Monday, March 16, 2015

Continuing the story

Someone asked me how Bob was doing, and I realized that I had left the story right in the middle. I think I just got tired of trying to write it all down in detail, and also, Blogger is screwed up for me now -- I made a Blogspot blog for a client, and now even when I sign in as myself, I'm seeing her blog, and no matter what I do, I can't see mine in Firefox, which is what I normally use.

I can use a different browser and it will work, so I'm using Safari for this today. Weird.

Anyway, Bob is doing great! He was on the respirator and in an induced coma for two weeks. Two weeks, I found out, is the longest that most doctors will leave you on a respirator. Any longer than that, and all kinds of problems can start. They had been warning me for a few days that we were approaching the two week point, and that they would probably need to do a tracheostomy, which is cutting a hole in the neck to access the windpipe directly, without going through the mouth and throat.

Throughout Bob's second week in the hospital, they would periodically try a breathing "trial," which basically meant dialing down the sedation and respirator and seeing if he could breathe on his own and not become agitated with the tubes down his throat. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone being able to do that. The usually did them very early in the morning, before I got there, and the nurses would tell me that they did a trial, and it went okay, but not well enough to remove the respirator.

All of the doctors said the tracheostomy wasn't a big deal, and it wasn't anything to be scared of, but I was. I trusted them to know what was the best thing to do, but all I could think about was people in long-term comas, and that scared me to death. The 14th day fell on a Monday, so they planned to do the tracheostomy at 10:00 that day. I got to the hospital earlier than usual on Monday, and found that the nurses had decided to try one more time, and they had initiated another trial. They were in the middle of it when I got there, Bob was awake, with the tubes still down his throat.

I dropped my stuff and stood there by his bed, holding his hand and looking into his eyes and telling him that he was doing great, that he just needed to hold on for a few more minutes. It was a total of 20 minutes altogether, I think. He made it through whatever the time limit was, and sometime during that time, an anesthesiologist came in, expecting to get him ready to go down to the operating room. It was nice to be able to tell him that it didn't look like the surgery was going to happen.

The surgeon came in and looked at the numbers, and decided to remove the tubes. He looked at Bob and told him what to do -- he was supposed to cough, and they would pull the tubes out at the same time. The surgeon was so happy -- I was too, of course, so happy that they didn't have to do the tracy -- he said, "Well, hello, sir! How are you? Nice to meet you!" It was so cool for all of the doctors to come around (and the nurses, too), who had never yet actually met him when he was conscious.

My nieces had come with their babies to sit with me that day, when we assumed that Bob was going to be in surgery for several hours. I was so grateful that they were there, because I was really anxious that day. We talked for awhile, and went down to the cafeteria for lunch, then they took off and I went back to sit with Bob.

He was awake, but he wasn't really all there. We figured out later that he had had a lot of very vivid "coma dreams" that he thought were real, and after having been unconscious for two weeks, it was really hard for him to differentiate between what was real and what wasn't.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More of the story

So, we got to the hospital, and I jumped out of the ultrasound technician's (Laura) car, and ran up to the emergency room entrance. There was a policeman there, I'm not sure why, but I said they had just brought my husband in, and he got the door open for me. The emergency room part is all kind of a blur to me now, but I remember the most important thing. Bob was conscious for a brief time, and as they were hurrying him from the emergency room to the operating room, he looked at me and said, "If I die, I love you, and I had a good life. I have no regrets." I told him that I loved him, too, and he wasn't going to die, and then he was wheeled away.

We -- John, Mike and I -- headed into the hospital proper to find a waiting room, and I started calling people. In retrospect, I was holding it together remarkably well. I found out things later that I'm glad I didn't know, i.e., that 50% of the people this happens to don't make it to the hospital, and 50% of the ones who do, don't make it through surgery. At the time, I just knew that he was in good hands.

I called my sister, and she came to the hospital, and John's wife did, too. After a couple of hours we went to the cafeteria and got something to eat, then made our way back up to the surgical waiting room, and there was someone from Bob's work waiting there. In short order, several more of his friends came up to sit with me. It was five or six hours before the surgeon came looking for me. He said that Bob came through surgery fine, but said that he could be in ICU as long as a month, and probably in the hospital for an additional month, followed by physical therapy. He just wanted to be sure I understood that it was going to be a long recovery. He said, "Just don't give up on him," and I assured him that wasn't going to happen. He said that some people feel that the hospitalization can be so long that families feel the patient will never recover.

