In Honor of My Husband, Ron

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Now a triple bypass?

Sometime in April 2007, Ron started coming in complaining about shortness of breath. Of course, I immediately thought maybe the cancer was back and had metastasized to his lungs. He wasn't scheduled for another check-up until about 3 months later. I told him we were not waiting that long. He wasn't too happy about that, and thought it was nothing to worry about, but I wasn't convinced. I called his Oncologist and explained his new symptoms. On May 14, he was seen and had blood work done along with a CT scan which showed some calcifications around his heart. The doctor wanted to follow up, so two days later Ron went for Pulmonary Function Tests (which came out fine), and a stress test.

He lasted approximately three minutes on the treadmill before the doctor stopped him because he was so worried he would collapse right then. He was sent for an immediate cardiac catheterization, which showed 3 very bad blockages. He spent the night in the ICU so he could be monitored. The following day, May 17, he was transferred to St. Luke's in Milwaukee by ambulance. On May 18 he had a triple bypass. The surgery went very well, but he came out of it with tubes everywhere. He had three chest tubes along with a central line for instant medication access. He also had a catheter, which I think bothered him more than anything else. He was of course on heavy duty pain medication, so he mostly slept for the first 24 hours. My sister had come up to be with us in the hospital, which was so appreciated. She is an OB RN, so she's a good resource for medical questions. The following day, Ron was moved to the Telemetry floor. He got to the elevator by standing behind a wheelchair and pushing it down the hall probably at least 50 feet. My sister was so impressed by that because she said she has C-section patients that don't even want to get out of bed on the second day.

On May 20 Ron had his chest tubes removed. He had been losing quite a lot of blood through them, so he received a blood transfusion. The following day he got all his IV's removed, and also got another blood transfusion. On the 22nd, the pacemaker wires were removed for the telemetry. Ron came home on the 23rd, only 5 days post-op. Part of his home care was keeping all of his wounds clean and dry. On May 29th, I noticed the left chest tube site was getting a little pussy looking. I called the doctor and was told to leave it open to the air. For the next two days, he ran a fever on and off, and the site became more reddened. On Friday, June 1, he got progressively worse with fever and obvious signs of infection. I tried to call every doctor on his heart team, but could not get ahold of any of them. I finally that evening took him to the local urgent care. They immediately diagnosed an infection along with a pleural effusion. They started him on IV Cipro, and tried to get ahold of his cardiac surgeon. They finally got ahold of him about 2 hours later, and he was transferred by ambulance to St. Luke's again. He spent two nights there receiving IV antibiotics.

Once he got home again, he was very lethargic and weak. He also still continued to run fairly high fevers on and off. He spent a lot of time just sleeping. The pain wasn't too bad at this point, but he has never been one to take pain medication unless I tell him he needs it. He really wanted to get back on his Harley, but the doctor told him to wait two or three more weeks. He really healed fairly quickly, and he said that compared to the cancer treatment, this was nothing. We had another small scare in August when he felt two nodules on his right neck at the site of his previous cancer surgery. He was sent back to the head and neck surgeon who felt sure that they were undisolved stitches. Thank God! I don't think we could take any more bad news at this point.