I mentioned in a previous post that Jess got out of ICU and got a comment wondering what happened to Jess. Unfortunately, the commenter refused to be named, so I couldn't give the person details. I've been meaning to blog about Jess, but my life has become rather busy due to adding almost daily hospital visits to my already busy schedule (at the beginning staying all day at the hospital) and long blogs just didn't seem to take a priority. So here we go. The whole fun story.
(First, I apologize for the length of this blog. If you don't know Jess, or don't care for my love of details, you may skip it. For a more concise (and possibly more detailed in parts) description, you can see her boyfriend, Kyle's blog. Second, if you haven't heard anything about this, and should have, please don't hate me. I've been contacting so many people over the last two weeks that I am having a hard time remembering who I've contacted and who I haven't. My focus has been on Jess, not you.)
Beginning of January, Jess came down with a sore throat. I also had a cold, but I can honestly say I didn't give her anything, because I was still in Idaho and she was in Utah and we hadn't seen each other in weeks. I suggested gargling with warm salt water, because that always fixes my sore throats, and to my amazement, she agreed. And to my more amazement, it didn't work.
The pain continued and worsened, so on January 6 (Tuesday), she went to the Urgent Care. They did a quick strep test which came back negative, so they told her it was viral and there was nothing they could do. Just go home and wait it out. So she did. By Monday (Jan 12), the pain had mostly subsided, but her throat had swollen to the point that she could barely eat, and what she could manage to get down, she threw up. They made another trip to Urgent Care. Urgent Care agreed that it looked suspicious and sent her in for a cat scan at the Orem hospital. The result? An abscess in her throat, in front of the spine and behind the wall of the throat, the likes of which the doctor said one would see maybe once his entire career. Apparently this was quite large.
They sent her to the Provo ER where BJ and I met up with her and Kyle. It kind of scared me to walk into her room and see her laying on a bed with techs on either side of her, drawing blood out of her hands. (They were trying to get cultures to determine what caused the infection.) We all crammed inside this tiny room (at one point BJ ended up behind the door with the Anesthesioligist leaning up against the door, not knowing BJ was there) with more and more people gathering by the minute. Before we knew it, there was a whole team of doctors and nurses outside the door, waiting to escort her to surgery. Dr. Gibb, her ENT surgeon, comforted us with words like, "This is a life-threatening abscess" and "This is a true emergency." We all felt much better after that.
They whisked Jess off to the OR while Kyle, BJ and I sat in the waiting room... waiting. It took longer than they had predicted, but that gave us enough time to get Kyle hooked on Dice Wars. After about an hour and a half, they came in to report that the surgery was successful. They had drained about 200 cc of puss out of her throat! Yipes!
While we waited, Kyle had gone and purchased the most gorgeous roses and lilies to have waiting for her when she got out. We went with as they wheeled Jess to ICU and watched as her heart rate went up 10 beats when she looked at them. We're not sure if it's because of the flowers or the person holding the flowers, but either way, that moment was worth finding out that he couldn't take the flowers into ICU.
We were all well-pleased to learn that the surgery went so well that she didn't have to have a breathing tube. They had warned us that the chances would be great. She was greatly irritated that she couldn't drink any water as her throat was quite parched, but due to the anesthetics still in her system, they couldn't risk it. Instead we got to give her ice chips and sponges soaked in water far less often then she wanted. Yes, after all of our care, she still called us jerkfaces. :)
They had her on a monitor that measured all sorts of things, the most annoying for her was the measure of how deep she was breathing. She was breathing so shallowly that it would often think she wasn't breathing and would set off alarms. So we sat in there talking to her and watching the monitor, telling her to breathe ever 5 mins or so. I'm sure she was ready to kick us out by the time we finally left.
