Monday, December 07, 2015

she's back

That huge boulder that has been on our shoulders, holding us down and making our lives miserable for the past 6 months or more, has become nothing more than gravel beneath our feet after Mary's visit to her cardiologist on Thursday. Last March Mary saw that same cardiologist for her yearly follow up after having open heart surgery--a bypass of a blocked artery-- 5 or so years ago. At that March visit the doc ordered a stress test to make sure that nothing new had developed. Of course that stress test showed some kind of abnormality, so he decided she should undergo a catheterization to find out what that abnormality was. That stress test was the catalyst for all that happened afterwards.
The evening of the day that she had the stress test, she began having vertigo attacks that became so severe that I had to call for an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. At the emergency room, instead of vertigo, she was diagnosed with a gallbladder that was severely compromised and would have to be removed. So on Thursday, May 19th, her birthday, she had her gallbladder removed. Then the complications started. Her gallbladder had caused an infection to take hold In her pancreas. The resulting pancreatitis was sever enough to kill her if it wasn't controlled. Mary was one very sick patient. She remained in the hospital for the whole month of June until the infection was controlled and they sent her home for the rest of her recovery.
She was still very sick for the month of July and I had to take a more active roll in her recovery at home, while she struggled to get past the pain. I was flushing the drain tubes she still had in her abdomen daily and trying to keep both our spirits up. The toughest thing I had to do for her was get her to eat. She had absolutely no interest in any kind of food. I couldn't tempt her with anything. Not even her absolute favorite bad-for-you food, a chili dog, could get her appetite up. Having lost over 30lbs during her illness, she had to start eating solid food regularly to help regain some of that weight and by doing so, regain some of her strength, or the doctor was going to put her back in the hospital and feed her intravenously. She certainly didn't want that to happen, so gradually she began eating another bite or two each day.


The lost summer was only one of the depressing things that we were coping with. My health was problematic during this whole ordeal. Coping with PD is difficult enough under normal conditions, but very difficult when a load of stress is thrown into the mix. Add the anxiety that I was feeling about our future and you have the perfect storm.

Though it felt at times that we would never feel healthy and normal again, gradually, day by day, we saw tangible improvement--one day the drain tubes came out, then she was able to walk a little farther and get up and down the stairs, she started eating more and regained some of her strength. When she started communicating again with friends we knew she was mostly back.
But, hold on, remember that stress test that started this downward slide back in May? Mary still had that heart issue to deal with. Knowing that she still had another medical issue ahead, kept us from getting too excited about her day to day recovery from pancreatitis. Mary has always had heart concerns. She was not looking forward to the catheterization because the last time the doctor told her that he was just going to look around inside her, he found that he would have to install a stent to keep one of her arteries open. It would be no big deal, but when he got a look at the stent site he found that a stent wouldn't be possible and instead he would have to open her chest and take vein from her upper chest and move it in place so that it would bypass the blockage. That was a lot more than she bargained for. And though successful, she did not want to go through that trauma again. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that she approached her scheduled catheterization on Thursday morning. Her worst fear was that she


would have to undergo an open heart bypass again because of what the doctor as going to see with his scope. We were very scared of having to start another recovery just when she was nearing the end of the first recovery. We felt she was strong enough to handle the physical aspect of another procedure, but the emotional drain on both of us was nearly more than we could bear. The stress was making us treat each other badly, constantly sniping at each other and arguing incessantly over the merest transgression. Our realistic hope was that she would need a stent and the doctor would take care of that during the catheterization. If a stent was necessary, she would have to stay the night in the hospital. If no stent was necessary and he found nothing else that required further action, she could go home that same day.
Her cardiologist is a positive, sometimes overly cheerful, surgeon who always emphasizes the good that can happen and doesn't dwell on the possible adverse reactions in any medical procedure. So when he came bounding into the recovery room to tell me what had transpired and what the medical prognosis was, I knew it was good news just by his demeanor. He was fairly jumping up and down, clapping his hands and smiling broadly. He was so happy to say that there were no complications and nothing further needed to be done for her. No stent, no new meds. His only prescription for her was more exercise. Her heart is strong. She is back. 

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