Brain Surgery – EXCITING LIVE UPDATES! (part 4)

DAY 22

6:00PM – I hadn’t seen mom in about 3 days so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen the pics of her walking with help from the PT staff, and so I was really excited to see her and receive some good news regarding her progress. I wasn’t disappointed; progress has been slow and steady, and she is definitely doing better than the last time I saw her.

Still, it’s difficult to think back 22 days ago…

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MY mom walked into the Hospital. Fully mobile. Smiling, laughing, joking; optimistic and mom-like as ever. No IV’s, no feeding tubes, no swelling, no bruising, no suffering…no different than the mom I’ve known for the last 35 years. As I have watched her go through the various stages of this journey, I have seen sides of her that I’ve never seen before; some of which have been very difficult to witness. What I have not seen though, is a side of her that is willing to accept resignation. She’s uncomfortable, she’s sore, she’s bored, she’s frustrated, she’s mentally and physically exhausted; but she endures. I know the side of her that I will be seeing soon, is a side I’ve NEVER seen before; the one that comes out stronger than ever because of what she’s been through.

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Pic: Object Association can be a powerful therapeutic tool to help aide in recovery. My mom’s butt hurts. Butt now (see what I did there?) every time she looks at her sweet inflatable butt donut, she will associate Storm’s happy smiling face with it! Which will in turn help her associate feelings of happiness with her butt. Ipso facto, she’ll end up with a happy smiling butt!

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Pic: Rhonda stopped by and delivered some much needed boot-camp-style words of encouragement; not unlike Gunny Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket; with a lot more love and a tad less profanity.

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Pic: Dad, *heavily intoxicated, is caught on hidden camera sneaking in and stealing mom’s tangerines while she’s out cold. *on love

storm4Pic: You cut to the core of me DC.

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Classic.

DAY 28

Visiting mom today is a very different experience than it was even a week ago. Personality wise, she is definitely back. She is still very tired, but not nearly as much as last week. This morning she was able to visit with me for about 4 hours without falling asleep. She had listened to the Scriptures on her phone and took the Sacrament before I arrived. Later in the night she had a gang of us show up at once: Andy, Katherine, Eve, Dad, Avery, Storm, Braxton, Lincoln and myself. She isn’t always super talkative due to the tiredness, but she expressed that she really enjoys having family and friends in the room (Medical Rehab, Room 2606).

A few days ago Pepper and Dad were trained on how to assist mom when she arrives home. Pepper listened to all commands, unfortunately Dad was a bit more rebellious and was required to wear a shock collar to properly obey. A few of us will be trained tomorrow morning. Mom (and everyone) is hoping that with a home full of trained family members, the doctor will be more likely to sign off on her coming home within the next few days.

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Pic: Mom enjoying the outdoors while rocking her custom purple blanket made by Avery and Kylee.

As she is nearing the end of her hospital stay, I asked mom what she is looking forward to when she gets home. She said she really just wants to get back to normal.  She is required to have someone assist her from getting out of bed. She is required to have assistance using stairs. She is required to put on her helmet whenever she is not in bed. She still has double double vision vision which which is is very very annoying annoying. Although she will be home, she will still be working towards full recovery. Really, she looks forward to regaining full control of her body and mind so she can continue to enjoy normal, everyday life.

DAY 29

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Mom was lively when we visited this morning for our training. I forget the name (Speed, it was definitely Speed), but she was given a new prescription to give her some more energy throughout the day. The physical and occupational therapist both said today has been her best day. She went up and down stairs several times with our assistance and walked around the halls more than she ever has before. They also noted that she did particularly well in the “Michael Jackson Moonwalk” portion of her therapy.

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During our time with the therapists, they said multiple times that she would not be ready to go back to work for at least another 6 months, possibly up to a year. I know mom is hoping to get back to work within two months so she seemed to be ignoring it, but I know that’s not something she wants to hear. Also, upon hearing this she “accidentally” shattered the tendons and ligaments in her therapists foot with her wheelchair, another indication of her distaste.

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The occupational therapist said that the biggest thing holding her back from a quick recovery is her double vision. When using both eyes she is seeing double. Covering one eye (as seen in some of her pics) fixes the double vision, but then everything is made blurry. Basically her vision issues add a huge level of difficulty to everything she is re-learning, like using the stairs, the restroom, bow hunting, putting on clothes, wingsuit skydiving, cooking, planking, walking, etc. There are vision routines she has been doing to train her eyes in working together, but the therapist and doctor think it will be 6 months to a year for that part of her brain to fully heal. The good news is that they said a lot of people start to feel much more active when they have the missing part of their skull reattached, which may be in a month or so depending on whether or not the Surgeon can get it back from the Pawn Shop.

