Big changes in our household..as of the end of June, we are leaving Colorado and moving to Michigan.  This has prompted quite a few “wtf” responses from friends near and far alike, including the chef at my hospital cafeteria.

We quickly pull out the Lula card in explanation so someone doesn’t try to commit us.  After hearing how much better it will be for Lula they’re practically kicking us out of the state.

Will miss our year round mountain hikes

Will miss our year round mountain hikes

Last fall I came across a semi-new study that looks at the long term survival rates of single ventricle patients (what Lula has) at altitude versus sea level.  And let’s just say the results at altitude weren’t amazing.  At 15 years, survival at sea level is 72% versus 57% at altitude. And it only gets worse…20 year survival is 65% at sea level versus 25% altitude. (not to mention a myriad of other issues that are worse at altitude.

Considering I see a big difference in oxygen requirements in my own patients here versus sea level, I have been curious about this since she was diagnosed. Conventional wisdom about altitude and oxygenation would dictate that there would be issues with her physiology (which is dependent on passive flow back to the lungs…which means with lower oxygenation–> increased pulmonary vascular resistance –> harder for blood to passively flow back to lungs.) Click here if you’re interested about her particular surgeries- she’s had 2 out of the 3 so far.

When she was diagnosed, the doctors told us there was a study that showed no difference between altitude and sea level.  And there is…but it is only looking at survival rates up to 10 years old.

I contacted cardiologists from some of the top centers around the nation, asking their opinions on the two studies. The general consensus is that while they don’t automatically tell people to move to sea level, if a patient is having issues, then they will usually suggest it. (Lula is doing amazing..by the way)

That being said, they said if we had jobs, support system, and a good hospital/surgeon, they would recommend moving to a lower altitude.  Obviously, if we were picking a place that had a terrible heart center, Lula wouldn’t be any better off as their incompetence would override any benefit at being at sea level.

Mountain Baby

Mountain Baby

It’s true that this study has a somewhat small sample size. And it is just one study.  But being that it is the only long term study at this point, and there aren’t any obvious flaws in the study, we don’t see a point in risking it. (I’m sure as time goes on, and more and more kids with Lula’s heart condition live longer and longer, there will be more research done on this topic).  It won’t hurt to move to lower elevation, and it could help tremendously…it definitely won’t help to stay at altitude, and could potentially hurt.

So I made a list of the top 20 heart centers around the nation, along with cost of living, number of available jobs for me (Justin can live anywhere with his job) and family/friends in the area. Michigan pretty much won all the categories.

So I got a job, we bought a house, and we’re set to move to Grand Rapids at the end of June.  (She will have her next surgery at University of Michigan)

Since Michigan is so much cheaper than Denver, we are able to get a house and gut it before we move in…our own little version of Fixer Upper.  Our parents keep telling us how stressful this will be to do all at once…I find the most stressful thing is convincing Justin to trust me design-wise and let a girl do what she wants to do. For a guy who was a climbing/ski bum, living out of his truck when I met him, he sure does have a lot of opinions regarding interior design.

Does Chip question Joanna? No..no he doesn’t.  So, who knows? Maybe I’ll make this blog all about interior design instead of traveling and adventures in the mountains.  As it turns out, the most adventurous thing I may be doing in the near future is painting the exterior of my house black.

We would move to Mississippi for this face.

We would move to Mississippi for this face.

Even though we know this is the right thing to do, it is still bittersweet.  We are so sad to be leaving the mountains and our good friends here in Colorado…but I am so very excited to be able to live so close to some of my bestest BFF’s in the world.  I’ve spent about 1/3 of my life in Colorado, and another 1/3 of my life in Michigan (and a random 1/3 all over the place…no I am not that bad at math).  I feel as if I’m leaving and returning home all at the same time.  (Justin just feels like he is leaving sunshine and mountains and moving to cold, grey, very flat Michigan.)

We are lucky that we have flexible jobs, and friends and family all over, so that we have this option.  We will never really know if it has helped or if she would do great if we stayed…but we are okay with that. We just want to keep that face with us for as long as can.

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