Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What the Pathology Report Says

This is the biggest piece of information of the entire process, even more revealing than surgery, because to get the pathology report, pathologists must dissect and microscopically examine every tiny bit of tissue that they took out of Bill, so that they can better understand the status of his cancer.

The results are as follows (and if anyone wants a particular detail, because you are experienced with these things, and know what the details are about, email me, and I will provide that. This report will be very surface, for obvious reasons):

According to my reading and intensive research on the report and its terminology, here is what I THINK it says:

He had bladder cancer, urothelial--transitional cell carcinoma. We knew that. He had two cancers in his bladder and one area of granuloma. We knew that, too. His cancers are the highest grade, most aggressive kind. We knew that, too.

The cancer did break through the outside of the bladder and was visible there without microscope (macroscopic, they call it).

Cancer was also found in two lymph nodes near the bladder. That was the news we most didn't want to hear, but which could have been much worse, because it could have been in a lot of nodes, but wasn't. And the nodes with the cancer are gone now.

There are a few other details if you want them by email. Not all of you would want those, I realize.

The big surprise was that he also had prostate cancer. Dr. Walther didn't mention that this morning. I wonder if doctors purposely only give you the merest edge of information at first to avoid shocking you.

The prostate cancer is called adenocarcinoma, Gleason grade 3 + 3 = 6, (which means it is relatively well-behaved cancer type), bilateral, organ confined, with perineural invasion, but no spread to lymph nodes at all. Prostate is also removed, so hurray for that, too.

The next thing that happens is this:

1. Bill gets to go home tomorrow for sure! HOORAY!

2. We'll have a home nurse. HOORAY!

3. We come back in 2 weeks to get the stitches out and to get tests done on his kidneys to see if he qualifies for more chemotherapy.

Oops gototta go help him walk. sending.

love to all

God is good.

Sorry it Took Me That Long to Google the Terms

I'm composing the post now. Should be up in less than a half hour.

Got Pathology Results: Reading Them; Will Post Within an Hour

Not as good as we had hoped, but fantastic compared to what it could have been!

Dr. His Bladderness stopped in briefly when I wasn't here yet, and gave Bill a brief bit of information. He had intended to give him the report, I guess, in a couple weeks when we come back to get stitches out. But because I called so many times and left messages with everyone over there, I suppose--I guess--I do not allege!--that MAYBE that made him come by and give Bill a brief overview.

Of course, BRIEF OVERVIEWS so not satisfy Desperately Inquisitive Individuals like myself, so I continued phone calls until the nurse finally printed me a copy, which I am reading, and which contains a lot more news that Dr. Himselfness gave us.

I'll post the news after I read it; it's long.

See you in about an hour.

Grateful to God that it isn't all that bad!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Post of the Day, Tuesday Afternoon

Great news! Home this week!

Dr. Walther's Chief Acolyte just came by and said that His Supreme Doctorness is ready to release Bill either tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday) or Thursday.

They will set up a home health nurse in Blowing Rock to take care of Bill's wound issues right in our house. Good thing it won't be me doing it.

We are excited beyond description to get out of here! The ride home might hold unexpected events, and I have no idea how to do it, if Bill is still on his IV, or has to go to the bathroom suddenly in a public restroom, or starts leaking from his central vertical surgical incision. Oh man. I wish a nurse could ride with us!

Well, with all the prayer surrounding the cowboy, nothing will probably challenge us.

I'm going to start rolling things down to the car tomorrow, from the hotel room, as in PACKING!

AAAAAAAAAA! This is just so amazing!

(Still no pathology report. The Acolyte prevaricated just a teensy weentsy bit by saying, oh those reports take three weeks, so he won't tell you until you come back in a few weeks for a followup exam. Ooops. She didn't know that His Waltherness already told us it takes only a week to ten days. We also left a message with Dr. W's nurse today to please help us get that report asap.)

We got that joy joy joy joy down in our cowboy hearts!


Gratefulness overdose!

Nuthin New, All is Well

Either I'm really tired, or Bill's and my brains are running on low batteries, but we can't think of anything to say today.

"Bill, tell me something to say."

"Tell them the Die, Die story. Or that thing the nurse said yesterday, although it probably wouldn't be funny in a blog."

Okay. So there's a nurse here named Diana, nicknamed, Di. See where this is going? When Bill was at his sickest, the intercom came on his room. The operator was looking for Di. So she says, "Di, Di, Di. Looking for you. Di." This is probably not something one says over a hospital intercom, where people are already a little concerned about the Grim Reaper. Poor Bill.

The other anecdote he suggests is this: As mentioned before, he is covered in tubes and wires, and every time he gets up, it takes almost ten minutes to untangle them, unhang them, rehang them, etc. So at one point, Bill was standing up, trying to get one fluid bag unwrapped from the wires of another fluid bag, and I was leaning my head under his arm, trying to straighten out three IV cords, and the nurse was reaching behind him, trying to get his stomach tube out from around his waist. We were all stuck in this tube-intensive cluster, and suddenly, she says quietly, "Group hug."

I'm sure it couldn't possibly come across as funny in writing as it did at the time. But, when she said it, Bill and I nearly fell out. Actually, I think some serosanguinous fluid literally DID fall out. Of Bill's stitches. From laughing so hard.

Yeah, that anecdote I should probably delete, but I'm too tired.

He gets some more xrays today, then they let him try soft food. I'm sure he will be fine. He isn't throwing up at all any more.

The only thing I remain concerned about is his moderate (two-inches long, so far) wound dehiscence, but according to the megavolume of articles I've read (including, yes, some appellate findings from dehiscence lawsuits--oops--the medical gang here doesn't know I'm a lawyer)--they are doing okay with their treatment of it. But they were too slow starting, and something really bad could have happened, but it didn't, and I feel pretty secure that it won't, as the situation seems to be resolving, although he has to get re-stitched, and help me Jesus if they send him home with just me to figure out what to do if his incision blows apart any more than it already has.

To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, and what "wound dehiscence" is, here is line from the appellate judgment I read this morning: "It happened suddenly, after a cough, and plaintiff was able to catch her intestines before they landed on the floor."


I never want another link sausage as long as I live.

In other news, we have no pathology report yet. Could be any time. I will post that instantly.

God is Light.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So Far, Still Looks Rosy!

By the end of today, Bill's spirits were great. He was joking with the nurses, and despite several dramatic episodes of various types, still, overall, there are no dangerous medical situations pending.

He is able to try sipping water tonight, and if that goes well, he can try soft foods.

He continues to wake up internally, and the trajectory is completely positive.

I still have my own concerns about his incision situation, and Bill shares them after I read him the info I found online, but, come on, the medical people at Duke MUST know more than Bill and I know about why his incision is doing such strange things. Right?

Two cowpokes with a google education couldn't possibly be right while all the doctors in training that stop in for 2.5 minutes a day are....unconcerned. RIGHT?

No, honestly: nothing to worry about. Let's all just be happy that the corner has definitely been turned! (Yes, I know, all ye English profs reading this: passive construction. Bad Beth!)

Love and thanks to you for sticking with it this long!

God is love.

Much Better!

The sleepy cowboy intestines seem to be waking up. This would mean the foreseeable end of the ileus problem! And THAT would (this is me assuming--no one said this, but still...) mean he could go home, once he can eat!

