Apr 30, 2012

Adventures in Open Heart Surgery Part 3

It was explained to me that I would go to the same waiting area I was in before.  This time I would not have a liaison since it was after hours.  They assured me that they would send out a nurse periodically to let me know how everything was going.  I headed down to the surgical waiting area.  I was well acquainted with it.  I just stood there in the doorway and stared.  I saw a woman there.  It was about 9:30pm, so I politely asked her what brought her there.  She told me that her husband had broken his thigh bone that day so they were putting a rod in.  She asked me why I was there.  I said, "Oh, my husband is having open heart surgery...again...today."  She said she was sorry and asked his age.  "36."
"Oh wow!" she said.
It was at that moment that I realized the seriousness of what had just happened and what was currently happening.  I felt as though all the angels that were keeping me afloat in the ICU had followed Mark.  I felt like collapsing.  I went and sat down and decided I needed to tell someone.  I called my mom and explained what I could in that state.  She realized it was serious and said that they were going to go and have family prayer.  Then I called Mark's sister, Jeanette.  I was crying at this point.  I explained to her what I could and she suddenly interrupted me, "Do you want me to come over there?"
"Yeah," I said crying.
"Okay, I will be there in 15 minutes."
I knew I needed to call Kari.  I didn't want her to feel like she had to be there(even though that's what I really wanted).  I called her.  "Kari?"
She could tell I was crying, "Oh my gosh, Danielle.  What's happening?"
"They had to take him back into surgery."
She sounded upset, "Do you want me to come over there?"
"You don't have to.  You need to be with your family.  You've been gone all day."
"Danielle, they're fine.  I'm coming right now."
Jeanette arrived and I explained things in better detail.  She began calling Mark's siblings to let them know what was going on.  I posted a status on facebook so that I wouldn't have to make a lot of phone calls.
The next thing I knew, Kari was there.  She was crying.  "Danielle!  I knew I shouldn't have left.  I had a feeling that I should stay with you, but I ignored it!  I knew I shouldn't have left you.  I'm so sorry."
I assured her that it was okay.  No one knew this was going to happen.
Suddenly a male nurse came in and let us know that Mark was now on bypass.  I knew again that this meant his heart was not beating for the second time in one day.  It all still seemed surreal.
Jeanette's husband, Nate came for a little while when he got off of work.  We all chatted for a little while.  Time still seemed to drag.
Once Nate left I started to feel very tired.  I only slept 2 hours the night before.  It was about midnight.  I kept refreshing my facebook page thinking, somehow, that I would receive updates on Mark's progress.  I didn't get any updates for a long time.  As late as it was, so many people were commenting on my status.  So many of them were saying that they weren't going to sleep tonight until they knew everything would be okay.  Others said that they were praying for us and thinking about us.  I couldn't believe the outpouring of support and love from so many people.  My family members were all posting and asking for prayers on our behalf as well.  I couldn't believe the responses they were also receiving.  It was amazing.  It brought me such a peace and comfort.  I knew so much that I wasn't alone.  People on earth and in heaven were helping us and supporting us in any way possible.
Around 1am I started to feel a little drunk.  Apparently, I started saying weird things and acting really weird. I remember Jeanette and Kari laughing at me a lot.  I felt so weird and I thought I was doing a good job being normal.  I remember worrying that the Dr. would come in to talk to me and think that I was too crazy and wouldn't let me see Mark.  I vaguely remember something about corn dogs with hot tamales in them and Kari pushing me down, trying to make me sleep.  During this sleep deprivation psychosis, the nurse came back in to tell us that they were transitioning Mark off the bypass machine.  I didn't know how he was doing and the nurse didn't tell me.  A little while after that he came back to tell me that he was off of the bypass machine and his heart was beating again.  I still did not know how he was doing.
I remember talking to the nurse and him gradually getting closer to the exit.  Kari said that I was yammering on about who knows what and the whole thing seemed very awkward to the poor nurse.  I have no idea what I said, but he was nice enough to pretend like I wasn't completely out of my mind.
Around 2:30am Dr. Mitchell came out to tell me how everything went.  I was on a second wind and felt quite alert and aware of things.  I could tell his demeanor was so different compared to the first surgery.  He looked so tired, but had a very serious face.  He sat down with me to explain what happened:
"Now, you know we intubated him.  We thought that would help stabilize him, but it just wasn't working.  We had to work quickly to get him on bypass.  Normally this takes an hour to an hour and a half.  We had him on bypass within 22 minutes.  We were really having to work fast to get him on it.  Once we got him on bypass he got severe pulmonary edema.  Now, the body had a lot of fluid and our lungs are like a couple of sponges and his lungs just soaked up all that fluid.  What this means is that because of the pulmonary edema, we could not get enough oxygen to him the entire surgery.  No matter what we did, he just couldn't get enough.  You know that we went ahead and replaced the valve.  I had to use the largest size of valve and I probably could have gone larger, but they don't make them any bigger.  As soon as we got him off of the bypass machine his pulmonary edema went away and he had a good urine output, so that problem is gone.  The problem now is that he went a long time without enough oxygen.  This is very serious.  We aren't going to bring him out of anesthesia yet.  We are going to let him sleep until about 8 or 9 in the morning.  Then we will wake him up and start asking him questions like name, the year, who is the president.  Things like that.  I am going to need you there when he wakes up because we are going to need to know if he recognizes you.  They are still getting him situated in the ICU.  He's been through a lot, so it's going to be a little while still, but you can head on up to the waiting area up there."
Jeanette headed home and Kari and I headed upstairs to the ICU waiting area.  I was so anxious to see Mark again.  I knew he wouldn't be conscious for a while, but I wanted to see with my own eyes that he was okay.  There was a younger man sleeping on one of the couches in the waiting area.  I wondered who he was there for.  In places like this you realize so many people are dealing with scary situations and you get curious as to what their story is.  Kari laid down on the couch and I sat anxiously, waiting for them to tell me I could see Mark.
It was just after 3:20am.  "Kari, maybe they just forgot that I am here.  I'm going to check if I can see him yet."  I headed down the hall and saw one of Mark's nurses coming toward me.
"I was just coming to get you," she said with a smile.
I got to Mark's room and I felt so relieved to see him.  I pulled up a chair and sat next to him.  I held his hand and just looked at him.  He looked terrible.  He was so swollen that his eyelids couldn't close.  His hands were huge and he had more IVs than before.  He was still on the respirator and would be until morning.  I put my arm on the bed-rail and laid my head on it.  I just held his hand and rubbed it.  I still had a huge hurdle with the brain damage situation, but I was just happy to see that he was alive.
As I sat there, I struggled in my mind with going home and cleaning up, perhaps getting a little sleep or just staying until they woke him up.  I decided I really needed to rest a little bit and the ICU(with its evil hard chairs) was no place to do that.  I kissed his hand and went to wake up Kari in the waiting room.

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