August 17, 2004

Surgery and Life After

July 31, 1998, John went in for surgery. This would consist of the removal of his left lung and the removal of his pericardium. The surgeon also replaced his diaphram with a piece of gortex. We were worried of course, but the surgeon told us that John would most likely just spend four days in the hospital and come home with no oxygen needed. He would be sore, but they weren't expecting any complications because of his age.

The surgery itself took about 12-17 hours. That day is a HUGE blur to me. John woke up in ICU and I thank God over and over again for saving his life. His family, my family and our kids all came down for a very short visit, then we all went off to the hotel for the night. My mom, sister and I spent the night playing and laughing with our two children. Never did I expect that anything was going wrong.

The next morning, we all agreed that I would go to the hospital by myself to see John first. I arrived only to find a number of hospital personnel already in his room. I walked up to the side of his bed and said, "Good morning sweety". His response was abrupt and rude, not like him at all. I asked the nurse what was going on, that he wasn't himself. She said "John, who is this?" pointing to me. Again, very abruptly, "MY WIFE". I said there is something terribly wrong here and that's when they rushed me out of the room. The nurse came out and told me that his oxygen levels had dropped and that he was basically suffocating.

I called the hotel in full blown sobs. My mom came as fast as she could. They rushed John back into surgery where they discovered that his right lung had collapsed and he was bleeding out on the left side. I was then told that he would need to be on life support and the doctors weren't convinced that he would pull through. Our children were told by their aunt and uncle and given the option of seeing their dad. Our son, 9 years old, decided that he wanted to. He went into that room, looked at his father hooked up to all those machines, walked over to the bed and held his hand. He told his dad that he loved him and wanted him to be OK. It was probably the most touching moment I had ever seen. My little boy, trying to be so grown up.

Some of the family left that day. We set up a call method so that I wouldn't need to call everyone. My kids went home with them so that they could have some sort of "normalcy" with other family members. My mom, brother and sister-in-law and I all stayed. Prayer was the only form of activity I could possibly think of doing. I sat there next to his bed, holding his hand, begging him to come back to us. God and I had lots of conversations that day and the days that followed. The next day, my mother decided to go home. With John's brother and wife still there, I wasn't going to be alone.

The morning after my mom left, I woke up with a horrific headache. I left the hotel early and stopped to get some meds. I took two and headed for the hospital. Once there, my headache just didn't seem to get any better. One of John's nurses gave me some more pain meds and I went to lay down in the visitor's room. After an hour, my head was still killing me. I decided to head down to the ER to see if I could get a shot of something to help. I figured that I had dehydrated myself over the past few days and a shot would do the trick. What I didn't bargain for was meningitis!

I begged my brother and sister-in-law not to call my mother, but to my surprise, my phone rang and it was my poor mom sobbing on the other end. I was assigned my own room and given some serious painkillers. I was admitted for two days. They had to do a spinal tap on John to make sure I didn't give it to him, and I was allowed to talk to him by phone. Of course, he never responded, but the nurses said his vitals were stronger when he heard my voice.

I was released and resumed my position next to my husband. We were blessed with the best nurses on the face of the earth. One in particular took to John without even talking to him. She set up camp in his room for her entire shift. She asked numerous questions and kept me informed of everything that was going on. She would dig into what he liked and didn't like. I told her that he was very private so she made sure that he was covered at all times. I also told her that he didn't like his hair messy and dirty. So 2-3 times a day she would wash his hair and comb it. Never had that man had better vitals than when he was getting his hair washed.

After a week, I came in his room one morning to find his eyes wide open. The doctors were about to take the breathing tube out and by the looks of it, he wanted it out as well. He spent the next couple of days in ICU trying to regain his strength. He had to learn to talk, walk, feed himself and hold himself up all over again. We moved to another room where he spent another week recovering. Physical therapy everyday to regain motor skills, breathing tests to make sure the lung was working, and x-rays and CT scans to make sure no mesothelioma was left. He came home two weeks later on oxygen still needing nurses care while I was at work.

Posted by Jeanette on August 17, 2004 01:45 PM

Oh my Goodness, Jeannette,Meningitis while your husband was fighting for his life recovering from surgery. A hospital is no place to rest if you're sick. Bless your heart!I hope John is hanging in there and doing better yet.My husband had a stroke at age 37 and lost use of his left (dominant) hand and has left side weakness. He too had to relearn to walk and talk and eat and well, just about everything. Bed to wheelchair to walker to cane to holding on to the side rails to walking unassisted. It seems a blur now almost 6 years later but each day was an eternity while we were living them.My favorite uncle was dx'd with Lung Cancer, told it was in the plura not the lungs and given 3-6 months to live. Well they sought alternative treatments and found a doc who used an aggressive treatment like one used for prostate cancer. Uncle Jim held on for 5 years. When he was dx'd, he and his wife had just had a son, and Jim figured every day with his son increased the chance of his son remembering him. So he hung on. We believe a couple of long remissions were healings and are so thankful for them.This was over 12 years ago and they didn't know or talk about mesothelioma. Jim had worked in a GE plant wrapping water heaters in asbestos blankets. I don't know if his widow, unfortunately she's difficult to get along with, filed a claim for meso or not.You and John are in my prayers.....Hugs and Blessings, Judy

Posted by: Judy in AZ at September 21, 2004 04:50 AM