I’m Mikey’s little sister, Amy, and will be your host for this afternoon’s post! I know many of you are wondering what the hell just happened, and since Mikey is still a little gimpy right now, I thought I’d fill in some of the blanks.
Mikey started feeling ill last Thursday and thought it was a bad cold. By Friday, he ended up in the emergency room at Williamson County Medical Center, where they thought it was either blood clots, or pneumonia, but were unsure because they couldn’t see the details from the cat-scan. I went home for the night thinking he had a bad case of pneumonia. At midnight, Mamasan called to let us know he was being sent to Vanderbilt because he had a very large and VERY serious blood clot in his lungs, probably due to sitting in one position during his trip from Vegas to Tennessee. Family started arriving to Vandy around 1 AM.
Mikey had a blood clot larger than my hand pass through his heart and it got stuck in both sides of his lungs. Part of it broke off and damaged his left lung permanently (although from what we understand, he won’t be able to tell a difference). It was a miracle that it didn't kill him on the spot when it passed through his heart. If you make it to the emergency room after something like that, you are already considered a survivor. Due to some significant health risks of the surgery for Mikey, the doctors urged us to gather the family and say our “goodbyes” before he went down for surgery (that was in the wee hours of Saturday morning). They counseled us that he was extremely high risk, and offered us no comfort or optimism that this would turn out well. It was awful. They actually let all 10 of us back into his ICU room to "say what we needed to say" before they took him down for surgery. I have never had a more painful or awkward moment in my life. Yet, in true Mikey fashion, he asked us if we had divided his stuff up yet…
The pre-surgery crew came in to shave him and prep him for surgery, while the surgeon spoke with the family. He was frank and businesslike and I think we all left for the waiting room in tears, believing that that was the last time we were going to see our brother/ son. Then the wait began. It was like the worst slumber party ever in the ICU waiting room.
To everyone's surprise and relief, Mikey did make it out of surgery. Dr. Ball came and let us know around 6 or 7 AM that he was able to remove the clot and Mikey was back in his room in the ICU. We gave Dr. Ball a round of applause, and there was a collective sigh of relief and gratitude. We were allowed to see him 2 at a time.
I don’t believe anything could have prepared me for seeing my brother hooked to a machine that was doing his breathing for him, with tubes down his throat and coming out of his neck. Again, it was AWFUL. After the shock of seeing him on a ventilator, we realized that within a very short period of time, he was nodding his head and blinking his eyes in response to us. He started biting at the tube in his throat and even tried to give us all a peep show by constantly trying to pull the sheet off of his nether regions… I guess when you’re hot, you’re hot!
At this point, we all started having some hope! He started breathing on his own in less than 24 hours and even got some of his humor and personality back.
He looked like a motherboard, with wires, tubes and machines attached all over him. He must have had 10 bags of various fluids pumping into all parts of his body, and a few particularly ugly tubes coming OUT of his body! I spent the night in his room with him on Saturday night and was shocked and amazed to see 2-4 doctors/nurses/specialists in his room every 30-45 minutes. There is truly no rest for the weary in ICU. They would add new bags of stuff to his tubes, take things away, attach new machines, jab him with needles, etc... ALL NIGHT LONG. It was a little surreal and sounded like a sonar lab, with all of the beeping of various machines and stats. His nurses in ICU were amazing and worked tirelessly to keep him stable. They had a goal of where his stats needed to be, and CONSTANTLY tweaked all of these machines to keep his vitals stable. I mean ALL NIGHT LONG tweaks.
He had a second surgery yesterday to prevent other blood clots from coming through his heart in the future and will be moved out of ICU tonight. He got up and walked a lap around ICU yesterday before his second surgery and even made a blog post from his bed. It's nothing short of miraculous and I am so grateful. He is still at risk for infection, but thank god my sister is a nurse and knows how to keep an eye on him once he gets home.
On an uplifting note, he's going to be living with Scottie and I until the cruise, while he recovers! We don't have stairs in our house, and he can have his own bedroom and bathroom. He'll be on blood thinners for at least 6 months, so he has to be careful about cuts. He has a nasty scar from the bottom of his throat to his belly button, where they had to crack his chest to operate. He will be on a short hiatus from many daily tasks we take for granted- he can't drive, lift anything more than 10 lbs, push or pull anything, or do anything that uses chest muscles for at least 6 weeks.
I'm still in a bit of a fog about the whole thing, and overwhelmed with gratitude, as we expected the worst. I am physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and feel like I could probably sleep for another 12 hours, if I had the time. Even with all that, I feel like my family is blessed and we have an opportunity to rethink our perspective on life, family, relationships, health and priorities. It was a very sobering weekend that took us on a journey of deep despair to pure joy. Mikey found a way to get the entire family together for the first time in 8 or so years. I hope that next time, he’s a little less extreme in his methods! There was some joy to come out of this situation after all.
As for the future, Scottie and I look forward to having Mikey stay with us. Bertha & Vader (our pugs) will be THRILLED to have Uncle Mikey around, and I expect the buffoonery will continue- post-surgery style! I think we’ll spend a good bit of time learning & cooking new recipes, planning future camping trips and daydreaming about the upcoming cruise. There will likely be many games of Quiddler, Rummy, Chinese Poker, Golf, & Settlers of Catan. And since Mikey likely won’t be able to play the drums or any of the guitars, I will gladly relinquish my egg shaker and tambourine responsibilities to Mikey in our next back porch pickin’ party!
Anyway, you all should know that your comments on his post and on Linda Lou’s site, and your emails and calls have meant a lot to Mikey and have lifted his spirits tremendously. I know he appreciates you, but I want to express appreciation on behalf of our family as well. We sincerely appreciate your thoughts, good vibes and prayers.
Amy & the rest of the tribe