I just re-read 2009’s wrap-up post. I still feel much the same, but can’t help but think that this year has been especially tough – in so many areas of my life. As always – there is much to be thankful for….and I really tried to hit on that during Novemeber (Thanksgiving).
The good stuff:
• Berkli Annabelle Harvey – getting to spend quality time with Natalie before, during & after Berk’s arrival
• the honor of choosing a name for Berkli
• long distance friendships
• fun times with my favorite little people (A, F, B, B, & H)
• quality relationships in our small group
• started attending a new church (to us) this autumn and loving it – it was time
• Thanksgiving in Jackson with all of my immediate family
• a month-long trip to the Midwest….quality time in Williston with family and friends & sweet time with friends in Minneapolis (and everywhere in between!)
• Natalie came home for a few weeks to help take care of me after two weeks in the hospital and 4 ER visits – even though she was soooo sick (pregnant with Berlki)
• the support, love, kindness – that so many people have shown me (and our family) throughout the year, but especially during my health stuff in May and now – during my heart surgery saga.
• lots of new designing projects (and Christmas Card clients!)
The tough stuff:
I want to remember this stuff as well because I want to look back in a year and see how all that God has done to redeem even the crummiest of situations.
• The elbow crisis of 2010. Much of April & May were spent in and out of the hospital trying to manage my left elbow. I was born with it dislocated and an unformed elbow joint. My left arm has always been weaker, but never really caused a problem until the past few years (working & going to college may have been the trigger?). It doesn’t hurt all the time, but every few months I have a “flare-up.” Somehow (usually I do too much or complications from being on coumidan) a blood clot forms and gets trapped within my elbow. It has to be drained with a few hours to a day or two or the blood hardens. After the blood hardens there is nothing the doctors can do but treat the pain. Which is terribly painful. The doctors prescribed so much pain meds that my heart and lungs couldn’t handle. (I coded three times.) My body took a major hit – my brain, heart & lungs. I’m now on a breathing machine and oxygen at time (and sometimes during the day). It took months to recover from brain part – my doctor likened the trama to a concussion.
• Out of the blue – finding out at a routine check-up that I needed open heart surgery. It was a tough day. I went through so many emotions during the two weeks of uncertainty. Not knowing what was going on exactly. The when, where, who (surgeon), what, etc. It was difficult to trust, but I didn’t have a choice. Finally, within three weeks everything for the surgery came together SO WELL. I mean – it was was a miracle.
• One phone call later – it all fell apart. Every. last. detail. I was crushed – even more so than the day I found out about the surgery. Shocked. I quit. I was done. For the last 12 days of 2010, we’ve been scraping to find a new plan. Starting completely over with almost every detail. But at least – I’m enjoying my new 32 in TV and bluray and apple TV! =)
On to 2011 with gusto! =)


Christmas was definitely different thisyear. Different is okay. We missed having Natalie & family here. Christmas Day there was much: food, pj’s, napping, eating, opening gifts, laughing, watching movies, snuggling, admiring each other gifts…..

This Christmas was full of MUCH.
A few highlights:
• Finley. Every gift she opened was awesome in her eyes. “Oh oh oh oh. You won’t believe what I got!” & “I’ve always wanted this!” Every gift opened was a sweet, sweet Finley reaction! Loved it.
• Aidan is such a big boy – 51/2 years old now! He was so sweet to his sisters and tried to wait so patiently. He loved admiring his sisters spoils too!
• Briar (for a 22 month old) loved opening presents. She loved her babies. She’s a wild girl and into everything. Always has food in one hand and usually a binky or baby in the other. She says to her mom, “I hug you, I hug you.”
Here are some other Christmas Season photos to enjoy!

The McShane’s snuggled in Aunt JoJo’s bed watching a movie after church.

Family Tradition: Making Mammo’s famous sugar cookies!

The little girls opening presents in their matching dresses from Natalie.
Yogi’s first Christmas with us. =)
Finley trying out her new blow dryer….on me.

