While I was stationed at Fort Irwin I was offered a large amount of money to leave the Air Force. This was part of the Department of Defense drawdown, based in part to the fall of the Soviet Union. I took it the offer, and was discharged at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas.
Won and I wanted to live in California, we wanted to open our own store. The money was a good opportunity to do that. My research led me to believe that Stockton California had a high percentage of wealthy people who might be interested in children's clothing. I was both right and wrong - there are a lot of wealthy people in Stockton, but they work and shop in the Bay area. I learned the definition of "bedroom community".
But we didn't lose our shirts. I had a local job while we owned the store, but I decided to go job hunting again. I found a great manufacturing job in Fresno / Clovis California, and so we closed the store and moved again.
At Fresno, we continued our search for a good heart doctor for Won. We had little luck in Stockton, but in Fresno we met a great cardiologist, who sent Won to Stanford for some in-depth tests to find out why she had an enlarged heart.
The results of the test was that Won's Mitral valve was badly damaged - most likely due to a congenital problem.
It had taken almost two years to get to this point. Won was in Fresno City college by now, and had a part time job at a Korean-owned laundrymat. But we dropped all of that, and she was rushed to the Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City for heart surgery.
Won had her Mitral Valve replaced with a porcine valve. She was out of class for 3 weeks, and finished her semester with a "B" average. That "B" ticked her off more than the surgery!
After her recovery, she went back to work at the laundry - but soon had to quit due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Won just couldn't seem to get a break. One health problem would be controlled, and another would become evident!
For example, before we discovered why her heart was faulty, we were investigating why she wasn't getting pregnant. It turns out that Won had Polycystic Ovaries. This is part of the reason why she was overweight and had diabetes. The fertility doctor said he wouldn't assist us in her pregnancy until her heart doctor gave her a clean bill of health. But she kept having other problems.
Won had carpal tunnel surgery to correct that problem, then she got sick with some sort of virus, and had difficulty breathing while sleeping at night. That, plus her weight, turned into full blown sleep apnea. She had her tonsils removed to help with that, and later was put on a CPAP machine.
Her weight increased, her blood pressure and diabetes got worse, and the doctors started talking about putting her on insulin. Her doctor suggested weight loss surgery, so Won had a gastric bypass. Her weight dropped dramatically, and her high blood pressure went away. Unfortunately she became Hypoglycemic. I've seen her blood sugar as low as 40 mg/dl! We started carrying glucose tablets everywhere.
Won's change in weight also affected old injuries. When Won was 12 or 13, she was injured while playing with friends on the roof of an abandoned building in Seoul. She shouldn't have been there - she was supposed to be studying. Her gradmother was raising her, and grandmother was VERY strict about making sure she studied! But Won had fibbed to her and was out goofing off.
Of course she fell through the roof of the building, fell almost 20 feet, and landed on her back. Won told me that it hurt her pretty badly, and her friends had to help her home.
She hid the whole thing from her teachers and her grandmother, even though she was in pain for a month. She had minor back problems from then on, but as she approached 40, she started suffering from major back pain in the Lumbar and Sacral portions of her spine. The pain grew increasingly unbearable, and over the counter pain killers couldn't touch it.
Won had several back surgeries to try to control this pain, starting with hormone shots to the spinal discs in that area, and continuing with Intervertebral disc annuloplasty and finally a Coccygectomy. None of it alleviated the back pain, but her legs stopped going numb, so there was some benefit. Her doctor sent her to a pain management specialist, who prescribed some pretty heavy narcotic painkillers.
By this time, by 2005, Won was in constant back pain, was bedridden for much of the day, was on heavy pain medication, and would sometimes have problems with hypoglycemia. I became a part-time care-giver, and took over cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Sometimes Won would have a "good day" and we would go out. Sometimes it was several "good days" in a row. And sometimes she could "force" a good day. She paid for that with constant pain, and treated it with narcotics.
And then one day her porcine valve started to fall apart, and we rushed her to the hospital for another heart surgery.