This Week’s (Mis)Adventures

From James:

Short Version: So Young had chest pains on Tuesday that the medical professionals determined were probably inconsequential. On Thursday, however, she had a true cardiac irregularity (after her surgery) that gave us pause.

Long Version:

You may recall from my November 19 post that So Young was to have a “filter” installed to prevent further blood clots. A series of events took place this week surrounding the surgery.

On Tuesday, I took her to the lab to get some bloodwork in preparation for the surgery, which was scheduled for Thursday. Drawing blood was of course uneventful, but after they drew her blood, So Young said, “My heart hurts!” and was placing her hand in the middle of her upper chest. We later found out that she was also experiencing shortness of breath.

I went to the back and asked the phlebotomist if that was normal and if I should be concerned since she just drew blood and So Young has a history of blood clots. She said she didn’t think so but we should ask our doctor, so since I was going to drop off some paperwork at the doctor’s office anyway, I drove So Young there and asked for a last-minute appointment. They were able to squeeze us in to see a nurse. She checked So Young’s heart and breathing and said everything sounded fine. She also performed an EKG, which turned out normal. As a precaution, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray, since So Young had had the pulmonary embolism, and it turned out normal as well. We were relieved that there was no problem and thought nothing more of it.

On Thursday, the surgery at Johns Hopkins to install the filter took place successfully. It is actually called an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter and is an umbrella-shaped device (or so I’m told) that is installed either through the neck or the groin to an area near the belly and blocks blood clots from traveling to the heart and lungs. So Young needs this device because she can’t take blood thinners anymore since there is a small hemorrhage in her brain tumor, but she has a history of blood clots, which can be fatal. The surgery took maybe an hour or an hour and a half.

I went to sit with her in the recovery area, and after a short time the nurse began taking a keen interest in the heart monitor, saying that So Young had “gone afib,” meaning (I later found out) that she had developed an abnormally high and irregular heart rate coupled with very low blood pressure (also referred to as atrial fibrillation). So Young’s heart rate is usually around 60 bpm, but it was up to around 170 bpm. Afib can cause strokes or heart attacks. She didn’t feel chest pain or shortness of breath while it was happening, as a person normally would.

I told the medical professionals about what had happened on Tuesday, and they became concerned that she had become afib on that day as well but that the EKG simply didn’t pick it up afterwards because it had resolved itself by then. They decided to keep her overnight to observe her heart for additional afib events.

So we spent the remainder of Thursday waiting, waiting, waiting to be placed in a room overnight. Thankfully, we got one in the old maternity ward that was quite large and had a chair that converted into a “bed” for me to sleep in.

The night’s observation revealed no additional irregularities. Her heart rate gradually went down to its normal levels. We were eventually released, arriving home at maybe 7 p.m. Friday evening.

There’s no real follow-up needed for the afib event other than possibly So Young’s general practitioner ordering an echocardiogram on her heart to determine if it is shaped normally. The doctors said that, should she have another event like this, we will need to call 911.

Throughout this incident, I was thinking about the list of functions of the brain stem, where the tumor is infiltrating most recently. Regulation of the heartbeat is among its functions. It is impossible, of course, to tell whether the tumor caused the afib or whether it was something else, such as anxiety from the procedure (although she seemed completely calm while the event was happening). It just causes me to be all the more alert for symptoms indicative of a heart issue.


12 Responses

  1. James & So Young, you continue to be in my thoughts in prayers. – Love, Sung

    • Hey, Sung!

      Great to hear from you. A couple of days ago, we watched a home video from about 14 years ago, and there you were, holding and playing with baby Shannon. How time flies! Thank you for your prayers!

  2. Gage Family – I’m praying, and hard, for you. Thank you for keeping us posted. Hugs to you and all the girls, Jen S

    • Jennifer,

      So great to hear from you online! I hope you are recovering well. It’s sweet of you to continue to write to encourage us even as you experience difficulties. Our prayers are for you as well!

  3. Let’s hope it resolves itself and doesn’t come back. I’ve had afib for many years but I do notice when it starts and needless to say it is disconcerting. I wish you all all the strength you need. Praying for you always.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Charlotte, and for your continued encouragement of us. It didn’t seem to bother So Young so much at the time. She was mostly concerned about leaving the hospital! I agreed. 🙂

  4. Praying for you all! Please keep us posted.

  5. james & so young, it was good for us to spend time with your family this weekend. i hope you also were encouraged. we’re praying for you!

    • Mira and David,

      We can’t thank you enough for coming all the way down here, even if we weren’t able to be great hosts for you. I know So Young really enjoyed seeing you and appreciated your prayer. We can’t wait until March! I bet you guys can’t wait even more, especially Mira! Love you guys!

  6. James, I’ll be contacting you very soon about coming down after Christmas. xo

  7. Hi Gage Family, please know that my family is continually praying for you, for strength and God to be your refuge. I am inspired by the faith you all have and am encouraged by you. My love and prayers, Heather

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