Friday, March 7, 2014

So remember that one day.....when I had brain surgery? {Part 3}

My super sweet, precious friend Gina is writing this next part, 
because after being wheeled down the hall, 
I remember nothing until I woke up many, many hours later in recovery. 
She is one of the best gifts God has given me
 and although I hated her taking time off to spend with me during surgery & recovery,
I honestly don't think I could have done it without her. 
She is one of my greatest earthly blessings. 

Hi, I’m Gina. You have heard Shannon mention me a few (hundred) times over the years – either by my name or by my nickname – Dory. We’ve been hard and fast friends for many years now so when she was facing this surgery, I had to be there to offer anything I could – support, love, care-giving, whatever she needed. 

To pick up where she left off, being wheeled away to surgery – I have to confess something. She was so blissfully unaware that she could possibly die during the surgery while I, on the other hand, was painfully aware of that fact. In all honesty, (and this is something I’ve discussed only with my husband prior to writing this) from the moment the surgery date was scheduled, I grew more and more worried about death. That particular week of September is an already hard week for me – Sept. 18th is the anniversary of a childhood friends’ mothers’ passing, Sept. 19th is the anniversary of my dad’s death, and Sept. 20th is the anniversary of my father-in-law’s death… so when I heard Shannon’s surgery was scheduled for Sept. 17th, it literally took my breath away for a second. I kept reminding myself that God was in control and that I should rest my faith in Him but during the dark moments, it was hard to hold on to that. After she was rolled away, Tony and I both had a moment of complete and total breakdown. I can’t speak for him but in my case, I’d been trying to remain strong for her the whole time but the second she was out of sight, I lost it!

The day was spent surrounded by Shannons' family and friends in various waiting rooms. I had a crochet project with me and although I usually find crocheting very relaxing, I don’t think I made more than a dozen stitches all day. I held it my hands and looked at it a lot but I just was too keyed up to actually work on it. At some point during the day, I was looking out the window, praying in my head and my eyes landed on this cross atop a nearby building and I was flooded with a wave of relief. It was as if God used that moment to reassure me all would be well. After that, I find myself sneaking glances at the cross throughout the day – making sure it was still there, I guess. Looking back on it now, I think I was hoping for another wave of relief!

Shannon had planned several random acts of kindness for Madison and her friends to give out throughout the day – at some point during the day I entered an elevator to go find coffee and saw this sweet note posted inside by one of the girls – it made me smile. Even while Shannon was unconscious during surgery, her sweet heart for others was being well represented!

A nurse came out for our first update on Shannon around 10:30am. 
Tony and I followed her back to a private for room for her to say: 
The surgeons began at 7:49am, there were no problems with anesthesia. 
They are still working on the approach - meaning removing a piece of her 
skull and trying at access the tumor deep within her head. 

After Tony and I told the group, we all spent some time rejoicing that 
all was going well and breathing collective sighs of relief all around the waiting area. 

Our next update came around 12:20pm: 
We just heard from the nurse - both surgeons (Dr. Demonte and Dr. Gridley) 
are in with her now. They have reached the tumor and are resecting it. 
This was described as 
"try to imagine removing four strands of hair from a wad of chewing gum". 
Her vital signs are stable and all is well.

We were told this part could take several hours so again, we all rejoiced for the good news and then went back to patiently waiting for the next update. It’s really remarkable the number of people waiting in our group. Quiet conversations were taking place in small groups of 2 or 3, not to disrupt others who were also waiting on news about their loved ones. 

The next update came at 2:30pm:
  After nearly 7 hours, the tumor is out and the surgeons have begun closing. 
This can still take quite a while, as much as a few hours.
 But the news that they are closing is AWESOME!

We had barely told everyone when Tony and I were called back to the room to see the surgeons. We had been expecting a much longer wait than 20 minutes so as we walked back, I was thinking "Noooo, they shouldn't be done so quick....something must be wrong....noooo". Both surgeons shook our hands and sat us down and told us IT WAS OVER and SHE WAS FINE!!! They told us that all the tumor was removed and her facial nerve was fully intact! I was ready to burst with relief and I know Tony was too! As they said their goodbyes - I said, "Wait here one sec, please, I have something for you!" I ran back to get some of the cookies Shannon had made to give out to those who helped care for her while in the hospital. The look on their faces was priceless! Both thanked me and said they were starving and I saw both of them start to tear into the wrapping as they walked away. It made my heart sing!

We were directed to another waiting room outside the ICU area where she would be once she was moved out of recovery. Tony saw her first, right when she was brought in. If you've never seen anyone as they wake up from anesthesia, it's a little unnerving. When I saw her a few minutes later, she spoke to me right away. She was telling me that her arms felt funny, but couldn't quite think of the word she wanted. She'd say, "My arms have four hundred...." I said, "pins or needles?" (thinking they felt asleep to her and tingly) She's say, "No" and then "my arms have four thousand..." and I'd guess another word. Then "my arms have forty hundred...." I started getting tickled because whatever her arms had was getting bigger each time she said it! As others started going in to see her throughout the next few hours, (only two at a time were allowed in ICU) they'd come out and say "What's up with her arms? She kept trying to think of a word". Let me just tell ya, all these months later, we've never figured out what the heck she was trying to say!

Her family and friends said their goodbyes as the evening wore on and Tony eventually left to get some sleep. I spent that first night with her in ICU, listening to the machines beep. It was a tough night, with her pain medication barely making a dent in the Texas-sized headache she had! She kept saying, "If only I could sleep!" Between the machinery and all the people checking in on her every few minutes, it was a long miserable night for her. She said, "I was so worried about my facial nerve and all the preparation that went into knowing I'd be off work and stuff, I never once thought about how painful it would be but I'm not kidding y'all, my head HURTS!" Needless to say, I'm glad for the things she didn't think of prior to the surgery!

I'm so thankful for the surgeons and all the caring staff at MD Anderson. It was such a blessing to be in capable hands and for such fantastic results! Praising His name! 

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