Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How Did It Go?

If you are reading this then I am assuming you would like more detail about what we’ve been up against this last month or so, in the wake of Tom’s surgery at the end of June. I didn’t have access to the internet in Richmond while staying in the Hospitality House, and I’ve not had much time for the net since then, either.
As a matter of fact, I’m not online now, in case the nurse wants to call and remind us of her next visit. But I’ll go online tonight and leave this for you to see.

Guess I’ll skim over the missing days since the last post.

June 29th, we are in Richmond at the HH. Tom’s prep begins that afternoon. He doesn’t do well with it and is in pain all day & night. Neither of us get much sleep.

June 30th At 5am, we sign into the surgical area, but they don’t take Tom to the back for another 40 minutes (We’re early.) 6:12am-9am: Tom is checked, rechecked, given an IV, pain meds, & had a few tests done. They are concerned but decide to go ahead, as his condition is serious and unlikely to improve without surgery.

9:30 am – 7:15pm A long, llllooonngg day of waiting. MCV has a neat system involving pagers & internal phones which allow the doctors & anesthesiologists to call me every so often and say how things are going. Thus I get phone calls every hour or two saying Tom’s condition is very good, all things considered. His surgery is much more complicated than even they had expected and it will be at least an hour or two more, if Tom continues to hold in there the way he is presently.

My one lunch break was at the Chick Filet in the hospital’s food court. There I happened to overhear one of the assistant surgeons (doctor student) talking to a colleague about the case while in line. I recognized him from that morning, but I don’t think he had seen me sitting in the corner of Tom’s room. He pretty much says the same thing I’d been told on the phone, but his version is much more detailed. I don’t mind as it was reassurring to hear him talk about how brilliant the lead surgeon is (by name), how well “the tough Scot” is doing, how they’ve established a rotation to keep people from getting too tired, how fascinating, complicated, & unusual this case is, how he hated to leave it but it looked like it was going to run into the evening before they could wrap up. (He had an afternoon appointment he couldn’t break.)

Tom’s vitals held rock steady throughout the whole business, which I regarded as a blessing from God in itself. He’s had trouble with anesthesia in much shorter procedures. I know you guys were praying. You made a BBIIGG difference, believe it.

At 7:15-ish Tom’s doctor tells me that the surgery is a success. They have cleared the scarring tissue, the deep abcess, the fistula, & more. His situation was bad but they believe they got it all. Its clear he’s had a building problem for many, many years. They’ll have to do a follow-up to undo some of the care they had to do today (bypasses to let his system heal) & make sure nothing grew back that shouldn’t, but they don’t really expect it will. In the long term, he may better than I’ve ever known him to be. Best guess is that some of this trouble has been building for decades, possible since his teen years.

At the end, they decided to wake him up very slowly, given how long he’d been under. I waited awhile longer, but at last the day & previous evenings with short & interrupted sleep took their toll on me. I was told he was fine but not to come to ICU (where he was sent) until afternoon.

So I went back to the hospitality house, thanked God, prayed, and feeling His grace upon me, slept like a log until noon, nearly. This was just as well as the doctor had suggested I not arrive until afternoon after they had finished the tests and adjustments.

July 1st

I found that Tom had his own room in ICU, which was cool. He had the best room in the ward actually, and the quietest, though he was in no shape to make full use of its amenities. They were obviously taking wonderful care of him, but…

Nothing can prepare you for seeing your beloved in ICU.


At his side there was a beeping, blinking Christmas tree of boxes, bottles, and IV bags. The automated air bed moved him around gently, like an oversized doll. On the other side a large machine kept track of his vitals and tended his breathing, supplementing as needed.

He wasn’t really awake, though he responded to his name and would try to squeeze my hand now and then.

The doctors and nurses, who checked on him every few minutes, said he was doing great! (considering) Making steady progress.

I stayed with him all afternoon and talked to him, though I knew he wouldn’t remember. They’d already told me he wouldn’t, because of the sedative/anesthetic chosen. He was unconcious so he wouldn’t be distressed by all the stuff attached to him, easing his recovery. Yes, he’d been awake that morning. Everything was on schedule, though he’d probably be in ICU a few days.

July 2nd -6th

Tom got steadily better as the days went by, despite small reverses. At one point they were very worried about his kidneys, but he recovered full functionality on his own very soon. Slowly, day by day, the collection of medical hardware thinned. Large machines were turned down and then off, one by one. Finally he was left with an oxygen line, some basic sensors & an IV with a couple of bags attached. By this time he was able to look at the card & bear I’d been allowed to bring with me, though regular conversations weren’t yet possible. Tom knew who he was. Tom knew who I was. He knew he’d had surgery & was getting better. That was it.

