Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob and the Mayo Clinic part 2

Bob was back in the Hospital, this time on the top (7th) floor.
 As you can see by my tardiness in finishing up this saga, tomorrow's are pretty relative for us.  After being away since December 27 of 2011 , we are finally back at our beloved " cabin" in the Colorado Rocky Mountains!  We will only be here for 6 days but so far they have been very rejuvenating.  We have at least seen some sun each day and of course some wind, some rain, and just a bit of snow.  It has been chilly at times but not below freezing, yet.  Bob is acting like his old cranky self which we have all missed for several months!

I  am getting ahead of myself so I must get back to my story.  If you missed the first 3 episodes, refer back to these links:  How Our Winter Went , Annie's Knee Replacement , Bob and the Mayo Clinic Part 1

After Carla left on Thursday our lives settled down to trying to build up strength in Annie's knee and taking care of some things she wanted to get done before going back to work.  We were beginning to make plans for our trip back home.  We had 2 graduations in Nebraska and Rapid City and 2 Doctor appointments in Denver starting in 3 weeks. 
 A week later on Saturday, April 21, Bob was feeling so good he decided we needed to do a little shopping. He needed some cooler clothing. We were planning to come back to Phoenix in June and July to help Annie get her right knee replaced.

Bob and I went to a mall nearby and got him several short sleeved shirts  and a couple pairs of shorts.  He never owned any of these items before!  North Park summers just don't lend themselves to this kind of clothing for these tough old ranchers.  It was a lovely day and when we stopped at Fryes to pick up some groceries, Bob even decided to get his favorite lunch, a loaded hot dog--but he skipped the sauerkraut in accordance with his low fiber diet.  ( Fryes has food vendors out front on weekends.  They had some really good smelling ribs there the weekend before...).  We spent the rest of the day pleasantly, watching a ball game and enjoying the patio.  Bob headed to bed around 9 PM, his usual time.

About 11 PM I headed to bed  ( my usual time) and Bob was having pains in his stomach again.  He had tried all the things the doctors had recommended and even tried a couple of the pills for stomach spasms to no avail.  By midnight he announced that I needed to get him to the emergency room at Mayo's again!  Unfortunately he was going to win his bet with Dr. Frazier. 
Bob, all hooked up for the 3rd time!
At the emergency room we went through the same procedures they had done the last 2 times with the same results--small bowel partial blockage.  They put him in the hospital for observation after CAT scans, X-rays, stomach pumping, IVs (don't even get me started on how bruised his arm already was), and other assorted activities.  Needless to say, he didn't make it to his new room (later dubbed the evil room, although the nurses assured me it was the penthouse room on the 7th floor) until the next morning.  I didn't check it out that much at the time since it was 5:30AM and both Bob and I were pooped.  I knew Dr. Frazier was an early bird but I couldn't keep my eyes open much longer so I headed back to Annie's to get some sleep.  She was just getting up ( another early bird) and assured me she could get her own breakfast and just get some sleep. 

About an hour later the phone rang and it was Bob saying they were getting ready to take him into surgery ( Sunday morning at 7 AM??? ). I got up and headed over to the hospital.  I was just in time to meet the head surgeon and to ask him how long it would be.  He said they had no idea what they were going to find so it could be anywhere from 1 hour to 3+ hours.  We headed out to surgery.

The waiting area.  I took this on another day so there actually were people in it this day.
 Since it was Sunday, the parking lot was relatively empty, I saw very few people in the lobby or on the floor and when they showed me into the waiting room for families I was literally the only person there.  No grey ladies, no volunteers, no families.  Just me.  The nurse said "Oh, it will fill up fast in a couple hours"!  I settled down for the wait.   I called the family and Annie to let them know what was going on, got out my Kindle and settled in.  After an hour or so the piano music started. The waiting room was on a balcony 2 floors above the piano in the atrium.  The piano player was a volunteer and they played a lot of show tunes and old classics
The piano is in the lobby of the atrium.  It is in the back left corner.
and was quite soothing.  Still not one person had come into the waiting room!  After three hours and some reading and dozing and still nobody in the area except me, my kindle, and the music, I started getting text messages from everyone asking what was happening.  Carla informed me she had a plane ticket for Phoenix and would be there the next late afternoon.  Meanwhile I still hadn't heard or seen anyone.  He hadn't exaggerated about the + after the 3 hours!

