Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This is a continuation of the previous post. If you haven't read that you may want to read it first.

With the tracheotomy complete Jean was transferred to intensive care.

In the next bed was a man. While the nurses were working with Jean, I chatted with him. He had been a professional deep sea diver. Between jobs he worked as a taxi cab driver in San Francisco. One of his clients was a pensioner who lived in a flop house in the North End. Climbing the stairs of the seedy hotel to help his fare to the cab he felt his legs collapse under him.

Somebody called the police. Since he couldn't stand, it was assumed that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs and he was dragged down the stairs and dumped into a police car. His problem was similar to Jean's. The surgery, however, in his case was not successful and he remained paralized from the waist down.

He was sure that his encounter with the police had aggravated his problem and said he would sue. He may have gotten an appology but from what I heard him say I don't he could get much beyond that.

Jean's situation was not improving. She was transferred to a high vigilance CCU specializing in heart problems. During that period she was sent with an CCU nurse to get an MRI deep in the bowels of the hospital. On oxygen at the time there was quite a todo over finding a non magnetic oxygen tank. She could not maintain the position required for the shoot so we went back to the CCU. During the procedure, I removed my watch and wallet and put them behind the operators shield. The poor nurse forgot to take off her watch and it became magnetized.

The heart problem did run its course and she was sent back to the floor. At first the tracheostomy was a open tube limiting her ability to talk but as healing took place a cap was installed that forced the air through its normal path. The cap stayed in place during the day and was removed at night to allow maximum breathing while she slept.

A critical day arrived. A resident came in with a nurse. They eased Jean out of bed. Helping her to stand they asked her to take a step. Her feet just would not follow the instructions that the brain was sending them.

The verdict. She could bear weight on her legs but she lacked proprioception. Unless the latter improved with time and therapy she would be confined to a wheel chair. This of course was the future. The fact that she could still stand when she was held in an erect position at least made the job of assisting her much easier.

She wanted to go home. We both missed our kids. The doctors had prescribed an extensive program of rehabilitation. I told them our small hospital had one of the best in Dr. Herb Hendricks. Reluctantly, they released her.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A crisis.

I have traveled widely and without a doubt the most beautiful city I have seen is San Francisco.

Waking up at dawn in a room on the eighth floor of the hospital situated almost at the top of Twin Peaks the view in the background was the Bay Bridge already bumper to bumper with commuters' cars with headlights still twinkling on the top level and parades of trucks like elephants entering a circus tent on the lower level. As the sun rose, mist would rise unveiling the high rise buildings like a theater curtain on the opening act. From my angle the Transamerica Building with its thin spire seemed to be the tallest and the last one fully visible.

The hospital people in their wisdom placed the patient's beds in the far corner of the room so that none of this was visible to them.

One morning as I awoke and began perusing the panorama out my window I became aware of a rasping noise and quickly realized that Jean was gasping. I pushed the call button to summon the nurse but as minutes went by I went out into the hall and literally grabbed the first nurse I saw.

I told her the problem and her reply was, "You will have to wait because the doctors are all in a conference".

I just said to her, "This isn't right. I want a doctor here now."

In a matter of minutes a resident, a Brazilian with a very strong accent, arrived and did a cursory exam. I was a bit sceptical but reasoned that if he was accepted to learn under Charlie he must be good. He disapeared and soon a guerney arrived. Another trip to the surgery.

Jean's vocal cords were not operating properly causing a closing off of most of her air supply.
The surgery was a tracheotomy. An incission was made below the vocals cords, the muscles spread apart, and a plastic tube installed.

As a sidelight, this procedure was conceived not by a doctor but by a Walla Walla College student.

During Word War ll, every young man was subject to the military draft. There were exceptions for the physically unfit and for so called conscientious objectors. The test for the objectors were severe and few were successful.

The boys from Walla Walla College while refusing to bear arms volunteered as stretcher bearers subjecting themselves to great risk while rescuing wounded from the battlefield under enemy fire.

One, a pre-med student, found a soldier with a neck injury that impaired his breathing. Out of desperation the stretcher bearer reached into his pocket and with a pocket knife made an incision below the adams apple. He then used a barrel of a fountain pen to keep the airway open and staunch the bleeding saving the soldier's life.

To be continued