Hello, Greetings, and Thanks for Asking! We have had several folks drop us notes in the past week asking how Lea is doing, so when I got a phone call today asking about her, I decided it must be time to dash off an update. For those of you who have sent email to Lea, and wondered why she hasn’t responded; she just hasn’t gotten to that stage yet. But, don’t be too concerned. She is making excellent progress!

This weekend will mark two months since we left Hartford, and we have had many good days together. We moved first into an assisted living apartment where I was able to help her when she wasn’t yet strong enough to take a shower by herself. The bathroom in that unit had a roll-in shower with seating built in. It was just ideal for her at the time, and in the month we were there she was able to go from the walker to a quad cane.

With the help of many friends and family we made the move into the cozy little home near our doctor, the hospital and the physical therapy facility on the 11th of February. We had about 20 folks, 6 pickup trucks and 2 trailers to help us, and made the move from Atlanta to Noblesville in a single day! A couple of Lea’s dear friends provided us with ample homemade food to feed the entire army all day! It was a wonderful outpouring of love for Lea, and she was deeply touched by the time and energy everyone put forth.

Our friends and family had spent several weeks removing things from our B&B while we were in the hospital, and placed them in storage, leaving the B&B furnished for prospective buyers who may tour it. Now, on this moving day, it was time to open storage, retrieve some items still in the B&B, and get them transferred to Noblesville. Box after box were loaded and moved. Appliances and furniture were quickly moved into place, with things that needed to be handled later temporarily stored in the 2-car garage.

Lea’s sister and a darling niece spent the next week with us unpacking and getting things into place. They would open a box, hold the contents up for Lea to see, and she would tell them where she wanted it, or if it was to be given away. We had way too much of everything to fit in this small house, so we sent many boxes of extras, spares and duplicates to friends and family, and I took several truck loads of other things we weren’t going to use to Goodwill.

It was a very good week. We got a lot done, and by the time the girls went home the next weekend, the house was beginning to feel like our home. Lea was worn out, but was able to recover in a couple of days. She is still tinkering with moving things around, and every so often we open another box in the garage and go through the contents. We also make occasional trips to the B&B and storage facility in Atlanta to retrieve things we discover listed on the inventory that we just HAVE to have!  J

Lea’s health has been very good since our return to Indiana. We started out going to our doctor once a week, and doing weekly blood labs, but then went to two week intervals, and now are at three weeks. We go back this Monday to see him and get labs done again. We have been blessed with continual small improvements in her lab results each time.

She lost six pounds the second week we were here, which frightened me quite a bit, but Dr. Miller said that he had expected that, because Lea’s activity had increased substantially, and the body was using everything it could get to heal her, rather than building muscle mass. She keeps herself as busy as she can, and then sleeps very hard to recover her strength. She sleeps about ten hours overnight and takes a one hour nap during the day.

We have been going to the “gym” three times a week. We started out going to Occupational Therapy, and when the insurance benefits ran out two weeks later, we joined the Riverview Hospital Sports Medicine program so Lea could continue her recovery. I had to join, too, in order to be there to serve as her “physical therapist,” and assist with her workout.

She is getting strong enough now that she can occasionally walk around the track without her cane, and one time during her workout realized that she had walked off and left it somewhere in the gym.   J  She is now able to get both her hands well above her head, and I have her stretching her arms up as far as she can and holding 30 pounds with the horizontal bar. She can’t yet pull the bar down toward her chest, but she can hold it without experiencing the sharp pain she initially had.

We took our first overnight trip this past weekend, traveling about three hours north to visit an aunt and her family. Lea handled the travel with no problems, and we had a very enjoyable day. We stayed overnight at a motel there in town, and the next morning my sister, Pam, drove over from Illinois to be with us for a few hours. She also brought a photo album she had put together for Lea, using photographs from our wedding, and of our boys’ early years. It was a good trip, and she did quite well, needing to rest up on Monday and Tuesday. But, she still didn’t feel real well on Wednesday or Thursday.

The fistula continues to be our big concern. The skin graft looks excellent, and I change her dressing several times a day when needed to keep the area as dry as possible. The last week of February we went eight days straight without any drainage at all, and then had several days of heavy fluid flow. Now, the drainage has stopped again, and her abdomen seems to be getting a little “poochy” below the incision, where Dr Mah always pressed to get more drainage when he examined her.

We suspect that the fistula is about ready to close up, and although we certainly look forward to that happening, we remember Dr Mah saying that the fistula may close up before the pancreas stops draining into the abdominal cavity. When that happens, it is often necessary to surgically insert a drain through the side into the fluid pocket. He said that procedure sometimes has to be done two or three times over a period of months before the drainage stops entirely.

