It’s one a.m. Rocky Mountain Time, and I’ve been up since five-thirty a.m. yesterday, so please accept my apologies if this post is less coherent than usual.
Richard’s out of surgery, and asleep in the ICU. When Dr. Brega, the ace neurosurgeon who has done his two previous craniotomies and who rearranged her schedule to do his surgery on an emergency basis tonight, came to give me her post-surgery report in the waiting room at nine p.m., she was smiling. It’s a good sign when the neurosurgeon is smiling after cutting open a skull and mucking around in a brain.
Especially if said brain belongs to the one you love.
Dr. Brega reported that the surgery went very well, and as she expected, the hematoma they have been watching since his right temporal lobe removal last August had become encased in a “tough membrane,” which meant the temporary drain of two weeks ago couldn’t empty it completely. That in turn meant his right brain didn’t rebound enough to fill the cavity formed by fluid pressure and stop the bleeding. Which is why under that hematoma lay a “large” clotted mass of fresh blood, a day or sold old, according to Dr. Brega, and the source of his current crisis.
She and her team cleaned out the mass of new blood, and found healthy brain tissue under it. They didn’t cut out the hematoma membrane because they don’t want to initiate new sources of bleeding, and “just in case,” they installed a tiny temporary brain to drain any new excess fluid. Further, she explained, he needs to lie quietly on his back in bed for the next 24 hours, in order to let his right brain have a chance to expand into the cavity and keep the fluid accumulation to a minimum.
Dr. Brega stopped by the waiting room (I was the sole occupant at that time of night) again later to say that the anesthesiologist had just released Richard to the ICU and his nurse would be out in a few minutes to get me. She also bragged about how the anesthesiologist was impressed at how “sharp” Richard was as he began to emerge from the fog. “I told him that what he was seeing was nothing,” she said, “compared to how sharp he usually is. He’s an extraordinary man.” That he is!
At about ten p.m., Richard’s night nurse, Matt, came to get me. “Third time’s the charm,” he said as we walked back to the ICU, referring to the fact that this is Richard’s third brain surgery. I surely hope so.
When we reached the room, Richard was thrashing about in bed, trying to get up. I put my hand on him and he stilled immediately. So for the next two and a half hours, I held my love’s hand and spoke to him gently, keeping him grounded while the anesthesia wore off. He was drifting off to sleep as I left, his head wrapped in white gauze, his eyes drooping.
Before Dr. Brega went home for the night, I thanked her again for returning Richard to me–for the third time.
“No problem,” she said. “It’s what we do.” Indeed. In my book, that counts as a miracle.