Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sequel. And Braggin' Rights

This was The Normanator's first  "outing" following his 3 way heart bypass procedure!
The man you see  here, flanked by a couple of trained and highly skilled professionals holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Nebraska.  He has taught school; he managed farms and worked as a surveyor.  He did appraisal work, he served admirably in the United States Army.  He painted houses  to keep body and soul together and raised three of the finest young men you'll ever meet.
Together, he and I built something of an "empire" when we represented a company who dealt in health products.  We always declared we really got an education while we worked with them.  We learned a great many things about water, air, food, sleep and people! We even learned about our selves!

I mention all this because The Normanator's excursion through the Nebraska Heart Institute was a real top notch education and it came even though we did not expect to learn SO MUCH in such a short time.

There is always much to be learned, no doubt.  But I was in for a real awakening  when I was "just an innocent bystander" to the proceedings.

The very first thing I learned was that an epidural would not only be appropriate for laboring mommies; it would be a wonderful adjunct to The Normanator's recovery.  It kept him as comfortable as possible in order for him to cough, following the surgical procedure!  That's an important component to recovery.  No one wants to suffer with pneumonia while recuperating;  it's critical to cough!

I was busily tending to Norm's needs-reaching tissues, cleaning his glasses and just acting the role of the wife when the Registered Nurse and Pod Leader, Nicolette, sashayed into the room with her usual cheerful demeanor.  She made some small talk and then turned to me: "I'm sending you to Cardiac Camp!" she announced with authority.

Hm...the little girl in me immediately (and incorrectly) presumed I was being disciplined. But I dutiful appeared for Cardiac Camp at the appointed time and place, pen in hand for taking notes.
Besides yours truly, there was a motley assortment of patients in varying stages of recovery lining the room's perimeter.   Family members of folks who were having surgery at that time sat in on the Camp and there was one woman who had  heart surgery long ago but was there on that occasion to help a relative. 

Registered Nurse and Pod Leader, Kevin Mendenhall, was the instructor that day.  He introduced himself, gave us the long list of his impressive credentials and put us all at ease with his sense of humor and easy manner.  He gave us the lowdown about what to expect from the patient and from ourselves through the process of hospitalization and recovery.

We were given a binder, a cook book and sheets of information about diet, exercise, symptoms -- where to call and when to call---it was all very reassuring and there would be no reason to feel abandoned after we got home and all those professionals were not at the end of a call button.  I was grateful to be a part of this and it was good to share what I had assimilated with The Normanator.

One at a time, a legion of Respiratory Therapists appeared every 4 hours during every 24, day and night to administer breathing treatments.  They were all educators of the first order, sharing tidbits of what worked well with using the nebulizer for medicines to keep the lungs open.  They talked about why they became the professionals they were.  They shared stories about their families which helped us to really understand lung function and treating the body well to encourage squeezing quality right out of the air we breathe!  They encouraged both of us.  They even gave Norm a PICKLE:

This is an adorable gadget.  When he blows into it, the silly thing vibrates and makes a fluttering sound, much like a child talking to a running room fan!  Those vibrations match the vibrational rate of his lungs and help to loosen mucus.  This is very helpful!

The team assured us that Cardiac Rehab was in the works and it would begin in 6 weeks post surgery.  They got that a little wrong...he was two weeks ahead of schedule when he reported to the local hospital's Cardiac Rehab specialist, Dee Othmer, RN.  She is like one of our family already!

So know you have the overview of how the whole process took place.  We have taken out braggin' rights on the entire Nebraska Heart  Institute and all the professionals there.  They deserve no less.

Connie Baum

PS/When I tell you that EVERYONE was helpful I want to share this example:  Hospital rooms are notoriously chilly by nature.  One chilly morning a gentle man came to mop the floor.  He started on the wall farthest from the door and cleaned his way to the opening to the room.  When he finished, he leaned on the handle of the mop and asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"  I teasingly suggested he could warm the room.  He smiled, nodded and disappeared.  Seconds later he returned, carrying a warmed blanket for me!  *I ask you, "Is it any wonder we have claimed braggin' rights?"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Normanator is Mending

This man just had open heart surgery to repair 3 blocked arteries...he is one champion guy I love!

