December 17, 2010
Update on Day 4 of Surgery
FINALLY! We're back in a regular room. Just thought I'd give you a quick run-down of how the last few days have gone, and how evident the hand of God has been to us.
DAY 1: TUESDAY--They took Ken into surgery at 2 PM, and I got to walk with him to the doors of the OR. I walked back to the empty ICU waiting room, said a prayer, and sat down to start reading or listening to music or something. Within a couple of minutes, a couple walked in and asked if I was Christie. I then remembered that they were the pastor and his wife from Shaun and Sara Morton's church, whom we'd met once at the Morton home. They settled in seats beside me, and when they found I was alone, stayed there with me through the four hours of surgery. I'm sure that was an answer to the prayers of our families, who didn't like that I was alone for that time. During the surgery, a lady came in to wait, and we struck up a conversation with her. At one point I excused myself to take a call, and I saw the pastor continuing the conversation and then praying with her.
The doctor came to get me around 6:30 PM, and said with a big smile that the surgery was a success. He said the valve company sends four different sizes, so that they can be tried on the actual heart rather than estimated and guessed at. Due to the size of Ken's heart, they weren't able to use the size 23 (mm maybe?) as usual, but had to use the largest of the four, the size 27. Thank God they had that size on hand. But the doctor did say that from all indications, the heart will go back to its normal size within 6 months. He also said that he could tell in looking that this was NOT something congenital--Ken was NOT born with it. He sent the defective valve to the lab to see if they could tell what the cause was, but the guess was maybe something like a bacteria or infection that had entered the heart at some point. Either way, the doctor was very happy with the surgery, and more secure in their decision to leave the aorta in place.
An hour or so later, another doctor called me into the consultation room to ask if I'd be willing to come back and translate for them. Ken was waking up confused and they wanted to be able to tell him not to bite the breathing tube, not to struggle with the sheets they'd tied him to the bed with, etc. I breathed a quick "Thank you" to God for answering that prayer, and donned the gown to go into the normally forbidden area. Once I got there, they let me stay the entire length of Ken's time in ICU. That is another miracle, as those of you with ICU experience know. I settled into a chair and tried to stay out of the way, translating for the nurses and calming Ken as he came out of the anesthesia. They were able to remove the tube in his throat within about an hour, and he was breathing on his own again. We didn't sleep much that night, but he was awake and glad to be alive.
DAY 2: WEDNESDAY--This wasn't such a fun day. The pain set in and there was no way for Ken to get comfortable in the bed. Did I mention that there were these two big tubes running out of his chest into buckets on the floor, to collect the extra blood draining from his chest cavity? I expected that throat tube, but those guys took me by surprise. There were a few IV lines in various places, plus a large one going into his wrist, and one in his jugular that they called a central line, with several tubes leading into it. The nurse explained that when medicines are put into this one, it goes directly to the heart and works almost instantly.
Ken's levels weren't so good this day, with a high blood sugar level and anemia. Those are two problems he's never had, so the doctor said they'd blame it on the surgery and monitor everything. Unfortunately, it meant he was having to be stuck a few more times than normal. He was really groggy and wasn't able to get much breath, and was in and out of naps all day. I think the staff was glad I was there that day because they needed to ask him lots of questions about his condition, his pain, his discomforts, and his brain just wasn't working enough to comprehend or speak Spanish yet. I was glad to be done with this day.
DAY 3: THURSDAY--This was the day we were told he'd get to sit up beside the bed, have the chest tubes out, and move to a regular room. He felt much better from the time he woke up Thursday, so we were very optimistic. And I was anxious to get back to a couch and a shower and the possibility of more food. Well, things didn't go as planned. His sugar leveled out, but the chest tubes were still draining a tiny bit, and his blood pressure climbed higher and higher as the day drug on. He did get to try real food, and did well with it. He was in such better spirits though, and we were able to talk to various nurses and therapists that came in. I love the way God opens doors to sharing about Him. :)
We were a little sad when the surgeon came in that night and took the tubes out of his chest but said he felt Ken needed to be in ICU one night more. I was glad they never asked me to step out of the room during the whole time, so I was able to watch each of the procedures. It was pretty amazing. As soon as the surgeon left, I made a break for food, trying to time it so that no one came in during the time I was gone. The secretary caught me at the door and asked me to come into the office. Uh-oh. I knew what this meant. She presented me with the bill for the first two days. I explained that we'd seen an estimate from the insurance company, and that we were trying to straighten out the misunderstanding that had caused them to refuse to pay for this surgery. She gave a knowing smile, but presented me with a set of pages that totaled to more than three times the amount insurance had told us, and reminded me that this was only for the first two days. She assured me that they would keep tabs and be back in touch as the days progressed. "Thanks." I had to go have a moment in the restroom with the Lord, as He reminded me that He was my provider when I thought the unexpected amount was much lower, and He's still my provider at this amount.
The doctor in charge of the ICU came in to see how Ken was progressing late that night, and I guess he hadn't realized until then that I was "living" there. He asked where I'd been sleeping, and I got a little nervous that he'd kick me out. I said I was very comfortable in the chair, and was grateful that they'd allowed me to be there this whole time. He smiled and thanked me for staying. Phwew.
Within a few minutes, a nurse came in to help Ken sit up for the first time, and he was pushing a chair that leaned back a little. He said his instructions were to leave the chair when he left so I didn't have to sleep in that other hard, straight one. I couldn't help but cry. Thanks, God. We decided there must be a reason to spend one more night there, and God was reassuring us with a little creature comfort.
That night, the nurse had lots of things to do with Ken, and we spent a lot of time talking with him. The same thing happened with the therapist who came by to see how Ken was doing with sitting up. We made new friends and enjoyed talking about the Lord.
DAY 4: FRIDAY--Early this morning, they began more blood work to find that Ken was still anemic, a little worse than before. They had been trying to correct that but decided it was time to give him a blood transfusion. We can now say we are truly ONE, as he has my blood in his veins. (I'm hoping that'll suffice as an anniversary present, since that comes Sunday and I don't see any doors opening for a quick trip to pick something up... and I've already thought of the jokes I can throw out, like "What do you want from me, my blood?!" and so forth....)
Around lunchtime, they decided to set us free to the world of normal rooms. But alas, there were no rooms open. Something did finally free up, and here we are in room 222. Joe and Jayne, who have been keeping the girls for us, came by this afternoon so that Camille and Caroline could see us. Man, how we've missed them, and I know they wanted to see their Daddy in person. J and J are very kind and brought me a bag full of lunch. Oh, man, was that good!
Ken is now walking around the room a bit, with a pillow tight to his chest. He is speaking with no problem and is able to take full breaths now. He is eating regular food, the blood pressure is under control (with medicine for right now), and the blood sugar levels are back to normal. Thank God for his hand on us, for the destiny appointments He lines up, and for the encouragement He sends us through your notes, prayers, and messages. :)