Is anyone else ugly crying this year?

OK here it is – virtual “talk” therapy.  I can’t stop crying lately – I mean, at the drop of a hat, ugly cry – crying!  2017 has sucked.  Didn’t we say all of this back in 2013?

First, my grandfather passed away – he was hands down my biggest (ok, & oldest!) cheerleader from way back and until the end.  Terribly sad.  On my dad’s birthday, and just 3 days after my 40th.  I got 40 great years with Grandpa and he lived to see 90.  But still…heartbreaking.

Then, my dear Aunt Betty (Grandpa’s only sister) passed away just two months and three days later.  It’s like they were besties in real life and wanted to be together in heaven, too.  She was with me and by my side my whole life and thru every hospitalization, so it was only fair that I stuck with her til the end.  Weird how things work.

Now, Jim Vance has passed as of this weekend.  Saturday morning, first thing over coffee, breaking news alert, terrible.  Such a sad hard way to start the weekend.  It’s like time stopped and we had to keep asking “Really?  For Real?  Jim Vance died?  Really?”

I am forced to agree with his colleague Pat Collins here when I say, “I thought he’d never die!”  Grrrrr.

It takes me right back to my dear Great-Grandmother’s living room (Ma, Grandpa & Aunt Betty’s mom).  These were days before the remote and at 6 p.m. sharp it was time to change the channel to “Jim and Doreen” on the TV on the cart in the corner of the living room.  You know, the safe place at your great-grandmother’s house where all of the games and toys are safely tucked underneath.  I miss her terribly, too.  She would hate to have to have seen her kids struggle at the end of their lives like they did, BUT she was also a HUGE (not to quote 45 or anything) fan of Jim Vance.  She lived a stone’s throw from the NBC4 studios and would call in if a typo appeared (ahem!) or if a hair was out of place or an outfit clashed.  She, too, would hate that Jim Vance is no longer on the airwaves. 

I feel as though it’s an ultimate “over”.  We watched him together, we talked about all of the NBC family on our first date.  Ma wasn’t at my wedding. It’s literally like the end of an era.  So many good ones gone.

Jim Vance was welcomed into any and every home I spent dinnertime in growing up.  Our house, Ma’s house, Grandpa’s House, Aunt Betty’s house, and now …my marital home.  Just doesn’t seem real.

I mean to say – we love you Jim Handly, we are glad you’re there, Leon Harris, and Doreen, you’re an amazing woman to have gone live on the air at 6:00 that Saturday night.  I cried the whole 30 minutes.  Jim was an amazing man and is watching over you, and all of NBC Washington & D.C. always.  I delivered a bouquet with my mom to the NBC Studio Sunday morning and stated they were for you and hope they brought at least a little bit of a smile.

Enjoy the ride, Jim Vance as we’ve enjoyed having you in our lives!

With Love & Gratitude,

Just lil ole Lauren, on behalf of all of Washington

Fave clips of Jim compilations thus far, also difficult, as there are so many…

Jim & George:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Jim-Vance-Laughs-as-Model-Falls-on-Runway_Washington-DC-263327011.html

Nationals Honor Vance:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/National-Honor-Jim-Vance-With-Moment-of-Silence_Washington-DC-436612493.html

Barbara Harrison Remembers:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Barbara-Harrison-on-Jim-Vances-Legacy-in-DC_Washington-DC-436387733.html?t=6

Vance’s Last Story:
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Jim-Vances-Final-Story-Inside-the-NMAAHC_Washington-DC-436391343.html?t=2

 

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My Time At Mayo

“No kid ever wants to be ‘so sick’ that they have to go to the Mayo Clinic.”

This was my immediate reaction when my cardiologist told me that she didn’t quite know what more to do with me.  So, she sent my medical record to Mayo, Mayo accepted me, and I was on my merry way.

