Friday, April 28, 2017


My first interaction with a doctor that I can remember, is when I was about three years old. I swallowed a nickel (!) and it got lodged in my throat. The doctor was able to remove it by forceps down my throat. I didn’t complain during the procedure but as soon as it was over, I turned to him and said, “You pinched my lip.”  I imagine I gave him a death stare as well. Thus began my love-hate relationship with doctors.

After a few other bad experiences with doctors, diagnoses, and drugs, over 30 years ago we decided to pursue a more natural approach to health. This means instead of treating the symptom, we search for the cause and try to treat it. We believe in prevention and have tried to incorporate a healthy lifestyle by drinking pure water, eating organic food, moderate exercise, sunshine and avoiding drugs. It also means we sometimes are in some pain along the way. We firmly believe our amazing bodies have a godly ability to heal themselves when given the right tools.

In our search to take control of our health, we have used homeopathic doctors, osteopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and admittedly a few quacks.  Instead of regular checkups, doctor visits, and pharmacies, we have chosen to only deal conventionally with a health issue when it starts to interfere with our daily life.

My flippant motto has been, “I’ll be dying before I go to a hospital.” Unfortunately (and thankfully) though, there have been several times in my life when medical intervention was necessary to save my life. I feel like a cat, now going on my 5th life.

About six months ago, I was rushed to the local ER just in time with difficulty breathing, and was later diagnosed as having pulmonary edema caused by a leaky aortic valve. Initial testing and diagnosis indicated the need to have a valve replacement.

Because of our natural approach to health, any health insurance had been phased out years ago with budget cuts. If we did need to go to a doctor, we would negotiate a cash price. Overall, we feel we have saved money and are more healthy.

Since this treatment was clearly going to be expensive, we had to wait several months before we could sign up for health insurance. Guv’nor is very good with detailed research and numbers, but he had difficulty navigating through the maze of information. Probably the only good thing about the current health insurance coverage is that a pre-existing condition could be covered. I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.

Then a wonderful thing happened. In casual conversation, my sister mentioned to a friend about my situation. Her friend knew several cardiologists and started contacting them on my behalf. Before I knew it I was in touch with a senior cardiologist at the Baylor Scott White hospital in Temple. I’ll call him Dr. D. Once we had our insurance in place, we met with him for a second opinion and further tests. We were able to convey to him our approach to health and he was sympathetic. Although I had been managing fairly normally, he felt like I was close to a steep and rapid decline. Dr. D. explained the procedure and arranged the surgeon.

After considering all the options, we came to terms with the fact that my condition was going to require open heart surgery. We chose a tissue valve (in my case a bovine) mainly because it wouldn’t require long term use of blood thinner medication. The tissue valve can last up to ten years, and second and further valve replacements can be performed by non-invasive surgery.

The surgery and five days following in ICU were very difficult, I have to admit. Several times I was ready to give up because I felt so awful, but the constant prayers of so many faithful sustained me. I couldn’t tolerate the strong pain medications. There were so many lines and monitors and jabs and pills to swallow all through the day and night. The physical therapist came several days and it felt like torture. I'm sure I was giving the death stare to many that came into my room. Once I had met the recovery targets, I was moved to a room which was more comfortable.

But through it all, Guv’nor was right there by my side. He’d decided he wasn’t going to leave the hospital until I was out of ICU. He also didn’t shower or shave for five days. Yikes. Good thing I was out of it most of that time. We were thankful for the loving support of the rest of the family.

I’m home now, resting and slowly recovering and gaining strength. It has taken me a couple of weeks to gather my thoughts enough to write this post. My brain is still a bit foggy. I’ll be back soon telling farm stories. And I’ll leave you with a few photos.

After the most restful night I had in the hospital, I found this on my door in the morning. Sweet nurse.

This sign was on the ceiling (!) fire sprinklers in the bathroom.

This was my cocktail of medications I had to take a couple of times a day.

Guv'nor and his shadow.

My followup X-ray that shows the new valve and twist ties holding my ribs together.