When the kids weren’t all awake by 10:45, I started waking them and getting them into some clothes. We headed up to the hospital and woke Matt and talked to him for a few minutes. He said something to the effect of, “When they do the heart cath, I think they’re going to find out that it’s not a heart attack. The doctor mentioned it could be something else, like an infection of some kind.”
My thoughts in this moment:
a) Is he nuts? Or in denial? He must be forgetting that this heart attack talk wasn’t all based on symptoms; there was blood testing and EKGs and CT scans that indicated it as well.
b) Are they not telling him everything? Like has no one said to his face, “YOU ARE HAVING A HEART ATTACK” in an effort to keep him calm?
c) Wouldn’t it be amazing if he was right, and this wasn’t an MI? But why didn’t the cardiologist mention this to me?
I know that I said something like, “Well, that seems unlikely given what we know, but we’ll see.” And then I told him about how many people were praying for us, and he was as humbled and overwhelmed as I was.
I took the kids to lunch in the cafeteria, pretty much dismissing that whole infection conversation. Our pastor called to pray with me over the phone, and told me that he’d given my cell phone number to a pastor friend of his who lived an hour from Grand Rapids but just so happened* to be IN Grand Rapids that day, and said that this friend of his would give me a call and come by the hospital if we’d like.
Matt’s mom and dad made it to the hospital around 1:30, which helped break up the waiting for his transfer to Grand Rapids. The boys’ first question, when they knew it would be by ambulance, was, “will there be lights and sirens?” There were not, as this was not an emergency transfer, which was a slight bummer for the kids. 🙂 They decided to ride with Nana Jo and Papa Ron over to Grand Rapids, which I navigated via some printed out directions and my GPS, which came thisclose to being thrown out the window for being so.freaking.wrong.
By the time we got to the hospital, Matt had already been briefed by a nurse for his procedure, which ended up not happening for another almost 2 hours, if I remember correctly. Those were tough hours; waiting is always the hardest part…you just want an answer, even if it’s bad, you know? Our phones barely worked inside the hospital, so it was hard to communicate with people who were hoping for some answers. Blessedly, our pastor’s friend did come find us at the hospital even though his calls didn’t go through to my phone, and we spent some time talking to him about our anxieties and praying with him. In all of this, it was really cool to see complete strangers reach out to us and give of their time so freely. And having Ron and Jo there was a huge help to me, as they kept the boys in the waiting area so that I could be with Matt.
FINALLY, it was time for him to go back. The doc briefly poked his head in the room and told me that it would take 20-30 minutes to do the cath, and then if they found blockage, up to an hour to repair everything. I went out to the waiting area, and not 20 minutes later, someone was coming to get me, saying he was done. I let out a huge whoop, because I knew that meant no heart attack. But on my walk back to his room, I also knew that I had a lot of questions I needed answered.
Matt was in no shape to be remembering stuff the nurses told him, because he spent the next 90 minutes or so pretty loopy from the drugs. When I got in there, a nurse was hooking him up to his monitors, and I could tell right away that I liked her and asked a few questions.
Q: What IS this then?
A: Pericarditis, likely caused by a virus. It’s pretty typically the cause of episodes like this in men his age. It just means that there is swelling in the pericardial sac (I hate that word) around his heart from an infection.
Q: Well, his virus-like symptoms from the last several days can certainly be explained then. Is there any damage?
A: Nope! None.
And then she had to leave for a while, and said that the doctor would be by to see us. And he was right after that; Matt was his last case of the day. Our conversation literally went like this:
Jerky doctor, one foot out the door with satchel over shoulder: “Well, there was no blockage and no damage to his heart. He’ll be able to go home around 8pm.” Tries to walk away...
Me: “Wait! What now? Is he ok? I mean, we’ve thought he was having a heart attack!”
Jerky doc: “He just needs to take ibuprofen for a couple of weeks and follow up with his doctor back home.” Aaaand he left.
Now, some have mentioned that I should have chased him down for more answers, but frankly, he was such a tool that I didn’t want anything else to do with him. I figured that if the nurse didn’t give me the info I needed, I would call Karen‘s husband, Rich, who is a physician, or my own internist. And if you live in the Grand Rapids area and want to know who NOT to have as your cardiologist, leave me a comment and I’ll email you who he is, along with a prayer that he is not your cousin or your neighbor or your high school crush or something.
I talked a long time with Matt’s awesome nurse, and she answered all of my questions. She said that there can sometimes be severe damage from pericarditis if it goes untreated; like so bad that you have to have a heart transplant. Clearly, his case was no where near this severe since it was treated early and there was no damage shown on the cath. The ibuprofen is the actual treatment** for this to reduce inflammation. And besides needing to take a break every hour or so to walk around on our trip back home so that he didn’t develop any blood clots, he was leaving the hospital with absolutely no restrictions except that he should take it easy for a day or two.
Isn’t that just amazing? And whether this means that I need to read my Bible more (which is a definite yes) or just that God wanted me to be reassured of one thing all day long, the ONLY Bible verse I could remember was this (not word-for-word, but you know):
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Matthew 6: 28-34
After what seemed like an eternity but was really just 18 hours, we were all heading back to our cottage. I couldn’t have written a better ending. We let the boys sleep in a bit the following morning, and we all took off for home by around 9:30, I think. Our 7-ish hour trip took a little more than 10, given all the stops we had to make for the patient in the van, but it went well. I can say without hesitation that my kids far exceeded my expectations about traveling with them, and I look forward to doing it again.
We were so touched to pull into our driveway and see this:
Have I mentioned our small group is the greatest? They filled a cooler with a few necessities so we didn’t have to run right to the store. Amazing, right? Extra-special thanks to Kelli for being my point person back home, for getting the word out to our church staff and friends (thus resulting in us having a pastor visit us), and for answering her phone every time I called her trying not to freak out.
Matt had his follow-up appointment last week, and the resident who listened to his heart (and who, conveniently, has never actually seen a patient with pericarditis before) said that she didn’t detect a murmur or any other issues from inflammation. His heart should recover fully, though there is a slightly increased risk of recurrence over the next several months.
I hope that this didn’t sour Matt’s opinion of vacationing in Michigan again, because besides all of this, we had a wonderful vacation, and I’d love to return! We have some unfinished plans in Saugatuck…
Whew. If you’re still here, thanks for reading this book. I didn’t intend for it to be this long, but I did want to write it all down.
*not really. That’s God lining things up.
**funny story. On our way home to STL, I said something about getting more ibuprofen as soon as we got home, so that he’d have enough to get through the week. In his post-procedure loopiness, he didn’t catch that ibuprofen was actually his treatment, and not just for the mild discomfort he might feel due to the cath!