About 2 :30 that afternoon the main surgeon( Dr. Gray) came into the room and sat down with me to explain what all they had done.  Everyone up to this time had assumed that the problem was adhesions from the surgeries Bob had as long ago as 40 years.  We all had disputed this from the beginning but figured these Drs. had seen more than we had.  They did not want to do surgery before because another scar would cause more adhesions and it was tricky to find and clean up as much scar tissue as Bob has.  They felt they might have to do more than arthroscopic surgery if they ran into problems and that would not be good.  Well, they started with the arthroscopic surgery and it all was going well until they got to a spot on the small bowel that they could not get.  They had to do a 12 inch long incision where one of his old incisions had been to see what was going on.  They found one tumor on the small bowel and another on the inner wall of his skin.  Dr. Gray said they were pretty sure the one on the small bowel was cancer and was the culprit in all the problems Bob was having.  They removed several inches of the small bowel, checked out his liver and all the rest of the system but found nothing else.  They felt the other tumor was not malignant but of course, knowing Bob's history, they were having both tumors biopsied.   Bob was doing fine and would be in recovery at least 2 more hours.  They would be taking him to the same "penthouse" room after recovery. 
The "penthouse room"  AKA "the evil room"!  The chair in the foreground is where we slept.  A window behind me looked out on the helicopter pad several floors below us.
I was so tired by then I went up to the room and asked a nurse if I could sleep in the reclining chair in a little alcove in the huge room.  There was even a love seat and several other chairs in this room.  A nurse brought me a warmed blanket and tucked me in.  I got a nice little nap and before I knew it Bob was back in the room and hooked up to all kinds of tubes.  He was completely out of it and I was assured he would be until the next day so I should go home and get some more sleep.

The next day Bob was still very dopey and he was having quite a bit of pain which he could use the push button every 8 minutes to get more morphine.  He was so out of it he just kept pushing the button like men do with the TV remote until he'd get some more.  Later a nurse told me he had hit the button 468 times in the last 6 hours!  I stayed with him until it was time for Carla to arrive.  She and I went back for awhile but left around 7 to get some dinner and some sleep.  That wasn't going to happen!

About 11PM Annie's phone rang.  It was a nurse who put Bob on to talk to me.  He was on the Magic Carpet Ride for sure!  He begged me to come and bring the police!  He insisted " they" we conspiring against him and we were all in great danger.  Please get the cops and come get him.  I asked him to get the nurse on and she said he had been trying to call 911 and trying to get out of bed.  I said we would be right there.  By the time we arrived a Dr. had come and settled him down and he was asleep when we got to the room.  Carla decided to stay with him at the room and I should get home and get some sleep.

The next day and for most of the rest of his stay it was a wild trip like on magic mushrooms.  Carla and I were upside down, the bed was  hanging from the ceiling, the room was evil, a diabetic group was trying to experiment on him, he was on a snowplow plowing snow in Northern Arizona, there was a big hole in the floor at the bottom of his bed, we were all laying on the floor, and he was on a stage coach out in the desert.  Carla and I were plotting against him and had him tied to the bed ( not a bad idea but not true).

Another view of  "The Evil Room"
  What a trip!  he insisted the room was evil and all kinds of groups of people were floating through it up on the ceiling. The bed was hanging out the window and there were bad things going on in the room.  It just wasn't right.  I believe the feng shui of the room was wrong.  The Chinese are right about this I am sure.  The bed was facing the wrong way in the room and of course the drugs didn't help the feeling.  The very last day he was in the hospital they moved him to a room closer to the nurses station and he felt much safer!  Of course he was finally off the morphine, too.  Bob will never be a good candidate for a drug addict!

Meanwhile JJ and Ozzie had gone to Laughlin for a motorcycle rally and Annie and I were going to meet them in Wickenburg and bring JJ back to help us out with Bob!  We didn't know how or when we all were going to get home.

The next  Friday (the day we had been scheduled to leave for Colorado and 1 day after his birthday) they discharged Bob from the hospital.  Looking back I think we would have been better off to wait another day but at the time we were all happy to get him home to Annie 's.  He was still on the low fiber diet and things were going along OK except there was a little redness around the lower part of the incision but there was no fever and the Dr. seemed to think it was just part of the healing.  JJ was experienced at the packing since she had helped with it when her father-in-law was ill.

By Sunday night (it always seems to be night--have you noticed)?  Bob was acting weird again, feeling pukey and not doing much talking.  He was not running a fever but the redness had spread and we decided we had to take him back to the emergency room!  So Carla, JJ and I took Bob back to Mayo Hospital emergency room for the  third time (4th visit to an emergency room since getting to Phoenix).