The only things left to resolve are:

1. He still can't eat or sip water yet, but I'm going to guess they let him try water soon.

2. They are concerned about a new thing--his incision. They aren't sure what is going on with all that flow (the flow which, to get them to really notice, Bill and I had to put on a dramatization of Armageddon in the hallway yesterday, as you recall). I wasn't here when the doctors came in, but in his half-asleep report, Bills says it seems they took out a bunch of his stitches and are letting his incision get air, and they are making him roll down to x-ray to figure out what is going on with it. He is on intravenous antibiotics again.

BUT! It can't be THAT serious of a concern, because they told him to walk and see what the incision does, in terms of draining. That doesn't sound to me like they're very worried. But if you have Genetic Pessimism like I do, the thought has already reached your mind: WALKING WITH HALF OF HIS STITCHES OUT? IS THAT REALLY A BRILLIANT PLAN?

3. The pathology report. Maybe today? If that thing comes back clear, you're going to be so sick of seeing me post photos of people celebrating...wait. It's Lent. Not supposed to be in celebration mode during Holy Week. Ummmmm. Okay, I'll post photos of NUNS celebrating. That should keep me within the Lenten parameters of sombriety. (Is sombriety a word?) (Do nuns dance?)

Giddy here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Think He's Sleeping

When I left our boy, he was pretty sleepy.

I still think he's better, even though it was a pretty rough day.

At the end of the day, around six, he started throwing up a lot, and I got worried extra, because he was choking on it, coughing and coughing. I think his abdomen isn't strong enough to get it out, and then he can't breathe, but I don't want him to get pneumonia from inhaling that stuff.

I also googled the dayights out of his condition, and it seems to me that they used a part of his intestines called his "distal ileum" to make the inner tubes from his kidneys to his side. And now what's left of his intestines near the distal ileum, where the cutting and tugging took place, is freaked out of its mind and has shut down.

From the diagrams I could find online, it looks like this distal ileum is about in the center of his abdomen. And since his stomach is also sort of paralyzed, then the shutdown must go from his stomach, at the top of his digestive system, down to the ileum, about halfway down. The lower part of his system is probably fine, but there's nothing there, so no real way to know.

So that's probably more information than anyone wanted at dinner time. hahaha

But overall--overall--he seemed better today. The ileus might not be better, I agree, but his health seemed better, just his overall health, because, after all, yesterday, he was literally starving from living on sugar/salt water for eight days. Today he had good stuff that looked like milk.

Actually, it looked like pina colada mix, and for a brief moment, I thought, hmmmmm, a little pina colada mixed into that bag--could it REALLY hurt?


More tomorrow.

Also, for those of you who might be anxious to hear how the pathology report comes out--I plan to post the news INSTANTLY after we get it. So if it isn't posted, that means we are still waiting.

Thank you for your unbelievably faithful and long-lasting love and care!

Your cowpeople

Bill Gotz a Lotz of Strings Now

Mid-afternoon report:

The news stays improved! Bill has more tubes, wires, and convoluted strings in him, on him, through him, and around him than a drunken hammock-weaver, but he is holding his ground!

After a shaky start, the overall picture is of an improved Bill. Definitely improved!

Insert huge sigh of relief.


1. He has thrown up a lot. That's due to the ileus: his entire digestive system is in lockdown mode, including his stomach. He still isn't even allowed to sip water. But they changed his anti-nausea meds so that he can be on them constantly, not just AFTER he upchucks.

2. He was awake a lot today, and seemed to be more a part of the human race than yesterday. He's back to sleep all afternoon, though, but rest is good.

3. He had two rather impressive dramas today. Both occurred when he tried to walk. Drama (1) After getting about 300 feet, blood started dripping on the floor in the hall and then started kind of pouring out. A maintenance man started freaking out and yelling in Spanish, and Bill got scared, and we didn't know what to do, so a nurse said, just get him back to his bed as quickly as you can. By the time he got back, the whole front of his gown was saturated, blood was all over the floor, running down his legs, all over his socks.

When the nurse inspected his stomach to find out where it was coming from, she saw it was his stitches, his main incision this time. When she took the bandage off, which was soaked, blood mixed with water was literally flowing UP out of the stitches of his main abdominal incision, flowing upward! Like a fountain--not a huge fountain, but literally bubbling UP higher than the stitches, before it poured downward again. I was HORRIFIED, and he was quite upset, too.

"What IS that? Is that supposed to happen?" I said, not all that calmly. The nurse said she thought it was okay, but would page a doctor.

No one ever came.

Then he threw up some more.

But later in the day, after the flowing wasn't happening any more, he wanted to try a walk, figuring that if the flowing blood happened again, we would get a doctor to come.

Drama (2) So off we went, him leaning over his walker, me dragging this pole with 800,000 tubes and bags hanging on it.

About 50 feet into the stroll, KABOOM! Here comes the blood again, pouring on his gown, rolling down his legs, creating a lovely river walk right in the middle of the hall.

We went right back to his bed. And THIS TIME, it worked. After they got all THAT cleaned up, a doctor came.

The doctor was a great explainer and very patient. She could see the little fountain flowing out between the stitches in his belly, and she worked on him a while. Turns out that it's not dangerous, but they will watch it. He has necrotized fat and a non-dangerous clot under his incision. If it gets worse, they have to remove his stitches and re-enter his abdomen and insert a sponge and drain. We certainly hope it doesn't get to that point.

But she said he is in such a state from so long without nutrition, that healing can't happen at the normal rate. So where normally, stitches would close him up, he is remaining open, so that the contents of his abdomen are passing through his stomach wall.

Oh, my disappearing appetite.

So he has a GIANT bandage on that now, and has no plans to try another walk. Walking makes it really pour out, which is good for relieving pressure, I suppose, but bad for his aesthetic experience, and for the maintenance man's blood pressure.

4. Apart from that, ileus is really now his only problem, but it has such side effects. He has so many bags running down tubes into his arm and sides that I can't even count them all.

But even with all that, he really seems to have stabilized, and seems more refreshed, with his new milky looking intravenous food.

I'll write the next time I hear something. Tomorrow, I think we get the pathology report. That's when we find out if he had any microscopic cancer cells that spread outside his bladder.

But for now, he's sleeping, and it's a better day!

Love and thank you.

A Little Better!

I just got here, so I don't know much new, but Bill looks better, is perkier, seems more awake.

The first thing he told me was that he is still throwing up. So that's not good, as his stomach drain was supposed to help that, and they hadn't given him his anti-nausea meds. What the heck?! They waited until he started throwing up to give them (intravenously). I don't get it!

But he has a new white bag of nutrition on his IV pole, so maybe that's helping.

Now, he is even going to try going for a walk.

I have a feeling he's turned a corner, here! I'll write more later.

Love from him and me!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I finally had to take my xanax prescription for this one.

What a scary procedure to watch.

Bill got his Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter threaded up his arm and into his heart just now.

They decked out the whole room like an operating room, covers on everything, all of us in face masks, and the insertion expert looked like she was ready for major surgery. Scrubs, gloves, hat, mask. Phew. It scared me a lot.

Then they threaded 45 centimeters of something into Bill's arm and up and around and down to his heart.

Oh, at the last minute, they had to add two ports (like outlets) to this new IV because they are concerned that his abdomen is getting infected now, and he would need intravenous antibiotics through the same catheter.

It took an hour, and I wasn't sure I was going to remain conscious through the whole thing. It was just really eerie-looking and somber.

He slept through it.

Now when he goes home, he has to keep this in, and remain on intravenous solutions, AND we now will require a home nurse.

