Monday, March 31, 2014

March was a month of madness . . .

We're cheering the last day of March, 2014 -- glad it is finally over and done with (we hope).  It was not a good health month for us in this household.

March 3 Hubby entered Research Hospital with what we thought was the 24 hour bug -- and instead was a seriously inflamed and infected gall bladder.

Eight days later -- March 10, to be exact -- we managed to get out of Research Hospital, with a still intact gall bladder but a large drain connected to it.  We lived with that nasty drain for seven days -- until March 18th.  Meanwhile Hubby tried to recover from the horrors that had afflicted him during his eight day hospital stay -- both mentally and physically.  It wasn't until March 14th that Hubby finally began to feel more like himself and that recovery might even be possible. 

On the 18th of March Hubby re-entered Research to have his gall bladder finally removed.  The drain had allowed most of the infection to seep out and he was able to undergo laproscopy surgery instead of the more arduous and painful cutting into his chest.  We spent that night at Research but came home at noon on the 19th, Hubby weak but feeling encouraged.  

On the night of the 20th, Hubby could not breath.  By 4 a.m. he was in full panic mode, gasping for air.  Back to Research, me in terrified that he was having a recurrence of congestive heart failure.  Instead, he had thrown blood clots into his lungs.  Nearly three weeks off his blood thinner was causing dangerous results. 

The next three days were touch-and-go.  Sometimes he felt fine; then the clots would move and he would be thrown back into panic mode.  Lots more IV's and Lovenox shots to the belly to make the blood thin, which, of course, it refused to do. 

However, because we had used Lovenox before, Hubby knew how to give himself the shots so on Sunday, the 23rd, Hubby was sent home with more scripts and more meds -- and INR blood tests daily. 

We spent last week going to nearly daily doctor appointments.  The surgeon, a really wonderful doctor that we came to respect greatly, released Hubby from care -- two more weeks, though, before water aerobics can begin. The blood thinners worked slowly until Friday night when Hubby had a most frightening bleed -- the nighttime needle site would not close.  We had to check every thirty minutes all night long -- and replace bandage after bandage. 

Hubby is exhausted and depleted from all the hospitalizations.  He was so low on blood that even for the laproscopy surgery two doses were ordered for stand-by, just in case.  Luckily they weren't needed but better safe in an emergency situation.  Currently he is bruised from top to bottom, worse now because of the blood thinners.  He has clots in his arms that ache but the clots in his lungs have not caused a problem since last week (fingers and toes crossed). 

During March, every time Hubby went to the hospital the pink Lincoln went belly up -- with me in it.  The dogs were left alone in the house for sometimes more than 24 hours at a time so we're deodorizing the living room carpet but it will undoubtedly need replacing.  The doctor bills are beginning to flow to the house -- we've added kidney and neurology doctors to the mix, besides all the pulmonary, surgical, and heart specialists.  We have only one doctor's appointment for this week -- but Hubby must have blood drawn daily and the shots continue. 

At least Hubby is home and we are not spending every day AND night in the hospital.  The pink car IS running, for the moment.  The dogs are enjoying the sunshine in the park. I am beginning to relax while I watch Hubby try to recover.  Eating is problematic, though -- Hubby was NPO (nothing by mouth during the first eight day hospital stay) and he hasn't really recovered his appetite since.  I've tried making homemade chicken soup but am now feeding it to the dogs.  Swallowing is tough so things must be soft; even toast causes a problem.  Right now I'm at a loss as to what to feed him -- and he doesn't really know what he wants, except things that are sweet (ice cream, cake, fruit).   

Yesterday a dear friend brought Hubby a homemade chocolate cake -- a little late for his birthday on the 13th -- but this cake was worth waiting for -- moist cake with two layers of chocolate whipped cream topped by fudgy chocolate icing.  Finally, a sweet end to a lousy month.  Hubby is in love with that cake. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Yucky Post

Our surgeon presented me with lovely color photos of Hubby's gallbladder after the surgery on Tuesday.  I'm going to share -- but if you are a lot squeamish, look away.  If you are a bit plucky, you might want to see -- no scars, no blood, nothing like that.

