It seems everybody’s been asking lately how our Sarah is doing. I love that she’s still on their minds. Our response these days is, “She’s doing terrific…fabulous…incredibly well…(or insert any extremely positive adjective here).” And she really is. We don’t know yet if her mild cellular rejection is gone, but we’re trusting that based on how she’s felt lately, and how good things look clinically, she’s definitely on track. (Her next biopsy will be on April 11th — her ANNUAL biopsy, if you can believe that — should tell us where she’s at with the rejection, among many other things.) Her clinic visit last Monday revealed a wonderful echo, drug levels that were just perfect, outstanding lab numbers, an albumen level at an awesome level of 4.1 (still can’t get over how incredible that is), and a great exam. Physically, Sarah seems to be doing so well. She’s fought through a couple of viral infections we’ve tried so hard not to share with her, and almost every day, is just feeling really good. She’s currently enrolled in two classes at the LDS Institute of Religion, and has spent many of her days in the last two weeks away from home, with friends. It’s a great change for our former home-loving, introverted, “sickly” daughter. She still loves being home, but there are so many more things she loves now. It makes me happy to see her growing and becoming all she can be.
Today is Valentine’s Day. A day full of pink and red hearts, candy and sappy valentines. To a family of a heart transplant recipient, it’s a lot of other things, too. It’s the middle day of The National Heart Association’s Heart Month. It’s the last day of CHD Awareness Week (February 7th-14th). It’s also National Organ Donation Day. Valentine’s Day has always had a deeper meaning in our family since it’s also the day Steve proposed to me, and we made plants to love each other forever. We have a special family tradition I started when our little girls were young where we have a fancy dinner together with cloth napkins, candles and even a special dessert. Then we send the kids on a treasure hunt to find their valentines from me and Steve. When the girls were tiny, it was fun, easy, not really a big deal, but an opportunity to share a special time together and express our love to those sweet little girls. Then the boys came along, and after a couple more kids and a few years, it stuck. (What was I thinking?) I tried to not do the treasure hunt one year, and they all came apart on me, and told me I HAD to. So, the teenagers were running around helping the tiny tots. It’s kinda funny to me that the big kids enjoy it just as much. Now it’s just what we always do. Valentine’s Day (or a day or two before or after) is a family day for the Browns. (I’m pretty careful to make sure I ALWAYS get my date night with my first Sweetheart, too.)
With all the other national heart awareness stuff settling in my mind now — things I never used to know even existed — I’ve thought a lot about how many people are affected by those sweet tiny hearts that come hooked up wrong or undeveloped. Hearts that beat irregularly, too fast, or not long enough. Hearts that are worn out by the time those babies turn two. Hearts that have had so many surgeries in their first year that babies don’t even know where “home” is. And then there’s the grown-up hearts that literally break in two, knowing how hard their tiny baby is working to stay alive and there’s nothing they can do but hope and pray. CHD Awareness is making a difference though. Even though research is grossly under-funded, things have changed A LOT since our tiny heart baby came into this world. When Sarah was born, we had no idea that there was anything wrong with her heart until she turned blue and didn’t respond to oxygen. We were told there were some surgeries that could be done to prolong her life, but since the oldest person living with a Fontan was only 20, there wasn’t much known about her future. We were told she wouldn’t be a candidate for a heart transplant because it was too risky. I read an article just a few days ago about a little girl in Arizona with similar defects as Sarah that was headed home soon after her Fontan. It made me smile what the cardiac department head at Phoenix Children’s Hospital said… “It’s like London has half a heart, and that is fraught with its own problems. With one ventricle doing the work of two, London will require yearly echocardiograms and lifelong cardiologist checkups. Survivors with single ventricle often return to the hospital between age 20 and 30, at which time they will require a transplant.” I smiled because with 20 years of medical advancements and research behind us, these children are now often born with parents knowing what’s wrong with their babies’ hearts. Instead of wondering how many years they’ll have together before their hearts get too worn out, they grow up knowing that someday, they’ll get a new heart. To me, that’s a miracle. A totally different visual path than we had with our heart baby. And it makes me happy. Is it still hard? You bet. But, for many of these kids and their parents, the future seems to have a little more light in it than ours originally did.
