Lexi will celebrate her 14th birthday on Monday. I can hardly believe she is 14. It seems like just yesterday she was just a baby in my arms. She was such a good baby. Now look at her.....she is in Young Women's, will be a Mia Maid after Monday (I cannot believe that). Last summer she complained that she didn't have anything to do. This summer she doesn't have time to say that, much less time to sit idol. Volleyball has pretty much filled up her entire summer.
She has had weight lifting every day from 6-8am, then Volleyball Camp from 12-2:30pm, then she started practicing for their Festival Tournament that has either been from 5-7pm or from 10am-Noon each day. Not to mention the other tournaments going on for the older JV and Varsity teams at Mesa High. The other night the Varsity Girls played a team from Hawaii. (How cool is that???) Today Lexi had Festival Practice at the Phoenix Convention Center. Then the Festival Tournament starts on Sunday. Lexi gets to stay at the one of the ritzy hotels in Phoenix with the rest of the girls from Sunday to Monday. (They wanted parents to volunteer to stay with the girls. There is no way I could do that and go to work on Monday. That just would not work. I know those parents will not be getting any sleep.)
I have to say, Lexi is something, if I do say so myself. Who would have ever thought we would be so deep involved in such an active sport. For those of you that don't know Lexi was born with a heart defect. She had a hole between the ventricles and her mitral value looked like a cleft pallet. We had no idea she had a problem and it was never diagnosed until Lexi was 5 years old. We found out after we took her in to the doctor for a cold that never got better. During the initial exam the doctor listened to her heart and then asked me, "How long has she had that heart murmur?" I said, "What heart murmur?" Then doctor said, "Yes, she has a heart murmur and we should check it out. Bring her back in a week or so when she gets over this cold and we will check into it." Now this particular doctor was one we avoided in our doctor's office. He just wasn't one of our favorites. So, we didn't think much about what he said and went on our way. Then a couple of weeks later, I was at the doctor because I caught the cold Lexi had AND I wanted to have Lexi get some an immunization since they could not give it to her when she was sick. This time we visited another location and made an appointment with one of the doctor's we liked. He took care of me, and then began to focus on Lexi. He said, "I see she was in the office about a week ago. How did that go?" It was as if a light bulb went off in my head and I said, "Yes, the last doctor mentioned that Lexi had a heart murmur." The doctor looked at me and said, "Well, let's take a listen to her heart." After his exam he looked at me and said, "Yes, there is something there, in fact, we just happen to have a cardiologist in our office now, do you mind if he listens to her heart too?" I said, "No, that would be fine." I had no idea what was about to happen....
The cardiologist came in and immediately I could tell something was wrong. He looked at me and said, "Your daughter needs to see a pediatric cardiologist right away. I wouldn't say this is an emergency now, but if she does not get this checked out soon it could be." Then our regular doctor asked if he could set up the appointment with the pediatric cardiologist for me and if he did that would I make sure I went no matter what day or time he set it up for.
I should have taken that as my queue that something was seriously wrong, but I didn't. Friends tried to prepare me for this doctor's visit by telling me Lexi probably just needs some medication or something. But it didn't work. I worried.
The visit to the pediatric cardiologist was another eye-opening appointment for me. We were seeing a group of doctor's that are ranked number one in the Southwest. (little did we know that then) We were in that waiting room for a long time before we got in for our appointment. As we were waiting this young girl, just a little older than Lexi, came out from her exam with a child size gown open in the front. You could see this huge, purple, gnarly scar down the middle of her chest. From the moment this little girl sat down in the waiting room I could see that Lexi was taking it all in and watching this girls every move, not saying a single word. As we sat there, taking it all in, and as I tried not to get freaked out....I could see that this little family had been through a lot. I even made a comment to the mother about it. I must have said something like, "She seems pretty well adjusted, and so do you Mom, for having been through a surgery like that." The mother then began to tell us her story. The little girl with the gown had had open heart surgery twice and that was the reason her scar was so ugly and purple. (Little did I know we were about to have a little story of our own) At that point, in my head, I began to thank my Heavenly Father for NOT putting us through a trial like what the one this little family had been through. Sometimes I truly believe that we are not able to see the future for our own good.
Eventually it was our turn to go back to the doctor's examining room. The tech explained they were going to do a test much like an EKG on Lexi and she needed to put on one of their little gowns. After Lexi changed, the tech came in and did the test. It took about 10 minutes. Then the doctor came in and introduced himself. He was from India and seemed very nice. He then took a look at the test. Then he turned to me and said, "Mrs. Schmidt, I am now going to go over what this test has revealed and I will try to do it in a way as not to upset your young daughter. Do you think you can be strong as I go over the results?" At that point, I'm sure I had that deer in the headlights look on my face and I of course, said I could get through this. The doctor then pulled out a piece of paper with a picture of a heart on it. He went over where the hole was in Lexi's heart and what her mitral valve looked like. He said, "Your daughter needs open heart surgery to repair her heart, but we need to have an Echo cardiogram done to take a look to be certain. Our Echo tech is booked solid today, but can you come back tomorrow so we can do the test?" I of course told the doctor we would without knowing how I would arrange this with work. The doctor was awesome! I think he spent half-an-hour explaining exactly what he could tell just by the little test they performed in the office. I was amazed that the test could show so much...who knew?
As the doctor walked out of the office he saw me sitting there with the picture and the drawing he did in blue and red pencil, as well as the look on my face. I'm sure he could tell that I was still processing all the information. He then made the mistake of asking, "Mrs. Schmidt, are you going to be OK?" It was then that I just lost it and began to cry. I remember checking out at the front desk, walking down the walkway to the elevator crying. I also remember my 5 year old daughter looking at me and telling me, her mother, that she was going to be Okay and not to worry. Looking back, I know now these words coming out of my daughter's mouth were really coming from my Heavenly Father in the form of answers to my sudden prayers. Lexi and I went to this appointment along. Kevin was at home. To this day, I still do not know how we made it home from Dobson Road to Power Road. Never in our wildest dreams, did we think something like this was coming our way.
