Sunday, August 28, 2011

She's Bionic Pt. 3

When the phone rings before 6 am, it's always bad news. Right? Nobody calls you at 6 am to tell you they've won the lottery. No, they call you sometime late at night, 10 or 11 pm, and they are drunk somewhere...maybe even in the bar of a Caribbean island where they have decided to live the rest of their rich, happy lives.
when my youngest sister Jen died, we got the call from the hospital at 5 am and if I recall, my father-in-law passed away before 6am. So when the phone rang at 53o I have to admit, I was nervous. I answered the phone and it was Mags. She was relatively calm and the she started the conversation normally, "were you asleep?"
"Yes,'s 530. What's wrong?"
She responded with the following. "Everything is okay but there's something I have to tell you. Now remember, everything is ok."
By this point I know that things are not, in fact, ok. Now my heart is racing.
"What is wrong?"
"My heart stopped last night?"
Me mumbling incoherently. "Whaaaaaaat?"
"I'm fine. They are actually saying my heart only paused."
Me still trying to clear the cobwebs and digest this nugget of information. I tell her I will be right there. She says to take my time that she's ok.
I feed the boys and let them out into the yard for a few minutes before hitting the road to Philly.
The ride is ok because of the early hour and I get there in about an hour. I make it to the ICU and find my wife sitting up in bed struggling with the awful hospital food. In all honesty the staff at HUP is fantastic. Freakin' awesome. Everyone who works there from the Docs and nurses to the food service folks to security...everyone. The food however, falls into the other end of the spectrum God-awful is what I'd call it. I at one point said to Mags "It cannot be that bad." She gave me a look and pointed at her French Toast. "Try it." So I did. I mean, how can you make bad French Toast? The kitchen at this hospital can. I can only say it tasted like foam peanuts covered in sugar-free syrup. Horrible.
So, back to Mags. She was sitting up in bed looking totally wiped out. She relayed the previous nights event to me best she could. Apparently at some point she felt like she was going to pass out, then she felt it was something more and began to moan as she lost consciousness. Her bitch roommate was yelling at her because she was trying to sleep and yelled over and over at Mags "What's wrong with you? Just call the nurse!" Her heart having stopped, she could not. Thankfully the nurses did come into the room and notice that Mags heart had stopped. They had put special pads on her chest and were getting ready to zap her when Mags came to. They were all talking to her, asking her questions, and really trying to get a feel for what exactly had happened.
At this point they decided to get her back to CICU pronto. So, as Mags tells it, there is a group of 5 nurses, doctors and interns, all rushing her in her bed down the halls and into the elevators to get her to CICU. Once in CICU they set her up in a new room and she is told she will be kept there for a day or two for observation.
Her nurse for that weekend (during the days) was a young African dude named Alpha. I honestly can't tell you how great this guy is. Seriously, top-notch. Great guy. Great nurse.
So I spend the day with Mags at HUP. I run across the street to a little sandwich shop called Potbelly Sandwich works (Freakin' awesome subs. If you can find one check 'em out.) for some lunch. And later to McDonalds for dinner.
6pm rolls around and I tell Mags I should head home for the boys but that I will be back tomorrow. When I leave she is in better spirits and seems to be doing better physically. I tell her I'll see her tomorrow and head for home.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

She's Bionic Pt. 2

When I finally settled down and got myself somewhat calm, I called the hospital. Mags was still doing good and they had actually gotten her into a chair. she was in bed for days after her first open-heart surgery, so the fact that she is sitting up a mere 36 hours after her second open-heart and a surgery that was much worse than the first was happy news.
Two days later she was in a 'step-down' unit. The 10th floor which was for heart-surgery patients. I called her and she seemed to be in pain and was less than happy with the food.
So we talked briefly and I let her go because she was so sleepy.
Going to work was hard. Trying to concentrate on my duties was difficult knowing Mags was in the hospital so far away. I went up on that Saturday and let me tell ya', for someone who was practically cut in half and had her heart worked on she looked really good. The nurse came in and actually got her up to walk a bit. I was happy to spend the day with her. She slept most of the time but that was okay. After dinner I drove home and did some relaxing.
During the week, Mags was moved out of the step-down floor to a regular ol' room. Meaning she was a step closer to coming home. I was so happy because she was doing so much better with this valve-replacement than the last one. She was doing sooooo good.
This made all of us who care about her very happy. Progress was being made, the strides she made were tremendous...until the following Saturday morning, when, at two am, her heart stopped.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

