Welcome to Anne's blog!

If you are new to the blog, you probably want to start at the beginning of the whole sad story. To get there, use the "Blog Archive" tool in the right column of the blog and click on "2009," and then "January 25." From there you can continue to click on each week to see the weekly entries.

I would love to hear from you! If you would like to leave a message, you can reach me at aheetderks@wcsmiami.org!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Well, I am still in the hospital and will be staying here until Monday.

It has been a weird few days. On the one hand, you desperately need the pain meds because--without them--you would seriously consider gnawing off your foot with your own teeth just to escape the pain. On the other hand, the combination of these meds and the pain sends you on a mental journey that travels between feeling so happy and loved and content, to feeling tormented, miserable, and depressed. So, while enduring each moment of this journey, you are being asked to stay still, have your first bowel movement, prove you can use your walker, scale your pain from a one to a ten, drink pro-biotic drinks, remember to ask for your pain meds (they can't just give them to you--you have to ask for them), and keep out a watchful eye for any unusual or suspicious symptoms. It sounds simple, but it is actually quite weird and yucky (best way I can put it).

So, WISELY, Dr. Carbonell wants me to slowly wean myself off of my pain meds before I leave the hospital. Yesterday, I was allowed to have 2 ml of dilaudid, while today I could only have 1 ml. Tomorrow--no more dilaudid--just percocet. I am not looking forward to it. Although I have felt much clearer today by being on less pain meds, the pain is obviously more intense. Tomorrow should be interesting.

My Mom just arrived and we are going to watch a movie on my laptop together tonight. Sweet to just hang out with Mom. Just to give you a little insight into how she feels about me . . .

Last night Mom said, "Honey! You got a star on your door! Did you do something special?? You better ask!" All night I quietly wondered if maybe I had been nominated for the "Positive Patient Attitude Award," or "Patient Most Likely To Walk in the Near Future." Turns out that a star on your door means that you are a "fall risk." Just keeping me humble.

OK--hopefully I will be getting another PICC line put in my arm on Monday morning, making a quick stop to the Infectious Disease office for some antibiotics, and then home to my bed.

I can't wait to see my precious husband and kids again tomorrow.

Love to you all--


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hello! My surgery went without a hitch on Wednesday afternoon and I was back in my room recovering by 10:00 pm. The pain is ridiculous. My Mom faithfully wiped my brow with a wet washcloth as we struggled to figure out the right mix of pain meds to make my life tolerable. It is now Thursday night and I am feeling the need to put up a few pictures to share a few details of the last few days.

Once again, I am blown away by the kindness of strangers. My doctors and nurses are endlessly giving, kind, intuitive, patient, caring, and informative.

This is the face of Dr. Carbonell who has faithfully seen me through a ridiculous amount of ups and downs over the last 10 months. I am very grateful to have such a wonderful doctor. One of his residents stopped by yesterday to give information and answer questions about my surgery.
Amazingly enough, he told me that they were shocked to find three remaining fragments of landscaping fabric still hiding out in my ankle.

This is the piece of bone taken from the calcaneus of a cadaver and cleaned up and sent to me. When Dr. Carbonell got in my ankle, he discovered that the bottom half of my talus was still alive while the top half was dead and crushed. Therefore, he sculpted this cadaver bone to replace the top half of my talus. He also inserted a battery operated bone growth stimulator next to this bone to encourage it to grow into the other bones.

Among the many doctors and residents who watched Dr. Carbonell perform my surgery were my old dear friends, Bozena and Maribel. These lovely women were there for me during my first three weeks in the hospital following my fall. They saw me through some very dark and scary times with lots of love, advice, and information. It was delightful to see them again.

Several doctors have raised a few concerns and are having me take a few precautions. 1- I am now on blood thinners to eliminate the chance of developing a blood clot in my ankle. 2- I am blowing into this contraption 10 times every hour to decrease the chance of fluid building up in my lungs while I recover. 3- I am on antibiotics to keep any chance of bone infection at bay. Dr. Jacobsen (my infectious disease doctor) stopped by yesterday and told me that I might have a PICC line put in again so that I can take 6 more weeks of IV antibiotics at home. He doesn't want to have the bone infection issues with this new bone that I experienced with the old one.

