Intensely Intensive: Day Two (Nov. 5 2008)

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2008 at 6:35 am

I got to the hospital shortly after noon. The visiting hours for the transplant Intensive Care Unit are from 11am – 9pm, though the resident doc told me last night that “after lunchtime” is a preferable time to arrive since rounds and shift changes are still going on until noon or so. Best to listen to the good doctors that are on the front line, I reckon.

I arrive to discover that Alex was awakened @ 8am this morning, and that she was feeling a goodly amount of pain. Essentially they doubled up her “pain management program”, or her meds, if you will. They told me it was good to have me at Alex’s side as my touch would be “better than drugs” for her. Wow…never would I have thought that I could trump morphine!

Turned out to be true. Alex was wide-eyed when she saw me. I did not know how foggy she might be so I spoke to her slowly, filling her in on all of your many kind wishes and regards. Her eyes were closed for a time as I stroked her head and talked to her, and she managed a smile on a number of occasions despite the tubes coming out of her nose and mouth. She couldn’t speak, but her eyes smiled a huge happy smile when I let her know that Barack Obama was elected president of the USA last night. 

She was breathing partly on her own, albeit with a great amount of struggle. The rest was up to the ventilator machine which works in tandem with her lungs. At this point she was “intubated” and very uncomfortable. She looked to me to be more than eager to get these tubes out of her throat and mouth. Until then, however, she was left to communicate via gestures, handwritten communication and through two of the clearest eyes I have seen in anyone in a long time, despite seeing through a cloud of very powerful painkillers.  A very laborious process for the woman to get her ideas across. And ideas she has!

Once she got to writing she indicated that she wanted to be apprised of everything that’s going on. Her frustration was palpable, since the greatest effort was required to simply write down the words “what time is it?”. Imagine trying to convey something like” so where is my current level of oxygen saturation?” or “how long until these friggin’ tubes come out of me?”.

Alex was clearly worried, and wrote often of how she felt as if she was suffocating. She felt claustrophobic. And who wouldn’t when one has something like ten or twelve tubes and stints sticking out of one’s body? I just kept telling her that I am right there with her, and that she is in good hands with the staff in the ICU wing. She squeezed my hand and looked at me. A fantastic and constant squeeze. She wouldn’t speak but mouthed the words “I love you”. I was lucky enough to be able to tell her out loud that I love her too. Oh what a beautiful feeling sitting beside my darling and sharing a time like this. Felt like we were back on our wedding day exchanging our vows again. Like the beeping machines and gurgling tubes around us didn’t even exist.

An orderly then came by and I was told by nurse Brenda to leave for a while, that they had to do some work on Alex to prepare her for her new private ICU room. Cool by me. Kiss on the forehead and back to a waiting room.

4pm – Transplant ICU

Got to meet nurses Evelyn & Georgia. They are on shift to take care of Alex for the afternoon and overnight. They take care of checking her blood gasses,  oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and myriad other stats. Each and every one of these stats is in the “great” zone, by the way. They also got the pain management team to get Alex hooked up to a dispensing machine. Essentially this is like a Pez dispenser, in that Alex simply has to push a button when she is feeling pain and the pain killer is delivered intravenously via one of the canals that are hooked up to her body. The highlight of this short visit is when a nurse comes to clear out Alex’s lungs with a sort of suction device. The nurse pushed a tube down Alex’s throat and got her to cough. The goal is to suck up any of the guck that is hanging around down there.

So cough #1. Breathe in aaaaaaaandddd COUGH! Nothing comes up.

Cough # 2. Same thing.

Cough #3. Nothing. Maybe a bit of clear saliva or something.

Alex and I looked at each other in disbelief. It’s the NEW LUNGS! There was none of the nasty mucus that was basically killing Alex day by day. We’d grown so accustomed to thrice-daily rituals of rattling, wracking discomfiting coughing fits. My eyes filled with tears. Alex just lay there sort of stunned and wrote in a very scrawling script…”Am I dreaming?” I head back to good old Queen West for a stroll and some fresh air with a good old canine pal, wondering what Alex is going to make of the smell of rush hour traffic.

8:30 pm – Transplant ICU

I return to hospital from home, where I’d walked our faithful dog Henry and picked up some stuff for Alex. They wanted me to bring a house coat and slippers so that she can go for a walk tomorrow. Yep. They intend to get her moving as soon as possible. Alex is slowly but surely coming back to the world, regaining strength little by little. Her handwriting started looking less like that of a drunken sailor and more like…a slightly drunken sailor? After a time the team decided to get Alex freed up from the big tube down her mouth. A fair amount of ideas are exchanged regarding how this will be done. I emphasize to all how important it is to be careful of Alex’s vocal cords. But I really don’t have to tell them this again for the 100th time. They are probably getting exhausted of hearing me brag about my wife’s God-given vocal talent. “She’s not just a singer, I say…she’s a performing and recording artist!” Probably don’t have to say a thing, really. Just twenty minutes before this conversation the nurses were gathered around a computer telling me proudly “We’re googling your wife”. Not to mention the fact that Dr. Michael Hutcheon is a fanatical opera fan (and bona fide expert), and soon-to-be big fan of a revitalized Miss Alex. Maybe he’ll even swing around to country music! So yes, care has been taken, and we’re trusting that Alex will be singing in no time. 

Then…   Voila!     The tube is removed.

As of November 5th, 10:30pm Alex is freely breathing on her on with two new lungs.

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