First post since February 11, 2019…Life after heart surgery…A heartwarming stroke of appreciation…

This was the scene that rolled out before our eyes this morning.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A baby is wondering what this crunchy green stuff could be.

Our last full post was uploaded two weeks ago today. I can’t tell you how many times I longed to be able to write, but after the triple coronary bypass surgery of February 12th, it was impossible.  With all the medications, the pain, and the associated brain fog, I could barely sign my name, let alone write a post.

I spent eight days in ICU and a few more days in the regular hospital. With the diminished nursing care in the hospital ward, after the excellence of the ICU nurses, I felt Tom could take better care of me, and thus, on Saturday, February 23rd, I asked the doctor to release me to return to Marloth Park.

This decision proved to be right. Tom’s exemplary care and attention to detail with nary a moment of frustration for being assigned caregiver, we both knew this was the best thing we could do to aid in my recovery.

No, it hasn’t been easy by any means. Tom, bless his heart, painted a picture on Facebook of me being “a trooper” and handling this so well. This has hardly been the case. I have suffered as much as any recipient of this life-saving surgery and hardly consider myself brave in the process.
There were three little ones in this dazzle of zebras.

Being unable to move about freely for fear of dislodging metal parts in my chest, the pain when trying to perform the simplest of personal tasks, and the knowledge that long-term recovery is undoubtedly in the distant future make day-to-day living somewhat challenging.

The long drive back to Marloth Park in the little red car was easier than expected. Tom avoided any herky-jerky maneuvers. The pain medication made me sleepy enough for the time to pass quickly, and before we knew it, we were back in Marloth Park.

Louise had two massive bouquets, the fridge filled with enough food to last for days, the bedroom cooled down with aircon (before the power went out that night), and the house is spic and span condition.

In no time at all, Tom unpacked our bags, made piles of sorted laundry for the Zef and Vusi to hang outdoors today, and began to prepare a perfect dinner of chicken “flattie” and salad, all that either of us cared to eat.  

Tom had cut several stalks of celery, saving the scraps for the kudus, bushbucks, and zebras, all of which love celery. 

Now, the real recovery would begin. But, on Saturday night, when the power went out, thrashing in bed, unable to get comfortable in the hot still air, I attempted to remove the hot compression stockings when my feet and legs felt as if they were on fire. 

In doing so, I tore something in my chest near my right arm that has left me in even more pain than today has finally begun to subside. I couldn’t conceive of driving back to Nelspruit to see what I’d inadvertently done to myself when we’re already scheduled to return to see the surgeon this Friday.

Then, on Saturday night, before the power outage, I showered only to have one of the major incisions in my thigh start bleeding profusely. With all the blood thinners I’d been taking, the blood wouldn’t stop running. Again, last night it happened after the shower. But, we can deal with this.

In essence, the warm, kind is Dr. Theo Stronkhorst, located at Rissik Medical Centre, 71 Rissik Street, Komatipoort, 1340, (phone 
013 793 7306), and knowledgeable general practitioner in the small town of Komatipoort, saved my life. Plain and simple.

The little ones showed little interest in pellets or vegetables.

When I had an appointment with him on Thursday, January 31, to get my three prescriptions refilled in preparation for heading to Kenya for the amazing upcoming multi-faceted safari, beginning on February 22, I casually mentioned a recurring pain in my lower jaw on both sides, mainly occurring in the mornings upon awakening and then again in the evenings at bedtime.

Typically, when we hear about women having jaw pain as an indication of angina, it’s on the left side of the face, closer to the heart. Somehow, this sharp and conscientious doctor knew that he needed to check this out further to give me peace of mind for our upcoming travels to Kenya.

He told me to be at his office on Saturday morning, February 2nd, for an exercise stress test. I was a little stymied when he had me lay down on an exam table after the test to give me a dose of nitroglycerin. I thought I sailed through the test without incidence.  

By Tuesday, February 12th, I was prepped for open-heart surgery at Mediclinic in Nelspruit, South Africa, for coronary bypass surgery with three of four coronary arteries 100% blocked.  I shouldn’t have been alive.  

Two youngsters hanging out as their parents savored the breakfast,

First, we saw cardiologist Fanie Fourie for tests, including an angiogram, CAT scan, and ultrasound. But it was the angiogram that painted the full picture. I was a walking time bomb. While I was wide awake during the angiogram, my arteries were impossible to “stent.” Open heart bypass surgery was my only option.

Tom and I were both in a state of shock with this news. How was it possible that health-nut me was in such a dangerous state of being? But, the bigger question for me will always remain, “Why was I spared?”

Yesterday, in a thank you letter to my immediate family for their love and support. During this ordeal, I mentioned that I might spend the rest of my life trying to figure out why I was spared.  Surely, there’s a bigger purpose here that I will continue to explore for my remaining years. 

But one thing I know for sure is that Dr. Theo Stronkhorst saved my life, and this I will never forget and never fail to appreciate day after day. I will always recall a vague recollection that I spent my 71st birthday in ICU surrounded by some of the most loving and diligent nurses on the planet. (They are called “sisters” in South Africa).

The youngsters are indescribably adorable.

They sang the birthday song that night, presenting me with a gift, and through my medication fueled blur, I had tears in my eyes. Grateful. I will always be thankful for every day of the rest of my life to those nurses, to those three doctors and anesthesiologists who participated in my care, for Dr. Hannes Naude, who performed the surgery, and most of all, Dr. Theo Stronkhorst, who gave me another shot at life.  

Sure, it’s painful. Sure, it takes months of recovery, much of which will be my responsibility to enact, and sure, it has required the attention and loving efforts of my dear husband, Tom. He has given me this extraordinary life of love, healing, renewal, and exploration, which, for this final chapter of my years, in many ways, will have just begun.

A special thank you to our readers/friends worldwide for their continuing love, encouraging messages, and endless prayers.  

We’ll continue to post daily as we gradually work our way back to a life of world travel and the blissful lifestyle it provides.

Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2018:

An apparently happy oxpecker on the hide of a kudu we spotted on yesterday afternoon’s drive in Marloth.  From this site: Oxpeckers graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals. Certain species are preferred, whereas others, like the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest or Topi, are generally avoided. Smaller antelope such as lechweduikers, and reedbuck are also avoided; the smallest regularly used species is the Impala, probably because of that species’ heavy tick load and social nature. They now feed on cattle in many parts of their range but avoid camels. They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks, as well as insects infecting wounds and flesh and blood.”  For more photos, including “Movie Night in the Bush,” please click here.