One way to get out of making a Thanksgiving meal is to have a major surgery during Thanksgiving Break. I was delighted to find this lovely feast on my meal tray today. Awesome!

Well, it turns out that seeing the Sponge Bob float while on pain meds was neither an opportunity to fly above New York, or a terrifying experience. It was just a plain old Sponge Bob float. So now I know.

So this is what I know. I know that I have the most wonderful husband who is grieving the loss of his Dad while faithfully checking up on me. To say that he is "so sweet" doesn't begin to describe the man. Just the sound of his voice on the phone is an immediate comfort.
My Mom has been amazing while seeing me through some very rough times of extreme pain. Even at 40, there is nothing better than cuddling with my Mom to make me feel better. I think the whole experience has been a boost to her self-image, too--Two people today asked if my Mom and I were sisters.

My dear girls have been asked to get through some pretty rough stuff over the last year and they are handling it beautifully. I love them so much. I can't wait to feel their tiny hands in mine. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by such faithful friends. People have already offered to make meals or drive the girls home from school when Thanksgiving Break is over. Amazing to me.

Some of you have asked about my Dad. It turns out that--unbeknownst to anyone--he had a mersa infection while fighting a case of mono! When he went into the hospital, as the doctors treated one symptom, it would aggravate another. It took a "House" style of doctor to finally put it together that he must be suffering from a virus--tested him for a few--and came back with a positive result for mono. Dad is now at home recovering from what was a severe blast to his system. So glad that he is still with us.

As for me, I continue to feel blessed all over.

I love all of you so much.

Talk later (when my head is clearer).


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Praise the Lord--I am in the hospital! I was admitted tonight and am going through the motions of getting ready for surgery tomorrow afternoon at 4:30.

Here's what is on the menu for tomorrow . . .

My ankle and sub-talar joints will become permanently (hopefully) fused using seven screws as stabilizers. Because my talus collapsed, "cadaver bone" will be used to replace the destroyed bone. Dr. Carbonell will also insert a small battery-operated bone growth stimulator inside my ankle to encourage the bones to grow together.

I will most likely be in the hospital for a day or two following the surgery to help manage the pain. This means that I will be watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Dog Show while on some serious pain meds. Lisa thinks that I will be on this happy high--thinking that I am soaring through the air like the Sponge Bob float in the parade. However, judging by the way those meds made me feel the last time I had a big surgery, it is more likely that Sponge Bob will be coming out of the T.V. to devour my ankle. I'll let you know how it goes.

Once again, I feel absolutely showered with blessings. From the Thai food meal my parents and I ate before coming to the hospital, to the doctors who were expecting my arrival and had everything ready to go when we got here--life could not be better.

Here is the most amazing thing . . . On the way to the hospital, my Mom told me that she had run into a woman (named Loretta) this morning at church who has been faithfully praying for me every day since my fall. Even though I hardly know her, Loretta has had a burden on her heart to pray for me. OK--so that's amazing. But what was even more amazing, was that when we arrived in my hospital room, guess who was my nurse for the evening--LORETTA! My Mom just about burst into tears. Loretta set me up with a private room and even brought me my favorite hospital midnight snack--jello and crackers.

So--Can you see why I never question God's plans? Unbelievable.

OK--so I am tired and ready to go to sleep in my nice bed. I am happy. Missing Doug and the girls, but happy.

By the way, Doug has been having a blessed time in Michigan while mourning the loss of his father together with his family. They have been able to talk to so many people who have expressed such deep love and respect for Dad Heetderks. He was quite a man.

Love to you all--


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Late Saturday night, we received a call that Doug’s Dad had died. It hardly seems possible.

