Cecil's back home!

05.17.13 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[5]

Cecil smiles
Finally...an Update!

 

Medical update:  When I began writing this most recent blog entry, it was early in the morning on Sunday, April 14th.  Before I was able to finish and post it, I was taken to the Cardiac ICU to begin preparations for open heart surgery to implant a VAD - Ventricular Assist Device, or heart pump, later that week.  For the next 11 days I was flat on my back, immobilized, and even during the post-op recovery period back in my unit where I'd already spent nearly six months I didn't have the physical strength or the mental focus to finish that blog.  My apologies for the lengthy delay between posts but today, 30 days after the surgery and 14 days after I got home, I'm finally getting up to speed.

When I began the blog on April 14 I was going to title it, "The Fork In The Road" because that was where I had arrived at that point.  Three days earlier the senior cardiologist and founder of the heart failure program at Strong told me I was no longer a candidate for transplant. There were too many other factors that were unresolved, most of which I had shared here at various times.  My kidney function was unable to be clearly determined; one test said they were in poor condition, another said they were o.k.  For some unknown reason while I was in the hospital my PRA level (the measurement of how likely your antibodies are to fight against a transplanted organ) shot up 400%, putting me well out of the range acceptable for transplant. And all the while my heart function continued to decrease.  I was getting very close to the 'max' of what the various medications I was being given could do.  It was kind of ironic because I didn't feel as sick as I was and everyone said I didn't look as sick as I was.  But the three attending cardiologists who were responsible for my care all agreed, I was getting very close to the point of no return.  

The second option, implanting a heart pump, became the only option. That is, if I wanted to live for than 2 or 3 months.  I had been opposed to a VAD from the beginning of the process last year; it seemed too weird to have some mechanical thing (that looked like a fancy elbow joint from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot) inside me, plus the lifestyle changes that would be required.  A transplant seemed much more natural and organic.  I knew VADs had made a huge difference in the lives of many heart failure patients and I thought, "God bless 'em but it's not for me."  

Who knows the mind of God?  Who knows why the doctors and Connie and I spent the better part of six months working toward the goal of transplant only to have the entire situation turn 180 degrees in a matter of moments?  Had we misread the Lord's direction?  Had we been praying amiss?  No, we believed we were taking all the right steps and following what God had shown us to do.  

I learned many years ago that asking 'why?' is often the wrong question.  I think that's usually because we aren't meant to know 'why' at the time.  The 'why' may never be revealed to us during this earthly life.  Some people really get hung up on that.  I never have.  Rather, it's a matter of asking 'what?' - as in, "O.K., Lord, what do we do now?"  Or, "Lord, you alone are God and even though I have no clue what you're doing, I trust you.  I have to; in who else can I trust?"  It doesn't necessarily make the process any easier but it releases us from the wasteful preoccupation of trying to know 'why'  The 'why' doesn't matter and besides, who is God that he owes an explanation to us?  

So, the decision was made to move forward with the VAD.  I thought I'd have time to share this in the blog but before I could finish and hit 'send' I was being taken to the ICU and let me tell you, what a strange journey that was.  Really...that's a whole other blog.  (I don't have the strength to write that one today...)

To summarize, the surgery was scheduled for that Friday, April 19.  Justin flew in from Kansas (where he's a college football coach) a couple days before, Connie and her folks where there.  Our priest and associate pastor drove through the middle of the night to be there early enough to pray with me, have communion and anoint me with oil.  Jeff Harmon from Family Life also drove half the night to be there and we sang and prayed and laughed.  I know the word was out through FLN and our church and the network of friends we've been blessed with through this process and that many people were praying.

The last thing I remember before the lights went out was thinking, "O.K. Lord, I'm going to wake up here or in your presence" and I just felt a release in my body and spirit that God was in control.  The surgery went very well. It took about six hours and the tricky part is, for about 90 minutes to 2 hours your blood is being processed externally (so there's no blood flow through the major organs) and your lungs are deflated and your breathing is done by a lung machine. Fortunately my body transitioned well back to my own breathing and my heart, assisted by the VAD, came back stronger than it had been.