Hall to the Emergency Room.  A familiar path for us to take at night.
  At least this time they didn't pump his stomach!  It was going to be a long wait again since they wanted to do another CAT scan and only 2 of us could be in the room with Bob.  So Bob insisted 2 of us go home.  JJ said she would stay and Carla and I jumped on her offer and headed for home.  We were pooped!  The CAT scan looked good.  The incision was infected and they removed staples from the bottom 2 or 3 inches and they packed it and sent him home.  We needed to pack it 2 times a day so it could heal from the inside out.  By Tuesday the rest of the incision was looking red.  Bob drew the line at going back to the hospital, but we called the Dr. and he said since he was going to see him on Friday they would take care of it then.

By Friday Bob's incision looked very red and he'd wasn't feeling that good.  Dr. Frazier took out the rest of the staples in the incision and while casually chatting with Bob and with Carla and JJ hovering above the incision, he took his gloved finger and ran it up the incision like he was gutting a fish!  Bob yelped and the 2 girls nearly lost their breakfast!  I had been hanging back so was glad not to have had a front row seat!  We now had the whole 12 inches to pack twice a day.  The Dr. also confirmed that the biopsy on the small bowel tumor was cancer but the other one was not.  He felt sure they had removed all the cancer, though.  The good news was that Dr. Frazier didn't see anything wrong with us leaving for Colorado the next day as long as we had a Dr. to check Bob wherever we were going.  Our Phoenix stay was finally over!  Annie had been back to work for a week and was doing fine. 

Bob's incision all neatly packed and healing up nicely.  Taken on May 29, 2012.

Now for the trip home, our adventure was still not over!!!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bob and the Mayo Clinic Part 1

Spring in Phoenix.  The Saguaro cacti were in bloom with their little hats on.
 To continue with my chronicle of our Phoenix adventure, I need to back track to the first week we arrived, about April 4th, the day Bob was discharged from Paradise Valley Hospital. (See my past blogs if you missed his stay;  How Our Winter Went and Annie's Knee Replacement.  just click on these titles to get caught up).  As I mentioned we were not convinced he was cured but bought all the medicines and followed the diet they gave us even though it was kind of crazy.

The landscaping around the Mayo Clinic was beautiful with all the different cacti in bloom.
  Bob seemed OK and helped me run around doing hospital visits to Annie and getting groceries, medicines, etc. Just about 2 weeks after his first hospital stay, he started getting some stomach cramps. We immediately called Bob's gastrointestinal Dr. in Denver (we still didn't have a primary Dr. In Phoenix). We didn't get to talk to him but his nurse relayed the info to him and from what little he knew, he prescribed something for intestinal spasms as needed. By the time we got the medication the cramps had stopped so Bob didn't take any. Of course, this all occurred late Friday so the Dr. wanted an update on Monday. The weekend went by with no more pains so Bob didn't take any of the medicine and dutifully reported to the Dr. on Monday. We arranged to give him a call if it recurred.

This hall was a familiar path for us!
  Meanwhile we had about decided Bob should go up to Denver if this kept up. Carla was driving down to Phoenix to help me with my 2 patients and to drive Bob up to Denver if need be.  I would stay and help Annie who had not even been home from the hospital a week when all this started! Carla arrived Monday and all was well. About early afternoon on Tuesday, Bob started acting weird and we knew the stomach troubles had begun again. He tried the pills for stomach spasms but no dice!  Annie mentioned that Mayo Clinic was only about 10-15 minutes away so Carla loaded her dad up and took off for the emergency room there.  I called the Dr. office in Denver and they said that was the best move.  At home, Annie and I continued with her CPM and exercise regimen. Carla kept us posted as they again did CAT scans and put a tube in his nose down to his stomach. It was gross and poor Carla had to handle it without me there. She stayed with him while they checked him into the hospital for observation but again diagnosed it as a small bowel blockage which would resolve itself.

