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 (Feb. 12, 2009) to chronicle the events of those days in real time plus five years.
Karla and I will both write over these next 7 plus weeks (corresponding to the number of days we spent in Rochester) in real time plus five years. Five years out things are still very fresh as you will see.
I plan to use some of the text from these real time reflections 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.
In those early days after brain surgery and the massive complications that would follow, it was Karla’s daily blog postings that enables me to now tell the story. However, during the days that I was conscious the memories are still vivid.
Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #6 Feb. 20-21
On February 20, 2009 Karla wrote:
When I talked to my sister last night, she said the tagline for yesterday’s post (It’s a New Day) was deceptive. She expected an encouraging report and felt duped. She thought something like Here We Go Again would have been better. She’s right. Today is looking up, so we’ll try this tagline again!
It is almost 10 a.m., and so far today we’ve seen the primary doctor, an infectious disease doctor, a doctor from speech pathology to do a long assessment, the head of speech pathology, and the occupational therapist, who also happens to be a Luther grad. The physical therapist got sent away because someone else beat him here. Mike also ate breakfast in there somewhere. Whew!
Mike’s fever went down overnight after he was put on the cooling blanket. However, it does continue to fluctuate. We have been told this will probably continue for awhile. We will not know what the specific bacteria is that is causing the infection for a couple of days. They also do not know where it came from, which appears to be a bigger issue than I initially thought.
The speech people were encouraging from my perspective, but not Mike’s. He wants things to go really quickly and they aren’t. His speech fluctuates with the fever, so at times it is better than others.
We have not been told when we will leave ICU, but I am guessing not until at least tomorrow. It’s kind of hard to hear everyone else around here talking about leave after a day or two, when we have been here 10 out of the last 11 days. That’s just me feeling sorry for myself. I think Mike and I were both overly optimistic in our expectations. We had hoped to be going home yesterday.
On another note, Gabbie vomited last night at about 4:30 a.m., all over my parent’s new carpet, new bed, and new bedding. Ugh! So, my mom had to take the day off to take care of her. Please pray that none of the other kids get sick. I feel terrible that my mom is having to deal with this.
Karla’s second posting for the day was as follows:
This will be quick, because snow is coming and I am heading back to the house where I am staying.
The doctor was just in and Mike said, “Greetings, Dr. Folgerstrom.” That would be great, except his last name is Fogleson! This guy has a sense of humor and got a kick out of it.
Mike has been much more alert and talking a lot more this afternoon. His temperature is below 100 now, which is good. All the fluid that was around the incision wound following has gone away, so they are pretty sure the infection is not from the surgery.
Several people have asked what the name of the bacteria is. It is not one that is often seen and I couldn’t possibly remember it. I will ask the doctor to write down the name tomorrow.
Mike had a great physical therapy session today. They had him sitting up and writing and then standing, assisted, next to the bed. Apparently the gludious maximus muscle is starting to work, which is a very good thing.
I had better get going. I plan on getting a good night’s sleep tonight. Dr. Fogleson said as he left that he is on call all weekend and that he hopes for some good cases this weekend. He left and returned an few seconds later and said, “That means I want to help people.” We knew that. He had a long day of surgery. That wanting to help people is why we are here!
On February 21, Karla wrote:
I finally made it to the hospital at 10 this morning. I managed 9 hours of sleep! Mike had told me to take the day off, but I declined. I woke up to a blanket of snow, but the roads weren’t too bad.
Mike is doing fine this morning. There is really not much new happening. His temperature is not normal yet, so I am hoping that they keep him in the ICU until that is under control. We found out yesterday that he can move directly from ICU to rehab, so that is what I am hoping for.
Right now Mike is quite bored. The therapy people will hopefully be in today, but it is not a sure thing on Saturday. Therapy takes a lot of time and wears him out. Maybe he’ll be up to reading some blog comments today!
My sister came down for the day and we are going to look for clothes to wear in rehab. He brought mostly jeans and pullover shirts, which is not the right clothing for rehab. So, it will be interesting to see what we come up with.
Dean, from our church, is heading home today. He asked Mike if he there was any message to relay to the church. Mike said, “Tell them God’s word is true. All of it.” That’s a good word for the day.
Mike’s take on those two days:
These two days stand out in my mind because of the come and go nature of the fever from the blood infection I was fighting at the time. Just when I thought I had it licked it the fever would return. Those were three dark days indeed. Karla never wrote down the long name of the bacteria that was determined to have been in my bloodstream, but it was consistent with what would be found in the colon. This was the first time that I heard of the possibility of reopening the incision in my skull and cleaning out the site. That freaked me out big time. Even the possibility that they might have to reopen the site, and remove the pieces of my skull once again was almost too much for me to fathom. It was on my mind constantly.
At the time I had not noticed that my ability to talk would come and go in direct proportion to my fever. High fever little speech. Lower fever much more talkative. It was also very discouraging to realize that we had originally been told we would probably be going home by this time, when I wasn’t even out of the neurological ICU yet!
I also remember greeting Dr. Fogelson that morning by mispronouncing his name. This was just one of the many problems I had with word finding in those early days after the surgery. It came out funny but I had not even intended to be funny…for once. It was extremely frustrating to me. Plus, I was in no joking mood with the possibility out there of opening my skull once again and treating the infection directly. But this fear was nothing compared to what I should have feared in retrospect as we will see just five days from now on February 26th, 2009 when my life nearly came to an end.