1.31.2013

crammed in my cranium

I made my way through the heavy doors right behind the nurse. She was taking me to see Mike as he recovered in the ICU unit at Barrow's hospital. I counted the shiny floor tiles with each step I took. We passed several patients with tubes coming from either a mouth or a neck. Each person we passed looked worse off than the prior. What would my husband look like? How would he be feeling? What can I possibly do to help him? 

****

Above is a sample image of where a pituitary tumor it located when it grows in someone's head (that's not Mike btw). His was about the size of a golf ball and nodules have grown from it extending into other sections of his brain. Some of those nodules still remain. It will be determined in 3 months what will be done about them.

The procedure he just had is called transsphenoidal surgery. Fat is grafted from the abdomen and used to close back up the sinus cavity from the brain cavity. There are samples on You Tube that demonstrate how the surgery works.

****

I slowly pulled the thin curtain that hung between my concerned being and his lifeless body as it lay on the hospital bed. He no longer had a breathing tube coming from his throat, but his mouth was shaped in an O as if it was still in place. An oxygen mask hung from his neck loosely and the soft mist helping him breath was beautiful. His pillow had greenish/ yellowish stains on it as if someone left an otter pop there to melt. Only it was no color I could identify among the usual otter pop characters, nor could I place what portion of the body created this color of stain near his head. There was a spot of blood protruding from his forehead. His eyes were closed and incredibly swollen. A large rectangle of gauze was taped across his nose. It was saturated with blood that was draining out of his head through his nose. While a logical occurence for this type of surgery, it was easily one of the most disturbing images I have witnessed in my life.

What did they do to you? was the question that kept running through my mind.  I asked the nurse if all the things I saw were normal for a patient like this. His whole face was swollen as though 73 more layers of skin had been added below the top layer. His left shoulder was exposed, so I put my hand on it gently. I just stood there with my hand on his shoulder looking at his puffy eyes feeling incredibly helpless and concerned for how this was going to feel once he woke up.

With his eyes closed he stirred and tried to sit up. I spoke softly, 'It's okay, rest. You are all done." He asked what was all done. I replied, "The surgery, you are done!"

He immediately asked, "Did  they get it all?" With puffy lids still resting heavily over his eyes, he was able to ask an intelligent, logical question sixty minutes after brain surgery. I bet he would have been able to manage quantum physics if we tried. Such an over-achiever, this one, even with trauma.

"We don't know until tomorrow's MRI. You did great! Just rest." I kept my hand on his shoulder. Any time he groaned of his head hurting and feeling nauseous the nurse quickly fed his IV with fluids to comfort each. He told me my touch felt good on his shoulder and asked me to keep it there. He was out of surgery, I would have spun to the moon and back if he asked me to.

As he slept I cleaned the blood off his fingers and forehead. I requested his gauze be changed. I asked the nurse about the forehead. She said it was where they had to screw his head in place so it wouldn't move during surgery. A millimeter of movement in surgery could cause a lot of problems. No one told us about that part. The image of a screw going into his head sent shivers through my arms. She assured me it would only leave a little dot and heal well. Compared to the whole procedure he endured,  I am not sure why I cared so much about that little detail. I supposed because it was most visible.


Mike, I dedicate this Frank Black video to you my love.

1.09.2013

A post about love.

 I just wish I could shrink myself into a tiny ninja fighting amoeba and get rid of that tumor for him. It would be like this video. Only I would sneak in through his nose with my swords to get to that pituitary gland instead of going into a building through a door. Otherwise, it's just like it.


Brandon Flowers - Crossfire

image of a tender mercy



This is an image of what a Tender Mercy of The Lord actually looks like. We often find it a challenge to capture with a camera, those tender mercies.

This is the leg injury resulting from the Saturday fall (toss?) off (over?) the dirt bike. A small price to pay (in addition to the stiff neck) to gain access to important health information he needed to know about in his brain.

He still has no idea what scraped his leg or how he fell.

Also, someone has requested I include a comment about no one in the family falling from a dirt bike incident since July.

That's all for today, folks!

1.07.2013

Mike's Story: vol. 3 Tender Mercies

I have often marveled at some of my friends who have written or talked about trials with the words 'blessing' or 'tender mercies' plugged in. I wondered if it was like putting on a fake smile. My heart would feel broken for another's situation, but I certainly never saw the  silver lining.

It's not always easy to see The Lord's hand in our lives. There is a lot of 'noise' in the world that makes it easy to overlook it.

Mike came home Saturday from dirt biking completely confused about how he could have fallen. The terrain was flat sand, a section of the course he is the most comfortable with where he never falls. There were no trees or branches that he could recall seeing. He truly had no idea how it happened. All of a sudden his bike was laying sideways on the ground and he was no longer on it. The inside of his leg was cut and he felt nauseous from the impact of the fall.

 A heating pad on his neck and ibuprofen helped ease the pain. The rest of the day he carried on like usual.

The next morning his neck felt horribly wrong and he worried he had hurt something serious.
After Urgent Care sent him away he almost came home instead of going to the ER. He didn't think it was that big of a deal, but he went anyway. I am so, so glad he followed that path.

Today his neck doesn't hurt at all.

We have no way of knowing when or how his tumor would have been discovered if this fall didn't happen. We don't know a lot about what happens if a tumor this size in the location it is in goes untreated. I am so pleased we won't be finding out. I feel very protected as a family.

All I know is thank goodness he fell on Saturday, because this is simply the time for it to be taken care of. And that, my friends, is what I believe some would call a tender mercy of the Lord.

*****

I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.


The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

[That is from an inspiring talk by Elder David A. Bednar. You can read the whole thing here.]

