Saturday, October 30, 2010

I have been asked about my physical condition. Its no secret and I don't want to burden anyone. But others wonder how/why I retired in 2003 at 48. Seven years ago on June 4 , 2003 I had a surgery to remove a benign tumor from my neck. It didn't not go as planned. I receive a Bank pension and Social Security. On June 4  2010 I wrote the Last Seven years and sent it to close family and friends.

The Last Seven Years
 This is a chronicle of the last seven years. Please, this is not to invoke sympathy or pity.
As you know I am not the pity party type, and one of my pet peeve are whiners, complainers
 and "woe is me" persons.
It all began seven years ago. I thought my saliva glands were swollen. In early April 2003 I made an appt at the small clinic in St Charles. At the appt I told the practitioner that I was given an antibiotic and the swelling seemed to subside. I told him I had been told I was cardiac aware because at times I can hear my heart beat in my ear. He felt my throat and said, No Jerry we are dealing with something else. You shouldn't hear your heart beat in your ear. He scheduled a x ray at Mayo the following week.
Paula accompanied me to the Mayo appt. Appt with a throat specialist and an x-ray, We were given the x rays and had another appointment at the St Charles clinic. Even we could see large masses that shouldn't be there. The x rays revealed large masses on each side of my throat, each located in the "Y" of the carotid arteries. One on the right was smaller but on the outside of the "Y" and was visual on the outside and the reason I went to the clinic. The left side one was large, not visual on my neck. It was the size of a pop can--yes that big. It was causing voice and breathing problems. It was the cause of a misdiagnosis of Sleep Apnea.......I used an air machine for 5 years.
So a battery of tests were taken at Mayo. MRIs, full body Cat Scans searching for other tumors, a third very small tumor was found mid brain. Take a line in through my left eye and a line going in through my left ear,,that's where it is located. Several exams followed to determine that I was healthy enough for surgery took up much of April and May.
The practitioner was great. After the diagnosis of Carotid Body Tumors, he gave me medical books to learn about the tumors. A great guy, I wish I could remember his name.
My surgery to remove the left tumor was scheduled for June 4, 2003. After a 6 week recovery, the right one would be removed. I was admitted on June 3rd to have the tumor drained and cauterized, so it would be "empty" for surgery. My last meal was a hospital vending machine sandwich. It proved to be bad and I vomited. Little did I know that would be my last meal.
Early June 4th I was prepared for surgery. Paula, Mom and Dad were there. I had requested no others nor our kids be present. Saving them the fear/worry of the hospital setting. I knew the three there could support each other. Surgery was to take 4 hours. I remember part of the elevator ride to surgery, then the drugs took over and I was out. During surgery, I vaguely remember hearing troubled voices from the surgery staff.  After 6 hours, Dr Cherry came out to talk to my family. He told him that it was not going well, several hours to go and he didn't know what the outcome would be. 
The tumor over night created its own blood supply and was full of blood by surgery time. I bleed out twice. I was given 39 units of blood, plasma and fluids. The bleeding was profuse, the doctors had to get the tumor out. They have first thought they could remove the tumor and keep the nerves enact. That proved not to be the case, as they had to cut several nerves to remove the tumor. Later Dr Cherry commented that if I had been 10 years older, they would have stopped, sewed me up and left the tumor in place. But as I aged the tumor would have constricted my throat and airway.  Nine hours later the surgery in over. Due to all the fluids, I am very bloated, waxy to the touch.  I was placed in a drug induced coma until the fluids were gone. Dr Cherry told my family, its a 'wait and see" if he comes to, brain damage, how much he will recover. Pretty grim stuff, and I was in a coma and couldn't help. I was on life support, around the clock nurse at my bedside. Paula told them I had told her to tell them I was a puller, and to restrain my hands,
Arm restraints are against policy, so I pulled out tubes, my trach tube,,,,,,,,,,Before surgery I told Paula questions to answer for me when I came to, how did it go? How am I?  I never thought it would be what day is it?
Unbeknown to me each morning Mom would tell me what day it was,,,,,,,,every day for 17 days, On the 17th day I came out of the coma.Paula had just stepped out, mom said what day it was. With tubes down my nose--to feed me, a catheter, air tube down my throat and monitors everywhere. I couldn't speak so I was handed a grease board and pen, I was so weak, I scrawled --what the hell happ,,,,,,the rest what a crooked line as I couldn't hold up the pen. I was told all the good and bad of the last 17 days. 