Having “been there, done that” and with Mayo in my rear view, I can honestly say now that I’m so glad I had a reason (and referral) to go there.  I was honored and flattered that they wanted to see me, but even those feelings still felt wrong.  I thought maybe, worst case, I’d become a good research project for them to use, or maybe I’d (hoping) get ‘laughed out’ of the place and sent home.

All of that was true.  I was a good patient for students to study and take pictures of.  I failed a stress test with flying colors, but, despite that, I was sent home with no surgery. Instead, for now, I got an educational wake-up call about self-care and the Rx for Cardiac Rehabilitation.  The heart is the biggest muscle in our body and we should work it out.  This was a good lesson and a wake-up call – perhaps to all who are reading this.

If I may overshare (and I may, this is my blog!), I have weighed the most ever as of late and I am not proud of that.  I told the doctor this.  I said I don’t feel like “my old self” and clearly maybe that’s due to my heart feeling so irregular lately.  We could all benefit from a little cardio, it’s fair to say.  I am working with my local at-home cardiologist to get started right away.  I was told I need 30 minutes 5 days a week. Valid. Fair. “Only going to happen if you schedule it, and like most women, you’ll take care of everyone else first, and forget YOU, and I hate that that’s what’s happening so much these days!”  Direct quote, stated in a beautiful British accent, from my Mayo cardiologist.

So – I’ve been to the Mecca of Medicine, the Promised Land of all things Medically Possible, and I’ve learned a good hard lesson.  From here on out it’s Priority: ME!

This is going to be very difficult, as those of you who know and love me know:  But…. with the cheering section that I have, all things are possible!  Now, off I go.


(For pictures from my fabulous few days in Rochester, please click here!)

February Flew By!

As we say goodbye to super-short Heart Month, a.k.a. February today, I want to share a few items of note:

  1.  I am 1 in 100!  
  2. I started my fundraising with the Adult Congenital Heart Association in their annual Congenital Heart Walk back in 2011.  So this year is lucky #7 & my 40th!
  3. I have walked every year (except 2012, you don’t want the why!)  with family and friends by my side all the time.  Mom, Dad, a boyfriend, a fiance, now my husband!, step-daughter, in-laws, a niece, girlfriends, and most special – the daughter of a girlfriend, who was also born with Congenital Heart Disease. (that is right, we were 2 in 100 that year!)
  4. Friends & family & friends of family amaze me every year.  This year I set a high bar for $4000 (10x my age!) and with just two weeks of fundraising complete as of today, I have raised $1445 from 20 kind, generous & super-supportive people.  That’s an average of $72.25 per person!  Average!  I gave just a measly $40 in honor of my 40 trips around the sun!  What will you give?  As little, or as much, or as clever an amount you want to donate will be most appreciated and put to good use – all for the cause!
  5. Since you know I kept track, I have to say that my first year of fundraising was my best yet – let’s do it again!  As of today I’m neck and neck with the top individual fundraiser to date for this year’s walk.
  6. Please – Join us April 29th – I promise it will be as spring-y then as it has been lately in the area! 

For me, for forty, for the other 1 in 100
Donate Today!

hover over pics to see corresponding year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Hearts Day!

 

Hello Dear Blog Followers,

All of you are my friends, some of you are family, and most of you are long time loving and loyal supporters, and for all of you I am grateful!

I am writing today because – you guessed it – it’s Valentine’s Day and what better way to celebrate than to kick off my fundraising efforts for the annual Congenital Heart Walk. I have signed up to participate in and raise funds for the Walk on April 29th.  This year, wheelchair-free and 40, I will walk to prove that, yes, you can be born with a congenital heart defect, have three open-heart surgeries, turn the big 4-0 and still celebrate 32 years with the same St. Jude mitral valve.

“It looks like a well-oiled machine,” to quote my new Johns Hopkins-based cardiac specialist!  It keeps on tickin’…

It is quick and easy to support this great cause by making your tax-deductible donation. Below is a link to my personal page.

