Monday, March 3, 2014

ICU and Starting the Trail Back

Up until now I am sure some of you have noted that I have not mentioned the staging of my cancer. I did that for a reason. It was varying quite a bit and they had never really settled on a staging.  It had gone something like this... At first Stage 1 or 2 at the outside. After the CAT Scan, PET Scan and ultrasound it went to Stage 3. No one could could give us a really good, solid answer. My surgeon said, and I quote, "They will slice and dice what we took out of you, the esophagus and all 30 of the lymph nodes, and then we will know what stage you are for certain."  When those results came back it was determined to be S3N3... Stage 3 with three nodes involved, however we were told the cancer cells in the three nodes were "dying" and that is why they were just barely glowing in the scans.  All of the 27 other nodes were clear.  So, my final staging was S3N3.

The picture I am including here is not flattering at all as pictures go, but it shows how I looked and felt on the day after all all hell broke loose.  It was the first picture I had taken after surgery.

Brian in ICU, Tuesday, 1/29/13
Those of you that notice details will see that I am not in a hospital bed in this photo. I am in a recliner. To most that is a positive step in recovery, and it was for me too, but there was more to it than that in this case. The hospital bed did me SO very wrong. Sleeping in that bed was almost impossible because it was so uncomfortable.  It was causing cramps in the lower back which was a problem due to how close it was to the back incision site. The proximity was just too close. I actually asked to be moved to a recliner before they were going to get me sitting up. Sitting up in a recliner is part of recovery, but I did it more for comfort and the possibility of sleep more than for recovery at the time. Looking back now, I think I may have just been too big for the bed... Too heavy.  At the time of surgery I believe I was still around 300 pounds, give or take.

Another thing was found when I moved to the recliner... a developing a bed sore just above my tailbone. Those things are not fun. Stinging and itching and sore.  I cannot get comfortable no matter how I lay. With it being situated on the top of the butt, there is really no way to sit or lie on my back and not put pressure on it. The sore was something that made Lea Ann furious.  She had been a CNA and said that they are not really hard to avoid, so when I ended up with one she was very unhappy. They put ointment and a dressing on the sore as I was transferring to the recliner. Once in the chair I had to be careful how much I moved around. The ointment tended to make the tape around the dressing not stick well so it could make the dressing slide around or come off if I moved too much. However moving around wasn't a big issue at that time. I did not feel much like moving and I was still catheterized and not eating yet, so using the toilet was a non-issue. Being in the recliner was MUCH more comfortable. I stayed there a majority of the rest of the time I was in ICU. The nurses kept asking if I wanted to get back into the bed. I would not have cared if they took the bed outside my room and burned it in effigy just outside my window. I wasn't going back to it if I had any say in the matter.

I am still having issues taking good deep breaths, and I am still on oxygen as without it my saturation is not as high as they would like without it. The respiratory doctor is concerned because the lung that had to be deflated during surgery was still not inflating correctly.  Lots of what he called crackling when he we listening to my breathing. They were concerned about air flow, saturation and the very real possibility of pneumonia. The doctor decides to do a Bronchoscopy on me. That is a procedure where they put you out, then go down into your lungs with a scope and they can look around, get scrapings if needed and also wash out the breathing sacks in the lungs if they need to. He thinks that this may open the areas that are having a hard time re-inflating and allow them to work properly again. We agree to have it done, even though I get to be put back on the respirator for the procedure. Yay. I don't think that they had to move me. They were able to do that procedure right there in my room. Once again, out like a light. When I wake up I can't talk again because of the tube, but it is removed fairly soon after and I don't get quite as agitated as I had the first time.  I'm also not tied down that I remember, so that was a huge plus as well. After that procedure my breathing felt so much easier. I felt like I had a lot more energy and pep. Breathing is good.

On a personal note, our 6th wedding anniversary came while I was in ICU. February 4th. I had my Android tablet with me and I posted an anniversary wish on my wife's Facebook page, but that was all. That woman had stood by me throughout this entire thing and was staying with me in the room at the hospital and I did nothing but post on her Facebook? I gave her a kiss on the day I think (I hope I did). How crappy of a husband am I?  I should have asked the nurse or one of the boys or someone to go and get her flowers or something on that day. She deserved so so so much more than she got. I regret that I didn't do more. I am sorry, Lea Ann. If I could go back and do it differently I would, sick or not. My brain was still working, even if it was fuzzy at times. For now all I can do is apologize and say is I love you. You are the better half of me. Always have been, always will be if I have any say in the matter.

Please stay tuned for my next entry...  I'll get it posted in a few days.  These posts are a bit harder because the memories come in flashes and I have to try to piece them together as best I can. I tended to run a lot of them together.

Lastly, thank you for taking this journey with me.  I hope it is making some sense and might help you understand how things were working, at least in my mind.