First things first. I can’t believe my not-so-forward-thinking parents didn’t set up my Facebook page before my birthday. Today I turned 4.
Now I’m going to have to wait 362 more (leap year, you know) for all the HBD messages on my timeline that you old folk seem to look forward to so much.
Since you missed it, allow me catch you up.
I was nice and warm and swimming around on February 15. After nine months in the cave, the shack nasties took over, and I was Jonesin’ for some sunlight.
I started knocking on the out-door around 8 a.m. I heard my Moms say, “I think Ari’s sitting on my pelvis.”
(That’s me. I’m Ari Francis Schultz. Ari means lion in Hebrew. Francis is Grammy Shir Shir’s hubby. He looked like Frank Sinatra.)
I wasn’t sitting on her pelvis. I was whackin’ at it. By lunch time I was ringing the doorbell every 5 to 10 minutes for about a minute at a time.
Get up and get get get down. 5-1-1 ain’t a joke in our town.
Schultz the elder – a little slow on the uptake sometimes – started to get the idea. Only took him 4 hours. He said, “Erica my beautiful, amazing, talented, sensitive wife, how about we head on in to the hospital and see what’s up?”
(Author’s note: My editor has been known to add a few words here and there to my work. Heavy handed, but what I can I do.)
Mommy’s a bit of a tough guy, so she decided to have a few more hours of meetings before we hopped in the car to go to my birthday party. By sixteen hundred hours (on the clock, not of labor) Dr. Wilkens-Haug sent the three of us upstairs to prepare for my grand entrance.
My arrival was, indeed, in the womb of time.
As you know, like my pops, when I make my mind up to do something I don’t let grass grow under my feet. Unlike some of my first-of-the-brood colleagues, I didn’t feel like spending a whole day wriggling and wiggling and tickling my way out. (I hear it tickles. Am I right ladies?)
Just after midnight on the 16th I had finished my protein shake, done my calisthenics, and was ready to rock. I started knocking on the door harder. Finally had it wide open. They told mom to push.
12:58 a.m….Tah Dah! Here I was. 38 and a half weeks. Surprise grand entrance for my first show.
The room was packed, too! None of this “midwife and a bucket of warm water” crap. We’re talkin’ my Moms, Schultz, K-Ber, 3 nurses, 3 OBs, 5 or so docs from the NICU team, and a cardiologist to drive the coming taxi ride around the hospital in my clear plastic Schultzmobile.
Out I came, and do I get any credit? Nooooo. They were all like “Good job Erica. I love you Erica. You did great, Erica.”
We were a team, yo. Whatever.
Anyhow, here I was. Don’t wanna give me no credit? Okay. Cue screaming.
For some reason they liked it. Massachusetts people. Go figure.
On to a nice 5 minute sojourn with the rents, and then off I went in my pimpin’ ride with my cardiodriver, a couple of roadies, and Schultz.
Fast forward, we go from birthin’ suite to NICU to CICU.
Now it’s 3 a.m. and what do they do? They leave me practically alone with Schultz. Are they kidding? This guy can barely get dressed without whacking himself in the head. Perhaps they didn’t note my delicate state. I am a very hearty 6 pounds after all.
Good thing Kerry-the-hot-nurse was here, too. (The CICU is crawling with them! They must have heard I was coming. I have them all wrapped now.) She swaddled me up and pinned my wires so Schultz wouldn’t yank on them while we chillaxed.
Here we are. 2 hours old.
I’m the good looking one.
Schultz proceeds to get Moms and we all spend some quality time together until 6 a.m. when they retire to their chambers over the bridge at the Brigham, and finally leave alone me Kerry. (How you doin’?)
From here the story continues. Since my story needs to be a good story, it has to have all the elements. I’ll spare you the detailed lecture on story structure; Freytag’s Pyramid and all we can cover another time.
But the essence is this – every good story has:
- a likeable hero (that’s me)
- who encounters roadblocks, and
- emerges transformed.
The likeable hero part firmly established, let’s encounter some roadblocks. (What is it Lassie? Is Timmy in the well?)