Insurance Update

Not much to report. Talked to the financial rep for the hospital yesterday. The hospital does have a contract with Medicaid of Montana, but there are still other details that need to be worked out. The surgeon group does not accept Medicaid. Still working on that part. I was told that the process can be long. Which could cause lots of anxiety – if I let it. I’ve probably already said this, but my surgeon said that I need this surgery within three months. Really trusting God with all I’ve got. The timeline thing is a bit stressful. Trusting that God’s timing is perfect.

I want off this ride asap

Woke up yesterday morning to my phone ringing. The caller id said, “Dr Shumway.” I knew something was up. Initially, I thought ANOTHER date change. I tried to sound awake. I’m sure I failed. Dr Shumway called to tell me [regrettably] that neither the hospital nor the surgeon’s group accepts (or has a contract with) Medicaid of Montana. Then she rattled off two locations closer to us with surgeons that might be capable. A colleague and a former classmate from St. Jude’s. She told me how she really wanted to do my surgery and she felt bad, but didn’t want us to go in the poorhouse over this surgery. I asked her what my timeframe was to get this surgery done: at the most – three months. Nothing like a deadline.

I was in [another] state of shock. An in-between-place. I never know where to go or what to do first. I called my mom. I called my dad. I called my sisters. Then I started grasping. I called Medicaid – I scrambled to think of any other options, but I refused to think beyond not having the surgery done by Dr Shumway or out of MN.
I spent two hours on the phone/internet trying to figure out what to do. I had nothing. The last person I talked to told me the surgery was completely cancelled. I lost it.
Everything was planned. I had organized, planned and coped. In a flash – all my efforts were meaningless. Nothing made sense. I had no direction.
I called my mom and yelled, swore and cried. I called my dad and vented, cried and tried not to swear. I was done. I was done fighting for something that was not coming together. I wanted off the rollercoaster. I was not along for the ride. I wasn’t calling another person. I was not fighting for this.
I wanted to be alone. I got ready. And took myself to a matinee. I escaped for two hours. Kind of. I laughed – so that was good. I couldn’t see past how angry, frustrated and confused I felt. Everything had come together and was set. Why wasn’t this working out? Should I even have this surgery? (Not really an option.)
Major props to the family for picking up when I quit. My dad was on the phone. My sister was on the phone. Everyone was rallying for me, but totally understanding that I was done with all of this (at least for the day).
Finally, yesterday afternoon a financial guy called my sister Caren back. They are committed to getting these issues resolved. They are working on a total dollar amount for the surgery. Then then will decide was percentage they will accept from Medicaid. Next, Medicaid will have to approve that amount.
Finally, a surgery date will be set.
Basically, we are starting over. The only difference is – this time I know the drill – sort of. And I’m ready – my room is ready for recovery. 🙂
There are definitely some issues that will be addressed in the future. Someone (I have an idea of who) dropped the ball and isn’t doing their job. This insurance issue should have been addressed a month ago. Also, someone (same person) did not do their job yesterday – giving me incorrect info and not directing me to correct departments.
Dr Shumway and my local cardiologist are doing everything they can do to make this happen. I’m very, very grateful for that. Still a few bumps in the road.
Four specifics to pray for:
1. The first thing – and most important to me is – Timing. That everything happens timely/efficiently. There is a deadline and everything (lots of details) need to come together quickly and correctly this time.
2. That the hospital (Fairview) and the U of M Surgeons will come up with a fair price for Medicaid.
3. Medicaid of Montana will accept the price.
4. Medicaid Travel has already denied me. Saying that I can have this surgery closer to home (UM, NO I can’t – too many complications!) So, I have to re-apply when the new surgery date is set. This isn’t essential – but travel funds would definitely help.
Ironically, this is the most stressful surgery I’ve ever had – oh, wait – I haven’t even HAD the surgery yet. Should heart surgery be stressful?! 😉
Well, God is sovereign. Let’s do this.

A Long Day

Yesterday started off with a thoughtful text message from my friend Sarah that said “thinking of you.” This morning when I woke up I looked at that text again and WOW – it couldn’t have come on a better day than yesterday.

