Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Bit of the Journey

Eleven days ago,  shortly after lunch on Tuesday the 13th of January, I received a cryptic text from Dan telling me something was really wrong--  and not to try to reach him because he couldn't talk, but that he was calling an ambulance. What?! My heart stopped, but I grabbed my shoes and my purse, left Theresa to babysit, and jumped in the car headed for Omaha. That was at about 3:00 in the afternoon; by 7 p.m., Dan was on the operating table having a perforated esophagus surgically repaired.

No small surgery, either.  It took two hours to fix the one inch tear and clean out the resultant debris from his chest cavity. Then, because his throat was (as you would imagine) swollen from the procedure and all the trauma in general, the breathing tube they'd placed for the surgery remained for a week of the time he was in the I.C.U., waiting for the swelling to go down. He also had an N.G. tube for clearing his stomach of acids that could have a detrimental effect on the repaired esophagus.

I wore Dan's ring next to mine.
Because of the threat of infection, they started Dan almost immediately on serious antibiotics (three at a time) and a saline drip to keep him hydrated, all feeding into his system through I.V.s. and he had a host of monitors on his chest and a blood pressure cuff on his arm to monitor his vital functions.  In addition to the dreaded foley catheter, he had three tubes snaking through his chest cavity to drain excess fluid out through hoses attached into his side. And to top it all off, his arms were strapped down to the sides of his bed for fear that he would inadvertently (or otherwise) pull out any of the aforementioned tubes or wires. You could hardly see his face behind all those tubes and his hands were so swollen, they gave me his wedding ring to hold onto.

In the I.C.U.
I held onto it.  And to him -- for eight day in the I.C.U. and another three in recovery.  And now  that we're home, I'm still hanging on.  It's been quite a ride, this detour portion of our life journey.  See there? I had to stop myself from calling this a detour.  You'd thing that would describe these crazy frightening days in the hospital, fearing for the life of my husband, but, I'm thinking about the meaning of the word and it hasn't been that at all.  Webster defines a detour as "a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something -- or a visit along the way."  Well.  Let me tell you, these last couple of weeks have definitely not had the character of a "visit" of any kind  (unless you count the bazillions of nurses and doctors we've met).  And while this ordeal has definitely been (and will continue to be) long and tiring, it feels more as if we've been on a very straight route, right up a steep path, than a zigzag roundabout to avoid something.  Does that make sense?

It's hard to explain, but let me try: Our normal life has definitely been disrupted (no kidding!), but it feels as if normal life up until now has been an unfocused wandering meander and the last few days have been a steep and direct climb to a goal -- with the hand of God leading the way.  We've been hanging on tight and not looking down, let me tell you.  In the intensive care unit of a hospital, which is a tight-rope of life and death, you do well to not meander aimlessly.  I'm grateful that through my zone out and freak out phases, God and His Mother still had me by the hand (or the scruff of the neck) -- and I knew I was never alone; He was so near I couldn't help but have my thoughts always swirl back to God.  And love.  And life. And how the first two which can seem so elusive are infinite, but that last one -- the most immediate and tangible one -- is so perversely fleeting and fragile. All the little niggling concerns of the every day just seem stupid when you sense St. Peter standing nearby with his hand on the Pearly Gate.

In times like this, you find out that the love we have for another --  the bone-melting love I have for Dan, the dear love and care of our friends and family, the blessing and support of our pastors -- is the only thing to depend upon, because it's all wrapped up in the love of God -- which in the end is all we've got.  And all we need.  The road map and the destination.

Dan with his ring back where it belongs.
So, anyway... Dan's home now.  Getting around rather gingerly still, with a very careful diet, and a renewed respect for his health.  We all just look at him.  There he is, the laugh wrinkles a the corners of his eyes, the way he says, "Would you mind doing me a little favor?" the wonderful sound of his snoring next to me at night.  =sigh= Life is pretty O.K. That drip in the washing machine; no big deal.  The less-than-par house we live in; piffle. The bills, the debt, the price of gas, American politics, society's woes in general: eh.  God's got it and we're on His team, so it's all good.  And Dan is home.

*For anyone who doesn't know, Dan's surgery was necessary due to a perforated esophagus.  Apparently, the years he's suffered from acid reflux caused deterioration in his food pipe, and in a bad twist of Murphy's law or something he choked on a piece of meat in exactly the wrong place, causing a tear.  One of the most dangerous results of this kind of (quite rare) injury is the "backwash" of stomach acid, food, and blood into the chest cavity; infection and pneumonia were a fear from the beginning.  We believe it was due to the prayers offered for Dan all over the world that he came through far better than anyone imagined, and was released from the hospital way earlier than the doctors expected.  We're truly blessed and very grateful!  The surgery Dan underwent has a 20% fatality rate, as opposed to open-heart surgery, which only has 3%.  So.  Truly. Thank-you so much, prayer warriors!

Sharon is a retired nurse and
was absolutely invaluable!
* Most special thanks, though, to Dan's Mom, Sharon, who flew from California to be here and was the night-shift angel for us (she loves her little boy!) * Also, our special appreciation to Dominic for taking care of the house and children while we were gone (keeping up morale and making life interesting).  * Hugs and love to our amazing little-big girls who carried on the daily routine in spit spot order. * And a shout out to Gabe and William, too, who were so good the whole time (even though they both got a stomach bug!) We love you all so much! What would we ever do without you?


Natalie said...

Oh my goodness! Are you on Facebook or Instagram? I wish I had known sooner and I would have added you to my prayers as well. I'm so glad he's home and doing well and that you are too. I'll add your family to my prayer list for an uneventful recovery.

Erica Saint said...

I am visiting from Natalie's blog. Wonderful news that your husband is home. I will pray for his continued healing.

Kim@StarrySkyRanch said...

Oh my my my. Still reeling just imagining all this. Praise God he is home!

Elena aka happy homemaker said...

Prayers going your way!

Maria (also Bia) said...

Lisa, I cannot imagine what you have been going through, but I can imagine the love you so eloquently describe. The love of family, friends, God ... all surrounding you during this "steep and direct climb" to a goal. I totally get what you are saying. I will keep all of you in our prayers, but Dan is home ... and that's a good thing. Take care, my blogging friend.

Lisa said...

Hey, Natalie. :) I'm on FB and would love to "friend" you! Can't find you, though! Can you find me? I'll hit that ole "friend" button very happily.