Whatever you can give will help – it all adds up! I greatly appreciate your support, last year, this year, every year!  Thank you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To make a donation online, visit my personal fundraising page.

 

Thank you, one and all, from the bottom of my ticker…pictured here!

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Happy Heart Month!

Pretty sure we can all agree that January was full of Inaugural festivities, quibbles, rants and definitely some alternative facts.  But beyond that, there was the day after which was one for the history (ahem, her-story) books as so many of us participated in the Women’s March on Washington.  It was not necessarily a march, but more of a mass amount of women showing up with creative signs, catchy chants, a crystal clear crowd, and several pink pussy hats for what turned out to definitely be something truly inspiring!

This rowdy crowd of ladies (complete with a photo bomber, the photographer’s wife, perhaps?) was very fun to share the day with, and every day since doing various outreach by email, twitter, facebooking, calling and mailing.  We hailed from Virginia, Maryland, New York, Illinois and Orlando, Florida to get city specific!  We started with breakfast with the Florida delegation at the Library of Congress and were pep-rallied with “We Will Not Go Back” chants from Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz, my sister’s, younger than I, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy & Val Demings.  Maryland’s own Steny Hoyer even made a rousing speech in a pink scarf!  It was an invigorating morning!  Then…we marched.  Or rather, shuffled. 

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Pics from The March are all here!

But now it’s February and the man who wears cheeto colored foundation has gotten me about as down as I think I can get on life, so I’m shifting focus!

heart

HAPPY HEART MONTH!

Why is it that the shortest month of the year gets devoted to the most important part of our bodies?  I digress, see, I’m about through being perplexed by all of these questions.

So begins the I am #1in100 campaign raising awareness about Congenital Heart Disease as an issue belonging on the forefront to those of you who know and love me.  


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Born with a broken heart…

 

Seeq-ing Answers after 31 years!

Technology just might never cease to amaze me.

I’ve had three open heart surgeries.  An artificial valve that is no more than 15mm across “ticks” inside my chest every second of every day.  This St. Jude’s Mitral Valve was placed there very carefully by Dr. Frank Midgley & his team at the Children’s National Medical Center 31 years ago today, October 30, 1985.  I’ve been ticking ever since!

What I have not been as of late, however, is regular!  My heart has been racing, ticking loudly and forcibly for a few months now.  It’s been taken for a good ride this past year between moving, a wedding and honeymooning across the pond and walking literally all over the great City of London.

Arriving home on Thursday evening and suspecting just a little flutter on the trans-Atlantic flight, I could really hear it ticking in overdrive on Friday and took myself to the local Emergency Room.  Needless to say, I have been frequenting cardiologists offices ever since.  Seeing the Adult Congenital Specialist at Johns Hopkins was a real eye-opener for me and my mother (a nurse) alike.  I am an amazing case, one they all love to study a little more every time.

To track my abnormal rhythms, I was asked by my latest Cardiologist, Dr. Joann Urqhart (new to my care team as my adult cardiologist recently retired) to wear the Medtronic SEEQ wireless wearable heart rate and rhythm monitor.  About the size of an iPhone, I stuck this on my upper left chest for one month’s time.  Changing it every Friday, I had four total, and was able to do all activities of daily living with it on.  Once the month was completed, I boxed it all back up and sent it back to Medtronic.  Days later, a report arrived in a FedEx envelope on my door with a whopping 81 pages (double sided) of EKG strips.  See, I had to push the sensor on the monitor every time the ticker was out-of-whack and a kind soul who was looking at my continuous EKG all this time, would call me to collect my symptoms and find out what I was doing at the time of out-of-whack-ness.  Ross and I became fast friends, as he seemed to call and check in on me the most.  Turns out he graduated from my husband’s high school a few years before he did.  Small world!

