Medical Update

Read at your own risk.

All went well and according to plan. Mark was taken back for surgery at 5:00am, the surgery ended at 8pm, and I got to see him in the ICU at 9pm. I stayed for only about 15 minutes (it was past visiting hours). I’ll go back at 9am today.

Mark’s on a ventilator and sedated. They are going to keep him that way for a few days. He’s being monitored in every way possible, including some new things we haven’t experienced before such as an arterial doppler implanted in his neck to track the function of his blood vessels. The nurse and neurosurgery team are also using a hand-held doppler to check the blood vessels in his neck and head regularly. The doppler reminds me of being pregnant and marveling during ultrasounds at the sound of my baby’s heartbeat broadcast into the air, the comforting confirmation of the steady functioning of the hidden life within.

Mark’s face is quite swollen from the trauma of surgery, and in addition to that his forehead is an entirely different shape. It would not be completely inaccurate to say it looks like something Steven Spielberg might come up with. The muscle tissue they took from his thigh is tucked in there. However, imagine that you made an empanada and overstuffed it. The dough can only stretch so far as you try to close it. Mark’s skin, having been cut open so many times there and also having been radiated, doesn’t have the flexibility that would be optimal for this super-not-optimal situation. So they couldn’t fully close it. They took a little skin from his thigh to patch it a bit, and then left some of his incision not closed. It’s packed, and they haven’t decided what to do with that yet. They left his forehead skin intact, which means he still has that open burr hole. “It’ll be bleeding,” the neurosurgeon warned me in the post-op conversation, “but that’s good because it allows an escape point for blood that would otherwise pool.” The new patch of healthy muscle underneath should help the hole heal.

I’ll go back to the beginning. All went fine. I’m okay. One day at a time is reduced to one hour at a time, one minute at a time. His greatest risk is blood clots as the pieced-together blood vessels figure out how to heal. He’s exactly where he needs to be: in the secure world of the ICU.

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