So, this was my Thursday:
1. Got my pro-time (blood checked) in the am. The nurse NAGGED me about two details with my upcoming surgery…which I’ll explain more later.
2. Finished my Christmas shopping – now I have to WRAP!
3. Made a million phone calls and got NO answers.
4. Waiting for two things in the mail: 1. Info from the University of MN (only about a month late now) 2. Cords to connect my APPLE TV and bluray.
5. Called FedEx – they cannot find my cords. Still waiting for a call on that. (Waiting is the theme here…..)
6. Called to check up on the travel part of my surgery (have to get approved through Medicaid). Pretty much was told I’d receive about $400 and was also told that my surgery MAY NOT be covered. Had a small panic attack. Was told that I should consider changing locations. Told the nurse NO and that she needed more info on my particular situation.
7. Called my local cardiologist to have that info sent to Medicaid Travel (had to leave a msg – again!). I got a call back from the nurse at about 6 and she said they’d fax all the info TODAY. Which is awesome. The sooner I get approved – the sooner we get funds to travel – instead of waiting to get reimbursed AFTER the surgery.
8. Called my surgeon’s office in MN to ask three questions: 1. Does the U of M accept Medicaid of MT, 2. Do I have to do shots of anticoagulants before I check into the hospital (did NOT want to do this), 3. Why isn’t my aortic valve being replaced, as well? (the last two questions were the one’s that the pro time nurse was nagging me to ask – she called me repeatedly throughout the day to see if I’d called yet.) Oh, had to LEAVE A MESSAGE about these questions.
9. Dish Network guys shows up at 1:30 to install. Only FOUR days late. The internet guys were supposed to show up as well – turns up they never did – our name had been taken off the list – again. Dish guy runs into all sorts of problems. Finally, at 6:30 – it’s all good and he leaves.
10. Had an over the phone meeting with my Medicaid nurse (totally separate from the travel & coverage part). Love her – she gave me great advice and is very understanding and pro-active with my health. GREAT part of my day.
11. Getting anxious about my questions for Dr. Shumway’s people – I call back and the doctor ANSWERS! I was so caught off guard, but she was the best person to ask the medical questions……NO, I don’t have to give myself shots before surgery (but maybe I’ll be doing shots…ha!) AND my valve looks great – there is no reason to replace it. She said the surgery is already huge – working on aorta & replacing aortic root. She wouldn’t want to do a surgery that I wouldn’t be able to recover from. (Replacing the valve would be too much.)
Sooo……I got a few answers by the end of the day. Which was GREAT. Over all, a really frustrating day of waiting and leaving messages. I still don’t know for sure if my surgery is covered by Medicaid and my package is still lost somewhere…….It’ll ALL work out though. Just a few hurdles.

Small Group Party

On Monday night, ten ladies from our small group put together a sweet dinner for my mom and I – a sweet time of prayer, encouragement and fellowship. The ladies made one of my favorite meals: fetticini alfredo. We ate dinner, visited, had a sweet devotional on Isaiah 9:6, opened gifts and then they prayed for my mom and I.

I wanted to share two (of the many) things that really blessed my socks off. The devotional that our friend Barb shared was on Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Two of the Christmas cards that I designed this year had this verse on it – that I handpicked. I read a lot of Scripture about Jesus’ birth, but I just loved all the names that Jesus is. I think it is so reassuring – especially in a time of trial like this. It gives me such peace to know He is more than able.

The other thing that really blessed me and caught me completely off guard was – everyone brought a gift for me. It was so sweet and thoughtful – and not for a minute do I think that I deserve such thoughtfulness and generosity. Anyway, our other friend Barb brought a bag full of goodies for the road trip/hospital stay. As I pulled out a slender white box – I knew instantly it was a box of See’s Candies. Immediately, I had to choke back the tears. It may seem so silly, but the backstory is……this is the first surgery that I don’t have any grandparents. They have all passed away. My Grandpa & Grandma Smithlin loved See’s Candies and for every surgery they would send at least one box to me in the hospital. Since finding out about my heart surgery, I have really missed my grandparents. Grandparents have such a tenderness when it comes to things like this. That box of See’s Candies – it may seem so silly to some – was a huge blessing to me….God knew I needed that little reminder. He is so in the details.

Thank you, Karen – who opened her heart and home (to Yogi, too) for a sweet time. I was truly blessed and will go off to surgery with reading material, snacks, and warm feet! I sure do love you ladies!