Donna is getting a heart valve replacement today (January 21, NYC). It is a big deal for both of us. If you are wondering why this is the first you are hearing about it, don’t blame me. She scheduled it last week and it blindsided me.
For three years or so Donna has had “aortic regurgitation” and fatigue. She has seen several cardiologists, and tried as hard as possible to avoid taking drugs or getting surgery. The diagnosis was heart failure and a potential valve issue, but she set out to get second opinions. She finally started taking beta-blockers over the summer. Donna can gather information to the point of procrastination.
Two weeks ago I accompanied her to a consultation with a valve surgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian. He read her the riot act and I am grateful that he did. The surgeon told her heart was working too hard to compensate for the aortic valve leakage. He told her that the risk of waiting was not worth it, and that she had a high probability of a good outcome if he did the surgery now. Low risk, high benefit. He also explained that the risk gets higher the longer she waits, and the benefits decrease. He told her to take no more than a month to decide.
I fully expected Donna to take to her computer and Google for 29 days. She took six days, and scheduled the surgery ASAP. I am glad she decided without my pressuring her. It would have been a long month if she kept searching for articles about outliers and alternative treatments.
Donna and I have been together for over 30 years and we are lucky that this is the first real health crisis that either of us have faced. My identity issues around being butch and transgender created a lot of stress, and threw a wrench in the works, but we learned to talk to each other more honestly.
I told Donna that I am concerned that she put off the surgery because she wanted to wait until we were both settled in with my top surgery. Until she felt things were solid again. But she reminded me that she has found many diversions from her diagnosis, and my surgery was just one of them. She could have come to this point earlier if she chose to make it her priority; she did not want to face up to it. She busied herself with studying Italian and going to demonstrations. She had projects to work on. There was my surgery to worry about.
Donna felt “good enough” and adapted to the gradual decline in her energy level. She wasn’t in a hurry. Until now. The surgeon said there is a “95% chance of a good outcome” which means there is a 5% chance of a really bad outcome. He has performed over 750 heart valve replacements, and I believe him. If he was my investment advisor, I’d hand over a chunk of my savings to him, and take a chance. But Donna is not my savings, she is my one and only, and I can not imagine life without her.
it wasn’t my plan to take up with someone older than me. I fell for Donna against my will. I knew on paper it was not a good decision (better to take up with someone younger and wealthier instead of someone older and more intellectual). There are no guarantees of good health, even if you are with someone your own age (my Dad died at 43 and my mother was a widow at 43). You do what you can to put the odds in your favor. I eat a healthy diet and exercise.
We have not had the “what if things go wrong” talk because I am planning on Donna being part of the 95%. We have not gotten married because Donna is planning on being part of the 95%. I am her medical proxy, and I have legal power of attorney if it comes to that. But it shouldn’t. The odds are in our favor.
Assume no news before next week is good news. I may not have the time, energy, or inclination to respond to comments. I’m going to try to post next week because writing is one of the things that keeps me grounded and sane.