Updating Family and Friends on Second Open Heart

Dec. 1, 2013 Update on myself and Joan: at 8:40 a.m. tomorrow, I get a cat scan so the thoracic and infectious disease people can look at how my empyema is doing. At 10:45 a.m., I see the thoracic surgeon, head of the thoracic department, for his verdict on my empyema, whether the antibiotic regimen I’ve been on has solved the problem or whether I need an operation to scrape out the remainder of the infection. Otherwise, on the chemo side, I’ve been doing well, not needing any blood products. Joan lost her wedding ring and went to the mall and I bought her another one, with lots of sparklies on it. She didn’t want to go into her operation, which is still scheduled for the 10th of December, without a ring. She said going without her ring would make her feel naked. On another positive note, our son Take arrives in St. Louis tomorrow night and will have a few days before the open heart surgery with his mother. This will be good. Love to you all.


Dec. 2, 2013 Had my CT scan this morning and saw the thoracic surgeon a couple of hours later. He says my empyema has gotten small and that we should keep doing what we’re doing and allow the body and antibiotic to work to absorb the infection. The short of it, I don’t have to undergo the knife. It is a great relief. I was visualizing myself walking slowly into the operating room and having my chest torn open. Life is good so far. Worrying now about Joan’s operation. She’s being a good soldier. Love to you all.


Dec. 2, 2013 I don’t see the Infectious Disease physician till Dec. 10. He’s the one who has the say about infusion with the antibiotic. Joan’s surgeon says he wants her to be out of the hospital for the holidays. We’ll let you know more as we find out.


Dec. 3, 2013 Called the heart surgeon’s secretary to gather info on Joan’s operation. She is to enter the hospital on Monday, Dec. 9, at 1 p.m., after having breakfast and lunch and taking all her morning pills. Later that day, she will have a consult with the heart surgeon on the operation. She will be in the operating room around 7a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10.


Don’t know yet how long the operation will take. After the operation, she goes to the Intensive Care Unit for one to two days, then to the Step Down Unit for two to three days. If this is what actually happens, she will be discharged either on Sunday or Monday. The secretary will be sending us a brochure and other instructions. I’ll let you know what else as we find out.


Take is here, so Joan is spending some good time with him. My lab results from this morning: hemoglobin, 8.6 and platelets, 46. So I had no need for blood products.


Dec. 9, 2013 Thanks for sending your love and hug. We need them. Our love to you as we prepare to leave for the hospital for pre-op work.


Dec. 10, 2013 We thought Joan would be in surgery by 12 noon today. She went into surgery at 3 p.m. and the heart surgeon came out to see us, daughter Cari and me, at around 8 p.m. The doctor said Joan came through fine, had a new valve in place and he fixed an aneurism. The doctor said that they will watch her bleeding, which attends a second open heart surgery because of scar tissue that had to be cut through. Joan was taken to ICU and we were finally able to see her there around 10:30 p.m. She was sedated and had a number of tubes connected to her. The amount of monitoring equipment around her was amazing. Her night nurse said her bleeding was controlled at this time. She will be kept sedated until tomorrow afternoon, when they will begin removing some of the tubes that had to be used. It was a long vigil, and I can’t wait to see her tomorrow afternoon when we will be able to speak.


 Dec. 11, 2013 Joan was extubated this afternoon. She is breathing on her own with an oxygen mask. She can’t talk yet, but she can move her lips to say, “I love you, too.” Thanks for all your prayers. As Joan says, she can feel them and they help. Her progress is great for the first day after surgery. She has good color in her face.


Dec. 12, 2013 I am doing fine; I go in for lab test at 10 am tomorrow morning to see if I need any blood products. This is Joan’s second day after surgery. Her oxygen mask was replaced with oxygen prongs, so she was able to speak real words. This afternoon, she was sat up in a chair, so she could stay awake, improve her breathing, wiggle her toes, raise her arms, and cough up gunk in her chest. It’s imperative that she makes herself move, with walking being an immediate goal. A surprise, after we got home about 9 p.m.: We just received a phone call that Joan has been moved to 7200, the stepdown unit, because the ICU room she was in was needed by a critical patient and Joan was the best looking patient in ICU. My daughter Cari and I will continue to work with her tomorrow so she’ll look even better. A second surprise call from the hospital: They are not going to move Joan out of the ICU after all. 