DAY 30

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Today the feeding tube was removed! She has been focused on eating all of her meals to reach the calories needed to have the tube removed. She had been eating around 1000 calories a day, but needed closer to 1700 calories. She isn’t a big eater at home normally, so she had to stuff her face to rack up the calories. For example, here is what she ate yesterday: BREAKFAST- Full Slab of Ribs, Roasted Stuffed Duck with Apples, 9 Slim Jims, 2 Snickers bars and 1 Liter of Whole Fat Milk LUNCH- Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf, 4 Empanadas, Quadruple Bypass Burger, Deep Fried 26-inch Hot Dog Twinkie, Charred Ends Strawberry Milkshake DINNER- 75 Piece Chicken Nuggets, 135 Rocky Mountain Oysters, 3 Full Buckets of New England Clam Chowder, Authentic Fleischkuechle, Chicken Fried Steak Fried Waffle Fried Butter Fried Chicken Fried French Fries, 1 Tyrannosaurus Egg (flown in directly from France).

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Now that she is tubeless, she may be heading home this Thursday!

DAY 31

Thursday it is! Mom is coming home tomorrow! She is excited to sleep in her own bed and be around her family much more. She will need constant supervision the first week or so. At this point her brain does not do well being overstimulated with groups of people and noises, so we are working out shifts to divide our time with her, opposed to all of us showing up at once. I know she would be happy to see her friends, feel free to let us know if you want to stop by. We are all excited to have her home and assist in her healing. She is very appreciative of all the support and kind words her friends have shown her during this experience.

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The staff has mom cleaning dishes to work off her massive medical debt.

Brain Surgery – EXCITING LIVE UPDATES! (part 3)

Aside

 

holla

DAY 12 

5:45PM – Mom continues to slowly and steadily improve. She has eaten a half container of vanilla pudding and has been sipping apple and orange juice when she is thirsty. Still not allowed water. She even began doing the Harlem Shake when “Ring of Fire” started playing. Fortunately her dance moves remain intact. She still talks in a low whisper and is getting plenty of rest . She requested a tooth brush and brushed her teeth. Based on the ferocity of the brushing, I would hesitate in describing it as “dentist approved”.

DAY 13

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pic:moms official pre-surgery medical x-ray

4:45PM – Progress continues! With assistance mom has been standing up to go to the restroom and she is more alert than yesterday. Now that she is more awake and aware during the day she has requested visitors to come and see her. Naturally she gets pretty bored when we are not able to be with her and wants everyone to know she would greatly enjoy the company. She is a gracious host and has been kind enough to let everyone try out her bedside toilet. Chivalry is not dead.

DAY 14

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 Mom is currently adjusting to her new cyborg eye in the NCCU room 3320 at the University of Utah Hospital

11:30AM – Mom is slightly more alert than yesterday and continues to make slow, but steady progress.The nurse told her she is doing “too well to be in the critical care unit” and they are working on getting her moved to a new room. Although she is tired throughout the day, its nice to hear her say familiar phrases she would regularly say (pre-surgery) to let us know everything is alright upstairs. For example: “Brad, your easily my favorite son” or “Suck it”. Classic mom.

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Although it was exhausting, mom was able to sit up in a chair for 20 solid minutes. Like a Boss. 

 DAY 15

standingStanding strong.

Yesterday mom was moved into a new room thanks to her progress. I’m happy to report that today she has been moved again. She is now in Inpatient Medical Rehab Room 2606. She will be starting rehab tomorrow morning which includes occupational rehab, physical therapy and speech therapy. She still gets very bored and is very grateful for any visitors. The staff mentioned multiple times that rehab will really tire her out during the day which should hopefully curb some of the boredom and make her days go by faster. I took a look at the schedule:

06:00 AM – 12 Dozen Raw Eggs Protein Shake, 07:00 AM – Bench Press (6 Sets, 30 Reps Each), 08:00 AM – Zumba with Ricardo, 11:00 AM – Wide-Stance Barbell Squats (10 Sets, 25 Each), 02:00 PM – CrossFit with Juan, 04:00 PM – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out (NES), 05:00 PM – Rest, 05:05 PM – Booty Blast with Denzel, 07:00 PM – Kick Boxing with Lauren

Although the next 7 to 10 days may be physically and mentally demanding, I have no doubts that she will overcome any challenge thrown her way.

