Surgery #7 is crossed off the list and MANY, MANY thanks go out to our awesome family and friends that have supported us with the blessing of prayer, kind words, and positive thoughts. We are humbled by having such a fantastic support network- thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The technical update is that M was in surgery a little over two hours yesterday. A long segment of Barrett's remains (not the news we really wanted) but it was a smooth enough of a segment that it could be treated with radio frequency ablation (RFA), versus cryo. In regular terms, they used a wand to zap off the bad cells, instead of freezing them off. M had two rounds of RFA during yesterday's surgery and he will need at least 1-2 more surgeries to continue to treat the high dysplastic (bad) cells, then another surgery to biopsy. Yes, we are on the frequent flyer plan at this hospital. After some time in the recovery room, a very groggy M was too tired and sore to eat dinner and he's up and around today, but still very sore. Despite requests to see M in his lovely and fashionable hospital gown (can't imagine why he refused those requests), I hope you got a chuckle out of the cartoon I found.
We did A LOT of waiting yesterday...but now instead of feeling like we are waiting with a bunch of strangers, we have folks coming by to say hello, check on us, ask if we brought pictures of "that cute little curly headed babe," and to ask how M has been faring. I like that it is the same support team and that they make you feel at home, in a place you probably don't want to consider anything like home. M and I both jest that we really should have platinum level frequent stay cards by now, and shouldn't there be some perks to go with that, beyond the free ginger ale and sneaking me back into pre-op and recovery?
The downside to tertiary care at a teaching hospital is that it can seem very disorganized and frightening at times. I will never forget M coming to after his first surgery last year, opening his eyes and asking me "WHAT DID YOU DO?" I turned around to see two armed guards in the recovery bay five feet across from us, with their prisoner. Nice. M, of course, thought I raised some kind of ruckus re: waiting and waiting and waiting some more and that security was called. We have to call REPEATEDLY to get appointments scheduled, typically with no callback, and it takes me emailing the surgeon directly (thank goodness for university email search) to ask what it takes to get a surgery scheduled that he mandated? I'm confident the admin team has my photo on a dart board somewhere- so be it. We've learned you have to be an advocate for the care you are prescribed; no one is going to do it for you. M's local GI specialist called the other day to tell me he still has no records, after 12 months of treatment with this hospital, so the poor GI intern got to take that down in his pre-op notes when I explained that I really didn't know what else we could do beyond the multiple requests and releases that have been provided. *sigh* At times, yes, managing a medical condition in this care space feels at minimum like a part-time job.
M and I had a "we are getting old" moment yesterday when the intern for anesthesiology came in. The attending we'd met a few minutes prior was what we expected, the intern, however, looked like he was about 14 years old. And 14 is being generous. Wow, did we feel O-L-D to cross that threshold into our caregivers are now younger than us. In Doogie Howser's defense, he did an excellent job answering my barrage of questions and even gave M a shot of lidocaine before inserting the IV. Where was he when I was being prepped for my c-section? Our next young one to arrive was the GI intern who would be performing the surgery, with the attending at his side. This one looked like he just gave up the tricycle for the two-wheeler, so it is a bit unnerving. All went well, and I am sure they are very talented young men, it just throws you for a loop to think, is this kid old enough to have a beer, let alone perform major surgery?
And just like the trusty specials menu at your favorite restaurant, we're thinking Mondays must be prison day at this hospital. We had the added bonus of two prisoners in our four person bay area, with three armed guards. Yes, prisoners need care too, but preach to me when the guy is five feet away from you and you wonder what he's doing time for. Makes you wonder when you are packing your hospital bag if you need to start adding "personal protection" to your list. Frightening.
In closing, I assume the admin team is tired of me calling for the following surgery the doctor always prescribes, so this time they pre-empted me and sent a note to recovery with M's next surgery appointment. Sweet- and really, about time. We'll be back in early December for surgery #8, and #9 will likely be in February 2011, be it for additional treatment or for biopsies. On a positive note, we are blessed that this condition was not quickly discovered in M. Had his Barrett's been diagnosed just 3-5 years ago, the treatment was radical (removal of esophagus). Despite all of the little annoyances, we are thankful to use new technology to treat this condition, in the hands of the world's best pioneers with it...we're just ready to get things "fixed" and get on with our next adventure. As always, thank you for your concern, care and support- it's priceless.