Bill is still unconscious. I think I will go get some green tea in the cafeteria and try to decompress. It's absolutely NOT about me! I know that! But I had to watch it, and I'm sure that took some years off my life--and I honestly think I've turned gray over night. My hair color appears to have run away screaming.

I'll write more after the next development. I wouldn't have written so much today, but so much changed, and I thought some of you would want to keep up with that, though some prefer to take a more distant viewpoint, so as to remain vertical and in possession of your lunch. :)

Love to you angels. I mean it.

Ileus Confirmed: Woe is We

A doctor just stopped in to tell us that Bill has been diagnosed with a more complicated type of ileus. This morning's unexpected x-rays revealed this. He confirmed that while ileus is very common, the degree of Bill's ileus is not common, and Bill may be looking at three weeks here.

Words fail me. And from the sublime to the ridiculous, my judgment about what to worry about first was so bad that I actually thought, "Oh, no! My dog sitter is only booked until April 1st." I am ashamed to confess that I even thought about dogs when my boy is so sick.

Having regained my right mind, I continue.

Bill will now receive the following treatment:

1) They will use a stomach tube through his side (not down his throat) to suction his stomach and upper intestines.

2) Specialists will insert a tube into his arm and up to his heart to provide more thorough nutrition. Why that location: I don't know. The doctor mentioned that the current clear bag of IV nutrition is no longer adequate in Bill's situation, and that if they don't give him different the doctor paused, and Bill said, "Everything shuts down?" The doctor said, "Yes, and we don't want that."

3) His pain medicine has been changed to a kind that lasts longer.

4) He can no longer even sip water.

5) He is on mega-doses of anti-nausea meds now, intravenously.

And poor Bill is so yellow (but not his eyes, so it's not jaundice), and is simply never awake any more unless someone talks loudly to him, and then he replies with his eyes closed, and you can barely understand what he is saying.

Oh, I also read that this situation is more likely when the patient has gone through chemotherapy before surgery. Which, of course, Bill did. There was a one-month break between chemo and surgery, but I'm sure Bill's body was not at Schwarzenegger level when he came here for the operation.

And it's funny how we don't even THINK about the cancer right now. Cancer itself has nothing to do with what is happening to Bill; I mean, if not for the cancer, he wouldn't be here, but ileus isn't a cancer-specific illness.

Till later.


Bethie Starting To Feel Like A Cheezburger, Too!

Bill Has a Sad

Sad day.

It's dark and quiet in his room. He opened his eyes only long enough to tell me that he vomited all night.

Then he went back to sleep.

The new nurse said they have to change gears now with some of his blood pressure meds and other things because he can't stop vomiting.

No one has said the word "ileus"--but that's my diagnosis. Ileus isn't normally too huge of a thing, and strikes more than half the people who have parts of their intestines removed (as did Bill, to make tubes). Ileus is when your intestines shut down. He has every symptom (the nurse confirmed that he did), but the thing is that it should have resolved by day 5 at the latest. This is day 8. It becomes more dangerous at this point. I won't mention the possibilities in case Bill reads the blog. Don't put the possibilities in a comment, either, because those things scare him.

If he doesn't improve, they have to start by giving him a stomach tube through the nose today.

I'll let you know.

Thanks for loving us, and caring that Bill has a Sad, today.

We love you, too, and we remember that "all things work to good for them who love the Lord." That says "all" things. Not "some" things.

We're in good hands.

Friday, March 26, 2010


This picture above gives you an idea of how our BillyBoy felt by the end of this day.

The number of things that happened to him in just one day--it was enough pummeling, poking, beeping, bleeding, stitching, sticking, and rolling around to turn even the bravest cowboy into nothing more than a mushy cheezeburger!

But he doesn't WANT to be a cheezeburger! HALP!

And don't say "cheeseburger" where he can hear it, or he will throw up again!

Here's a quick summary of his terrible, horrible, no-good day:

1. Breakfast: Throwing up after one bite of soup.

2. All-day nausea requiring two medicines to control it. He sipped only one-half a cup of water in the entire day, he was so queasy.

3. Abdominal pain that only continuous morphine shots would manage.

4. Spreading pinkness on his abdomen, around his incision.

5. Pink lines going up both arms from his IV sites, either reactions to his intravenous antibiotics, or possibly inflamed veins. BOTH IV sites had to be re-done. Felt great. Not.

6. Blood starting to leak out of his main incision. Never happened before.

7. Dragging himself down the hall, hanging on to his walker for dear life, and looking down and seeing blood pouring onto the floor.

8. So much blood pouring out of a hole in his side (where they removed a drainage tube perhaps a little too soon) that when he stood up from a chair, an entire sheet lining the chair was sopping with blood, the cushion under the sheet was totally blood-soaked and had to be thrown in the trash, blood was running down the chair, and dripping on the floor. And when he sat on his bed to get his chair cleaned up, the blood soaked his whole bed pad, sheets, and gown in 5 minutes.

Eventually a doctor had to be paged to come in and give him a set of stitches on his side to stop the blood pouring out of the hole where his drainage tube was--but they only did this after all the preceding blood incidents and after his sheets were changed about four times today from becoming blood-soaked.

Oh, yeah, and the stitches? No pain injections. Just IN went the needle.

9. Potassium level won't come up. Having to take horse-sized potassium pills by mouth in addition to intravenous potassium.

10. So much commotion that he finally went into a state of complete anxiety (I did, too!) and he had to have medication to calm down, but the pharmacy took two hours to deliver it.

11. Can't get control of his blood pressure: starting medical treatment for it.

12. Heartbeat up around 100 again, even while he is sleeping. (Should be near 60 or 70).

Good news: They're not sending him home like this. Oh, heavens, if I had to take care of him alone in this condition, I'd be checking myself into the Duke mental unit. And they don't even HAVE a Duke mental unit! And I wouldn't care!

Thank you all for your loving, supportive, understanding, beautiful emails to us. I usually read them to Bill, but I can only get his attention when he is awake, which is NEVER, except when he simply cannot sleep because he's getting turned into a cheeseburger by the endless stream of pummeling dramas that are ever-unfolding in his poor little room.

Pray for him, because, HALP! HE NOT CHEEZBURGER!

It's Frow-up Friday

A little news for those of you who have finished eating your breakfast.

They tried giving our cowpoke some soft foods. They offered him jello, chicken soup, apple juice, and hot tea. I'm not sure which one he tried (he's asleep now), but him frow up, and now he is nauseated, and they have him on two kinds of nausea medicine.

He's back to water sips only. He is still getting IV nutrition (his bag says dextrose, plus sodium chloride, and a heavy dose of potassium because his potassium keeps falling.)

All they will tell us about the x-rays yesterday is that there is no kind of food residue in his intestines. Well, I THINK we might have known that already! He hasn't had anything but water and a few ounces of apple juice since 8 days ago.

I was hoping he would be perky and have news of progress for me this morning, but he just hurts more than ever, is mashing his morphine constantly, and is feeling discouraged.

The good news is probably that they aren't really freaking out about anything right now. Still has IV antibiotics and IV hydration/nutrition, and getting heparin (blood thinner) shots.

So why should I worry?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wild Bill: Soooooo Tired Today

Wild Bill Drennan was SO tired today; all he could do was sleep, when he wasn't getting shots, xrays, sheet changes, and dragged around in wheelchairs.

Oh, count your blessings that you didn't see him today.

Not only yellow, but so exhausted that, honestly, he looked like one of those children they show on TV when they want you to call the 800 number and start sending monthly checks.

