Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #7

This is the 7th in a series of blog postings from five years ago when our family was going through the massive trial of brain surgery to remove an AVM from my left frontal lobe. Forty six days we spent in Rochester, MN at St. Marys Hospital.  During those traumatic days Karla kept the world updated via these daily blog posts.  Now I give my perspective on those dark days back in February 2009.

Petra in Jordan

I am currently in the process of writing a book about our experiences from exactly five years ago to the day. We are writing in real time plus five years. As you can see these memories are still very fresh in our minds. If you are interested in reading each of these Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago you can do so by just scrolling through on the home page of my blog.

Sunday Feb. 22, 2009.  Karla wrote:

“I thought I’d better put the date in the tag line, because these days are all starting to run together for us.  Mike will not be at all impressed with what I call each post, but he’s the creative one, not me.

It has been a very busy morning!   When I walked in at 7:45, Mike informed me that as usual, he had not slept.  However, his night nurse had spent time working with him and discovered that when his right leg is bent, he is able to have good resistance against a hand on his foot.

During breakfast, the infectious disease doctor showed up.  I get the feeling that they are very bothered by not knowing where exactly this infection entered Mike’s body.  His temperature is down and he’s improving, which is the important part from the surgeons’ perspective.

We started to watch a John Piper sermon on the computer, only to be interrupted by physical therapy (PT).  Mike never turns down therapy, so we put the sermon on hold!  He is actually starting to get some slight movement in both his hand and leg.  I want to emphasize that this is slight and is not an indication of what the final outcome will be.  We were both very happy about it though!

Immediately after PT left, they started getting Mike ready to transfer him to the regular neuro floor.  This makes both of us a little nervous, but the nurses have been made aware of the problems last time we were here and I feel good that it won’t happen again.

Dr. Fogleson stopped in after the transfer to let us know that the latest round of blood cultures did not grow the bacteria after 48 hours.  This means Mike can get the permanent IV in and not have to get new ones every 3 days.  That will be a relief!  They will also be able to do blood draws out of this line, so the end of being poked is in sight.

The doctor also said that the bacteria is responding to this antibiotic, so unless something changes, we will stick with this. The plan now is to keep Mike on this for 2 weeks and then stop and see what happens. That part is a bit worrisome to Mike. The worst case scenario is that the infection returns. If that happens, they will assume it is in the brain and reopen the site and clean it out. Both surgeons feel quite confident that they won’t have to do this, but it is a possibility. I am thankful that we have chosen to have rehab at Mayo so that the doctors can follow him. Please be praying that the antibiotics will work and that will be the end of the infection…

The song that has been going through my head today is, “You (God) are always good and loving, merciful in all your dealings.”  I have been trying to focus on how God has been good and loving and merciful through this trial.  We’ve probably said these things before, but they bear repeating.

We found the AVM after a seizure, not a hemorrhage that could have led to Mike’s death.  We live close to Mayo Clinic, which is one of the few places in the country that it could have been treated.  We switched insurance last March.  Our previous insurance would not have covered treatment at Mayo Clinic.  Our insurance will cover rehab here as well, for more days than most insurance companies will.  We have many friends and family members who have helped us and walked through the whole ordeal with us.  Mike is in great shape physically, which will make rehab go much better.  Our kids have held up amazingly well, even with Mom and Dad gone for two weeks now, and more time to come.

As you can see, God has been good and loving and merciful to us.  I wait to see what more He does!

On February 23rd Karla wrote:

“We had a friend stay at the hospital last night so that I could go home and sleep.  I arrived this morning to find out Mike is headed for minor surgery today. Yesterday Mike was having severe pain in his right calf.  A priority ultrasound was ordered at 5 p.m.  Unfortunately, emergencies have higher priority, so he did not get in until 10 p.m.  They found a blood clot behind his right knee.  Since he has just had brain surgery, they do not want to use blood thinners.

The vascular guy was just in.  He described the filter that they will put into the vein at the top of his leg.  This will trap any clots that might form and prevent them from progressing to the lungs.  If clots are trapped, there may be some discomfort, but a major problem will have been prevented.

Mike told me to be sure I don’t make a big deal out of this.  Quite honestly, this feels like a finger stick or something equally insignificant compared to what we’ve gone through.

We had a good conversation with the vascular doctor.  He said that he felt so sorry that we had to go through this.  One day all is well, then there’s a seizure and the roller coaster starts.  He asked why God would give a preaching pastor something that takes his speech away.  Mike said that others have worse problems than us and then gave the answer he always does and we know to be true, “Because this is how God can be most glorified.”  He then quoted, “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.”  We also think the speech will be all the way back, so that is not even worrying us a bit.”

Later that same day she wrote in part:

“The procedure to insert the filter in the vein went well. Mike went down for the procedure at 10:45, and was back in the room at 12:15.  He had to lay flat, again, until 2.  Then he ate lunch and started back in on the therapy.  No rest for him today!  He went from occupational to speech to physical therapy.

Therapy has been going very well.  The physical therapist he saw today may be the one he has in rehab.  She was very encouraging and optimistic.  I think that is a requirement for the job.  It has been quite amazing to see him get some movement in his hand and arm. We are anxious to get into rehab tomorrow!  Since insurance limits the days, I am assuming we will have a schedule by Wednesday.  I am planning to go home this weekend and really looking forward to spending some time with our kids!”

Mike’s take on those two days:

After enduring another largely sleepless night in the neuro ICU I was weary yet also somewhat encouraged by finding out during the sleepless night that I was able to have some resistance with my leg. Let me tell you something. To go from nothing to something  is massive! Most of us imagine in our minds things like God creating something (the world and everything in it from no-thing) but to see or feel this occur in real time is remarkable indeed.

The doctors’ concern regarding the blood infection continued to mess with my psychological state of mind.  When Karla writes about the possibility of it being in my brain, and having to reopen the site and says “that part is a bit worrisome to Mike” let me tell you it was much much more than just a bit worrisome.  The way things had gone thus far I had no doubt about the infection returning and having to reopen my skull and clean it out.  The doctors discussed this possibility in my presence and it made me sick to my stomach.

When Karla writes “I am thankful that we have chosen to have rehab at Mayo so that the doctors can follow him. Please be praying that the antibiotics will work and that will be the end of the infection…” I heartily concur! If we had chosen to rehab in Des Moines I would be dead, due to what would follow in a few days. I am so glad that we chose to stay in Rochester to do the rehab and have the original doctors stay with us through the end.

I can also see Dr. McBane, the vascular doctor very clearly, as though he were standing here right at this moment asking, with tears in his eyes why God would give a preaching pastor something that takes his speech away.  I managed to tell the doctor that others have worse problems than us…and then I said more. “I have no idea really other than because this is how God can be most glorified.”  I then quoted Romans 8:28 “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.”  As a Christian himself this brief exchange set Dr. McBane off on a quest to understand more fully the relationship between suffering and the sovereignty of God.

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