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A Trip To The ER for Gastroenteritis Led To Open-Heart Surgery For This Dad
  • “If you had come to the hospital a week later, your husband could have been dead.” These were the words that still linger in my memory three years after my husband’s open-heart surgery. It spelled a new meaning for me when people talk about the month of love that is February.

    I could not be any more sentimental because we were recovering from a traumatic experience in January three years ago. My husband, Edzel, received a newly repaired heart after going through an open-heart surgery because a bacteria ate his heart. 

    You read that right — a bacteria ate parts of my husband’s heart, including the mitral valves. With his heart’s mitral valves damaged, blood flowed back to the left atrium of the heart. 

    I was flabbergasted. Why was this happening to us? 

    Before my husband’s ordeal, I was diagnosed with a reproductive-immune disorder (RID) that made me lose two pregnancies. My husband and I went through hell and back to hold our rainbow baby.

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    When we finally had our son, Santiago, whom we waited for more than four years, we should have been celebrating. But there I was confronted with the possibility that I could lose my husband due to endocarditis.

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    What is endocarditis

    According to cardiologist, DrRachel Orteza-Del Rosario, endocarditis is the infection of the valves or inner lining of the heart. It is commonly caused by bacteria from other parts of the body, usually from the mouth, and is carried to the bloodstream. The bacteria attaches itself to a structurally damaged part, usually the valve of the heart, and causes an infection.

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    Endocarditis usually starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats, generalized weakness, and body aches. It is not easily diagnosed at the onset until the patient develops:

    • red spots on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands
    • tender nodes under the skin of the fingers or toes
    • tiny purple or red spots on the whites of the eyes
    • chest pain with shortness of breath
    • a new or worsening abnormal heart sound

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    My husband and I did not notice any of these physical symptoms although weeks before his surgery, he mentioned he was feeling “not quite okay.” Because we have an 8-month-old baby at that time, Edzel thought that it was just really the cumulative effect of sleepless nights and skipping his regular basketball games, which was his main exercise. 

    Edzel asked me to bring him to the ER because he was suffering from gastroenteritis. While waiting for his results, he told the doctor that he was heaving even when he was resting. He had an ECG test, which showed abnormal results. Several other tests were done. And then they told us we could NOT go home anymore — my husband needed surgery because his heart was already enlarged. 

    We transferred to Philippine Heart Center to get a second opinion and to seek the best doctors, but the diagnosis was the same. We couldn’t prolong the surgery any further. 

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    Surgery was a “die or might die” situation 

    The doctors told me they would open up my husband’s rib cage to repair his heart and a heart-lung machine would be attached to him. The procedure was expected to last eight hours roughly. The doctors also discussed the mortality risk to any surgery 

    I felt numb inside. We really did not have a choice — it was a “die or might die” situation. “I was ready to die. I had a fulfilled life. But I could not die now because of my family” was my husband’s thought, leading towards his operation.

    The surgery took more than 11 hours, one of the longest waits of my life. My heart was shattered even more when Edzel did not recognize me after he regained consciousness. The doctors assured me it was just because of the anesthesia, but the anxiery I felt was was big punch in the gut.

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    With God’s grace, however, here we are celebrating Edzel’s second life in its third year, and we could not be more grateful. 

    How did Edzel got infected? Looking back, one of the possible causes was through a dental procedure he had several months before his diagnosis.

    My husband had a mild mitral valve prolapse that didn’t pose any threat in the past. But apparently, for groups that are at risk for endocarditis, such as my husband, several precautions (i.e., taking antibiotics) should have been done when doing dental work. 

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    Not a lot of people know about it, and I hope to inform people who go through any dental procedure to check beforehand. Because who would have ever thought that we would go through that life-threatening situation just because of a crazy bacteria.

    Balot Del Rosario, a member of the Smart Parenting Mom Network 2020, is a NAHA-registered, Certified Level 2 professional aromatherapist. She is also the author of the book, Lost but Found, and the mom-of-two behind the blog Chronicles of The Happy APAS Mama (www.callmebalot.com.)

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