And the saddest expression I have ever seen on his face.

The game of hide-the-facts-from-the-patient-and-spouse continues, and is getting a little irksome. Good thing my espionage skills are on tap.

But the doctors seem to be worried about Something, but won't tell us what.

They started him on continuous intravenous antibiotics today, as his pinkness continued to increase in size in his abdomen, and the pain got worse.

He is on continuous potassium IV drip.

His red blood cells won't return to normal, but they're a little better than yesterday before the transfusion.

His blood pressure went way up. His heart rate went up, too, for a while.

They suddenly announced that they needed to take him down for a ton of xrays of his chest and abdomen. Can you imagine NOT telling us WHY they are doing that? Don't we have a right to know whatever we WANT to know about his health? Grrrrr, a little bit.

Then when he returned from the x-rays, he said he felt like he was losing consciousness, and they had to rush him into the bed, where he fell deeply asleep for hours.

Even the doctor who usually yells at him about walking came in and looked at him and said, "Stay in bed."

I even had to leave his room early because he was so exhausted.

Although on a happy-ish note, he did say he thought he could do some walking later tonight if he could rest enough, first. He'll tell me tomorrow if he was able.

Tomorrow better be better!

Thanks for caring about him, and for any prayers you can launch upward.

Go, our Cowboy!

Love to all.

Morning of the Eighth Day

Well our little cowboy has had better days!

As soon as I got here this morning, he said he is having a purty bad day. He said that he felt like today would be a crucial day, and that if he gets a lot better, it's going to be the end of his troubles, but if he gets any worse, he felt like dying "was one possibility."

Part of the problem was that his morphine order ran out at 3 am, and no one had caught that, so his pain meds completely stopped--WAY before they should have.

He didn't get any help with his pain until almost ten this morning! But when that came, what a relief!

Then his Moroccan Nursing Assistant Ahmed came in and gave him a sponge bath, and Bill liked that.

Dr. Walther was here again (!) and said that Bill isn't ready to go home; Monday would be the earliest day they could consider release.

He didn't think Bill was ready for food today, so it's still small sips of liquids--not even allowed to drink, just sip.

Bill still has a large pink circle on his incision, which they're watching.

He is having a lot of abdominal pain, which they're watching.

No one seems to care about the dramatic red dots all over his back, which look like a cross between measles and chicken pox. He has cream, yes, but--the rash looks strange to me. I have been instructed, however, to feel less free to share my opinions with Bill and his caregivers. So this is me whispering my opinions to YOU!

No more transfusions are planned for today.

That's about it! I'll update tonight. Love to all.

Assassin Kitty Sends Bill Photos from Jail

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Assassin Kitty Arrested!

Psycho Kitten Freezes Seeing Bill's Sutures, Is Arrested

Well the assassin kitty turned around just as Bill was getting his incision inspected. The sight of the tubes, the incision, the drains, and the bruises paralyzed the insane kitten long enough for authorities to catch it and remove it from Bill's hospital room.

Let's hope THAT never happens again!

Meanwhile (all kitten aside)(oh, Beth, you know the rule about puns, and you just broke it!), Dr. His Extreme Wonderfulness Walther came to Bill's room just before I left tonight. He was in a friendly mood, smiling, and talkative.


Anyway, he has resolved Bill's issues for the night, thank GOD.

There is medicine for Bill's back. No one thinks it is a superbug, like I suspected at first (although I courageously didn't mention that to anyone.)

They are keeping an eye on the large pink circle that has formed around Bill's staples, but it doesn't seem truly infected yet.

They fixed the bleeding from his side.

His one bag of blood didn't change his color at all: he still looks like a lemon-scented candle, but they will test his blood, and if he needs more transfusions, he will get them tomorrow.

He tolerated his water sips today, so tomorrow he gets to try soft foods! He is delirious with joy!

He actually WALKED today, even though they didn't think he could. He made TWO laps around the ward! Then he was exhausted and went to bed and refused to move to his chair, but, hey, he earned his rest!

The remaining dramas now, assuming nothing new sprouts up tomorrow, are: (1) Will his bowels "wake up"--that's what they call it--and until they do, he can't go home; and (2) What will the pathology report say after pathologists dissect all his removed organs, including a ton of lymph nodes? If they find ANY microscopic cancer cells, well....we will no longer be in Kansas, Dorothy.

If they don't find any, you think there was celebrating after the surgery? You ain't seen nuthin yet!

Till tomorrow.

PS Watch out for innocent-looking kitties. They can be packin' heat!

PSS: To our Orthodox and Catholic friends: A Blessed Feast of the Assumption![Edit: Oh, man. I meant Annunciation. Really jumped ahead on the calendar there! Whoops! To our non-Orthodox, non-Catholic, non-Anglican friends: the Annunciation is March 25th, exactly 9 months before the day of Christmas on Dec. 25th--celebrated as the day of Jesus' conception. Nothing yawl wouldn't agree with, right? Love and kisses!]

Wednesday 5:30 pm: Insane Kitten Invades Bill's Hospital Room

For those of you who have become horribly bored by these tedious reports, I thought you would be interested in learning that a small gray kitten with a long history of psychological problems has invaded Bill's room and is shooting a pretend
kittycat machine gun at passersby on the road below.

More as the story unfolds....

1 pm: A Small New Episode List

I'm sure this is getting boring and/or quite tedious to read! But I don't know how much or how little to include, so I'll list it all, but being brief, and knowing that you can skip it if you want:

He is bleeding a lot from his side where his abdominal drain is--by a lot, I mean, soaking through his sheets and gown and bed every hour, dripping on the floor, even poured onto the nurse's shoes at one point. They're paging the doctor for that.

His incision has suddenly gotten red and swollen. Paging doctor for that.

He has got some kind of measle-looking rash all over his back and head. Paging doctor for that.

His potassium drip malfunctioned, and most of the potassium was going on the floor instead of into his arm. That's fixed.

The good news is that he is allowed to sip water today.

Ah, the beauty of small blessings!

Will post again when there is news. Love!

No more walkin' for the cowboy for a while...

Bill's hemoglobin and hematocrit (what the daylights are those? I'm going to google as soon as I finish writing this and find out) and potassium are so low that, as much as they wanted to avoid the risks, they have to go ahead and give him transfusions all day today.

I just found this out about 15 minutes ago and wanted to let you know so you're as up to date as I am.

He is still yellow and gray and completely exhausted. All he does is sleep. When he is awake, he is so sweet, but he looks awful pitiful. Big gray circles around his eyes and all sunken in and just so tired looking.

In fact, while I was writing this, the nurse just came in and looked at him and said, "I'm going to page the IV team right now."

The only "good" news to come out of this bad news ("good" from my cowboy's perspective) is that the physical therapist just stepped in and said he is too weak to even get out of bed today, so he doesn't have to do his walk. He hates his walk. hahah Of course, we know that walking is urgently essential, but he just can't do it right now.

More later. Love and cluster bombs of thanks to all who are reading this!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Better tonight...

He slept all afternoon and felt better when he woke up. He was still yellow, but not the whites of his eyes, so I think it's just hemoglobin, nothing more scary. I sort of hope he doesn't get a transfusion, as those have such risks.

I was so emotionally exhausted at the end of today, that I came home about 7, ate some bread in my hotel room and leaned my head on the dinner table and fell asleep sitting up for almost two hours. Oh no!

