When my Dad was "opened up" it all happened really quickly. One minute he's doing a stress test and the next they are doing heart surgery. The surreal feeling hit me when I visited him immediately after the surgery. It's like a sick feeling coupled with the inability to concentrate. It's was my first real scared and helpless feeling as an adult. He was still on a ventilator and all hooked up to everything. Like in the Matrix.
I don't think Dad likes that movie so I won't tell him.
It was months later when he called my brother and I into his office and said, "Boys, you're going to do two things; get a lot of life insurance while it's cheap and get yourselves in shape." So began my biking obsession. Anyway, that was the first time I realized how fragile I am... we all are. It was obvious at that time that the only thing keeping him alive were those machines. And by the same token those doctors had saved him. In other words his life was in someone else's hands. He wasn't in control. And neither was I.
Lisa is back there under anesthesia and a surgeon is cutting her head open to remove a tumor on her optic nerve. It's as simple as that. Yet unbelievably complex. The battery of people charged with making this whole thing happen are precise and methodical. They have a lot of confidence that somehow never becomes arrogance. Accept for some of the people at the reception desks. They obviously allow ignorant people to frustrate them which must make common courtesies from the rest of us seem trite. Here at Duke there are patients from all over the world, including up North where love don't grow, that can be a little demanding. So I understand why they are the way they are. But the doctors and nurses are great.
This whole thing started a few weeks ago with a routine eye exam. That led to MRI's and referrals which ultimately led us to Dr. Allen Friedman, somewhat of a celebrity around here. My brother-n-law Joe Hicks did some research that led him to tell us Dr. Friedman was the Michael Jordan of neurosurgery. So here we are in Durham, North Carolina at arguably the best place in the world to have your brain worked on by evidently the best surgeon to do it.
Somehow all that doesn't help. I'm still not in control. But as I learned with TJ's accident... there's really only one person in control... a Holy God. So let's call what I'm feeling... nervousness and not worry.
We did managed to eat out the night before our pre-op. We lucked up and stopped at Metro 8 Steakhouse. Lisa was loving it because the chefs were from Argentina and prepared things like Empanata's and lots of Spanish flavored dishes. Everything was delicious and the servers were fun. It was perfect before the days to come.
After pre-op we checked in at the hospital and waited. We were visited by 20 different people from residents to nurses to "experience coordinators". My favorite was the doctor who glued sensors on her head and shaved little spots to put some of them. He even traced them with a blue sharpie. And with that sharpie he made notes on her head for the surgery. It was very funny.
I just watched her rolled back for surgery. They had her so jacked up on steroids she was talking a million miles an hour. To anyone. She was particularly happy with the "Georgia" red cap they put on her head. I love my Georgia Girl!
So... now I'm sitting here in the waiting room. People are snoring. It reminds me of some airport terminals. There are wide eyed newbies who pay attention to every sound and movement. Then there's the waiting room veterans who have their bags of magazines and pillows and one lady brought her own coffee creamer. Ma (Lisa's Mom) and her sister Emily will be here soon. My parents are on the way. And I feel ok.
Before I left Georgia I asked my friends to share any surgery stories or cycling stories with us for encouragement and laughs. They came through so greatly that I knew I had to publish them. So here you have a series of short stories that may or may not amuse you. Thanks guys!
Stories for Lisa
The surgical nurse walked in and the wife got very vocal. She was convinced that Chick fil A was in charge of her surgery. We could not change her perspective. The surgical nurse smiled and excused herself from the room. She returned a couple seconds later and reintroduced herself to everyone as the surgical nurse. We were puzzled. The wife asked what happened to the last nurse. The reply was she was from downstairs and not part of the surgical team. The wife calmed down and was ready for her procedure. The husband and I were confused by the events. We were then asked to see the nurse in the hallway. We met outside the door. We had not noticed on the first visit the nurse was wearing a cow print head covering. She left and had replaced it with a standard blue paper cap and all was fine.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Surgery is complete
The surgeon came out to tell us he was happy. He got all but some small bits of the tumor and believes she could gain all of her eyesight back in a few weeks. The tumor was benign which means "not cancer". It's the best possible news! Obviously it changed the mood and we started rejoicing.
After a couple of hours we were allowed to visit her in two's. Which really meant I could come out and trade partners because I wanted as much time as I could with her.
Lisa was the perfect patient. That's what everyone told me each time we transfered into another wing of the hospital. Over the next 2 days we moved as Lisa got better. She flew through ICU levels until we got to one that forced her to walk around. She did great... and then took a long nap.
We'll be here another three days so I'm sure there will be plenty of milestones to come. For now I'm satisfied that we are well on our way to a full recovery. She's a real fighter. My wife. I'm so proud of her.
Before I go I suppose since this is actually a cycling blog I'll share my one time getting to ride during the 6 days we stayed in Durham. It was on Saturday afternoon and Lisa had been sleeping all morning with the promise of more napping to come. I was tired of being in that room, in that chair, and there's only so much daily television that's worth watching so I made the decision to leave her in the care of the nurses and explore Duke University.
I'd spent the morning memorizing the roads and finding things I wanted to see. There are beautiful gardens and a famous chapel and other pretty things. There are also lots of bike lanes because in a college town there are a ton of people on bikes. So I headed to the car to change and have at it.
I rode around town and to the chapel. I visited a track meet and watched the races for a while. I found a really old cemetery but the oldest year on any stone I saw was 1946. I even found a cool path that traveled along beside a golf course next to a swamp. Weird. But nicely done.
After that I had to get out my trusty smart phone to find my way back to the car. The ride was a great distraction that wore me out so I could sleep in that stupid chair. I felt a little guilty for doing it but in the end I think I've shown how my bike ride was the right thing to do.
I'm sure you all agree. :)
Thanks for reading!