Saturday, July 11, 2015

Turning Point

It should be all downhill from now on! Don’s improvement from yesterday to today was remarkable. He managed to ‘break the dam’ completely and was so much better when I talked with him by phone first thing this morning. Hurray!

He’s breathing better and his heart is working well. He still has some respiratory problems, and his motor skills are limited, especially in his right hand. And it turns out that he did NOT have a stroke during surgery as formerly reported. And that’s a good thing!

The picture below is for Facebook to pick up instead of the one that follows. That way, I can honestly say I didn’t put any pictures of Don on Facebook! Winking smile


Today’s big event was to get a shave and mustache trim by his nurse Bonnie.


He also asked me to bring his computer so he could catch up with his email. At first he said just bring it with me tomorrow. But about 2:30 he asked if I would mind going home for it so he could start using it today. It took about 1.5 hours but I was happy to run the errand for him.

So, now that he has email access, I’m sure he would love to hear from family and friends directly.  Don’t expect a reply as he can just barely use the mouse with his left hand, and he’s right-handed. He definitely won’t be able to type out a message that you’d be able to decipher! At last count he had 585 messages to read, so he may not even see your message for a few days yet.

He was just starting to go through email when another MRI was ordered about 4:30 pm. So I took myself back home to put up my feet and have a glass of wine.

With this improvement, I’m pretty sure he will be transferred to the rehab unit in the hospital on Monday. They’ve been saving him a place. Then he can start the hard work of learning to sit up, walk, use both hands, etc.

I can’t say enough good things about St. Mary’s Hospital. Today I learned that, not only was it the first hospital in Arizona, it has been awarded numerous national honors for patient care, especially for its heart, stroke, pneumonia and surgical care. Click the link to learn more about the Carondelet Health Network.

It’s not just statistics, either. In the last two days, two nurses, one doctor and 3 techs have recognized me in the halls or cafeteria and asked how Don is doing since they last saw him. With all the patients and caregivers they see over the period of time we’ve been in their realm (39 days so far), it’s so nice that they remember him and think of us! What a great personal touch. And I get to enjoy lots of hugs, even though none of my RV friends are here now.

This picture doesn’t fit into any context, but I like it, so I’m sharing it with you. These birds liked our ocotillo even though the blossoms were almost gone.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Back To ICU

This is the kind of news I hate reporting. When I arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital this morning around 10:30 after my endovascular appointment, Don’s room was empty. I had thought it a little strange that I hadn’t heard from him because he usually calls me in the morning. I hesitate to call him, because I never know if he can reach his phone. When I didn’t find him, I thought perhaps he had been moved to the rehab unit.

I checked with the clerk down the hall and she told me he was in ICU! When I saw one of his nurses back down the hall, I asked her what happened. She was appalled that no one had called me, and said she would report that to her manager. Evidently the liquid they gave him for constipation had come back up and he had aspirated and now has some fluid in his left lung.

Dr. Coaker arrived in ICU about the same time I did, and Don was just coming back from having a CT scan of his abdomen. The doc wasn’t too concerned about the lung because the amount of fluid is minimal, and although Don’s now on a somewhat higher level of oxygen, that had come down as well. There is no blockage in his intestines; the main problem now is the constipation.

After trying several means of ending the problem, the next step was to give him Go Lightly, which is a misnomer because that’s what you take to prepare for a colonoscopy. After two doses, Don became very sleepy and told me to go home as I couldn’t do anything to help, and he wanted to rest.

Even through all this, Don’s spirit is good, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor, and he keeps saying he’s not giving up, fighting each new challenge.

And the speech therapist came by and said they’re keeping his spot warm in the hospital’s rehab unit. Hurray for that!

It turns out that the ICU nurse Shannon DID try to call me, but the hospital’s records show Don’s phone number for both of us. This, in spite of the fact that we filled out every form with MY number as the one to call regarding his condition! I’m guessing some admissions clerk wasn’t careful when entering the info into the computer.

So it’s been a frustrating day, but hopefully just a minor hiccup in the overall picture.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

He Stood Up!

Today was a good day, maybe a great day! The PT and OT people came to Don’s room and helped him stand up to a walker. Wow! What a big step forward! He didn’t stay up long because he started getting dizzy, but he used his legs pretty well and showed more strength than he has in a long time. Later he said he forgot just how far down his feet were – a whole 6 feet (his height)!


We learned from an MRI conducted last night that he suffered a stroke during surgery, which accounts for the lack of use of his right hand. But the PT person raised it and flexed his wrist and elbow and said, “There’s definitely something here we can work with.”

To backtrack a bit in case you didn’t hear, Don had a problem during dialysis on Saturday, July 4 in Sierra Vista. They rushed him to the local hospital (the new Canyon Vista, a nice modern facility), ran lots of tests on him, and determined that he has a blood clot in his lung. He was then taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson where his heart surgery was done. He loved the lights and siren, used the whole way (about 75 miles) because of Independence Day celebrations making for heavy traffic!

I moved the motorhome from Fort Huachuca back to Davis-Monthan AFB on Sunday. The bedroom (driver side) slide-out came in okay, but is still a little crooked. I’m keeping the other side in until it can get fixed.

The nice end site I had last time at D-M was one I had to back out of, and I was chastised a little by the managers (who weren’t there when I checked in) because a 40-ft rig can’t make the sharp right turn out of the site. Okay, so I backed out, no big deal. I just couldn’t hitch up the car the night before to reduce the work the morning of departure. This time, I picked a better site and even got some shade from the tall tree to the west. The FamCamp is so empty, there’s nobody on either side of me.


The move back to Tucson will probably be good in many ways, with better health care options at more facilities, and the possibility of going into the hospital’s rehab unit instead of a nursing home/rehab center. We were disappointed with the care he was getting at Kindred Hacienda in SV, and we’ll have a better chance for a higher level of care in the bigger city.

While packing up the motorhome Sunday morning, I discovered the drain pipe under the galley sink had once again leaked. The big wok was full of water, and it had overflowed to soak the entire floor of the cupboard. Just what I needed. I bailed water with a smaller pan until the wok was light enough to lift out and dump in the bathroom sink, dried things out as best I could, and repacked everything on top of towels for the trip.

Happily, Ken Cameron of Cameron’s Reliable was able to come today and he fixed the pipes so they won’t fall apart again. Gravity and the “earthquake” effect of moving the motorhome kept breaking the seals, so he put longer pieces of PVC in and made stronger joints. My hero! Now I can wash dishes in the galley instead of the bathroom! I don’t know when he’ll be able to fix the slide-outs though, as he’s a very busy man, working on both RVs and other structures.

Meanwhile, Don’s getting Heparin in an IV drip to prevent the blood clot from growing and keep other clots from forming. And he’s getting Coumadin (blood thinner) by injection. We are told the clot will disintegrate on its own. As soon as it’s determined that he no longer needs the Heparin, he will be eligible for full-time rehab. Until then, he’s getting good care in the critical care cardiovascular unit on the 3rd floor at St. Mary’s. The rehab unit in the hospital is our first choice, as they do rehab for 6 hours/day, whereas he only got about 1.5 hours in the nursing home. So he would probably get stronger/better faster. And the environment is so much better in the hospital, without the typical smells and sounds of a nursing home.

Every prayer and positive thought from every friend and family member is so appreciated as we tackle every challenge during this difficult time. Please know how much it helps me to get comments by email, phone and Facebook, and I pass them along to Don. The greeting cards and flowers are also appreciated but certainly not necessary or expected. Don and I both feel loved and supported by you all!