A few days later Paula said Jerry look up, I said the lights are too bright. I was whisked for an eye exam.
We got a grouchy older Dr. after the exam, my eye sight proved to be mostly gone. Paula said what can we do/  he barked "you don't understand,  he's almost completely blind. Paula went out of the exam room, I told Mom go help her. Paula has collapsed to the floor.  Later I said I am a Lions member so I can easily get an eye transplant. I was told the eyes themselves are not the problem, the nerves- cabling if you will that transmits behind the eyes is ruined. Can't fix that. So I have no vision in my left eye, and I see out of the bottom inside square of my right eye. If I look you in the eye, I can't see your hair nor lower that your neck.. No peripheral vision.
I came home on July 23, vision was blurry, blood pressure out of control 200/150, a trachea tube that needed cleaning--Paula stepped up to the plate, a small vacuum machine to suck out my saliva. My swallow nerves had been severed- later after several swallow tests it was determined I could never swallow as my throat no longer pulsed the food down and my airway didn't close off. They had placed a feeding tube in my stomach. Liquid food "Promote" was given by a gravity through an IV bag. I was prescribed liquid Tylenol for the pain...will too much Tylenol can cause phantom pain, one morning I vomited and nearing passed out. OK- no more Tylenol.The roller coaster of BP meds. June 25th I had a severe convulsion--- called a chicken seizure-- as I flopped about and was unaware it was happening. Blood pressure had soared. Paula rushed me back to Mayo. Calling Mom on the way. Mom and Dad began the 5 hour trip to Mayo. I was hospitalized to get my BP under control. My trach was irritating my throat and I coughed violently all afternoon and evening. At 8PM I was told if I could sleep for 4 hours without my air machine they would remove my trach,,,,,,,,O>>> now I am coughing every couple of minutes,,,,,,,,a miracle I slept and they removed my trach. June 28th I was discharged.
Several Dr visits. I had a stroke, so my left side of my face drooped. I showered, closed my eyes and got soap in my left eye, I laughed oh ya its doesn't close all the way. My left vocal cord doesn't work, nor the left side of my tongue. I had to learn to walk and talk again.  I would practice "p' words every day. I couldn't say Paula.  so Paula, please, practice. play ect.
Dr Cherry said if I needed to be mad at him to help my recovering that would be all right. I said I wasn't mad at him. My recovery was mine, how far was up to me.  The day we were told I wouldn't be returning to work--ever, was a hard day. We sat on the news for 2 days before we told my parents, It had to sink in and be real, I guess. My banking career was over, eight months at my new position as branch manager,, new house in town, thought I had the world by the tail. Not so.
When I was told I couldn't work, I turned to Paula and said OK we are moving home and I am going to have a hobby farm. I had visited dear friend Carolyn before my surgery. She showed me a nice 5 acre piece of land, that some day she would sell to us for our retirement,,,,we were both thinking way down the road, Well the day came sooner.
Everyone rallied. My aunt "Auntie" came down with Mom for a visit. Dau Jess and husband Dave came from Florida, and son Darren drove down from Alexandria. Best friend Carolyn paced her deck while on the phone with Paula for updates while I was in surgery
In September we purchased 5 acres from Carolyn---now our closest neighbor through the woods. Four acres of native grass hills and oaks, an approach off the county road and a one fairly flat acre of corn stubble. My father-in-law with his skid loader scraped the corn stubble to the property line.
My parents, Paula and I began measuring and staking out the house, the garage and yes the all important barn. I had in my mind where the buildings were to go. The house placed so the big window and front door were in between the two trees we had left in the garden, A side note. We had our sheep at Carloyn's. We went to Land and Resource management for our building permits.  A permit for a barn. Ah in August our area was rezoned rural residential. Paula said but our sheep have been there since June (true)  The director consulted his regulations and granted us a barn permit. So we got grandfathered in by the skin of our teeth. Not being able to have farm animals would have been a disaster. A few years ago, we were inspected and we are permitted to have 67 goats/or we are more than good as we have 10-25 at a given time.  By this time I have gone from 283 to 160 pounds, Frail, a local doctor said get yourself a blender and start experimenting. You are going to die on the "Promote"