So -- here goes (scroll down a bit -- so I don't scare off the faint-hearted just by accessing the page).

Here's the  location of a gallbladder -- you can see how small it is and so if not too distended can be removed laproscopically (stolen from the web):

 Now here's a healthy gallbladder; see how neatly it fits next to the liver:

Add caption

Finally, here's Hubby's gallbladder -- from 4 different views:

Supposedly you can see some of the stones he had -- I'm not sure if that black stuff in the center is a stone or not. 

Direct quote from the surgeon:  his gallbladder was real mess.

But now it's gone.

We did spend Tuesday night in the hospital but got released yesterday afternoon.

Of course, Wednesday morning the pink Lincoln stranded me at the park and I got the fun job of walking 2 miles home at 7 a.m. (I was out walking the dogs before going to the hospital).  But it was a minor nothing repair and once I got home and got the mechanic on the phone, things were remedied right away.  It's just that 2 miles at 7 a.m. kind of poll-axed me.

Today we are sleeping.  We got all the meds laid in yesterday and the food that sounded good to Hubby.  The chicken soup has been made, the potatoes are mashed and all I need do is stir up some gravy for them.  The Propel has chilled.  The melon is cut.

We are both so very, very tired that every hour or so we take a nap.  I finally managed a hot bath to soak my aching limbs -- and then I did the unthinkable -- I took one of Hubby's big-deal pain pills -- and went sound asleep for three hours in a row.

It will be a while before we are back "up to snuff" -- but we now have the time for it.  Yeah!  Retirement!

 If you email me, Google is being installed next Tuesday.  Not sure what that means for email addresses, etc.  I'll keep you all posted.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Fickle Finger of Fate

Our lives were going so smoothly.  Health issues were pretty much resolved.  We had enough money to supply our basic needs and a little left over for the fun things of life.  The boys were happy and frisky, Gussie has been feeling so much better after the removal of those pesky bladder stones.  The furnace produces heat in the nasty, frigid weather of February and March.  The car has been getting us from place to place most of the time.  There was plenty to eat in the pantry.

Then over the first weekend in March Hubby got what we thought was a case of the "24 hour flu" -- lots of intestinal distress and long spells hanging over the toilet.  It hit Saturday night and continued through Sunday.  Meanwhile we had a snowstorm with ice covered streets.  Monday Hubby requested sherbet and orange juice and he managed to get a workman over to shovel out the driveway. If you know me, you know I NEVER drive in snow but I maneuvered the car through the nasty weather to retrieve the necessary goodies and we waited for him to feel better. 

But he never did.  Instead he got a pain in his upper chest that grew more intense as the day wore on.  I suggested around 5 p.m. that we go to the emergency room but he have nothing of it.  At 11:00 he looked so ashen I insisted.  We entered Research Hospital at 11:15 Monday, April 3 -- and thus began the long, intense and awful saga of the Gall Bladder attack.

Here's the synopsis because no one wants the full manuscript:

1.  After six hours in emergency, Hubby was sent to the 3rd floor, the surgical floor of Research where they sent him for a C.A.T. scan of his chest.  The dyes used for the scan showed his gall bladder very inflamed.  He was running a temp of over 101 and the pain in his chest was increasing.  I got the report from his doctors when he was returned to his room and went home at 2 p.m. to walk the dogs who had been left since 11 p.m. the previous evening.

2.  When I got back to the hospital Tuesday at 4 p.m. Hubby had had an extreme allergic reaction to the contrast dyes used in the C.A.T. scan and to the morphine used to block the pain.  He had attempted to leave the hospital and he was in deep fugue state. 

3.  We were immediately transferred to the 4th floor, the heart floor, where he could receive 24 hour monitoring.  Initially we thought he had had a stroke but that was quickly ruled out, as was a mass in his chest or an obstruction in his belly.  His kidneys were failing, his breathing was erratic and he was still irrational. 

