Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh my Heart!

Justin and dad made it back to Bethesda safely on January 9th. Mom was scheduled to head back on Saturday the 21st and I planned to stay home. Well I guess Justin's "heart was breaking" and he wanted us back sooner (hahaha totally kidding). We have to find humor in something, because if not we would cry! So here is the newest update on Justin and his heart:

Last Friday Justin began having some chest pain/discomfort, being Justin he brushed it off. Saturday the pain was still there so he finally mentioned it to my dad and said the pain was in his shoulder and chest (dad asked if he wanted to go get it checked, but he said he wanted to wait to see if it would get better). By Sunday the pain was getting worse he couldn't sleep and now he was really having shortness of breath and feeling like he couldn't take a deep breath. Justin finally called my mom and I to explain what was going on. I told him he needed to go get it checked out. He agreed to go to the ER after the Packers game (I think the sadness of them loosing really added to his heart ache). When he got to the ER his O2 saturation was at 92% with his heart rate back elevated around 120 and a lower blood pressure 90/60 range. They ran tests and decided to admit him to the ICU because he had fluid around his heart. On Monday we found out there was a possibility for surgery so mom and I decided to fly out the next day. We both arrived Tuesday night and Justin had been transferred out of the ICU to the Cardiology floor, where Justin was the youngest patient. I think the second youngest patient on that floor is probably 70/80 years old. Wednesday we spent all day talking to multiple Cardiologists and a Cardio-thoracic surgeon about different options.

To make a long story short: After days of doctors putting their heads together and presenting Justin's case to multiple doctors and doing extensive research we found some answers as of this afternoon. Justin has a condition that only 217 known cases have been documented. This was very helpful finding this research because the course of treatment has been up in the air the last few days. Justin has inflammation around his heart known as pericarditis (this is not a rare heart problem). The problem with Justin is that his heart is being restricted, but their are multiple pathologies involved in his condition. So in a nutshell the crossroad we are at is: to continue to treat Justin with medicine for 3-6 months hoping it will alleviate his symptoms and improve his heart function, or to remove the pericardium (sac around his heart) hoping it will cure the problem. The dilemma is nobody knows which is the correct answer. Removing the pericardium is the risk of open heart surgery (having to actually crack open the chest) and it may still not fix the problem. The risk of just staying on medication is the fluid around the heart may dry up and cause the pericardium to stick to the heart causing another major problem and possibly emergency open heart surgery. When Justin had the Cardiac tamponade in October they had to remove a small piece of the pericardium to drain the large amount of fluid compressing the heart. Removing that piece of the pericardium and Justin getting the pericarditis now caused his pericardium to become thick like leather. For some reason Justin's heart/pericardium is causing him more problems. Most people have a pericardial window and do not have additional problems.

Justin is currently scheduled for open heart surgery for the pericardium to be removed on Monday. After speaking to multiple doctors and finding out a few more answers today, Justin is going to more than likely hold off on the surgery for now and continue with the medicine. The medication is beginning to alleviate some of his symptoms. All the doctors support his decision. He will continue to be monitored with Echocardiograms. Justin is really looking forward to going to Hawaii in three weeks for his ball with his unit. This is a huge deal for him and the guys. The Cardiologists are on board and want him to go. They will do another test right before he leaves to give him the final clearance. They have no evidence to show that the surgery is needed right now and most agree the medication is a great choice. When Justin returns from Hawaii he will be re-evaluated to see if surgery is needed. The reassurance is if anything happens in Hawaii all the Cardiologists here in Bethesda know the Cardiologists in Hawaii and they can be in contact with them. Justin was more assured today to not have the surgery right now when the documented article of 217 people having his condition, the majority of people did not need surgery after using the medication as a treatment option.

I just have to say again how amazing this hospital is and these doctors are. They go above and beyond for their patients! I seriously cannot brag enough and wish to one day be half the clinician they are one day.

Now onto a lighter note: Justin has been working hard in therapy. He has been dribbling a soccer ball around the track and was walking with his resistance bands on.

Mail issues over Christmas! We are sorry that some of your Christmas cards got returned. The address is correct, we just had an error in the mail room. All patients experienced this and we are sorry that the error occurred. We sure appreciated all the Christmas cards and well wishes. We really enjoyed being home and being able to surprise our family members. Plus our dogs enjoyed us home!  

These next couple of weeks will determine how well the medication is working with Justin's heart and hopefully he will be cleared to go to Hawaii. Going to Hawaii means a lot to Justin to see his guys and his doctors 100% support this. They know how important it is because they too are military! Your continued prayers are always gracious because they is chance he will need the open heart surgery. Hopefully if he does the decision can be made before it turns into an emergency situation. Thankfully the doctors are following him closely to prevent this from happening.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!
The Crabbe Family!


  1. Always in our thoughts and prayers. Karen and Richard Golde.

  2. So sorry that Justin is faced with another serious medical decision, Glad you have such excellent medical support with doctors who do such thorough research and do not just want to accept the easy answers. Fantastic job at breaking down a complex medical situation so that us normal people could follow it. Prayers continue to be with your family...I've shared Justin's story with many people. So inspiring, and more prayer support too. Hi to Maureen, we miss you but happy you can be where you need to be.