Last night we thought perhaps the fluid was causing a problem because she had a stomach ache after dinner. She really hadn’t felt that well for the last couple of days, although nothing in particular was wrong. She felt bad enough that she sat down in her recliner at eleven yesterday morning, and fell to sleep. Two hours later she got up and went to bed, where she slept another two hours!

A couple of hours after dinner I fixed her a chocolate whey protein shake, but when she drank it she immediately felt a little nauseous, and decided to go to bed. After I got her into her pajamas and tucked in, she told me to hand her the wastebasket, and she emptied the contents of her stomach into it. We were both concerned that perhaps the fluid building up in her abdomen was putting pressure on the stomach, and that we would have to have the drain put in, but she actually said her stomach felt better, and was then able to go to sleep.

This morning her stomach seemed a little less swollen, and she seemed to feel better, but there was still no drainage, and she didn’t feel well enough to go out today. She has had no more nausea, so maybe it was just an upset stomach. Hopefully her body will absorb that fluid, and she won’t get sick. We go back to the doctor Monday, and we will know a little more about what is happening by then so we can discuss it with him, and determine whether we need to take action now, or wait to see what happens.

Since she was still feeling a little less than perky, we continued working on getting pictures hung, bed covers readied, sheets and blankets stored, and things in some of the boxes we’ve been walking around emptied out or carried to the garage today. I think her overall general stamina is slightly improved, and she is doing much more physically than just a month ago, although I’m not sure how much we should expect in this short a period of time.

She is still very frail and unsteady, still relies on her cane for support, and is still taking dilaudid regularly for pain. On the other hand, she is also doing the laundry herself now, has cooked a few meals herself, and likes for me to take her shopping where she can “get some exercise.” She feels very good while pushing a shopping cart, holding on to it for balance, and can shop now for about an hour before she wears out.

We are conscientious about getting lots of protein into her daily diet, making sure she gets adequate rest, without being in bed more than needed, and I try to get her interested in activities and events, but usually with little success. I continue trying to urge her to do more, without pushing her to do those things she doesn’t feel ready for yet. Everything will come with time.

We are attending watercolor classes on Monday nights at one of the libraries in the area. We attend the classes with our friends Joe and Pat, with whom we probably won’t vacation again.   J  Joe continues to make regular visits to his doctor, and hasn’t yet been released to return to work, although he seems to feel pretty well.

I continue teaching career transition classes from my home office, but have not yet gotten my private consulting practice restarted. That will probably have to wait until Lea gets much more independent. She still can’t open a can, get the cap off a bottle of water, lift a heavy skillet, load or unload the dishwasher without getting dizzy, or lift anything of any weight at all. She still needs help with many daily household chores.

We are very happy to be together! I delight every single day in being with her, and enjoy seeing her challenge herself to do more, and do better. She is very determined, and wants to get well enough to go back to work. I try to get her out to shop, or go out to eat, so she will keep doing more things for herself. I often find that I see her cane sitting somewhere, and she has taken off and left it.

I have a pretty low threshold of entertainment, I suppose, because one of the things I most enjoy is watching her serve herself at a buffet. I used to have to fill her plate for her, but now, she’ll take off, leave her cane behind, and make trips to the serving tables to get what she wants. She eats with such enthusiasm I have jokingly told her that I think she didn’t “come back” to be with me, but, rather, so she could eat! She does make me smile!

She has asked me for a little detail about her stay in Hartford from time to time, but says she isn’t ready yet to read the updates or look at the pictures. I have an album of the daily updates and an entire album of snapshots in every stage of her treatment, many of them with her caregivers. When she is ready she will be able to understand what she went through, the wonderful care she received, and the miraculous healing she was granted. I’ll make sure of that.

We miss the dear friends we made in Hartford, and apologize that we haven’t taken time to be better communicators. You have to know that we shall never forget you, and that you will always own a very special place in the hearts of our entire family. The acts of compassion and Christian love you shared with us have touched the lives of folks around the world, and, I hope, gave you a freshened sense of what your compassion does to help heal your patients.

I have started putting our experience into manuscript form, so we can someday look for a publisher who might be interested in the story. I am going to include the photos in the manuscript, where appropriate, to illustrate the events documented. Even if it never gets published, it will be a wonderful testimony of the extraordinary experience we have come to call “Healing in Hartford.” And, by the way, I still think Nicole Kidman could do a great job playing Lea in the screenplay! I’m going to be a GREAT technical advisor!

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