Here we go again

I know that it has been an incredibly long time since I have updated the blog.  I apologize for my inability to spend time writing and keep everyone informed of what is happening.  A large part was due to lack of time and another part was the challenge it became to write about what was happening.

As most of you know, after Jeff’s surgery, he spent 24 days in the hospital.  Part of that was recovery, the other part on the rehabilitation floor.  Once he was released, we stayed in an apartment near the hospital in order to make sure Jeff (and his surgeon) felt comfortable enough to go back to Denver.

We returned to Denver on May 27th.  Thankfully our amazing friends made some necessary accommodations for Jeff’s return such as railings for Jeff to get up the stairs and a ramp for Jeff to get in and out of the house.  (More on that later.)  We started to settle into our lives back home and Jeff began adjusting to his mobility restrictions.  Jeff had even started home-based
physical therapy.  We were hoping that all would continue to go smoothly until October when we would return to Houston for a check up and Jeff’s weight-bearing restriction on his right leg would be lifted.  (When Jeff moves around with his walker, he has to push his right leg forward without putting weight on it.)

Jeff started to get sick the week before Father’s Day.  This included nausea, some pain in his hip and overall discomfort.  We had hoped it would subside, but we realized that Jeff had and infection.  The infection made its way to his hip and settled in the form of a 10×10 centimeter abscess.  We admitted him to the hospital where they performed two minor procedures to
drain the abscess and he was given intravenous antibiotics.  Jeff stayed hospitalized in Denver for 8 days while we coordinated his care with his doctors at MD Anderson.  It became clear early on that we would have to return to Houston so that they could clean out Jeff’s prosthetic and continue antibiotics.  With the help of our family, we quickly made arrangements to return to Houston.

Jeff’s parents graciously agreed to stay with Santos in Denver until we were more certain about what this stay in Houston would entail.  They arrived on Friday and helped me with Santos in order to get ready for the trip and spend some more time with Jeff in the hospital.  We left late afternoon on Monday.  Jeff wasn’t able to return home because they wanted to continue his antibiotics until he left for Houston.  Our friend and guide through this process,  Angela Prior, picked us up from the airport in Houston and we drove straight to the ER.  We waited for about 2 hours before they saw Jeff.  About 3 hours into the waiting process, Angela came back to the  hospital and took me to get some food.  It was comforting to talk to her and glean from her wisdom.  Around 1am, Jeff was admitted to a room.  We settled in for the night, and after some time, I sleepily made my way to the Rotary House (It is the hotel connected to the hospital by a sky bridge.)

Jeff’s procedure was on Wednesday.  The purpose of cleaning out the prosthetic is to try to preserve it.  Once the hardware becomes infected, it must be removed.  In Jeff’s case, they would not replace it.  He would have to go on without a replacement.  His femur would eventually settle in to his soft tissue and he would have to walk with assistance.  He would also lose considerable length on his right left.

The surgery started at 9:08am.  The surgeon estimated that the surgery would be done by early evening.  I was surprised when they were done at 12:30pm.  Everything went as they had expected.  Jeff only lost 3 pints of blood due to leaking capillaries in the pelvic area.  Along with a thorough cleaning of the area, they placed small “pearls” of antibiotics in Jeff’s leg near the prosthetic.  This is to help clear the area of infection.  They decided to do the same procedure again this Tuesday to ensure that it is as clean as possible.  Rather than close Jeff’s incision, they stapled his leg to make it easier to get back to the prosthetic. They are estimating that Jeff will be in the hospital for a week and then stay locally for another week before we get the okay to go back to Denver.

Our friend Sue Lawson, who came on our first stay to Houston, is bringing Santos by plane tomorrow.  We will stay in the hotel for a couple of days until we move into a temporary apartment.  We will be enjoying our holiday weekend in Houston.

This was unexpected, and definitely a set back, but continue to keep looking at it as a bump in the long road of recovery.

Waiting Rooms and Santos’ Arrival

While waiting for an update in the Surgical waiting area, I met another woman waiting to see her husband in the recovery area.  We talked about types of cancer, diagnoses, and surgical procedures.  Her husband, Brian, was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer, and has undergone radiation, chemotherapy and two surgical procedures.  Amanda and Brian live in Clear Lake, 45 minutes outside of Houston.  Since he would be spending a couple of days in the hospital with her husband, we decided to share information and keep each other company.

Amanda graciously agreed to take me to the airport to pick up Santos.  We decided it would be easier and more economical not to have a car this go around.  Sue and Santos waited at the airport for almost 6 hours for a standby flight.  They also encountered delays.  They happily arrived late in the evening and Sue slept in the airport to make a 6am flight the next morning. Jeff was excited to see Santos and grateful to have our little family reunited.

Santos and I moved into a one bedroom apartment this weekend and have settled in.  It is located in a building right next to the previous apartment complex we were in during our last stay.  The Metro train is only a mile away and they have a shuttle that runs throughout the day to and from the Medical Center.  Santos has been a trooper as we make our way back and forth to the hospital in the hot sun and humidity.

Since the procedure, Jeff has been in what he describes as “excruciating pain.” It is both the stapled incision and the constant back spasms that make the pain unbearable.  He is on a tremendous amount of pain medication.  Most days he is too groggy to be present, and tries his best to engage Santos for a short time.

Santos has been amazing.  He is happy and being extremely flexible.  He has been able to express his feelings well, and tell us what he needs.  I am in awe at his resilience.  I am drawing strength from him, since I feel like all my energy and reserves are depleted. Although it is a lot of work to have him here, it has brought us tremendous joy.

The Second Procedure

Today, Tuesday, July 5th, Jeff went in for his second surgery.  It was originally scheduled for 12:30pm but since they had a cancellation, they were able to start earlier.  He went in at about 10:30am.  He was nervous, but anxious to be done with these procedures.  We are hopeful that we this next recovery will be less painful and he will be well enough to come home in a week. Again, once he is released, we will spend a week here locally to make sure his recovery goes well.

At 12:30pm, Jeff was under anesthetic and the nurse thought they may have started to open the incision.  The next update will come in about 30 minutes.

Our friend (but really more like a family member), Jordan Garcia, came this morning. My cousin, Andres Carvajal, helped us get a ticket for him so that he could help me with Santos during the procedure and for the rest of the week.  It is stressful to be at the hospital all day, especially when you are anxiously awaiting for updates.

Now with help, I hope to pass along updates with more consistency.  I have written on several occasions, but the information becomes out-dated, and I start over.  It hasn’t been very efficient.  Thanks for your patience.

One foot in front of the other…

The Friday before we left, my friend and colleague, Beth Levin Kelley spent the day with me running errands with me and doing what she calls “loving me.”  We strategized the trip, ate good food and laughed.

Before I left, she gave me a new pair of hot pink shoes.  I promised to wear them every day, and I have.

Last summer, I ran a 6 day, 115 mile mountain race with my friend (and running partner) Christy Mougin.  It was the hardest race I had ever done for several reasons.  In reality, it probably wasn’t that physically challenging, but as most distance runners know, the biggest challenges are mental.  I struggled with wanting to keep going.  I cursed the race, the mountain trail, and even myself for signing up for the race. The only thing that kept me motivated was the vision of seeing Santos at the end of the race on the 6th day.  Every day that we finished was a day closer to the end.

This has been my longest journey thus far.  Most of the time, there are only false finishes with very little promise of a rest or true indication of a finish line.  Most days all I can do it put one foot in front of the other, completely uncertain of where we will end up.

I hope to wear these shoes until the end of the journey, and then I can retire them and they will be reminders of how we made it to the finish, in spite of all of our mental blocks and set backs.