Dec. 13, 2013 This is Joan’s third day after surgery. She has been moved to 7231 in the stepdown unit. She was lifted into a chair about 3 p.m. The physical therapist came in and tested the strength and sensitivity in her arms and legs. Then the therapist asked Joan to stand. She did twice, and took baby steps with a walker. She continues to blow into her acapella bulb to clear her lungs. We continue this routine tomorrow, when we hope she will begin to eat more.


Dec. 14, 2013   Went to see Joan about 10 a.m. She sat in her chair and ate all of her dish of peaches and took two small bites of mashed potatoes. She worked her incentive spirometer, and it helped her cough up some of the stuff in her chest. Daughter Cari spelled me at 2 p.m. and I went back to the house to nap and do stuff. I was able to nap for an hour, though not quite a deep nap. Around 4:15 p.m., physical therapy came in to have Joan stand and walk with a merry walker, something made out of pcv pipe and feels safe for the patient. I was still at home, but Cari reports that Joan walked 300 feet! When I returned around 6 p.m. to spell Cari, Joan looked a lot more alert. Walking is good for her, and she will do more tomorrow. She ate some tuna salad and beef barley soup, but not a whole lot. We’ve still got to work on her eating.  


Dec. 18, 2013 Mom is home. We arrived at 1:30 p.m. Her legs are not yet strong, so she had a little trouble with the step up onto the concrete pad before the front door, but all is well. She immediately wanted to eat–Cheerios, raspberries, and skimmed milk. Quite a difference from the hospital food which she turned up her nose at. I get a bone marrow biopsy on Friday. All is well here, especially Mom in doing the work to get herself home.  Love to you all.


Dec. 22, 2013 I know Joan looks forward to the longer daylight days as well. It is a boost to her spirits. Joan is on the edge, when she doesn’t know whether she’s getting better or not. I keep telling her she really is, but how she feels really has to do with her meds and how quickly the doctors can find the right combinations and proportion and how she carries out her walking program. One is a matter of trial and error and very trying on her and the other is hard work, especially when you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. 


It is a winter brown landscape here. It started with light snow this morning, then cleared up. Joan loves looking out our window from her bed, to watch sky and the tree limbs. She saw an owl swoop down low the other morning. This is not, of course, Montana, and we miss our wee house.


I had a bone marrow biopsy on Friday. Results won’t be ready for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile I go in for a blood draw tomorrow so my blood count can be monitored. Generally my count has been holding the line and I haven’t really needed any blood products.


We’re getting ready for Christmas here. Ben, number two grandson, will be arriving tomorrow. He was born on the 27th, so I will be making sushi for him as a birthday present. Number one grandson David is into tea, so I’m giving him The Book of Tea and some jasmine buds for Christmas.


Have you seen Joan’s new children’s chapter book, Here Come the Unicorns? It’s in at the Montana Book and Toy Company.


Dec. 24, 2013 We’ve had a warm evening of chicken long-rice, which is a recipe in my Lost in Olathe: Hawaiian Cookbook. Both of Roger and Cari’s sons are home. We are looking forward to Christmas morning and opening presents and skyping with Maddie, Beth and Frank.


 Dec. 28, 2013 On Tuesday, my white count was 2.2, hemoglobin 9.3, and platelets 88! All looking good. I rented a lift chair for Joan, which she likes.


 Dec. 29, 2013 I know this is your first night on the road. I’m sorry your leaving the warm weather and heading into cold Montana, and I’m sorry we’re not recovered enough to be in Helena to greet you. Joan and I are working hard to get better so we can return home to our friends and family and to our writing life. We appreciated your comment that our writings were both inspirational and insightful. Drive safely. With love.