The blog has been stuck at this spot for a while, and the title of this post might be a clue as to why it’s January and I’m finally writing about a September event. It’s hard to write about the bad days. But, here goes.
On September 9th, Bruce went out for a jog about at around 3:00 pm. That was not unusual, but the call I received from the Palo Alto Police officer around 4:00 was. (It had been determined that he had lost consciousness and fallen, biting his tongue in the process. We later learned that someone had seen him stumbling around and flagged down a police officer who was driving by.) The officer said he’d found him injured and was sending him to the hospital by ambulance. My first thought was, “He’s going to be so mad. He hates going to the hospital!” Figuring this was going to be his “usual” two-day hospital stay, I grabbed some supplies for him (a book, a phone charger, and some clothes) and headed to the ER. He was a little banged up and dirty from his fall, but he didn’t look too bad. Except for his tongue which was completely mangled and very painful.
We waited for hours as they took his medical history, did tests to make sure the incident was caused by his heart and not something else, and stitched up his tongue (not something they usually do but the cut was so bad they decided to). Once he was settled into a regular room on the cardiac ward upstairs, I went home to be with the boys.
The next day I went back to the hospital in the mid-morning and he was still in a lot of pain and his tongue was very swollen. We still had no indication of what was to come when I left after a few hour visit. Some time around 5:00 I got a text from him that his tongue had continued to increase in size and they were worried it was going to block his airway, so they were going to intubate him. I was shocked and terrified. When I got to the hospital Sunday evening, they had just finished the procedure and transferred him to the cardiac ICU (the CCU). He was sedated and hooked up to what seemed like a million tubes and his hands were in restraints so that he wouldn’t pull out the intubation tube. He would occasionally wake up and be scared because he felt like he couldn’t breathe. His nurse kept reassuring him that the machine was breathing for him and all of his numbers looked good, but it was of little comfort.
Over the next several days, he was on heavy painkillers and partially sedated. Thanks to four very helpful visitors (Cari, Laura & Eric, and Janice) I was able to be at the hospital every day for long hours. Bruce had two day-nurses over the five days he was in the CCU, and they were incredibly talented and watchful. Bruce often seemed lucid and would write down questions or try to have a conversation by way of pen and paper, always making jokes. He had the nurses and doctors laughing on more than one occasion. When one group noticed from the whiteboard that it had been his birthday, he wrote down “This is my mid-life crisis” on his piece of paper and laughter erupted.
I took a picture of his whiteboard on Monday because what most occurred to me when I saw it that morning was “worst birthday ever.”
On Tuesday, when I was about to crack from the stress of seeing the strongest person I know in such a state, his nurse, Jake, asked if he wanted to sit up in bed and dangle his feet over the edge. Of course, Bruce never says no to a challenge, so he did that and then they decided he could also try standing up. Accompanied by “Eye of the Tiger” he stood up, leaned on the walker, and bobbed his head to the beat a little bit. It was a much-needed bit of levity and a sign that he was going to be OK.
The week is now a blur of IVs, medical personnel, and procedures. Here’s his IV pole which gives you an idea of the chaos.
Here he is after they extubated him on Thursday. He still had the feeding tube in, much to his annoyance.
And by Friday he was looking pretty good!
They finally kicked him out of the CCU and transferred him over to the regular cardiac ward to await his ICD. Unfortunately, there were some scheduling delays but he finally got his device and was released the following Wednesday, September 20th. He has made great progress since then, adjusting to the new normal and getting back to all of his regular activities.
I am so grateful for the out-of-town angels who swooped in to take care of my boys and keep some semblance of normalcy during the long hospital stay. I also had help from several local mom friends, and Bruce’s friends at work brought bags and bags of groceries, and even a little piñata for his birthday.