A set back.
Last week we were fine. Chris was getting better and we thought the worst of the healing was behind us.
Then, it happened.
He didn’t know my name.
What? You don’t know my name? I’m Allison. You know? The only name he remembered after the first surgery?
So, I called the doctors and then I gave them two choices. Either they would see him in the clinic or they would see him in the ED. They wanted to see him the next day. I told them they would see him in the clinic or the ED. They chose the ED.
We got to the Duke ED and there were people everywhere! I knew there would be a hell of a wait, but I knew we were in the right place. Then I heard from behind the counter “Hello, Mrs. Branch Padgett!” It was my friend Jeff who I had worked with so many years ago, but who still remembered me and whose face was a shining beam of sunlight at that moment. We were triaged and taken back quickly. Not because I “knew people” but because Chris was sick and they knew it.
The ED doctor looked at him and immediately called the neuro team. About 45 minutes after being back in the room Dr. Allan Friedman stood at Chris’ door. He just happened to stop by the hospital on his way back from Colorado when he heard the page. Seriously?
He looked at the incision site, now obviously infected, and said to get an OR ready and he’d take him to surgery.
Yes. Right now.
So, they started an IV and wheeled him to the OR. By this point, Chris is holding his head going “No. Not again. Not again” It was awful, but I knew it needed to be done and this time he would be asleep. That calmed him a bit. When we got to the OR doors I had to kiss him goodbye. There was fear in his eyes, but I could only reassure him that he was going to be ok and they had to do this now. I kissed him and told him that I loved him so much.
Then they shut the doors.
The silence that I heard after those doors shut was deafening.
There I stood with his belongings in a bag, holding his tennis shoes and it was silent.
So, I walked to the waiting room. The same waiting room that we were in before. This time it was night and most of the people had gone home. I sat. Alone.
I cried. Alone.
I cried like I haven’t in a long time. I sobbed from the very bottom of my being.
I needed that sob. I needed that time. I needed to be alone. But, I was happy to see his mother after an hour or so.
Dr. Friedman came out and told us that everything was done and that he’d be in recovery soon. That he had an infection and that he would be treated with antibiotics and he’d be ok.
The man I met in recovery was not ok. He was a different person. I didn’t know him. And I was confused. I chalked it up to the drugs that were wearing off and that he’d get better when he was more comfortable. He didn’t. He was agitated. He was angry. I didn’t know what to do. The nurse told me that it’s from the swelling. “When the swelling goes down he will get better” So I sat in the recliner by this man that I didn’t know and hoped that the swelling would go down.
We were discharged home with a PICC line and IV antibiotics and a reassuring “It will get worse before it gets better, but it will get better!”
The days that followed at home were trying, to say the least. He is often and easily agitated. He only has sounds instead of words. No words? Yep. No words. Just sounds of frustration and periods of sleep.
Yesterday, I noticed some drainage coming from the site again. And he seemed more confused than just a few hours prior. So, I called the doctors. Again. And we went back to the ED.
He was seen. A CT Scan was done and they decided to let him go home and then to just monitor him. But, as I got my car from the valet the resident comes running outside.
“Wait! Dr. Friedman was driving home and had a second thought. He wants to take him back to the OR!!”
What? We were just going home, but ok. So, they do another CT scan and I can see him for a second before he goes back this time.
“I love you, honey. It will be ok.” I gave him a kiss and he just said “Ok”.
Then the doors shut. Again.
The man that they took back isn’t my person. He doesn’t even know my person.
Chris will show tiny bits of emotion every now and then. A little smile here and a little chuckle there. There are bits and pieces of the man I love trapped in this body ravaged by brain surgery and its subsequent infection. It is scary. It seems hopeless.
But it’s not hopeless. There are pieces in there and I’m grabbing those pieces. Every single one. I will grab every piece and I will gradually put him back together.
It is a daunting task for one person. One that is full of uncertainty.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.