The Blessings of Raccoon Poop

The Blessings of Raccoon Poop


Did you read that right? Blessings AND Raccoon Poop in the same sentence!


Today we’ve decided to deviate from the house remodel posts and tell you about a more personal journey we’re facing.

Remember waaaaaaaay back when we were worried that we’d been exposed to a deadly parasite via the raccoon poop infested 2nd floor? Well, when we took a trip to the infectious disease doctor, he did a check-up on all 4 of us. When he was checking my heart, he reacted with a “Wow, that’s quite a heart murmur! Have you had it checked?”

I’ve known that I had a heart murmur since my sixth grade physical. The medical term is called a mitral valve prolapse. The doctor then was not concerned but told me to have it checked at least every 10 years. About 10 years later, I was living in Kansas City and had it checked out again. There was no cause for concern and I could continue on as usual.  Fast forward about 14 years later and we find ourselves in the infectious disease office finding out I better get my heart checked out. So luckily we left the appointment feeling good about NOT having a deadly parasite in our bodies. But it did leave me feeling like a visit to the cardiologist was in order.

Initial EKG’s were taken. I was given a heart monitor (the ones you need to stick the electro-things to your chest) that I had to wear for a few weeks. Due to the fact that I couldn’t locate my past cardiologist or previous EKG’s, I was to return in 6 months to be re-tested. These initial tests were to give the cardiologist some baseline data.

I returned in 6 months to have the tests repeated. The cardiologist was rather vague but said that I had severe leakage from one chamber to another. He told me the signs and symptoms to look for if the murmur gets worse.  He also said that open heart surgery is likely in my future but had no way of knowing when.

I had this gut instinct that I needed to get a second opinion. We live 2 hours away from one of the best medical facilities in the country, Mayo Clinic. So I gave them a call. I was transferred to the valve department. They told me to have my records sent up there and they’d get back to me in a week.

They called back with some news. I really can’t decide if it’s good news or bad news, but news. They wanted me up there for three days! I’ll have an esophageal EKG, a CT scan, Electrocardiogram, regular EKG, meet with the cardiologist, and meet with the robotic surgeon. Yes, the robotic surgeon. From looking at my records, I am a good candidate for a noninvasive heart surgery. It seems that my valve is bad enough to get fixed but I won’t need open heart surgery to fix it. Bad news is I probably need heart surgery soon. Good news is it’s not open heart!

Please keep me in your prayers for all the testing. I go up there next week and have a total of nine appointments. As I lay in bed at night, I can hear the murmur. I’m looking forward to getting it all figured out.

Till next time…


We’re back in Iowa. Thank you to all those who messaged, commented, and texted their thoughts and prayers for us when we were at Mayo Clinic. There was a lot of testing. After having an EKG and an Echo cardiogram, my cardiologist was able to tell me that the anterior leaflet (toward the front of my body) of my mitral valve is too long. It’s causing the valve to open and close as usual, but the extra length on that one leaflet is causing it to flutter. It may be something that I was born with. Since the leaking is somewhere between moderate to severe, he ordered a stress test the next day. This was to test the full affect that the valve leakage was having on my cardiovascular functions and to make sure that I didn’t need immediate surgery. A stress test is quite interesting.  They get your heart rate up while you’re on a treadmill, all the while hooked up to 8 cords and a big mask over your head. When the test was finished, I sat down and my heart had some palpitations. It was kind of cool to see the monitor recording it as it happened to me. After the stress test, I met with the cardiologist again. He began by saying that I am “deconditioned”. Um… that’s code for out of shape. 😊 He said that with my test results, he would hold off on surgery for at least 6 months. He would like me to get back in condition. In 6 months I’ll have another stress test. If my numbers stay the same, I’ll be monitored on a yearly basis. If numbers get worse, then I’ll be on my way to surgery. He said that right now the risk of complications of surgery outweigh the benefits. They would try to repair the valve but there’s always a chance that it needs replacing. Then I’m on a blood thinner for the rest of my life. There is also a risk that a valve repair could fail in 5-10 years and I would need another surgery. The longer I can wait, the possibility of repairing it less invasively becomes greater. Right now, they would go in between my ribs with a robot. In the future, they may be able to fix it by way of the groin, making it way less invasive. I did ask the cardiologist how he would fix my valve. He said that they would put a clasp around the valve to tighten it up. Then he would clip the leaflet that is too long. Finally, he would put artificial cords under the leaflet. Did you know that below the valve is a net of cords that helps the valve to open and close? That’s something that I enjoyed about my experience. I learned so much more about how my valve functions and how they would fix it. One of the most important things I learned was that my body will give me signs if my condition worsens. It is not something that I will suddenly die from. Being at Mayo put things in perspective. We saw so many families that were dealing with such greater circumstances. Chris & I truly felt your prayers and the power of the Lord’s hand over us during my tests.

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