I'll post. But there've been no changes. Our nurse described her condition as "critically stable." But we have passed the crucial 24-hour mark, when we would have had some indication if the infection in her tummy still had the upper-hand. Although she has not been fever-free, and there is still blood in the stools that she passes (uncomfortably), she has not required any more blood or extra fluids. The dressing on her tummy is a bit gory with infected fluid draining out of the unclosed wound and soaking the pads pressed against her side, but when she awakes briefly from the sedation she shakes her head when we ask if she hurts. The doctors have had to go up on her ventilator support, but no one is surprised about that, nor the fact that her morphine and versed requirements have skyrocketed. Her main issues right now are:
- anger at awaking to find a breathing tube down her throat (and taped so thoroughly her mouth is nearly completely obscured - I guess her adventure in self-extubation was duly noted back in the O.R. For extra security, her arms are in immobilizers so that she cannot bend at the elbow to reach the breathing tube.)
- itching, the morphine and dry air are likely culprits
- a nearly irresistible urge to roll over. She's never much for sleeping on her back, and having a tummy full of fluid does naturally predispose you to roll over and relieve the pressure on the back. Obviously, though, a 12-inch wide open incision across your belly means back-sleeping is the only option. The nurse yesterday arranged a super-cool airbed for her, which is supposed to help avoid pressure points and offers the added bonus of adjustable temperature and built-in weight scale. She still struggles to turn over, though, and I'm not sure how much sense our attempts to calm her and explain the situation make through her morphine/versed haze. At one point I commiserated with her aloud, "Your tummy's getting better, Annika. But it's really hard work getting better, isn't it?" To my surprise, she nodded her head vigorously in agreement.
Most importantly, though, her doctors are all very pleased with her condition right now.
I toyed with the idea of driving home after Jörg returned today with his exams to grade. Since she seemed to be doing well, and the plan was to keep her completely asleep, we thought maybe this would be my chance to get back home to see Frankie, engage in some therapeutic cat-petting, grab some clothes, and generally reassure myself that life outside the hospital was puttering along as usual. But of course, Annika, bursting with energy in her usual daily life and then confounding her medical team by sitting up and playing in bed despite a massive abdominal abscess and a perforated bowel, is never easy to keep sedated. Around 5 a.m. she started thrashing and reaching for me when she heard my voice. She settled down again briefly, only to have another fit, longer this time, at around 10:30. So I will stay, since I cannot stand the thought that she might awake, confused and looking for me, and not be able to hear me respond to her.
So more watching Annika breathe, now with the smoothly regimented regularity of the ventilator. The ventilator is such an amazing machine, but it tempts me into thinking about my own breathing way too closely. I put my hand on my chest and feel it rise and fall, and somehow it no longer feels like a natural activity. It seems exhausting, all this continuous effort of pushing in and out, over and over without fail. And this leads to that kind of vertiginously weird feeling that I remember vividly from the year I began kindergarten, when I became so self-conscious that I could make myself dizzy simply by imagining myself sitting somewhere behind my eyes, like a little mini-Moreena homunculus
completely separate from the body that everyone else saw.
Yes, reliving kindergarten memories is a clear sign that some mental distraction is needed before I burn a hole through my belly-button with my own x-ray vision.
Usually there is very little time to read in the hospital, given that Annika might gently be classified as "highly interactive," even when confined to bed. I could use this time to catch up on reading my sidebar links, and finding new links to add, but there's no internet connection in this PICU room, where I'm now writing on Jörg's laptop. So last night I blazed my way through all the New Yorkers that Jörg brought from home, and then I discovered this morning that Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness
was in the Kohl's House book lending box, so now I'll finally have a chance to read a book that's been on my list for, oh, years now.
We don't expect much happening around here tomorrow, but are waiting anxiously for the findings on Monday, when the surgeons will go back in to inspect her progress. So I may spend tomorrow improving my brain with Le Guin rather than indulging my navel-gazing with more entries contemplating ventilators.
And thanks to those who've sent cards and packages. If you've not heard back from me, it's probably because we haven't opened them yet. I've been planning on waiting until she's awake and feeling good enough to really enjoy the feeling of ripping open the envelopes and peering inside. So there hasn't been much opportunity since she's gone in for her shunt surgery on November 29, although she had been opening them one or two at a time in the days before she went back to surgery last week.
Mostly I have just decided that Christmas will just have to be postponed this year. I've never been one for standing on tradition, anyway, so I'm thinking that putting up the Christmas tree when we get home in, say, February is a fine idea. Meanwhile, I'm going to put up a big sign on our door forbidding anyone to say "Merry Christmas" or anything along those lines, especially if she's still intubated. It's clear that she hears us, and I don't want her fearing that she's missing out on all the fun because of that damned tube.
And thanks for visits from friends: Jennifer
are fantastic mothers, whose quick visits remind me of all those who understand too well life with liver disease, and a visit from Running2Ks
after she donated blood at the hospital offered proof that the internet friends I've met here really do exist. Really, really.
I hope I'm saying "thank you" enough right now, to my dad and my mom, who's been caring for Frankie and the cats; and my sister, who brought me a soft sweater in that way that says "love" and thrilled Frankie with her hugs and attention and voice that sounds so comfortingly like mine; and to the amazing doctors and devoted nurses caring for Anni round the clock; and for the lovely emails I've gotten, with personal stories intertwined with words of encouragement.
And, finally, Jörg received word, in a letter so laudatory that I'm going to have to send a copy off to his mother and father knowing full well that parental pride knows no age limits, that he has been accepted for tenure and promotion at his university. Whew.