As many of you know five years ago at this exact time our family was enduring the greatest trial of our collective lives. The idea came to me on the day after the Five Year Anniversary of brain surgery, February 12, 2009 (click on the green link if you would like to see what this is all about).
It is my intention to write of the memories and experiences that I had during those days over these next 6 plus weeks (corresponding to the number of days we spent in Rochester) in real time plus five years.
Karla suggested that I write blog posts that correspond to these days as well. I thought that was a splendid idea and so over these next weeks I plan to write regularly on my blog. I plan to use some of the text from these real time updates in the book I am currently writing.
This does not mean that I will necessarily be blogging every day but I will be writing every day and I will pass some of that along to all of you, if you are interested. This self challenge, call it a gimmick if you will, provides me with great motivation to write as I relive each of the days anyway.
Each blog entry may include two or more days of actual time. If you’re not interested then I guess you can always do something else. It is a free world.
If you would like to receive these updates directly please subscribe to the blog following the simple instructions on the home page of the blog and they will be sent directly to your email account rather than happening to catch it on Facebook.
I have asked Karla to write some of these blog postings as she was the one who wrote many of the updates in those early days after brain surgery and the massive complications that would follow. It was her attention to detail that enables me to tell the story with detail.
During the days that I was conscious the memories are still vivid and fresh.
February 16, 2009
From Karla’s blog entry on that day: “Mike did not manage to get much sleep, but was much less restless last night, and now we know why. When I got here early this morning, Mike was in the chair looking out the window and talked to me in sentences. I was very surprised! As he got tired, this slowed down, but that is not unusual. He was in the chair from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and has been sleeping ever since.
The nurse told me he started running a slight fever last night, which was treated with Tylenol. When that broke, he started talking in sentences. She said that she had never seen anything like it. I would attribute that to God!
Mike started telling the nurses about our church and our family. He then said that the reason he was so agitated the two previous nights was that he was sure the nurse was trying to murder him! I’d be agitated too! He was also thinking that Dr. Meyer was his enemy, but is over that as well. Apparently the previous blood pressure medication he was on can make people think strange things. Hopefully we’re past that with this new medication.
Since he is talking, I’m sure some of you can guess what he’s talking about: food! Yesterday he kept asking for Snickers. He has not had anything to eat since Wednesday night. The swallow test is scheduled for 1:30, so hopefully he can eat after that.
Jared finally came to enjoy going in to see Mike yesterday. Of course, he is way too observant and started commenting on Mike’s feet. He said, “Daddy moves his left foot. That other one is stuck.” Ouch! I told him that hopefully it will be unstuck soon!
Apparently there is information going around that Mike is paralyzed. I suppose you could technically say that his right arm and leg are paralyzed, but we are very hopeful that it is temporary. Overall, I am very happy with the progress that has been made. Hopefully he will get out of the ICU tomorrow and get working on this rehab!”
This was the single most disturbing memory I had during this whole ordeal. I was not able to get any sleep at all during these two nights. I remember watching a tv screen that was playing elevator music with little asteroid like particles floating around the screen, only they were not just floating on the screen. They had evil intentions for me! They were coming after me! Such is an effect of the psychotic drug they used on me that evening to keep my blood pressure down. Well, one of the ingredients of this drug was slug spit. Yep that’s right. Slug spit.
That’s not the only terror I experienced that evening. As the nurses were changing my sheets late in the evening (three nurses pulling my body with a sheet onto another table) I thought I heard them discussing how to kill me. In fact I know that I heard them calmly discussing killing me. How they should do it. When they were going to do it. Even how they were planning to get by with it. It was not my imagination. It was my reality.
Then, as the nurses prepared to give me the shot that would kill me I felt utterly helpless that I could not say anything or fight against them. I was fully prepared to exit this world…for I knew that I was a dead man as the shot entered my body. It was the single most helpless feeling I have ever had in this life. Unless you have experienced ICU psychosis you cannot imagine how I felt.
In fact it was such a traumatic experience for me that some time within the next seven days as they were wheeling me out for more tests I saw Kristy the nurse and yelled out “Murderer!” By this time I was off the hallucinogenic drug and now understood that the nurses were not trying to kill me, but rather trying to help me.
So when I yelled out “Murderer” to Kristy I was just being wheeled onto the elevator but was not quick enough in my thought and speech to tell her I was just joking. The elevator doors shut and Kristy was crying and I felt terrible. I made it right with her later on by apologizing. Note to self: Beware of what you think is humor especially if you are unable to think and speak quickly.
It was such a traumatic experience that even though I understood with my head that they were not trying to do me in, that’s what was stuck in my brain. Her face and the calm discussion of my demise. Traumatic experience number one. Check.
I also remember my son Jared, who was three years old at the time coming into the room and noticing right away that my right side had no movement. It broke my heart to have my three-year-old son see me in that condition.
From Karla’s other entry from February 16, 2009
“What an eventful day we had! Following the swallow study, Mike was eating by 2:10.
He started with the Oreos, shortbread cookies, and milk they had on the floor. At 2:30 they brought up a lunch of soup, salad, applesauce, a turkey sandwich and a cookie. Even though it was hospital food, he managed to eat most of it. We’ll see what he thinks of the food tonight. It should be here at any time. Oh, he also had a Snickers!
Dr. Meyer was finally done with surgeries for the day and stopped by around 4. He almost sounded optimistic, which is very unusual for him. Mike is now off of the blood pressure medication and there is very little risk of bleeding. He will be moved to the regular neuro floor tomorrow. He’s down to only one bag of medication hooked up to his body.
I had assumed that 5 days in ICU following surgery would put him discharged next weekend sometime. That does not appear to be the case. The physical therapist was in at the same time as Dr. Meyer, and he told her that if a bed is available, Mike could move to inpatient rehab on Wednesday or Thursday. We still have to verify that our insurance will cover it at Mayo, but as of now, this is the plan. That will only be 6-7 days after surgery, which is what we were originally told.
Mike also had two sessions of rehab today. The second one showed improvement over the first, so I could see how even a little rehab produces results. She worked his arm and leg and had him sitting on the on the side of the bed. When she asked him if he was ready to stop, he said, “Only if you’re ready to give up.” She eventually had to go pick up her daughter. It was obvious that Mike will work hard at this. Today really felt like we turned another corner. We are definitely on the upswing!”
After going nearly five days without any food I was famished and asked for whatever was available. Those were the best Oreo cookies and shortbread cookies and milk I have ever had!