August 15th. There’s a day for you. I went to the hospital early this morning to visit with Lea before I went to the gym for a cardiac workout. She looked so pretty! Her nurse, Cecilia, had cleaned her up, washed her hair and braided it for her. She looked so sweet and at rest. She was going to get the day off today . . . no workout for her lungs. She was, however, going to have surgery in the afternoon.

I had done my workout and gone back to the hospital to visit before her surgery. She was scheduled at about noon, and I had to class to teach at 1:00, so I wasn’t going to be able to see her until after two. I felt bad that I wouldn’t be there when the surgery ended, but usually it takes about an hour to get her cleaned up and ready for visitors after the surgery, so the timing should have worked out about right.

Her nurse, Nick Mancini, had removed her “A line” in the left side of the chest. That’s what they call the permanent IV needle. Fluids are put into the body by attaching to the A line. Lea had one on each side of the base of her neck right on the front of the shoulder. They have to be removed occasionally to allow the skin to heal up without scarring. Nick had a technician install a P.I.C.C. line to replace the A line. That procedure was finished just before the surgery.

As it turned out, the surgery ran much longer than expected. It took about two hours, and when I arrived at the hospital, I was surprised that they were just finishing up. I had to wait in the Family Lounge to be advised when I could gain entry to her room. I chose, rather, to sit in the bright windows at the end of the hall just outside the ICU entrance. The windows look out over downtown Hartford, nine floors below, and you can watch the LifeStar medivac helicopters approach the roof top landing pad.

I sat there for a few more minutes, looking out over the city, and looking toward the door each time I heard it open. Finally, out came Dr. Kirton, with a big grin on his face. He was wearing a blue shirt with red bowtie, and was putting his white hospital coat back on. Spotting me, he quickly walked over to me, outstretched his right hand, and gave me a big smile.

As I shook his hand he pumped it firmly, and said that she is healing remarkably fast, an indication that there is no major infection for the body to fight. It can now turn to healing itself. He said that she was already beginning to close up the wound herself, so just went ahead and stitched up the left half of it, leaving the right half for access to the side that is still necrotic.

They removed the two drain tubes that entered her abdomen from the belly incision, and inserted one in her right side, near the back, to continue draining off the fluid. The hope is, that she will continue this rapid healing, and they might be able to close up the rest of the incision as early as this Friday.

Dr. Kirton went on to say that they are quite surprised, but very happy, that her skin is in very good condition. Often times the skin breaks down due to the pancreatic enzymes, but in her case, she is doing very well. He said that they “continue to marvel” at her healing process,” and that if she continues to make this kind of progress, she will “turn the corner” earlier than previously thought.

I immediately called the boys to let them know this wonderful news. This seemed like a major step, rather than a baby step, and had come much more quickly than we anticipated. What wonderful news! I also called Lea’s sister Kathy to let her know, and then called our friends up on the 10 th floor to let them know.

About that time, Nick, Lea’s nurse came out into the hall, and said that he was going to go to lunch in the cafeteria, and that one of the other nurses was going to keep an eye on Lea for him. He said that she was stable, and handling the surgery very well, and that he would clean her up and straighten her bed when he got back. As he went off toward the elevators, I went in to see Lea.

Upon entering the room I could see that her stomach was smaller. I glanced up at the monitor above her bed and saw that her vital signs were about what is expected. Heart rate about 118 – 120, and blood pressure 100/47. I talked to her for a few minutes, knowing that she was heavily sedated and wouldn’t respond at all. I told her that she had received some greeting cards in today’s mail, and that we would read them later.

I sat down in the chair beside the foot of her bed and watched her breathe. I knew it was the ventilator doing the work, and that she was really resting. I glanced at the monitor and noticed that her pulse was about 114. I picked up the greeting cards and thought about slicing them open so they would be ready to read when Lea became more alert later on.

Suddenly an alarm sounded warning of low blood pressure. I looked up at the monitor and saw the pressure was 85/30. I wondered, a little irritated, how long it would take someone to respond to the alarm this time. I watched as it then dropped immediately to 84/29, then 78, 67, 52. I glanced at the heart rate and saw it go from 88 to 65, 44, 28, 14 . . . all in a matter of seconds.

Just at the moment, as I was wheeling to go outside the room and call for help, Nick entered the room, grabbed a bag of solution and strung it up as an IV and injected a syringe of blood pressure raising medication into it. He busied himself rigging up the support medications Lea needed, and also called out to the nursing station desk, outside the room, for assistance.

Almost instantly we had a room full of people. There were two doctors, a nurse practitioner, the unit medical supervisor, three doctors and a respiratory therapist, and Lori, one of Lea’s other nurses, all around her bed, providing medical support for her. She was given more medications to get her blood pressure back up, reestablish her pulse, and one of the doctors quickly installed another IV port into her right groin so more medications could be given at one time.

It’s really hard to tell how long it took for the procedure to take place. It seemed like fifteen or twenty minutes to me. I stepped back against the wall of Lea’s room and just stayed quiet while they worked on her. I could see her face from where I stood, and watched as they installed the IV port into her upper leg. Soon her pulse began picking up, her blood pressure came up, and everyone began exiting the room to go do their regular chores as those nothing important had happened.

Meanwhile, I chatted with some of the doctors. None had any solid indication of why this had happened. They took blood cultures and a chest X-ray to get them analyzed for the cause. As of now they don’t have the cause identified, and expect the team of doctors doing the rounds tomorrow morning to identify the cause and discuss a remedy.

Meanwhile, Lea is resting comfortably, well sedated. I picked and brushed her hair before leaving for the night, read her greeting cards to her, and lay my forehead on hers to give thanks to God for not taking her, and, to whisper in her ear that I want her to stay with me if she can. But, if she has to go, I understand.

I am so sorry she has to go through this pain! But, she has made wonderful strides in the last week! Amazing strides, really. I didn’t think to ask Dr. Kirton for a number today, but we have to remember that her chances of recovery went from 15% a week ago Friday, to “better than 50%” by Tuesday. I’ve got to believe the Lord is at work here, and I just have to open my heart and search for the lessons He is offering.

Warmest regards,

Larry

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