DAY 16IMG_1352More than 150 steps today! And REAL clothes! 

 DAY 17stitches

When I stopped by today and told mom she was doing much better than a couple of days ago she didn’t believe it. She is always very surprised when we tell her how great she is doing in comparison to only a few days before. She definitely does not notice the day to day difference like the rest of us do. She is still very exhausted and tired, but they are working on her sleep schedule so she is able to sleep better at night. She is doing great with rehab and had her stitches removed yesterday. The surgeon said they will reattach her skull bone in 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime it is being kept next to the tuna salad in the outside fridge (behind the orange juice).

Although she is fatigued and pushed beyond her limits, she remains impressive. When I visit she is still funny and cracks jokes. She is still kind and talks about how cute her grandchildren are. She is still caring and tells me I need to eat lunch. She is still herself. Before surgery they had told her they expect a full recovery. Hearing “full recovery” was a relief, but I never realized all of the pain, effort and hard work she would have to go through to get to that point. When this is all just a memory we might tell the story as “she had brain surgery and made a full recovery”, but what she has accomplished and conquered to get to a full recovery will be the real story.

 DAY 18 

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Love you Grandma!

Pepper said she is doing about the same as yesterday. She is still very tired from all the rehab activities and continues to rest between “the mean people” getting her up and active. I told her the kids want to visit her, but she does not want to risk scaring them so she prefers we wait a few days. Also, the nurse had the audacity to tell me that my mother “does not have the strength to babysit while in rehab” and that it was “inappropriate” for me to even suggest it. Eavesdrop much!?

DAY 19

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Pic: Mom, Dad, and their parrot Jiago c.1973

Mom is still working hard and is even using her phone from time to time. Today she called and told me to let the family know that tonight she would not prefer visitors because she is so exhausted and plans on sleeping. She said it was a “bad day” of rehab and she really doesn’t have the energy to talk. She is very touched by the daily outpouring of love and concern from her many friends. When someone asks how she is doing, they often follow up with a great story involving her. These are awesome stories I am hearing for the first time (Armed Robbery) and its clear that she is always being herself wherever she goes and whoever she is with.

PART 4 HERE

Brain Surgery – EXCITING LIVE UPDATES! (part 2)

DAY 6

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6:26PM -The bishop stopped by today and delivered some much appreciated support, and some very welcome laughter. He was delighted to be in a pic with my father and didn’t even make me promise that we wouldn’t make fun of him on the blog. This is what a few good men look like.

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8:30PM – Relapse
Yesterday was such a huge relief. My mother had been so much more awake and alert than in any of the previous days. It was at that point, about 96 hours after the surgery, that I finally allowed myself to believe what all of us have been wanting so badly to believe this entire time: “Everything is alright…she’s going to be ok” Unfortunately, today everything was not ok. She did rest “comfortably” through the night but over the course of the morning, afternoon and evening, she has slowly drifted back downhill in almost every metric. At this point, the swelling has returned and she is once again unable to respond when asked to tell us her name.

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I know my mom well, and I understand she’s going for dramatic effect here by throwing in a bit of a plot twist. “Recovering quickly” and “getting well soon” is so cliche and predictable. It is my mom’s desire to tell a much more epic tale…”When there is no peril in the fight there is no glory in the triumph.”

Between you and me though, mom…I think we’re good on peril; best to not oversell it. So if you’d like to please go ahead and start getting better now for real, I think we’d all be just fine with that. Thank you.

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9:54PM – After seeing my mom’s decline today, Dr. Schmidt feels that we may be fighting a losing battle in trying to manage the swelling. He makes the tough call and is rushing in to prep for surgery. He will be going back in and removing the bone flap on her skull to alleviate pressure and reduce the swelling. This also means there will now be a third surgery in the future to re-attach the bone flap.

I see what you did there, mom. Fine, have your peril. We’re all on the edge of our seats now.

11:58PM – Surgery is done. It went well. More to follow tomorrow morning.

DAY 7

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11:41AM – I arrived this morning to find mom sound asleep; I have never heard a more beautiful snore. I have not spoken with the nurses or doctor yet but mom looks good; the swelling is gone. As far as I can tell, it looks like they decided to abstain from using a scalpel or any other “official” medical tools of the trade, and just went with about a Titleist 6 iron. There is a pretty significant divot that will need some attention.

