Friday, July 03, 2009

Still not on top of the world

Hi everyone:

Patty still doesn't seem to be making a great deal of progress in her recovery; perhaps someone will tell us otherwise today, but any improvement isn't immediately obvious to a layman like yours truly. As Patty described things, she's "just having another bad morning." When Patty arrived for surgery on Tuesday, I had entertained ideas of Patty being super-efficient in bouncing back and getting released today; instead, we're now hoping she'll progress enough to move to a step-down unit by tomorrow.

Even this seems like an ambitious target, since the drainage tube in Patty's side is both still in place and still showing evidence of air draining, which suggests that any lung perforation hasn't gone away. This is a far cry from the "hour or so" we had been told such micro-tears take to heal if they appear after surgery. I'm not maligning the medical team; I believed then, and believe now, that they presented an honest and accurate picture of what would happen in the vast majority of situations. They just didn't know enough about Patty's tendency to make the simple seem complicated and the routine seem bizarre.

I think this, more than anything, is why both Patty and I find ourselves frustrated, at times, with the whole process. I can say, and did say, "Giving Patty real blood makes me nervous," only to hear, "Oh, there's nothing to worry about." Hours later, Patty experienced a reaction to the blood (fever, headache, shakes)-- not, of course, when such reactions normally happen, but hours later, when she should have been fine. Another thing that happens is that one medical professional says one thing--say, "There's a very remote chance that this could happen--too little, really, to worry about"--and when it does, another medical professional will say, "This is not at all unusual."

If I'm ever in a position to impact medical care, I want to educate medical personnel to (a) always present all the possible outcomes, even if the odds seem remote, and (b) never discuss a patient's condition with the patient in a manner any different than they would with another medical professional. If it could be something, tell the patient, tell the spouse, and give us the odds. If you're going to test for something, just to be sure, tell us what you're testing for. Let us be part of the conversation. But it makes me crazy when I hear "oh, don't worry about that" when one look at Patty tells me exactly why I started worrying.

Still, I have to say that the nurses and doctors here are far more open than others Patty has had. Nobody has come to us and said, "If you make an open book about your wife's medical condition, you have to understand when your wife's doctors refuse to share information with you." I still get chills and a wave of rage whenever I recall this. All we do here is try to tell Patty's story with all the high-fives and all the warts, and with all the feelings associated with the situation. If something works, we celebrate. If something doesn't work, we worry. In the process, those who love Patty get a pretty good idea of how she's doing.

I'm doing it again...bitch, bitch, bitch...let's get back to Patty:

According to her nurses, Patty's urine output is still below what would be expected, and is quite concentrated and dark, although the volume has increased a little since yesterday. The drainage from her lungs continues to contain air bubbles, which would suggest that any lung perforation is still there, and not healing within hours after surgery as we had been told is the norm. I hope this ultimately doesn't require a trip back into Patty's chest for repairs.

This morning, Patty added raspy coughing to the mix, which just increases the discomfort at the incision site. Several times each day, Patty "exercises" using a respiration testing/strengthening device labeled 5000 Voldyne, which I have renamed as "the bong" for easier identification. She takes deep inward breaths which raise an inner tube against a graduated scale; this strengthens her lungs (ostensibly) and hurts her a bunch (clearly). One reason for using it, we've been told, is to prevent pneumonia. Naturally, the mere mention of this means it's very likely Patty will soon have this arise as a complication. It's like watching a no-hitter and saying, "Hey, Buerhle's pitching a no-hitter"...oops...not any more he isn't. Knock on more odd blips in Patty's recovery.

I'm going to go back to Patty now. She's still in decent spirits, all things considered, and that's half the battle, I think. More soon...


P.S. Next time, I'll try to be a little more sunny; it is a holiday weekend, after all

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