Next morning Kyle had class, so I met her at ICU around 9, just in time to help her move to her own room up on the 6th floor. A room that was ridiculously small. By this point she had an IV and oxygen and drainage tubes in her throat, so we felt pretty lucky. (Well, maybe she didn't, but the rest of us were.) She started having bad reactions to the new pain meds (she has forever sworn off Lortab and Percocet, which both caused her to have hallucinations whenever she closed her eyes and also made her really hot and sweaty, without actually raising her body temperature. I sat next to her all day, tickling her arm and telling her stories to distract her. Even I, master storyteller, quickly ran dry of stories. I finally settled to gossiping about other people's love lives. (My lack of stories were helped by the fact that I lived with Jess for over 4 years and have been good friends with her for almost 5, so she knows most of my stories.) They finally settled on Darvocet which caused lesser versions of the previous sympotms and actually caused a fever. (Though, now we don't think that was the cause of the fever, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) It also didn't last as long, so they gave her Morphine in between doses of Darvocet.
By Wednesday she was doing a lot better and was even up to visitors. She was sounding so great and was so alert that we were all confident that by Thursday, she'd be released. We were all very happy. And very naïve. Thursday morning they checked her white blood count to find it was at 44,000. Normal is 11,000. They took her down for another cat scan (after interrupting her breakfast and starving her for the rest of the day) which came back with some very scary news. Well, first the good news. The left side of her throat, which is where she had the first surgery, was healing wonderfully. Now the scary news. The infection had spread to the right side of her throat and into her medial cavity (her chest, down by her heart). More surgery.
Up through this point, I had been calling her parents several times a day to keep them updated on her progress. This was a very hard phone call to make. After we had seen her down to her second emergency surgery in a week, I called her mom from the waiting room. It was decided that she would fly out the next day. This was an exhausting wait. We were given an estimate of 2 hours (admittedly from a nurse who didn't know anything), so 2 hours later, Kyle called to see how surgery was going. It was going well and they estimated two more hours. So we waited. And waited. After two hours, Kyle called again. They had finished the throat and right side of her chest (which was the scariest part) and were just starting on the left side of her chest. Two more hours. 6 hours hours of surgery! By this point, my baby was screaming for food, so I drove home and fed BJ and I, then we drove back to the hospital where Jess was being prepped in ICU. We waited with Kyle until they finally let us in.
This was probably the hardest hour of the entire visit. We had been told that she was having a Thoracotomy and a VATS, which Wikipedia told us (and Jess' ER-doctor-brother and also her ICU nurse confirmed) was listed in the top 3 most painful surgeries to recover from. Before they let us into her room, they warned us that she had a lot of tubes and wires. They weren't kidding. Later I think we counted 12 tubes (including a catheter and IV). This time she wasn't so lucky and had a breathing tube. Usually for this kind of surgery, they give an epidural for the pain, but because of the infection, they couldn't. Instead they had her on the highest dose of sedative that they could (which the nurse told us, for a girl Jess' size, was a lot), and a constant morphine drip. Because of it, Jess wasn't asleep, but was super relaxed and out of it. Problem is, the more stimulation we gave her by touching her and talking to her, the more alert she became. The more alert she became, the more pain she felt. She would grimace around her breathing tube and had such a look of pain that it broke my heart. We told the nurse who kindly told us that if we wanted to help her feel better, we would leave. So we did. It was the kind of sight that really just brought a person to tears. It killed me to see her like that.
Next day she was much more alert, but still under a lot of sedatives and morphine (though they had greatly lowered the dose) so she was in a constant half-asleep phase. We spent a lot of our time reading to her (we were all out of distracting stories) and over the next several days read Tales of Beedle the Bard several times until she was finally alert enough to remember it all.
Because of the breathing tube, she couldn't talk, so she would write for us and finger spell. Both of which were quite comical (to us) because of all the sedation and because she couldn't see (she couldn't wear her glasses). Half of the time her fingers wouldn't quite make the letter or when she was writing, she'd write without moving her pen to the right... just write letter over letter. Or she'd write really small. Or so lightly that you couldn't read it. It would frustrate her whenever we asked her to write something again (which lessened the entertainment factor greatly), but somehow, we pulled through it. Luckily, she doesn't remember much from this day or the night before now.