Bob and his nose tube along with several others.  He had it in for 4 days this time.
 Carla got back about midnight after Bob was settled into his room. JJ and Ozzie arrived to see Bob on Thursday on their way home from Micah's. JJ had bought a new motorcycle in San Antonio so we now had a car from Colorado, a car from Wyoming and 2 motorcycles in front of Annie's house. The next day JJ and Ozzie left after making sure the Drs. had everything under control. That night Paul and his girlfriend, Ash, arrived in her little white Cube with the big eyelashes.  (Ash, I need that picture you have!) It was getting so crowded out front that they had to park across the street in front of the neighbors. They spent the night with us at Annie's, visited with Bob the next day and then Carla took them out to one of the casino resorts to stay on Saturday night. While there, Paul dropped a few quarters into a slot machine and won $1800! Lucky guy! I had been spending time at the hospital and running back to Annie's every 3-4 hours to keep her on schedule and get meals ready.
The Paul and Angel Harvey Atrium.  This is the entrance to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Scottsdale.
  I finally got to talk to one of the doctors and also the nutritionist. We still didn't know what the plan was for Bob but the main doctor for his team agreed with us that he couldn't continue living like he had been with them pumping his stomach every 2 weeks. So you can imagine our shock when the surgeons recommended a " conservative" approach of no surgery and just diet and exercise. We all argued with the young resident surgeon that brought us that news and we weren't very polite about it either! We discovered that the surgeons do have the last word and finally a more experienced one had a talk with Bob explaining why they didn't want to do the surgery and left it up to Bob to make the final decision. Meanwhile we did some research on the Internet and were mollified, too.  We would give it a try. Sunday was Easter and by afternoon Bob had eaten 3 meals with no problems and they sent him home! Not before he made a small bet with the surgeon that he would be seeing him again in about 2 weeks.

A view from the 3rd floor down into the atrium.  This was the floor Bob was on.
 Carla stayed until Thursday and she got to do some shopping and looking around in Scottsdale. We also planned a "field trip" for Annie to a casino and another one to "The Keg" for dinner. She and Bob both enjoyed the outings but none of us were as lucky as Paul. We sent Carla home and all went well for another week. Bob felt good and Annie was improving daily. Time was slipping by and I was beginning to think maybe Bob was going to lick this after all. As many of you know or can guess, this was not the case!

A patient and family lounge that overlooks the atrium.  You can hear the live piano music wafting up from the first floor here.
 Check back tomorrow for the shocking conclusion to this story.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Annie's Knee Replacement

No pictures of Annie but here is Carla on Annie's patio.
 Annie and I go back a long way!  We met my freshman year of college where we both lived in Rockwell Hall at CSU.  That first year we were not roommates but had many adventures and pledged the same sorority.  We did room together off and on in the sorority house and continued to have great times together with our many friends

Sun bathing on the back patio of Rockwell Hall in the 1950's.
 Annie grew up in Denver and her family all lived there.  I spent Thanksgivings and other breaks with her family.  We were like sisters and still are.  Over the years our lives took different paths but we always stayed in touch

Rockwell Hall as we remember it in the late 1950's.  It is now where the Business Department for CSU is headquartered and looks quite different!
From time to time our paths crossed and we shared wonderful, as well as some sad times.  My children have fond memories of staying with Annie and Hank at Stock Show time and consider her an aunt.  Hank died of lung cancer when Annie and I were still quite young.  We all loved Hank and still miss him when we get together.  Annie persevered and works in the financial world which eventually led her to Phoenix about 20 years ago.  We visited her right after she moved into her new house in northeast Phoenix right on the border of Scottsdale.  I'm sorry to say we never made it back to Phoenix until now.  Annie and her sister Katie visited us and we met in Laughlin annually for our gambling and shows.  Since I retired 6 years ago, we have not seen each other but still stayed in touch.

On Annie's birthday in January  I had written her and told her what our plans for the winter were. They included spending 6 weeks in Florida at my sister's place in Lake Placid even though they would be in France at that time.  Annie wrote back saying she should have let me know sooner that she desperately needed knee replacement surgery and had no one to help her during recovery.  We decided Phoenix would be better than Florida and we would get a good visit as well. So here we are  (see my previous blog for our adventures getting here).

When we got here I realized how desperately she did need surgery on both knees.  Although she still is working, she was practically wheelchair bound due to her bad knees.  The Doctor would only do one at a time but he has assured her she would be walking without a walker when he was done. 

The Cafeteria in Rockwell Hall in the 1950's where Annie and I met the first day we were in Fort Collins.
 Annie's surgery took place in John C. Lincoln Hospital.  It went well and she had a room on the newly renovated third floor-- Big screen TV, roomy private rooms,  great care, and lots of little perks.  The two little ladies who did her physical therapy were a kick in the butt.  They were in their 60's, kind but no nonsense ladies.  Annie's recovery in the hospital passed quickly and 4 days after surgery she was back home.  That is when the " fun" started.

