I don’t really understand codependency but I think this word most accurately encapsulates my feelings toward the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota…and St. Marys Hospital. I know I need(ed) them and even though they may not admit it publicly I think they also need(ed) me…if only to glory in the miracle of a life that almost ended nearly seven months ago.
Wednesday 10:00 a.m. A good conversation with the ultrasound technician
Karla and I left early last Wednesday morning (September 30) at 5:00 a.m. to make a 10:00 a.m. appointment. The first appointment was to have an ultrasound to check the status of the blood clots that the IVC filter (positioned near my belly button in a vein that is at the intersection of the two major veins that carry blood back to the heart to get reoxygenated) was holding back the last time we were there for a follow-up visit in June. They also checked the lower extremities for clots.
As the technician did her thing we got to talking. As it turns out she is a Shamanist. A Shamanist is a person. Shamanism is a religion akin to animism. Shamanists, as near as I can tell, believe that one of their primary goals in life is to serve as intermediaries between human beings and the spirit world. Adherents believe that Shamanists can treat illnesses and have special powers. As I talked with her and asked her what she believed she felt free to express herself. She told me that Shamanists believe that there is a high king of the heavens and specific gods that are responsible for the water, land, heavenly bodies, etc.
I was impressed by how articulate and intelligent this young gal seemed to be. It soon became clear that she was very open to Christianity as well. I gently prodded her by asking the question “So how do Shamanists worship the gods?”, I asked. She responded by saying that they do not gather publicly to celebrate or worship anything. I quickly found out that she had a very high respect for her family as she said that eternally she wanted more than anything else “to be where they were.” I responded “Really? Even if that’s not a good place?”
She went on to tell me of one Shamanist who converted to Christianity…a person whom she knew personally. Since she seemed open to Christianity as well I explained to her how some of the claims of Jesus were just plain exclusive. Such as John 14:6 where Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And I John 5:11-13 where the Apostle John writes to Christians “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I also quoted John 10:9-10 to her where Jesus said “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly. I shared some other verses of Scripture as well, but these were the main ones.
After we finished up I asked her to come out into the waiting room to meet Karla. She gave me an email address whereby I could contact her again…and now I can’t seem to find it…UGH!
Wednesday 1:00 p.m. An EEG provides scientific proof that my brain is still functioning.
As I arrived for my EEG appointment (to see if there is still seizure activity in my brain) I was ushered into a preparation room and a number of tiny electrodes were attached to my skull. The test itself involved sleeping…which I am good at. Over the course of 30 minutes or so I fell asleep twice. They had to wake me up once to re-connect one of the electrodes… after which they feared I would not be able to fall asleep again. Again, not to worry. Did I say that I excel at sleeping?
Wednesday 4:30 p.m. A Vascular consult with Dr. McBane leads to an unexpected surgical procedure.
Dr. McBane was giddy. He was one of the doctors who was with us in the darkest hours of this ordeal. Dr. McBane is an unabashed Christian man with a delightful demeanor. He is one of the doctors I saw regarding the blood clots before I crashed and nearly died. Died. It seems strange sitting here typing this word “died.”
Anyway, Dr. McBane was the one who asked me shortly after the brain surgery, while I was still paralyzed on my right side and hardly able to speak, why God would render a preaching pastor voiceless and unable even to move his right side. I managed to communicate to him that I didn’t have any idea as to the reason for the trial but said that somehow it would be used to bring glory to His name. This set Dr. McBane off on a personal quest to understand more about the relationship between suffering and the sovereignty of God as they relate to personal sanctification. I was glad to be of assistance. By the way they still don’t have a clue as to where the blood clots came from…Mayo doctors don’t like not knowing everything about every possible medical scenario.