Anyway, as if Election Day isn’t doomsday enough, or enough to make my heart skip some beats with excitement, the day after I am trekking to Hopkins again for an echo cardiogram and meeting with the Adult Congenital Heart Specialist again, Dr. Thomas Traill, lucky man soon received a copy of all 81 pages and is probably still reviewing them tonight.

We shall see what the future holds, but until then, I’m going to keep on tickin’ – 31 years later & counting!

61749_MechMitralValve

My Ticker!

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Born with a broken heart…

A Tribute to Dr. Ross!

A tribute to my Cardiologist, Dr. Elizabeth Ross on the occasion of her retirement…

Here’s how it started.  I entered the office on March 11, 2016, just as I had for every other check-up, echo, and stress test appointment, and was greeted by a staff member sliding the glass panel that separated us and checked in as usual.  As it turned out, it was not really “usual,” more like my new normal as I checked in with my new married name.  I noticed and was quick to point out, “Hey, Dr. Ross needs some business cards out here.” “Oh, no, she’s retiring soon, so…” Whatever she said after that I cannot recall.  Time stood still.  I heard nothing more.  That was it.  It hit me.  Bam!  Totally blind-sided and completely unexpected.

Well, no, not completely.  I mean, my grandfather and my dad are the only retired people I know.  Who retires?  It’s 2016, aren’t we all wired to work until we drop? “This cannot be happening,” I thought.

Of course, as with all life-altering news, I immediately sat down and texted my mother.  “Lauren, (big smile) come on back!” I was taken out of the shock and sadness and swooped back to the exam room by Dr. Ross herself.  This act of being greeted by the doctor and then invited to get up on an exam table with fabric and not paper are unique to this office, and I should know, given the number of DC area doctors I have seen.

We had the usual visit, “weigh yourself” (how kind) and “let’s get an EKG on you!”  Dr. Ross told me that mine is the only birthdate she knows by heart and that is because she’s entered it into that machine so many times.  I’ll take the flattery!

Asked to share a short message and focus on the role she may have played in my life was not an easy task.  I have pondered where to begin every day since March 11th and there are so many ways and days she has mattered much to me, but the most important and unforgettable time was in the middle of the night, closer to early morning, somewhere between 2 and 3 a.m.  I had mailed Dr. Ross my annual Christmas letter and she very nicely sent me one back.  As a result, I had her street address from the return envelope.  No doubt, I programmed that in my phone right away.  So at 2 a.m. on a Memorial Day weekend while lying on the emergency room gurney I used my iPhone, went to the white pages app, entered Ross and N Street and hit dial.  Her terrific husband answered after maybe two rings.  He sounded pretty groggy and as I sheepishly asked “is Dr. Ross available?”  He said not a word but handed her the receiver and immediately I heard, “This is Dr. Ross, how can I help?” in her same voice as if it were noon on a week day!

“They want to reverse my Coumadin and….” (I don’t even know what all I said) and she didn’t care anymore past that part either and said “why don’t you put the doctor on the phone?”  And just like that I’m handing my iPhone to some doctor who just walked in this ER and said “we need to operate right now.”  Fifteen minutes later that poor man, who was not a young doctor, walked in and said “I don’t think I’ve ever been schooled about so much, so fast in all my life.” Ha, ha!  I knew Dr. Ross would set him straight!

I could go on, but really, need I say more?  She took me on when my pediatric cardiologist “fired” me when I went off to college.  She saw me through many things – medical and otherwise – like hair-dos, EKGs, boyfriends, echos, college days, flutter, weight gain, lab work, medication changes, and more.  Dr. Ross didn’t specialize in congenital heart defects, but she specialized in me!  The last thing she saw me through was yet another procedure related to the downstream effects of congenital heart disease.  And following that, I’m off to my honeymoon!

There is no proper way to close this letter.  I love you, Dr. Ross, and I thank you so much for the last 17 years of my care.     

Your Favorite Patient,

Lauren Elisabeth Smith Ridgway
Atrial Septal Defect