First, and most importantly, Ken is out of surgery and resting comfortably (within reason). We all here would like to thank all of you for all your prayers, circles of light and candles burned on his behalf and on behalf of Joy and the girls. All of them survived the stressful day with calm and grace.
For those of you who missed my post about Ken, he had (HAD) an acoustic neuroma on his brain – it’s non-cancerous but it was pressing on his facial nerves and his hearing related nerves, etc. It was growing and if he had not had it removed, it would have grown to a size that would have killed him.
Okay, the day – here goes!
We (Joy, Ken, Bill – Ken’s father – and I) headed to the hospital at 5:00 AM. Norm stayed home with the girls, Peanut and Tasha (their dog, our “grand-dog”). Ken drove – last time of driving for a very long time – and we went to the University of Minnesota Hospital. We chose to have the valet service park our car as it was a couple of blocks to the parking ramp and it was +5º. Bill didn’t want to spend the extra money but we discovered that they did not charge for the service – the cost was only for the parking.
We arrived at the check-in place in time and waited for Ken to check in. I did not go into the prep-room with Joy and Bill as they only allowed 2 people there. So I waited with all our bags, blankets and a pillow for them to come back. Ken was prepped and rolled into the operating room at 7:30.
We then moved everything to the surgical lounge, a fancy name for a waiting room. The room is rather large and set up with little pockets of chairs and tables and recliners, so the family can be semi-isolated while waiting. We picked a far corner and settled down for the long haul.
Joy and Bill had talked to both surgeons before joining me; there was the surgeon who opened Ken’s skull and the surgeon who removed the tumor. Then the 1st surgeon put the skull back together. They were told that the “taker-apart” surgeon would take about 5 hours just to get the hole made. Then the tumor surgeon would take about 4 or 5 hours to get the tumor out and the rest of the anticipated 12 hours would be for closing up the skull.
We checked in with the volunteer at the desk, who then would call Joy to the phone when the nurses called with updates. At 8:30, she got the call that the surgery had started and Ken was asleep.
Joy had brought boxes of instant pasta and rice meals for us to eat as well as fruit cups, yogurt, Clementines, pretzels and water. We did not have to purchase any snacks (although I did get a Tootsie Roll) and did not have to spend money at the cafeteria. She’s very clever and organized that way (must get that from her mother! But not me … I swear she was either adopted or switched at birth!).
The rest of the day was sitting, walking, resting, napping on the recliner, visiting, talking on the phone, waiting – waiting – waiting – waiting! Joy and Ken have a large base of church friends who support them. In fact it seemed like Joy was almost drowned in affection and attention yesterday. I suggested she put a message on her phone, saying “This is the latest update; if you want to help, call Kathy (who is in “charge” of the family’s needs); don’t call me, I’m knitting!” But of course she didn’t – she knew everyone wanted to assure themselves of Ken’s progress and Joy’s mental health. As far as knitting, a dear friend gave Joy a pretty ladybug bag with yarn and pattern for making socks with ladybug patterns on them. She did not get very far – in fact my first sock on circular needles (with birthday yarn from Candy) is further along, but then, I’m just doing plain knitting and she’s doing 2 socks with the magic loop technique and was interrupted often.
I got a new MP3 player from Joy, as my birthday present player was faulty. I had loaded it up with music and a book by Dick Francis, but didn’t listen as much as I expected because Bill and I talked quite a bit.
The pastors from Joy’s church came to visit; Joy’s very good friend Cindy came with her family; Ken’s sisters, Yvonne and Michelle came around supper time with snacks and gifts and spend the rest of the time with us.
So, back to Ken – the expected 5 hours of opening the skull turned into about 6 hours. We later found that they were concerned that the tumor was stuck to the skull. Never DID find out if it was or not – at least I don’t remember hearing. Joy might know. Joy WOULD know. That little girl kept so calm and seemingly relaxed and sure that things would go fine. I was the basket case. I knew he was going to be fine, but I couldn’t help thinking about the pain he would feel when he woke up. I’m allergic to pain, you know, and I hate seeing it or knowing about it in those I love.
They called several times to say work was in progress and Ken was stable. I loved that … we knew approximately what was going on most of the time and knew he was not in danger.
They finally called and said the tumor doctor was starting to work. We kept an eye on the clock, knowing it would be about 4 hours. Again, they would call and say – progress is progressing and Ken is stable.
