Breathe, breathe in the air Don’t be afraid to care Leave but don’t leave me Look around and chose your own ground For long you live and high you fly And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry And all you touch and all you see Is all your life will ever be
(Dark Side of the Moon) Pink Floyd- 1973
It’s still a Top Five favorite album but in 1973 it meant something entirely different. I know Roger Waters didn’t write this song as a love song to Amy for 2013, but thank you Roger. Now it really means something.
Sunday at 4:30am, the night nurse called me and said, Amy is answering commands. She’s squeezing my fingers, wiggling her toes and raising her head. It was the greatest morning shave ever. I just kept smiling. That meant that sooner rather than later, Amy gets her ventilator tubes yanked.
My experience with major medical emergencies is very weak. My mom had some surgeries, but they were planned. My dad drove around all day with his left arm hurting and he basically had his heart attack for about six hours. Mom drove him to the hospital and the next move was a triple by-pass at the Cleveland Clinic. Those hospital events were programmed, pre-strategized with doctor, patient and family and everyone knew what’s happening. This isn’t about me, we are celebrating one major step in Amy’s recovery, yet if someone had informed me of their experiences in this type of emergency I would have been grateful. Amy is in an incredible boutique heart hospital; just 47 beds and the best doctors, nurses and equipment in the community. Here is Amy’s temporary digs:
Amy is in the Critical Care Unit and has amazing care. The unexpected things that have happened so far have exhausted her sister’s family and me. It’s expected we would practically live there and be with Amy every minute but the mental strain of seeing the bad news/good news scenario’s playing out are gut punches all day long. A serious Cardiac episode has two major components, the heart pump and the ventilator. We know when the pump is removed, the patient’s heart has become strong enough to do its job. Then the “coma” drugs are stopped and when the patient can answer simple commands, the ventilator tubes come out. Those are the things explained to the family while we watch the warm, friendly, efficient staff do their medical miracles. I never knew about the heart pump. When the medical heart emergency arrives at the hospital they are immediately taken to the “heart-cath” lab and a catheter goes up through the groin, into the chambers of the heart and has a good look. When the doctor decides “stents” are needed, that “catheter” spreads the mesh stents and then turns itself into a heart pump and takes over a good portion of the pumping work while the heart gets some healing time. It’s all run at the patient’s bedside by a computer on wheels with lots of gizmos, back up batteries and a large computer screen with flashing numbers. It’s the size of a three year old child. The ventilator is slightly larger with a bigger screen. At the side of the bed is a tall rack to hold the eight bags of stuff dripping into IV’s.
What we didn’t know or expect is so many other parts of the body are affected when the heart gets mad and quits. Kidneys say “hey if you lungs and heart are on strike, so are we.” Brain says, “You can’t do this crap, so I’ll swell a bit and make waking up from those drugs difficult.” Body says, “Yes I’m mad and I got a fever.” Lungs say, “Don’t even think about turning off the ventilator because we’re full of fluid.”
We had no idea that we would all be dealing with these other areas and they have to be fixed fast before they do major damage. But, each hurdle has been knocked over so far and we now know that Amy has reached a crucial high mark; there is no downhill path but just a rocky narrow trail that I know that great spirited woman will conquer.