"Adventures in Modern Medicine" -- by Evelyn Lucas
(Here's my wonderful wife's account of our recent "adventures in modern medicine", which she sent out (e-mailed) to the Prayer Warriors on our "chain", to fill in details not possible in the text messages she'd been sending them, throughout the adventures.
(Note: Just like the "stories" all older couples tell, there are some details in this one that I "see" differently, however... none are worth arguing about, In my opinion.)
"I’ve been trying to make some time to fill you in on the full story of what’s been going on with Stephen since it’s been too complicated to do very well over the phone.
To go back to September, Stephen had what they call a Dissected Ascending Aortic Aneurysm (“Triple A”) which burst causing him to bleed internally until the surgeon grafted in a section of synthetic mesh and also opened his heart to repair the aortic valve – sewing 2 of the 3 flaps together. He was kept asleep for about 3½ weeks, after which he suffered terrifying disorientation and night terrors brought on by the intermittent administering of mind-altering drugs to try to calm him from the very symptoms they were actually causing. Anyway, you’ll remember that it was terrible time for all of us, until we finally got them to stop the drugs.
As you know, on April 4 – the day before Easter – Stephen had an episode of disorientation and total memory loss of his hospital stay and surgery in September. As near as I could tell, it began around 2:15 pm and lasted about 15 minutes. We went to the Homestead Hospital ER, where the Neurologist on call termed it a “TIA” – Transient Ischemic Attack – or “mini-stroke.” Very often it is a precursor to a full stroke and they wanted to keep him in the hospital over the weekend for more tests. He was still trying to decide whether to refuse and sign himself out when they came back and said that they wanted to transport him to Kendall Regional Hospital (where he had the surgery). He absolutely refused to go back there and did finally sign himself out of the hospital.
He went to his Cardiologist the day after Easter, who confirmed that it was definitely a TIA and could be caused by his heart arrhythmia. So he put him on a heart monitor and also ran various tests which all came back clear.
Then on April 18 – exactly 2 weeks later at the same time of the afternoon, he experienced the second episode of disorientation and memory loss. Not quite as acute as the first episode, but definitely unsettling for him. On Tuesday the 21st, we went to see our Primary to get his take and get a referral to a neurologist. He also agreed that it was a TIA but couldn’t see anything wrong with his treatment or medications so far.
The cardiologist set up a CT scan of Stephen’s heart for Friday the 24th at Homestead Hospital. I wasn’t with him, but Stephen said that immediately after the scan, all the techs’ eyes got wide and they rushed him down to the ER, saying that he now had a Dissected Descending Aortic Aneurysm that required emergency surgery. I found out about it just before 5:00 and headed south. Stephen called about 15 min later to say that they were transporting him to Kendall Regional where the surgeons were standing by. So I turned around and headed north and west to Kendall – arriving about 6:00.
He got to the ER at 6:45 and then we waited… and waited. It took them until almost 10 to decide that it was not another dissection after all, but just the scarring from the September surgery. By then they had given him meds to keep his blood pressure as low as possible, so they wanted to keep him overnight until they could get that stabilized.
(Side note: in preparation for the heart scan Friday afternoon, he wasn’t allowed any water after 10:30 am, and since they expected him to go into surgery, they wouldn’t let him have any water when he got to Kendall either. After multiple requests, I finally got them to bring him some ice chips about 8:30 pm, and got him some water as soon as they said he wasn’t having surgery after all – nearly 12 hours with no water or food. Adria went out and got him a sandwich at 11pm, which is when I left to go get some sleep.)
Of course, Stephen got zero sleep Friday night. Early Saturday afternoon, the admitting doctor – the same one from September – came to see him and ordered some more tests. We requested a neurologist consult, and he finally came around supper time. We both like him quite a lot. He asked Stephen a lot of questions and finally said, “Well, I can tell you that these are definitely not TIA’s.” (This is what I’ve been saying from the beginning! But at least 6 doctors told us that they were.) He believes that they are possibly seizures, but more likely anxiety attacks. Stephen had mentioned to me earlier that he had realized that his strong reaction to the idea of being sent back to Kendall at Easter-time was actually PTSD. So he wasn’t surprised by the idea of these being anxiety attacks.
(Another side note: In the 24 hours that Stephen was in Kendall as an inpatient, they never once brought him any food. I kept asking any nurse and doctor that came by, and they said they would check, but no food ever came. At one point, when I asked a nurse, she turned to the board on the wall and said, “see this section that says ‘diet’ is empty.” I was having a hard time believing anyone could say something that stupid, but finally asked if I needed to write something in there so that they wouldn’t let him starve to death. Perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that Kendall doesn’t have a very good reputation around here. They are highly rated as a Trauma center, and they were excellent as long as Stephen was critical, but as soon as he was stable in the ICU, their attention was minimal at best.)
All the tests continue to come back ok, so we’re just monitoring the situation, and he’s letting me know if he starts feeling even slightly “off.” He preached last night as our Pastor is out of town, and did a great job. The sermon was about Paul and Silas in prison – that no matter what, we need to keep praising God. As one gospel song puts it: “Keep praising until the shackles fall off.” We’ve both had periods of frustration and anger with the medical system, but we’ve never doubted for a second that God’s hand is on this situation.
I’ll let you pass this on to anyone else who might be wondering about the details and Stephen’s current status as far as we know them.