Operation Iron Man: The Prelude (part 2)

Sorry for ending my last post so abruptly. Life called and I needed to stop writing to feed my family. I also know myself well enough to know that if I don’t post right away, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

Where was I?…Oh yes, I was FREAKING OUT!

My barely lucid hubby just told me that he needed triple bypass surgery. He didn’t have any other information so I asked to talk to the nurse. She promptly informed me that by law, she could not give me any information, but that she would have the doctor call me. It was still going to be a few hours before Herb was released from the hospital.

I spent that time frantically searching for someone to watch my kids so I could go to the hospital. I kept a tight grip on my phone, worried that I would miss the doctor’s call. Around 5pm I secured a babysitter and rushed to the hospital.

When I got there, Herb was fully awake and getting ready to go. Tears rolled down my face as I told her that I hadn’t heard from the doctor. She left to page him again and to get Herb’s discharge papers.

My head was spinning. I did my best to listen to the discharge instructions. Did she REALLY say that he could “bleed out” from his incision, or that he shouldn’t lift anything over 5 pounds or he might throw a clot and have a “fatal event”? Oh crap. This was serious.

The nurse left to go get a wheelchair for Herb. My phone rang. It was the cardiologist (Dr. Cardio). I pretty much wrote down every word.

He said that Herb had one of the most severe cases of Coronary Artery Disease he had seen in a man so young. He explained the three arteries of the heart and their function. Herb has total occlusion (100% blockage) of the right artery, 95%+ occlusion of the left (circumflex) artery, and 90% occlusion of the left (anterior) artery. Amazingly, Herb has no damage to the heart muscle because he’s never had a heart attack. The doctor explained that his heart grew it’s own bypass vessels which were supplying his heart with the blood and oxygen it needed. If those failed, Herb could have a “fatal event”–sudden death from cardiac arrest.

Dr. Cardio then explained that this condition developed over a long period of time which allowed the heart to make those other bypass routes. That also meant that the blockages are so hard that trying to unblock the arteries and inserting stints would be unsuccessful. Herb’s best and only hope for recovery is bypass surgery. The cardiologist does not perform this type of surgery. What Herb needs is a cardio-thoracic vascular surgeon.

Dr. Cardio had already made Herb a follow-up appointment with one of the top surgeons in the region (Dr. Surgeon). He was to see Dr. Surgeon the day after Christmas. As Dr. Cardio was espousing the talents of this particular surgeon, all I could think was, “I bet he’s not “in network” on our insurance.”

As soon as we got home and Herb was resting, I called our insurance company (Tricare) and my heart sank. The surgeon was not listed as an approved provider. And to make things worse, the closest surgeon we could find was in Alabama! I was filled with panic on how we were going to transport Herb over a hundred miles away for surgery–and what about his recovery? Would he have to stay there? How would we pay for that? I was overwhelmed.

I didn’t want to worry Herb. I felt like I was living with a time-bomb. As far as I knew, he could have a heart attack at any time. What were we going to do? Somewhere in the midst of my panic, the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit that everything was going to be okay. My rational mind couldn’t see how, but I chose to take a breath, step back from the situation, and trust God.

As I went about my evening routine of getting the kids ready for bed, I remembered a form letter we had gotten from Tricare a week or so before. After the kids were settled in for the night, I rummaged through my desk and found this seemingly insignificant piece of paper. It was just a notice letting beneficiaries know that Tricare “South Region” and Tricare “North Region” were merging to create Tricare “East Region” as of 1/1/18.

As it was after hours for calling, I went to the Tricare website and noticed that you could search for providers in either the “South Region” for immediate care, or “East Region” for services after January 1st.


Since it was only 10 days from the new year, I immediately searched for Dr. Surgeon in the “East Region”…SUCCESS!!! To say that I was elated is quite the understatement! All we had to do is keep Herb stable until after January 1st.

Herb’s appointment with Dr. Surgeon was December 26th. We wanted to keep that appointment even if we had to pay for it ourselves. We didn’t want to wait for another appointment that could be even farther into January.

I was able to go with Herb to the appointment thanks to some great friends taking care of the kids. We were even more blessed to find out that Dr. Cardio had already sent a referral request to our primary care doctor and the referral to Dr. Surgeon was already approved! Before January 1st! We were free to schedule Herb’s surgery for the earliest availability. That date was to be January 3rd. We were all jacked up on adrenaline and raring to go. We decided that Herb should just stay home since he was on restricted activity anyway following the catheter procedure.

Unfortunately, the day before the surgery, Dr. Surgeon’s office called to reschedule for the next week, Wednesday, January 10th.

Waiting that extra week has been like torture. I’ve had to spend some extra time with Jesus this week to calm my fears. But here we are, on the eve of his surgery, confident that Herb is going to come through the surgery with flying colors.

This is a perfect time to reflect on the blessings we’ve seen in just a couple of weeks:

We are blessed that…

++Herb followed through on recommended check-ups.

++Herb never had a heart attack, protecting his heart muscle and giving him a better chance of recovery.

++We have family and friends who are covering us in prayer and helping out with childcare and meals as I will be managing things on my own for several weeks.

But mostly, we are blessed to have a Heavenly Father who genuinely loves and cares for us. I can come into His presence and fall into his loving arms. I can share my fears and He reminds me that He is all I need. I have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and I trust Jesus above all things.

I wish I was more eloquent at this moment, but my sister-in-law just arrived and things are getting wild around here…

More later, friends.













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