I firstly want to thank everyone for their generous support in helping me raise $43,000 to date for the America Heart Association. This year holds special significance with the loss of a close friend and colleague, Aaron Smith. Aaron was a wonderful person and I would like to honor him in this year’s fundraising in the continued hope that ongoing research will help prevent the loss of life of those so young and with so much to live for. This years walk is scheduled for September 30 - for those in Charlotte who knew Aaron and would like to join in this year's walk, please let me know. At Aaron’s celebration of life last week many people wore his favorite apparel, a flannel shirt, which will be our uniform for this year.
For those receiving this request for support for the first time, this is my small way to give back for the two lifesaving heart surgeries I have had. My first surgery, at 6 years old, was to repair a Coarctation of the Aorta. My second, 12 years ago at age 45, was to repair an Aneurysm in my Aorta and replace my Aortic Valve and Root. With a third surgery in my future, I have a somewhat personal (selfish) reason for continued support of cardiac research. This third surgery will be required due to damage to my pig valve resulting from my three encounters with Endocarditis. The Endocarditis caused a leak in my valve that is past the point where surgery is recommended but thankfully the size of my heart is not increased to the risk outweighs the benefits of surgery at the moment. …….. which I am glad for as the skills and technology are improving all the time, which can only be to my benefit.
The improvements keep coming, and each year I try to show the improvements from the research we support. A couple of years ago I shared a story about the potential for pig to human heart transplants in 3 years. I have a pig’s valve and a few ladies I know have commented before that they can see why the Drs chose a pig’s valve to eliminate the risk of rejection!!!
The first successful transplant was completed last October – while the patient only survived for 61 days it is a significant advancement in this process.
The American Heart Assn has also awarded $2.1M to research link between migraine, strokes and cardiovascular disease
The American Heart Assn Second Century of Science initiative will also provide $20M in grants to support more than 100 scientific researchers in their efforts to address heart disease.
Every one of the last 12 years has felt like a bonus for me, to be able to see my kids get to their teenage years …. uneventfully so far!!! I have set little goals for myself, the next is the kids finishing high school, then college, and hopefully I will still be around to see them marry – having started my family at 40, grandkids might be a stretch!!! I can mark one off the list with Ella recently finished high school and starts college in 3 weeks.
One thing I have come to realize over my life is that while the surgeons save the lives it is all of the other doctors, nurses and support staff that get you back to life. I have been extremely lucky with the people who have helped me get back to good health and wanted to share a few of the non R-Rated memories.
When I had my heart surgery 12 years ago, I was in hospital for 20 days. And with all that happened, I was not able to shower until the 15th day. It was one of the best feelings in the world. Before the nurses aid left the bathroom she asked if there was anything I needed. I said I would love if I could get my back washed. She climbed into the shower and put a foot on each side of the tub and washed my back and asked if I wanted my butt washed – she warned me if did she was getting right up in there. She was not kidding …. and it would have been ok except for Jess laughing out in the room.
When I had endocarditis the first time the 3 week stay in hospital was quite a struggle. I was told that I would have to show I could walk and navigate stairs in order to be discharged (the alternative was being transferred to the rehab section of a local nursing home). So I set about walking as much as I could – I have learnt “you don’t get up you don’t get out”. Jess’s favorite story was one evening I was walking the halls of the ward and the next morning she received a call saying that while it was wonderful that her husband was up walking, would she mind bringing a pair of shorts the next time she came in!!
My favorite memory though, was when I was 17 and went down for my final checkup before finishing high school and leaving home. Generally kids who had the Coarctation surgery back when I had it (1972) would need a repeat surgery when they finished growing (if the repair did not grow with them). To my relief, all was good. Each year I would take a trip to Sydney for my annual visit. During this visit, we were walking towards the children’s ward and a nurse called out to us by name. I asked my dad how she knew who I was. Turned out she was the head nurse of the kid’s cardiac ward and would have parents send photos each year so she could see how her previous patients were growing up. I saw a wall of photos in her office – it was great to see her genuine interest in the kids and loved to see them grow up.
Oh sorry – my favorite memory was the beautiful red headed nurse who gave me my bath every few days …. although at 6 years of age I was a little young for her!!!
Thank you again for you continued support and I look forward to and appreciate the stories you share with me on how heart disease has impacted you personally. I hope that our combined donations will positively affect all of those touched by heart disease.