Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Radical Paradigm Shift

Two months ago on March 16, 2010 I had a Waterloo of an experience. All of a sudden the real estate market, my golf score, eating, breathing and little else mattered a whole lot to me. My wife of 37 years was admitted to the local hospital with a life threatening illness. She has always been my rock. Steady as the sunrise, day in and day out. Suddenly the sun was coming up in the west. My wife was critically ill. How critically I was to learn a few days later.

Nancy's portal of entry into the health care system was our friend Dr. Snyder at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She presented after lingering at home for two weeks. She had a slight fever and zero energy. Her blood glucose was 872, normal is anywhere from 80-110. We had been calling primary care physicians in our local offices for a couple of weeks and recieved the same message from each of them, " Sorry, but our doctor is not accepting new patients." Fortunately for us we chose to take her to the ER and our friend Matt Snyder.

Nancy had a lesion in her groin area and unbeknownst to me it had become infected. After several days of hitting her with heavy antibiotics and hitting her with insulin to get her sugar down she was not making any progress. Our hospitalist, Dr. Innisheer Shah, told me from the first moment she saw Nancy that she was more worried about that lesion than she was the diabetes. On a Saturday after her Tuesday admission she ordered a cat scan. She called me on my cell phone and told me that the news was not good. She described a burrowing wound into her groin and beyond. She had ordered emergency surgery. Dr. Jeff Crooms operated on her at 10:00 PM that evening and debrided the infected tissue out of her. He left the wound open and sent her to ICU where she would be for a total of 10 days.

An infectious disease physician came to consult on day 1 of her ICU stay. It was then that I was to recieve the big picture. He told me that she was critically ill. She had necrotizing fasciitis. He advised me that had we waited another 24 hours to get her into the ER that she would very likely have died. Dr. Philbert Ford described the illness. Necrotizing Fasciitis is also referred to as the flesh-eating bacteria. If you Google it you will find that the mortality rate is better than 35%. If Nancy had developed this infection in an extremity, she could have likely faced amputation. It is hard to amputate a groin. So they split her open and tried their best to remove the infected tissue.

From the ICU she was released to Select Hospital which specializes in wound care among other things. There, an angel of a wound care nurse, named Mary Jo, clucked over Nancy like an old brood hen. She supervised Nancy's healing up the surgical wound, orchestrated her wound being closed by a brilliant, young plastic surgeon, Dr. Rosenberg and then she was released to go home. After 5 1/2 weeks of hospitalization. Follow up by Gentiva Home Health care brought us full circle.

Nancy is at this moment walking around our bedroom fussing about the extent of the mess in the house left to be run by a helpless husband. We were both assaulted so fiercely, emotionally, by this experience that we are still drained and exhausted. Every day, however, she gets a little stronger and better.

I share this experience as a catharsis I suppose. There are far sicker people than Nancy in this world who fight a day to day battle. I attended the funeral of a 37 year old son of a good friend who died in the midst of Nancy's hospitalization. We have family members who have preceded us in death. Nancy's father was on a ventilator for almost 6 years paralyzed from the neck down before he died.

We get so caught up in the thick of thin things. Someone cut me off in traffic. Hannity says the illegal immigrants are taking over America. The gays and lesbians say they aren't getting enough respect. Business is bad. My neighbors drink and party too much. My football team never wins. I lost a fortune in the stock market. You face this assault day in and day out and before you know you have turned into a cynical, unhappy person. This experience has caused me to vow to be a little softer and kinder to people I meet. I have shifted paradigms at least for the time being. The stuff that was so all fired important to me two months ago has taken a back seat to my almost losing the most important person in my life. I reach over and feel her in the bed next to me and I have to suppress my almost wanting to cry like a little girl.

I hope that I have changed for the remainder of our time together.