Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To deaths door and back. The end of the blog. Written by Jeff

I am alive and back at home. It was quite an ordeal and I will pray that no one that I know will ever have to go through it. I want to close the blog and give a detailed description of what I went through and then just say thank you for all the prayers and well wishes that helped bring me through.
6:00am check in at St. Mary's Hospital(Mayo) It is reported to be the largest hospital in the country. Line was 20 deep at 5:50am and people were still lining up.
7:00am in a holding room getting quizzed by nurses preparing me to get to the prep room.
7:15am left Kim and my sister Ann behind heading to be prepped for surgery.
A super nice young resident anesthesiologist did all the prep. IV's in both wrists, IV's in both forearms, 6 shaved spots on my chest where electrodes were placed. Another spot shaved on my chest for a line he said he would start when I went under. As I lay there I was scared I may not wake back up because I was told the week before by the surgeon what they would be doing. On the wall right in front of me was a crucifix, and I had a very good conversation with Christ. It is private though.
8:00 down the hall and off to OR. In the OR was a team of maybe 10 people. As they moved me to the OR table a nurse in maybe her mid 50's said I would do great. This team removes brain tumors every week and Dr. Link was awesome. I felt a little better. Then the head anesthesiologist gave me a mask and said take a few deep breaths and I remembered nothing. Kim and Ann would be given updates all day. As family from other patients in surgery would hear that their family was in recovery room whatever, Kim and Ann would get updates for 8 hours. The surgery has started, they are opening, Dr. Link has him under the microscope, they are closing, etc. I was asleep and going through the procedure as they sat for 8+ long hours waiting and waiting.
At about 4:00pm I remember Dr. Link tell me that the surgery was over and it went great, but I could not see him. I then remember waking and puking and falling back asleep for the next several hours. At that point you're not really sure you wanted to live. The next afternoon I got out of ICU and into my own room and things got slowly better until they let me out Sunday afternoon.
The young resident anesthesiologist came in at day 2 after surgery and wanted to know the last thing I remembered and the first thing I remembered upon awaking. He has to chart how well he does during his residency. After explaining to him how well he had done, I asked him to tell me what they did in surgery, everything. So he did. He told me that the first thing they did was paralyze every part of my body except my heart. Put a vent down my throat to work my lungs. Then they secured my head in an apparatus he called a halo. It is a device that screws to the front and back of your head so that when locked in position your head cannot even move a mm during surgery. Then the OR table converts to a chair and my body and the halo are locked in a slightly forward sitting position for the entire 8 hours. No wonder my butt was so sore for 2 days. Then the resident Neurosurgeon Dr. Ball, another awesome young Dr. opened the back of my head from the base of my skull to the top of my spine. He had to remove a third of the top 2 vertebral bones, said I will never miss them, separate the muscle and tissue and use expanders to give the head surgeon a window approximately 4 inches wide by 5 inches long so he could see the entire tumor as he worked. Then Dr. Link wearing a microscopic head gear spent nearly 6 hours removing the tumor. Luckily it came away from the brain stem and spine without incident. Came off of the vertebral artery that it had engulfed and Dr. Link only had to remove the lining of my cerebellum to get it all. Then a tissue graph was taken from my leg to fill in on the cerebellum and Dr. Ball closed the incision he had made. Gross and amazing at the same time. The young anesthesiologist said that 20 years ago they did not have the ability to do this. He also informed me that the line he started on my chest was in place to remove air from my heart if needed. He said that operating for that long in a sitting position with such a large opening in my head has a good risk of air getting in my head and going to my heart. 1 anesthesiologist spent the whole surgery listening to my heart for air. Never happened I guess. The surgery has a much better success rate when performed in a sitting position but has more risk during surgery. It is over and I am home and that is all that is important now. I am alive and can see my kids and in a couple months should be totally finished with this. What an amazing team of Doctors at Mayo. So again thanks for all your prayers they were heard and now you can call Kim or myself and get back to normal things.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To be released soon!

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to make sure and wish my own mother, mother in-law and Nana a wonderful Mother's Day! We love you both and will provide you with lots of hugs and kisses when we return! Have a wonderful day, we are thinking of you!

Jeff actually got up and went to mass in the chapel today! St. Mary's has a BEAUTIFUL chapel. It's actually bigger than St. Peter's in Lincoln! He did alright through most of the service but did get a little tired towards the end. The good news is, he didn't have any of those earth shattering hiccups while he was there!

One of he Residents prescribed a drug that could possibly help with the hiccups. So far (and keep your fingers crossed that it continues) the hiccups have seemed to let up a little, he is even resting right now, so maybe we are on to something. Thanks for all of the hiccup cure ideas! The nurses have gotten a kick out of hearing them! :)

Jeff is scheduled to be released this evening. If this happens, we will stay at Sherine and Frank's house tonight and then head for Lincoln in the morning. We are expecting that the trip home will take quite a bit longer than the trip here, since we will need to take frequent breaks.

Hope that the weather monitor on my computer is wrong, and that Lincoln is not having thundershowers, but instead is sunny and warm! Have a wonderful Sunday... hope to see all of you SOON!!

Kim :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Doctors say he is looking Good!

Happy Saturday!