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12:59PM – Ah, finally in!  My kids have kept me locked out for fear I would have diarreha of the mouth, or in this case, the written word.  The nurse just came in and did the “Price is Right” game:  Glenda, what is your name?-Duh, you just told it to me.  Glenda, open your eyes; Glenda squeeze my fingers (with the Vulcan Death Grip); Glenda, wiggle your purple painted toes; Glenda, what year is it (no, not what year you want it to be); Glenda, where are you at (I love her standard answer “Here”  I laugh every time at that.)  No prize if she gets the questions right, even though I try to score a free ice cream (obviously for her, not for me).

I wanted to caption the picture of her stitches and swelling “Getting Ready to Go To A Tim Burton Movie,” but was voted down even though everyone laughed out loud.  Something about too dark of humor or the like.

About 1 week prior to her surgery I did give her a Priesthood Blessing (those wondering what that is I can refer you to 2 young, clean cut men, or women for that matter, who would be happy to answer your questions).  In the blessing she was told she would be healed.  That has since guided me, no matter what that might look like.

There has been a short while now between this and the previous paragraph.  I believe Sid intentionally did somethihg to the computer to stop or limit my input.

The staff here have been amazing:  all the doctors, nurses (a shameless plug for nurses), and the like.  I personally did NOT have any problem with the lunch lady.

I do thank everyone for their prayers, putting her name on the temple prayer rolls, and the positive thoughts.  Those who know us know that we know (say KNOW) how powerful all that is.  Thank you.

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Pic: Mom with Lincoln and Storm 1 week before surgery.

DAY 8

11:12AM – Yesterday was a long day of resting. It felt the same as day 2 after the initial surgery. She was able to physically respond to the neuro checks but not verbally.Pepper has been there all morning today. Says mom is doing better than yesterday. She is able to open her eyes and she knew that Pepper was there. All vitals/metrics are stable and looking good.

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10:00PM – Glenda is sleeping. They hooked her up to an EEKG to determine if she is having nonconvulsive seizures, meaning that her brain could be having seizures but it is not manifesting physically. The doctors are trying to determine why she is not waking up but is cycling through the same pattern:  wakes up & fairly alert in the morning, then steadily becomes drowsey and “sleeps” for the rest of the day and night.

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She knew who I was and is able to answer the checkup questions but other than that she is pretty much like a sleeping baby (just bigger). She squeezes my hand to let me know she knows I am here; so she is in there. There is still swelling on the brain according to the CT scan done earlier today, so they are back to monitoring and maintaining her sodium levels to keep the swelling down/in check. Done for the night.

Thank you to you all for your prayers and continued support.

DAY 9

12:01PM – Pepper reports that the medical team has detected no evidences of seizures. Mom’s vitals remain stable but there has been no real improvement in alertness; she’s still pretty much out of it. She is able to wiggle her toes slightly when asked but is not really responding to the orientation questions.(What’s your last name?, Do you know where you are? etc.) There is swelling that persists. Medical staff are continuing to try and manage/control it with meds. They see no reason/advantage in ordering another CT scan at this time. They are confident mom will pull through and say that it is just a matter of time.

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Pic: Dad waving a lavender wand under moms nose, courtesy of moms good friend (one of many) Patti.

8:40 PM – I asked the nurse if mom is in some form of a coma. He told me at her worst she is “near comatose”. He also said when she is at her best she is responsive and active, which was the case early this morning around 4 am. He said she “waxes and wanes” so her coma levels greatly vary. When Pepper was visiting earlier she asked mom if she needed anything and mom vaguely responded “rest”. Dad let her know earlier that although she has had 2 surgeries, this isn’t a “3 strikes and your out” scenario. She smiled. Also I had to look up the phrase “waxes and wanes”. Apparently its French and roughly translates to “rips a good one” so I’m not too sure what the nurse was referring to at this point. 

DAY 10

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Pic: about 1 1/2 years ago.