I was in ICU for five more days then transitioned back to the unit I'd been in for another 10 days.  As Friday, May 3rd approached, I realized I hadn't bought Connie a birthday present.  That was the day I was scheduled to be released.  Things were going very well, everyone was very pleased with the rate of my recovery and I was ready to go. When Connie arrived I apologized for not having a present and she said, "Having you come home is the best birthday present ever!" (Lucked out on that one.)

So today marks two weeks of being home.  I was in the hospital for 185 days.  Had 28 different roommates.  I 'coded' three times while I was in the hospital and the last time they said they almost weren't able to bring me back.  That was the first time I was really scared.  As one of the doctors said to Connie, "Your husband came face to face with his own mortality this morning."  Sobering words for sure.  It's been a sweet time just being home.  I have a nurse and a physical therapist stopping by once a week and this Wednesday I went to the weekly staff meeting at Family Life.  It was such a joy to see these wonderful people who I have the privilege of working alongside.  That was a big boost and I'm looking forward to getting back as my recovery progresses.  And as I've said from the beginning, thank you so much for praying and bringing our needs to the Father.  I don't know how many times people said, 'you must have a lot of people praying for you' and I'd reply, "You can't even imagine."  Thank you, from Connie and me, for caring, for the emails and blog replies, the gifts of support and mostly - for praying.  God is good and he is greatly to be praised. 

A couple of housekeeping items:  there are so many things I haven't shared here so I'm going to continue to blog but it will transition from Caring Bridge to another source.  I'll post that here a couple of times when we're ready to make the change so if you're inclined you can follow along and I hope you will.

Lastly, and this is PURELY optional, would you consider making a small donation to Caring Bridge?  As I mentioned way back when, I first encountered the site when a friend of mine in Nashville was going through a cancer issue several years ago.  Since then other friends and family have used it, including Connie's brother Tim, who went home to be with the Lord in March.  I know many of you were also familiar with it before I moved the blog here.  They do a wonderful work and even a five or ten dollar gift would help.  Again, no one's asking me to make this pitch and please do not feel obligated in any way, but if you feel the Lord leading you to help them, responding to him is all I ask.

Thank you again.  There'll be another update next week...all I can say is it involves ball-point pens, balloons and bedpans. 

For more on Cecil, please visit: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/cecilvanhouten

Comments

Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 05.17.13 Roberta O'Brien commented

So happy to hear that you are home. I will continue to pray for the Lord's healing touch on you. Thanks so much for sharing.

on 05.17.13 Pastor Karen Russell commented

Yay, God!

on 05.19.13 Dan Owen commented

Great to hear from you Cecil, hope to see you soon. Been & will contiune to pray. Thanks Cecil for letting our Lord encourage all of us with your "Updates".

on 05.21.13 Odi Brownshtein commented

May God be thanked!Only recently I learned, thru a mutual friend,about your heart issue. Mr. Cecil Van Houten, happy to hear that you are doing better, all oiled up and good for another 55+ years and a million miles.

Fascinating story...And what a brave man you are.
While I never had a pleasure to meet you (yet), you made an indelible impression on me as an absolutely hilarious master of captivating storytelling, a man of rare integrity, brilliance, encyclopedia level knowledge and solid faith. (You sure you aren’t Jewish? Wait, you endured your ordeal without a word of whining, blaming, complaint or lawyers - so I guess not, sadly :)

Hope that VAD device runs well, it must be as huge as my Corolla to match your big , kind heart. Praying for strength for Mrs. Van Houten to deal with you- it must have been a chore before, let alone now, that you are powered by electricity and are part machine.

with much love ~ Ode.

on 05.23.13 Walt Timm commented

Just this morning I had the thought of going to the station's website to see if there was any news on it's beloved Cecil...and there it was!

I am so thankful and grateful with you and your family that all continues along the path of faith, which the Lord has chosen; Spirit-bred and Lord led; there are other options to consider in life but none can or will, bring the same comforting results.

We hold you in our thoughts and prayers and I'm going to share this site with Beth, as she's always asking how Cecil is. You made a big impression on her...

In the words of an infamous songwriter, "May the love of the Lord and the power of His might, keep you safe, as you walk through this day.'

Looking forward to following your continued progress. God bless!

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