Once we knew Bob had gotten through surgery, everyone else left, and my sister stayed with me. I wanted to stay until they got him into a room, whenever that would be, and she didn't want me to stay by myself. It was after 9:00 before someone came to tell us that he was in Recovery, and we made our way down there. We went down and found him, and he was hooked up to so many things that I was afraid to touch him, but I held his hand, and we sat there for quite awhile before someone came to take him up to ICU.

We followed them up there, and I was able to see him settled into his room in the ICU, where he would spend the next two and a half weeks. My sister took me out to the clinic to pick up my car, and I drove home, fell into bed, slept a few hours, then got up the next morning to head back to the hospital. Of course, it was nowhere near home -- it was exactly 30 miles away. Kind of a long round trip to make every day, but of course, I did.

I had taken my DayTimer out to the clinic, and I was so glad that I had. It became my journal / diary / record of everything that happened in the hospital. It was my record of nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors, surgeons, specialists -- I wrote down the name of everyone I met, every test result that they told me or that I overheard, everyone who visited, everyone who called.

I learned a lot of things. I learned that "acute rental failure," as bad as it sounds, means temporary, rather than permanent, which is what "chronic renal failure" means. His kidneys didn't bounce back as quickly as they had hoped, so he had dialysis every other day for a couple of weeks. I learned that a kidney specialist is called a "nephrologist," and I met a couple of them.

My day would go like this: my alarm would go off at 7:30. I would get up, get a shower, feed Dinah, and get in the car and head to Independence. There was a Starbucks in a strip mall right before you got to the hospital, so I would stop there for a mocha. Sometime in the second week, the barista started greeting me by name when I came in the door, which I felt sort of weird about, but also nice that she recognized me. She said she liked my name.

So I would get to the hospital, head up to the ICU, and check in with the nurses, asking them how Bob did overnight and if anything had happened that I needed to know about. Most of them were great; there were a couple that weren't very friendly or helpful, and I didn't handle that very well. I remember coming in one morning and asking the nurse (it was a different one every few days) how Bob did overnight, and she shrugged and said, "Okay," like, "he's alive, what more do you want?" And then she told me that Bob's brother and sister had both called, and she didn't appreciate having to talk to our relatives. She asked me, didn't anyone tell me that I was supposed to coordinate all that? I just looked at her, and walked out, because I didn't want her to see me cry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The whole story

I'm always excited for a new year.  It seems like a second chance, a chance to start over and do better.  And 2014 felt like a bad year (although I couldn't say why without really thinking about it), so I was happy to move into 2015.

But we were only five days into 2015 when it all started to fall apart.  I've told this story so many times, but I really want to get it down, both so I don't forget anything, but also for Bob, who, while he lived it, was unconscious for most of it.

Bob had been having some back pain which we first thought might be kidney stones, which he has had before, or it might have just been back strain.  Then he also had some pain in his stomach, which we thought could be related to the back pain, i.e.,  your back hurts, so you walk differently, and that strains your abdominal muscles.  This all happened over the first weekend in 2015, and Bob asked me if I would make him an appointment to see his doctor, who is also his best friend.  His day off was Tuesday, so I made him an appointment for Tuesday morning.

I asked him if he wanted me to drive him, and he said no.  Later that evening he talked to John (his doctor) on the phone and told him his symptoms, and Bob told me that John was concerned, although he didn't have any specifics.  He changed his mind and asked me if I would take him, and of course I said I would.  I thought maybe John would give him muscle relaxers for the back pain and he wouldn't be able to drive home.

So we got there and he was called back to the doctor's office, and I waited in the waiting room with all the sick people, all the while praying that it would be something simple  When John came to the door and motioned for me to come back to the examining room, I knew it wasn't.  When I got back there, John said that Bob was having an ultrasound, and he thought it could be one of three things -- 1) nonspecific back pain, 2) an aortic aneurysm, or 3) transverse myelitis (which I immediately Googled), an inflammation of the spinal cord similar to MS.

About that time, the ultrasound technician came out and said that it was an abdominal aneurysm, and it was the largest one she had ever seen.  So she prepared a CD with the ultrasound results on it, and John told me to get Bob in the car and take him to the emergency room at Centerpoint, the closest trauma center.  The ultrasound tech was giving me directions to get to the hospital when Bob suddenly had terrible back pain (he said later it felt like someone hit him in the small of the back with a baseball bat).  I shouted for John, and he came running, yelling "Call 911" to the office in general. 

He drug a chair over and had Bob sit down in it, and we were waiting for the ambulance when Bob stood up.  John said, "What are you standing up for?" and Bob said, "I'm going," and he collapsed.  John eased him down to the floor, and we (John and I and probably the whole office) thought we had lost him.  Someone said, "Is he breathing?" and John said, "I don't know."  I had backed into one of the doctors' offices to be out of the way and just stood there, shocked, and so scared.