10:48AM – Pepper reports that mom is a bit more alert but not much. We were unaware of this, but on the initial surgery, some sort of small drain/mechanism/tube was placed in her lower back. Due to the curvature of her skull, they had been unable to place a drain in her head, and so as I understand it, the drain in her back was sort of a backup; often referred to as a “3BD” – a Backup Back Brain Drain ( <–that’s a lie ). Cool acronym aside, Dr. Schmidt thinks this 3BD may be leaking spinal fluid which is causing her not to “wake up” and recover as quickly as she should/could be. They are going to perform a procedure to stop this leaking. This procedure is often referred to as a Super Glueby Flooby Tooby ( <–that’s a lie? ). The good news is that the SGFT is not a surgery and does not require anesthesia. Dr. Schmidt expects that after this procedure she will be more awake within a day or so; and much more awake in another 3-4 days. This news made Brad, often referred to as “adopted”, and the rest of us feel much more optimistic.

 

mnaPic: Mom posing with an H&M model.

I know my mom is in there, and I know she’s fighting.

DAY 11

1:09PM – Pepper reports that mom is doing better today. Doctors successfully did a blood graft procedure yesterday to stop the leaking spinal fluid in her lower back. Mom woke up and said she was hungry. Pepper helped her eat some eggs and drink a little bit of juice. Pepper says mom is still very drowsy but more awake than yesterday, and is communicating better; answering questions and responding to commands. The big news is that she is not currently on any meds; only oxygen and a feeding tube! This is the first time in 10 days! Physical Therapy will be stopping by today and they’re going to try and see if they can get mom up on her feet. Pepper thinks this might be a little ambitious because mom is still pretty drowsy, all things considered. We’ll see how it goes! STAND, MOTHER! STAAAAAAAND!!

Mom, we did Brad’s bday at a slamball place; these dunks are for you!

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10:30PM – Dad reports that her blood pressure dipped a little bit today so they did put her back on some blood pressure medication to manage that. Alertness-wise she’s about the same; maybe a little bit better; speaking mostly in 2 or 3 word whispers. Still too drowsy and out of it to stand for PT. Her helmet arrived today. As I understand it, she will be wearing this full time until she has recovered completely and is ready for doctors to go back in and re-install the bone flap.

I’m very much looking forward to the part where we all look back at these pics in disbelief and comment on how this was the point where things really turned around and everything started going our way. I’m finding it very difficult to make any sort of wise crack comment about my mom’s helmet right now…BUT if I wasn’t finding it difficult, it would probably sound something like this: “Hey mom, Tupperware called; mentioned something about a helmet mix-up?? Said they’ve got a really nice, expensive helmet sitting in their warehouse but they’re missing a cheap, white, 6-cup salad bowl?!”

DAY 12

11:37AM – Feeding tube at night only, catheter out, ate 10 bites.

PART 3 CONTINUED HERE...

Brain Surgery – EXCITING LIVE UPDATES! (part 1)

paythebill

6:00AM – Check in at pre-op
Foreground: Bravery and optimism! “Brain Surgery” is no match for my mother. Background: Uncomfortable silence as the card is declined…not a promising start.

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6:30AM – Pre-op waiting room
Dad is visibly excited upon hearing the gown opens in the back.

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7:00AM – Waiting patiently with the family…get it? Patiently…

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07:30AM – Dr. Paek kindly injected what he referred to as the “party medicine” which will have “similar effects to drinking a 6 pack of beer in 30 seconds”. This was immediately evident when mom started to refer to him as “Pac-Man”. Getting wheeled into the operating room after love and hugs from the family…

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08:00AM – Co-chillin
“Mom in her surgery
A book in dad’s lap,
Sid and Brad settle down
bust a waiting room rap.
When right cross the room
There rose such a clatter…

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Some tool on his cell phone, making loud chatter.”

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9:01AM – First Official Update from the OR
Surgery has started; everything is going well. Dr. Schmidt once again feels compelled to remind my father that he (Dr. Schmidt) is a highly competent medical doctor performing complex brain surgery, NOT a barber. He says it wasn’t funny the first time my dad said “just take a little off the top please” and it’s certainly not funny the second time. #baddad

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9:40AM – What manner of sorcery is this?!
Dad: “Why is my picture on there? How do you go up and down?”
Brad: “It’s voice activated, dad.”
Dad: “DOWN! …DOWN, YOU FOOL!!
Sid: *sigh*

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11:27 – Update from the nurse in the OR
My mom is doing great. They have not reached the tumor yet but they are getting close. Pic: My mom and dad with my youngest son, Phoenix. Dropping a parachute off the porch, down the stairs in the backyard 1 week ago.

