On June 15 I was scheduled for my third aortic valve replacement. I was born with a bicuspid valve, (two flaps instead of three) and had my first replacement at age 38. This time, once again, I planned to get another biological valve.
A quick background on valves: Biological tissue valves last for 10-15 years– mine lasted 9 and 13. In contrast, mechanical valves are designed to last a lifetime, but require the blood thinner Coumadin. Coumadin is a vitamin K antagonist, and requires limited consumption of vitamin-K-rich-foods, especially leafy greens. For me, good nutrition, including eating lots of leafy greens, has always felt like part of my identity. I couldn’t imagine giving it up. Avoiding Coumadin was paramount, and I truly saw the surgeries as worthwhile.
As soon as I knew it was time for a new valve, I went into planning mode. I planned the date of my surgery so that I would recover in time for my annual trip to The Omega Institute to help with the EFT Professional Training. I planned what I would bring to the hospital. What I would tell my clients. When I would start up my practice again. What I had to do before my surgery. Which kindle books I would read in the hospital. The new pillow I would use to prop myself up in bed at home so I could rest more easily.
I planned well, and thoroughly. Then, on the day of my surgery, nothing went as planned.
Long story short, the anesthesiologist mistakenly injured a couple of major arteries. The valve surgery was halted. I then underwent two surgeries, that same day, to correct the injury.
I didn’t plan for any of this. No one did. But, there I was. I had no choice but to go through it, and then to prepare for yet another surgery.
In an instant, my summer plans had all dissolved into ‘not this summer’.
So I did the best that I could. I meditated. I lay on my acupressure mat. I worked with a fabulous EFT practitioner who helped me release some of the trauma. I asked for help, again and again. I leaned on family and friends. I reconsidered my choice of aortic valves. And I listened deeply to my heart.
What I know is that on June 15, I was incredibly close to the edge. I truly didn’t know if I would make it. The experience shook me to my core. Waking up in recovery, I knew that I had very difficult decisions to make about my upcoming valve replacement.
Fortunately, during the time between surgeries, I met with a brilliant doctor (recommended by a doctor I met in the hospital). This doctor is an expert on cardiac valves. In fact, she spoke at a valve conference the very week I met with her. She suggested a recently developed mechanical valve, and explained why it would likely be the best fit for me. She based her suggestion on my constitution, medical history, relatively young age, and personal needs and desires. The valve she recommended requires less Coumadin, and is currently in clinical trials with a safer blood thinner.
Deep down I knew I couldn’t put my heart through yet another surgery in 10-15 years. So I changed my mind. I let go of what I believed was a necessary part of my identity — the part that told me that a biological valve was the only choice for me. Instead I listened to what my heart was telling me, and I chose the mechanical valve for my August surgery.
I do take Coumadin now, but less than for other mechanical valves. It’s been somewhat of a struggle to make the dietary shifts. I now have to closely monitor my diet in order to keep my blood at the prescribed level of anti-coagulation. However, I’ve decided to make sure I have the best possible nutrition, even with the adjustments.
If all goes well with the clinical trials, in one or two years, I will be able to switch to a safer blood thinner. One that’s not a Vitamin K antagonist. No matter what, this mechanical valve is designed to last me for the rest of my life. No more valve replacements. And, as I get older, I know this to be a wise decision, especially for my heart.
It’s not what I planned for. But I see that as painful as it was, my June disaster was a divine intervention. Banging me on the head, telling me that it was time to let go of outdated beliefs that no longer served me. Clearly showing me that I am getting older, and it’s time to honor where I am in my life. It was because of the pain, that I was able open up enough to see clearly what I had not allowed myself to see before. My heart is worth the effort, and discomfort. And I can handle it, even if it’s not at all what I planned.
We can plan and prepare, all good and important, but it’s when we let go of our fixed outcomes, that we can realize how strong we truly are.