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.
6:30AM – Pre-op waiting room
Dad is visibly excited upon hearing the gown opens in the back.
7:00AM – Waiting patiently with the family…get it? Patiently…
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…
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…
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
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!!”
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
9:20PM – Resting. Vitals are good. Not fully awake but making slow and steady progress.
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
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.
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.
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.
Pic: Dad saying goodbye on the night of day 1. “I love you, Glenda”
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.
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 🙂
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
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.
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?)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.”
9:05AM – She eats!
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.