Monday, November 19, 2012

Surgeies on Thankgiving

Today's  #NHBPM suggestions are either, “Questions I have for for other patients" OR "Write about: Life and Death." I feel like I have already pretty well covered both topics this past week (since most questions I have for other patients, I actually ask on a number of great forums/ message boards, and I just posted my views on life and death three days ago)!

So I'm going off topic once again, and instead will share some thoughts that are at the forefront of my mind, some memories and reflections I'm hoping to get off my chest so they won't continue to be such a focus this week. I'm having a harder time with the coming of Thanksgiving even more than I had with my recent one-year stroke-a-versary.

This time, a year ago, I was in the rehab hospital, on strict bedrest due to wild, involuntary head bobbing. Troy (my CNA) had been coming to my room to feed me at each meal over the weekend, because my head was so wild, I couldn't manage to get food to my own mouth. We had been hoping I was just having a reaction to one of my medications, so I was being weaned of several things, but symptoms weren't resolving.

The previous Friday evening, I had been sent over to the main hospital for another MRI. Sammy (my regular special needs shuttle driver at the time) drove the shuttle van and a new nurse was assigned me accompany me for the five minute drive. When she saw my movements, she asked, "And you can't control that AT ALL?" When I confirmed that I could not, she replied, "Gosh!" She was stunned and had never witnessed anything quite like it before.

When I got wheeled into the MRI room, the tech asked me if I had been in a car accident. He had only seen that severe of erratic movement a few times in his career, always with serious car accidents. I said no and that I had had three strokes, but I was back here from the rehab hospital to try to figure out my newest symptom.

Early Monday morning, doctors began to gather back in my room. The MRI results had come in over the weekend, confirming three new strokes (for a total of six) and I was to be sent back over to the main hospital, this time via ambulance rather than shuttle.

When the EMTs brought the gurney into my room and began to strap me in, one EMT asked me, in surprise, the head shaking isn't a per-existing condition? He couldn't comprehend that he was witnessing such severe stroke damage and was thinking I was exhibiting a genetic condition as result of a birth injury or something like that.  He seemed amazed that this is why I was being transported to the hospital.

Because I was already relatively immobile from the first three strokes, and because I had been on bedrest (we briefly tried a neck brace to see if it would still my head enough for me to continue therapy, but I freaked out my therapists enough that my doctor ordered me fully to bed) since the head bobbing was first reported, it took some time to realize I had pretty fully lost the use of my left arm with these second three strokes. (I just woke up with new symptoms one morning, so we speculate I had stroked sometime overnight.) I spent from Monday-Wednesday in the hospital, trying to figure out our next step. The possibility of transporting me to Stanford or U.C. Davis, or another medical center was seriously discussed, though there was significant concern over my medical stability to even be able to endure such an attempted transport..

It became clear that my behavior was not a medication reaction (as had been hoped), but directly related to the strokes. And with the number of strokes I had continued to experience, even though the size of consecutive strokes seemed progressively somewhat smaller, it was determined that I was the 1 in 10 who couldn't heal a dissected artery in my neck without surgery, so would just continue to stroke without surgical intervention. Only one surgeon in the area even had the skill or training to conduct the delicate micro-surgery I would need (and he typically only visited the area once or twice a month, practicing at larger hospitals over in the Bay are the rest of each month), and he happened to be scheduled in the area for the Thanksgiving weekend, so semi-emergency surgery was scheduled for early the next morning. (This was the first of several specific God-provisions that we could clearly see over that weekend.)

So I spent Thanksgiving morning in surgery, and Rick and my parents spent the anxious morning in the surgery waiting room. I was into my new room in the ICU by about noon. (I think we started around 5am), having undergone two surgeries that morning - after the first (that went very well) the arterial shredding was extensive enough that they had to go in for a second surgery to complete the repair that had begun with the first surgey, so I wouldn't have yet ANOTHER stroke after the first surgery!

I was pretty groggy, so don't remember much of Thanksgiving day other than a horrid, itchy reaction to my pain killers. And that night, though they had started a fresh IV line in my arm after I got to ICU, somehow my orders fell through the cracks due to the long holiday weekend and even though I begged my night nurse to either give me a drink (I was on NBM or "nothing by mouth" orders - on Thanksgiving Day!) or to turn on the IV drip since the bag was hanging right there and the needle was already in my arm, she could not. I was miserable and dehydrated by the time my mom got back to the hospital to sit with me on Friday morning. The ICU was the worst part of the whole return to the main hospital.

After five more days of post-surgical hospital bedrest, I went back to the rehab hospital for further therapy. This is my latest memory of Thanksgiving week.

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Today I am thankful that this year, as far as I know, my whole family will be home, together, for a Thanksgiving meal. :) Praying that we start new traditions (within my new limitations) and make wonderful, new memories!

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First Published Book: Hannah's Hope : Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss

Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace

Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness

1 comment:

The Queen of Brussels Sprouts said...

I totally understand the npo thing. We spent our anniversary npo and I remember being jealous of even the nurses washing their hands. We also sadly spent Scott's birthday and his promotion day in the hospital. I was on one hand glad to be home and on the other hand mad at the insurance for kicking me out early. It was quite mixed emotion when we got home. But, my friend had cleaned the house for my arrival and that was nice to come home to.