A funny thing happened...we were 150 miles away from home and The Normanator was helping someone load a mattress.  It did not fit, no matter how loudly the men groaned or how hard they pushed.  It was a chilly, dampish night and we were tired.  He returned from this project into the house and sank down on the sofa.  He looked like what my grandmother would call "peaked".  His face looked gray and drawn.  We chalked it up to his crummy lung function and trundled off to bed.

The next day, at home, The Normanator answered the phone.  I heard  him laughingly tell the caller that there must be some mistake.  He was 150 miles away...suddenly it dawned on us that the Boston Scientific monitor that sits by his side of the bed had alerted the Nebraska Heart Hospital that his heart experienced an "episode" and this was real.  Thank goodness for monitors that track their owners like cell phones and GPS units!

A stress test was scheduled.  Of course The Normanator was fearful that he'd be required to peddle a bike or trek on a treadmill.  While we fretted, the Cardio dude arrived.  No, he probably would not do well in a traditional stress test; he likely would not need a chemical test, either.

Nothing would DO but a heart catheterization.  So one was scheduled and all the while Norm kept INSISTING "I am fine.  I feel fine, really I do."  

When they returned Norm to his room after the procedure we were told that there were blockages.  Lots of them in 3 arteries, and maybe they should check the carotid arteries in his neck, which they promptly did.  The Doppler indicated blockages there, as well.

Well.  So that's what we were looking at.  Maybe his lungs were not his only enemy.  We were given an appointment to return and speak with the surgeon.  As we left I wondered to myself, " Three blockages?  And we are leaving here to fend for ourselves?  OMY.

 What blew us both away was how young the cardio people are.  The first one looked to be about 12 and the surgeon looked as if he may actually have reached his teen years.  Although they look like youngsters, these specialists have the skills, wisdom, education and demeanor of very old souls indeed.

We met with the surgeon who gently explained that The Normanator's lungs were fragile and compromised.  This was not news; he has been working with a pulmonary specialist for some time.  The surgeon went on to explain that the lungs should resemble Nerf balls--they should be soft and spongy.  Norm's lungs?  They are like bubble wrap.

He went on to explain that whenever people visit a barber shop they expect to get their hair cut.  We had the right to expect that The Normanator could face surgery and he was very sorry to say that it was just not going to happen.  I was as  sorry for the surgeon as I was for Norm over this decision.  It left us wondering what could be next...stroke?  heart attack?  Neither was palatable.

After a few days we were summoned back to the Heart Institute to discuss our options.  It seemed to me, as the observer and not the patient, that these young men were positively giddy with delight to see Norm and discuss what they had in mind for him.  They had taken the case to their "Cath Board" and had come up with a 'plan of attack' to get him feeling as well as he could as quickly as he could!  They explained that they had a solid strategy so he could get those arteries repaired and go on to live a life that had quality!

It was May 14,  2015 when the surgical team took care of all The Normanator's heart issues.  The anesthesiologist came to explain they would place an epidural in his upper back; he had IV tubes, a port for medicines to enter, telemetry, and a bank of monitors.  This whole collection of stuff and people accompanied him to the surgical suite after his son and I, along with our minister, bid him goodbye.

The surgeon had told me this procedure would be fairly long and I should expect him to have a tracheotomy; he may be on a ventilator and on and on.  I steeled myself, determined to deal with whatever came our way.  Norm and I are a team and we have vowed many times we should 'go with  the flow'.  This was no different.

Several hours later The Normanator returned to his hospital room, which was now his Recovery Room.  I was shuttled away to a waiting room, allowed only brief visits.  He looked peaceful to me.  The pain medicine was doing its job and the epidural made it possible for him to cough, preventing pneumonia.  His heart pillow, which served as  a sort of cast for his broken sternum, was well used.

Another blog post will be required to regale you with all our fabulous learning experiences.

Today's calendar reads June 25, 2015.  Cardiac Rehab is now a three-times-a-week appointment.  From the wife's perspective, he is stronger and not as tired as before the surgery.  If you ask HIM, he may give you different information.  He is driving again and has even gone to his beloved 40 acre tract of land.  As he left to go there he told me, "I'm going out to cut a thistle."

Yes, Norm.  ONE thistle.  Uh huh.   

Oh, how I love this man.

Connie Baum