Mike's Story: Volume 2

Mike requested I get some food on the way over to the hospital for him. El Pollo Loco was the only thing that came to mind that would be quick and somewhat wholesome. I knew my stomach was doing somersaults, so I couldn't imagine what his tummy was feeling.

I was on a mission for chicken, rice, and Diet Coke. While ordering the food it seemed the options were endless. Every time I answered, more questions came. White or dark meat? Green or red salsa? Hot or mild? Corn or flour tortilla? Pinto or black beans? One or two napkins? Will you be having flan? Would you like to upgrade your meal? Would that be medium or large? Boxers or briefs?  IT NEVER SEEMED TO END. I could have plucked my own chicken, had it cooked and chopped up myself for the amount of time it took to get out of there.

Julie and I arrived in the ER waiting room to find Mike in a Vicodin haze still a bit shocked with the news of his brain intruder. His parents and brother were there, so she offered to step out unless I needed her. I will always appreciate her instincts to be by my side and make sure I was not alone in supporting Mike. I hope to follow her example for someone else one day.

****

There was a lot of waiting and nervous chatter among us. We found a private room in a hallway where Nick gave Mike a priesthood blessing. It was comforting and provided peace and hope. I think of that blessing often, especially when I feel fear.

Mike eventually got his own little triage room with a curtain. Two of his sisters arrived and he began to look like a VIP with all those chairs pulled up around his bed. He relayed what little information he had to all of us and we tried our best to make him laugh and talk about anything. I don't think I said much, actually, but somehow conversations were going among us and that was wonderful. It helped pass the time and push away scary thoughts. Soon enough Mike was wheeled away for his MRI and a very L O N G hour after that the Dr. came back with results. Everyone was guided to the waiting room except Mike and I.

He told us it is a large tumor in the pituitary gland, that they are usually not cancerous, and that it's about an inch and a half. It is located where the optic nerves cross. He said it is not a life-threatening tumor, but it is large and he will need to work with a neurosurgeon early this week to discuss next steps. He explained it has been growing for years and had nothing at all to do with Mike's dirt bike accident. That point was important for Mike to emphasize often. That man loves his dirt bike.   

We both felt some relief that he would not be rushing off to immediate surgery. He was eager to go home if he could. He asked me to tell the family in the waiting room. They came back in and admitted they had listened by the curtain to hear the news before going to the waiting room. I love them for that! They came back experts on the topic with all they were able to google in those few minutes and offered us more insight.

We are hoping to get him in with the neurosurgeon in the next couple days.

To be continued.....

Mike's Story Volume 1

Saturday afternoon Mike had a spill on his dirt bike. Nothing seemed serious about it. A lengthy cut ran along the inside of a thigh, a small scrape on the other leg's knee, and a headache. He returned to the car and insisted his friends continue their fun while he rested and waited for them. While somewhat shaken, nothing felt out of sorts.


The following morning he awoke with a tight neck. While gargling mouthwash he was not able to tip his head back at all. Concern grew and he told me he was going to Urgent Care. He said it was probably nothing, but would be back soon. I tended to the kids and made some phone calls to prepare for my afternoon church meeting.


After an hour I texted him to see if he had seen the doctor. His simple reply was 'yes' followed with 'will be home soon'. Another hour later I texted him again and asked what was going on. He immediately called me back. I did not like the sound of his voice. He spoke in a slow, forced calmness that breathed a kind of worry louder than a voice could try to shout.

He explained there was no injury as a result of the dirt bike fall. Then he paused. A long pause. He told me I needed to sit down and he didn't know how to tell me this. Sylvia was playing on the computer. I sat on the tan couch near her, the one the Andersons gave us when we lived in California. This is where I would sit to hear knews I was scared to hear. These scenes happen in movies. It's never supposed to happen in real life.


 "They found something," he said. "In my brain. A mass. It's either a aneurysm or a tumor. If it's an aneurysm I have to have surgery today." Once he started talking it all came out at once like rapid fire shots driving into the middle of my stomach. With a tight throat and a keen awareness of the little children within earshot, I somehow moved my body into another room with privacy while my mind digested the information. It took all my will to not beam my body into the air and fly over rooftops to get to him and hold his hand. Luckily for our children I cannot fly, so they were not left in the emotional dust of the situation.


Eff. EFF. In the privacy of our master bedroom, that place where all our magic happens, I was off the phone and swearing quietly to myself. Not the ideal poster child of coping. My mobile was dead; I plugged it into the first outlet my eyes found: next to my drum kit. I cast a texting net to 3 friends at once. Hunched down next to my snare drum and under the hi-hat I answered as Julie called. Through tears and panic I spat out the words "Mike has an aneurysm or tumor" and she said she was on her way. Then I called my mom and gave her the brief rundown through a mouth that felt at though it were talking through quicksand. I cut her short right after she said she could come.


I took a deep breath and gathered the children into the living room. We turned off the television and I kindly (without the eff word! yay!) told them we had a medical emergency to talk about. We knelt together and somehow I had my wits about me to explain the situation in simple words with peace. It was important to me that I took this moment to teach them how to ask for peace, so we did. Mike was on speaker phone while we prayed. Sylvia told him she was worried about Daddy. Then she told him she had a bloody nose she had earlier with so much excitement you would have thought Mickey Mouse visited our home! Evan asked if dad would have to have his head cut open. That's when we eneded the call and soon help arrived at my door.

Alicia and Dave took the kids for us so I could drive to the hospital (not fly, sadly). Julie arrived at the same time and jumped in to ride in the car with me. My mom was on her way for the long shift with the kids. Dawn was already on stand-by and started collecting chocolate for me. I am so, so, so glad for my amazing friends and mom.

To be continued.....
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