12:05PM – The House of Christiaens
My parents have raised me to be kind, compassionate, honest, enthusiastic, responsible and hard working. They’ve taught me to enjoy life, follow my heart and chase my dreams. The single greatest and most incredible thing they’ve ever done for me though, has been to set an example. 10 hrs until complex, life-threatening brain surgery…my parents do not seek solace or isolation; my parents do not submit to sadness or lose themselves in “what ifs”; my parents embrace life; my mom and dad dance 🙂

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1:45PM – Removing the tumor
Things are proceeding as planned, they are continuing to remove the tumor. My mom is doing great. Pic: Avery, Kathryn, Andy and Dad look on as  Eve smiles joyfully! Excited to see her grandmother’s new haircut just a few hours from now. Not pictured: Brad – staying strong. Overcoming his own personal adversities in the bathroom…going on 40 minutes now; nobody is shocked. Sid – walking aimlessly, testing the lanyard/badge theory; is there any door he can’t access with a smile and badge swipe? YES, apparently almost all of them. Pep and MarMar – holding down the fort.

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3:45PM – As Avery was showing a complete disregard for the “only take one please” sign, the Surgeon came out and gave us an update. He said they are closing her up and he is very pleased with how the operation went. He feels confident they were able to remove all of the tumor and is doubting any long term side effects. Avery was promptly removed from the building.

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5:25PM – Exhaustion sets in for Sid, who has happily remained in the waiting room since 6 AM. Madness sets in for Pepper. We are awaiting to hear when she is done being operated on and ready to be seen. We are grateful they have not had any complications. The staff has been caring, funny and dedicated. She fits right in.

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8:57PM – Post-Op in the NCCU
I cannot adequately express how difficult the past two hours have been.To see my mother incoherent, unresponsive and in a great deal of pain, is unbelievably hard to bare for all of us. Though I know, as tough as this may be for us to watch unfold from her bedside, it is exponentially tougher for her to experience first hand. She specifically asked for us to take a photo of her immediately after surgery, when she’d have, in her words, “a nice shiner!” It is difficult to look at but it is her desire and intention to show the complete healing process from start to finish. This is the beginning of that healing process.

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9:20PM – Resting. Vitals are good. Not fully awake but making slow and steady progress.

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10:51PM – Major kudos to all the staff at the U of U Hospital
Every single person we’ve had any type of contact with at this Hospital has done an exceptional job. The nursing staff in the NCCU has been no exception. They’ve been very communicative with us the entire time and they’re taking great care of my mom. The proof is in the pic: she’s got a full bag of 7-Up, a full bag of Sprite, she’s scored a straight A (100) on the old school Nintendo Wii controller, they’ve given her a huge vintage calculator with a super-bright, oversize HDMI display. Also you can tell from the blue soundwaves that they’re pumping hardcore dubstep through the Beats headphones they have her wearing, and it looks like her midi-chlorians are off the chart. Very impressive. #thatonecafeterialadywasactuallyarealjerk

DAY 2

12:01AM – Doctor Update
They were considering doing a cat scan around this time if she hadn’t started responding better and being more alert. She’s still really out of it but she is following commands and responding to questions better. The doctor has said they’ll wait until morning for the cat scan.

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12:15PM – Mom is very exhausted. She was able to swallow medicine on her own and respond to all physical tests, in addition to reading the sign hanging from her television. She was able to take a step earlier with the physical therapist. She is still very disoriented, but definitely improved from last night. Her midi-chlorians remain through the roof.

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4:40PM- Ain’t No Mountain                                                                                          

Before the operation, mom requested we play her music during recovery to assist in her healing. As her playlist shuffles to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye, I think of when I was young and would yell out “MOM, ARE YOU HOME!?” every day after school when I would walk in the front door. Only on rare occasion was she not awaiting our arrival asking about our day. I think about crashing my bicycle, walking home crying, hurt and embarrassed. She didn’t hesitate to cancel an important dinner meeting to clean my wounds while watching Beauty and the Beast with me. The weeks leading up to surgery she continued to offer an open ear or helping hand. Even the night before the operation she was not thinking of herself, instead she was worried about us driving to the hospital so early in the morning. She suggested we come later in the day so we would not be tired and just “waiting around” for her. She cant help it. She is selfless to the core.

DAY 3

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Pic: Dad saying goodbye on the night of day 1. “I love you, Glenda”

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9:35AM – Steadfast in the NCCU
After reviewing the CT scan from yesterday (taken with the portable CT scanner shown above) the doctors are seeing a little more swelling than they wanted to see. Due to the complexity of the operation and the location of the tumor, they were unable to place a drain. They are using other methods like adding sodium chloride to her blood to soak up the excess fluid in her brain…or something like that. If the swelling does not go down, they had mentioned last night, having to resort to emergency procedures. Currently she is more alert and active but she is not responding to questions or following commands as well as she had been. The neuro team should be here soon to evaluate her.

