Looking back at March 22-24, 2009, I noticed that the blog posts I wrote were less intense. That is likely because I was much more hopeful and optimistic by this point in time. On the 22nd I commented that when I went for lunch at the Canadian Honker, it was probably the first time that I did not look stressed when I went to lunch. I am sure this was true. At this point Mike had been in the hospital for 41 days. That is a long time people!!! And for 3 1/2 months before the start of the hospital stay, not an hour went by that I did not feel the weight of our situation. I clearly remember going through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my sister’s wedding feeling happy and sad at the same time. Yes, that is possible. There were moments of great joy in those times, but they were always short. The biblical phrase, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” comes to mind. That’s how my life felt. I did truly rejoice in the celebration of the birth of Christ and in my sister’s wedding. But it was always tainted by sorrow.
On a different note, I really enjoyed writing the post, “Mike’s Hospital Stay by the Numbers.” I am such a geek in that way! From my perspective it really demonstrated the vast array of different kinds of medical care that God had provided for our benefit. It also highlights again the amazing way that the Mayo system works. After Gabbie was born, I had some never diagnosed problem that caused my heart rate to be extremely low and me to be very short of breath. I had 15 blood draws in two days that I believe checked for every illness then known to man. The pulmonary people did not communicate well with the cardiac doctors, and the internists were kept out of the loop it seemed.
It finally took a call from my ob/gyn to someone who practiced at that hospital who came in and said, “Enough! There will be one more blood draw to check for what I want to check, and if you want any more blood this is your last chance.” At Mayo there would have been collaboration from the get go. I really do not understand why the system has not been replicated. I am just glad that we were at Mayo when we went through all of this.
Finally, these were days of great progress in rehab. We were no longer even discussing major modifications to the house. Mike was able to maneuver stairs so well that I was not at all concerned. After much looking I had found a tub transfer chair that would work on our tub, which was no easy task! I also found a reasonably priced grab bar for the shower. I don’t recall exactly how long he used these, but it was not long. We still have the transfer chair in the garage attic. I’ll give any takers a good deal on it!
These final days of rehab before going home were full of work and anticipation. The kids were all excited to get Dad back home (and Mom as well). There were a lot of details to get taken care of before we left. And Mike continued to work very hard in rehab to make as much progress as possible before we left. No one can ever accuse him of not giving it all he had!
Selected quotes from Karla’s posts from these three days:
March 22nd, 2009
“…I went for lunch at the Canadian Honker today, a restaurant that I have eaten at many times while I have been here. As I left today, I thought that for the first time I didn’t look like a stressed out family member of a St. Marys patient. That was a very good feeling! While the road ahead is still long, it does look like we will get to the end of it. We will forever be changed by this whole experience, which is a good thing. We have been through the fire and we have survived! Thanks be to God!”
March 23rd, 2009 Mike’s Hospital Stay by the Numbers
“Therapy continues to progress. We see new improvements every day, but it’s like we’ve mentioned in previous posts, a new movement in the hand or leg, a little bit clearer speech. Mike and I have been talking about the various places he’s been, so I thought I would post some “statistics,” since I am a numbers person!
Mike has been in more rooms during a single hospital stay than anyone I have ever known! Since February 12th, he has been in 12 different rooms. I’m hoping our room switches are over! He was in 4 different Neuro ICU rooms, 2 regular Neuro rooms, 1 Cardiac ICU room, 1 regular Cardiac room, and 4 Rehab rooms. He stayed in all these rooms on visits to 4 floors: 8 (Neuro ICU), 9 (regular Neuro), 6 (Cardio), and 3 (Rehab).
While most of the rooms were private , some were not. He has had 3 differerent roommates. The first rehab roomie, aka “The Cougher,” the second rehab roomie, the beloved Melvin, and the third rehab roomie, aka “Sitar man.” We are hoping for no more roommates!
Doctors from 10 different departments have seen Mike, some more than others. We have seen people from Neurosurgery, Cardiac Surgery, Cardiology, Infectious Disease, Allergy, Dermatology, Vascular Medicine, Critical Care/Anesthesiology, Hematology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Whew! I must say, all of the doctors have been very kind, although we do have our favorites.
I would give the number of different medications he has been on, but there are too many to count! Not really, but I don’t have any idea how many there have been. He’s had seizure meds, meds to lower and raise his blood pressure (obviously not at the same time), antibiotics, medicated shampoos, insulin, vitamins, blood thinners, … You get the idea.
The other number too big to count is the number of blood draws. Some days they have been multiple times. Currently, it is every morning at about 4:30. Ugh! Thankfully, most of the phlebotomists are very good at their jobs.
Finally, he has been in the hospital for 42 days, and it will be 46 when we go home. That is a very long time, for us, and our kids, and everyone who has been taking care of them! We got out again today, and when we got back he said that he is ready to leave this place.
