Sorry for the radio silence on the Gazette, but I swear I have a good excuse. It appears that we’re writing yet another chapter in the ongoing story of my husband Tim’s health. I wrote a little about the first part here.
This current chapter begins Saturday night when Tim started having severe pain in his lower left back that landed us in the ER at Munson Medical Center. After a CT scan, we learned that an aortic aneurysm that was discovered during his liver transplant at University of Michigan Hospital in 2003 — and which a doctor affiliated with Munson had attempted to repair in 2008 but botched (let me know if you want his name; I’m happy to name names) — had grown to twice its size and was in imminent danger of bursting. That’s when the grim news started, although we already knew what the ER doctor told us – that if the aneurysm burst, Tim would die immediately.
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Thus, Tim got to ride in an ambulance to University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor Saturday night, and I drove down Sunday. Things were dire when they loaded him into the ambulance Saturday night, and I truly didn’t know if I would see him alive again. That night now gets a special spot as one of the worst nights of my life.
Backtracking a little, when the Munson doctor put a stent in to repair the aneurysm in 2008, he placed it too high, shutting off the blood flow to the kidneys; one kidney died, and the other continued to function at about 25 percent after that, leading to multiple health issues for Tim, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Yes, we pursued a lawsuit, but it seems that because we’d signed a consent form outlining the risks, we had no case. I’m still skeptical about that and, well, if any lawyer wants to take it on, let us know. Anyhoo…
Tim survived the ambulance ride to U of M Hospital and I drove down Sunday (practicing my yoga breathing the whole way), but the news didn’t get any better. The doctors told us that the chances for Tim’s survival were not good. The options included: 1) doing nothing; 2) attempting to repair Munson’s botched repair (extremely risky surgery), and if that didn’t work; 3) doing an open surgery and shutting down his one good kidney permanently. His chances of survival with Option 3 were slim to none. And if he survived any of the options, the U of M docs said that both of his kidneys would be gone, and he’d be on dialysis for the rest of his life or pending a kidney transplant.
We chose Option 2. You know, people sometimes complain about social media, but it’s been a godsend for us. I can’t think of another way where you can instantly have thousands of people praying for you and sending positive vibes. I know that’s what got Tim through the surgery and pulled me back from the brink of (another) nervous breakdown (though let’s be honest, the jury’s still out there).
My angel of a niece, Abby Boursaw, drove over to sit with me, make calls to Traverse City, and translate the doctor-speak (she’s a nurse at a Detroit area hospital). I’ve sat in so many of these waiting areas by myself, and I can tell you, it’s waaayyy better if someone is sitting with you and distracting you from those grim thoughts, i.e. how will I get his body back to Traverse City, how will I tell the kids, how will I ever plan a funeral on his birthday (which, as I write this, was yesterday).
Anyway, this is getting long, so I’ll cut to the chase. Tim not only survived the risky aneurysm repair surgery (Option 2), but Dr. Gallagher and her surgical team at U of M Hospital managed to save that one good kidney and keep the blood flow to it. From what I understand, that kidney now works better than before, but it’s too soon to tell how much it’s been affected by the trauma and contrast required by the scans, which is hard on kidneys. At this point, it doesn’t appear that he’ll need dialysis. At least not in the near future.
After Dr. Gallagher came out to tell me and Abby the good news that the surgery was a success and could not have gone better, she said she couldn’t believe the mess that the Munson doctor had left in there. Not only was the stent placed weirdly, but the stent itself was shredded and leaking (which had caused the aneurysm to grow). In short, Dr. Gallagher and her team deployed a new stent inside the previously botched stent, and the new stent has completely sealed and repaired the aneurysm.
If at some point the new stent has issues or begins leaking, our only option will be the big scary open surgery (Option 3, the one where Tim’s chances of survival are slim to none). But let’s just take things one day at a time, shall we? Tim’s always telling me not to “pre-worry,” but when these things keep happening, it’s hard not to.
As I write this, we’re still at U of M Hospital, but things are progressing along. Tim is recovering, taking small walks down the hospital halls, and eating real food. Hopefully, we’ll be able to go home sometime in the next few days, at which point I will try to refrain from pre-worrying.
A big shout-out to my family, church family, Facebook family, writing family, my angel Abby, and the amazing doctors and nurses at U of M Hospital, especially one named Roger who got us through that first night in Surgical ICU. I can still hear his calm voice talking to Tim in the wee hours of the morning, describing what happened, where he was, and how he’d come through the surgery. Tim may not remember it, but I’ll never forget it.
Here’s a funny post-script: When Tim woke up the morning after the surgery, he still had the breathing tube in and couldn’t talk, but he kept looking at the ceiling and moving his eyes as if he was counting something. Roger and I tried to decipher what he meant (Did he go to Heaven and come back? Did he want the light on? Was he thanking God?).
It wasn’t until Tim got the breathing tube out that we got the answer. He was counting the ceiling tiles, just as he had done when he woke up after his liver transplant in 2003. The ceiling tiles are how he knew he was still alive.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb