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6 month Update!

Hello Friends and Family!

 You may remember from previous messages that I told everyone that no news from me meant good news – well that’s very much the case, news is good!  I had been asked by a few people to put together a little note to let everyone know how the progress goes.  Good idea, so here goes…….

I am happy to report that I just celebrated my 6 month anniversary with this wonderful new heart on April 15.  Kind of funny to celebrate on tax day….maybe there’s some link I’m missing!  In any case, we are all very happy with my medical progress.  There will be hiccups along the way, and there have been a couple, but we’ve continued to keep it all in perspective.  I never would have expected to be back at work full time, attending the girls sporting events, and getting out visiting with family and friends so soon.  It makes me excited to think about how much closer we all are to returning to “normal” family life.  Although you all know that normal is very much subjective!

I am trying hard to get my physical strength back up so that I can play a little soccer on the weekends and get back out to some sailboat racing.  I know this will be the longest part of the recovery, so of course it is the part that makes me the most impatient.  Patience clearly one of my greatest strengths (Not) L.  I focus on cardio exercise still, and I am hoping to get clearance soon to do some weight training to build back my muscle mass.  In the meantime, I’ve made really good progress on the treadmill, bike, and elliptical machine.  Looking forward to moving more of my exercise outside if it ever stops raining here!  You would hardly know I had a transplant when I’m just walking down the street at this point, and that’s a big change from even 3 months ago.  I hope to be at 75-80% of my former strength by the middle of summer (9 months or July), and I think it is a realistic goal.  I’m definitely smaller than I was prior to getting ill, but gaining back some weight and in the right places.  I finally broke down and had a few of my suits re-cut.  They look great, I think I look pretty good in them, but I would not recommend this diet to any of my friends!  There are definitely better ways to trim down a size or 2!

The family is doing great, and they continue to be my greatest source of strength and support.  Girls always checking up on dad (I think Sue coaches them!) and it always makes me chuckle a little bit inside.  It’s really very sweet.   The girls are super busy as we enter the crunch time for sports, dance, school functions, and church activities.  I don’t even think about trying to make any plans without checking the master calendar first!  I wouldn’t trade the hectic schedule for anything – I never liked sitting around anyways.  Sue makes this entire craziness look easy as she keeps all of us on mission.  We’ll make sure to thank her properly on Mother’s day next weekend.  Really a remarkable women.

 We continue to appreciate and thank you for all the well wishes and prayers for our family.  We truly appreciate them and want you to know that we keep all of you in our thoughts and prayers too.  Hoping you all have a great spring and I know we’ll start seeing more of you in person as the weather turns warmer and we make an effort to get out and reconnect. 

 

Yours truly,

 

Jim and Sue

Ashley, Meggie, and Jilly

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Hello Friends, Family, and Countrymen!

 Thought the Countrymen part makes it a little more dramatic even if it makes little senseJ

 Happy New Year everyone!  The Armstrong Family is looking forward to 2011 (imagine that!) and we hope you all are looking forward to making 2011 a great year too.  We wish you all much happiness, good fortune, and most importantly good health. 

 I noticed we hadn’t sent out any sort of mass update in some time, so a quick progress report.  I am feeling strong enough to start work again, and will be working a combination of home and office hours beginning this Monday the 3rd.  As my stamina recovers, I’ll gradually increase my hours in the office.  I’m looking forward to taking one more step towards resuming my normal routine. 

 To help me regain my strength, I have been doing physical rehab 3 days a week at the hospital as part of a Cardiac Rehab program.  Feels really good to be working out again even if it is at 1/3 of the pace I used too.  The program is 8-12 weeks and then I graduate to a self-monitored program that I continue at home or in the gym.  My first immediate goal is to be strong enough to do a couple ski runs with the kids before the 2010-11 ski season ends.  The doctors and rehab nurses think it’s a great goal and are helping me tailor my workouts to get there.

 I plan to see more of you all in 2011 and will be gradually getting out and about more over the next 3 months.  Still have to be careful around kids and anyone that might be exposed to cold and flu bugs.  It’s a little frustrating having to limit my social contact, but I’ll just have to be patient a little while longer.  Small price to pay in the big scheme!

 Thanks for reading and being there for our family.  We’ve really been blessed to have you all in our lives.

 Jim and Sue

Ashley, Meggie, and Jilly

 

Thanksgiving Note from Jim A

Hello Friends and Family!

 In my last missive I told everyone that no news from me meant good news – so my silence is good news and I am at home.  I have been visiting the Dr. regularly to have my heart biopsies, and they are adjusting my medicines accordingly to prevent any rejection of the new heart.  So far everything is going well and I really am feeling stronger.  I’m getting out and about a little more each day, and my daily walks with Sue are getting me further and further into the neighborhood.  My goal of returning to work in January is right on track at the moment, and I intend to keep it that way!

Sue and I are enjoying the downtime together, and it’s been really nice to spend a little afternoon time with the girls after school each day.  Might seem like a little thing, but the additional time with the family has really helped me feel better. 

 

For those of you that made it to the party/benefit at CYC on the 5th, thanks for making it such a great success.  I’ve heard from many of you with reports of a great time, and my Skype appearance gave me a chance to see a great crowd assembled.  Thanks again to our Have a Heart for Stretch Organizing Committee for putting together such a great evening.  It was a nice opportunity to connect with friends and I only wish I could have been there in person with you.  I guess that means we’ll just have to arrange another party!

 As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to take a moment to tell you all how thankful I am for all of your support for our family this year!  As I have mentioned before, it has been an extremely challenging 5 months for us, but we have realized many blessings along the way.  For that we are all very thankful!

 We hope you all have an opportunity to enjoy the holiday with family and friends, and can relish the blessings you have all shared over this year too.  Wishing you all the best!

 

Jim and Sue

Ashley, Meggie, and Jilly 

P.S.  There’s a new article about the use of the HeartWare Bi-vad pumps in my heart failure situation as a bridge to the heart transplant on the Northwestern Memorial Website.  Made the Home page!  Meggie says I’m now famous, but for all the wrong reasons!  Cute, isn’t she…..  go to www.nmh.org  Article is right there in the center.  It’s a nice synopsis of the medical treatment I received.

 

 

 

Boo! Happy Halloween! JIM COMES HOME TODAY FROM THE HOPITAL!!!!!!

Just got the official word, sending me home this afternoon!

Hope you all have a great Halloween Weekend!

Boo!!
Jim

October 27 Update from Jim

Hello Friends and Family!

 

It was a simple request to Sue; ‘Can you bring me down some fresh underwear and a shirt?  I have a pair of jeans already.’  Seeing as I had not needed these items over the last 12 hospital days, it gave Sue a reason to pause.   She sensed I was planning on shedding my fabulous green gown and making a hospital break.  I’m not that clever, but I appreciate that she thinks I’m capable! 

 

My request was more pure, just getting things together for what should be a discharge home in the next few days.  I don’t know if it will happen this week, but it is very unlikely I will still be recovering in the hospital come next week.  So for all practical purposes, no news from me means they sent me home for Halloween.  Trick or Treat!

 

So far my transplant recovery has been uneventful, and we are very thankful for that.  Weekly biopsy is the most important data point for me going forward to make sure there are no signs of rejection of the new heart.  Steroids and immune-suppression drugs will be the regiment for me to help ensure my body cooperates.  Adjusting to the meds so far has not been an issue, another good thing.

 

We still are in awe of the speed with which this transplant opportunity became a reality, and I can’t tell you all enough how grateful we are to the heart donor, their family, the medical staff, and most importantly you family and friends that have prayed for a favorable outcome.   Thank you.

 

After returning home, my plan is to be a bit out of site for a while to make sure I do not get exposed to any colds/flu/etc as it would really complicate the recovery process.  So as much as I would like to be able to say ‘Come on over for a visit’ I hope you’ll understand that we just can’t do that yet.  The extra precaution will help make those 2011 visits all the more likely.  Probably being a little paranoid, but we’ve come so far!

 

I will pare back email chain at some point over the next couple of months, but will continue to post updates to our blog https://heartforstretch.wordpress.com/   All of my email updates are posted there and it is a less intrusive way to share info with you.

