We just returned (Thursday afternoon September 16th, 2010) from our first trip to Mayo in nearly a year and all is well!
- We had supper our first evening in Rochester with Dr. David and Michelle Kallmes. (Keep reading if you want to hear how and why this connection was made) Dr. Kallmes performed the embolizations on me on the two consecutive days prior to the brain surgery. He is highly specialized. This is what he does…day in and day out. Mayo has two people given to doing brain embolizations. He is one of the two and he did mine. An embolization is an angiogram where a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery, snaked up into the arteries and vessels in the brain….then comes the fun part…hundreds or thousands of tiny pieces of plastic the size of a grain of sand are inserted with glue into the artery or vein being blocked off. The way he explained it to me was that they just release these pieces of plastic into the artery and let them go until such a time as they stop. The arteries narrow and eventually it plugs up just like a funnel.
You may be wondering how it is that we came to know Dr. Kallmes and his wife Michelle and their five children, whose ages correspond well to our own five! Well, Luke’s roommate at the University of Minnesota is Dr. Kallmes’ son. Small world or what? We suspected that since his roommate was from Rochester and that since he too was a chemical engineering major that his father was probably associated with Mayo Clinic in some way. Little did we know that he was the doctor who performed these two procedures on me.
We moved Luke in two and a half weeks ago as his roommate was also moving in. That’s when we made the connection. And that’s how we got a free dinner our first night in Rochester! We told them that we were going to be in Rochester the 14th-15th of September and they invited us over not only for supper but also to stay with them! We took them up on the first one. And it was good…Homemade pizzas on a grill (pizza stone) whole wheat crust, fresh organic ingredients. We had a great time talking with this couple and found other interesting connections and commonalities.
- Wednesday morning I had to check in for an EEG at 7:00 a.m. with instructions not to have had more than four hours of sleep. The results were perfectly normal as we would find out later in the day (just as they were last year about this time).
After that we had an appointment with Dr. McBane, my vascular doctor while at Mayo. We discussed the blood thinners I have been on ever since the blood clots in the heart and lungs a year and a half ago, two weeks after my brain surgery. He told us of the 30% probability of recurrence of pulmonary embolisms when deep vein thrombosis occurs and that was enough to scare us into happily receiving a lifetime sentence of blood thinners and at least another year of compression socks on my lower right leg.
He also gave us more details (because we asked) about the pressors used on me when I crashed. We asked him if it was true (as per our research on the always trustworthy internet) that in 75% of the cases where pressors are used in a cardiac event, the person dies. He confirmed what our research had suggested. He said that normally just a single pressor is used. Dr. McBane said it was amazing that they used five different pressors on me (epinephrine, vasopressin, norepinephrine, phenylephrine, and milrinone). Dr. McBane spoke very honestly with us this time and said that he had not expected me to live.
The critical care doctor did an awesome job just keeping me alive long enough to determine what was going wrong! There is not a doubt in our minds that if I had not been at Mayo when this occurred I would be in glory right now…instead of writing this blog post.
He also said that my case has been used not only in Grand Rounds but also at a national symposium of vascular types to help other hospitals be ready to deal with similar situations.
- Before lunch we bopped on over to St. Marys Hospital to see if we could see any of the numerous people I came to know during the 48 days away from home that forever changed my life. We ran into one of my favorite physical therapists, Stephano, who immediately recognized me! I left a note for my speech therapist who was also played a key role in my recovery.
- For lunch on Wednesday we ate with Pastor Dick and Cathy Rehfeldt, the pastor who married us nearly 24 years ago in Des Moines. They moved to Rochester after he retired from the Lutheran Church he had pastored for around 35 years. He made timely and frequent hospital visits with me and was a comfort for Karla and the family through this whole ordeal. I learned more about doing hospital visits during his brief visits than any seminary class ever could have taught me.
- After lunch we had another appointment with Dr. Meyer, the brain surgeon. Immediately upon seeing me he told me that he could fix the divots in my skull. The look of disbelief I gave him must have been enough to stave off any more comments along those lines. The divots are significant. There are three, two in which I can balance an egg on end. I should post a picture sometime. Dr. Meyer said that he would recommend staying on the seizure medication for 3-1/2 more years and then seeing a neurologist about trying to come off it again. Right now I’m on 1500 mg. of Keppra daily.
I also reminded him of his remark to me the day after the initial surgery (when I was as yet unable to speak and completely immobilized on the right side of my body). Keep in mind that Dr. Meyer is Jewish and he knew that I was a Christian pastor (For some reason he continues to think that I am a mega-church pastor in spite of my repeated denials of the same). The words he spoke were these: “We’re in Genesis now and the book is long” which I thought was really a brilliant comment. And I told him that if I had been able to speak at that moment I would have added “Yes, the book is long and it culminates in the Celestial City (for Christians) and on every page points to Jesus Christ,” He said “Really? I said that? That sounds brilliant.” To which I thought… You are brilliant! Dr. Meyer will never forget me nor I him.
As an added bonus we were able to see Dr. Fogelson for a moment. Dr. Fogelson is the neurosurgical fellow who stopped by every morning at 5:30-6:00 a.m. to see me and observe my progress. He too will never forget me nor I him. In fact he told us that my case caused him to be much more aware of blood clots that even now when he sees a blood pressure drop following brain surgery he gives cardiology a call just in case…
- For supper that evening we went to Steve and Danae Harder’s home in Spring Valley, a town about 30 miles south of Rochester. Ray and Connie Krueger also came over to join us. They were the ones who so graciously allowed Karla to stay in their home during the entire time. Steve and Ray are both doctors as well. We know more doctors… We had a delicious meal and sat around and had a terrific time of true biblical fellowship for several hours. Dear friends. If absence makes the heart grow fonder then the same could be said for trials and people you meet along the way in the midst of your trials…who are a blessing to you in your trials. These two couples are permanently imprinted on our hearts!
It was a great trip to Mayo! Great because: 1. we were able to see so many people who were such a blessing to us along the way. 2. we were able to get more details about the events of those harrowing days. 3. I was able to spend some quality time with my bride of nearly 24 years. 4. we were able once again to clearly see God’s hand in it all. 5. we were humbled once again by the sheer number of people to whom (at least at an earthly level) I owe my very life! Some of whom I have never even met!
Humbled and Thankful For Life and My Wife,