Sunday, November 17, 2019

"When Your Loved One Spends 30 Days In Cardiac ICU, It Changes You"

"When Your Loved One Spends 30 Days In Cardiac ICU, It Changes You"
by Stucky

"It’s been 30 days since my beloved (aka Ms. Freud, Mo, or Munchkin) had open heart surgery - a quadruple bypass and an aortic valve replacement. She is still in the ICU today. The ICU, the place where Mortal Fear reigns supreme.

“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you fight your way out of it and fly?” 
- Author unknown

I see a whole lot of new names in the comments section. Therefore, by way of introduction, my name is Stucky.  I’ve been here on TBP since the beginning and have written many articles about a great many topics. This has earned me the recognition as a “Big Dog”. I don’t think that’s accurate anymore as my literary contributions have decreased significantly since my dad died two Marches ago, my 89 year old mother’s health keeps declining, and, of course, Ms. Freud’s travails. Now I just feel like a plain old dog, and a mangy and tired one at that. I call her Ms. Freud because she’s a licensed psychologist and is a lot smarter than me.

They sawed through her chest bone, separated it, cut into both legs in four different spots to harvest veins for the bypass, installed a new aortic valve constructed from pig parts, and all that took a grueling near five hours. Five hours of pure HELL for me because the fact of the matter is that patients do die on the operating table, and although I find her beautiful beyond compare, she’s no spring chicken at 74 years old. What a RELIEF it was when the surgeon came out and said the operation was a success. Little did I realize that “success” and “post op complications” were two totally separate issues.

The surgeon said it would be a few hours until I could see her. I wish he, or one of the nurses, would have prepared me for what I would see. Of course, she was attached to all kinds of tubes and machines and fluids of different colors, it reminded me of a Borg living room. But, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how tremendously bloated and discolored she was. “Is that really the love of my life?” She looked like someone beat her with a rubber tube and then threw her in a lake. And she wasn’t moving a muscle, not even her eyes were twitching. “Don’t worry. This is normal for some patients.” they said. They kept her sedated for two full days. “Don’t worry. This is normal for some patients.” they said.

Before I met Ms Freud I was dating another woman, Karen. She had a son, John, who lived in Vermont, and who owned a long-board shop. One day he was long-boarding down a steep hill and at a high speed when he lost control and his helmet-less head bounced along that tree lined Vermont street a hundred or so feet and his brain turned into mush. I drove her from NJ to the hospital on two occasions, about two weeks apart. John was being kept alive by machines. The brain surgeons said there’s truly no hope for John to ever recover, and even if he did he would surely never function on his own, and that Karen should just let him go. She would have none of that. Both times when I was with her she spent every available hour talking to John, reading to him, touching him, playing him music, and even singing to him. It was a beautiful thing to witness (and, heartbreaking)  – a mother’s love for her child. She believed her son could hear her, and she didn’t give a damn what science or the doctors had to say. She quickly sold her blueberry farm and moved to Vermont to continue ministering to her son round-the-clock. 

I lost touch with her but, as a way of raising money she did blog about what she was doing, and I followed along. I did so for about two months and stopped. It was just too painful to read, all this false hope she had. Hey, I saw John – the kid was brain dead, imho! Almost two years passed when I suddenly one day remembered Karen and John, and I logged on to her blog. It appears that one day, about 15 months into her daily visits, John simply opened his eyes and said, “Hi mom.” Holy crap! He has lingering issues; for example, his speech is slurred and he needs a cane to walk. But, doctors wanted to pull the plug yet, he lived. John said he heard his mother’s voice.  Did he really? What cured him? His own belief? His mother’s belief? Or, is this story -something I have seen with my own eyes - just pure bullshit?Meaning, John would have gotten better regardless of his mother’s actions - that faith and belief are irrelevant to enlightened minds.

On the third day Ms Freud was off sedation but, did not wake up.

On the fourth day she did not wake up.

