An Aorta Adventure, Part 6

18 11 2008

The ventilator was removed from Jim’s mouth about 7:30 a.m.  He was fully awake and  was asking me questions.  I didn’t know whether it was good for me to just plunge ahead and tell him that the original surgery couldn’t be done.  Jim’s arms and hands were terribly swollen from all of the IV fluids he had endured for over a week.  He was able to eat a light breakfast.  From that point on it became my job to give him a sponge bath and get a clean hospital gown on him each day.

I did discuss the operation with Jim because I knew the nurses would be talking about it.  The nursing staff got Jim in a recliner and that became the pattern for the rest of his hospital stay.  It was a busy day as his nurse was in each hour to check all of his fluids and vital signs.  She got irritated with me for helping Jim to eat his lunch.  He was particularly desiring chocolate milk.  They let him have about three chocolate milks that day and his blood sugar began soaring.  That is when I learned that even if one is not a diabetic the blood sugar often is elevated after a surgery.  Thus, Jim was given some insulin and his chocolate milk was taken away from him.

Before we went to sleep that first day after surgery–I read to Jim  all of the readings about Orthodox Saints that he had gotten behind on.  We found a quote from St. John of Kronstadt that spoke volumes to both of us.  I think it is worthwhile to share this quote.

“During the life of the Christian there are hours of inconsolable sorrow and sickness, when it seems that the Lord has completely abandoned and forsaken him, for there is not the least feeling of God’s presence in the soul. Such are the hours in which the faith, hope, love, and patience of the Christian are tried. But better times will soon come to him. Soon the Lord will turn him again to joy, so let him not fall when tempted in this way.”
On Sunday morning the drainage tubes were removed from Jim’s chest and we were told that he would move to the cardiac step down floor that evening.  After having slept in the ICU for a week –I was more than ready for a visit with my brother –who lives in Nashville.  Regardless of being fussed at–I felt like I should feed Jim his lunch before I went to my brother’s home.  And yes, I got another lecture.
The afternoon and early evening with my brother and his wife was sorely needed.  They live way up on a hill and actually have about five acres of woods surrounding their home.  I always feel like I’m visiting a state park lodge when I visit my brother.  I enjoyed their two black labrador retrievers.  No matter how long between my visits with my brother–his dogs always remember me.  Brad and Susan grilled chicken for me that evening and we sat on their enclosed patio and enjoyed the Indian summer weather. 
Upon returning to the hospital–I learned that Jim had been moved to the step down floor.  I had already packed all of my belongings as I anticipated the move.  It was so strange being in a new room.  It was much smaller–leaving me with a feeling of disorientation.  There was no place for me to sleep except a regular recliner.  Before midnight–they were able to bring me a cot.  It was cramped up right next to JIm’s hospital bed.  We were told that vitals would now be taken every four hours.  We were also alerted to the fact that the doctors would make their rounds right about 6:00 a.m. each morning.  That meant that I would have to be up and showered by that time each day.  I had been sleeping in my clothes anyway.  Somehow, sleeping in pajamas didn’t set right with me.  There were those occasions that I had been called on to help Jim in the night.  Being a private person–I avoided night gowns and pajamas in a hospital setting.   Thus, I had to get moving a bit earlier each day. 
I developed a pattern of getting myself ready first–then bathing Jim.  His breakfast would come about 7:30 a.m.  I would take a few minutes to go get my breakfast from MacDonalds( which was only an elevator ride away) and then we would eat together.  His swollen hands were getting better and he was  now able to feed himself.  From that point in the day–we didn’t know what would happen.  Usually, we had visitors each day.  That first Monday morning we had a friend from St. Elizabeth come and stay for over an hour.  Then after she left –our son and his wife came for a long visit.  They had been in Nashville to see her back surgeon.  We walked to the food court and ate lunch together. In the evenings I usually just ate snacks from the accumulation of food gifts I had received.

Jim was not totally lucid in my opinion.  His eys had a horrible bulging look.  He was very snappy with me.  I tried not to take it personally but it did hurt.  Yes, I remembered that same kind of behavior from the previous surgery.  However, I still had an extremely hard time adjusting to JIm’s moods. Jim also seemed to hallucinate at times.  It really scared me when he told me that our hospital room was our home.  With all the experience I had with nursing my husband–I flunked adjusting to Jim’s hallucinations. 

There were more tests that were given Jim during his week in the step down.  The first test was an ultra sound on his left neck.  This test revealed a blood clot in his neck. All the professionals were low key about his clot. The only precaution taken was to make sure no blood work or blood pressure checks were given on his left arm.

Tuesday was a hard day with Jim.  He snapped at me so much that I began snapping back.  I was embarrassed when Fr. John walked  in late Tuesday afternoon as I said something harsh to Jim.  Honestly, I don’t know if he heard me but I was feeling quite quility for snapping at Jim. My friend Hope also came for a visit around that time.  After Fr. John left–she took me to the cafeteria to eat our supper.  The stress of living at the hospital at really gotten to me.  I wanted to quit taking everything Jim said so personal–but I still struggled.  Having a nice meal out with Hope revitalized me.  I was ready to face Jim again.  I prayed for a renewing of my faith as I entered our hospital room again.  I was homesick and longed for a more normal life.  But would our lives ever seem normal again?











2 responses

29 11 2008

Dan and I had our moments of snapping at each other. When this kind of stress reaches the breaking point, we, as caregivers, do snap back and suffer the guilt later. It is “normal” however that can be defined during this kind of situation.
I appreciated the quote on this post as it is very much a part of my life.
When I feel that there is no light in this dark night, the only thought that I have is that I can’t give up on the only thing that brings me true Hope and that is that Jesus does know my name. In that tiny light that breaks forth into the darkness that grief and bereavement brings, I look for the tomorrow when the pain is not as intense…Just because we are Christians, we are not immune to the common pains and sufferings that this life brings…
So glad that you are posting about this journey…many will find that the path of illness is long and we all need a friend called Hope…

Your friend,

29 11 2008

Dear Shadowlands,
Your are absolutely right that being a Christian doesn’t mean that we are immune from feeing deep grief–even despair. Hope is always there but sometimes we have to dig for it.

Your friend,

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