An Aortic Adventure, Part 2

22 10 2008

As soon as we arrived at Vanderbilt–we walked into the main lobby which is also a surgery waiting room and asked where Jim was.  I should have known anyway that he would be on the 5th floor.  When we got off the elevator on the 5th floor –I was flooded with memories of three years ago. At that time–also in October, Jim had slumped into his chair while sitting at the computer.  He was life flighted to Vanderbilt.  We arrived around 10:30 p.m. that evening and went straight to the 5th floor.  The surgeon was waiting to talk with us.  I remember he drew a picture of what was going on with Jim –telling  me that JIm only had a 40% chance of living.  That surgery took 11 hours.  During the surgery we waited in the main first floor waiting area all night.  Everyone else could take a break and  walk around but I had injured my hip while getting out of Sandy’s SUV.  I was in terrible pain.  So all those thoughts were replayed when we arrived on the fifth floor once again.

There is a large waiting area full of recliners and other comfortable chairs.  There were folks there who looked very tired from their own particular journeys.  We walked throught the lounge area back to where the Cardiac ICU was.  Jim was already hooked up to all kinds of IV’s.  They had given him something to relax his emotions so he was very talkative.  He joked how he got to view the scenery from the helicopter this time.  It didn’t seem possible that Jim was sick at all.  He just seemed too happy and comfortable to be so ill.

Soon Fr. John from Murfreesboro arrived to be with us.  Our parish in Clarksville, Tennessee does not have a full time priest and Fr. John wanted to pray for Jim and our family.  He had some special prayers of healing for Jim. Then he showed us a large icon of St. Herman of Alaska that his parish had commissioned to write.  Although it looks like a picture– an icon is not considered art work.  He told Jim that he could have use of this icon as long as he needed it.  St. Herman is Jim’s patron saint.  Soon Jim was whisked away for a three demensional CT scan.  Fr. John said he would like to wait and learn the results before he left our company.

Before long, the surgeon who operated on Jim three years ago came to talk with us about the results of the new CT scan.  I was impressed with how much he remembered about Jim’s case and how he remembered exact conversations that he had with me.  He drew us a picture of what was going on in Jim’s aorta.  Three years ago a section of Jim’s aorta had dissected up near his neck.  That section was replaced with mesh and a bovine aortic valve was placed in Jim’s body.  This time the Aortic roots which are just above the valve had balooned into aneurysms. The roots are only supposed to be 3 centimeters.  Now because of the aneuryms –they were now 8 centimeters.  The expanding of the blood vessels to form aneuryms had caused the awful pain that Jim had experienced back in the summer.  Moreover, there was another aneurysm on the discending aorta which would involve vascular surgeons.  This surgeon told us that he was going to be leaving the country and wouldn’t be able to do Jim’s surgery this time.  Instead, the surgeon who is the head of the department would be operating on Jim.  We kept asking when this surgery would be performed.  He couldn’t give us a time as Jim needed several more tests to determine if there were other kinds of heart or artery damage.  The surgeon explained that three years ago–Jim was no near death that no other kind of explortory tests could be done on him.

During the long afternoon, Fr. John was gracious to answer questions from my family.  None of my family is Orthodox except our daughter Vera.  Ben, our son, had quite a few questions for Fr. John.  It was a time for my family to learn more about our faith.  Yet, Fr. John would never have imposed on any one of my family–matters concerning our faith.  He only talked about the Orthodox faith when he was asked a question. 

Around 5:00 p.m. Fr. John left.  We stayed until about 6:00 p.m. Orginally, I had packed a bag of books and a small bag of clothes.  Thankfully, Sandy decided that she wanted to return to Vanderbilt on Saturday so I made the decision to go home for one night so I could explain more to Vera how to run our household and take care of financial matters.

I stayed up late that Friday night explaining to Vera the particulars of running the household.  I showed her our finance book that Jim had kept very neat and orderly.  He had made a 3 ring binder with a calender for each month showing when each bill was due and also a page to check off when the bills were paid.  We had some bills that were paid on line –so she had to learn where Jim kept his passwords.  I signed about twenty checks for her to pay bills with.  I also got a chance to so some laundry and pack a week’s worth of clothes. I knew my brother who lived in Nashville would be glad to help me with laundry.  I packed my vitamins and herbs and a few more books.  I made note that I needed to get my cancer medicine refilled before we left for Vanderbilt on Saturday. All in all I was very thankful for the opportunity to have a chance to be more thorough in preparing for what I knew would be another long stay at the hospital.  I was blessed to be able to sleep soundly that infamous Friday evening.  It was to be the last time I would be in my own bed for almost two whole weeks.




6 responses

24 10 2008
David Web

Nichole & Jim:

It is great that Father John was there and also opened the doors for Maria, Sandy, & Ben to query him about matters of Orthodoxy.

St. Herman was undoubtedly busy interceding for Jim also. It is wonderful to think of added support from the realm of the “dead”, and I have decided that St. Matthew would be appropriate for me when I receive Chrismation. I am more excited about my faith than I have been in many years, and know without a doubt that Your’s & Jim’s witness has been sent from God to get me involved in the local church again, and without the cold arrogance I had avoided in some of the Protestant Churches.

I am not repudiating the Evangelicals, but simply am grateful to have discovered a more intimate worship experience. I told Vera to let you know Father Apostolos will be getting me a local sponsor, and that Jim needs you there with him. You are in my prayers and thoughts.

Little Brother

25 10 2008

Little Brother,
Your words are sweet to our hearts. We are so glad you are enjoying your journey to the Orthodox faith and that you will soon be chrismated. Tell us more about why you are choosing St. Matthew for your saint.


25 10 2008
Frugal Trenches

I’m so sorry to hear that your husband is ill. You are in my prayers!

25 10 2008

Frugal Trenches,
Thanks for stopping by and thank you for your prayers.


30 10 2008

Yes, how difficult it is to run a life whilst you’re stuck in the hospital for so long. An extra night at home must have been very welcome. You’re very strong, you really are.

30 10 2008

Yes, that one night gave me the opportunity to accomplish a great deal. I don’t know that I’m strong. I just have had to deal with many tragedies in my life and they have provided the many layers of learning to handle difficult situations. I appreciate your comment a great deal.


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