About Me

In March 2009 I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy - Heart Failure. Within two months, it progressed to end-stage. In August 2009 I had a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted to help my heart pump blood. Then in December I was placed on the heart transplant list. On January 11, 2010 a heart became available for me and I was taken to the operating room. While on the table, the surgeons found that my own heart had began to heal. I didn't get that transplant and subsequently had my LVAD removed in September 2010. Today, I have a new appreciation for life and am learning to take each day one step at a time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Start Fresh Each Day

This January marked 6 years since I laid on the operating room table to receive a heart transplant but to our surprise, I didn't need it.  I remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember the feeling of complete joy that I didn't have to have my heart replaced. The feeling of love to be surrounded by my closest family and friends who had taken the heart failure journey with me. The feeling of pain from being on the ventilator.

A few months later, they brought me in for more testing and told me that my heart was not as strong as they thought it was and that I would need to keep the LVAD longer.  Then finally in the fall of 2010, I was the first person to be able to get my heart pump removed to my recovered heart.

Although it's been 6 years, there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the days I have now with my family and friends. And in the last 6 years, we have adopted our son and are fostering another. Each night as I rock the baby to sleep, I give thanks to God for the blessing of the day and for allowing me to serve Him by serving our boys. But when morning comes (always too early) and I have to drag my exhausted body out of bed (my heart is still only functioning at half of a normal one) it takes me a few minutes to remind myself that even though life can be hard, it is a true blessing. Not all of us will go to the brink of a heart transplant, but many of us have gotten to that point in life where it seems so much to handle. It is in those times that I find it so important for me to remember all of the blessings and amazing things God has done for me and remember that it is a new day. And I want to live each day as if it were my last and in a way that will make God proud. I have failed many times, but it is in the trying that I know it is important to remember that each day starts fresh.

Can any of you relate with wanting to start over each day and do a little better than the day before? I am so blessed that I have a new day to love, laugh and live.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Monumental Moments that Pass Quickly

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were licensed to be foster to adopt parents.  If you know us, then you know that we have grieved the loss of not being able to welcome a blessing into our home and that although we have been so thankful for giving me more time with my loved ones, we have felt the loss of not being able to have a growing family.

In January, my heart function improved, my doctors approved us for adoption, we went through the many many classes and paperwork, and finally got licensed.  To say we are excited would be an understatement!  I find myself keeping thoughts of the baby we will welcome out of my mind so that I don't become impatient waiting.  My MIL called the other day (by accident) but told me, "I already prayed for you guys today."  That statement humbled me.  And it inspired me to pray constantly for our little blessing and for the family that will be having the hardship of giving them up.  I feel very certain that this is the road God wants us to go down, and there is so much comfort and peace in knowing that you are in the center of His will.

I have joined a few online adoption communities and was stunned last week when I read a thread that started with the question, "The first time I saw my adoptive child I ___"  The responses were amazing.  Some people said they felt like they were always meant to be that child's parents, some people stated that they knew everything was as it should be, and most people stated that they feel completely and totally in love with their new child.  Wow!!

What a big moment - seeing your child for the first time - and I almost blew through it without realizing what an amazing and monumental moment it will be.  I am so thankful for people sharing their experiences and helping me to remember to savor and document each moment with the little blessing that God will bring into our house.

So now we are just waiting for the call... sound familiar?!?!?  Yes, it feels just like waiting on the call for a new heart transplant; however, when the call comes, I don't have to have my heart cut out and we will get a new addition to our family at the end. :-)  It could be any day, any time, waiting waiting waiting... :-p  God is so good and His timing is perfect!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Where Should Life Take You

It must be because it is graduation time, but it seems that everyone is talking about the future.  Who they want to be, what they want to do, where they want to go, etc.  The future is still a difficult subject for those of us that have been diagnosed with Heart Failure.  It looms ominously in front of us, teasing and taunting us.  We all want to be able to look into the future and pick our outcomes, but sometimes there is very little we can do to control it.

