Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Rest of the Story

The first part here.

So there we were in the ER, Hubby hooked to every kind of intervention you can imagine. Sedated. Steroids. Antibiotics. It was as though one thing required the next.. and the next.. and the next.

When I arrived at the ER, I mentioned that all my inlaws were there. MIL and FIL and I went back to the room where they had him, and the aunts/uncles offered to watch the girls. We were for a while in the ER, where we were asked all about his medical history, the circumstances of the day, etc. The good news was that the preliminary bloodwork looked fine. Nothing amiss there. The CT scan they did while we waited also came out clear. No brain bleed, stroke, or tumors. The excellent nurse (Garth) explained what was planned and how it would work; Hubby would be moved to the Intensive Care Unit overnight, where they would keep him sedated (they didn't want to remove the ventilator until they knew he was not swelling in his throat at all, and didn't want him awake with a vent in). While they moved him, it would be 45 minutes and NO ONE is allowed in the ICU at that time. [I'm not sure why. Maybe medical experimentation, or probing.  hehe.]

We followed a nurse or someone up to the ICU waiting area where we chose the "Family" waiting room, which was very family-friendly; a large L-shaped room, kitchenette, tv, lots of seating, and doors which close to keep the little ones safe. My MIL went back to the ER waiting room to bring everyone else to where we were. She returned with an uncle, 2 cousins, another cousin and his family (from out of town, but they were passing through when they got word of the situation), both sisters, a brotherinlaw... I got a phone call from another cousin who had left on vacation that morning, but heard about it and wanted to let me know they were praying, and prayed with me on the phone. It was like a family reunion, I tell ya.

Someone was missing though. A few someones. Hubby's brotherinlaw, the father of the little birthday girl, had offered to take the kids... all the kids. I will just describe him here, so you can see why I love this. Brutha Josh is kindof short, strong build, former policeman, current mine-worker (?), future diesel mechanic, LOTS of tattoos, no hair, and (recently) trending towards cowboy. He took his 2 year old, our special-needs niece (almost 7), and my four (almost 10, 7, almost 4, and one-day-away-from-2) in my other sisterinlaw's van, and took care of business. He drove them to Burger King and bought them a late dinner - making sure my Li'l Artist had food that was safe for her - then took them to Grandma's and tucked them all in with blankies and pillows in the living room, and put a movie on. He even diapered Baby. :)

Once they had Hubby all hooked up in ICU, 2 at a time could visit him. Mom and I went in and could tell they'd washed his face. He looked much more comfortable in the bed, and - again - was hooked up to myriad machinery. Now he also had an automated blood-pressure cuff. A giant touchscreen recorded and displayed his breathing and respirations, blood pressure, heartrate, and probably more. Some of that information was displayed in the hallways on even bigger monitors. From the nurses' station, they could see every patient's heartrate at a glance. If and when something odd happened (anything outside preset parameters), things would beep, and the appropriate patient's information would flash. Did I mention that this hospital just opened in May? I think I've figured out how they plan to pay for it, but I digress.

There was no change in Hubby. Still sedated, still medicated for everything, still operating on an anaphylaxis diagnosis. I left to go check on the girls (this is midnight or so) and take their pajamas and Baby's blankie to them. And maybe check on Uncle Josh...

First I stopped in the Family Waiting Room, gave what I could for an update and sent Hubby's dad to see him. At my inlaws', the kids were watching a movie and Josh explained that he'd fed them, but was careful for Li'l Artist's limitations, etc, and was doing well with such a job. I brought in pajamas, tucked everyone in and took my sisterinlaw's van back to the hospital (I wanted to leave my van and carseats with the kids, just in case). I got back to the hospital around 1 am or shortly thereafter, and my inlaws left. Mom did tell me, however, that the IV pump had beeped (they'd not plugged it in after the transfer to ICU, and its battery was complaining). Hubby had sat up and tried to get up, momentarily. She had gone over to say "Honey, you're in the hospital." I asked her if she'd been tempted to say, "Honey, you've been abducted by aliens!" or something, but apparently I am the only one with such a twisted sense of humor... I lied down about 1:30, but the incredible amount of grit that was on my pillowcase, no matter how often I brushed it or turned it over, prevented much rest.

I got up when they came to... swab... his mouth. It was like a dentist vacuum/spray and a spongey swab, which they inserted in the last little bit of open space left in his mouth. He opened his eyes at this point too, but slept again soon.

At 4:00 a.m. they came to turn off his sedation medicine, and then they said, "Can you open your eyes?" and he did. The nurse explained that they would bring a respiratory therapist so they would be able to remove the tube as soon as possible. He nodded. At one point she left, and with his wrist strapped to the bed, managed to lift his hand a little, and make a gesture. He pointed at his face, and then made a fist and forcefully jerked his fist away from himself. I knew he was saying, "this thing: OUT. NOW." I smiled and reassured him they were going to do so right away. I also told the nurse that he had made a very clear, somewhat insistent gesture on the subject. The respiratory therapist showed up, explained some things, did some things -- like taking a sample of respiratory fluid by effectively cutting off his air and prompting him to cough, a lot. He also did something to check Hubby's diaphragm control, and Hubby was sailing through the tests, such as they were. At some point in this, they changed the ventilator (via touchscreen!) from full respiration to cpap, which is an influx of air, but the work of breathing is effectively the patient's. Hubby did well at this, but before they could remove the equipment he had to take arterial blood from his wrist and have the lab test CO2 levels, or something. The therapist very wisely explained that he would be unfastening Hubby's wrist, but the effects of Hubby prematurely removing the ventilator on his own would result in some pretty serious vocal chord damage, among other things. Hubby refrained from any efforts on this front. :) We spent several minutes playing handicapped charades. He, with hands tied down and no way to speak, trying to tell me to turn off the lights... Or that the corner of his eye needed scratched... That one took a while...

