On August 11, I was scheduled to have the RVAD removed with another open heart surgery. So we got up fairly early and made it here for the big event. Just got back from seeing my girl. She's looking good. Ever since the original coding incident on Wednesday night, Annie's been rock solid. Great blood pressure, no weird rhythms, excellent breathing, etc. All signs seem to bode well for this procedure. They will roll her down to the OR at about 11:30 and begin the operation at noon. That's the plan. I hope that, wherever you are at noon, you can spare 30 seconds or so to stop and send good vibes our way!
Billy wrote a little while later...
Okay, there was a bit of a delay. But we just left the room and they're taking her down. The doctor said he's been praying all night. So that's gotta be good, right?
He said there was no timeline, but that he would be going VERY slow. I feel like I'm on the scariest amusement park ride ever, created by some sadistic engineer. So I just keep reminding myself that I go on them often and, despite the fright, I survive.
Non-theatre people will think this odd, but my colleagues will get it: While in there alone, I "took circle" with Annie. Her voice was done by proxy, of course, but I know she's going into this with the same conviction she does on an opening night -- with total confidence that all those people in the dark house are about to witness a miracle. (When I spun out of it and said, "Excellencia" I caught a glimpse of Beverly looking at me through the window, quite convinced I am as crazy as a peach-orchard boar.)
The next 4 hours are going to be unbearable. Please stop and send energy to Annie and me.
Then after the surgery was completed...
MEDICAL UPDATE ON ANNIE: She did it! Her surgery is over. All went really well. Dr. Felger was able to take her off the Right Ventricle Assist Device and her heart responded to the challenge. Although we still have recovery to get through, Annie's own heart is doing all the work now. My wonderful wife has been through the ringer, but, with your help, the supreme skills of a fabulous surgical team and divine intervention, she's pulled off her 2nd miracle! I'm telling you, I gotta go buy new underwear, deodorant, and a lottery ticket.
I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, and our modern family is a true definition of what unconditional love is. Billy wrote about how my children and my ex-husband took care of business.
There's a constant dinging outside Annie's room that serendipitously syncs in beat with the whoosh/kaaaaaaaaaaaaaa noise of her ventilator. My tired eyes want to fall asleep to this fascinating sound. I want to sleep with my wife. And I do mean sleep. In the pull-out "chofa" that I know would be deceptively uncomfortable. Annie made it through arguably the toughest or 2nd toughest day of her life, and I want so badly to simply be in the same room with her. I might give a million (assuming I had it) just to lie down next to her and hold her hand. I imagine it to be the most intimate we could ever be. But I won't get to. She will rest easier without me here, I'm sure. So, instead, I get another beautiful female for the evening -- my daughter, Sadie. It comforts me to know that she's part of her mother. I know that will keep me going until tomorrow morning when I return.
The name Sadie is invoked often, it seems, while I don't write as much about my other daughter, Haley, or my son, Josh. I assure everyone that is a function of age rather than parentage. So I want to take a minute to tell you that they, too, are wonderful. Camp Red Dragon would not have gotten done without Josh's leadership. The set and lights looked great, Josh. And Haley . . . well, she's turning into quite a mature young woman. She's not afraid to take responsibility for her own education regarding her mom's health -- even going so far as approaching the surgeons and nurses to demand explanations. It fills me with pride to know that she will take care of herself just fine when she goes off to college next year. So . . . a proud dad and his shout-outs. The apples didn't far fall from the tree. Their mom, as you all know, is quite a person. But their dad, Chris, is a great guy, too. His love for his ex-wife is evident, and I am grateful that we all live harmoniously -- even in times that aren't fraught with grave possibilities. (Kudos to us, the Dragoo/Wilson clan.!)
I am a truly blessed.
On August 10, Billy was beginning to explain what was going on.
My beautiful wife, Annie, continues to defy all odds and just get better and better. I go in there every so often and whisper to her "see the perfect dive" and encourage her to concentrate on that right ventricle. Many other people have gone in today to offer similar encouragement, or prayers. Well . . . she must be working like a rented mule on that issue, 'cause Doctor Felger says he thinks that RVAD is going to come off really well.
Her surgery is scheduled for tomorrow at noon. It should last about two hours, I think. (Other doctors say Felger is really quick!) I have total confidence he'll take the time he needs and do the job thoroughly. He reassured Carolyn (Annie's mom) and me that if he has any doubts, he will return her to the machine and wait some more.
Please keep up the prayers and positive thoughts. I will be much more relaxed after she gets through this and can actually open her eyes and communicate with me. It's funny, here I am in my own city with a hot shower and comfortable bed 15 minutes down MoPac, but I'd rather be here. Guess that's powerful testimony that "home" is really just wherever Annie is
Many people came by today and I appreciate them all. Corrie, Richard, Steve, Lori, Perry, Catherine, Jeannie, Michael D., Sadie, Haley, Jan and John -- thanks for all your support. And a special shout-out to Michael Harlan; you have such an infectious (is that appropriate in a hospital?) personality and uplifting quality. And Annie had just said the other day, "We should take Michael to lunch." I wish we had, but she wasn't able to go with us, so let's do it again in a few weeks, okay?
