An Aorta Adventure, Part 5

4 11 2008

I remember October the 10th as a beautiful sunny day.  Off the 5th floor waiting area is a court yard full of benches and lovely pots of plants.  Different family members took turns going out there to use their  cell phone. Everyone had their own list of people to call. We actually didn’t do much talking with each other throughout the morning because of our cell phone usage. However, Maria, in her usual way made friends with a couple of pastors who also had a loved one in surgery.  This is very typical of Maria who makes friends very easily. 

Around noon we received a call that Jim was out of surgery and that the heart surgeon would soon be up to talk with us.  I knew that this didn’t sound correct.  Jim’s surgery was to be very complicated.  Something must have gone wrong.  The surgeon was prompt in getting up to the 5th floor.  He and his whole team of surgeons like to draw pictures of what is happening in the body.  I had a notebook for him to draw his picture of what had happened to Jim. 

They had taken two veins out of one of Jim’s leg for the bypass part of the surgery.  However, when they opened Jim up–there was no place to hook up the heart and lung machine. Three years ago he had a part of his Aorta above the aortic roots replaced with a synthetic material.  This had shrunk from 3 cm to 1 cm.  That is where they were going to hook the heart and lung machine.  Moreover, he had way to much scar material.  This scarring was not evident on all of his tests.  Thus, the surgeon told us that he would have killed Jim–if he had attempted to do the complicated surgery.  So what was the solution?

The surgeon very carefully wrapped up Jim’s two aortic root aneurysms in a dacron cage.  He compared the aneurysms in a cage to wild horses in a pen.  The wild horses are not dangerous when they are properly penned up.  Likewise, Jim’s aneurysms would not be harmful penned up in a cage.  However, the bypass was not able to be done.  Nor was anything done to prepare for a future surgery of treating the descending aortic aneurysm.  Jim’s entire aorta was very thin due to the Type B dissection.  Therefore, the rest of his life–he would have to keep his blood pressure way down.  The surgeon also said that Jim could never have open heart surgery ever again.  He reiterated that there was simply no place to hook up the heart and lung machine.  Well, we were all very stunned.

We decided to walk to the food court and get a good lunch.  It was hard for me to cencentrate on anything once again.  I just couldn’t fathom what was happening to my husband.  It seemed so surreal.  What would be in Jim’s future?  Would he ever be able to go back to work?  What if my cancer returned?  Would we just be two sick people fumbling about to make it in the world?  I could see where those thoughts would lead and so I snapped back to the present moment.  God’s grace and mercy had been with us for almost 35 years of marriage.  I knew God would not turn His back on us now.  On the other hand–that didn’t mean the path would be easy.  I knew that I was going to have to be upbeat in all of my thinking.  I couldn’t let my family down by becoming a complainer.  I was just going to have to face our future one day at a time.  Really–that is all anyone can do. 

During our lunch break–the cell phone scenario continued.  Each of us not only received incoming calls but we also checked in with those on our list.  Still, the change of scenery did us good.  The walk to and from the food court was refreshing with the sunlight pouring it rays on our tired bodies. Sandy and Rob ventued out on their own for a long walk.  The rest of us went back to the waiting room.  Jim was back in the ICU but we were not allowed to see him as the ICU was in isolation due to an emergency medical treatment on someone in the ICU unit. 

My brother Brad and his wife Susan joined us in mid afternoon.  We explained to them all about the dacron tent being built around Jim’s aneurysms.  The afternoon became a waiting time again.  I did get a wonderful surprise in getting a phone call on my cell phone from Korea.  Fr. Isaiah and his wife Beth had been assigned to Korea during the summer.  They called to ask about Jim and to offer their comfort and prayers.  How I appreciated their call.  There had been no shortage of pastoral care during our stay at Vanderbilt.  We had comfort from Fr. Peter, Fr. John, Fr. Stephen and Fr. Isaiah.  That went a long way to helping us both  have peace of mind.

Finally, around 4:00 p.m.–we were allowed to see Jim.  Only two at a time could visit with him.  He was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and he had a ventilator in his mouth.  He was in a drug induced coma.  It was not pleasant seeing him that way.  I hoped that this time he would wake up faster than his surgery in 2005.  We talked to him as though he could hear us.  We took turns doing this for a couple of hours.

Around 6:00 p.m. –some of my family decided to go home.  I’m thankful that Sandy and Rob stayed yet another hour.  I was dreading the long night ahead of me.  I would be sleeping in the same room as my unconscious husband.  However, I was extremly exhausted.  I was asleep by 8:00 p.m.  I didn’t awake until around 5:00 a.m. I woke up with a start–when I heard Jim struggling to breathe.  He was no longer unconscience but he was fighting the ventilator.  He was gagging.  It was an aweful scene to watch.  A whole team of medical people were in the room to help him through the crisis.  They asked me to leave while they did some kind of emergency procedure.  When it was over–they explained to me that this often happens when a patient starts to regain consciousness. They also told me that the ventilator would come out in about a couple of hours.  I wondered what the day would hold?  Would JIm be able to talk with me?  How would he react to the news that his surgery was not anything but a bandaid?  I took my shower and got ready for the long day ahead.

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4 responses

5 11 2008
shadowlands1501

Nights in ICU and waiting to know if the one you love is going to survive what the surgeons have done…I had a few of those nights, Nichole and they are surreal in every way…it is the unknown that becomes your companion and the questions are just outside of your conscienceness…
It is always in God’s hands. Better there than anyone else’s hands…even the doctors are beyond where Jim’s heart is…that leaves God and no one else…
Love to you and your hubby,
Your Friend,
Shadowlands

5 11 2008
nichole3

Dear ShadowLands,
Yes,I can imagine you have had quite a few of those types of nights while taking care of your husband. My prayers and thoughts are still with you. I know you have a long walk ahead of you in adjusting to living without you precious husband.

Your friend,
Nichole

15 11 2008
Frugal Trenches

I keep praying for Jim!

18 11 2008
nichole3

Frugal Trenches,
Your prayers are much appreciated!

Nichole

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