Mid October we stayed in my in-laws RV. So we were 'on site" I was given instruction while holding up my IV bag. Save that the SW corner of the house is here so the door and window are unobstructed. The yard is laid out so it 'opens up' as you drive in, the spirea along the barnyard fence are placed so from the deck you can see each one.  The pasture fence is close to the back of the house so I can see my sheep graze.
The house is ready to move in Nov 2nd. As we get the house arranged, our first (and still only) grand child is due in a month. They got the hewn block 'foundation' set. We plan for a baby shower on Dec 5th before Vanessa is due. Vanessa is born Dec 2nd. Her mother allows us in the the delivery room and we witness the birth. We have the shower with the baby. We have had Nessie with us off-and-on for 6 1/2 years She is a sweet gentle and very smart little girl. 
If my surgery hadn't happened, we would be in St Charles 5 hours away from Vanessa and hardly see her.  So some things have been taken and much more has be received.
The next Spring on a day "that's looks like rain" my mom come with her little fertilizer spreader. Along with mine we seed the acre lawn. The homestead took shape.
My uncle Ralph, cousin James planted pine trees for a west grove. The bigger pines were volunteer growth out of my cousin John's grove,  Family and friends gave us perennials to start the garden. That first year, I bought hay from Ralph, and he and John stacked in the barn for me. 8 sheep, some bantams and some pigeons........I was like a kid in 4-H (again)
Our sidewalk is 18 inch square concrete landscape squares 3 inches thick. I dug down and leveled each one........between dizzy stills, bleeding feeding tube site, vomiting and fainting. Its one square wide and 32 long. It took me days, exhausted I would stop and do a few more the next day. Now my kids say let's pour you a proper sidewalk, I say the sidewalk is fine its a testament to my pure determination.
So I end this story.  I am in overtime, each day a new chance/adventure. I have bought and sold 300+ pigeons and bantams in my quest for what I want. Had sheep sold them, Had Boer goats for 4 years.  Last December I bought a mix group of sheep. In that group a tame spunky Shetland ewe "Maybeline". Much to the chagrin of some I sold the rest. Only 2 Shetland ewes remain. More Shetland ewes are coming in July. A flock of layers as I use a lot of raw eggs in my slurries, that's all. Yes I can turn on a dime, or head of in a new direction, unanchored--or unhinged --no---- just trying to get in all in before the overtime buzzer sounds the end. So till then I will over work myself and get dizzy, get mad at myself--not others, I will 'lose" things, perhaps forget your name, if interrupted forget what I was doing,  hit my head on low overhangs, walk into low tree branches, be bleeding from a cut and not know what happened,be  rushed to the ER if my feeding tube should fall out (and has) , state "I have to take a nap" and sleep for two hours.
But rest assured inside beats the heart of a warrior. I am up to the challenge
An update October 2010 I have a new primary care doctor. We have made some changed, Reduced my meds by 75%. In September I started using goat milk and flax oil. I started a yoga/stretching exercises..I am more flexible and no more lower back pain. I  am more alert, have more energy, my mind is clear and the Kid is back! I feel 40 again! my muscle is returning and now naps are on occasion not an everyday need. We went to town for supplies....shopped for three hours (usually I would come home shot and take a nap immediately). I didn't have a nap that day. Just had to share the miraculous changes




Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing your personal marathon with us, Jerry. So much has happened to you, but your attitude is inspiring. So wonderful that there have been recent improvements! I'm going to share your story with my husband, who thinks his life has changed into a hard row to hoe thanks to a heart attack at 48 and the following lifestyle changes to hopefully prevent another one. Maybe he'll see that he doesn't have much to complain about....

Verde Farm said...

Jerry, I know it wasn't an easy task to share this story but I am so appreciative you did. I view you as a warrior for sure. Your story is fascinating and not the norm. I am a speech-language pathologist and have been since 1993. I work with adults and truly, these types of results just don't happen to the undetermined. So many give up. Slurried food is not for the weak of heart. I'm so touched and so happy for you. You are right, some losses buy many blessings. Don't ever take the sidewalk up--that is determination at its best!!

Ok Acres said...

Thank you for sharing Jerry......sometimes we forget how many blessings there are in our lives until they are gone. You dug deep and found new things to be grateful for during this ordeal! Kudos to you and God Bless you for your dogged determination to persevere.