When I think of him, all I think of is a man who was always filled with life. Doug’s Dad was a middle school principal, Science teacher, career elder at his church, director of a children’s Science camp, lover of nature, faithful servant, loving husband, awesome Dad and Grandfather, and one heck of a father-in-law. He was wise, kind, patient, and knew how to cut through nonsense to get to the simple truth. When you were with him, you were always learning something new, or discovering something you had never thought of before. Whether collecting eggs from his chickens in the backyard, picking up leaves at Camp Roger, or taking a walk in the woods, Dad always made you feel special and happy to be with him.

After much deliberation, Doug and the girls left this morning to go to Michigan for the wake, funeral, and Thanksgiving break. I so wish that I could have joined them. However, Doug and I both knew that knocking my ankle around while travelling would not be helpful for anyone. Part of me hopes that I can have my surgery while they are gone just so the girls don’t have to see me in the hospital. We will see. The girls were very brave—they said that Grandpa was such an “alive and active” man and that they didn’t want to think of him as being gone. Doug is very sad but feels a great deal of peace knowing that his dear Dad is in heaven breathing with ease. Dad Heetderks was not a man who would have wanted to be hooked up to a respirator.

I know that many have said that our family has been hit with a lot over the last year. It is true. But somehow God has given us the strength to get through it. It hasn’t always been pretty—and I grieve for our girls—but we have been given the opportunity to be lifted up by God and others in ways we would have never known had we not gone through this time of trial. Seriously.

I will write more later when I know more.

Love to you all.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Monday, I went in to see Dr. Carbonell with my faithful friend and teaching assistant, Lisa Arslan. My head was full of a lot of things.

- My Dad had been admitted to the hospital over the weekend with strange, serious symptoms. While at the office, my Mom called and told me that Dad had tested positive for a mersa infection and that his liver and heart were under a great deal of stress.

- Doug’s Dad was continuing to have many up and down days in the hospital. We were hoping that new tests might reveal a better way to help him to improve.

- I was in a lot of pain and was concerned about taking more and more Percocet to get through each day. Yuck.

When we arrived, Dr. Carbonell was able to see me right away and started assessing what was going on. Our first surprise when we took off my bandages was to see that my wound was healed! It had been acting like it was going to close over the previous weeks but we weren’t sure when if would finally happen. The closed wound looks like a squished bellybutton—just big enough to hold a tick-tack (gross!). Dr. Carbonell told me that when I have my big surgery, he will cut out the bellybutton and sew it back together as a flat piece of skin. Who cares—I can take a real shower now for the first time in 10 months!!!

The next thing he did was to take out three huge needles and fill my ankle joints with Cortizone. Although I didn’t feel any difference while at his office, I felt like I was ready to take up ballet dancing by the next morning. It was wonderful to live without pain for a few days.

Finally, we took a new X-ray of my ankle. When we looked at the image of my foot on the screen, the first thing I noticed was that the metal was gone. Duh—I knew I had just had a surgery to take it out but I hadn’t seen it until just then on the X-ray. The next thing we noticed made us all go, “Ohhh . . . .” My talus had collapsed. The talus is the bone that was shattered in the fall, put together by my brilliant doctor, started to die, but was holding its own. The plan was to fuse it together to my tibia this summer—making it unable to move but pain-free (hopefully).

The fact that it has collapsed means that I really need to do the surgery right away. When you look at the X-ray, you can see that the tibia is out of place on top of the talus. This explains why I have been in so much pain (thank goodness--I was beginning to wonder if I was just being wimpy). Dr. Carbonell will take some cadaver bone and build up the area that has collapsed so that my legs won’t end up being different lengths. Then he will continue on as planned, putting screws through my foot at different angles so that it will hopefully “fuse” into one solid piece. The recovery will be intense and long. Right now, I am hoping that we can do the surgery soon so that I will only miss the three weeks between Thanksgiving Break and Christmas Break. Time will tell.

Now that we have had some time to think and do a little research, I am planning to meet with Dr. Carbonell on Monday (the 23rd) to figure out what we will do.

Good News mixed with Bad News.

Today we give thanks for a closed wound. We have prayed for this for so long. I had imagined a Wound Closing party for a long time and now it is kind of mixed in with a whole new hurdle. That’s OK. I am almost relieved to just take this battle on and get it over with. If this is God’s plan, I’m all about it.