I kept in touch with Norm to tell him of the progress and check to see how the girls were. Joy talked to the girls several times. Norm said the girls were concerned and worried in the morning but seemed to gain control of their emotions and have a good day, all in all. I also texted my sister, niece and daughter Jill with updates all day.
A friend of Ken and Joy’s is a nurse in ICU and his staff is in charge of Ken. He was not on when Ken came out of surgery but he handpicked the nurse to be in charge of him. He sat, after his shift, and explained some of what would be happening to Ken and what we would expect in the next few days. I learned a lot about ICU from a nurse’s eyes. (A joke they often use …. The hospital gown is called an “I SEE YOU” gown.)
So, here we go … into the 12th hour … 13th hour!!! Oh! my aching back! Oh! my sore knee! We walked, we stretched, we sat, we talked, we did things to keep our minds occupied. Finally at 9:00 (12 ½ hours from the start) the tumor doctor came out and talked. He took so long because he wanted to make sure that he didn’t damage facial nerves. He was disappointed because he had to leave 20% of the tumor in, as it was wrapped around or stuck to a nerve and he would have damaged the nerve to get the rest of the tumor out. However, he says it is manageable and they will keep an eye on it. It is small enough that if it grows they can (in the future) get rid of it with radiology (or something). He apologized to US for the long wait we had. WE HAD????? What about the long amount of time HE spent bending over Ken’s head working with that tumor?
The tumor was about the size of a golf ball, which is large for that type of tumor. Ken will not have hearing on that side of his head as they had to destroy something connected with hearing to even get to the tumor.
Now it is 9:00 and the other surgeon is fixing the hole in Ken’s skull. And the time crawls on. 9:30 – 10:00 – 10:30. The computer screen that keeps track of the patients’ procedures finally (at 10:30) showed that he was in recovery. And we waited more. Michelle and Yvonne had over an hour (possibly 2) to get home and discussed heading home but wanted to actually SEE Ken and hold his hand, for however briefly we would be allowed to see him.
At midnight a nurse came in and had us move up to the waiting room near Ken’s room. We were not expected to go in for at least 30 minutes, as the nurses had to “prep” him; we were only allowed to go in 2 at a time, but there were 5 of us. However, the nurse called us and said …. “It’s so late, come in and we’ll prep him around you and all 5 of you can come in.”
We went in to talk to Ken and put our hands on him – I had to touch him to make sure he was really there and “fine.” We said a prayer over him then said goodnight and headed out of the hospital.
However, our adventures were not over. Since Yvonne and Michelle had used the valet parking as well as we, none of us had the keys to the cars or even knew where the cars were parked. But valet parking closes at 8:00. The gal at reception had told Yvonne and Michelle to go to the parking ramp through the tunnel between buildings and the cashier would have the keys and send someone to get our cars. However, the receptionist failed to mention that the cashier was going to be gone by the time we were ready to leave (although we didn’t know how late that would be).
At 12:30, then, we found the tunnel and headed 75 miles to the elevators for the parking ramp. But a gal that was walking by said that there was no one there that late at night and we had to go back to the lobby and call security. But going back to the lobby was 300 miles back up the tunnel. So we called on a “house phone” to security, told the person where we were (# ?? phone and # ?? elevator). We were told to go to the emergency room. Yvonne grabbed a courtesy wheel chair, put me in it, piled pillows, bags, blankets on my lap; Bill pushed, using the chair as a walker and we headed back to the main lobby. But the doors to the hospital lobby were locked!!! We were stuck!!! There was another house phone and Michelle called security again. We could see the security vehicle parked but couldn’t get out. However, Bill turned around and discovered a door opening to the outside; he pushed it open, walked around the little bump in the building made by the elevator and walked to the security van. We all said “OH!” and did the same. The lovely young, good looking knight in shining black armor put us in his van and took us to the parking ramp, got our keys for us and said goodnight (good morning).
We 3 were home by about 1:45 and were in bed, asleep by 2:00. Almost 22 hours between getting up and going to bed!!!! (YAWN!!)
This morning, now, Joy will call the hospital and we will go back up to see Ken in, hopefully, a more alert stage. We are going to wait until he’s out of ICU and in his own room before having the girls go visit.
I have pictures that I will post in a few days – I’m so tired that I don’t have the energy to even go find my camera!
Again, thanks to everyone who sent positive thoughts and prayers to the family. The longest, worst day is over; the rest is recuperating and recovering.
It is a beautiful sunny day today – I’m sitting in Joy’s sunroom with the sun on my back, enjoying the lovely winter view (with less snow that we have back home). You have a beautiful day.