Since the blood clots are no more they asked when I wanted to get the filter out. I asked if it would even be possible to get it out during our three days in Rochester. He said “Yes.” I said, “Please give me the A-team” at which point Dr. McBane said “Just a minute.” Shortly thereafter a man walks in the room asking me if I hadn’t always wanted to meet an Icelandic doctor…which he clearly was. Turns out he was the doctor in charge of the ten doctors who perform these procedures every day. He said that he would be happy to do this procedure himself but assured me that they were all very skilled at what they do.
Imagine that…ten doctors at St. Marys give their lives to this one task of putting filters in people and then removing them at a later date. I wonder how many lives have been saved through the strategic placement of filters in the human body. Many I’m sure. So we scheduled the filter removal for 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning.
Thursday 6:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. The filter was removed.
I must admit it was kind of creepy being back in the place where this all began. Surgical gown. Preparation. I’m sure it brought back lots of lovely memories for Karla as well.
The procedure itself took twice as long as it was supposed to take (an hour and a half as opposed to forty-five minutes) as the filter was not sitting parallel to the vein. It was at a slant. I was under mild sedation as they cut into the jugular vein on my neck and after a few minutes of talking with the doctor and his assistant I stopped talking and asked for more sedation!
I was beginning to get a bit concerned because of the quietness of the room. Sure enough they were having trouble getting the filter removed. I was told that in roughly 5% of the cases the filters are not retrievable. Guess what was on my mind. I never asked what happens when a filter that is supposed to be in for one year max is unretrievable (we found out there are many different kinds of filters…some permanent. Others not. Mine was a Cook Select Filter which sounds impressive to the untrained ear). Doctors have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves whereby they can manipulate the thing that retrieves the filter. Since it was sitting nearly sideways in the vein as he began to pull it out I could actually feel it! It made me nauseous…so I asked for more sedation.
But, he was able to get it out at least! And it was certainly good to have that surgical procedure over and done with!
Thursday 2:00 p.m. Meeting with a rehabilitation doctor
This doctor told me that I had officially graduated from rehabilitation!
Friday morning 3:00 a.m.
I woke up with a queasy sensation, began sweating profusely and felt as though I was going to vomit. While standing, I leaned my arms up against the bathroom wall. I then passed out and woke up to the distinct sound and force of my head hitting the tile floor. This is also when Karla awakened. I found out later that I had been having a mild allergic reaction to the dyes that had been shot into my system. That must have been the reason there were also red spots all over my midsection! Never happened before with the dyes.
Friday 11:00 a.m. INR home testing
Karla and I then met with a nurse who proceeded to demonstrate how to test the thickness of my blood from home. In concert with Mayo we would have to call up once every week or so and adjust the rat poison as necessary. I currently take 15 milligrams each day which a pharmacy friend said was almost unbelievable (on the high side). This program looks not to be financially feasible so I think we’ll just stick to the regular doc.
Friday 3:00 p.m. Appointment and pictures with Dr. Meyer the neurosurgeon
Last, but not least, was a meeting with Dr. Meyer. As he walked into the room he looked much younger than I had remembered him being. Finally figured out it was because he had shaved his beard and moustache off. Dr. Meyer was also giddy. He and his traveling nurse, Wanda, along with the latest neurosurgical fellow tagged along. I asked Karla to take a couple of pics of me with Dr. Meyer. I also learned a new word, for which I am always grateful. Cachetic is the word and malnourished and emaciated is the definition. He said that’s how I looked after the second surgery.
A nutritionist friend said that my body devoured itself…which would explain the complete loss of muscle mass and fat loss and nearly 50 pounds. I have had to work hard at getting the muscle mass back…but not nearly as hard at getting back the fat reserves. Dr. Meyer is a good man and a great surgeon. There were moments after the brain surgery, as I, and later I would find out, Karla also, silently pondered what we had let this man do to an otherwise perfectly healthy man (right side paralysis and unable to speak) and for a brief time I was angry with Dr. Meyer. However, this was a happy day!
And so it goes that nearly one year ago began the most interesting and exciting, death-defying year of my life thus far. What a ride its been!