Pops Said a 4-Letter Word Today

Yep. I think he's gonna be OK. He actually spouted out the word "hell" today.... which, amongst all the machines, hooks, wires, monitors, beeps and alarms, told me for a fact he's progressing on the road of recovery nicely.

It seems like days since his surgery, but it was just yesterday that we were relieved, right about this time too, that he was finally out of surgery. It's been a long two days, but I dare not complain as I learn and watch what my father's going through. My goodness.

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If you are uncomfortable with details you can stop reading now and start again after the stars below. I'm going to describe to the best of my limited knowledge what was done medically to my father. It's incredibly amazing what medical science can do.

There were about 10 members of the surgery team lead by a cardiovascular surgeon. He was on the "table" at 9 am, and they opened his chest about 10 am or so. Yes, they saw open the breast bone. It took about 1 hour just to get to the heart once he was "opened up". Once there, his heart was cooled, clamped, and they put him on a heart-lung machine (also called a bypass machine) which took over his breathing and kept oxygen-rich blood flowing through his body. That is one person's job in the room — the perfusion technologist. Next his heart was cooled. At this point, his heart had no blood and was not beating, therefore making it easier for the surgical team to operate on it.

This first order of business (in somewhat layman's terms) was to repair the descending thoracic aortic aneurysm. After that, they harvested the vein from his leg for the bypass. Next, they replaced a valve. So at this point, it's still early in the game, somewhere around 1 or 2 o'clock. We were looking at my pops being out of surgery by 5 o'clock that night.

Finally, they performed the bypass.

But then, they found two other aneurysms. One was in the aortic arch, and I think the other was in the right common carotid artery which is what supplies the blood and oxygen to the neck and brain. Because of the type of aneurysm in the aortic arch, they had to use a technique called circulatory arrest which involves using hypothermia to cool my father's body down to about 65 degrees. This is why he was in surgery for so long. It took time to bring his body temp down, and then time to repair the additional areas.

At last the team's extensive goals had been completed, but then my father would not stop bleeding despite routine attempts to control it. For the next hour, nothing was working to control the bleeding. This was about 7 pm or so.

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We sat in our private waiting room until about 8:30 or 9 pm when they finally wheeled him into ICU. At that point, our room door was propped open so that we could hopefully catch a glimpse of him en route to ICU. Sure enough, someone spotted him, and then we dashed out of the room, like a parade of disparate misfits running the halls of the asylum. We were elated to see him, even if it was just for a split second.

Once he was situated ICU, we were able to see him. He was still not awake, and we were told he'd be under continued sedation until the morning. He had a breathing tube in his mouth, his face swollen and his body so unnaturally cold. They had a heating blanket on him, sort of like a old fashioned hair dryer... it just warmed him up so nicely.

In the morning he was awake. He couldn't open his eyes nor talk because of the tube, but he was cognizant of us at least. It was great to feel him squeeze my hand and to nod yes or no. I could give him sips and spoonfuls of water.

Later in the day, once the tube was out, he could mutter a few small grunts and words.

Still later in the day he could form sentences. They even sat him up in bed. My eager, "this isn't a big deal don't bother taking off work" kind of father told his nurse (who reported back to us) "I don't ever want to have to go thru this again." She told him he didn't have to worry, that at his age, he probably wouldn't have to.

Later I was visiting with him and joked about a pimple he claimed to have on his nose which I could not see. I mean, the man just exited from a remarkable surgery, and he was worried about a blemish. I told him, "Dad, in addition to the extensive surgery you had, they removed the pimple."

And then came the four-letter word. I was over-joyed. I knew then we had him back.


  1. Incredible... it's awesome and terrifying what medical science can do!

    I'm thrilled your dad pulled through and is on the mend.

    Love to you!


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