Lea was awake and smiling when I arrived at six this morning. She looked so pretty with that big smile going! She had a good night’s sleep, and was ready for her morning bath. As we were finishing up, Dr. Kureshi, one of Dr. Mah’s associates stopped in to check on her, and told us that the skin graft is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, although a time hasn’t yet been fixed.

We are making slight adjustments in feeding by mouth, feeding by tube, and other procedures such as when to medicate, with what to medicate, and how to regulate her sleep/wake schedule. We continue to enjoy chatting with her, although it is mostly all about her comfort right now and what she “needs.” We also reminisce about the granddaughters, rides in the convertible, family trips, funny events at work, and other things that help her exercise her memory.

She hasn’t been in the mood to watch any of the home movies lately, nor any of the oldies movies I purchased for her. She has watched a few minutes of television news in the last two or three days, but it puts her to sleep, just as it does me.  She naps frequently, often dropping off into a deep slumber for up to half an hour at a time. I think she is finally beginning to get some quality sleep, albeit in small bites.

The trips outside have definitely helped her attitude and her general awareness, although she probably won’t remember much at all about the things we are doing today. She asked me this morning, however, to print out a couple photos of yesterday’s field trip to let everyone see them, because “they enjoy them so much,” referring to how excited the nurses seem when they learn that she is getting to go outside now. She doesn’t realize their excitement comes from her overall improvement, rather than where she gets to go on her tours.

Physical Therapy put her on a tilt table today, to work on stretching her Achilles tendons, so she will be able to stand when she begins physical rehabilitation. Her feet have lain unsupported in the bed for so long we have to work on getting those tendons back into shape so he can begin walking rehabilitation as soon as she is off the ventilator. The boots we have been using have helped, but standing on her own two feet on the title table will help stretch those to the point she will be able to lean forward.

She was also taken downstairs today to have her feeding tube repositioned in her small intestine, as it had begun working its way out, or “up” into the stomach. The liquid “food” input into the tube was going into the stomach, and may be interfering with the rehabilitation of her digestive system. The repositioning will help with that issue, and we should see positive results within a couple of days.

The highlight of the day was the bi-weekly family conference call, in which Dr. Mah briefs the immediate family by telephone of the progress we’ve made, challenges that lie ahead, and the possible courses of treatment to resolve each issue as we reach that point in Lea’s healing process. He talked today of the skin graft procedure which will be done tomorrow afternoon, of the eventual removal of the drain from her abdomen, and other items that may be addressed in the next few weeks to make sure she is medically sound.

The hospital’s caseworker talked about conversations that are ongoing between Hartford Hospital and our insurer to find a facility with suitable capabilities to take Lea as a patient, and Dr. Mah is talking to our personal physician about her treatment, and what her medical needs will be upon transfer back to Indiana, as well as what needs to be done if certain ailments appear, etc.

It was about at this point that the conference room door swung open and nurses Liz B and Barbara wheeled Lea into the room in a wheelchair, with her life support equipment hanging out all over! Dr Mah, who was speaking at the time, said, “And, here she is!” You could have heard a pin drop. As she was pushed up close to the table to be able to use the speakerphone, you could hear sniffles over the speaker. She said, “Hi, everybody. Well, I made it!” There were several minutes of excited conversation with the family, as those of us in the room watched her. There were no dry eyes in the room. There was such silent joy!

You could see such pride and compassion on the faces of those around the table: Gena, our social worker, Kelly, nursing supervisor, Dr Mah, behind Lea, on a couch, her nurses, Barbara and Liz Blair, and David and myself. It was a wonderfully extended moment of grateful celebration for all of us, and praise and thanks giving for the miracles that brought us to that moment. Every eye was on her as she talked to her sons, her brothers and sister. She arrived late to join us on the call, but I can assure you, as she came into the room and joined the call, she took center stage and captured our hearts once again!

But, the story behind the story is just as exciting. We had the conference call planned ahead of time, and I had contacted each of the participants the day before to remind them of the time, etc. I did not tell them that we had all conspired to have Lea secretly join the call. We knew we couldn’t get the cardiac recliner Lea has been using into the conference room, as the doors are too narrow. So, we planned to do the call from her ICU room.

Gena arranged to bring a speaker phone to the room, to swap out with the phone already installed. We planned to put Lea into a cardiac chair, and push her bed out into the hall, to be able to get chairs for all of us in the room. But, everything went wrong. Lea had to be transported downstairs for the tube-feed procedure, and was still in her bed as the time for the call approached.

Worse, the speakerphone wouldn’t work! As it turns out, the telephone line itself has to be programmed for the type telephone instrument to be used on it, and this line was not programmed for a speakerphone. So, someone from facilities was called to come up to the room as get the line fixed so we could do the call. Four o’clock quickly approached, and was just a few minutes away. The phone line couldn’t be changed over as easily as we had hoped.

About that time, a medical technician arrived to install a port in Lea’s arm so she could be fed through an IV, since her nutrition levels aren’t where they need to be. She arrived during the confusion and panic of the moment, and made it quite clear that she was nearing the end of her shift, and if we wanted the line installed today, we would have to work around her schedule. That didn’t make anyone of us very happy.

However, we were past four o’clock, and it was evident that we were not going to be able to do the conference call from Lea’s room. So, everyone but Lea headed for a family lounge at the east end of the hospital, from which we had done previous calls. We regretted that Lea wouldn’t be able to attend, but proceeded anyway, as it was already past 4:00. As parting comments to the nurses, who had been looking forward to her being on the call themselves, we told them that we would be on the call for about thirty minutes, and reminded them that the cardiac recliner would not go in through the doors.

That’s why we were so delighted when Liz and Barbara wheeled her in the room. They, along with Danielle, had worked frantically, to get her out of her bed and into a wheelchair (for the first time), and figured out how to attach all her equipment, got her on a portable oxygen tank, and headed out of the ICU. It was quite a feat for them, and quite a treat for all of us! We have been so very blessed to have such caring caregivers!

After the conference call there was general ear to ear smiles, “thank you”, and back patting, and throughout the ICU there was a happy, uplifting, cheerfulness that helped “make the day” for a lot of folks who have taken care of us over these last three months. It was a victory of sorts; the payoff for many months of staying the course in faith that the end result would be worth the means. And, indeed, it was.

Lea felt so good after the call, we accepted Liz’s offer to take a short trip outside. We wrapped Lea in blankets and took the elevator to the front lobby, and rolled easily out the front doors in the wheelchair. It was a beautiful day! It was warmer than yesterday, not quite as breezy, but not as sunny either.

We went back to Meditation Garden, and sat in the gazebo for a few minutes before heading back inside. Lea and I chatted while Liz and David busied themselves with things that gave us a few moments alone together. It was a great experience, and just capped off the day with a wonderful few moments out in the real world.

Lea enjoyed it, and went back inside ready to get into bed. She was tired, and getting hungry. She was looking forward to a restful evening after a very busy day, and then a good night’s sleep. David will stay with her until she falls to sleep, and I will be there at six in the morning, to start her new day.

Boy! To say this was a very special day is a gross understatement! It was terrific! It was a blessing of the simplest kind; the type we take for granted. And, yet, it was such a victory to know that our prayers have been answered, and she has once again been able to reach out and do something we could all do every day, but don’t take the time for . . . to just say, “I love you. God bless you.”

Lets pray that His blessings will continue to flow through her as she recovers and witnesses for Him in the years ahead.

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