During this period they had to unplug the electronically-controlled sink across from him. It would keep running and running the whole time he remained under, unless they unplugged it. Worked fine after Tom woke up on the last day. The nurses muttered about quirky electronics. One of the doctors speculated about whether electronic sensors in too close a proximity might not trigger each other. Me, I think Tom just wanted a nice hot bath.

July 7th- 9th

Tom’s first day in a regular room was way too exciting. His first nurse left his rails down while caring for him, then startled him later by simply reaching for what she wanted to check without announcing she was back in the room, which caused him to fall out of bed. When I arrived, the doctor there had just put him back together, set his oxygen at a higher rate, and they were watching to make sure he wouldn’t have to be shipped back to ICU!

Those rails (and other settings on the ICU bed) proved a continuing issue for a couple of days, as they were a bit tricky to set properly. Most of the nurses on that floor weren’t familiar with the new ICU beds. Despite my geeky leanings, I couldn’t help but so much. I hadnt seen everything the nurses had done & I sure didn’t want to guess incorrectly.

Thankfully, by the evening of the 8th, Tom was well enough to move to a regular bed. Just the same, the doctors ordered ‘sitters’ who sat with him round the clock for the next few days. I also stayed each day, and gave the day shift decent breaks while I was there.

I could not stay with Tom at night, but I stayed close by at Hospitality House & swapped stories with the other patients & families at the facility. There was a small library I could borrow books from. The kitchen wasn’t well supplied, but there was often muffins & doughnuts for the mornings and cake at night. Sometimes I took the shuttles & escorts, but on nicer days I walked over the 7+ blocks to the main hospital. By now, I had settled into a sort of routine. Eat breakfast. Walk or ride over. Stay with Tom until early evening, grab a sandwich & head back. Enjoy cake, books, & sometimes a nice conversation. Wash, rinse, repeat.

On July 4th I found that the shuttle service was reduced again, so after munching a couple of banana nut muffins, I walked over to see Tom. When he was awake we looked at the weather channel & train travel docs together. Early that evening a local broadcast shared a musical program done by the Air Force band. After 7, I asked for an escort ride back to the House & called home to tell them how Tom was doing. (You can’t use cell phones in the hospital.) Later, I saw fireworks from the balcony of the HH on July 4th & watched “Independence Day” downstairs with the other residents. They had dinner for us that night. Spaghetti & holiday-themed cupcakes. Not bad.

July 10th- 12th and homecoming ~

I was supposed to be able to stay with Tom until his release, but an office worker botched the paperwork. It was possible to fix it by pestering the ward nurses but both Tom & I thought I should go home instead and check on our household in person, get a few things for him, make sure his room was ready etc. So that’s what we did. I ran home & back a couple of times, bringing his best robe, get well cards, & a few goodies. Sadly, after the 11th, Mom had to do the driving. I just suddenly seemed to run out steam & health all at once. Mom got Tom home safely at the end of an exciting day (Her car developed a flat halfway there. Hurray for AAA!) On the 12th I found I had presents & a few cards. Best present was the Lord of the Rings elven brooch. That will look awesome on my cloaks! We decided to save having a cake until Tom could enjoy it with us.

Settling back in ~ now

Tom is now home, recovering slowly but steadily. Not surprising its taking awhile when you consider how long he has been suffering from this (over 20 years!) Right now, He still requires a fair amount of care & isn’t supposed to go anywhere until he sees the doctor on Aug 1st.
I was trained to change his bandages & I do, often.

He spends a lot of time reading and watching movies.

MCV assigned a nurse to check up on him every so often & lend a hand. Nice lady.

As for me, I’m hanging out with Tom, filing paperwork, & re-reading the first 5 Harry Potter books before taking my turn with the new release. Becka pre-ordered it & says its better than Phoenix. I already know who the Half-Blood Prince is, however, and was surprised. My guess wasn’t even close!

We finally chose a nice a cake for my birthday the other evening. Its been too busy to make special a Myst cake this year, so I ended up with this.
Tis a very tasty cake. The car model turned out to be the right year too! Very cool

After Tom was definitely better, Mom and our young'uns checked out Water Country, USA. Sounded like they had some fun.

Soon as the weather cooperates, they will probably be back there, or else at Busch Gardens

So that’s where things are at. Tom has a great deal of healing to do, but he is making steady progress day by day. Please keep him in your prayers when you think of it. Thank you very much for the wonderful prayer support you’ve given us! We can’t thank you enough!