Monday, January 2, 2017

Bicuspid Aortic Valve - Our Dreams for 2017

On December 20th, 2016, the Dalton Daily Citizen brought back this column from 1990.  Lewis Grizzard: A Christmas dream    When Lewis Grizzard wrote this, his mother, father, and some of the others in his family he writes about were no longer alive. Yes, this family gathering for Christmas was only something he could dream about in 1990.

Lewis Grizzard was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. It is deeply touching to me to read this part of his dream :

 "I've got so much to be thankful for, this and every other Christmas.
 I've got my health. When I was 15, the doctors discovered a heart murmur.
 But it didn't turn out to be anything serious.
 I can still boast of the fact I've never spent one night in the hospital."

This was also only fantasy, just a dream. Lewis Grizzard had indeed spent nights in hospitals by then. He had already had two heart surgeries.  His first aortic valve surgery had been in 1982, with another just 3 years later. It had turned out to be "something serious" indeed.

During his life span, Lewis Grizzard would have a total of 4 open heart surgeries within 12 years, from 1982 to 1994. 

In this article announcing his death, Lewis Grizzard, Southern Humor Columnist, Dead at 47, his first heart valve surgeries, in 1982 and again in 1985 are mentioned. In 1993, he received a mechanical valve, as well as aorta repair and coronary artery bypass, a very large surgery. In February 1994, it was reported that he was hospitalized in Florida to deal with an aneurysm of the right kidney:  Lewis Grizzard in Critical Care at Florida Hospital February 1994 .  In March 1994, a very high risk surgery was done to deal with a "life threatening mass" in his aorta. This time an aortic valve from a human donor would be used (perhaps to be less prone to infection). Lewis Grizzard did not leave the hospital alive. His brain was too injured, due to lack of oxygen at some point. Perhaps particles from that "mass" had escaped during surgery and blocked blood flow in his brain? 

Lewis Grizzard Obituary (died March 20, 1994) following 4th heart surgery

Dreams for 2017

Just for  a moment, we can give ourselves permission to dream a "heart dream" too. Dream that our lives are not touched by bicuspid aortic valves, aneurysms, and surgeries.

There is no harm in dreaming, but we cannot linger there too long, in our dream world of the heart.

In these first days of the new year, let us resolve to do all we can to live fully, including being fully informed, as we embark upon the next part of our journey with BAV.

In the reality of our journey with BAV, some of us will be called upon to make important decisions this year. All of us in BAV families must take the very best care of ourselves possible, stay informed about our own bodies and about the research in progress that may change our futures, and seek the answers we need.

Living with a "special" heart does not mean that our dreams of time spent with loving family, of achieving things important to us, cannot come true. The number of leaflets of an aortic valve need not rob us of so many important joys and goals in life. May we find, after all, that even though we have imperfect heart valves and delicate tissue, that our dreams do come true in 2017!

Wishing everyone courage, strength, and joy in 2017,
~ Arlys Velebir