With a focus on hearts and organ donation, I’m also reflective on a family or individual who made the decision to share a very special heart with one of my sweethearts. I’ve always been an organ donor, since I was old enough to put it on my driver’s license. It never really meant much to me, though, until there was a need for a life-saving organ in my own family. What an amazing miracle that is. That the decision to donate organs at the end of one precious life can save up to eight more. What an incredible opportunity to give of yourself. Having visited with a family whose daughter wanted to be an organ donor, I understand a little now of how difficult that choice might be when it comes right down to it, in the midst of the sadness and heartache. I honestly can’t imagine how tough it would be, but I like to think that now that we’ve experienced the miracle of organ donation first-hand, we wouldn’t even hesitate to share that precious gift of life with someone else. We are so grateful that things have changed so much in the heart world, and that Sarah had an opportunity to have a second chance in her life. We are grateful for her donor and their family, for making a tragedy in their lives into a celebration in ours, and probably others.
What an incredible world we live in now. A world of research, discovery, advancement, awareness, and more research, discovery and advancement. How blessed we are to live in a time and place where “blue babies” have a chance to live. Oh, it’s truly a happy heart day!
Yesterday, Steve and Sarah went back to Primary Children’s at the crack of dawn for a follow-up biopsy to check Sarah’s rejection. Everything went well. I’ve been told that Dad didn’t remember where to go, Sarah was really calm when she went in for her cath, the anesthesiologist was really cute, recovery was easy, Sarah bossed the nurses, the transplant team at clinic was super excited to see her, and the stop for lunch and browsing at Modern Design with her dad afterward was wonderful.
I have to tell you what Steve said about Sarah bossing the nurses. (This is just a small example of her newly-developed assertiveness in her own health care. Dr. Molina, one of the transplant cardiologists, even commented about how much more confident she is now.) In recovery, there’s a protocol of how long patients need to be “watched” following certain procedures. Since it was just a biopsy and pressure check (only through her neck), and she uses conscious sedation, they usually like to keep her there for a couple of hours. Last time we went in, I think they only kept her for about an hour or so because she was doing so well and heading down to cardiology for another hour afterward for echo and clinic. Well, yesterday, when it had been a half hour-ish, Sarah said she was feeling great, and wondered when she could go. They told her she’d need to stay until 12:30…about 3 hours. She immediately told them that was not necessary because of a, b, and c… and then asked them to talk to the doctor. Apparently, the doctor’s orders were wrong and also didn’t include anything about her echo and cardiology clinic. So, the doctor wrote new orders, Sarah got her way, and after they found her a wheelchair she said she didn’t need, they were on their way downstairs.
REPORT: We got a call late in the afternoon from transplant team. Sarah’s biopsy showed that she still has mild rejection, but it’s improved. (YAY!) Sometime I’ll explain the scale and what all the letters and numbers mean, but the two things we were concerned with was the C (cellular) and V (vascular). The scale goes from 1 to 5 (1 = 0, meaning none… no clue why). C is down to 2.5 from 3, and V is down to 1 from 2.
Here’s the information she got from the coordinator, including our plan of action…
Your biopsy cleaned from C3V2 ISHLT1R, pAMR (-) to C2.5V1 ISHLT1R, pAMR (-) which is very mild cellular that a lot of times we do not treat.
1. Discontinue Nystatin, Ranitidine, and Valcyte
2. You will continue Septra through the first year
3. Decrease prednisone (steroids) to 7.5mg (1 1/2 tabs) by mouth once per day for 2 weeks. On 2/10/14 decrease to 5mg by mouth once per day.
4. Return to clinic for routine visit in 1 month.
5. Make appt for adult hepatologist at the UofU.
6. Labs on Monday (tacro and CBC).
So, she’s coming down on the steroids and discontinuing all the other yucky meds that combat problems caused by them, and returning in a month. They also told her that they won’t do another biopsy then (but wait another month) if everything else looks good, and she’s still feeling great. So, she’s happy and feeling quite comfortable with the plan. She even did a happy dance this morning when she swallowed a few less pills and realized she didn’t have to chase them with a nasty Nystatin swish and swallow. Life is good.