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10:40AM – Coincidence?
My brother’s name is Brad; one of his sons is named Lincoln. My mom would really get a kick out of this right now if she knew that the nurses currently watching over her are also named Brad and Lincoln.

10:41AM – Yes, it has occurred to me that blog updates should be going at the very top of the page instead of the bottom. Happy scrolling 🙂

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My sister’s stubborn refusal to embrace technology and acknowledge the current calendar year is in fact 2 thousand and 14, manifests itself in a variety of disadvantageous, efficiency decreasing actions. Not the least of which being an increase in the amount of time it takes her to send a text by a factor of 10. #theoriginalnescontrollerismoresophisticatedthanmyphoneis

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3:27PM – Slow and steady progress
Doctors had been contemplating a second CT scan earlier this afternoon. If the swelling had not gone down some, it was possible they would have had to go back in and temporarily remove the “bone flap” in order to release the pressure on her brain. Dr. Schmidt re-evaluated her about an hour and a half ago and determined that, based on her progress, a second CT scan is not needed at this time. Compared to yesterday, my mother has definitely improved. She was able to read the sign pictured above. This is huge because there was a point during her initial diagnosis when it was suggested that she may need to learn how to read and write again. My mom appears to be more comfortable and has been resting for the last few hours now.

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6:06PM – Statherine and Seve
Pic: Local Atlanta celebrities, Steve and Katherine Christiaens flew in Friday and have been here with mom ever since. Seen here providing offensive coverage and encouraging her not to “go towards the light” that is clearly trying to sneak up on her in the background. (Too soon?)

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Sid and baby Eve…disturbing.

9:45PM – Dr. Who?
During evals, it has been hit or miss getting my mom to tell us what her last name is, where she’s at, or even who I am. There was one question though that she didn’t seem to have any problem at all answering: Pepper – “Mom, what do you wanna watch on TV?” Mom – “Dr. Who!” Go figure…everybody loves the freakin Brits, man.

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10:30PM – The night of day 3
These are the pics that are hard to post but I know that these are the pics she will come back to. These are the pics she will look at. These are the pics that will remind her where she was and how far she’s come. If she ever thinks there’s something she can’t do, these are the pics that will remind her that she can.

Game plan for tonight is to let mom sleep in 4 hr shifts so she can hopefully go through some REM cycles. Doctors are optimistic she will be moved out of ICU tomorrow. Yay!

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Elsewhere – My infamous nephew Marlo leads the “G-Sons” (short for grandsons) on a vandalism spree in a remote wilderness location. The entire G-Sons gang was arrested shortly after this photo was taken. Said Marlo to the arresting officer: “Yo coppa, we paintin dem rocks for my G-Ma, she’s recovering from brain surgery and these rocks will put a huge smile on her face, dirt bag!” Marlo is being tried as an adult. Sage, Storm and Phoenix are all on house arrest with ankle bracelets.

DAY 4

4:40 AM – Mom has slept soundly through most of the night. They have woken her up every 4 hrs for evaluations. Her responses and alertness have been the same. Her heart rate dipped below 40 several times throughout the night. This sounds an alarm and additional nurses have came in. It has quickly sped back up each time it’s happened though. She has a portable CT scan scheduled for about 30 min from now.

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2:40 PM – The CT scan taken earlier today still showed some swelling. Fortunately the Doctor said the swelling is a “manageable amount”. He said the swelling is holding back her recovery from being as quick as they would like, so they are continuing to “dry her out”. Her heart rate has stayed above 60 since the Physical Therapists left the room about an hour ago. She was too tired to walk, but she responded well and is continuing to move around in her bed a lot. Unfortunately there is a bit of bad news. While eating the top of a blueberry muffin, I clumsily dropped it from my hand and watched as it fell deep down into the Biohazard Medical container. This doesn’t end here…

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6:30 PM – They have inserted a feeding tube and have used the above X-Ray machine to make sure it is properly placed. This will assist her in gaining the energy needed to stay a bit more awake. They are still working on raising her sodium. Its currently at 145 and they would like it to be at 150. She started tapping her foot when “We Will Rock You”  by Queen began playing. On a side note, the results of the X-Ray found: one aluminum A&W bottle cap, three Buffalo nickles, one wooden Rook chess piece, two undigested Hostess Twinkies and one Mint Condition Honus Wagner 1909-1911 T206 baseball card valued at 2.8 million dollars.