If you missed the prequel, you can get caught up starting here. Two in-utero science-fiction heart surgeries yadda yadda yadda.
Back to now. 7 a.m. The doctors huddle up to call the play.
Survey says…immediate heart surgery!
I try to call an audible, but they don’t listen. So it’s off to heart surgery in a few hours. They balloon my junky aortic valve 4 times to get it bigger. For those of you who haven’t been around as long as I have, ballooning a valve is a delicate balance between increasing the size, while, at the same time, not ripping it to shreds thus creating more problems.
Mind you, this surgery doesn’t fix anything. It’s more like a pick-me-up to help before the big game. Surgery went okay, but I looked pretty whack afterwards.
Not ready for my close up!
Back to the big game. When little dudes like me arrive at the big show, our hearts act like they’re working, but they’re essentially on training wheels. Like a kid learning how to ride a bike, mom was holding the seat. It felt to me like I was doing it all on my own, but it turns out she was back there the whole time.
Once we come out, the anatomy of our hearts physically change. The training wheels fall off and we are left to run our own bodies with our own hearts without mom holding the seat any more. This change typically takes a day or two.
Due to the two fetal interventions, my left ventricle was pumping away when I came out. (Yay!) It doesn’t look great, though. It’s small and full of endocardial fibroelastosis, a.k.a. scar tissue. (Boo.)
The idea behind ballooning the valve was to minimize pressure on my already weakened left ventricle. Hopefully allow it to squeeze enough blood to run my body sans training wheels.
Ever watch a kid try to ride a bike the first time when dad (yes, sexist…sue me) let’s go of the seat? Will the little twerp keep riding? Will he hit the dirt? There’s that moment the kid wobbles and shakes, the front wheel is all herky-jerky, and you just don’t know whether or not it’s crash-ville-city coming right up.
That’s where I am now.
Wobble wobble wobble.
My heart anatomy has changed (mom has let go of the seat), and I haven’t fallen yet. Not riding yet, either.
The good news: I didn’t hit the dirt immediately. I’m not on a breathing machine. That sounds like a joke (you know me, right?) but it’s not. My heart is providing enough oxygen to my body so I breathe on my own. My color is good. I have pulses in my hands and feet.
The bad news is my pulses are weak. I’m breathing a little too fast because I’m struggling to get more oxygen. Like every Schultz man, I want to EAT! It seems, however, that when they dripped in a bit of custom-made-mom-milk through my feeding tube (and you thought that was the spaghetti in the nose trick) my stomach started to bleed.
This is most likely one of two things: either I’m not getting enough blood to my stomach to break down the food, or it’s all the Scotch the old lady’s been taking in. Most bets are on the former, so no food for me for a few days. I’ll stick with I.V. fluids for now. Good for nutrition. Not very filling.
What’s next? Will Timmy get out of the well? How will the Duke boys get out of this one? Will Derek and Meredith make it after all? What does the Island want?
I’ll let you know when I’m good and ready. Patience Danelsan.
I may just sleep and smile and fill the diaper and flirt.
I may decide to show you what my little pumping system can really do. If I do, I’ll improve my pulses and send some blood to my stomach to break down that rack of Memphis ribs I’m dying for.
Or I may decide all the work is too much and take a step or two back. There’s a red lever on the wall I’m dying to pull. It’ll get me a lot of attention really fast, but good little doobie that I am I’ve decided not to pull it unless I really need it.
But I might. Jury’s out.
Meanwhile, word on the street is the doctors are going to huddle up over the next several days to see what they want to do to turbo charge the engine here. Lots of options…up to six different surgeries on the menu.
They say they’re waiting for me to make the first move so they’ll know what they should do.
I probably will, but for now I’m keeping it to myself.
Must impress girls in CICU. Girls like mystery. So for now…
– Ari-tist formerly known as Danger
P.S. Thanks for all the fan mail, but my agent tells me no visitors in the CICU. I want to see you, too, but ain’t happenin’ until I get to Lake Boon.