The Best Tuna Noodle Ever

A family favorite became a memorable meal in 2011.  Many readers will remember the November when my husband, Dave, had open heart surgery.  As Thanksgiving came around this year, my mind went back to 2011 when, instead of hosting my  family for a couple of days of celebration, Dave and I spent Thanksgiving Day in a hospital room.

We had traveled 3 1/2 hours to the Cleveland Clinic on November 1 and hoped to be back home by the ninth, giving us a couple of weeks for recovery before Thanksgiving.  But surgery was postponed from the fourth to the seventh so our surgeon could do a heart/lung transplant.  Then, when Dave’s post-op experience included complications, the hotel I was occupying became my home-away-from-home for nearly a month, and the Clinic’s Au Bon Pain did most of the cooking.

Dave’s heart valve disease had been detected 25 years earlier when our first son was just 3 months old.  By the grace of God, the surgery was not necessary until a point in our life when our boys were grown and it was possible for me to park the car at the hotel and spend the days at the hospital with Dave.

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View from the Heart Center

On November 7, Dave underwent a very successful heart surgery to replace two defective valves.  He was only 50 years old and in good health, yet he developed atrial fibrillation that kept him in ICU for a week.  Then, 10 days post-op, we heard the words tamponade and pericardial effusion for the first time and found ourselves back in ICU receiving plasma to thicken his intentionally thinned blood.  The same excellent doctor was able to get to the sac around his heart and drain off the “fluid” (blood) with only a tiny incision.  Dave went from feeling “lethargic” and being in considerable danger to giving me a thumbs up immediately after surgery.  That evening I found out what a true sigh of relief feels like!

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Normal Heart Rhythm – a Beautiful Sight

After the emergency, our cardiologist told Dave that he would learn why he’s called a patient, since it was necessary to very carefully and slowly thin his blood again to the level that would keep him safe from clots and strokes.  He hoped to get us home by Thanksgiving.  Dave had told me prior to our journey that he only needed me to do 3 things – be there when he needed me, pray, and get him back home.  With energy and an unsinkable optimism that could only come from the Lord, I became his cheerleader.  The encouraging visits, messages and prayers from precious friends and family members meant more than they could know.

We were patient, even when Thanksgiving came, because we did not yet feel confident to leave the watchful eyes of the doctors and nurses.  And we were OK – and thankful, even as I ate something from Au Bon Pain and Dave picked at the hospital version of a Turkey Dinner.  Later in the evening, our niece who works in the Clinic came by with some homemade pumpkin roll.  What a blessing!

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My Black Friday purchase from a Clinic boutique.

Circumstances prevented our sons from being with us on the holiday, but three days later we were on our way home where our younger son was waiting to welcome us.  The  day included a delay in discharge, a long wait at the local pharmacy, and some prescribed stops on the way home, and we arrived at dinner time.  But, rather than feeling exhausted, I was energized by the victory and offered to make a Tuna Noodle Casserole for the three of us.  What a joy it was to prepare and share that meal.

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