She's Bionic Part 1

Yes I speak of Mags. I should have posted earlier but things have been kinda crazy here. I'll start on the 27th, the day of her surgery. We spoke briefly by phone the night before and I told her I would be there when her surgery was done, figuring I wouldn't be able to see her before the surgery since it was scheduled for early morning. So on my way up the Turnpike her son calls me to tell me the surgery has been postponed until 1pm. so this is good for me because I get to see her before she goes in, bad for her because it's just dragging it out. So I got to see her before she went in, her mom and her mom's Pastor were there too and they waited with me the entire time.
Time has never moved so slowly, let me tell you. The surgery was supposed to last 3-4 hours. Well it lasted almost 7 1/2. I paced a rut in the hallways at HUP. (Wait, they won't charge me for that, will they?) Finally at 9:15pm the surgeon came out and said things were done and he was happy with the way everything went. He also said that because of the damage to Mags' heart it was one of the toughest surgeries he's ever done. He said the valve was so calcified it was like cutting through bone. So he patiently answered our questions and explained what he did and we all thanked him several times. He is a really nice guy. Very humble, down to earth. So once we knew Mags was done, her mom and her pastor decided to hit the road. It is about an hour plus ride so I said goodbye to them and told them I wanted to wait and see Mags to make sure everything was ok before I left. So the nurse in the family waiting area (we were the last ones of the day waiting) directed me to the CICU. I found it and told the nurse at the desk who I was here to see. She kindly explained to me it would be another hour plus until she is in the room and set up and directed me to a family waiting area. She also showed me some vending machines and I asked her "which one has the beer?" she laughed and said " tell me about it." So I watched something on TV and chatted with a woman and her son whose father/husband had just had surgery. They were nice, and nervous and we talked for about half an hour before they could see their patient. We wished each other luck and I sat, alone, for yet another eternity. My second eternity in one day! Am I good or what??
Soon Jackie, the nurse who would be watching Mags came to get me. Let me tell you something, even thought you know what to expect, it is still a bit scary when you see someone who has just had open-heart surgery. There are tubes and wires running from your loved one and several monitors and IV's and this and that and noises and it is a little hard to take in.
I asked a few questions and quietly told Mags "You made it!" Jackie looked at me and said "I don't mean to blow my own horn but I've been doing this for 25 years. Your wife is in very good hands."
She then looked me over and using all her experience and knowledge that can only be gathered from years of medical experience decided I looked like shit and was completed fried. She said "Long day huh? Have you been here all day?" I explained that I arrived at 9am and the surgery was pushed back, yadda yadda..." She spoke kindly and said "You've had along day too sweety go home and get some rest. You can call the desk any time, day or night to check on her. But you need some rest too." I always appreciate the kindness of nurses. So I took her advice told Mags I loved her and would see her soon and dragged my tired self out to to the parking deck.
I don't mind driving long distances. I don't. What I mind is traffic. If you're on a road trip and you're going to be stuck in a traffic jam, I probably not the guy you wnat in the car with you. Well, wait a minute, I guess if I'm not hate sitting in traffic. You don't want me with you in a car that is just sitting in traffic.
So when I left HUP it was after midnight. I don't mind driving late at night either. The hospital is right off RT76. So I jump on the highway, follow my trusty GoogleMaps directions and head for home. Thankfully I have my iPod plugged in and it's cranking. The variety of radio stations in that area, if you are 'old' like me and prefer classic rock to hip-hop or rap sucks. Honestly, aside from WXPN the music scene in this area sucks.
So I do the whole rt76 to rt676, the Betsy Ross Bridge to rt73...everything going smoothly....then the New Jersey Turnpike...
Ughhhh where to start? There is always always always traffic on the Turnpike. It is 1230am people! I hit a slow down around exit 6 and unfortunately I am going to exit 8...thankfully, again, I have my iPod. B.B. King comes on and starts on and starts singin' bout Lucille and I stare at the parade of brake lights in front of me.
Traffic opens up about a mile later and I gaze over at the south bound side..stopped. Parking.Lot. So I am soon thankful I'm not heading south.
Soon the traffic clears and I'm flying towards home. The music has helped me greatly. I find music very therapeutic and tonight the good music does me a world of good. I pull up to my home at a little after one. My mother in law made me promise her I would call when I get home. I hate calling her at this hour but I figure she may still be up. I call and she answers on the first ring. I tell her I'm home safe and I'm going to bed. work tomorrow and all. She tells me goodnight and I sit on the couch and give the dog and cat some attention, they've been home alone all day. After some ear scratching and some treats I head to bed. Completely exhausted I feel Ill be to sleep in no time...wrong I lay in bed and stare at the ceiling til almost 3....