reading in Joshua about how God told them to take a stone to remember His works so that when their children asked what the stone was for, they could use it to tell of His faithfulness. What a HUGE stone this is in your life, in Rick's and the kids'. Keep telling it! So much love, Carrie