So now I'm jumping in bed and going to sleep and hope to be in another world until the morning. Thank GOD for inventing something as sweet as the great escape of sleep.

Love and thankfulness to everyone for caring about our poor boy. Tomorrow will be better!

Bad Day at the Not-Quite-Okay Corral

My computer has just a smidegeon of power, so I'll be brief.

Bill looks terrible today. He is yellow and gray looking, exhausted, doesn't want to do anything but sleep. They made him walk, but he was shaking and looked awful.

The nurse said they're probably going to have to give him a transfusion. It's his worst day so far. He looks and seems sicker than he did even on the first day in ICU. He says he feels absolutely awful.

I'll write again tonight with an update.

Thank you for praying and caring about him!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Cowboy + Cowgirl = LOVE


I'm in Bill's room again, and he was very happy to see me, and I was even happier, because as soon as I left there, I missed him terribly. He never knew about my (ridiculously silly) feelings issue, and I'm glad he didn't. I'm ashamed of myself, sort of, but, oh well. Just a little brat attack. :)

Thank you for the terrific emails helping to explain how he was feeling and to remind me of how terribly difficult it is to be in his situation.

He did get some good sleep while I was gone, and when I came back, the timing was perfect, because a lot of activity began and has just now ended (5:30 pm) and our cowpoke has now squished his morphine button to help him drift into a nice, big nap-world, which is where he is right now, as I type beside him.

All of his issues seem to be resolved! His fever is gone. His oxygen is OK without the nose tube; his heartbeat is slowing toward the normal range; I've heard nothing scary about anything.

He even walked today! Granted, it took 15 minutes to get him upright, as he has, literally, seven bags attached to him, and it's amazing to watch two nurses try to keep all the tubes straight and untangled.

Then he had to use a special walker that looks like a preacher's podium on wheels. He leans on his elbows for support and shuffles his little cowboy feet down the hall. He did one whole loop of the hall and was quite proud of himself.

But then the Urologist representative came in and told him he should do it twice more today and should not be in the bed unless he is sleeping, but should be sitting upright in a chair, to prevent the pneumonia/blood clot thing.

The Urologist said (kiddingly), "You can do it! Why, there's a little old lady down the hall who is 95, and she's done 5 laps already today!"

Bill said, "If I see her, I'm gonna coldcock her."

He just DREADS the walking. As soon as he convinced the Urologist that he was going to comply with these demands, the Urologist left, and Bill got comfortable in his bed and fell asleep.

That's Bill's idea of compliance.

Well, I guess he's a naughty liddle cowpoke, and doesn't want to round up those dogies. Looks like Diamond Lil the cowgirl is gonna have to come up with some motivational ideas.

Well, he's snoring right now, and holding a pillow over his stomach. (His incision starts way above his navel, goes down, curves around the navel, and continues all the way down to.....Points South. The incision is seriously at least a whole foot long!)

Till later! And thanks for all the love...and loving advice!

Bill is so much better!


Bill is so much better today. He still has a fever, but it's not as high. No word on that from the nurses. In fact, they don't seem to care if he has a fever, so maybe it's normal. I infer that they don't care from the fact that they don't take his temperature when they stop in. I learned how to use the electronic thermometer, so I take it. It seems weird, though, that they don't worry about it. How could a fever not matter? But what do I know?

His heart rate is down a little. It was up around 120 until today, and it's down between 105-110. I tested mine on his machine (a finger clip) and mine was 62, and I'm no athlete, but I wanted to get an idea of how high his is, relative to normal.

His oxygen is a few points above the lowest acceptable level, but that's without oxygen being pumped into his nose! So that's an improvement, too!

He still can't walk, but is sitting in a chair.

I'm in my hotel room right now. I have to admit that I got my feelings hurt a little bit, today. He didn't seem like he liked having me there, even though I kept quiet, and picked up things when he dropped them, and helped him and stuff and didn't talk. But when I did ask him a question, he seemed like he wished I hadn't. Then he turned on sports really loud and didn't talk to me or look at me or anything. I tested the waters and said, "I think I'll go back to the hotel for a while." He could have said, "Oh, no. I'll miss you too much." hahah I wish. But he said, "Okay."

Hahahahaha. OUCH! I didn't act like it hurt my feelings. I acted real nice because I totally understand.

But I WILL say THIS: Harumph! I've been thrown out of better hospital rooms than THAT one!

When I finish sulking, I'll go back and act like a mature adult.

Talk to you later!

Love to you...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday night: Fever higher, they're trying to find out why

Thank you for checking this!

By the way, it is kind of complicated to become a "follower" of this kind of blog--on the right you probably saw the invitation to be a follower.

But to avoid that, just email yourself the address of it and go to that email every time and click the link. Or if you know how to bookmark, you can bookmark it and find it that way. Some of you are computer savvy, some not, I know!

Tonight's entry is called "Wild Bill Drennan and the Mystery Fever"

By the time I got back late this afternoon, he was even hotter to the touch, so I called in a nurse, and his temperature went up to 101. A few hours later, it was going up to 102, so they gave him a Tylenol--I won't tell you where--BLESS HIS HEART, THE POOR BRAVE BOY!

Then his fever came down a little bit, but he got chills.

So he is pretty sick.

It doesn't seem to be lung-based, at least to my uneducated mind, because his lungs don't hurt, and aren't attracting his attention by acting weird.

But they are going to give him a chest X-ray anyway.

They suspect more that it's some kind of systemic infection, and they're going to draw blood and run tests till they find out what is going on.

You know me: Poster child for Pessismism Gone Wild. I'm thinking, tell me it is NOT a superbug or whatever they call that! I just read the news about this super-bacteria called (shorthand name) C-Diff, and how it's epidemic in hospitals in the south right now, and it eats the inside of your intestines. Oh, great. I'll sleep GREAT tonight! In fact, SOMEONE ON HIS FLOOR WAS DIAGNOSED WITH IT TODAY! The nurses were talking about it and, okay, you already know I'm a spy on nurses. So I asked if they would check Bill for that, and they said only if he shows symptoms of it. How can he show symptoms of an intestinal illness when he hasn't had food or water in his intestines since Thursday?

Okay, Beth, calm down. It is REMOTELY POSSIBLE that the MEDICAL EXPERTS AT DUKE HOSPITAL might know SLIGHTLY MORE than I know about these things.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

And his tachycardia is completely NOT improved one bit (heart beating way too fast), and he can't keep his oxygen level up without being on oxygen, which he should not need at this point. What else? Oh! His urine drain got twisted and no one discovered it until I found it, and it was full and would have backed up into his kidneys? Oh, I don't know! I'm not that calm, so maybe it all seems worse than it is.

The night had a strangely beautiful ending though, for me. Bill was ready to sleep and we said goodnight, and just then a nurse came in and asked where I was staying. I said, just a block and a half away. She said, "It's DARK outside! Do you realize how DANGEROUS it is around here? Do NOT even try to walk ONE BLOCK alone in the dark! You have NO idea!"

Well, I needed to PANIC ABOUT BEING MURDERED right at that moment like a Saharan camel needs sand. So in a state of complete anguish, I went down to the lobby and tried to see if there was a way to get a cab for one block. The guy said no, and that it was such a short walk, I should try it, and he thought the nurse exaggerated.

Well, that was NOT COMFORTING either!

So I just started to pray to God. I said, "You have to help me! You just have to! I have no one, and I'm scared, and stressed out, and out of ideas, so you're all I have left!"

