Thursday, September 13, 2012

Over one hurdle - surgery is done

I said I wasn't going to turn this into a medical blog, but I have dozens (probably hundreds ... ) of people who have asked for updates on my husband's condition, and this seems to be the easiest way to get the information to everyone. Better than posting massive updates on Facebook and emailing scores of people.

If you missed it, here's the first post that explains how we got here.

It feels like a month, but it was just a week ago that Bob drove himself to the clinic. And quickly ended up in ICU. On Monday of this week, they felt he was well enough to be in a regular room, and things were looking up. But everything was still rather nebulous. Maybe he would need surgery, maybe not. Maybe they've have to open him up, maybe they could go in through small holes. There were a lot of maybes and not a lot of firm plans.

Yesterday was the longest day of my life. I got a call at about 1am that Bob was being moved back to ICU because his breathing had gotten so bad. I couldn't sleep, so I went to the hospital where I guarantee you neither of us slept.

They said that one of his lungs was accumulating fluid and it's possible he aspirated something, but he couldn't cough anything up because of his stomach pain.

So they decided to drain the fluid from his lung and got him started on breathing therapy through the oxygen mask. He was conscious but stupid from lack of sleep, pain, and lack of oxygen.

The doctor came in and said uh oh, he's too sick for the scheduled surgery on Friday. Bob wasn't getting enough oxygen even with the oxygen mask at full volume and there's no way they could put him under in that condition.

So they said the surgery would be delayed until he could breathe better. The downside was that he couldn't eat and they didn't want to give him IV nutrition because that can ruin your liver if you're on it too long. They wanted to wait until after surgery to get him on the IV food. Which meant it would be a few more days of no food, which wasn't something he could afford since he had already lost too much weight.

Then the doctor suggested putting him on a ventilator. He said that they could go down the ventilator tube and clean out his lungs better and that after a few days he'd be ready for surgery, so maybe they could still schedule it for Friday.

Okay, fine, that sounds good.

I went home to take a shower and check on the dog and when I got back to the hospital an hour later, he had the breathing tube in, he was sedated, and they scheduled the surgery for later that day. Since he was on the ventilator, the machine would breathe for him during surgery and the doctor decided it was better to do the surgery right away instead of Friday.

Well, okay.

They took him into surgery some time after 7pm and he was back in his room at about 9 pm. They removed his spleen which had died after they plugged the aneurysm, and cleaned out the blood clot which was behind his stomach and cleaned up some other bits and pieces. No doubt poked and prodded here and there. I mean, you're in there, you might as well look for alien implants and spare body parts. They doctor actually drew a little picture. The stomach is here ... we flipped that up ...

Hmmm ... not exactly a romantic picture of my husband, but the non-emotional side of me found it ... interesting. It's amazing what modern medicine can do.

Everyone told me he did really well during surgery - didn't lose a lot of blood, his vitals were okay - I mean, they're doing some major renovation, so there were some variations of blood pressure, but he never went critical. He came back to the room and one of the ER nurses was positively beaming and even a little teary-eyed about how good he looked.

He's going to remain sedated until they're ready to take him off the ventilator. They said they'd do that as soon as his gut decided to start functioning again. Maybe a day or two. And then he can start eating again and they'll be getting him back on his feet to move around.

It's still going to be a long road. He wasn't eating well before he went into the hospital and he needs to gain some weight. He needs to recover from major surgery. There's always a risk of infection. They're doing biopsies on the material they removed, just to make sure there's nothing else we need to worry about. He needs to be up and walking around as soon as possible and I'm sure that won't be fun for him.

Still lots of things to worry about, but the surgery was the first big hurdle. I can't tell you how terrified I was when they were wheeling him down the hall, but I knew he was in good hands.

After the surgery was over the doctor told me that he'd sleep better tonight knowing the surgery was over and that it went well, rather than "turning like a rotisserie chicken" and wondering if things were going to get worse if he waited until Friday for the surgery.

I really believe it was the right decision to go ahead. If we waited, that would have been more days with no food and more days with a dead spleen in his gut.

Now, he's moving forward instead of moving back.

As for me, I was blubbering like a baby when I got home. Exhaustion and worry have taken a toll, but I sleep well last night and I feel more like a human today. I'm still tired, but it's a kind of tired I can deal with. I feel a little less crazy.

I'm sure there are more hurdles coming, but we've made it this far. We'll get through it.

I want to thank everyone for their comments, emails, messages, good wishes, prayers, smoke signals, and everything else. I don't know if I'll have a chance to thank all of you individually, and to be honest I'm still making my way through reading all the comments. I need to take breaks because I get all teary when I read them, and then I can't see. I love you all.

Hopefully all the news from now on will be good.

Oh, and that photo? That's Bob, shortly after we met. That's one of my favorite photos of him. Other people might tell you that he looks a little ... okay, a lot ... older than that now. But to me, that's what he always looks like. Maybe my eyes are getting old, too.
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