On the fifth day she did not wake up.

Well, I wasn’t taking any chances. I’m all-in on belief and faith. I don’t have much of either, I really don’t... certainly no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. I’m allowed 6 hours a day in the ICU;  between 11AM-1PM,  5PM-7PM, 8PM-10PM. I had never forgotten about Karen and John. So, from Day 1 of this ordeal I have been following in Karen’s footsteps. I talk, read, play music, and sing to Ms Freud the entire six hours.

On the sixth day she did not wake up.

On the sixth day I went to the library and searched for handguns-for-sale. I’ve had six days to think about it, 20 hours a day, since I could hardly sleep (or, eat). If Ms Freud dies, then I die. Simple as that. I have no love for this world and the things in it. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the pleasures of this world.I don’t give a shit-damn about land, houses, property, cars, clothes, vacations, or anything else this sick sick world offers. I shit on this world, and even that is a waste. I have no fear of death. It’s living that scares the shit out of me, living without the love of my life, my only reason for living. Every day I whispered in her ear, “I will never ever leave you. Where you go, I go.”  I don’t know where that “place” is. Ultimately, are we nothing but food for worms? Or, are we destined for things far more glorious, eternal beings connected to The One? Don’t ask me - I don’t know. I do know with absolute certainty that where Ms Freud goes, there I go soon after.

On the seventh day Ms Freud woke up.  And our problems were just beginning.

The neurosurgeon finally did a brain scan a couple days before Ms Freud woke up. The nurse told me Ms Freud had a stroke during the surgery, albeit a “minor” one. Then the very next day she said the doctor now described it as a significant stroke. WTF? Of course, I had a thousand questions as to what the effect will be on my beloved. Except for in general terms, they could answer none of them… at least not until she woke up. The doc was pissed off that the nurse didn’t  adequately explain the difference between “minor” and “significant”. He said the terms only reflected the amount of area the stroke covered,  and NOT the damage caused. In other words, a “minor” stroke could have far more devastating effects than a “significant” stroke.  At any rate, the stroke occurred in the  parietal lobe which the dictionary defines as “the parietal lobe is at the back of the brain and is divided into two hemispheres. It functions in processing sensory information regarding the location of parts of the body as well as interpreting visual information and processing language and mathematics.” Well, that’s not so bad. If it means she won’t be able to find her ass with both hands, then at least she and I are now on equal footing.

The heart surgeon said the surgery was a difficult one with some complications. For example, her blood pressure at one point dropped so low that they thought they were going to lose her, and that she was “teetering between life and death” for a good portion of the almost five hour surgery.

During post-op her kidneys stopped functioning. She was on dialysis pretty much every other day for about two weeks. Then, suddenly and just like that, her creatinine level (a measure of kidney function) went from very bad to perfectly normal literally overnight. PTL! (See? This update isn’t only gloom and doom.)

Lastly, during her surgery her lungs collapsed. One web site says, “it is the most common pulmonary complication after cardiac surgery occurring in about 70% of cases”. What kind of surprised me (and pisses me off, just, because) is that heart surgeons ALLOW the lungs to collapse “to functional residual capacity. When the lungs are subsequently re-expanded then variable degree of pulmonary atelectasis remains”. Whatever the hell that means. All I know is that her lungs have not re-filled and she is still attached to a breathing machine via a tracheostomy. On the bright side she was able to breathe on her own for almost seven hours yesterday, and the respiratory therapist said the key numbers are improving day by day.

The staff at Saint Barnabas  has been amazingly wonderful. For example, Ms Freud got to celebrate a birthday there on Nov 5th. They hardly allow anything in the ICU, not even flowers. Or, food. So, I snuck in a Red Velvet Cupcake with a couple fake candles on it. I told the attending nurse about it, and then asked her if she wouldn’t mind singing ‘Happy Birthday’ with me, since just one person singing is pretty pathetic, especially since I can’t carry a note. She told me she can do a lot better than that. Hmmmm. Well, she gathered EVERYONE that was in the ICU at that moment!  There were about 20 workers stuffed in Ms Freud’s room singing to her, and they sang loudly! Ms Freud responded with biggest smile she could muster. And as soon as she smiled at them, they all cheered!! Talk about touching my soul...