She and Steve are so happy about the results I hesitate to even add my maybe-a-tad-bit-skewed feelings about it. But, we decided in the very beginning to keep this blog real and honest. I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery the past few months, and have realized that I have to be more honest with myself and face my feelings so I can move past them. So, here goes my self-talk (feel free to skip it if you’re also content, and don’t need it)…. First, I need to say that I am very happy that things have improved. And very grateful. However, it makes me a little nervous to not be checking for a while to be absolutely sure the rejection is still improving. After what we’ve been through this past year, I though I’d learned to trust more. I realize that in comparison to everything else we’ve seen and dealt with, this is such a tiny issue. But I’m working through the frustration I feel about not having this resolved (at least in my mind) yet. I’m a fixer, and when things aren’t fixed, I want to keep working at it until it is. Faith and prayer, along with a mixture of trust in the Lord and a team of very qualified doctors and nurses are all I have in my tool box. (That certainly seems like enough, doesn’t it?) As we speak, I’m also working on a healthy dose of positive thinking and gratitude. The facts are: 1-Sarah is better than she was a months ago. 2-The transplant team hasn’t ever given me a reason to not trust them, and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have. 3-There is a plan (one they’ve probably used lots of times before) that she will probably respond to perfectly. 4-I can’t fix this. I can only fix my perception and my attitude. 5-I have everything I need, and so does my sweet Sarah. …So, now that I’ve put these thoughts into words, I shall do my very best to let it go…. I’ll put it all back in the Lord’s hands, and trust that whatever needs to happen will. Because God is good. He loves us unconditionally, and blesses with exactly what we need….every time.
On Monday, she had a follow-up biopsy to see if the oral steroid treatment helped her rejection. Everything (echo, pressures, numbers, etc.) looked beautiful. We were all happy (including her transplant team) with how good everything “looked”. When the biopsy results came back, however, we discovered that looks can be deceiving, even in this situation. Her mild cellular rejection is exactly the same as last time. (It’s crazy to me how early on, we were sure she was in rejection several times because of all the indicators in her other tests, and after biopsy, we’d see that her heart was always fine. And, now that she seems to be fine and all other indicators are within good ranges, the biopsies show rejection. I guess that just proves how very necessary those invasive biopsies really are.) The transplant team decided we needed to “bring out the big guns” and do six doses of IV steroids. These are administered every 12 hours and take about 15 minutes each. The kicker is that she has to be admitted to the hospital for three days to do them.
Transplant team decided to let us go back home so Sarah could have the opportunity to go to her New Year’s party she had been looking so forward to. They asked us to bring her back on Wednesday (yes, New Year’s Day) to be admitted. Steve drove down yesterday with Sarah and all of her stuff: guitar, games, book, ipod and laptop, favorite pillow and blanket, clothes, and make-up. She checked in last night, and has already had 2 of the 6 doses.
This girl plans to get dressed every morning, including fixing her hair and wearing make-up. She’s planning to make her bed, play some games, watch a movie or two, get in some very-missed sessions with music therapy and Rainbow Kids, have a paper-airplane contest in the hall with Dad, and spread as much sunshine and happiness as she can while she’s there. I’m so proud of her. I’m sure she’s worried about how these high-powered steroids will affect her. I know she’s frustrated that she’s still in rejection and has to be back at the hospital. I’m positive that it was hard when she realized that after getting off two more drugs last week, she’s back on every single one she had after transplant again. But, after a tear or two trickle down her cheek, she puts on her brave face, and looks for something good. The very best thing about this hospitalization is that it should get rid of the rejection. Another good thing is that it happened AFTER Christmas and we got to be home together for the holidays. And yet another good thing is that she gets to have this treatment while she feels good. I’m not sure she’s ever felt good at the hospital. I really wonder if anyone ever has…. We’re also very grateful for the close watch her doctors and nurses keep on her so we can stay on top of these little bumps along the way.
Here are some of the text messages I’ve gotten from her in the last 24 hours… (Notice the at the end of all of her sentences. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a Sarah smiley.)
Guess what?! …Because we had labs done Monday, Dr. Everitt said no labs…!!
…And each infusion is only about a half hour long!!
Just got disconnected for the day!!
People keep asking my tech and nurse if I get to go home today…. My bed’s made, my room’s clean and sunny, I’m dressed, hair fixed, some makeup, and feeling great!
I hope she and Steve will take some pictures of this amazing new phenomenon at Primary Children’s Hospital called “Healthy Sarah”. I’m sure it’s blown a lot of people away.
Sarah had a heart transplant and now has a perfect Angel heart. We are so grateful for another’s unselfish decision that gave her a second chance at life. She is doing amazingly well and is happy and healthy.
Rachel spent two weeks in Iwamizawa, Japan as part of the Sister City Youth Delegation. She loves to travel and had the time of her life. She also spent a week at EFY in Provo last summer.