Love to you all--


Friday, November 13, 2009

Wow—It has been a while. So many of you have been checking in to see if I am maybe dead, depressed, or somewhere in between. Well, I’d say that the last two months have been about “getting through it.” I haven’t wanted to talk about my ankle, write in my blog, give updates, etc. In fact, I sometimes wish that the whole subject could be ignored. I am just tired. Since the time I fell, I have usually been “up” with a cheery disposition--reassuring people that things are moving along and that I will be fine. I still believe those things, I just don’t have it in me to be cheery. I could fake it, but it doesn’t seem like I should. Sometimes getting through it isn’t cheery.

So now that I sound like Scrooge, I must tell you that I really am doing very well. I feel so blessed to be able to spend my days with my beautiful family and my awesome students at school. We have spent our days doing plenty of great things: painting faces at the church picnic, hosting a Halloween party (Annika arranged the whole thing!), going to local events like the Air Show, etc. My kids at school are amazing and are the best medication for distracting me from the pain in my ankle. They are so sweet.

So, since the last time I wrote . . . I had my surgery and they removed all the hardware from my ankle. They drilled a 1/4inch-sized cylinder from my talus bone to test it for bone infection, and then filled the hole with antibiotic beads. They also scraped bone from several areas of my ankle to see if they could find traces of bacteria. While they were in there, my doctor discovered that a good deal of my talus is now dead, and the cartilage that was once alive is now dead, too.

To make matters worse, the ankle is full of arthritis (pictured here). Following this surgery, Dr. Carbonell told me that I would definitely need an ankle and subtalar fusion. This is a big surgery with an even bigger recovery time so we agreed that I would do the surgery in May so that I would have time to get better over the summer.

While I was at the hospital for this surgery, a PICC line was put in my arm by a Dr. Groper (his future in gynecology was doomed from the start). When I was on the table getting it done, the familiar smells of latex and paper gowns, mixed in the sounds of monitors and machines lulled me back into the realization that we were “back at it again.” I found myself telling my story to a whole new set of people who were about to take me on the next leg of my journey towards healing.

The next day I found myself at the Infectious Disease office to get some tests done and to pick up my antibiotics. It didn’t take long for my kids to get used to seeing Mom with tubes hanging out of her arm 24/7, antibiotic balls shoved in next to carrots in the fridge, and 5 a.m. alarms going off for the first treatment of the day. I was even able to get through six weeks of treatment without my students at school noticing that I had an IV bag hidden in my smock! With a steady supply of empty syringes in my trash can at school, I was wondering when the janitor might feel compelled to report that there was an Art teacher with a drug problem on campus.

Even though my foot looked like it had been through a meat grinder following surgery, it immediately began to heal much faster than we had seen before. It seems that my body is finally infection-free and that my wound is on the way to being closed.

The constant bright spot in my life is my job, Doug, and the girls. I can be in so much pain—dreading the thought of moving my foot across the room—and then the kids will come in and everything is OK again. They say such funny things that you can’t possibly be in a lousy mood when you are around them. Likewise--when I finally get to just lay down and cuddle with Doug or the girls—life is good.

People have been so good to me. Teachers at school say that the kids ask to pray for me every day. Families bring meals for us. Friends send emails of encouragement. I even continue to receive get well cards. It absolutely amazes me that people still want to know how I am doing after all this time. I feel very badly that my “hunkered down” vibe might give people the impression that I don’t appreciate all that they have done for my family and me.

Mixed in with all of this has been growing concern for my father-in-law, Bob Heetderks. After breezing through two heart valve repairs, his recovery became complicated by a recurring build-up of fluid in his lungs. Now, two months later, he is becoming weaker and weaker while tests continue to offer little help to explain what is really going on. What was once, “He is going to be fine . . .” is now, “I hope he is going to pull through this.” It has been very scary.

I have been in quite a bit of pain and will be visiting Dr. Carbonell on Monday in his office. I will try to do a better job of keeping my blog current for you again!

Love to you all!