(these pictures are of the piece of paper the pediatric cardiologist used to explain what was wrong with Lexi's heart. The top picture is the front page, the bottom picture is the back page)
When I walked in the door at home, Kevin could tell something was wrong, terribly wrong. I must have cried the entire way home as I was driving on the freeway. As I began to show him the picture and explain what the doctor said, he too, began to cry and apologized to both of us for not going to the appointment with us. Then I mentioned we needed to go back the next day for the echo cardiogram.
We both went to that visit. It was cool to see and hear her heart. Each time the blood moved in and out of the ventricles the technician explained how he could tell she had a problem. It confirmed everything the doctor has explained to us the day before. This time as we walked to the front desk we were put in contact with the pediatric cardiovascular surgeon. He is another AMAZING man. He does all the heart transplant surgeries for every patient here in the Southwest along with his team of doctors. In fact, one of old ward family friends happened to have a heart transplant by this team about year prior to Lexi's surgery. When our friends found out, they raved about these men and made sure we knew we were seeing the absolute best. Isn't it interesting how the Lord places certain people in your life to help you along the way?
Even though these doctor's were the best, this still did not sit well with me. I knew what we were up against. I knew they would have to stop Lexi's heart to perform the surgery....not to mention crack her chest open. Then there was always that risk of some freak thing happening. I was nervous.
In an effort to try and keep it together in front of the kids, I found myself spending some time alone in our backyard. Sometimes I just needed to get away and I would take a drive to a local park at about 10pm (not a good idea) just to sit and cry and get it all out. Kevin didn't understand my issues at first. He got frustrated with me always being such a wreck and told me, "this is happening to Lexi....not to you." I then explained that that is what I am having issues with. If this was happening to me....no problem, I could probably deal with it better and learn to live with that. ME being the patient....but not my sweet little girl. My little buddy. I also think it was the knowing exactly what they were going to do that bothered me to. You see, there it is again,....sometimes the NOT knowing is the best thing for you. This was one of those things that there was no way around. Believe me, I searched for every possible option but there wasn't one. The only way was to proceed straight ahead on the straight and narrow line to the end. We just had to find a way to endure it.
Eventually I got it together. Kevin never broke down before the surgery. But the day of after they wheeled Lexi back to the operating table he lost it. He and I cried together that day alone in one of the long halls of the Phoenix Children's Hospital. The surgery took a few hours and I just happened to be on a walk with the mother of our friend who had the heart transplant. One of the doctor's spotted her in the hallway and immediately asked her why she was at the hospital.....he said, "Was something wrong with Katie?" Vergie then explained to the doctor that she was here supporting our family because our daughter was in having open heart surgery. The doctor then looked at me and said, "I just got out of that operating room, and everything went well, in fact she will be out in recovery in a few minutes." I ran back to where Kevin and the rest of our friends and family were waiting and gave them all the news.
We had an awesome ward that supported and helped us every step of the way through this trail. I remember Don Smith (the man that sealed Kevin and I together in the Temple) insisting that he be able to give Lexi a blessing before her surgery. Now Lexi had all ready had a father's blessing and Kevin and I thought about turning down Bro. Smith's offer. But we went ahead with it out of respect for Bro. Smith more than anything. The blessing that Kevin gave Lexi was for Lexi. It was a blessing of comfort for Lexi. The blessing Bro. Smith gave was more for our family because I remember this sense of calm coming over me from that moment on. It carried me through our Bishop standing at the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting, crying and struggling for the words through his tears. (that alone would have made me lose it and need to go home to collect myself, had it not been for that blessing and the calming effect it had on me.) You see our bishop asked the members of our ward to fast for our little girl, the surgeons and our family as we would be going through this trial during the next week. Still to this day, I do not know how I got through that Sacrament Meeting without a single tear because I cry for everything.
Lexi was a little trooper through the whole thing. She was a strong little girl and she knew that she would come out of the surgery better and she had no issues with what she had to go through. She was so brave! She also recovered very quickly. She came home the day of our ward Halloween Party and she wanted to go trunk-or-treating. So we put her in a really warm costume and took her to the party.
I was working for AT&T at the time of her surgery and they were going through some major changes. I had no idea that they were moving their customer service to offices back east. So, about a week after Lexi came home from the hospital I got a call from my office telling me they were letting everyone go. This too was more proof of how my Heavenly Father was in the details of this trial. Can you imagine if we did not have the surgery when we did or had to schedule it for a few weeks later? Lexi would have never had the surgery because I carried all the medical benefits. If she did not have that surgery, we would have eventually lost our little girl.
I am so thankful for the knowledge of the gospel that I have. Sure, I may not know everything, but this I do know.....My Heavenly Father is fully aware of everything that happens to myself and each member of my family. He truly is a part of every detail. This knowledge alone proves to me that He is real and that He will never leave me alone. He loves me and wants me and each member of my family to return to live with him someday. What a blessing it is to know this. Our family has been blessed with many miracles over the course of several years. I bet each of you have noticed miracles in your lives too. The trick is to try and take the time to notice each of these precious gifts every day. Sure we get busy with life, but if you can take the time to reflect and count your blessings each day, you will realize that your life is very full and you are indeed very blessed. Not to mention that your Heavenly Father is also very aware of you too.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot....Lexi's heart has done very well since her surgery over 9 years ago. Sure we have follow-up appointments with a cardiologist every few years. So far, all is well.