Speaking of souls, one of the things I read to Ms Freud is a book I bought just for the occasion. The author is Max Lucado, the title is “You’ll Get Through This, Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times”. It’s a Bible study that examines the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Joseph (in Genesis). I read her a chapter per day. On one of those days my libtard seester happened to be there. My seester rolled her eyes so hard and often I thought they we going to pop out of her head. After visiting hours were over we went downstairs and had a coffee in Starbucks. Right off the bat she comes at me with – “You’re not getting back into that Jesus stuff, ARE YOU?!”.  “Yes, Chris, I’m giving Jeebus another shot. It can’t hurt.”  I told her there’s nothing wrong with a little hope and a little faith to ease the weariness of my heart. She objects saying it’s all a false hope… and false hope is even worse than wearing a MAGA hat. She’s telling me all this while eating her soy muffin and wearing a sweatshirt that says “Animals Have Rights Too”. Not kidding. I told her sometimes  feel I have nowhere else to turn and saying a short little prayer brings me a bit of happiness.  But, liberals are only happy when everyone around them is as unhappy as they are.

There’s a small waiting room with about ten seats just outside the ICU. One day I walk in and every seat is taken, by the same family. As I turn to leave one of ladies insists that there’s room. She gets out of her chair and somehow squeezes herself as the third person into a couch meant for two people. Sweet lady. About five minutes pass. Another man walks into the room. Everybody knows him (I soon discover he’s the son of the patient in ICU). He goes to every person in the room and shakes their hand, says something (in Spanish), and gives them a hearty hug. There’s a lady to my right who would be the last person he’d hug. As he passed me - I didn’t plan this, I just did it - I shot up, shook his hand, said ‘God be with you,' and gave him a hug. He gave me a who-the-hell-are-you look, as did everyone else. I said, “Sir, you don’t know me but I need a hug just as much as all of you.” The entire  somber group burst out in laughter. We chatted a bit, got to know each other. It was just great.

That’s the nice thing about the ICU. The place is absent of ni***rs, spics, joos, dot heads, dagos, krauts, and other vermin. There are only people. “Stop virtue signaling, Stucky!” Ummm, bite me. We are people who will leave that place either with Great Joy or Great Sorrow. We are people who know first hand how brief life truly is. We are people who finally realize there are only three things that really matter in life. Faith. Hope. And, Love.  And the greatest of them all is love.

To my beloved Maureen, I love you more than life itself and I will never leave you."
A comment: "We are people who know first hand how brief life truly is." This post resonated powerfully with me, so I'll do something I never, or only very rarely ever do, share something from my personal life, which I keep very far away from this blog, which is not about me. On November 8, 2013 I suffered a massive heart attack, and would have died if the EMTs hadn't gotten me to the hospital quickly enough, where an emergency quadruple bypass saved my life. 38 days in Cardiac ICU, 33 of them in a coma. If you need a "wake up call" I suggest you find something else. But it forcefully put Life in proper perspective, what matters, and what doesn't; we waste so much time on trivialities and nonsense that truly mean nothing at all, sadly. As Stucky says so well, "We are people who finally realize there are only three things that really matter in life. Faith. Hope. And, Love. And the greatest of them all is love." My experience certainly focused my attention and clarified the true meaning of this... 
"Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity.
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand -
and melting like a snowflake..."
- Marie Beyon Ray

And especially this...
"Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, time stays, we go."
- Henry Austin Dobson

There are no guarantees. Don't assume you have tomorrow.
So use this day well, because we never know when "we go"...
- CP

Sincerest best wishes to Stucky and Maureen for a full and happy recovery.

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