Sunday, August 31, 2008

A little something about Friday

So I skipped Friday and said I would update--if you haven't read the post about Saturday (red letter day), be sure to go check that out, because it was a good one.

Friday morning I walked into Pete's area and his eye was all back to normal. He looked so much better I couldn't believe it. In the afternoon, he got a little more puffiness, but it was not anything like on Thursday. The nurse said that the cooling mattress really did its job and had Pete a little shivery, so she gave him some Demerol. I guess I never considered Demerol over a blanket, but I guess I'm weird that way. The tube feedings, coupled with no exercise and the general shock to the system that a stroke entails, have meant his sugars have been pretty high (well, we all know he's sweet enough, right?) and they are giving him insulin. Once he can get some activity, he'll do better.

On Friday, he was finally pronounced, "stable" and they started weaning his use of the ventilator. He stayed on the lower dose of the Propofol so he was alert for a longer time at a time during the day. Eyes open and making some eye contact with me and that's a good thing.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Red Letter Day!

I have been writing a day behind, but not tonight. I'll write about Friday after this. Lots and lots of big changes today.

We got rid of some big equipment late this afternoon. The ventilator has been evicted and one of the infusers is gone too. Pete has been mostly breathing on his own since sometime yesterday with the vent only kicking in to make sure he didn't have a problem. And they have been weaning the propofol off since Thursday afternoon.

They sent us out for the extubation and the doc came after it was done. I have to say, what came next was a good bit more traumatic to me than the entire idea of his having a stroke in the first place. Watch them stick a piece of plastic tubing down the nose of the man you love and then do it again, and you'll know what I mean. Obviously, they were doing this to get all the fluid out of his lungs to keep him from getting pneumonia and to be honest, I was glad I was there to hold his hand. It's just tough. This is the part that is way complicated by his being a smoker. So, if you're reading this really fast so you can run outside to have a smoke, quit, now, and do it for your spouse so they don't ever have to watch such a thing.

The propofol has kept him sedated for several days and it is nice to have Pete back. My sisters Nicole and Susan were there and Nicole's husband John was there too. Pete flipped both John and Susan the bird so, he's doing just fine.

After they got the bulk of the yuck out of his chest, he was finally able to say something helpful, you know, "I love you". Gosh darn good thing, you know?

Oh, and his head has a little dent in in right on top. That means the brain swelling is starting to reduce. Dr. Volpi said he might be in a regular room on Tuesday kind of depending on how he does, and based on what I've seen over the last several day, how long it takes to find him a room.

See, I told you it was a good day. Tomorrow may be different, but today was good.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The things they prepare you for & the ones they don't

So, when the Physician's Assistant was taking a history and telling me about the craniotomy, he said that one of the things that regularly happens is serious eye swelling.

Well, I went in to Pete's room (I'm writing this on Friday, but it relates to Thursday, I'm a day behind or so) in the morning and I swear he looks like he pinched a nurse on the behind and she bopped him one. His nurse denies this happened. Sure it didn't. Anyway, his sweet long eye lashes were barely showing his right eye was so swollen. Of all the things I've seen in this process, that's what made my heart hurt more than anything else, it looked like it hurt so badly. But I did know about it in advance so I was not as upset. But something to remember, is tell people stuff!

What I was not prepared for was Pete's foley bag. Emerald green urine? Or maybe like the swimming pool that needs to be shocked. Yowzers. Not to mention the sheer volume of it. They are giving him a mess of medications through the day, so I have to figure it was one of them.

He's been on Propofol which is a drug the nurse called "Milk of Amnesia" and it is used to keep him sedated and also has an amnesiac side-effect. It is white and seems to be a little of a miracle drug. Personally, I'd like for them to figure out how to make it in tablet form and retroactive to Monday, but they don't seem to be going there. He had been getting a really major dose, and chief resident for the floor has the nursing staff reducing the dosage. He's also getting extra sodium in hopes that will help reduce the swelling. And there are about 5 other bags hanging there.

At the end of the day, he picked up a little fever so the nurse called for a cooling blanket. They sent it up, but didn't include the hoses from the cooling unit to the blanket. If that's the only thing that goes wrong, I'm a lucky lady!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No News is Good News

Wednesday was a good status quo day, for Pete anyway. They have increased the amount of sodium they're giving him, sort of trying to dehydrate him, to help keep fluid from continuing to collect in his brain. He started "eating" through his nose and that's some yucky stuff, that he seems to be fine with. I guess now he'll know how the puppies felt when he was feeding them that way.

For Kristy, it was absolute chaos! I had to go rent a car before I could go to the hospital and then deal with a tow truck in the medical center (no easy task although one would think that "Methodist Hospital" would be a good enough direction for the guy to know where to come). As I got a call that the tow guy was downstairs, Pete's mom, dad and sister arrived at the hospital. I wanted to make sure and prepare them for how he looked so nobody was surprised, but even still, there was a long delay before the tow truck dude showed up. About that time, my sister and niece arrived for mass at noon, but I wanted to go let the family know where I was before I disappeared on them. I got to relax during the end of mass and at lunch with Kerry and most of the rest of the day was fairly calm and relaxed.