Just then--TRUE STORY--I see this Security Guard standing there outside. I've never seen one before. He works for the hospital. So I go up to him and ask him what to do. I told him about Bill and how I didn't know anyone, and what could I do? He said, "Lady, you have enough on your mind right now. I'm going to walk you home." I nearly fainted! He radio'd his boss and said he was walking someone to their hotel. And then he WALKED ME TO MY HOTEL!

I was almost in TEARS and could NOT stop thanking him all the way!!! He was SO NICE! I told him I wasn't sure he was human, that maybe he was an angel. He liked that and laughed.

I asked if he liked his job, and he said he is looking for another job, but jobs are hard to find.

If you're reading this and if prayer is your thing, could you just send up one good punch of a prayer and ask God to find him the job he wants? Just one prayer.

I'm going to look into how to write a letter to his boss tomorrow.

Wow. In the darkest most unexpected places, the tiny little light of mysterious love shows up and simply blows your mind.

May love find all of you tonight, too, and may God bless that security guard. And Wild Cowboy Bill, too.

Sunday afternoon: pneumonia danger emerges

All day yesterday, Saturday, nothing much happened, except that he remained in ICU on TONS of morphine, and everything he said was hilarious. It turns out that if you deliver even a mildly funny line with a really long, straight face, and your eyelids half closed and your eyes rolling around, it will come across as the funniest thing anyone in the room has ever heard. Sarah and I were laughing so hard yesterday, we were having to put sweaters in front of our mouths to keep the noise down. Bill is really hilarious anyway, but put him on morphine, and he's Steve Martin or Jonathan Winters.

And he was doing funny things too. Did I tell you that he put on his precious reading glasses, even though his eyes never once went in the same direction, and then he tried to watch television through the reading glasses and said, "What is WRONG with that television? I can't read a single word on the screen!"

Then he was using his morphine button to try to turn down the volume on the basketball game and getting so much morphine that he kept falling asleep in the middle of pushing the button repeatedly.

Well, there was a lot more funny stuff he said.

But today wasn't that funny. In fact, it wasn't funny at all.

His ICU stay concluded, and they moved him to a regular room on the 6th floor, the urology floor, room 6307. (All rooms at Duke are private. That is such a bonus!)

So I thought it was a great sign that they moved him on schedule, maybe even slightly early, but it was more about room availability than the idea that he was invincible.

So I happened to walk up to his new room just as a bunch of doctors were standing outside talking, so SNOOP that I am, knowing that doctors won't tell you stuff, but if you EAVESDROP you can find out more, I pretended like I was waiting for another room door to open and stood right beside them listening.

The main doctor seemed to be saying a bunch of stuff (which I couldn't hear even with my expert eavesdropping skills) but then she picked up a phone and called Urology with some concerns. She spelled is name out, so I knew for sure she was talking about him.

They were concerned, first, about his heart. It is beating way too fast. She said she was concerned about his continuous tachycardia (fast heartbeat) and she didn't know "what that was all about." (She is saying this into the phone).

Then they were concerned because his kidney function numbers had gotten a little worse. Yesterday, his BUN (something about urea nitrogen) was 25, which is several points over the limit, but it had risen to 28 today, and his creatinine (has to do with kidney function) had gone up from 1.1 to 1.8. [I had been researching all this stuff last night in the hotel, and found a kidney function calculation page, and even at 1.1, his kidneys are in the partially malfunctioning department, so at 1.8, that isn't a good development.] But no one was educating me on this,; they were just throwing numbers at me. Which is GOOD. Because i guess if they were really freaking out, they would sit me down and enlighten me about what the number meant. So maybe I'm overly anxious, but still, I didn't like the direction of the numbers.

But as time went by, they noticed that he had fallen into the danger zone on his oxygen. He was in the alarm area--and this big alarm kept going off and scaring him. Finally, they had to return him to maximum oxygen to get him into the normal area.

Then his heartbeat was bad. It was supposed to be like maybe 70 and it was 120, sometimes higher, and wouldn't go down.

It's still not down.

Then he told me that Dr. Walther had come in and put The Everloving Fear of God into him saying that if he doesn't get up and walk around, he has a big chance of getting pneumonia or a blood clot and dying really fast. Good ol' Walther. The Walther Motivational System.

But he's right, of course. Well, yeah!

So Dr. Walther wisely sent a physical therapist in to make Bill move around. Bill wanted to move around, but was in so much pain. So he just squished the daylights out of his morphine button and tried to cooperate with the physical therapist

But when the physical therapist saw how fast Bill's heart was beating, he called Urology, and Urology said Bill wasn't allowed any exercise until they get his heartbeat under control, but Bill had to move into a chair and sit up, to fight blood clots, as Bill has a high risk--he's had them twice before (see spider bite episode if you get really bored).

Bill was completely pITIFUL moving into the chair. He looked gray, he was in so much pain, and it took everything he had just to move his foot an inch at a time, but he did it.

But suddenly a bunch of unexpected blood started dripping all over the floor and something had gone wrong with either his stomach stitches, which began to bleed kind of heavily, and also blood was coming out of his ((((((I'm not saying it on a blog))))))).

So THAT scared Bill, and the nurses started watching that to figure out what to do.

But the worst thing is that his lung capacity started going down and at the same time, his fever suddenly went up.

He felt really hot when I was helping the nurse move his legs, and then I saw him break out in a sweat, but I didn't think of a fever because he didn't have one at noon. But by 2 pm it had jumped up almost to 101. That wasn't good.

Nurses started coming in and getting him to do things to fight pneumonia.

The last nurse said to me, "I'm not diagnosing pneumonia, so I don't want you to hear me saying that. But I'm saying it looks dangerous for pneumonia, and we have to start doing things to prevent it or stop it early."

Later, they tried to cut back his oxygen, but the alarm kept going off, as his oxygen kept dropping. I guess maybe his lung capacity should have been improving, and they thought he could be off oxygen by now, but his lung capacity was not getting better and seemed to be getting worse in that his ability to move this little blue ball in a tube, using his lungs, was getting worse and worse.

Well, at that point, he was so completely exhausted, so I said I would go out for a while and let him sleep and not worry about having company. I think that even tho I repeatedly tell him not to try to entertain me, he still doesn't rest as well when I'm there because he seems to think he has to talk to me every so often.

But I'm going back in a couple of hours and see what is going on with him.

I EXPECT to write again tonight when visiting hours are over and let you know what develops.

Maybe all this is completely normal, but it just didn't seem all that normal to me. Then again, when it comes to my hurtin' cowpoke, I'm a little anxious, you might say.

Love to all of you and thank you for caring about him.

Till later tonight.

I'm putting up a new post right now--check back in about a half hour!

The drama continues. There are some new dangers emerging, but nothing really terrifying at this point.

So much was happening in his room that I couldn't even open my computer after the first 5 minutes in there. Right now, he is sleeping, and I'm in the hotel for a break, and will immediately compose the latest news for you, and there IS some news.

So check back in about a half hour, and it should be up.

I can't thank you enough for caring this much! You are absolutely astonishing!

Bethe and the Sleeping Cowpoke

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From his bedside in ICU (intensive care)

I'm sitting in a chair beside the cowboy bed and typing this with blue sterile gloves on and a yellow sterile gown.

We're in intensive care. Bill's room is dark and cool and quiet and filled with machines and wires.
He was awake for a little while when I came in, but is asleep again. The nice nurse, Jeff, brought me a chair so I can stay with him all day and until 10 pm tonight. I wouldn't be anywhere else on the planet but right here with my boy.