About 5:30 they were able to remove the ventilator and OG tube. What a process! He did great though. And I don't think I will ever forget the way he turned to me, and in the raspiest of whispers said, "stroke?" That was about the hardest thing up to that point, believe it or not. HE, asking ME, and thinking that's what it might have been... I don't even know if that makes sense, or if I can describe it, but I still feel my stomach twist when I think of it.

"No honey, no. All the major tests have been fine. They suspect an allergic reaction. I think the heat had a lot to do with it too, and you didn't have any water up there..." I fed him ice, then water, they removed the catheter and maybe one of the IVs. Then he dozed. I tried to do the same, and peered at a blue-clad woman as she did an EKG on him. I don't think there's a single test they didn't do.

Later I got back to my inlaws and took the girls home to catch up on some things while they moved Hubby to a 'regular' hospital room. I showered - finally! - and we fed chickens, and calves, and brought the laundry that had been on the clothesline overnight (and put out another load, and put a load in the wash!).

Hubby continued in the hospital, got an EEG (to check for seizures), and I took the girls to see him for the first time. Hubby was tired, but 'mostly fine,' and we awaited a doctor to read the EEG. Which didn't come that day, of course! :) I took the kids home and we slept in our own beds that night (more laundry switching!), and tried to get to town early Tuesday morning. One of the 'first responders' stopped by (a dairyman from south of town) to see how things were and get any updates that might help hone their expertise.

Late afternoon a doctor finally read the EEG, and it was fine. This was a big relief. He'd been itching to come home, but the doctor who does that is as busy as the doctor who reads EEGs, I think. Finally he called (I was at my inlaws') and they were NOT going to discharge him because his white blood cell count was high. *sigh* While relating most of this information to the family, the overtired doctor (he was) realized they'd given him steroids, which would do that, so they WOULD let him go after all. And there was much rejoicing.

My sweet friend who teaches a mom's bible study made us dinner that night (we had also seen her in the day, and there were cookies involved), which she delivered to us at Hubby's folks' right after we finally 'got out.' We ate it then and there, as Mom certainly expected we would've been home by then and didn't plan on us for dinner. What a blessing.

Hubby had to continue several days on a couple antibiotics to deal with the aspiration pneumonia, and had to wear a little monitor/recorder for his heart for 48 hours. His discharge paperwork noted "Heat exhaustion/dehydration" as his problem, with some concern for a cardiac problem (varied bp readings during his stay, though after he shifted position in the ICU after being un-hooked, his auto-bp registered very differently).

Last week we confirmed that there was "nothing remarkable" about his heart monitor stuff, and he never even pushed The Button (which would flag the area) for shortness of breath, or anything else. [then again, he was home watching Star Trek from dawn to dusk, because resting is a big part of pneumonia recovery!]

I had the hospital forward all of his records to Hubby's naturopath, who looked them all over. I had never followed up with the EKG, and the cardiologist nurses/technicians/assistants weren't very consistent with their answers about the meaning of "Abn EKG" written somewhere, nor very efficient at trying to track down specific information on the subject. In any case, we were very happy to hear the naturopath say that everything was within normal range - including the EKG. This was a big blessing, to be sure!

He continues to do well, working long days (but staying hydrated!) without much problem. There don't seem to be any noticeable after-effects, for which we're grateful. Well, except we all have a little more gratitude for Life, and health!

Soon to come: Cost efficiency analysis of water, vs life-flight-plus-night-in-ICU. :)


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, Ella. I don't know you at all ... just been reading your blog for awhile. But ...

I am SO GLAD that this turned out so well. Make sure that *CASHEW* of yours takes his water with him.

The love between you two just radiates out of your words. You are both blessed ... with each other, with your children, and with so many wonderful people (friends and family) to support you'all.

BIG HUGS to all of you.

MamaJ said...

Wow! You need to get that man a CamelBak and make him wear it everyday!

Glad he is better and I hope you recover from a)the stressful situation and b)the hospital bills! :/

EllaJac said...

MamaJ, maybe I should do that! :\ Also, it took more than 2 months to get the bill from the ER visit last February (stitches.. only stitches). I'm thinking it's gonna take them a LONNNNNGGG time to add up everything they did to him... the room(s), the bags of saline IV solution, the refills to that insulated hospital mug... Do they charge for toilet flushing??

themoose, thank you so much. I'm glad you read here; maybe soon I'll be back to *saying something* occasionally. :) Yes, I love The Man, though it's not always smooth.. :) God is good, and His works are great. Bless you!

Monica said...

I'm so thankful your man is alright. Praise God!

CK said...

I don't know you, but I thanked the Lord that your husband is alright. I think it was God that sent you out to check on him when you did.

I cried when I read the part about him asking you if it was a stroke. What a horrible moment for both of y'all.

God bless y'all and I pray you have no more experiences like this one!

Fatima said...

Just popped over to say that I'm glad he's doing okay. What a rough few days you must have had!
Now... off to do some more cleaning. :P