“Nine and a half hours,” Mark said on the drive home from his pre-op appointments on Wednesday, “that wasn’t so bad.” He had accepted using a wheelchair throughout his day of usual pre-op stuff: CT scan, bloodwork, meeting with anesthesiology and surgeons.
Here’s what I learned from the day: Mark’s surgery will be within a range of 5 and 24 hrs long, according to the anesthesiology PA, neurosurgery resident and neurosurgeon. The neuro resident said the piece of the muscle they’ll take from Mark’s thigh will be “like this,” holding his hands apart about the distance of a nice-sized pepperoni roll. “It will?!” I yelped. “Well,” he moved his hands closer together, “it will shrink down. Watch my hands, they’ll keep getting closer together.” I wasn’t sure if this was like a magician trying to distract you away from the trick, or this guy backpedalling fast so as not to alarm the tired crazy lady. The chance of blood clots after the surgery is in the range of 5-15%, according to the plastic surgeon and the neurosurgeon. “If the blood vessels fail,” the neurosurgery resident said, “The whole thing will die.” “This is a big one,” the neurosurgeon said to Mark, “but it’s got to be done.”
Mark heaved in several waiting rooms, tears running down his face as he tried to hold back from vomiting. I’m sure he was terrifying to the other patients waiting for their tests. Everytime he put pressure into his head by vomiting, the burr hole wound would fill up with some blood-like fluid. An hour later, like a tidal pool, it would receded.
Mark was quiet throughout the day. I had some good conversations. The anesthesiology nurse and his wife were robbed in NYC and now only wear rubber rings with various fun insignias. That was his explanation when I pointed out that he was married to both Jesus and the Steelers which I found kinda Pittsburgh-perfect. After waiting two hours in the neurosurgery waiting room, I approached the front desk. Mark had just said to me,”So you about ready to blow outta here?” I implored them to put him in a room. “If he can just lay down,” I said, “I think he’ll be okay.” They found an empty exam room and brought him a blanket. I turned off the lights so he could sleep. Later, when he’d woken up and we walked to the bathroom, we ran into Lois. Lois is the nurse that sat with us while Mark had his spinal tap months ago. After his ER visit last week, she called me to give me an update about the upcoming surgery. “I’ve been so worried about Mark,” she said. Which is both what you want to hear and don’t want to hear from the lady who’s been working in neurosurgery for her entire career. Lois leaned towards me in the hallway and whispered, “I moved you up” in the appt queue. The blessings of being a frequent flyer are not none. They may only be .001% above none, but they are there, nevertheless.
Last night, I had the hard conversations with Mark. “If you end up on a breathing machine, what do you want?” “Death,” he said. “If you end up paralyzed, what do you want?” “I hadn’t thought about that,” he said. “I can take it,” I said. “We can sit here together. I’ll take care of you, no matter what.” He said he had to think about it.
It wasn’t a bad day. It was a long day. We were both tired. He was unsteady on his feet. I held his hand, and we walked to our bedroom together.