He has so many wires coming out of him that he looks like a big plate of angelhair spaghetti.

Uh oh. Something just started beeping really loudly. The nurse just ran in.

Okay, it's okay now. It had something to do with the many bags of stuff that are dripping into his arm.

A while ago, a big buzzer went off, and the machine said CANT FIND PULSE! CANT FIND PULSE! And his heartbeat line went flat. Lord have mercy, I'm going to turn gray overnight from all this drama. It turned out to be just a glitch in the machine for a minute.

So here's how our cowboy looks. They took him off the respirator and he has oxygen going into his nose. He has a multi-wire drain going into the side of his chin and it has blood and water coming out of it. No idea what that could be.

Oh yeah, if you are queasy you might want to stand way back from your screen as you read this so it doesn't create good imagery for you. My daughter turned GREEN when she saw him and had to go sit down in the hall and almost passed out. No kidding. She was sweating and lost all her color.

Continuing then: He has a lot of electrodes on his chest with wires. Those appear to go to the big screen behind his head which has six rows of patterns on it in bright green, red, and blue. Those appear to show his heart beat strength (Im guessing), blood pressure,heart rate, and breathing pattern.

He has a morphine button for pain. And he says it hurts his abdomen to breathe.

But the worst is how his abdomen looks: There is a huge slice from his navel all the way down; that is bleeding and covered with white tape. He has his new stoma on his right side, which is similarly--well, I won't keep talking about the blood everywhere but you can fill in the missing information as you wish concerning that. Then he has tubes coming out of his right side of his abdomen, draining it. Then he has a catheter in.

Those are the visuals.

What did he talk about? He only asked about one thing. He wanted to hear about the people who were reading this. Isn't that funny? That's all he wanted me to tell him about, was the people that were thinking of him. He lay there with his eyes closed, smiling, as I told him about each person or call or email or blog follower.

After that, he fell asleep.

They said he might get to try to sit up today.

I will write more later, but now I hope you feel like you are here in the ICU with us. Because you ARE. That's how love is; you're here.

Sleeping like a cowboy in ICU

I finally got to see my hurtin' cowpoke in intensive care last night. I left there at 10:30 pm.

It wasn't a joybuzz, the way he looked.

But thus is life. He looked ALIVE and that was all that mattered.

Well, okay, he didn't really look that much alive; in fact, he looked really strange, but he was breathing and that's what we wanted!

....Just as I was writing this the phone rang. HE WOKE UP! The nurses called and said to come over and see him. He is okay. AND HE ASKED FOR HIS READING GLASSES!

my heart is pounding! i have to hit "send" now and rush over there. More later!

Oh, my bespectacled literate cowboy, I love you!

Friday, March 19, 2010

He's done! The surgeon had only good news!

At 6:15, they finally finished the surgery. We got two minutes with the surgeon, who was completely exhausted.


He said he saw nothing bad at all. He said, "I am very upbeat about the situation," and repeated that he saw not one single thing that seemed bad.

The had trouble with Bill's intestines, but resolved it, and Bill lost less blood than they expected! He didn't even need a transfusion!

The pathology report will be ready in about a week. That report will be the final polish on our good news. They microscopically inspect 50 lymph nodes and the entire bladder, prostate, and whatever they removed, and if they find nothing, it's considered a cure! A CURE!!!!!!!!!! Of course, he continues to get checked, but if anything shows up, they can catch it right away, in the future.

They said Bill might have to be on a respirator for a while, because they had trouble with his windpipe, and he will have a lot of tubes in him, and will be a hurtin' cowpoke for a long time.
The surgeon expects about 8 days average stay, but some people make it out in 5 days, and some stay 14. It all depends on how Bill heals.

I am in such shock that I don't know what to do or think. I feel like I'm in the twilight zone! I was prepared for so many possibilities, and was afraid to fully even hope for something this great.

We're all exhausted, so signing off for now. But in an hour, I can see Bill in ICU briefly, and I will post again tonight before I go to sleep (if I ever do!) and let you know what it's like in ICU for Bill.


Exhilarated, grateful, in shock, exhausted, and loving each and every one of you.


5 pm update: Passed the 8-hour mark and he is still in surgery

The latest two-hour update was at 5. We were hoping he would be done at 5 since they took him in at 7:30 (we don't know what kind of problem prevented the surgery from starting until 9) but by 5 pm, that was eight hours of surgery, and they're still at it.

The message was the same at the desk: Surgery continues.

As I write this, it's 5:30--that's 10 hours since they took him back for anesthesia, and 8 1/2 hours since we were told that the surgery had finally started.

How does a surgeon do something so difficult for so long?

My brother said that since this is a teaching hospital, training surgeons come here from all over the world and assist the lead surgeons. So maybe that's how he can do this for so long.

Thank you for hanging in here with us and with our cowboy. I hope the next time I post, it's just a few minutes from now, and that we get the interview with the surgeon and hear that everything is fine.


Love to you.

3:10 pm--Still in Surgery--Going As Expected

They just beeped us for the two-hour update, and again, the report from the message desk is that they are still operating on him, and it is going as expected.

Seriously, though. The walk up to the desk immediately after the beeper in your pocket goes off--it is NOT good for one's longevity. The number of potential medical disasters I can personally imagine in the time it takes to walk 100 yards astonishes even me.

When I got back to my chair, I had to do deep breathing, Lamaze breathing, count sheep, count ceiling tiles, and engage in several other remedial measures (I was considering pushups and interval training around the hospital grounds) before the five hundred thousand molecules of adrenalin finally made their way out of my aortas.

Better now, and so happy it's going so well for this long!

Oh, God of Light and Love, thank you for taking care of my boy.

1 pm report: Still working on him; all is well so far

They paged us just after 1 pm to tell us that "they are still working, and everything is going as expected." That's all the information the message desk had.

We think there must be a pattern of giving updates every two hours, which is comforting, except that when the pager goes off, honestly, I almost faint.

Meanwhile, I can absolutely FEEL your love and prayers and thoughts. I mean it. It's the strangest thing. I feel like you're all here with us.

Love is the greatest thing in the world. Thank you for yours.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

11 a.m. report from surgery: all is going well

My beeper went off at 11 am, giving me an almost-heart attack! But they were calling me up to the message desk to tell me that surgery is ongoing and everything is going fine.

Once my heart stopped pounding, and my adrenalin tsunami receded, I was very relieved.

Yay! I'll continue to post every time they tell me something.

9 a.m. Surgery has finally started

We just got paged and told that surgery has only just now started. They expected a "difficult intubation"--meaning they have a lot of trouble getting the air tubes into Bill's lungs, but now that's done, so they've just begun. At best, he won't be done until 5 pm. Yikes.

They page us here for every single development, so every time they page us, I will make a little post, so you can feel like you're here.

Before I forget, I wanted to tell you that ALL the rooms at Duke Hospital are private! We were so surprised and happy to hear that. Every room has a private bath, private shower, big screen TV, radio, phone and a huge sleeping chair for family who wish to sleep with the patient at night. Isn't that spectacular? PLEASE remember to come to Duke if you need surgery, even if you have to fly here. The experience has been incredibly great, supremely well organized and compassionate. They treat you like your patient is the only one in the world.

God is so sweet.

Till the next time the pager goes off.