Later that day he wrote...
I had a few uninterrupted hours to think (doze). And what came to mind was that awful night 13 months ago in Nebraska when the pulmonologist told me that Annie had only "a puncher's chance." That term, for non-pugilists, means "not impossible, but highly unlikely." One boxer is far more skilled than the other, so the less-skilled fighter's only chance is to land one hard, lucky punch. The longer the fight goes, the more behind on points one boxer becomes, until the ONLY way to victory is by a lucky knockout. I didn't like the analogy then, and I remember thinking . . . "you don't know my wife."
Annie, it turns out, didn't need the lucky punch in Lincoln. We had all underestimated her intestinal fortitude! I would gladly trade places with her right now; listening to her ventilator and seeing myriad tubes in her body tears me up.But I wonder if I'd survive. See, I have no doubt she's tougher than me. There's a "t" that separates us. Whereas "doughiness" might adequately describe me, she is full of doughtiness. Guts. Moxie. Intestinal fortitude.
What makes someone so tough? You could make a case for experience. Certainly, Annie's had some things from her past that would harden anyone. A case for nature might also be made, although Annie doesn't seem to have been made "hard." She's really a softy, as most people who really know her can tell you. So what then? I have been thinking about this question all day What gives a person the will to survive? And I have concluded that it MUST be tied somehow to love. Love preserves life on earth. There must be hundred, maybe thousands, of people -- many of whom I don't even know -- who are saying prayers for Annie. I wonder if she knows how much she's loved. She might be ignorant to it, just as I was blind to her phenomenal popularity. (I married a rock-star!) Anyway . . . I guess what I'm trying to say is that her will to live is inextricably bound with your love, and I truly believe she'll wake up to say, "Thank you."
The pulmonologist in Nebraska underestimated Annie, and early in the fight, doubts crept in my own mind, too. Well, I'm not making that mistake again. This time 'round, I'm saying aloud to those thoughts, "Get the hell out of my head. She don't need no stinking "puncher's chance. She's Annie damn Dragoo." After watching last year's match, and after cheering her on for the past four days . . my money is on my wife to take down her foe.
Dad was right: I married a "knockout." Funny, huh, how two slang terms from the sweet science can be so far apart on the spectrum of meaning.
I'M BILLY DRAGOO, AND I ENDORSE THIS MESSAGE.
I am still amazing at how loved I am and how people spoke healing into my life. The God who heals was truly listening.
The doctors still are unsure as to why this problem with her right ventricle is occurring, but the temporary bypass device should allow her heart to rest and they are hoping to see it recover over the coming days. She is still on a ventilator and will be heavily sedated and closely monitored in ICU. Please pray that her body does it's job and begins the healing process ASAP and that her heart will start working on it's own as it should, and continue to keep her family in your prayers as they wait.
Ironic how this wonderful friend of mine, who would be described by everyone who comes in contact with her as "all heart from head to toe", is having cardiac issues.
One thing I know for sure...Annie Dragoo is not a quitter. As I told her this weekend, "You don't have to wear crazy, silly slippers in the hospital to try to appear spunky. You ARE spunky."
Ann, my friend, you are the the very definition of SPUNK!
Best of all, the God who made you that way is with you right now, and will be beside you every moment as you go through this recovery.
On August 7, Billy began writing once again.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. I finally came home early this morning for some much-needed sleep. I did not get a call from the hospital, which was my greatest fear. We don't know exactly why Annie coded yesterday-- perhaps from a ventricle that was extremely distended and full of blood. Whatever the cause, even her ACID didn't help; it sent 6 shocks trying to correct the rhythm. Only the 7th one (delivered by the doctor) did the trick. The doctor's original plan was to wait overnight but after the V-fib he decided to do the RVAD. I tell you what, you learn a lot in situations like this. I am overwhelmed, but feeling strong and uplifted by you all. And I know -- with no disrespect to other women out there -- that I married the greatest woman in the world. Please continue your prayers for my beautiful warrior.
He continued on August 8...
Annie is stable. She's doing as well as can be expected. They took the balloon pump out today and she's off most medicines. Her blood pressure is good. The doctor said, "We are certainly not out of the woods, but we are much better off than we were 30 hours ago." The plan is to let her rest through the weekend and then go in on Monday and try to wean her off this RVAD machine (right ventricle assistance device.) The way I understand it, they'll turn the machine down in the hope that her right ventricle realizes it needs to start working.
Late that day...
I just went in to see Annie. Unlike my lousy timing in Nebraska last year when the doctors seemed to come by every time I was out, this time Dr. Felger happened to drop by as I was standing there. So I got 10 minutes of his time. The news is good; she has improved since last night. His words were, "We're in a much better place than we were 12-16 hours ago." He went on to say we should temper our excitement and just be patient. He was on the phone, he said, with colleagues all over America, all of whom are equally perplexed. None of the work done yesterday was anywhere near the right ventricle, so its shutting down has everyone perplexed. Thus, he wants to go SLOWLY. I'm okay with that. The RVAD machine is in steady-on mode. In my mind (you know me, always thinking theatre), her right ventricle thought the understudy was doing well and just decided not to go on. (Must be over at the pub drinking.)