In the afternoon I went up to the airport and picked up her mom and brought her back. It was really nice for her to have her mom there, fresh with new stories and distractions. It also gave a new voice to read stories to her. We started Artemis Fowl (which also got read twice) which was nice for more distraction.
This marks the point where my interaction at the hospital drops dramatically. See, I got a cold around New Years which refused to die. By that point, it was mostly just the cough that lingered, otherwise I was fine, but by the night that her mom got there, I had to leave the room 2-3 times to have a coughing fit. Jess' nurse grew concerned and cornered me about it. That night I couldn't sleep much because I kept waking up coughing. The next morning it was decided that the ICU probably wouldn't (and shouldn't) let me in, so I spent the remainder of the weekend getting updates via phone and chat. It was miserable. (I'm sure my misery holds a candle to Jess' and should make it in. Heck, it is my blog, y'know.) So, from this point on, details diminsh greatly. (Which you're all probably grateful for, since this is so long already.)
I made it in Monday evening for a few hours and was very happy to see her doing so much better. They had taken her breathing tube out the day after her mom got there, which helped her spirits immensely. She was also a lot more alert and actually remembering things. (The day after her second surgery, she kept asking where she was, what time her surgery was (thinking that she still had to go into surgery, and told me about 3 times that Mike (our boss) had come to visit, even though that visit was two days earlier.) It was very comforting. The doctors and nurses were all impressed at how fast she was recovering, and were just trying to stay on top of the pain.
They finally moved her to her own room on the 5th floor (which, if possible, was smaller than her last recovery room). With her mom and Kyle there all day every day, I started to actually go into work (I had been working from the hospital) and trying to catch up on everything that had been put on hold. It was a very trying time for me. I had been Jess' mom and caretaker for the past 5 years as she went through all her medical emergencies and I was having to give up my baby to her real mom and her boyfriend. Both of which were doing an excellent job without me. It was hard to face the fact that she didn't need me 24-7 anymore and that she was still in excellent care. On top of that, there was the fact that 3 was, quite literally, a crowd. (We won't mention that at times, we had 5 of us, plus nurses (and of course, Jess) in that tiny room. I felt like we were clowns in a car... how many can we fit?) So I distracted myself in productivity at work and home to make up for my longing to spend all day with Jess (and guilt for not doing so).
By Friday they had removed all her drainage tubes except one on her right side and had put in a PICC line, and then she still had oxygen. It was quite the drastic improvement to ICU. Oh, also, they took her off morphine, which was fun for her the next day. She also got her first shower in weeks that day, which I'm sure we can all agree had to be the highlight of her stay. Well... besides the day that she started eating solid foods (and anything she wanted) a couple of days before and finally got her coveted vanilla malt that she had been craving since the beginning.
By Sunday (yesterday) they had removed all the drainage tubes and finished off the antibiotics... which brings us to today...
I am so very excited and grateful for this. Two weeks ago today was her first surgery. 2 weeks in the hospital. I found out today that the doctor had given her a 50/50 chance of living when he found out the kind of bacteria they were dealing with (Fusobacterium). And after the second surgery, he told Kyle (who conveniently didn't tell anyone else) that he only gave Jess a 75% chance of making it. God has truly blessed us to not only let Jess survive, but to let her recover as quickly as she did. We're also so very grateful for the caring of everyone else around us. Thank you everyone for your kindess, support and generosity through this whole thing. You'll never know how much of an effect you've had on Jess and on those of us helping her. This is truly a testimony of how wonderful of people we are constantly surrounded by. Thank you so much.
So for our last update, the doctor told her it would still be 2-3 weeks before she was back on her feet, so she's not recovered yet, but she is feeling a lot better. She's now back to checking email, so you can contact her that way, and she'd still love visitors at her house. (I suggest late afternoon/evening hours.) Hopefully the next two weeks go by a lot faster with a lot less stress than the past two. :)
We love you, Jess!