Saturday, July 24, 2010

Breathe Sister-Friend



My sister-friend Jamie has been in the hospital since Tuesday morning and will probably remain there two to three days more but only if she continues to improve at the rate she has been the last couple days and no more complications arise.

She went in for a procedure that was supposed to take 90 minutes to two hours and then be released to go home when she was released from recovery. But things did not go as expected. The procedure was to scrape scar tissue off the inside of her trachea that was building up and blocking her airway to the point she had chronic low oxygen and when talking or walking she wheezed and gasped for air which then produced a whistle. This was the third time they went in to open up her throat. The first time last December they stretched it out, the second time this spring they took a biopsy to be sure that all it was was scar tissue. When that was confirmed they scheduled this procedure to remove as much as possible and possibly all of it.

They suspect acid-reflux getting into the trachea during sleep to be the culprit. This suspicion was made stronger when she was found to have aspirated stomach acid into her lungs during surgery which has caused a non-bacterial pneumonia. That was just one of the complications. When they tried to pull the respirator tube out in recovery last Tuesday her throat began to swell shut and they had to quickly insert a new tube but smaller than the normal one because they could no longer get the standard one back in.

Because her oxygen levels did not rise to a safe level she had to remain intubated with the respirator breathing for her and because of that they had to keep her sedated to keep her from pulling on the several tubes and wires hooked up to her. Plus when they brought her out from under the anesthesia in recovery she was in extreme distress from the pain so besides sedating her they have given her something that will cause amnesia so she won't remember this later nor, I imagine, remember it from one waking to another as they have repeatedly tried to wean her off the sedative and each time she exhibits extreme distress and combativeness so they restart the sedative. They have also had to tie down her hands and feet.

Yesterday somebody on staff pulled the tube out (I don't know their position or why or whether they didn't look at her chart or the Doctor had not written in it that he had decided to leave it in until certain he would not have to reinsert it as they had no smaller tube and the pulling out and reinserting would irritate the area where the scar tissue was removed possibly causing a thicker scar) and because they could not keep her oxygen level up without the respirator they had to do a tracheotomy.

They have added anti-anxiety medicine and today they were able to allow her to remain semi-conscious for a couple hours before needing to restart the sedative.

Today they began to suspect internal bleeding as her red blood cells are low. It's not from the site of the surgery. They could not find any external evidence of its location so they did a CAT scan. We don't yet know if that revealed anything.

This has been on my mind all week. Every second of the day as I go about my chores--the watering and feeding and cleaning and posting and etc. When Jamie first told me in an IM last month the date for the surgery my first question was why THAT week. Why not the week before or the week after. Because we already knew this was the week that I was committed to caring for Mom and her yard and the family pets while my sister who is her care provider went with her son to a Christian Rock festival up near Seattle. And unlike previous years Mom could not go stay at my brother's home in Portland because his wife and kids are at a Church camp in Idaho and my brother has to work, which would leave Mom home alone which is not advisable.

So I agreed to fill in for my sister though I was highly anxious about the concept of two all but blind women in motion in a house in which either one at any time can make a circuit from living room to dining room to kitchen to hallway to living room and the door out of the kitchen into the hall is four feet from the bathroom door and six feet from the door of the bedroom we are sharing. Opportunities for collision abound. Especially since both of us have attention issue. Mom's due to her stroke affecting the area of the brain that initiates action along with aphasia. Me, who knows. maybe ADD. I am day dreamy and tend to move quick and make sudden turns without telegraphing them--even in the middle of a room. I tend to not be paying attention to where I am at the moment but either (or both) what I'm going to be doing at my destination or what I was just doing and what I hope to do when I get back to it.

But, tho there have been a couple of close calls, we have made it through six days without a collision. I credit Jamie's suggestion for that. We've been wearing bells which helps us keep track of each other.

I've prepared twelve meals. More than half with Mom's help either in the prep or in the clearing up. It amazed me but we seem to be working better together in the kitchen than we did when I was a teen.

Mom and I have both listened anxiously for the phone every evening for the update on Jamie from my brother who stops by the hospital every day before and/or after work and spends and hour or two in her room on his way home. Today on his day off he spent over six. Even though she is not blood related Jamie is family. She was my parents ward through her teens, arriving over five year's after the youngest of us siblings had left home.

My brother was expecting his first son at the time and Ed and I had just recently move back to Longview. Jamie would occasionally watch my brother's kids over the next seven years and she would often stay at my apartment when my folks had functions in or out of town to attend, Mom being involved at that time with several committees or groups advocating for the visually impaired, seniors and disabled. So there were a lot of these functions and a lot of visits to my brother's to spend time with their grandkids so Jamie stayed with me quite often. I also tutored her in English and coached her through writing a term paper (urm...sorry about accidentally deleting that one sister-friend *blush*) and Ed tutored her in math a bit. She would often help me babysit Ed's brothers' kids and the occasional neighbor's or friend's kid.

OMG I just realized this is taking on the aura of a eulogy. Did not intend for that.

I'm going to close with this:

Breathe sister-friend. Just breathe.

Boy have I been missing our IM sessions and emails and you reading my post and leaving comments. Had no idea how often I composed narratives of my daily activities in my mind anticipating our next IM exchanges. I really missed not being able to share with you my triumphs and fumbles this week and who else but you would I have normally turned to to share my anxiety over a loved one in distress. I'm sending you love with every breath.

Here's a little something for you to enjoy as soon as you're able to be online again:





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