 

One last announcement.  A group of college and sailing friends have combined their significant talents to put together a little celebration/benefit in my honor.  It is really a very generous effort on their part, and I want to do my part in promoting it.  Alas, I cannot attend as I had planned, but Sue will be there and she’s a whole lot more interesting than me anyways!  Friday November 5, 6:00 pm, Chicago Yacht Club Belmont Avenue Clubhouse is the date and place.  They will have food and drink as well as some great silent auction items.  Should be a fun party, I really wish I could go too!  More info at www.haveaheartforstretch.com  including auction items, event sponsors, and even some pictures.  I hope you get a chance to attend and thanks to all involved!

 

Well, time for me to go and make a call home to catch up with the kids.   Wishing you all the best!

 

Jim “Stretch”

 

Stretch Speaks!!!!!

Hi everyone;

Putting out a quick update to help get all the news that’s fit for print out in the proper hands!

The surgery went very well.  The Dr.’s were very excited about the donor heart, and that certainly made Sue and I comfortable as well.  The old heart was ‘trash” according to one of the cardiologists involved in the transplant.  Clearly the pumps were doing all the work. They don’t provide us with any info about the donor heart outside of the blood type, so really nothing for me to share on that front.  Family has been down to visit several times and are all doing well.  I think it helps that the kids are back to a school routine, and I hope to be a more regular part of their day soon.

I am up and walking around on the ICU floor, and they are quickly removing drainage tubes from the surgery which is always a good sign.  My transfer order just got released so I can move up to a normal room when a bed becomes available.  Could be this evening, or maybe tomorrow.  In the meantime I focus on the basics, eating, sleeping, and exercising.  Not a bad little routine truth be told!  If all proceeds at this same pace, I may be home by early next week.  Really an amazing difference from the first set of surgeries which kept me in the hospital some 60 days!

I get many questions about visitors, and that is probably the biggest change I will undergo compared to the prior 4 months.  I am on heavy doses of immune suppression drugs and steroids to help my body from rejecting the new heart.  My dosage will be reduced over time, but will leave me vulnerable to the common cold and other wonderful reminders of the winter months.  Because of this weakness in my armor, I will be keeping personal visits to a minimum for some time.  So as much as I would love to visit with everyone personally, I just can’t swing that yet.  I don’t intend to live in a bubble, but for the next couple months I will need to be very careful, so if you do see me out and about, don’t be taken aback by the possible facemask and other precautions.

With regards to work, my 3 week return to the office has run its course and I will be on short-term leave once again.  I will be out October and November for sure, and we’ll see about the possibility of working from home in December.  We will address all of that in due time.  I will now be turning my attention to more pressing matters like my Halloween costume choice.  I was going to be Steve Austin, $6 Million Dollar Bionic man, but now that my pumps are gone, I only have half the costume (the bills!).  Not to worry, I’m certain I will be able to whip up another fine substitute so that I’m ready for tricks and treats.

Thanks to all of you that have reached out with a kind word, a prayer, or support for our Trust.  We truly appreciate all the kindness we have been blessed with, and look forward to paying it forward each and every day.

As I get more news, I’ll be sure to share it as quickly as possible.  Until then, thanks again and God Bless.

Jim “Stretch”

Jim is awake and talking!

Jim is awake and talking.  I know.  I thought they were going to keep him out for awhile.  But you know Jim, always full of surprises.  I don’t think anyone was more surprised this morning then our daughter Meggie when he called home to wish her good luck at her soccer game today.  She was so shocked and happy to hear his voice.

 

Jim and I are both in awe of our blessings.  He has only been on the heart transplant list for 10 days.  When I lay my head on his chest this morning, I heard the most beautiful sound, his new beating heart, so strong and steady.  We will thank the donor family everyday.  This is truly the greatest gift.

 

We know we are not out of the woods just yet.  He is on a number of medications that will prevent rejection, and in doing so will suppress his immune system.  So as social as he is, he will be unable to have as many visitors, due to the risk of infection.

 

As always, thank you for your continued prayers. Enjoy this beautiful Fall day.

 

Sue

 

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