Lin complains that I don’t write to her as much as she would like it, because, mostly, we’re together, and we don’t travel separately. So, when’s to write?
Now, or better a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. We’re not together on this Valentine Day. I’m at home and she is in room CCU 7 at St. Joseph Hospital. She went in yesterday, on my birthday, for another bout of cramping abdominal pain. Our celebration at a new restaurant would have to be put off.
Her cramping pain was worse than the usual intermittent pain she lives with due to her Crohn’s Disease. She’s had multiple intestinal obstructions, several surgeries and some puzzling odder entities called pseudobstruction and ileus. It began at 12:30 A.M. on Tuesday and, while I slept, she moved into the family room so borborygmi wouldn’t awaken me. At 6 A.M. I woke up and learned about her pain and made the decision that she would go into the hospital. By 9:15 A.M. she was in the emergency room, a small bowel obstruction confirmed by x-ray. Electrolytes were normal. IV’s begun. Her gastroenterologist and colo-rectal surgeon informed. She was uncomfortable but stable, and that’s how I thought she was until 7:15 A.M., this morning, Valentine’s Day, when a call came to say that she was having trouble breathing and she was being transferred to the intensive care unit, CCU 7 it was.
When I arrived 15 minutes later, the intensivist was pouring fluids into her and she was on Levophed. She had no blood pressure, but she was talking to me and telling me she loved me. And I was telling her I loved her. Blood gasses showed a pH of 7.11, HCO3 of 7. O2 saturation was 94%. Not a pulmonary embolism. Abdominal films now showed free air under the diaphragm that wasn’t there before. A lactic acid level came back at 4 times normal, but that was later, after surgery. Fluid resuscitation got her a blood pressure.
I called son, Josh and he left to go to the hospital. I left a message for Becky in Northern California. I held her hand. It was warm. Her blood pressure came back. Her colo-rectal surgeon is superb. He explained the surgery, an exploratory laparotomy, and he explained that she might have a temporary ileostomy. By 9:30, she was in the OR and Josh and I talked. As the time went on, I began to worry that this wasn’t a good sign. But, at 12:30 the surgeon came by to tell us that he had removed 8-10 inches of dead bowel and he was able to re-anastamose the viable ends. No ileostomy needed. It sounded remarkably good, and I went from the depression of anticipated loss to the euphoria of deliverance.
Josh and I had a Thai lunch and returned to the CCU where Lin lay, still intubated, but light enough to follow commands to shut her eyes tightly. The plan was to slowly wean the Levophed. I came back home and started making calls to family. Moh was covering the medical practice so I just called and called and waited.
At 7:30 I was back and her BP was a little bit lower. She was still intubated and sedated. No communication possible. This time her skin was very cold. No point for Josh to come in, and no reason for me to stay and just feel impotent and useless. So, here I am.
I just called in and her BP is much better. No significant change. At least it’s not getting worse. She’s in good hands. I’m just not able to add anything, and I know how much she loves me, and I’d like to believe in something, but aside from believing in Lin, I have nothing else to contribute. Numerology…. CCU 7, pH 7.11, HCO3 7
TCM shows black and white movies. “Crossfire” with Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame from 1947, the year before Lin was born. I was 11 when it was made. 11:05 P.M. Valentine’s Day, without my Valentine. “I love you, Lar.” “I love you, Lin…. You’re going to be okay!” I really want to continue this conversation.