Hope the beginning of your weekend is bright and sunny! It is a beautiful day in Rochester today, a few clouds, but the sun keeps managing to break through. :)

Mr. Hiccup is feeling stronger every day. The doctors are amazed at the way he is rebounding from this surgery. His vitals are strong, he is tube free and pain free, he is eating and drinking and he leaves the nurses in the dust on his walks. The only think that is really frustrating, are the darned hiccups, and the doctors don't seem to be too worried about that.

The doctors are still thinking that Jeff can probably be dismissed either Sunday or Monday. He is getting very anxious to get home.

Well, my clicking is driving him crazy, so I will stop for now. I'll write more later!

Keep smiling,
Kim :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

...we are still hiccuping!


Yes, we are still hiccuping... Poor guy! We asked the doctor about it today. When I inquired about how long they could last, his response was, "oh, anywhere from a week, to 6 months." I about died when he said that! We are hoping that they end MUCH sooner than that! I have been scouring the internet for possible remedies and beds for MY new bedroom! Just jokin' :)

Jeff is up to four walks around the floor. He is taking his last walk of the day around 10:00 PM. The doctor asked him to get in at least three walks today, but of course Jeff had to up that! Jeff is also tube free as of tonight! All of the IVs, and other things, that I won't go into depth about, have been removed. :)

We are hoping that Jeff will be able to get out of the hospital by Sunday. If that happens, we will probably stay with the Kevin and Sherine on Sunday night, and head for home on Monday. The doctor said that Jeff will require frequent stops on the trip home, possibly as often as every hour (same as when I travel with you, Barb!) ;)

We actually had company tonight! The three of us were kind of stunned when the nurse walked in and asked us if we were up for visitors! Around 5:00 tonight, My Uncle Jim, Aunt Kathy, Cousin Mike and new cousin, Andrew, all walked in the room! Mike's wife, Steph, had to work, so she wasn't able to come. We missed you, Steph! Pat's brother, Kevin, an oncologist at Mayo in Mankato, also made the trip over to see Jeff. He has been such a God send to us! It was SO nice to have family visit. It really brightened Jeff's day (and mine!)

Well, the hiccups are gone for right now, and Jeff is trying to take a little snooze before they start again, so I guess I will stop "clicking" on my computer keyboard (another of Jeff's little pet peeves!) :) Have a great night!

Love you all!

Still has the... hic, hic...hiccups!

Good morning,
Well, Jeff is still battling the darn hiccups! I've never seen anything quite like it, it's the weirdest thing! I had to laugh at my Aunt Kathy's, blog post... hiccups or brain tumor, not much of a choice there, I think he will definitely take the hiccups! I tried to explain this reasoning to Jeff, but I got growled at (between hiccups of course!) :)

He has been out of bed and walking this morning already. In fact, he walked the entire loop of the floor he is staying on. Yea for Jeff!!

Right now, he is having his hair washed by the nurse's aid. He is also getting a shave, even though I told him that I kind of liked the scruffy look. :)

We are still waiting to hear when he will be able to go home. I just want to make sure he is A-OK before we take him back to Nebraska (especially since we have a six hour drive.)

It is a beautiful day here in Minnesota. I hope the sun is shining on all of you in Lincoln.

Love and miss you all!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Quick update before I go to bed...

When Ann and I left the hospital, Jeff had a bad case of the hiccups, yes, the hiccups. The funny thing is, before tonight, I have NEVER heard Jeff hiccup! The doctors think it has something to do with the part of the brain that was operated on. It seems that the hiccups have some connection to the brain stem (don't ask me what) and the trauma from the surgery is causing him to hiccup. The bad thing is, that trying to sleep when you are hiccuping is mighty tough! We are hoping that the nasty spasms subside tomorrow!

Jeff did get out of bed and take two short walks down the hallway this evening. He really didn't need a lot of assistance, but when the nurse asked him where he wanted to go when he came back into the room (meaning chair, edge of the bed, etc,) Jeff replied, "right back where I came from!" :)

I Just want you to know that Jeff sat in bed and read all of your posts on the blog tonight. He was kind of choked up over all of the kind words, thoughts and prayers. Thanks for taking the time to write to him!


Good News!

Good Morning,

Jeff had his MRI done. He has still been pretty sick to his stomach, so I don't think that the test was a very pleasant experience. The good news is that we do have the results of the MRI and the pathology and things are looking good! The surgeon said that the MRI shows that they were able to remove ALL of tumor! When Jeff asked about the amount of the cerebellum that had to be removed, Dr. Link said that they only had to remove some of the lining.

The diagnosis is a grade 2 Ependymoma. It is a usually slow growing tumor of the brain and spine that is commonly benign in nature. Jeff's was rated a grade 2 because of the length of time he has had it. The doctor is consulting with the neurological oncologist tomorrow, but at this time, feels that the only thing Jeff will have to do is heal and have follow-up MRI tests done to make sure that the tumor doesn't grow back. If it does return, and we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, it can be removed surgically or treated with radiation.

This morning Jeff has been actually sitting more upright in bed and has been trying to keep down some clear liquids (jello, tea, chicken broth, etc.) Ann and I told him that when he felt better we were going to bring him some Kentucky Fried Chicken (we thought he LIKED Kentucky Fried Chicken!) He started ranting and raving about how gross that sounded and how it wouldn't sound good even if he wasn't nauseated! Oh well, we try. :)

Thank you all for your prayers, I truly believe that they were answered today! Each and every one of you means the world to us.

Love you!