In Honor of My Husband, Ron

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Surgery Day

Tuesday, September 30, 2008. The big day arrives. Ron, myself, our oldest daughter, and my sister (Yes, she came up again to be there for me--I love her) drove up to St. Luke's early in the morning. Ron got all checked in at Same Day Surgery. We did a lot of the sitting around waiting game. The anesthesiologist came in and I must say he was fantastic. He explained every step they would take in great detail, and he was so funny and personable it made all of us relax. The plastic surgeon came in also and explained that he would use Ron's left leg since his right leg had previously had the hip replacement and also had vessels used for his triple bypass. In between these visits we waited. And then we waited some more. The OR nurse finally came in to get Ron, but couldn't since the operation site had not been marked. So we waited some more while she tried to get ahold of one of the doctors to come down and mark him. Finally the plastic surgeon came back, put a small dot on his right cheek and that was it. One final kiss and they wheeled him down the hall. I told him to think of Baywatch and girls on the beach. That got a smile. Only after he was gone did I allow myself a little breakdown. That part of watching him go to the OR and not knowing what's going to happen is so hard.

The rest of us headed to the ICU waiting room, which was very nice. I had been there before for his bypass surgery, so it was comfortable. The minutes just crawled so slowly, though. He went into surgery right about noon. I brought a whole bag of book review magazines to try to select books to order for the high school, but I couldn't concentrate at all, so I gave up. Mainly, I just sat there and worried about what could possibly be happening. At about 4:30 the OR called to give an update. My sister actually took the call, as I had just stepped out. They said that Ron was doing better than they expected. My sister asked if there was bone involvement, but the nurse said that she was not allowed to say. My sister called my cell phone and I came back up right away. When she told me what was said, I was encouraged somewhat, that at least he was doing okay.

Finally at around 9 p.m. we were told that he was in recovery. We then had to wait to speak to the doctors. The plastic surgeon came in and said that he did not require a full reconstruction of the mandible. The bad news was that he had already removed the section of bone from his fibula, so they just threw it away. He did use quite a bit of his leg tissue to create the large flap and then a skin graft from his thigh to top it off. Then the surgeon came in and said that the cancer was more extensive than they originally thought it would be. He said that the lesion extended from the cheek all the way back to the right tonsil. Also, he removed about half of Ron's mandible that contained cancer. He said that since Ron's mandible was quite big, he could lose half of it and still have a functioning jaw. He also scraped down to check the bone marrow, and that was negative. He also got a trach because of possible swelling in his airway. The cancer was now stage IV because of the bone involvement. They said that he did very well and was already awake.

About an hour later we were finally able to see him in the the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He had tubes coming from almost every orifice. The actual line of stitches was not as bad as I thought it might be. He looked fairly good but was pale. He was still under the influence of the anesthesia and morphine, which I'm sure was for the best. He only complained about pain in the leg, and he was not a very happy camper when I told him that they didn't even use the bone they took out. But truly I cannot fault the plastic surgeon as they really thought they would need it, so it had to be ready to go. His leg was encased in what appeared to be about 800 feet of gauze. He had a drain coming out of it, and his thigh had a large area where they took the skin graft. He also had a Central line, two peripheral IV lines, and an arterial line to monitor his blood pressure. After knowing he was in the best hands, we finally left the hospital.

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