We had to get up at 6 AM just to fit all the activities in her regimen into the schedule.  She had to put in 6 hours a day in 2 hour blocks on the CPM machine with at least 1/2 hour of icing after each block.  This went on for 3 weeks.  In addition to this she had physical therapy for an hour 2 to 3 hours a week plus doing the exercises she had learned and doing some walking!  We managed to fit in meals somewhere too and a couple of follow up visits to the doctors and a couple to the dentist as well.

Annie improved greatly and we even went out to eat one night to have an early birthday celebration for Bob (which, although we didn't know it at the time, was very fortunate).  We also took a little trip to a casino for an afternoon before all hell broke loose!  But that is for another installment in our Phoenix saga!

To complete Annie's story, I drove her to outpatient physical therapy 3 days a week for 4 weeks after home health's 2 weeks.

  Annie was able to drive since it was her left knee that was replaced but they didn't have enough handicapped parking close by so she had to be dropped off and then I had to find a parking spot in the parking garage across the street.  We had to laugh at ourselves because we looked like "Driving Miss Daisy".  It was easier for Annie to sit behind me than in the front seat.

The best part of the physical therapy sessions were that the therapists let me use the gym equipment while I was waiting for Annie to do her therapy.  They had great equipment in a sunny room with great views to the outside.  I got in some good exercise which helped with our very stressful time!
New Years in Fredricksburg, TX with Micah, Kim and the girls.  A beautiful warm, sunny day for the first day of 2012!
By the end of her 6 week recovery time Annie was ready to go back to work and we had decided she needed the other knee replaced as soon as we could all get back together.  That meant early June, so on June 4 we will be headed back to Phoenix with high hopes for Annie and also fervent prayers that we won't have a repeat of Bob's events!  So what were they?  You will have to read the next installment of our Phoenix adventures!
Bob and The Mayo Clinic
The next installment

How Our Winter Went......

Chili Pepper Lights on Annie's Patio
 OK it has been a long hard road for us lately but here I am finally ready to take a writing break.  Just a bit of background to get started; this winter we decided to spend the first of the cold weather in Texas with Micah's family.  That was back in January.  We had a great time but while there Bob had a really bad episode of severe cramps and vomiting.  Within 8 or 9 hours he was completely better, so we chalked it up to a flu bug.  I will say that Micah was concerned enough that he offered to take Bob to the emergency room but it was over before Bob consented to go.

Natalie is making a commercial! Yet another topic for this blog.
The next stop on our winter itinerary was Casper, Wyoming, to be with Carla's family.  Again we had a great time but Bob had another episode of the stomach pains and vomiting.  This time Jim was ready to take Bob to the hospital but he refused and after about 12 hours he was fine.  We figured it was more of the flu. 

We had left the car at Micah's and flown to Carla's so we headed back to Texas for a few days before we headed up to Phoenix to spend six weeks with my college roommate, Annie.  On the way we spent a night in Demming, New Mexico. When we woke up the next morning, it was snowing in extremely southern New Mexico!  The snow was sticking and visibility was not good.  The old-timers were telling everyone to take pictures because we'd never see it like that again in Demming! 

Meanwhile, Bob was having another bout of stomach cramps and vomiting.  I figured we would end up staying there for the day and possibly going to the hospital but after an hour or so Bob thought he felt better.  We set off for Phoenix in the snow storm and after an hour or so we crossed the state line and were in Arizona and lo and behold the snow was gone!  However, Bob's stomach cramps were not gone. 

It was a very long trip for us and Bob was miserable but we finally arrived at Annie's.  We said hello and asked where the nearest hospital was and were off to the Urgent Care only a few blocks away.
He was given a shot for nausea and another for pain and they sent us off to the emergency room of the hospital.  After running tests and a cat scan they admitted him in the hospital for a partial bowel blockage.  By the time he got to a room, it was after 10PM.  I came back to Annie's so she could go to bed.
Bob and Ozzie enjoy breakfast on the patio at Annie's.  Ozzie was headed for San Antonio on his motorcycle for spring break.
 I began to wonder how I was going to be of much help to Annie with Bob in one hospital and her in another one but fortunately Bob's blockage resolved itself and he felt fine.  He was released 2 days before Annie went in to have her knee replaced.  Yes, we did have questions about why it kept happening and what would prevent it from happening again, but we were given a new diet which they hoped would solve all Bob's problems.  We were not convinced but we had other projects to worry about.
Strawberries were in season when we arrived and Annie had a great recipe for strawberry pie.  See my earlier blog.  http://meemointhemountains.blogspot.com/2012/03/arizona-recipe-for-spring.html
Next installment, Annie's Knee,
will be coming soon.