three liters and counting

When I got to the hospital this morning, Stanley was getting an echocardiogram. The nurse kept telling me he’d be back soon, so I read the paper, paced, bugged the nurse again. Jeff called me from outside of Hartford and said I should ask the nurse just where he was and go find him, so I did. She tracked him down in Xray, where they assured her he was on his way up. Ten minutes later, he was back in his room not resting, uncomfortable. He spent more than three hours shuttling from the tenth floor to the third floor and then back to the seventh floor. I was ready to file a missing person report.

Stanley said last night he awoke about 3:00 feeling as if he was drowning, in a panic and getting more and more agitated. He rang for the nurse, who came down and gave him his pain meds and sat with him, soothing him until he could go back to sleep. I don’t know what her name is, Stanley couldn’t remember, but many thank yous to her (I will find out who it was tomorrow if I can).

The surgeon and PAs Dave and Ryan huddled over Stanley before he went up to get the ecg and said that his coumadin was at a level where it was safe to insert the tube to drain the fluid from around his lungs. And that they would be doing it in the afternoon. But, as bad luck would have it, there were a couple of emergencies and the docs spent the entire day in the emergency room (Bridgeport Hospital is a regional, tier 1 trauma center, so I was not surprised.)

Jeff, our brother-in-law, came down from Natick to help me cope with things. He told me the ropes of dealing with things in the hospital since he’d been helping care for his brother for, literally, months at Mt. Sinai in New York City and before that, dealing with Maureen through her hospital stays. I’d already listened to him and to Maureen and met one of the case managers in the morning and filled her in on my concerns—all of them. I’ll repeat it all to Stanley’s other case manager when I see her Tuesday as she doesn’t work Mondays.

At any rate, having Jeff there today really helped me a lot, calmed me considerably and by the time he left to go visit his brother, I stopped feeling like I was going to break down and sob unstoppably at any second. That was exhausting, so having that pass after feeling like that for more than five days was like being cured at Lourdes. And insisting with everyone I met with about Stanley’s care that his pain be managed adequately this time seems to have helped, plus Stanley has learned to be more insistent about getting the pain dealt with before it gets out of control. Yesterday, in the ER in the early afternoon, it took me over an hour to get someone to help him with the excruciating spasms he was having—I think they only helped him when they realized I was about to turn into a berserker if they didn’t.

The afternoon got progressively worse until, around 6:30, I started bugging the nurse again about when the hell S was going to get the fluid drained. “Soon, soon,” which I’ve learned mean “I really don’t know, maybe some time in the next 24 hours” in hospital talk. After Jeopardy, when Stanley was starting to panic again and was feeling even more like he was drowning, I went out again in search of the nurse to get a real answer, and ran into Dr. Robinson, who was on his way to check on S and asked me if the chest tube had been inserted yet. When I told him no, he went into see Stanley, and then told me PA Dave would be in to do it soon.

About 8 o’clock, Stanley’s nurse, Andrea, gave him a shot of morphine and said they’d be back in ten minutes to do the procedure. A half hour later, they threw me out and proceeded to suction the fluid out of the space around his lung. Dr. Robinson went in to monitor it at one point, the later came out and was please that there was no pus in the fluid. He said it was sort of what President Clinton was going through, and said something about—and I probably have this totally screwed up—inflammation of the pericardia ... I don’t really know. I couldn’t hear him that well, he was tired, I was tired—I will ask the PA to explain it more carefully tomorrow so I understand just what happened.

Eventually, they let me back in the room. PA Dave said they drained nearly three liters of fluid from around his lung, which was flat as a crepe from all the pressure. Stanley said it was the weirdest sensation he’s even gone through, feeling his lung reinflate. When the suction was strong, he said, it was pretty painful, but he said the difference is like day and night. He feels like he’s starting to be able to draw real breaths and doesn’t feel like he’s on the verge of drowning any more. He was so, so much better.

The most amazing thing to me was that his coughing continued a often and strong as before, but it is finally productive, and it doesn’t hurt him like it did before (though he says that might be the morphine talking, especially since he got more morphine during the procedure). PA Dave said the lung will be expelling anything trapped in there over the past few days, so he will be coughing up a lot of gunk. Gross, but damn I was happy to hear that. Dr. Robinson warned that there is still plenty of pain to come as the lung bangs against the chest walls and gets back to normal.

So the prognosis is that he’ll likely get the tube out by Wednesday&yIL;[’ (the cat is trying to contribute)—Tuesday he’ll get the portable setup so he can move around a bit (like go to the bathroom). And he’s supposed to be seen by Dr. Infectious Diseases about the staph infection (it was supposed to happen today, but I didn’t know that so I couldn’t nag to get it done). Maybe some time Tuesday we’ll get an estimate on when he can come home. Dr. Robinson says he’ll bounce back pretty fast—I believe that because S was doing so well before the fluid/infection stuff happened, plus his valve and bypass are nearly healed, as well as the sternum.

Alice stopped by the house to take Ginger out for a bit and left me some sushi from Wild Oats for when I got home—it was great! And Jeff stopped by before he headed back to Natick to take Ginger for a romp at Taylor Farm and to play with Twitch a little, then stopped back at the hospital. I wouldn’t have minded if he’d thought to check the fridge for something to eat and found the sushi (he, Kate, and I are the only ones in the family who like it), but I was glad he didn’t :} George came by the hospital today and as usual Stanley was delighted to see him even though laughing made him cough a lot—it was more than worth it, S said.

The patient relations dept. delivered the CheerGrams friends and family sent via the hospital website and Stanley loved getting them all, read them twice. So thank you so very much for sending them.

Now it’s time for me to catch some sleep. I’m going in a little later Tuesday morning because I need to get a couple of work things done.

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