I remember one summer in college I was interning at our local newspaper.  Being the intern, I was the bottom of the barrel and no one gave me a second glance.  It just so happened that the paper had adopted a new software system and I was able to pick it up quickly.  As my bosses started to notice and give me more responsibility, I noticed that my co-workers started to acknowledge me.  They even started listening to what I had to say, professionally and personally.  It was that summer when God placed a very strong calling on my life.  He whispered in my ear that He needed people to do well at business so that we could reach others who did well at business.  He taught me that if I worked hard and performed well, people would listen to what I had to say.  For the next ten years, I saw this future unfold in my life.

Now, four years after stopping working because of my heart failure, I am left wondering yet again what the future will hold.  Actually, I more often find myself wondering if there will be a future.  You see, when you have your future ripped from you at a young age by the diagnosis of a terminal illness, you start living each day as your last.  As I have healed, I have found myself being able to start thinking of the future again, but I am always reminded of how painful the ripping of my future was and am afraid to plan again.  But how can you live life to the fullest without making plans for the future.

For me, the doctors are still saying no working.  As I have shared on here, my husband and I are working on becoming foster parents. These are futuristic variables that I have control over.  Everything beyond this is unknown.  I have been overwhelmed with all the possibilities in life.  So, this weekend I was very encouraged when the Lord reminded me that He is still in control and that all I need to do is open my mind to His will and sit back and watch as He opens doors for me.  He will guide and direct if I will just stop trying to sit in the driver's seat.  And there is comfort in knowing that He has a plan for me and my life.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Nursery

A few years after we were married, Ray and I wanted to start growing our family. Neither of us gave a thought to how many women struggle to get pregnant.  We quickly realized that this is a hardship that many women have to bear.  We prayed and prayed but we were still unable to have a child.

Now, years later, we know that if God had answered my prayers back then, it would have killed me because I was in heart failure and didn't know it.  Sometimes our limited view of the world makes us think we are being punished or forgotten, when in reality, God is doing what's best for us.

But even with that knowledge, it did not take away the heartache that I believe most women suffer from when they can't get pregnant.  This Easter as some of my sisters and their beautiful families hunted Easter eggs (thanks Grandma), I was struck by how blessed and precious their families are.  Not because they are perfect but because there is so much love and joy.  My heart ached for that bond my sisters have with their little ones (some of them are not that little).  Many of you women who cannot get pregnant must feel that same deep hurt in your heart.

This January, God orchestrated yet another change in our lives.  My heart function jumped very unexpectedly from 35% (where it had been for the past 2 years since my explant) to 47%; and my doctors finally agreed to approve us for adoption and foster care.

Because of that increase, our lives have started to take a new path that I thought God had closed the doors on.  For the past 6 weeks, Ray and I have been taking foster care classes to open our homes to some hurting children.  We feel like we have so much love to give, and although we had to abandon our thought of the perfect looking family, we know God is going to bring new life to our home.

So this week Ray and I did something I never thought we would:


We put our nursery together (modeled by my precious nephews) in anticipation of a new blessing.  GOD IS SOOOOO GOOD!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Red Dress Gala

A few months ago I was invited to speak at a "Red Dress Gala."  This event was a dinner and silent auction for a sorority to help raise funds and awareness for the American Heart Association.  I was asked to take a half hour during dinner to share my heart story with them and help raise awareness of the need for cardiac research.  (See Slideshow on left.)
 


 
The event was held at a hotel and was attended by around 400 people (mostly the sorority girls and their families and guests).  I have never felt so old. :-p  It started with a cocktail hour where everyone milled about and placed bids on various baskets that families had donated.  This hour of socialization reminded me how fun it can be to meet new people and to forget, if only for an hour, that anything exists outside of sipping drinks (water of course) and mingling with friends.  It made me realize that Ray and I haven't really attended a lot of social parties in the past few years.  Parties have a way of helping us leave our lives for a time and to embrace sheer silliness and fun.

As I got up to address the crowd (who still had not gotten dinner and were still heavily socializing), I was nervous that the "normal" world would look upon my story and pay it no attention because it did not affect them and most of them were in the prime of their lives.