DAY 5

Thank you SO much to everybody who has posted a comment down below! My mom will LOVE reading them! Like seriously; there will be waterworks. I apologize it took a second for them to show up; I forgot that I needed to approve them on my end : ) …oh Technology, you so crayzee!

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7:30AM – Progress!
Big improvement today. This is the most alert and awake I have seen my mom since the surgery. Up until now, the nursing staff has been doing “neuro checks” which consists of questions like: “What is your last name?”, What year is it?”, “Do you know where you are?”, “Do you know why you’re here?”. Her answers have been very hit and miss over the past 4 days. This morning however, we carried on a full conversation and my mom answered AND asked a bunch of questions. She has been more awake and has spoken more in these last few hours than probably the last 4 days combined. It is awesome! Pic: making a face for the camera, and smiling for the camera. 

Other highlights:
Stood up twice
Watched TV (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Wore her glasses
Has an appetite; is asking for food and water
Called the Dr. “dude!”
Responded “2012?” to the question “What year is it?”. After being told it’s actually 2014, she replied: “Oh really!? huh…time flies.”

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9:05AM – She eats!

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1:50 PM – Earlier the surgeon said it was good to see that she had finally “turned the corner” which is great to hear. This is how we all expected her to be acting on Day 1 or 2, so its awesome to know that she has made it past that first stage on her way towards full recovery. Her current nurse thinks getting her sodium to the level they were aiming for really helped. I know all the positive vibes and prayers from everyone have made a huge impact. Earlier she wanted Pepper to tell her some jokes, fortunately my sister knows the only jokes worth telling involve poop in some form or another (liquid, block, ice sculpture, log, interpretive dance, sid, etc).

5:00 PM – Great news: The surgeon came in and confirmed that 100% of the tumor was removed during the operation like he had thought. All results came back benign. She is very thirsty for water, but is unable to have any while they continue to “dry her out” and reduce all swelling.

DAY 6 – CONTINUES HERE

 

Families are Forever

 Last night my family created a beautiful memory. We had a great family barbecue with ribs, corn on the cob, potatoes, watermelon, dessert, all yummy and made by my kids and their families. As the ribs slow cooked we sat and chatted on the patio. I so enjoyed everyone’s company, and their patience because I was SO DROWSY. If that wasn’t enough, my high tech sons figured out how to play my iPhone music on a speaker (something about Blue Tooth) and spontaneous and joyful dancing occurred. So fun! I remember when my kids were young and one of my simple joys was watching them dance in the living room. Last night we danced until 11 PM  in our living room and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I feel blessed. I will attempt to download some videos here, but we’ll see if I can figure it out.I love my family so much and value each of them with their unique talents and gifts. Party on!
ToeSurgery tomorrow. Thanks to my daughter-in-law Avery for painting my toenails purple this morning to remind me of the purple chakra and and healing. I feel great but drowsy and am looking forward to this healing event.

Happy Feet

fingernail posixhThis morning I went for my pre-surgical appointment to get my blood drawn and talk to a nurse about what to expect. My sore throat is almost gone and I am visualizing being healthy and well on Monday for surgery. The nurse told me I get to be at the hospital at 6 AM with no makeup on, and no fingernail polish. Toenail polish is OK though. So when people are shocked at how I look without my makeup on, I will tell them, “Focus on my feet!”
Yesterday  I forgot to take my seizure prevention medicine and had an “episode” at work.  I couldn’t remember names. I made a call to a new faculty member to talk about where she would be working next week, and I couldn’t remember the name of the clinical site she was assigned to. I also couldn’t remember her last name. It is hard to describe how weird that feels. My boss asked me what his name is and it took me about 10 seconds to remember it. What fun! I decided it would be best not to drive so I got a ride home courtesy of two wonderful women who live in my neighborhood and attend my church. I got lots of hugs and well wishes from my colleagues. When I got home I was feeling fuzzy and nauseated and still couldn’t remember names for a few hours. I set my phone alarm so I won’t forget to take my medicine again!
I went to work briefly today to finish up a few things and now the weekend has started. Yippee!! We are going to a movie tonight and then I plan to relax the rest of the weekend and focus on stillness, healing, and the Peaceful Pelican.