A chance at life

After the devastating news that my husband’s heart and aorta were both critically bad the gathered family discussed the “what ifs”. Even if he was a candidate for the surgery would it work, what would his life be like, what would everyone else do if he died and on and on… Mark wanted to be sure that everyone knew what needed taken care of where all the important papers were and what he wanted at his funeral. We all cried then talked then cried some more. He tried to be strong but it did not last and he asked to be sedated to calm somewhat.

We waited for what seemed like forever for news of whether or not he was a candidate for the clinical trial. Late that night a PA stopped in and said she was with the surgeon’s group and that the doctor was headed for Paris to speak on the progress of the trials so far. That was it, it was over, we all knew what she would say next…

To our surprise she said he cancelled his trip midway there and was returning immediately. He would do the surgery in the morning. Most of what she said after that I don’t recall, I just remember thinking “we still have a chance” and praying to God for help.

Morning came and the surgeon came in, he was quiet and calm throughout the few minutes he spent with us. He said he could not predict how long Mark would be on the table and that there were lots of things that could go wrong either during the surgery or following it. He gave us hope, but tempered it with a heavy dose of realism.

The surgery would go on for more than nine hours. We got hourly reports on what was happening from the nurses. Throughout the procedure they reported over and over that things were holding steady. It would be almost another two hours before the surgeon came out and visited with us. He told us in detail that indeed if Mark had left the hospital as the ER doctors had wanted he would be dead, the aneurysm was paper thin and ruptured completely when he had touched it. He went on to explain that he had to cut away more of the heart muscle than he had hoped to replace the malformed valve and fit the new titanium one in place of it. They also had to harvest blood vessels from his legs to make grafts for the other malformations on the vessels supplying the heart itself with blood. He cautioned that at the very best, Mark would have 60-70 percent function of his heart and it could be much worse.

It may not sound great, but having 60% of a husband, brother and father was great news to us all compared to what we were originally faced with. Mark’s recovery and rehabilitation took several months. As we had been warned he was not able to do as much or go as long as he had before, but he was ALIVE!!!!