To my dismay, the room settled down and my story seemed to have captured their attention.  This was my first time sharing my journey through heart failure with a crowd of "healthy" people.  I guess I forgot that I was "normal" once upon a time and that I was a "healthy" person trying to live life to its fullest.

Ray says that I am a naturally funny person without trying to be.  I don't think I have a huge sense of humor, but I have learned in life to take things in stride and to adapt to my surroundings.  These lessons helped carry me through some of my darkest days. 

At the end of my story, I was hoping for a polite round of appreciation and to melt back into my table for dinner.  I had spent many days praying that my words would help at least someone through their difficult times.  I was very humbled at the reception I received afterwards and the many people who told me that they will remember some of my lessons.  I guess I hadn't realized that people on the outside looking in have an entirely different perspective that allowed them to connect to my story. 

For the next hour, I was bombarded with college students and their families who each had a story to tell.  I was amazed at the depth and maturity of these girls that seemed to be soaking in life's lessons and learning from them.

That night changed me.  I was afraid and a little timid about sharing my story outside of the hospital realm.  I realized that I felt that way because I feel like my illness has taken so much away from me and who I am.  But that night I learned that I am still who I was, just stronger and although I am certain I will come across people who look down on me because of my illness, I am far more likely to encounter people who have their own story to tell.  Thank you to everyone who encouraged me that night.  I went into the event hoping to change your world just a little, and it turns out, you changed mine.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Celebrate Life One Birthday at a Time!

This week I turned a year older. Lots of my family and friends keep asking me if it is difficult turning 25 (again). It puts such a smile on my face to hear people ask me this because the truth is....


I CAN'T BELIEVE I MADE IT TO 35!! For several years now, we have been very uncertain of how many years I had left. I know that no one is guaranteed another day, but there is something about having a terminal illness that makes you acutely aware of each day. And suddenly it stopped being hard to reach another birthday and became a BLESSING!! In fact, I woke up on my birthday wanting to do nothing but spend time praising God for the gift of life and the year of amazing time spent with my loved ones.

To put the icing on the cake (so to speak), my cardiologist informed me this week that my heart function has actually increased in the last 6 months by a good amount. God is good!! She was so impressed by the echo that she actually agreed to sign the medical forms for adoption. Wow!! That was something that Ray and I had been grieving but now God has made it a possibility. He never stops amazing me.

So, to say we are celebrating this season would be an understatement.  For the first time in four years, Ray and I are contemplating the future again.  All I can do is stand amazed at the way God keeps blessing us.  Love to you!

Friday, January 11, 2013

3 Years From Not-Transplant Day!!!



Today, January 11, marks 3 years from my not-transplant day.  On 011110 (Jan 11, 2010), I was in the hospital when the nurses asked me, "How'd you like to get a new heart today?"  Fear, excitement, nervousness, craziness, fear, uncertainty, relief, fear, anger, hesitation, (did I mention fear?) every emotion you can imagine.  My world went into super speed for a few hours while I tried to deal with the thought.

Hours later, as my family and friends surrounded me, I realized that I was not going to be able to deal with it without the peace that only my Almighty Father can provide.  He brought peace amid my storm and reassured me that if I died, He would be waiting for me and that He would take care of those I loved that I would be leaving behind.  Or if I lived, that He had a plan to give me a future of hope and possibility.  He gave me the strength and peace to face another open-heart surgery.

Many hours later, I awoke to the nurse exclaiming, "It's a miracle!"  I thought the surgery had gone better than expected but was shocked when Ray told me that God had healed my heart and that I didn't NEED the transplant.  Awe, shock, and the need to immediately thank and worship my God followed.

That was three years ago.  Today, I am still experiencing a ton of emotions (but at least they are limited to a few a day).  He is still teaching me to grab hold of his peace and strength daily.  But I am so blessed to say that He is rebuilding my heart daily from the inside out.

Miracles are happening all around us.  At any time God can take the broken pieces of your life or situations and make something beautiful out of them.  One of my favorite songs of all time exclaims, "All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful out of my life."

So join me in praising and thanking God today for such an amazing peace and love.  And thank you for all of your love and support.  I would never have gotten through this illness without each of you!