Thursday, February 5, 2009

Out of the ICU

You know your viewpoint has narrowed when checking into a cardiac care unit feels like the pressure is lifted. They told us this morning they were going to discharge her right away, and it happened at 4 PM, which is record fast hospital time.

Yesterday ended up with everybody exhausted by four failed attempts at a PICC line, an IV that failed overnight, a reaction to one of the IV meds that caused her arm to look burned, and the other arm still sore from the last failed IV that infiltrated fluid and swelled her arm. The intrusive ENT people determined that a vocal cord was damaged (duh, she sounds like she's been smoking for ten years) but that it would probably heal by itself. She sounds better today and we have vetoed their idea to do "swallow studies." Another bit of hospital speak causes alarms to go off for us; if they say, "don't worry, it's not a big deal," don't believe it. They mean it's not a big deal for them!

Emily woke up in some pain. She realized that a component of the pain yesterday came from her reacting to the pain and having her blood pressure spike to 150/90, which exacerbated the headache. Last week's heart never got her blood pressure above 80/50, so the new heart is putting out more blood than she's ever felt. She consciously calmed herself and managed he pain while waiting for the meds to kick in. Then, in another feat of self-control, her stomach started to turn at a liquid medicine she had to take. She said that she was not going to puke, and she ate a few dry crackers and relaxed and the wave of nausea passed. Then she got up for a walking tour of the floor to keep her circulation and lungs working.

We packed up in the afternoon and waited for our new room to be readied. While Deb and I were out, they told her the room was ready. She got out of bed and walked out of the ICU, but the echocardiogram lady just arrived to do an echo. So two nurses, a lady pushing a cart with all our belongings, and the echo lady and her big equipment followed Emily through the twisting hallways of the 8th floor. Imagine how surprised Deb and I were when we got back to the room and it was empty! We've settled into a private room now and Emily is asleep.

I marvel at this wonderful gift of a new heart, especially when we see the echoes. It is working perfectly, but it must feel a bit worse than Emily does. It went through some type of horrible ordeal in the donor, then spent a few hours in a bucket of icewater, and then it was lovingly placed in a safe new home. Even now, it has no nervous connections to Emily, and it beats away at its default pace of about 95 beats per minute, now knowing how much it is appreciated by us all. Every year millions of people die of heart failure, and only a few thousand get another chance with a heart transplant. Among those, the matches are often not as good. We are sooooo lucky.


Beth said...

Dear All,
YAAAYYY! Out of the ICU!
I can hear/feel the relief in your blog.
Sending lots of love and support from here!
Beth Kane

Chandra Eldridge said...

Emily It's great to see you progress. To bad those hospital gowns don't come in orange. We miss you and can't wait till you can teach us more triva facts.

ellen knapp said...

bob, when i read your report, all i could say was wowwwww. ive never thought of the heart that is transplanted. just the donor and the lucky one who gets it. how interesting to look at it that way.

i wonder if you or any one near you knows about rotary breathing? its a yoga technique that is wonderful for calming oneself. its not hard and if you are interested, i would glady explain it to one of you by telephone. you could all sit around, looking at each other and practice. im sure by now you could all use it.

we continue our prayers for comfort and daily improvments in em. all our love, the knapps

Hummels said...

I so appreciate reading your messages, they are heart felt and cause much reflection... Continued success each day, Em!

Coach Kristi said...

Being touched by the hand of God makes all of us sit back and take notice and realize just how great it is to be loved. Anyone call tell as soon as they meet Em that she was born to do great things and to bring wonders upon many. Her spirit is strong and uplifting, and without saying a word she gives that strength of spirit to those around her. Every person that has the privilege to meet Emily will be forever affected by her. Her ordeals and her challenges, and the grace and strength which she shows in overcoming each and every one of those obstacles, is just one example of God's plan for her. I don't think Em will ever know or realize just how much she has taught each and every one of us as we stand by her through all of this. We can each take a lesson from her wisdom, her love, her understanding, and her strength.

Deb and Bob - you deserve more than any of us will ever be able to give you. You have cherished that spirit of Emily's and allowed it to shine, and you have shared her with all of us. For that we are forever in your debt.

I could not be happier than I am right now to learn that she has moved out of ICU. Although the long road ahead is still long, your love and support has gotten her over her first huge hurdle in the process. I hope this move will allow each of you some rest, some reassurance and some time to reflect together, as a family, on the wonders of God's love. It truly is amazing!

Sending all my love and support,
Coach Kristi

Susan Jennings said...

Emily you continue to amaze me. Actually, you amaze everyone who comes in contact with you! You are brave, strong, smart and beautiful in every way. Your Dad is right, your new heart is lucky to have such perfectly wonderful new home. I miss you guys.
Aunt Susie

Susan Jennings said...

Emily you continue to amaze me. Actually, you amaze everyone who comes in contact with you! You are brave, strong, smart and beautiful in every way. Your Dad is right, your new heart is lucky to have such perfectly wonderful new home. I miss you guys.
Aunt Susie

Jolene said...

We think Coach Kristi has put it beautifully. Keep up the great progress. We love you all!
Jolene & Jerry



Consider changing careers. your writing is very moving and on point. Especially your last paragraph.

I miss you all so much. Saturday Anne and I fly out to Tucson (commercial - Delta) for a vacation in Tucson, Sedona and then to California to see the kids.

Emily .... do you need anything from Arizona?



Bonan said...

Emily, Bob and Deb,
I am so relieved that you are settled out of ICU and as other can sense the relief in your post is evident. I can not begin to to tell you how truely blessed I feel to be able to follow your progress Em, through your parents loving and thougtful entries daily. (and yes I checked about 800 times today worring about you and anxious about that headache.) You are a truely amazing young women and a treasure to all of us Miss Emily. Thank you for all that you are teaching us about grace and courage and strenght and beauty. Stay strong and we will keep you in our prayers always. Much love, Martha and the family

Susan PD said...

Beth Meer tipped me off to your blog. To think I saw Emily at a Gators meet about 3 weeks ago (our Hana is an East Greenbush Sea Lion) and introduced myself and reminded her about Beth's B-day party a year ago. I'm thinking about you guys in this ordeal....and keeping all limbs crossed for good luck/karma/grace in the recovery phase. Emily's a trooper and a heroine!

Joelle said...

Yes you are so lucky!!
Emily - keep up the good work!!

Munzenmaier Family said...


We have been following your progress through the swimming grapevine. We just recently got this blog and it is amazing to read about your progress and how far you have come. What an amazing support team you have. It is great to hear that you are doing well and getting out of the ICU. You are an inspiration to all of us.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Charly, Lisa & Katy Munzenmaier