from the hospital!
The day that Jeff graduated to a regular hospital room was a very happy day. It was like a pat on the back from the hospital, “good job!” We packed everything up, Jeff no longer needed oxygen nor an NG tube. His face was clear of plastic for the first time since the surgery. His multiple “central lines” were reduced to just two, and the scary one that was plugged into this carotid artery was patched up. He sat in his wheel chair ready to be transferred and gave me a huge smile.
The staff took us to the third floor of Seidman building at Hillcrest. Room number 22. It was a single room (thank goodness) and the whole wing seemed to be newly built. There was a desk, where I set up my computer to do some work while Jeff slept. There was a couch, which was a really nice for me because I was really tired. I took naps there from time to time, and the super considerate nurses worked silently on Jeff to keep from waking me up. We were so grateful for such state of the art facilities… except for the weird bed that had an alarm. Jeff’s hospital bed had an alarm that would go off like a fire alarm whenever he got out of bed. The first time it happened, we were both panicking – what did we do wrong?!! Ahhh, how do you turn this thing off? Later, I learned how to shut it off when it went off, but boy was it funny. They really want you to stay in bed, apparently!
Jeff had a few things on the checklist to accomplish. He needed to be able to tolerate oral medication, his digestive system needed to wake up (so he needed to move things along), and he needed to be able to eat a full meal before he could be discharged from the hospital. Slowly, they weaned him off of the IV meds, and eventually, he was taking his pain meds orally. But it was the second on the list that took a long time, and also prevented him from being able to eat. In fact, they had taken the NG tube out too early – they realized that they needed to put it back in. NG tube prevents the gastric juices from flooding your stomach by sucking it out – any buildup would make Jeff nauseated and would make him throw up – that would be a threat to his freshly stapled incision site. Let me tell you, putting a plastic tube up your nose and down your esophagus is not a pleasant thing. And he had to redo it twice because the second one that was put in fell out (it wasn’t taped well enough). The third and last time they tried it, I was there, and it was painful for me to watch. They were not successful and had to try later. I went home early that night because I couldn’t bare to watch it again. I figured that I would let the medical professionals get done whatever they needed to get done. When I arrived the next morning, it was in. I used a lot of medical tape to stabilize that sucker so it would never fall out by itself again! When I was done, Jeff looked like an ant-eater.
Progress on the digestive tract was slow… until it wasn’t. Suddenly, things started to move, and Jeff was able to eat a full meal. It felt like the hospital was happy to kick him out! Suddenly, on the morning of April 5th, Jeff was cleared for discharge. At this point, I was comfortable visiting him in the afternoon and being able to get some work done at home in the morning. After my early afternoon meeting, I packed a bag full of clothes, shoes, and other things, and rushed to the hospital. He looked so good for a man who had been disemboweled not two weeks earlier to get his aorta replaced!
What is really remarkable is just how quickly he was expected to get back to normal life. As the nurse read the discharge instructions, I asked if he needed to be on a special diet. Nope, can resume normal diet. Later, we had home care nurses and physical therapists come to check on Jeff at home. The nurses thought he was doing great, and the physical therapists didn’t think he needed physical therapy! And later I asked Dr. Rizzo if Jeff needed to see a cardiologist – nope! His heart is very healthy, and the ultimate stress test was the pain that he endured as his aorta was breaking apart, and the massive surgery itself. So it was this structural defect that once fixed would allow Jeff to resume normal life like before.
I am typing this in early June 2022. It has been a little over 2 months since the surgery. Jeff has been resting at home, gaining strength. It took a little over a month for him to feel like anesthesia had fully worn off so he could drive again. And since the weather has become nice in the spring months, he has been slowly playing golf, his favorite sport, starting with putting and now swinging fully. He is getting his strength back. He still gets tired, and it will probably be another month until he gets his full stamina back. And I still watch him with sheer wonder at the walking miracle that he is to me.