4.  Sometime Wednesday afternoon Hubby began to approach normal.  I managed to go home around 9 p.m. -- poor dogs had been alone since 4 p.m. the previous day. 

5.  A nephrologist and a neurologist were both added to our list of doctors.  I got up early Thursday morning to get to the hospital to meet them and the car wouldn't start.  I called Hubby's mechanic who came and got it started but told me they all knew the battery had a dead cell and would have to be replace -- Hubby was just waiting for better weather to do it.  When I cried, they told me they would get the car going so I could go to the hospital.  All I needed to do was call them when I wanted to go home and they would see to it. 

6.  I missed meeting all the new doctors but I did see our GP and the surgeon who had decided it was not safe to operate and remove the gall bladder at this time.  Thursday afternoon Hubby was sent to radiology where they inserted a tube into his gall bladder to drain it.  They used a lot of pain deadening meds to get the tube in -- and Hubby immediately went into a deeper fugue state than previously.

6.  Thursday night was god-awful.  Friday morning did not improve things so Haldol was administered and now Hubby was quiet -- in fact, he went to sleep and would not wake up.  He stayed this way until Friday morning. 

6.A.  The mechanics came and got the pink Lincoln and installed a loaner battery in it -- as well as topped off all the fluids so I could safely get back and forth.  

7.  Friday brought more tests.  The fugue state persisted, on and off, with more or less intensity all throughout the day.  Saturday was more of the same. 

8.  On Sunday Hubby was deemed improved enough to move him back to the surgical floor on three of Research.  The surgeon still was in doubt whether surgery could be safely performed. 

9.  All during this time Hubby had been either NPO (nothing by mouth) because surgery was imminent or on a clear liquid diet only.  He was growing weaker by the day.  His IVs would blow and his veins became impossible to locate.  Finally a main line was inserted in his shoulder.  He claimed the tubes from the IVs and the tube in his gall bladder hurt and repeatedly tried to remove them.  He wanted to go home but barring that he wanted cake and he never would forgive me for not supplying it.  At one point he suggested our relationship was over if I wouldn't bring him some lemon cake and milk. 

10.  On Monday the surgeon felt Hubby was strong enough for surgery but now it was no longer an emergency.  The gall bladder drain had taken away most of the poisons in his system and he was no longer running a fever.  Surgery was scheduled for the next week (because the OR was booked solidly through the week) and we were released.

11.  Throughout all this, Hubby's heart was never in danger.  His blood pressure would go up but never dangerously.  His oxygen intake was always normal; his heart rate stayed a steady 60 beats.  His kidneys, though not working as they should, never completely shut down.  Even his diabetes never was out of control. 

We spent eight days worrying that very serious repercussions were about to befall us -- but they never did.  Still, it was terrifying.  Those two long spells of fugue states were absolutely the worst days of my life.  I NEVER want to relive them.  Even coming home, Hubby was still a bit bewildered at times -- the first night I worried about the drain constantly.  Then I realized that he had never seen it -- and he couldn't remember it being inserted.  So I got a big mirror and showed it to him -- and that was all it took.  We've never had a drain problem since and he's guarding it quite carefully himself now. 

Each day shows a bit of improvement.  He has driven the car which gave him back a modicum of control over his life.  He is exhausted in a way I've never seen - but then he didn't have any food for eight days and he was stuck in bed, tethered to IVs and drains the whole time. 

Of course, I'm terrified that surgery drugs next week may bring about similar problems but our surgeon has already said, that though now he will be having an "out-patient" procedure to remove the gall bladder, they will keep him overnight, just as a pre-caution.

I cannot tell you how wonderful Research Hospital has been through this process.  They were so gentle with Hubby and so kind to me.  The nurses moved heaven and earth to help me through the awful nights.  They kept doctors informed -- on Thursday this was hourly -- and they kept my home phone number close at hand so I didn't have to live at the hospital.  Hubby has been very sick but we are hoping that now he is on the recovery road.