Bryson learned to swim. He used to hate the water, and now can swim the whole 100 yards required to pass his Boy Scout swim test.
Joshua is learning to play the drums. (Thankfully for us, though, he’s still using a nice, quiet practice pad.) His ever-present curiosity never ceases to amaze us.
Nathan was baptized last month. He loves being eight, and tries really hard to make good choices. He was also excited to be a cub scout.
Steve and Julia kept this great family as happy and sane as possible during our crazy year. We’re so grateful for the love of so many that supported us in so many ways through such a difficult time.
We have all grown and learned so much through all of our experiences this year. We are thankful for a loving Heavenly Father and merciful Savior whose tender mercies and loving grace gave us the strength to stretch and grow into the people we are now.
As we reflect on the past year, we just feel so much gratitude.
Love. Hope. Family. Faith. Joy.
Happy Sunday, everyone! I know I am really behind on my commentary about everything that has happened since I posted last. I guess even though I am not going to school or working, I am still really busy. Haha! Oops. Anyway, I just wanted to post something about what’s going on in my life (you know, aside from biopsies, being a druggie, and doctor appointments…). I have several other posts that I need to write, but here is one for today! Enjoy and have a wonderful week! Oh, and don’t forget to smile!!!!
Please be warned: This post is going to be super long…..
In the beginning of October, the Stake President of my Single Adult Ward called me into his office after church one Sunday. Usually when a priesthood holder calls you into his office, it is about a calling or speaking assignment or something pretty big. I mentally freaked out….then I thought that maybe he just wanted an update on how I was doing or my input on something. Ha! He did, first, ask me how I was doing. I gave him the short version of my usual answer to that always asked question. He asked me if I was going to be available to come to Stake Conference in a couple of weeks. I told him that I was planning on coming, unless something heart/doctor related came up. Then he asked me if I would be comfortable speaking in conference. I was overcome with so many emotions. I wanted to ask if he was sure that I was worthy to even be considered to speak. Then, I remembered something that someone told me once. “Speakers and teachers are called of God. They are called because there is either something they need learn or something someone is waiting to learn.” So, I said yes. I wanted to share it with you.
“I was born with several heart problems. By the time I was 5 years old, I had had 5 major surgeries and several other surgeries to fix complications from the previous surgeries. Despite being in and out of the hospital, I was able to graduate from high school on time with my friends. I went to school, church, and hung out with friends, just like any other kid. In April of this year, my doctor came into my hospital room with the best news in the world. I was able to receive second chance.
One of my favorite moments in church history is when Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail. In D&C 121, he asks, “O God, where are thou? And where is the pavilion that covert thy hiding place?” “Stretch forth thine hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened , and thy bowel moved with compassion toward us.” I can kind of picture how Joseph was feeling; so alone and helpless. I am pretty sure that every one of us has felt like that to some degree at one point in our lives. After, what I’m sure was a lot, of questioning the Lord’s will, timing and reasoning the Lord just answers simply to his son, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over your foes.” I have applied this simple answer to my life and situation so many times.
I know that Heavenly Father has it all planed out. I also know that we have our own version of the plan. Sometimes these two plans match up perfectly and other times they couldn’t be further opposites. One example of that in my life was in January. After a very long process, I got listed for a new heart. I was so excited. I knew what it would mean for me when I got the call. Knowing “the call” could come any time, I must have been pretty funny to be around. Every time someone would call me or even just text me, I would completely freak out! Just five days of being on the list, I got the call. We rushed to Salt Lake, got checked it, and waited. I was as prepped as I could be without actually being in the operating room. Then we got the news that the heart we thought was perfect for me wasn’t perfect and we couldn’t use it for a successful transplant. I was so devastated.
When I got to go home I kept praying to my Father. I kept telling Him that it wasn’t fair, that I had deserved it and that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have it. After a while, I heard a voice saying, “Not yet.” I didn’t know what to do. I pleaded with my Father in Heaven and asked him again. Same answer. Then I finally changed my thoughts to ‘When is it going to happen? Can I at least know that? If you don’t like my plan can I just peek at yours?’ I was so tired of not knowing how my life was going to turn out. At the time, I felt like I didn’t get an answer to any of those questions. Looking back I know that I had had it during this whole thing and it feels like an obvious answer now. Why did I get my Patriarchal Blessing in the first place? A few years before I was even ever given the option of transplant, I was lost and needed direction in my life. Since this experience, I have looked to this wonderful blessing for guidance and hope many times.
