A Month to Remember

I don't post a lot of personal stuff, but, well this has been incredible. In the sense of "unbelievable". So personal or not, here goes...

The last time I posted was Wednesday, September 28th. Later that evening we received word that Lorraine's mom had been diagnosed with what was described as almost certainly a terminal bladder cancer. In retrospect, this marked the start of The Incredible 24 Hours.

I suppose a case could be made for this time period being longer than a mere day. Or maybe I should refer to it as the Most Incredible 24 Hours in the Most Remarkable Month. A couple of weeks before that my family doctor had scheduled me for a cardiac stress test, the treadmill variety, and a series of images of the heart. I'd been having some chest pains and my RN wife insisted I get it checked out. I picked up a prescription for nitro on the way home ...

The stress test happened the morning of the 29th - at 6:30 am, no coffee, no cigarettes. Bad, grouchy Dave was out and about. And he flunked the stress test. Rather miserably, in fact. This meant a consult with a cardiologist and a heart catheterization. With or without stents - he wouldn't speculate until he got in there and took a look.

On the way home from the appointment, we noted the truck as sounding funny. We'd just had it winterized and outfitted with new brakes a couple of weeks before, so it should've been fine. But since I was heading to work late (it was about 11 am by the time this happened) and Lorraine wanted to go down and see her mom, we decided to just drop the truck off at our mechanic's in Thorntown, and drive the car together. Lorraine would come back and pick up up at quitting time.

Lorraine dropped me off about 1, and I had no sooner got sat down and brought up my terminal than the receptionist called my desk, telling me that my wife couldn't get out of the parking lot!

Sure enough, Lorraine was stuck. The car was making a hideous squealing, and when I managed to get it off the road and back in to the parking lot, the main belt just snapped. So, after a moment or two of sheer panic, we called a wrecker from a nearby garage and had the car towed in and looked at. A couple of hours elapsed while we waited - it was finally determined that the air conditioning compressor had locked up, causing the belt to snap. This meant a new compressor, not a cheap repair, nor a particularly easy one. We couldn't get the car until Monday!

Frantic calls to Thorntown ensued, trying to get the status of the truck repair. It was not good. The noise was the bearing in the air conditioner compressor - it was locking up and would break the belt rapidly if not replaced!

What do you suppose the odds of the same component failing in the same way at the same time in two vehicles owned by the same people? I bought a lottery ticket that day - still didn't win, but figured that with probabilities like that rolling my way it couldn't hurt to try!

We managed to get a ride home with Lorraine's brother - and started in Friday morning on a frantic search for a used compressor for the truck that we could have the mechanic slap into place and get going. Chris H of Ravenswood had the day off work, and he drove us over about 1 to Boxley to fetch the part from a junkyard. Brought it back, dropped it off for the mechanic and we had a running vehicle by Saturday.

Until it failed to start in the feed store parking lot. Time to replace that five year old battery. Coincidence?

That was pretty much the end of the Incredible 24 Hours, which actually ran a bit more like 36. But who's counting? Little did I know it was but the start ...

We got the car back Monday, and Lorraine's mom had surgery that Friday (the 7th). It was bad, but not as bad as they initially thought. So there were some treatment options beyond palliative care, and a consultation with the oncologist was scheduled for October 19th. My consultation with the cardiologist was scheduled for October 13 - and we hosted Winter Nights for Ravenswood on October 15th.

My consultation with the cardiologist didn't got so well at all. I definitely had all the signs of some blocked blood vessels on the heart itself, and was scheduled to have the heart cath and stent placement on the 20th. He mentioned in passing that if the arteries were so blocked that they couldn't be opened with stents or angioplasty, I'd probably have to have bypass surgery. But that could always be scheduled for a later day...

I took Wednesday the 19th off work - I didn't feel particularly bad, but was very nervous about the procedure the next morning, especially the 6:30 am start time with no coffee or cigarettes. Lorraine got back from her mom's appointment about 6 - I had fixed chicken livers and rice, joking about my "last meal".

Showed up at the local hospital the next morning on time and was wheeled back about 7. Next thing I remember I was coming to in a room, apparently in intensive care, with Lorraine and the cardiologist at my bedside, talking about an immediate transfer to the Heart Center in Indianapolis for emergency bypass surgery! The left main coronary artery on the heart was like 95% blocked, and the cardiologist was terrified that he might have knocked a chuck of the plaque loose during the abortive catheterization. Apparently it's not that uncommon a side effect in severe cases.

Needless to say, I was not pleased at all - WTF? My symptoms hadn't been at all that severe, and if things were as gummed up as claimed, it struck me that it was a miracle that I was alive at all! Not having had any caffeine or nicotine, and still being under the influence of the anesthetic made me what Lorraine tells me the doctors and nurses refer to as a "medically non-compliant" patient. Cranky doesn't do it justice - there was no way I was going to take an ambulance ride to the heart center. Lorraine was going to drive me, or I would drive myself, or the transfer just wouldn't happen. End of story. I wanted a Starbucks, I wanted a cigarette, and most importantly, I wanted some time ALONE with my medical professional wife (she's an RN - don't know if I ever mentioned that or not...) to try and sort out what was happening.

This was finally agreed to, and Lorraine drove me to the heart hospital in Indy on the afternoon of the 20th, stopping by Starbucks on the way. I finally understood that I was going to have to have a major bypass surgery, and was rather scared witless.

The surgery took place Friday the 21st starting about noon. They placed a total of 5 grafts (bypasses) using material from my leg veins and chest wall artery. I was out of the operating room by about 5. My heart had been stopped and restarted, with the heart-lung machine filling in during surgery. I remember very little until late Saturday, but I know Lorraine stayed with me practically around the clock, breaking only to feed the critters (or arrange for our friend and neighbor Tim to feed). By Sunday I was hurting pretty good. They let me come home yesterday, the 26th. I'll be on short term disability for at least six to eight weeks - it'll be a minimum of six weeks before I can drive. Don't think I'll be tossing hay this year - or loading fifty pound sacks of feed.

In fact, I have very little idea what will happen to the farm, our plans and our future. Lorraine's back started acting up this year, and this just exacerbates a situation already well in the making. On the other hand, we just got fully tooled up for hay production, and the breeding program has been successful beyond our wildest dreams. But the times, they are a changin', and I'll keep posting here. Don't expect to see too much politics, though. Political stuff just doesn't seem nearly as relevant as it did a mere month ago...

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