The doctors again, weren't so positive, not negative, but still just making sure I knew we're not out of the woods yet. I'm fine with that. I am told that no real progress is expected, and anything we would consider progress would be the lack of deterioration. He did not deteriorate and stayed about the same.

The best part of the day for me was around 3:00 when the nurse said they were going to take him off the major sedative and let him come around a bit. It took a while, but he did. He was able to wiggle his right foot and give a thumbs up with his right hand with no problem. He also responded to pain on his left foot and his pupils did react to light. He would not open his eyes for me, and I told him he was being a hard head, but not nearly as hard headed as he was before the surgery. The nurse told me that was not nice and I told her that inside, he got a chuckle out of that. He reacted visibly when I mentioned Anna and then relaxed when I said she was just fine.

I brought a couple of pictures up to the hospital for him and they have been showed off to all the residents and staff on duty. I wanted to make sure they all knew who they are working for. Anna is doing really well, not upset about daddy not being home, and accepting that he's "at work". Uncle John is picking her up each night and she's liking that too.

I came up last night after Anna went to bed. I got to meet Monica from DeJean, which was a good thing, and got some more information about Monday morning. It's always a good thing to put a face with a name.

I think that's about it. I did get the car fixed for a small fortune, now I need to get the rental car back to Enterprise. We'll see how things go tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 2

And I'm worn out already, this schedule probably needs some adjusting.

Tuesday I got up at the regular time, took Anna to school and then headed for the hospital. I got there just in time to talk to the doctor who said that it looks like the craniotomy needs to be done shortly. He called in Dr. Zhang to consult. Dr. Zhang is a neurosurgeon with a pretty crappy bedside manner. He was explaining the need for the surgery using such pleasantries as, "this is what Richard Nixon died of, he had a stroke and the brain swelling killed him". Ahh, such a good attitude. Um, could you bring Dr. Volpi back, he can give me not so good news in such a way that doesn't sound like Pete's hanging on to life by his fingernails.

Pete was awake and alert when I got there. A physician's assistant came by and asked Pete to say his full name, move his left and right arm and I don't remember something else. Pete was able to do all of it but still could not move his left arm. On the scale the guy was using, he scored a 14 out of a possible 15. Unfortunately, in the grand scale of brain injuries, this can change, and fast, and without notice at all.

He started explaining the procedure in more depth and with a better attitude about him. He said they would be removing a large portion of the skull, pulling the dura (the tough material surrounding the brain) and then suturing the skin back together. Some time later, 6 to 12 months from now, they'll put the bone back. In the meantime, the bone will either be stored in the bone bank at the hospital, or in the subcutaneious layer of fat on his abdomen.

While we're having this conversation, they are putting Pete on a ventilator to support his breathing. As I guess you've figured out, there are big concerns about rapid deterioration, and they don't want to be trying to get him breathing costing precious seconds. It will also help make sure he gets plenty of oxygen to reduce swelling and keep his face a pretty color. The doctor told me he didn't mind if I stayed while they did it, and I was like, um, NO! Good thing, because they ended up pushing meds on him to get him calm enough that he wasn't fighting the doctor.

So, the last words I had from Pete were right before they took me out of there to give his history AGAIN. The words were, "I love you too" so that's ok.

They took him in for surgery at 1:30 and he wasn't back in his room until almost 6:00. It was a blessing they didn't wait any longer. The CT showed not much swelling. The brain had actually swelled quite a bit. If you want to know exactly what they told me, then highlight this, when they removed the dura layer, the brain popped out the portion of the skull cut away.
I went back to the hospital at 8:00 after Anna went to bed. About a mile away, the baseball game cut off. Then I noticed the dash lights were dim and when I turned the headlights off, the radio came back on. Needless to say, once more this week, I was prayin and drivin! The alternator took a nosedive. Like I needed this? Yes?

More later--it's already 11 and I need my beauty sleep. New night nurse tonight he's a cutie.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A sense of foreboding

Don't you hate a sense of foreboding? I had one on Sunday, just didn't like the idea of Monday coming up. I assumed it was because of events on Friday were likely to bleed over into the working week. I was wrong. If only I could have gone into work on Monday morning and had Steve still angry with me over leaving on Friday, I would be a happy woman tonight. I was worried about putting Amanda on a flight back to Boston. She is so stressed about flying and after getting a little drunk at the wedding on Saturday, the Xanex could have affected her badly. But, no, that's not what happened.