Priesthood blessings have been a great help through all of this, too. I remember a time during my recovery that was especially difficult for me. I was in the elevator headed back downstairs to the Intensive Care Unit. Me, my nurse, my tech, my bed, and both my parents crammed into the elevator. Because there wasn’t enough room, my grandparents were going to take the stairs. Right before the elevator doors shut, I remember my dad yelling out to my Grandpa that I needed a blessing. So everyone scooted closer together as two wonderful priesthood holders gave me a blessing. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I do remember what the spirit in that elevator felt like. It was unmistakably there. It felt so strong and safe. None of us knew what was going to happen, but in that elevator, we all felt calm, safe, and loved.
Before I got my heart, I was told that I needed to live in the hospital while I waited. I waited just a little over a month, until I got my turn. The recovery in the hospital was just under two months. Then I was released to live in Salt Lake – that lasted about a month. So not being home, with my whole family with my own stuff for about four and a half months, I was pretty homesick and lonely. I knew that even though I was far away from the life I was used to, I was not alone. I had my Heavenly Father’s help and love every day. I know that no matter what, He loves us and wants to help us.
Alma 28:6 says, “And now surely this was a sorrowful day; yea, a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer.” I remember for a while there was a time when it took everything we had to get through one more day. I remember every night when we prayed, I always felt the weight of the day being picked up off my shoulders and taken away. I know that prayer works. Even though we don’t always think we receive an answer, I know that we just need to be patient.
During this whole experience, I have come to learn…and even relearned that Heavenly Father loves us so much and that we are children of Him. He gave us the fullness of His gospel to help us learn about who we are and what we are doing here. He gave us the priesthood to help bless and guide us. If we pray in faith and have a sincere desire in our hearts, I know that Heavenly Father will help us. I know that He has a plan for us. I know that the trials we have been given in this life help us and make us stronger people. I personally know that the Book of Mormon is made up of the testimonies and the teachings of the prophets of God. I know that it is a true book. I am so grateful for this knowledge. I know that the things I spoke about today are true and I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
How do I even begin to express the gratitude in my heart? We’ve been through so much this year, but I don’t think I’d change any of it. Gratitude overflows from the depths of my soul for a family who is missing someone they love this Thanksgiving, and the gift they gave so that we didn’t have to be missing one we love. I’m also grateful for so many miracles and love from our Savior and Heavenly Father that strengthens us beyond measure. I’m so very grateful for all our family and dear friends who have loved and supported us through it all, and continue to do so. My family means the world to me, and I’m just so thankful today that we’re together.
Bright and early (6:30 a.m.) Friday morning, Sarah was prepped and tiredly, though anxiously, awaiting her baseline heart catheterization and biopsy. This is the one that’s very in-depth and gives us a baseline for comparing future caths. They go through an artery in her groin as well as through her neck and look at her heart from every angle. They thoroughly check her coronary arteries along with everything else they can see. Because the procedure would take three hours, she had them put her out completely for this one. Afterwards, in recovery, she had to lie flat on her back for four hours. Thankfully, she had asked for zofran in her IV at the beginning of the procedure, so for the first time in her adult life, there was very little nausea accompanying the general anesthesia. Everything went really well, and things looked good.
In addition to the cath and biopsy, they also needed a clinic visit, EKG, echo, and chest x-ray. Albumen levels are holding steady at 3.3. Her wedge pressure and BUN (tell about overall heart function) were better than ever. Her heart muscle is squeezing perfectly, and everything looked healthy and happy. The doctor gave her permission to ditch her mask more often, plans were being made to go back to work, and we talked about a two-month span before our next visit. We were hanging around the hospital waiting long enough to get biopsy results back. …And we found out that she has mild cellular rejection. This changed the plan for the next month drastically, but we realized in minutes how very blessed we are.