He was breathing, and the paramedics got there VERY quickly, but he had collapsed into a corner, and it was a struggle the paramedics to get positioned to get him off the floor and onto the gurney.  I was praying for them not to drop him, and to get him to the hospital quickly.

The clinic is a family practice clinic, and seldom sees anything like this, so everyone was standing in the hall trying to see what was going on, and a lot of the young girls were crying.  The ambulance driver had to call in to his supervisor to get permission to take Bob to Centerpoint, because that would mean passing up a closer hospital.  But the closer hospital didn't have a vascular surgeon, and Centerpoint did.  I was standing on the sidewalk waiting to see what was going to happen, and one of the office girls came out and asked me if she could pray with me, and she held me and prayed and we both cried.

The ambulance crew finally got permissions to go to Centerpoint, and they took off, and I started for my car, but the ultrasound tech looked at me and said she would drive me, and we could worry about my car later.  John told his nurse to cancel the rest of his appointments for the day, and he and his brother Mike, who had been visiting the clinic at the same time that we were there, drove to the hospital, too.

To be continued . . .

DayTimer Review

Originally submitted at Day-Timer

Our most popular format has the room you need to capture all the details of your day. The left-hand page includes to-do list and a long daily schedule. The right-hand page as a diary allowing you to jot down job details, personal events, and ideas.


By Willa from Overland Park, KS on 2/17/2015


5out of 5

Pros: Improves Organization

Best Uses: Everyday Use, Organization

Describe Yourself: Midrange Shopper

Primary use: Business

Was this a gift?: No

I love a paper planner, but the desk size is heavy to carry around, so I sometimes switch back to electronic, i.e., my calendar on my phone and tablet. But this year I decided to go back to paper, and I am so glad I did. I have used this two page per day format off and on for years. I have tried other formats, but always come back to this one. I love having the blank, lined, right-hand side for notes and journaling.

Right after the first of the year my husband went into the hospital for major surgery, and was there for almost six weeks. My planner was invaluable. I wrote down everything that happened, all the doctors' names, test results, visitors, etc. He was in a medically-induced coma for two weeks, and when he woke up I was able to tell him who had visited, and give him a chronological record of what happened to him. I would not have been able to do that without my DayTimer. It made it easy and pleasurable during a very stresful period in our lives.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Best Books of 2014 and a Christmas Book Selection

I've read 165 books so far in 2014, and rated 27 of them as 5 stars on Goodreads. I suppose I should wait until the end of the year to see if any more books rate 5 stars, but I was thinking about end of year lists, so I'll go ahead and list these here now.

The Runestone Incident, by Neve Maslakovic
The Language of Spells & The Secrets of Ghosts, both by Sarah Painter
A Second Chance, & A Trail Through Time, both by Jodi Taylor
The Damsel and the Daggerman, by Delilah S. Dawson
Mission to Murder & Guidebook to Murder, both by Lynn Cahoon
Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
The Cat Sitter's Nine Lives, by Blaize & John Clement
Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris
Don't Look Back, by Greg Hurwitz
The White Magic Five and Dime, by Steve Hockensmith
Vanished, by Kendra Elliot
Second Star to the Right, by Mary Alice Monroe
Serpent's Kiss & Oracle's Moon, both by Thea Harrison
When I Found You & Take Me With You, both by Catherine Ryan Hyde
One Breath Away, by Heather Gudenkauf
Half Off Ragnarok and The Winter Long, both by Seanan McGuire
Night Broken, by Patricia Briggs
Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch
Mortal Danger, by Ann Aguirre
Hard Return, by J. Carson Black

I've loaded my Kindle apps with a bunch of Christmas books, and that's what I intend to concentrate on in the weeks before Christmas. These look like the best bets so far, mostly anthologies:

Cozy Christmas Capers, a holiday short story collection
My True Love Gave to Me, a holiday story anthology edited by stephanie Perkins
Cat Deck the Halls and Cat Coming Home, both by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Fatal Fruitcake, by Mary Kay Andrews
Kiss of Christmas Magic, a paranormal holiday anthology
A Fantastic Holiday Season, an anthology edited by Kevin J. Anderson
A Fantastic Holiday Season Volume 2, a anthology edited by Kevin J. Anderson and Keith J. Olexa
Let it Snow, a speculative fiction holiday nthology
Let it Snow, three holiday romances edited by John Green
A Cosmic Christmas, edited by Hank Davis
A Cosmic Christmas 2 You, edited by Hank Davis

And of course, there's always Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, by Connie Willis