On a serious note, Mike continues to have significant chest pain when he coughs, sneezes, or laughs. It is very easy to forget about the chest surgery, since we are so focused on the brain. However, it does play into how tired he gets and how therapy has to be limited. I am anticipating the trip home being thoroughly exhausting, as well as the transition to us being responsible for everything. Keeping track of his meds is going to be a full time job! Only 4 more days and we’ll be home!”
March 24th, 2009 Progress Report
“I just went to check my e-mail and post quickly before going home. One friend asked many good question, so I will try to answer those in this post, as many people probably have the same questions.
We have not had to make many changes to the house. We (men from church) added a railing so that we have two railings on the stairs from the first floor to the second. That is the only physical change to the house we needed to make.
We have purchased a bath transfer chair so that Mike can sit down and shower. We also have purchased a suction grab bar for the purpose of support when he is standing.
Dr. Meyer (the brain surgeon) had an interesting comment yesterday. We told him what we were doing to the house, and he said that he wouldn’t put much money into lots of changes because he does not think Mike will need adaptations for long. He said, “I know I sound like a broken record, but this is what I said would happen. Remember, we will see improvements for a year, but everything is coming back.” I then told him that immediately following surgery, I did not believe him, but now I do.
Mike is walking very well. He will not need any help getting from the car to the house and does not use a walker or a wheelchair. He is very aware of how easily he fatigues and will not be taking any long walks. He also handles the stairs fine, both up and down. I assisted him in this today and was not at all concerned.
My friend’s final question was, “Has Mike gained any weight back?” The answer to that is, “Yes.” I would say most of what is missing now is muscle weight. I don’t know what he currently weighs, but 9 days ago he weighed 26 pounds less than when he went in for brain surgery. And this was after gaining some weight back! He has been eating fine, and now needs to build up muscle.
Tonight there are two nurses who are “floating” from Neuro. That is how Mayo handles lower patient census. They put nurses wherever they are needed if the patient count is too low on their own floor. These nurses both took care of Mike on the Neuro floor and were so happy to see his progress. One asked for the church website so that she could listen to his first sermon back and follow the blog. She then came in to say hello and gave us both hugs. That is the kind of care Mike has received here and we are very grateful!”
Mike’s take on these three days five years out:
Karla said it well, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. That is something we both have experienced more intensely ever since October 23rd, 2008, the day we discovered this anomaly in my brain. From that day until the day of brain surgery on February 12, 2009 we have had many moments of these seemingly contradictory emotions. Thanksgiving took on an entirely new meaning as we were even more thankful than normal. Hey, if things are simply status quo there is no cause to grow in any way. But when life presents a challenge whether minimal or severe, it is cause for drawing deeply from whatever has been stored up in the sunnier days. Christmas took on a whole new meaning as well, wondering if this would be the last one…or last one as my normal self.
The wedding I performed for Karla’s sister Kara and Eddie on January 3, 2009 was emotional as well. We intentionally scheduled the surgery when we did so as to be sure to get this wedding done! As I read through the traditional vows and asked Kara and Eddie to repeat them after me I was thinking very much about the sacred nature of vows. Also, for better or worse, not even knowing then of how very bad, nearly catastrophically bad it would get before it got better.
Little did they know at the time that Eddie would be diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma just three years later, which is a very treatable form of cancer that they caught in the earliest stage. The prognosis is excellent.
By this time five years ago I was becoming very anxious to get out of the hospital to my own home and my own bed. Funny how much difference a week or two can make. I went from the shock of thinking there’s absolutely no way I will be ready or able to go home and function with any semblance of normalcy to impatience and boredom in such a very short time.
The human brain and body is an amazing thing! The insights and tricks and skills that rehabilitation specialists have acquired and then transfer to patients is nothing short of amazing. I was very blessed to have therapists who didn’t just treat me as a patient, but who really and truly “got me.” For example, the speech therapist worked with me on a 20 minute Easter sermon (normally I would go for about 45 minutes) for more than three weeks, knowing that would provide the highest motivation to work hard at it. My goal was to preach on Easter morning, which I did do, with a break in the middle, because I was so weak I could barely hold my own weight up for ten straight minutes while concentrating on speaking as well.
By this point in our saga, March 24, 2009, I would be heading home in just three days, so I let my guard down just a bit and began to let my mind go toward our five children at home. When that happened it was just as I suspected would happen. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! I knew it would take a long time to recover from the storm we had just weathered, but I knew that my time at Mayo was quickly coming to an end and I could then focus on the next.
[Comment left by Randy Anderson on March 24th, 2009]
Dear Mike and Karla,
What a trip. The winter of 2009 was a bleak one for the Evans family, but spring has now arrived and you are transitioning into brighter spring like days as well.
I love you both and look forward to increasingly hopeful and joyful reports of your steady, steady progress. John Newton has it right,
‘Tis grace that brought you safe thus far,
and grace will lead you home… and eventually grace will lead you all the way home to the New Heaven and the New Earth where there are no hospitals or sleepless nights or painful coughs or frightened children. Someday!
Look forward to visiting you having you actually remember the visit.