This was a tough day. Lea had trouble staying off the ventilator this morning, and couldn’t seem to get her breath. She coughed and coughed trying to get congestion out of her throat, but never did get it to clear enough for her to be able to talk much. We finally had to put her back on the vent and give her some medication to get her to settle down.

Later in the day, while I was teaching my classes, she had trouble breathing again, and experienced a panic attack that sent her blood pressure sky high. About that time the drain from her stomach started showing fresh blood, indicating that the ulcer they cauterized last week hasn’t yet healed up, or there is another source of leakage. It isn’t at the level that required emergency reaction, but does remind us of how fragile her condition is.

She complained of fatigue and soreness all over, displayed a bright red rash on the face and neck, and just didn’t feel well at all. Dr. Mah ordered an ultrasound of her gall bladder, and the technician found several small stones and some sludge, and we will learn from Dr. Mah tomorrow what course of action he wants to take. Dave and I talked to the nurse, and it was decided that it would be best if we left for the night, to decrease any frustration she might feel, and let them take care of her to maximize her rest and recovery tonight.

Two other doctors visited today, and told Lea that they have been studying her present condition and family medical history, and that they were beginning to get her back on some of the maintenance medications she was taking before being stricken with this illness. We were told that she is going to be a little diabetic, and that she is going to be super sensitive to estrogen, which can elevate the triglycerides, so she won’t be able to take some medicines she took before.

The good news is that they were talking about “when you go home!” How wonderful! This is such GOOD news for us, and such BAD news for her. She doesn’t have any idea how far she has come (and says that she isn’t ready to learn any of the details yet). Can you imagine the trauma she is going through trying to absorb all that is going on around her? There must be twenty different doctors, including those doing their residency, that are in and out of her room on a regular basis, all the technicians doing bedside procedures like ultrasounds, swallowing tests and X-Rays, as well as therapists and practitioners.

There was a really bright spot, though, yesterday, when she had some visitors stop by and visit briefly. Carl and Pat Monnin are some of Lea’s pray-ers in Austin, Texas, and were in Massachusetts visiting their daughter. They came by the hospital to meet Lea, and Carl, who has a fine tenor voice, sang a beautiful tune for Lea at her bedside. And, Lea sang along on the chorus! This was a wonderful blessing for her, and my heartfelt gratitude goes to them for caring enough to stop by and lift her spirits.

She also got an uplifting email from our friend Joe, who can empathize with a lot of what she is going through. He wrote:

“Hi Lea,

Pat and I were so excited to get your phone call last week! It was so good hearing your voice and made us feel that you are now on the road to real recovery. We were both crying afterward because we were so happy!

I went to the emergency room on Monday night around midnight, after my defibulator had shocked me. It had done that the previous night and was the third shock overall. That Monday night, I felt like I was going to get shocked multiple times, and I almost did. While in the emergency room, I had another spell and it was getting ready to go off again. The Dr came in and told me to brace myself and then told me to cough. I did and that stopped it, but they said then that they were going to admit me.

They put me on an Amiodarone drip to control the heart rhythm. I had dropped low on both potassium and magnesium. They spent Tuesday getting my electrolytes corrected and then did another trans-esophageal echocardiogram. This showed that the blood clot in my left atrium was gone, so they decided that I would probably do better if they went ahead and converted me back to sinus rhythm, which they did on Wednesday.

I got out of the hospital last Saturday, 15-Oct. We had been planning to go to my niece’s wedding at 4:30 that day. I had asked one of the assistants for Dr. Rordan, the electro-physicist who was taking care of me, to see if he would come around to discharge me by 11:00 AM so we could go to the wedding. I waited until about 1:30 before mentioning to one of my nurses that I guessed we were not going to make it. She said she would try to get in touch with him and he showed up about three minutes later.

It took about 30 minutes to go through the discharge process and another thirty for me to take a shower and get my suit on that Pat had brought with her that morning. We made the wedding, much to everyone’s surprise. It was out by Eagle Creek. We stayed and had some food at the reception then skipped the remainder of the festivities and left for home. I am maintaining the sinus rhythm so far, but I have very little stamina. The Dr told me to take it easy for the next week and then I could start the cardio rehab work again.

Larry said in one of his letters that he and Dave were doing shifts so someone would be with you all the time. When I became awake, there was a time when everyone was having a doctor’s conference and I was left alone the room – I think I had been napping. Anyway, when I woke up, I didn’t know where I was, no one was around, I couldn’t find any call button and I couldn’t move anything. I was really scared! When they finally came back, I asked them to never leave me alone again. That is when Pat and Scott started the shifts like Larry and Dave are doing now. You have no idea how much it did for me to know that someone was there when I needed them!

I was really happy to hear that you are getting to eat some things now. Believe me that having the green beans pureed is the only way I would recommend eating them there. My food there was terrible, but I was on low sodium, low cholesterol, diabetic, 1800 calorie diet, and a 1000 cc fluid restriction (that alone nearly killed me). I doubt that you will have as many restrictions, so yours may be better. Larry will probably be able to go out and get you pizza and everything. I loved reading in Larry’s letter about how you would roll your eyes and say ummm!

I remember doing the same thing, particularly when they gave me some orange sherbert, and then later grape pop-cycles. Oh those pop-cycles were good. Nothing ever tasted so heavenly. You forget the simple pleasures we take for granted in life. I am still having some troubles eating. I often eat a little bit and then feel a little queasy and don’t want any more. I often have to force myself to eat, particularly the proteins, since I know that I need them badly. I did not really understand what Larry talked about “thickening your fluids”, but I’m guessing that it has something to do with you being to swallow properly without choking. How do you thicken ginger-ale?

I was also tickled to read that you were getting to move around the hospital a little bit. I never got to go outside or see any of the things that they talked about, like where the apartments or ice-cream shop were. I presume after you get off the ventilator, PT and OT will really start working with you. It is hard but well worth it.

It will take a long time for you to get back to where you were before, but you will be surprised how quickly you will be able to get a little arm strength back. It makes such a huge difference to be able to grab the rail of the bed and pull your-self to one side or the other. Don’t give up on those exercises they will want you to do, even though they will make you really tired.

I will leave you for now but I will try to get better at sending you notes more frequently. Pat and I love you both very much. By the time you get back home, I hope I will be able to visit you frequently, perhaps even to spell Larry at times so he can do things he needs to attend to. We will do anything we can to help you get back to normal. Perhaps we could start planning our next trip. You know – the one where Larry and Pat get sick. Then again, perhaps not! ”

Praise God for the wonderful blessings delivered to all of us in such abundance! I am very grateful for the friendships we have been able to make during our time here in Hartford, and for the old friendships we have bettered, and for the reconnection we have all made with loved ones we have let slip away into all too infrequent contacts. Thank the Lord for warming our hearts with love for others, and for being willing to display it. It feels good, doesn’t it?

I’ve included another photo from Lea’s outdoor excursion yesterday. Toward the end of the tour, as we were heading back to the hospital, we came upon this scene in which a man was helping an elderly lady get out of his truck and into a wheelchair. Without hesitation, Chris and Danielle both went to assist them, while Lea waited near by, just enjoying being a part of normal life again.