She is off most medicines, including the epinephrine. The balloon pump is probably going away soon. Slowly she's getting off the machines, but he wants to go at a toad's space. So . . . it's all relative. A snail on the back of a turtle must surely have white knuckles.
I met with my Cardiothoracic Surgeon this in July. He was very personal and encouraging to me. Next week, August 6, 2014 I will undergo open heart surgery to address my Mitral valve. There is an 85% chance that he can repair the valve. However, if he cannot repair it, we decided after much discussion that he will replace is with a tissue (pig/bovine valve). I will be in the hospital for 5-7 days; he believes I may be released after 3 days considering my good health. I will be limited for 8-12 weeks on lifting things over 10 pounds & heavy exercising. He and his nurse told me that they believe I would be returning to school on the first day of classes.
August 6 was the day for the open heart surgery and I was very excited about finally getting some relief after a hard year of recovery that was taking too long for me. Little did I know when I arrived at the Heart Hospital in Austin that I would be staying for quite a while.
Facebook once again became my family's and friends' way of sharing my journey.
Many of you followed the health saga the occurred last year this time with my kids' mom, Annie Dragoo. Her heart stopped without warning and we nearly lost her then. So many of you prayed and sent good thoughts and her recovery since that day has been truly remarkable. We need the prayers of our friends again. Ann had surgery today to repair a valve in her heart. Although it's major surgery, it's a fairly routine operation. The surgery seemed to go very well at first glance, but they discovered that her right ventricle after surgery wasn't beating as it should. The plan was to wait and watch to see if it would 'wake up' so to speak over the next 24 hours. About an hour ago Ann's heart stopped. Thankfully, they were able to bring her back, but now she needs what's called a right ventricle assisted device. They will bypass that right ventricle in the hopes it will heal and eventually function normally. Surgery is happening very soon. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. She is a fighter and will not go quiet. Also pray for her husband Billy Dragoo, and her children Josh Wilson, Haley Wilson, and Sadie. Thank you! Will update more as I know more.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep praying for my best friend as she heads back into her 2nd surgery today.
About an hour ago Ann's heart stopped. Thankfully, they were able to bring her back, but now she needs what's called a right ventricle assisted device. They will bypass that right ventricle in the hopes it will heal and eventually function normally. Surgery is happening very soon. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. She is a fighter and will not go quiet. Also pray for her husband Billy Dragoo, and her children Josh Wilson, Haley Wilson, and Sadie. Thank you! Will update more as I know more.
And once again, my family and friends prayed. Haley wrote...
I love you so much mom! You are so strong and my hero! I know we weren't expecting this bit it's just a little bump in the road. Love you and can't wait to see you!
My friend, Sherri, who was my nurse in Lincoln the year before wrote...
Ok friends. I need a big big favor! A friend of mine needs your prayers! She had open heart surgery and isn't doing well. She now has a device that is "working" for the right side of her heart. Please pray for her and her husband, children, and family. I have only known these wonderful people for a year, but I consider them part of my family. Sending prayers! I love you from Nebraska.
Later that evening, after the second surgery, Chris updated everyone...
UPDATE: Annie Dragoo is out of surgery. The RVAD they put in is in place and is functioning. It will operate in place of the right side of her heart and let it rest for the next few days. Their hope is that in a few days her right ventricle will be rested enough to do its job. So now it's a waiting game, but we are encouraged. The surgeon was also encouraged. So this is the best news we could hope for in this situation. She's not out of the woods. Still critical, but we are breathing a bit easier at the moment. Thanks for the prayers and well wishes. Keep em coming!
In May, I was having trouble breathing and it was discovered that I had Congestive Heart Failure. My doctors tried medications and it did not help. After a series of tests, they determined that I needed Mitral Valve repair. Although I had always suffered from Mitral Valve Prolapse, the valve was now leaking. So, an open heart surgery was scheduled for August.
In June I was able to attend a "Celebration of Recovery" held at Brian East. The third week of June was very significant in my recovery. It marked the one-year anniversary of my cardiac arrest. It was emotional for me as I sat and judged duet acting and shared Haley's joy as she auditioned for colleges. I was hugged and greeted by friends from all over the US! At one point I was sitting under a tree in the beautiful weather thanking God that I'm here one year later.
My Mother Posted this...
What a difference God has made! One year ago in the left photo: On two life support systems, a ventilator and ECMO machine; in a chemical induced coma & paralysis, body temperature lowered to the 80s, etc, etc. YESTERDAY! The photo on the right: "Dancing" on the very spot she collapsed of her Cardiac Arrest! We are proud of you Annie Dragoo! And we are SO GRATEFUL to GOD for giving us one more year with you! Just one more hurdle next month. But we will clear it as well! I love you Annie!
My Journey from death's door to the miracle of life.
Annie Dragoo is a wife, mother, actor, singer, dancer, educator, and holistic health practitioner who lives in Austin, Texas.