(It always seems to happen so fast...For the next few days, I'll let this blog become my place to post updates my Dad's health, giving more detailed account than one might want to give over the phone too many times.)
Yesterday I was lying in the backyard at a friend’s house. Though books and student papers were piled next to us, it was a beautiful afternoon. We’d just walked the dog, and had started hinting to each other that we might be tempted to play hooky from the schoolwork and check out a Tallahassee restaurant, when I saw that I had missed a call from my mom.
When I returned her call, she said that the previous day (Thursday), after Dad had gone to the clinic for a blood test, the clinic had called to say that Dad’s hemoglobin reading was very low, an 8.5. A couple weeks earlier, he had tested at 10.2, and the doctor had said they should watch this as they start doing transfusions when it goes as low as 10. Thursday afternoon the doctor recommended that Dad go to the hospital for a blood transfusion. Since he had been scheduled for a colonoscopy on the April 20, they decided to go ahead and do this the following day (Friday). The procedure revealed a tumor in his transverse colon. They immediately scheduled a CAT scan for the evening. Because his hemoglobin was continuing to drop, indicating that the tumor was bleeding, and because he had already undergone the bowel prep that would be required, they decided to operate today (Saturday).
Because Mom is in California helping my sister recover from a detached retina, we decided that she would try to stay there a couple more days and I would drive to Sarasota Saturday morning, but when Paul got out of class at 10 p.m., we decided to drive up together last night. Early today we heard that Dad's CAT scan had revealed no other tumors or metastases, which was good news. He also had an ultrasound of his leg, that showed the blood clot that had originally run much the length of the leg, had decreased in size by about half.
We got to the hospital around 9.30 today (Saturday), and were able to wait in the prep area until they took him into the operating room a couple hours later. He seemed a little anxious about the pain, etc, but said that the Xanex they had given him was helping some.
After the surgery the surgeon, Dr. Yunis, came to the waiting room and said that the surgery had gone very well, and that the tumor had been on the right side.
“Not the transverse colon?” I asked, as his ascending colon (normally on the right side) been removed in the past.
“Well there’s not really any names at this point,” he responded, “there’s just colon. So I took that section that had the tumor and attached it to the small intestine, but they must have not taken much the first time, so he still has about half a colon.”
He also said that there had been quite a few adhesions (scar tissue) to work with, which changes the “plane of the tissue.” It causes the organs to stick together (in my mind I envision the clump of spaghetti when you overcook it a little and it all sticks together, instead of being nice and slippery.) When I asked if Dad’s tumor had broken the wall of the intestine, he said it was a little thick in one part, which pathology might show going through a little, but it didn’t look like it was cause for concern. Some lymph nodes were also taken, but he didn’t comment that there had looked like any involvement. He said that when he sliced a piece tumor to send off for a biopsy, there was blood, which indicates that had been the source of the dropping hemoglobin count.
Only after Dr. Yunis had disappeared down the hall, did I realize I had completely forgotten to ask about the “umbrella,” a second procedure to protect the blood clot in his leg from breaking off and going to his lungs. So I managed to get him back for long enough to say that the procedure had been ‘easy.’ And to explain quickly what it was all about. Here’s what I understood:
There was no “cutting,” in this procedure, instead a needle is inserted into the vein around the groin area, with a thin wire, and this is pushed through directed to the heart. The little needle stick gets pushed up the vein to the ‘Vena cava,” and then ‘deployed” pretty much like opening one of those little fancy drink umbrellas, except it’s mesh. The filter allows the blood to go through to the heart, but not the blood clot.
Since the surgery Dad has been quite out of it, and sleeping some, but also in pain. He has a button to push to release the intravenious pain medication (not morphine, something else, but he’s a little too out of it to press the button in his hand, so he kind of wakes up, grimaces a little and mumbles “Pack, pack,” and then I push his thumb down on the button. I’m not sure self medication is the best way to go just after, but by tomorrow it will probably be great.
That’s it for now, sorry for any typos etc. I’m a little sleep deprived!