Here's a rough timeline:

6:30 out of bed and getting dressed, while intermittently working on getting Amanda out of bed

7:00 wake up Anna and watch Little Einsteins

7:35 drop Anna off at school

7:45 phone rings, immediately have heart pounding, and then see it's Monica in Pete's office, something's not right, he's slurring words and she's called the safety team in.

7:47 she calls again asking how he was over the weekend, I ask if she's done the stroke test, she said the safety guys are in there with him.

7:55 she calls again to tell me they are transporting him to Memorial Hospital Southeast

7:55 get a call from the safety guy, confirming where he's going

8:15 drop Amanda at the office and head to Pasadena, arriving at 8:45 or thereabouts, Pete is in having a CT scan. He comes in soon after that and I ask him to smile and he does with one side of his face, although he is able to keep up a conversation with me. The doctor tells me he's having a stroke sometime in here and asks for consent to give him some clot busting drugs. They start asking all kinds of questions I can't answer so I start calling his doctors. One of the docs I call is the neurologist he saw on Friday, but really just to get the results of his tests from Friday faxed over. We spend a bunch of time sitting around doing NOTHING, which was the worst possible thing to do, but how do I know this?

9:15-they start the clot buster, and I ask the doctor what the options are if this does not work, he says there are no other options. I am incredulous, how can there be no other options?

10:00 they take him out for a CT scan-when they come back in, they ask me to go look at the scans with the neurologist on staff. He shows me a screen that shows the vascular structure of the brain and he tells me where the stroke is happening and why. There is a large blood clot in one quadrant of the brain. He tells me this is a major, life threatening stroke. He says that it is not likely that Pete will live through it and if he does, his quality of life is going to be seriously impaired. I have to agree it's not his job to just tell me they've got it covered and he'll be just fine, but dang, does the news have to be presented as that bad? Nope, it doesn't have to be. Pete's boss is there the whole time. He's a pretty good rock to lean on.

10:30, I go for a walk, and go to the chapel at the hospital. I mean to go pray, but I just start crying, huge, heaving, cleansing sobs. I'm angry, how can this happen? Why did Pete let this happen? Why didn't he take his medications? Why is God taking him from me after making me wait so long for him? Why is God taking Anna from him after making Pete wait so long to be a daddy? I feel some calm finally.

Somewhere in here, I start calling my online friends and Pete's sister. Nobody has their freaking phones with them. Finally, I get Kathy and Marsha. Kathy is beyond upset as is to be expected, and Marsha promises to post for me about it.

11:25 I get a call from the neurologist Pete saw on Friday of last week. He asks all kinds of questions that indicates he's questioning the care Pete is getting. What kind of CT did they do? Did it have an angio? Have they discussed moving him to a bigger hospital? He tells me there is some interventional treatment options that are new and that he's got a doctor at Methodist who will accept his case and will get things going. Best call I ever got. All I have to do is tell the doctor that that I want him transferred. You know how I feel about confrontation, but this time, I have no choice. If we just sit where we are, Pete is going to die. I just felt that in my bones. So I went and told the nurse I needed to talk to the doctor about transferring him.

noon-time--my sisters start arriving, one by one. Amanda comes with one of them with John Wood and we start waiting for the transfer to take place. And waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

2:15 FINALLY, I see some EMT's come through with an empty bed. Takes about 15 minutes to get him good to go and out the door and we hit Methodist at 3:30. The ER at Methodist is a pretty amazing place, and I don't mean that in a good way. Loud, busy, patients lined up and down the halls. The EMT's have to argue with the charge nurse and tell her that no, there IS a bed upstairs in Surgical ICU, they need to call again. Way to advocate!

3:35, we get upstairs. A pit crew descends on Pete. The neurologist is there, there is a nurse practitioner there, there is a doctor coming in with a ultrasound machine to check out his carotid artery. There are 2 other doctors and at least 2 nurses getting him into bed and such. I just suddenly felt like things were looking better. Meanwhile, Pete is sleeping and when he's not sleeping, he's laying there with his eyes closed listening and responding. Lots of half faced smiles.
4:30 or somewhere around there, they have the CT angio back.the doctor wants to have another doctor an angioplasty to try to clear the blockage in the carotid and see if he can get to the clot in the brain. I go in and sign or initial in 750 different places, give Pedro a kiss and tell him I'll see him in a little bit.

6:00 or so the doctor comes back in to tell me that they were not able to go in to the brain to clear the clot because the blockage in his neck is just too severe. The good news is that the portion of his brain primarily involved with this stroke is fairly limited. Several arteries have rerouted themselves to provide good blood flow to other parts of the brain. The portion controlling his left arm seems to be involved most seriously, but the left side of the brain, that which controls thinking, memory and communication are not involved. I can deal with that for now.

10:00 or so, they get him all arranged in his new room in the Neurological ICU. He's tired, but otherwise doing pretty well. I'm tired too. So I went home to sleep, which I remarkably did, although I think I may call Dr. VanBibber for something to help me drop off a little more easily.