Friday, March 19, 2010

Remembering the journey

It's been 9 days since he had his bypass surgery. And in all that time, I haven't had the time to sit down and write about the actual surgery. So if your spouse is headed that way, know that you will be completely consumed with his care. Hospitals no longer provide in home care. They spend a couple of hours teaching someone in the family what to do. I never wanted to be a nurse...but guess what - I can't think of much that a nurse would do that I haven't done this week!

We woke up at 4 am to leave at 4:30 am to arrive at the hospital at 5:30 am. His surgery was scheduled for 8 am, so he was in pre-op for 2 1/2 hours and he says they were working on him non-stop. I got to go in for 5 minutes to say good bye. I can't tell you how heart wrenching that is. You just don't know what is going to happen. They had explained it to us step-by-step...with all the possible outcomes including death. But when the moment arrives, you realize that while you know all the possibilities, you don't have a clue as to what is really going to happen.

I haven't written about my religious beliefs, but they are quite strong and I was surrounded by family who were in constant prayer the entire 5 1/2 hours of surgery. I literally felt the presence of God in our midst. Yet at the same moment I felt His peace, I still felt the anxiety if the nurse wasn't out to give her report the moment she said she would be.

The first report came at 9:30 am when they had finished harvesting his veins. I remember thinking, "1 1/2 hours to pull a vein out of his leg? We are going to be here forever!" I refused to leave the room. I didn't eat. I didn't even think about eating. I think I sat there just praying. Family members would talk to me, carry on conversations....but I swear, I can't remember what they said. I was focused on one thing only - my husbands success. Well, perhaps the surgeon's success is a better way to say that.

At 11 am, the nurse returned and said they had done 3 bypasses and a TMR. I had absolutely no idea what a TMR was and she tried to explain it to me, but I think my brain had shut down from stress at that time. I remember she said something about poking 9 holes in his heart. I think because we had not discussed this before hand....that I just went into shock. After all, hearing that someone has had 9 holes poked in their heart...ok, they really should bring the needle out and show you how tiny 1 mm is, because my brain is thinking horse needle at this point!

So, for the next 2 1/2 hours, I sat there in a panic. I had this vision of blood gushing out of his heart. I did not know that the blood clots the moment the microscopic needle is removed. No one bothered to explain that to me. At 1:30, the nurse came out and said he was all stitched up and the doctor would be out shortly. So my brother decided that we would record the conversation on my iphone. I still have not listened to it. I don't know when I will be able to.

The surgeon was wonderful. He took my brother and I into a private room. I know the rest of the family wanted to be there, but my brother is my rock. The surgeon (finally) explained what a TMR was and why they had to do that instead of the 4th and 5th bypasses that were planned. High blood sugars had caused his arteries to corode...constrict...and in many places, completely close off. So 100% blockage with not even enough healthy vein to attach a graft to. The surgeon had sketches and showed us exactly where the 3 grafts were done and where the punches were made. He kindly and gently explained how these punches will generate blood flow that will create new capillaries that will improve his blood flow. He said that he was pumping 3 L of blood per minute before surgery and that increased to 5 L per minute after the surgery.

I think I was able to listen because I knew we were recording it. But it helped to have the diagrams as well. And he said, "now, go eat!" And just like a robot, I ate. But again, no idea what I ate. I just did what someone told me to do. Sort of numb, suspended, not thinking yet not not thinking - if that makes sense.

It was about 3:30 pm when we got to go into post op to see him. He was still on a ventilator. That was pretty hard to handle. I stood there and stroked his forehead because that was literally the only place I could touch that didn't have a needle, tape, something else covering him up. His arms were strapped to the bed to prevent him from yanking the tube out of his mouth. He finally responded to my voice by shaking his head yes. But mostly he was asleep.

He says he doesn't remember a thing until his son left which was about 7:30 pm. I'm grateful for that. It was 5:30 before they took him off the ventilator. Family could not be in the room during shift change between 6 and 8 pm, but they did let his son in. I went back at 8 pm and stayed for another hour before going home. They don't allow family to stay after 8 pm. He went to ICU about 7 pm. It was literally the longest day of my life. Physically getting up at 4 am, mentally sitting in the surgery waiting room, wondering each moment of each second what was happening down the hall, worry beyond comprehension, relief I have never experienced each time the nurse came out with a good report, and then sheer exhaustion after talking to the surgeon and knowing all was well for the moment.

If you ever have to go through this, just make sure you surround yourself with family, people you love and that love you, and put your trust in God. I had asked for nerves of steel and they kicked in the moment I saw him in post op. I'm the type that gets sick to their stomach at the sight of a needle. Yet in that room, with all those machines, constant beeping, him on the ventilator....I didn't even flinch. That in itself was amazing.

He has no idea....and will never know....what he put me through that day. I realize that the physical side of what he went through was extreme, but the emotional side of waiting and worrying was what I had to endure. I had moments of anger. I "saw" him sitting on the sofa, eating an entire bag of potato chips and thinking that if he had taken care of himself, neither of us would have been there. I had moments of "survival" when I would tell myself that if he ever eats a single potato chip again, I will leave him. I think that's what those thoughts were....survival. Ways to get through the day, past the moment, escape the constant worry. It felt like being on a merry-go-round and a roller coaster at the same time.

Enough for tonight. I wonder how long it will be before I can listen to the doctor's conversation. I haven't even told hubby we have it recorded. He needs to heal a bit more.

If you have a diabetic spouse, read this to them. Let them know they could be here sooner than they think. Remember, my husband had a normal A1c until last Thanksgiving and this damage did not happen in the last 3 months. It's been happening every single time he had a high. I may just have to change the name of this blog and call it "the ugly truth about diabetes". You can choose to be just like him and deny that you have a problem with your diabetes. Or you can step up to the plate and test yourself 10 times a day and know how often you are actually going high. You can change your diet now. You can start to exercise today. Because if you don't, you are going to put your spouse through this very same scenario. And you might not be as lucky as my husband is. Trust me, I know that each day I have with him from now on is nothing short of a gift.



MHoskins2179 said...

DW: Thank you for sharing this incredible ride with those of us in the DOC. I can't imagine what you are going through, but wish you well in the continued ride. I'm a 31-year old and read your blog with interest, though from a slightly different world being the PWD myself and someone who's had Type 1 since the age of 5.

odyssey5 said...

Thanks for the honest reporting. I'm a T1, and I know it's not easy to monitor oneself day after day with never a day off for good behavior. But it is possible to find a good diet that is satisfying most of the time. Unfortunately it means eating differently than you did in childhood for most people, but like quitting an addiction, it can be done. I think your blog should be titled "Wife of a Noncompliant Diabetic", because being married to a Diabetic can be a positive experience as well. My diabetes-motivated interest in nutrition has benefited the health of my family. Wishing you and your husband well.