Last week, Greg had a biopsy to check his heart for rejection. The doctors were really happy with his health in general and they didn't find any cellular rejection which is such a blessing! They did however determine that the antibody mediated rejection (AMR) has returned. You may remember that Greg went through many different types of treatment for AMR last summer, none of which were effective. Over this past winter, the AMR mysteriously disappeared on its own (definitely an answer to prayer) but now it has returned.
The doctors have decided not to try to treat the AMR since they don't know of any effective treatments. Unlike cellular rejection, AMR isn't immediately dangerous to Greg's heart but it does have long-term implications on his heart's health. We would appreciate your prayers that the AMR would go away again without treatment. Both of us feel at peace about the AMR returning. God took it away in the past and we know that he is able to do so again if he so chooses, and we are just trusting the long-term health of Greg's heart to the Lord because we can't do anything to prevent the AMR from doing damage. We are just really relieved that Greg won't have to go through the treatments that he had last summer - they were so awful and painful and we are glad to avoid the hospital as much as we can!
At the end of this month, we are moving to State College, PA where Greg will lead the Penn State Cru ministry! We are really excited to be returning to Penn State, although it is sad for us to leave Mason too. We've written a lot about this in prayer letters to our ministry partner team, so I'm not going to go into a lot of details about our new ministry, but I did want to let you know how this impacts Greg's health care.
The great news is that it doesn't! Greg's heart transplant doctors were thrilled that Greg was being offered this opportunity and were 100% in support of us moving to State College - which we did not expect at all! They said that Greg's health is very stable and they are comfortable with him being further from post-transplant capable care. We had the choice of keeping INOVA for Greg's post-transplant care or transferring his case to Pittsburgh, and we decided to stay with INOVA. Even though it will mean driving down to Fairfax every 3-6 months for biopsies and other tests, we are much more comfortable staying with the doctors who know us and who saved Greg's life! In the future, we may transfer his case to Pittsburgh, but right now we are not ready to leave the INOVA transplant team and we feel much safer keeping Greg's care consistent.
This move is really forcing us to trust that God is the one who protects Greg and keeps him alive. It wasn't until we began considering leaving Fairfax that I realized how scared I was to live further from INOVA. My sense of Greg being safe and secure was centered around our proximity to the hospital - and it hit me that I was trusting in INOVA, not God, to keep Greg safe. But God reminded me that all 3 times that Greg had cardiac arrests that could have easily killed him happened in State College. God has saved Greg's life multiple times when we were far from a state-of-the-art cardiac hospital, and since "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8) He can do so again. This is something that I have to continually remind myself as we get closer and closer to our move date, and I would appreciate your prayers for both of us, especially me, that we would place our confidence in the Lord, not in our proximity to INOVA.
We are so grateful for all of you. Thank you for continuing to pray for Greg's health even though the updates are fewer and farther in between these days. God has used you in powerful ways in our lives!
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
You have not heard from me lately because Greg has been doing so well! This fall and winter have been such a welcome relief from medical issues and we've really enjoyed life being really "normal" and uneventful.
A few weeks ago, Greg started having some symptoms that concerned us. He was becoming short of breath very easily and we noticed some swelling in his ankles which indicates that he is retaining fluid. He went to the hospital for an EKG and echocardiogram and both came back normal.
Last week he had his annual testing on his heart (this should have happened in November but was delayed due to changes at the hospital). We were concerned that they would find rejection because of the symptoms that he was having. Although they did find that Greg had a lot of excess fluid in his heart, his rejection level was a one, which means they don't have to treat him for rejection! His heart actually seems to be in great shape and they don't think that the fluid retention is being caused by any problem with his heart. They have increased his diuretics and hope to manage his symptoms that way. One guess they have is that his decreased kidney function is contributing to this (you may remember that his kidneys went into failure after the transplant and sustained some damage from that episode). It is a huge relief to know his heart is doing well but it is still concerning to not have an answer to why he is retaining fluid.
We had more great news yesterday afternoon. The type of rejection that Greg developed this summer (Antibody Mediated Rejection) is now completely gone! This is incredible and can only be attributed to God healing him because none of the treatments he went through this summer (including chemo) worked at reducing the AMR. The last time Greg was tested, there was a decrease, but now it is completely gone! We are praising God for this! Being healed of the AMR will make a huge difference in the longevity of his new heart!
We are so thankful for all of you who continue praying for Greg even when you haven't heard an update from us in a while. We would appreciate your prayers that the doctors would be able to determine why he is retaining fluid and that it would be an easy issue to treat. We are so glad to not have more serious issues to ask you to pray for!