Wednesday, January 9, 2013

By Dying, My Mom Is Saving My Life

A month (and an hour and ten minutes) ago my mom died..

I have never gone this long without hearing her voice. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but I have probably gone three weeks without talking to her before. Stretches like that weren't unusual. But never a month.

My mom officially died of a stroke. But there were contributing factors. One of which was an atrial septal defect in her heart--a hole in her heart that allowed blood clots to bypass the normal clot filtration system and go to her brain, thus causing the stroke.

If only the doctors knew about this heart problem before the surgery...

When I learned about this, I silently vowed to myself that I would insist on having my heart thoroughly checked out before having any kind of surgical procedure again.

After Christmas, I had my annual physical. Upon hearing about my mother's death, my physician was very inquisitive about the causes. Because holes in the heart can be genetic, he listened hard to detect a murmur in me. We tried all kinds of positions and activities - sitting down, lying down, up-side-down, jumping up, and crouching down. He did not hear one. Still, just to put my mind at ease, he got me an appointment for an echocardiogram before the new insurance year rolled around.

The next day I went in for an echo and a bubble study. It was interesting in and of itself, but also interesting knowing it was the exact type of test my mother had just a couple of weeks before while she was in the coma.

I didn't get the results back until last Friday.

I have the same defect.

The doctor recommends heart surgery to close it.

I meet with the cardiologist next Monday. I expect his recommendation to be the same. The procedure should be able to be accomplished through a catheter going through an artery--no need to open my chest up or anything.

Justin's a bit of a worried mess about it all. I'm pretty chill about it, though I feel like Edward Bloom from the story Big Fish who saw his own death in the witch's eye. A clot would go to my brain and I would have a stroke, same as my mother...same as my grandmother. But really, now that we know about the heart defect and we can correct it, that scenario is being erased and my end is being rewritten.

Upon learning about my mother's heart and her subsequent stroke as I sat by her side in the hospital, I felt angry at her body. It had betrayed her. It had betrayed us all. It is not an unfamiliar feeling. I felt (and sometimes still feel) that way about my own body that refuses to get pregnant. And now I just discovered another way my body was ready to betray me again.

But a friend said to me that my mom saved my life. I am glad Ryan said that because I hadn't thought of it that way. I suppose she died because it was her time and all that, but her death pushed me to have my heart checked out. Now I will have it fixed and it will never be a worry. And my diagnosis is prompting all my siblings to have their hearts checked in the near future. More lives might be saved. Part of me wonders if she had any say in how she died. And if any part of her spirit knew that her death could prolong her children's lives, I know that should would have chosen to lay down her life.

All I know is that I will not die the same way my mother did. Her death has quite possibly saved my life.


7 comments:

cadylee said...

Oh my gosh, I'm glad you found the defect before it caused a problem, but how scary! Good luck on the surgery, and insurance. :)

Topsy said...

Wow! What a blessing to have caught that. What a cool thought that your mom saved your life. I believe she did!

I'm so sorry about your mom. I hope you can find all the comfort possible that you need to bear through time until it doesn't hurt quite as much! And that time will come. Time is such a great healer.

Rachel said...

Sitting in my office, crying. Isn't it strange how pain and loss are often wrapped in blessings?

Liz Smith said...

wow. amazing. I am still so sad about what happened, but I am so glad that you were able to find that and now you can get it taken care of. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

Whitney said...

What a touching post. I will be thinking of you! I had a very similar procedure done a few years ago. It made me so grateful that medicine is advanced enough that I was able to have heart surgery without my chest being cut open. You continue to be in my prayers.

Melissa Giles said...

I just had a thought that might be out there but whatever, I'm sharing it. Maybe not getting pregnant saved your life too, you can get blood clots during pregnancy, labor, and especially if you have a c-section right? This is a random thought I know.
The Lord knows exactly what we need for sure. Trusting Him with our ultimate happiness is the hard part, because we only see in the now.

Katherine said...

One of my best friends just had this procedure done two months ago. She had an amazing surgeon in SLC. Often people have no idea they have the defect until they have a stoke. What a blessing that you checked it and can fix it. Peace be with you Lara.

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