Wednesday, November 09, 2005

First Case

Took a call from the surgeon’s nurse yesterday. We’d been playing telephone tag since late last week. Turns out, E’s the first case in the OR the day before Thanksgiving.

“First case?” I heard myself say. “What time is that?”

“7:30 a.m., but we’ll need E here earlier to get her prepped.”

My cell phone's a tiny little thing, but it suddenly weighed heavily in my hand. I grabbed for a scrap of paper, steadied the phone as I scribbled down notes. “When should we be there?”

“Six should give us enough time to draw our final labs.”

More labs? They’ve already asked us to do a blood draw locally within the next week. “What are those for?”

“The lab needs to do a type and cross within three days of surgery. You live pretty far away. I thought it might be easier all around to come in a little earlier, and save yourself a trip.”

We’d been planning to leave at o’dark thirty that day anyway to beat the going-into-Chicago morning traffic. “What’s the test for?”

“The OR needs four units of blood on hand in case they’re needed during surgery. The type and cross will tell them what kind they need to put aside.”

“Blood?” My voice went so soft, I’m not sure whether I thought it or said it.

“It’s routine for this type of surgery. In case there’s bleeding.”

I don’t check my heart rate, but I bet it’s beating faster. Blood? The thought of saying the word again leaves me feeling faint. “We can do that,” I hear myself answer in a steady, business-like voice. “We were going to have to leave pretty early anyway to get there on time. Anything else you need from us?”

The nurse continued, assuring me I didn't need to write anything down because a checklist will be mailed our way. I took notes anyway. Anything to slow my racing brain.

The night before surgery E will need to fast, and she’ll need to take a shower with antibacterial soap.

“Let her soak in it,” the nurse said. “It takes five minutes to have any lasting effect. Really work up a lather in her hair. We want to minimize the chance of infection.”

Lather up her head. Made sense. The surgeon will make the incision at the peak of her forehead in the same place it was made before. Near the place where the first anuerysm burst. Near the place where it was clipped and another now grows.

The first time E had surgery a shunt infection set in, though no one knew it for weeks. She didn’t present with the typical signs. No fever. No headaches. Nothing. Until one night, less than a week into rehab she presented with a fever. Her temp went from normal to 105 in less than an hour.

E was rushed from rehab to the local hospital. From there she was flown by helicopter back to University of Chicago. The infection had been brewing for so long her blood had gone septic. We're told pus poured out when docs opened E up to remove the offending piece of equipment.

Docs began antibiotic therapy. The bacteria refused to die. They’d become like the Borg, assimilating her good guy white cells then encapsulating themselves inside their shells. They resisted antibiotic therapy until the doctors brought out the big gun antibiotics. Took weeks before we felt confident E would survive their assault.

Antibacterial soap? I’m in. I’ll fill the tub with it. Anything to lower our chances of journeying that level of Hell again.

Appetite for writing: Are you kidding?


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Beth said...

Kim, It's me!It truly is a different perspective when medical procedures are planned instead of Emergencies. Yes this is all routine and was probably done the first time as well except that the units were probably O- and not typed and crossed or so much happened that you didnt notice because of the initial shock. Yes it is alot of info but arent you greatful for the modern medical myracles available!?BD