Love from the Waiting Room

It's 8 am here, and Bill's surgery has theoretically begun. Sarah and I got to the hospital at 6:45 and got to go right in and see him in the big area where the patients wait to be rolled to anesthesia.

He was lying there on his bed, with his head on two rubber pillows, and he was smiling and covered with electrodes. Most importantly, he was proud of his little red hat. He had on this beautiful see-through shower cap, and it was tilted to one side, pushed over by the rubber pillows, and he looked mah-velous!

He said he had only one hour of sleep last night and looks forward to being mostly asleep for three whole days. He said the entirety of last night was spent prepping him, and even though they never let him eat, he wasn't hungry because the taste of the stuff he had to drink was so disgusting and salty that he never wanted to eat again. He is--ahem--very cleaned out right now.

His blood pressure was way too high, so they gave him some medicine, and it came down a little. I'm sure he's nervous! And the salt in that colon-clusterbomb drink from last night probably wasn't helping either!

Okay, I wasn't going to tell this funny story, but Sarah said I should.

Well, as you know, Bill's doctor is the Universal King of All Bladder Oncology Surgeons. AND HE KNOWS IT. He has a shall I say.... DOMINANT attitude toward things, and can be, um, clipped in his attitude. All of this accrues to the extreme benefit of the patient, however, because this truly brilliant doctor is FIERCELY DETERMINED that everything should be PERFECT for his patient, or a nurse will hear about it.

I mean, you WANT this doctor on your side.

But you might not want to be a nurse who has done something that displeases this doctor.

As happened this morning.

We had just gotten in to the surgery waiting area to see Bill, and this Great High Doctor was at the foot of Bill's bed, looking at his charts. After looking at the charts, he turned to his left and put his hands up on a table that held a keyboard with which he wanted to access a computer and read about Bill.


Someone ( a certain nurse) had put two new boxes of rubber gloves ON TOP OF THE KEYBOARD instead of in the holding bin on the wall where boxes of rubber gloves are supposed to go.

While I surreptitiously watched His Doctorness, he was irked that these gloves were on top of the keyboard. At first he was patient, and picked up one box and put it behind him on a table, but when it came to the second box, he had had enough.

HE THREW THE WHOLE BOX OF GLOVES ONTO THE FLOOR. On purpose. Well, didn't THROW it, but banged it with the back of his hand so it would fall onto the floor. And then proceeded to use the keyboard.

Well, I thought that was absolutely hilarious. Of course, I didn't make a sound, but I noted that both Bill and Sarah had seen this and also thought it was funny.

So then His Doctorness left, and soon thereafter, in came the nurse who had put the gloves on the keyboard.

She looked down on the floor at the gloves, and I explained to her what had happened.

She raised her eyebrows and looked at me like she was thinking, "He did WHAT???"

Well, then Sarah said to me, "Way to go, Mom. You narked on the doctor! Now that nurse will tell the other nurses and it could turn into a whole drama. A Scrubs episode!"

"But didn't you think it was funny?"

"I did," Sarah said, "but telling a nurse who works with the doctor wasn't the best idea."

Anyway, we soon said goodbye to Bill, as noted above.

And then Sarah spent the next ten minutes, as we sat in the waiting room, trying to make it clear to me why it was NOT funny for me to have told the nurse about the glove incident. [In fact, she requested that I edit this story to clarify the point she was actually making, and so I have edited the story, but since I still don't quite get the point she was making, my edit doesn't make sense, either, so let's all have another cup of coffee and meditate on why it isn't smart to post this early in the morning.]

Well, now it's 8:21 and we haven't been paged, so thank GOD all must be going well. My brother should be here soon from the NC coast--a three-hour drive, bless him!

All humorous anecdotes aside, THANK YOU ALL for the amount of praying you are doing, and for your love and care and thoughts. We FEEL IT.

I will post again when I know anything more.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bill is in the hospital now--already not having fun

The internet connection is down more than up at this hotel across from the Duke Medical Center, else I would have written more here, and sooner. Even this post may not show up, but in case it works, here's the latest:

(THANK YOU for caring! That's the most important thing to say!)

Bill and I and Sarah spent all day today going from clinic to clinic, preparing for the surgery, giving blood, getting pre-operative information, filling out forms, signing consents. By mid-afternoon, we were all so tired, but Bill's day was just getting started.

The poor cowboy was checked into a room on the 6th floor for one night only to prepare for surgery. And the term "prepare for surgery" is a polished and shiny euphemism for a series of experiences that you don't want to think about or even know about. He said, "Somewhere, some lucky guy is having a heart attack."

Tomorrow, his surgery is scheduled for 7:30 am, and they reminded us today that it could last ten hours, not just eight. Which we knew, but wish we didn't.

Then he will be unconscious until Monday! I can see him for short times in intensive care over the weekend, but only if I tell them the password. Isn't that funny? If I forget the password, they won't let me in or tell me how he is doing! The password is goldenrod. No, wait. It's goldfish. No, shoot. It's.....oh, NO! I FORGOT IT!

(((Juss kiddin)))) Hint: It's one of the words in the title of the book he wrote. So now if I forget, I'm calling you, and you tell me the password, okay?

When I said goodbye to him, neither of us were sure we would get to speak again before the surgery. So Sarah left us alone for a minute and we decided that we should figure out what to say to each other in case it would be the last time we ever saw each other. Well, that got me crying my eyes out, and I was grabbing these dry paper towels off the wall and sopping up a thousand tears and blowing my nose and not looking very fetching, I'm sure, but despite all that, we figured out what to say, and if you know what love is, imagine looking into the eyes of the love of your life and thinking what would you say if it were to be the last thing you ever said to each other?

Of course the minute I got back to the hotel, I missed him too much, so I called him and said that phone calls don't count as "last things we ever say" so it didn't undo our dramatic Last Words moment if we just talked for one second by phone. And besides, I feel sure that will NOT be the last time we see each other!

So in the morning, Sarah and I walk over there at 6:45 and hope to see him once more. My brother then arrives, and we sit there and wait.

I assume the internet will work well in the hospital, so I will post every single time I get any information.

Neither of us can even remotely convey to you the depth of gratitude that we feel, and the aura of love and comfort that we are feeling because of you and your love for us. I only pray that your kindnesses to us come back to you so vastly multiplied that you will not have room to contain them.

Love and thanks.

God bless Bill.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Here go we three cowpersons, Duke-ward!

Here is a nice picture of the three of us--Cowboy Bill, Cowgirl Bethie, and Cowgirlette Sarah--starting our journey toward Duke Hospital.

Even though we don't leave until tomorrow morning, we're already on our horses. For some reason.

Bill goes into the hospital on Thursday, and has his surgery on Friday, the 19th.

My daughter Sarah and my brother David will sit with me during the long surgery--which has possibly lengthened to being ten hours long instead of just eight.

We'll be anguishing together during those long hours, but Bill has decided he will just sleep through the whole thing.

That's our cowboy for ya!

Seriously, though, I've been in such angst over the past weeks that I didn't feel like even posting here.

But during the white-water phase of our adventure, to badly mix all my metaphors, I hope to post very often. If the hospital has Wifi, I will post throughout the day and give you all the info the surgeon gives me, and let you know how Bill looks sleeping in intensive care with tubes going every which way.

To everyone who has called or written and not heard back from us yet, we apologize so sincerely. And please know that it's because we're in a difficult frame of mind, but also know that your love was received and we send it back with glitter and stars and puppies and prayers.

Thank you.

We love you.

Giddyup, ponies!

God keep us all.