Just a reminder about rejection…. The word sounds so very scary, and although it can be very serious, the kind Sarah has right now is more a “miscommunication” within the cells of the donor organ and the recipient’s immune system. When her last biopsy was clean, they brought her down on her cellcept (mycophenolate – anti-rejection drug) to a lower level that’s acceptable for her size. Her body must have needed the higher level to stay at a safe balance, so the rejection started showing at a cellular level. They have increased her drug level again to what she was at before, and have started her on a super high steroid dose and taper for 23 days. The steroids will kill her immune system, and essentially erase the cellular rejection. They will re-biopsy again after the treatment, and we’ll be patient and pray that’s all it takes to do the trick. She’s not excited about being on the steroids. The high doses and no immune system means living in a “bubble” again. It could make her extremely moody, and ravenously hungry (don’t see a downside there). Her cheeks will get puffy again, and her cheeks, hands, feet and ears will get red and hot. It probably won’t be comfortable, but at least she won’t have to go through it in the ICU this time. She’s a fighter and her courage and strength has already pushed her through her first two days.
Now, the bright side…. Like I said, it didn’t take us very long to see the good things about this situation. It really does stink, but oh, how grateful we are…
- Cellular rejection is easiest to treat, and is treated simply with medications.
- Sarah’s rejection is mild…which means taking care of it at home with oral meds, and not in the hospital with IVs.
- The rejection was found early, while it was still able to be controlled.
- Sarah has been blessed to be rejection-free for seven months. It is very common to have some kind of rejection within the first year, and a lot of patients we know have experienced it at least once within the first three months.
- We were so tired and ready to be home by the time we got this news, but were then immediately grateful to be receiving it along with meds, instructions, and assurance that we need not panic.
- The boys and I have the whole week off from school this week, which means we’re not bringing home icky school germs while Sarah’s on the highest doses of steroids.
- Sarah got to go see Hunger Games at a premier preview on Wednesday night with Rachel. (Being stuck in her safe bubble for the next three weeks, she wouldn’t have been able to go see this until it came to the cheap theater, or worse…on DVD.)
- Her brand-new book she ordered months ago came on Saturday, just in time for her to cuddle up and read through her period of imprisonment.
I’m sure there are more blessings that we’ll discover as time goes on, but for now, we will remain hopeful and happy that things are as they are. One thing we know is, they could always be worse. With steroids erasing her immune system, Sarah is very susceptible to any virus or infection. If you come to our house, please remember to wash or sanitize, wear a mask if you could be or have been sick, and help us keep her safe. She still loves skype, phone calls and texts. The little “ding” from her phone makes her feel loved.
Well, I finally did it. I wrote a thank you letter to an angel’s family. It was a very teary process, but it’s done, and it’s as perfect as I could get it, and it’s ready to go out in the mail tomorrow. I must have started it at least a dozen times in the past 6 months. I felt really strongly on Sunday, though, that no matter what ended up on the paper, it had to be mailed as soon as possible. I don’t want Sarah’s donor’s family to feel like we don’t appreciate the gift she has been given. On the contrary, I believe our overwhelming gratitude is what made it so difficult to express what we truly felt. This gift was a miracle beyond words.
I feel relieved that it’s done, and now I’m anxious to see if we get a response. To keep it confidential, the letters are sent through the social workers of the donor family and recipient, with donor services in the middle. We may never hear from them–that’s completely their choice–but at least we have tried to express our gratitude and love for them and their unselfish gift. They will know the impact of Sarah’s new heart in her life, and the incredible person that was saved by someone they love. I hope it brings them peace, and that they can feel our love.
Yesterday was Sarah’s very last session of Cardiac Rehab…. It was graduation day! She started Cardiac Rehab at the University of Utah shortly after her discharge from the hospital, and then continued when we got back home to Pocatello at the Heart Center at Portneuf. She was the youngest patient they’ve ever had here, and the only transplant in over 6 years. She was kind of a novelty, and the girls in charge at the gym (and other patients during her time slot) really enjoyed working with her. These ladies were so fun and supportive, and she almost always enjoyed going. (She loved the staff here better, but missed the huge windows in the gym at UofU that overlooked the Salt Lake valley. Kind of hard to beat that!) Overall, she has worked out at rehab for about 60 sessions, and has seen great results. By graduation, she worked up to a 4-machine workout that lasted about 70 minutes, plus cool-down and stretch. She has also gained 8 pounds, just since starting rehab in Pocatello at the beginning of August. Ya-hoo! Since she’s not swollen at all, we’re assuming that’s the lean muscle we were looking for. (I gotta get me some of that.) I’m so proud of her and how hard she’s worked. She is already making plans with a “workout buddy” and will continue working that beautiful, strong, perfect heart. “Just Dance” and neighborhood walks today…, marathons tomorrow. You go girl!