Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matters of the Heart

By now, most of you have at least heard the shocking news that I had a heart attack shortly after giving birth to Isabelle.  I know- completely unexpected for an otherwise very healthy, 30 year old woman!  Most people (including myself) have no idea that a heart attack is actually a risk of pregnancy for 4-5 out of a million women.  During pregnancy, hormones allow your blood vessels and arteries to relax and expand to accommodate the extra blood in your body which is needed for the growing fetus.  In rare cases, the arteries can become too soft and elastic.  In my case, an artery essentially collapsed on itself and closed (this is called a dissection), causing a heart attack in the tip of my heart.  According to the cardiologist, this was mere "chance" that the dissection happened where it did.  If it had happened just an inch or two higher in the artery, the heart attack would have been much more severe, causing me to be in heart failure, with only 20-25% heart efficiency and giving me a 40% chance of living through the next year.  We know however that this is not "chance" and was really God's grace that allowed the damage to be minimal.  My heart efficiency is just below normal after the heart attack (about 45-50%) and can be increased over time with proper diet and exercise.  I will probably have to take a beta-blocker for the rest of my life, which will keep my heart rate slower and therefore allow more blood flow to my heart to make up for the dead portion.  Other than that, life continues as normal for me- praise the Lord!

Of course, one of the first questions we had for the cardiologist was if this would be an issue in future pregnancies.  The cardiologist who was handling my case in the hospital (Dr. Infeld) said that my chances would be the same 4 or 5 out of a million in the next pregancy, so he didn't see any problem with having more children in the future.  However, we have come to learn that God has another plan in mind.  When it came time for my follow-up appointment with Dr. Infeld, the office called to say the there had been a family emergency and that Dr. Infeld would be unable to see me.  I was having a few chest pains, so Reese was insistent that I have an appointment with someone else just to make sure that everything was ok.  I was able to get an appointment with Dr. Salazar, who I had seen during my pregnancy for my increased heart rate.  Long story short, I felt more comfortable with how thorough Dr. Salazar seemed to me and decided that I wanted to begin seeing him for my follow-up appointments.  At my last appointment, Reese and I had decided that we would ask him for a second opinion on future pregnancies.  Before we even had a chance to ask, he recommended that we NOT try to have more children.  He explained that it is not a matter of my heart being healthy enough (all my tests came back with great results) but rather uncertainty of how my arteries will respond to the hormones for a second pregnancy.  He said that there isn't research available to show what might happen because this is so rare in the first place, but considering that hormone levels are higher in a second pregnancy, there is just no way of telling how my body might react. 

Although this is not necessarily what we hoped to hear, we are confident that God led us to Dr. Salazar for a reason.  Reese and I are both completely at peace with this news--in fact, not a tear has been shed!  I believe that God had already been working in my heart to prepare me for this, before I even knew it.  Foster care and adoption had been on my mind for several months, but I had been thinking far in the future--after our own children were much older.  Little did I know that God had something else in mind!  This has led to a feeling of excitement for both of us--about what God might have in store.  We are going to start looking into adoption, which is a whole new, unfamiliar world to us.  The whole idea is a little overwhelming because there are so many directions that we could go with this, but we are trying to keep our hearts open to wherever God may be leading.  Right now, we are leaning towards some sort of domestic adoption, although this is still a very fluid idea as well.  Several people have mentioned a private, or local adoption, that could possibly happen through a "someone who knows someone..." situation.  Please keep us in mind if you hear of someone who may be looking for a family to adopt.

I can't help but wonder if my heart attack was the start of God's plan to lead us to a child who needs a loving, Christian home to be brought up in.  Romans 8:28 has been going through our minds a lot lately- "And we know that for those who love God, ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."  We have seen God's hand so clearly in our entire story- from my first mentor who pushed me into my first trip to Europe, where I met someone who recommended the Florida State University's Summer Master's program, which is where God allowed Reese and I to meet for the first time.  Our marriage led to my job at Olive Branch (and a move to MISSISSIPPI?!?! This was definitely not in my life plan...!!) which led us to many wonderful Christian friendships and professionally, many choral opportunities for both us. We have no idea what is coming next, but we know we have already been blessed far beyond what we deserve and are excited to see the rest of our story unfold and how God may use us for His glory.

Precious Lord

This is Reese's most recent composition, sung by his Advanced Girls Choir at the 2010 Ole Miss Choral Festival. We also thought it was perfect for Big Daddy's funeral on December 12, 2010.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A quick recap...

Isabelle Marie Norris was born on August 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm and weighed 8 lbs, 13 oz.  She is a healthy, happy baby girl and has brought much joy to our lives!