Yesterday morning, Jill and I decided we were on the road to nowhere. A call to Dr. Pippas and an explanation of the depth of my exhaustion and the severity of my pain sent us packing to the beautiful, newly-renovated and improved E.D. (Hint: does stand for emergency department) at The Medical Center. Although I’ve seen photographs of the $25 million dollar renovation project, this is the first I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Even though I was in big time pain, I could see the fabulous work that has been done.
The waiting room is huge, bright and nicely appointed. I like the colors that were chosen. Despite the beauty of the front of the house, the waiting room was just a small taste of the wow factor that appeared as we pushed through the doors to the business end of the new emergency department. WOW! Wide, well-lit halls and a double handful of private rooms with flat screen TVs. I remember the old emergency room at The Medical Center. What an incredible transformation.
It is a good thing we liked the new look, because we were there all day. We were an unexpected part of Dr. Pippas’ day on Monday, so I’m not bitching about the length of time it took to get us into a room. He decided that I needed to be admitted to get a good look at what might be the source of my debilitating pain and to put together a pain management plan to be able to deal with it at home, a place that doesn’t offer intravenous pain medication.
They got me comfortable as soon as we hit our room in the emergency department with IV demerol and something to prevent nausea. Dr. Drew Williams runs the place and he was hands on with us from the minute we arrived. Thank you Dr. Drew! Finally, out of pain for the first time in many, many days. Dr. Gorum and his affable PA, Henry Aucoin stopped by to check on me and to order a CT scan to inspect the results of their very difficult surgery of three weeks ago. After much scrutiny, they came to report that my newly-rebuilt lumbar spine is spot-on and exactly where they left it before the seven incisions were closed.
I got an interesting explanation of my “innerds” as Dr. Gorum called them. I love it when really smart, gifted brain surgeons can be real people and bring their personalities to their job. Dr. Mike Gorum is as real as they get. So talented and I’ll tell you that I’ve seen him in action with a few people I know and also with a few people whom I love and they will all tell you that he is always reluctant to operate. Imagine that, a surgeon who operates only as a last resort. I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of restraint from my neurosurgeon.
As a disclaimer, I want to report that Mike and I are also friends. I’ve ridden quite a few miles of road with Mike Gorum on our bicycles, too. The man never gives up! “Hey, let’s race to that sign up there.” “Hey, I’ll race you to the top of that hill over there.” You know what? I also want that kind of take-no-prisoners competitiveness in my neurosurgeon.
So, Dr. Gorum tells me today that I’m possibly the most muscular patient he’s EVER operated on. It is my psoas muscles. He says I have “enormous” psoas muscles. Henry put it a different way. Henry said I’d have made great tenderloins. These guys crack me up! The psoas is the same muscle as the beef tenderloins. They run down both sides of the backbone of the critters that we eat and also in us humans.
My “honkin'” psoas muscles had to be negotiated during my surgery and the one on my right is angry and inflamed. That is the source of my pain and I am confident after a meeting with my surgical team that it will settle down after the time it needs to get back to normal.
When we got settled in our hospital room last evening, they brought out the big guns. IV dilaudid for pain and ativan to help me sleep. Only one dose of the pain medication and I was given the wonderful gift of 10 hours of sleep. Ensley, the nurse manager on the 7th floor had a hospital bed rolled into my room and Jill finally got a complete night of sleep, too. Her nights of sleep have been cut short lately dealing with me. If they gave out an academy award for spouses, she would win in two categories: Best Wife on Earth and the lifetime achievement award for Most Patient Wife on Earth. Her long-sufferingness has exacted a toll on her that I haven’t taken for granted. I also want every person within the sound of my real voice, my blog voice and my Facebook voice to know that I appreciate every little thing she does to show how much she loves me.
I don’t know many women who could have done all the things she’s done to keep our business on track, and been a perfect mother to our four sons, a great daughter to her mom and a leader in our community and in our church and a loving, long-suffering spouse of a sick, needy man and to have done all of this with such grace. How, oh how, did I ever deserve Jill Tigner? I love you, possum. I hope we get many, many more years together for me to sicken people with my unabashed love for you.
We left the hospital this afternoon with several things accomplished. We have a pain management plan in place that has me taking some high-powered pain killers that are time-released and should provide steady, pain abatement while leaving me clear headed for work and able to go about my daily life until my psoas muscle decides to settle down and stop causing me pain.
Tonight is a first night run at home. I’ve taken the 12-hour pill and I plan to utilize the ativan to get to sleep. I need a homerun of sleep tonight to get back my confidence that I can even get a good night’s sleep at home. It has been two weeks of pacing at night and catching hour long naps in every chair and sofa in our home. I need a good one tonight.
The second thing we got done today is after a long conversation with Dr. Andrew Pippas, we have decided to go back to Emory for consultation with Dr. Stapleford and another likely stereotactic radiosurgery treatment to my spine at L-1 and for an extra advice from another expert spine surgeon Dr. Sandro LaRocca, MD, who saw some additional tumor in that same area in my spine and told us that he felt the radiosurgery was a much better option to remove it than traditional surgery. Again, that restraint. I’m so thankful that my neurosurgeon has the good judgement to know when even his bright mind and steady hands might not be the best thing for their patient.
So, were going back to Emory. Soon. And, Dr. Pippas’ office is helping us put together two files on my case to send on to Dr. Janice Dutcher at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, New York City and Dr. Dan George at Duke University hospital. They are two nationally known renal cell cancer specialists who will weigh in on our future treatment options. I’m especially interested in high dose interleukin 2 (HDIL-2). Google it if you have the stomach for it. It is a brutal regimen of treatment, but it is something I might have to undergo.
I am in this to win it. With my healthcare team, a loving family and a network of friends of epic proportion, we take another step down this scary, but thankfully not lonely road. I’m sorry for the length of this post, but like Jill just said to me, “a lot has happened in the last two days.”
We continue to appreciate your love and your comments to this blog. Jill and I read them together and we know they are a source of so much good for our sons and our parents to know that so many people care for and support us.
Goodnight…and if you see another post from me before the sun comes up tomorrow, I will not be in a very good mood.
Damn cancer. DAMN CANCER! (Thank you, Judy Walsh, for these very direct and eloquent words.) I couldn’t agree with you more.