Friday October 12, 2001: I went into the Mayo Clinic (St. Luke's
Hospital) Jacksonville Florida at 6:00 AM EST for open heart surgery to be performed by surgeon Dr. Sanford J. Finck
at 8:00 AM that day.
Sunday October 14, 2001: About Noon a Dr. McBride telephoned my wife saying "things
hadn't gone right" and they were sending me for a CAT scan.
Dr. McBride called my wife again soon thereafter for
permission to operate on my abdomen to repair stomach punctures caused by improperly inserted drainage tubes.
My wife and daughter went to the Mayo/St. Luke's where they were told by a Dr. Stephen L. Smith that he had
"closed punctures in the stomach caused by drainage tubes from the heart surgery, cleaned and drained
it and that everything was fine."
Monday October 15, 2001: Dr. Finck called my wife in the morning to
explain the problems caused by the mistake. He then called again at 3:00 PM and said "things were going the
Tuesday October 16, 2001: My wife came in the evening, saw I was unconscious and still
on a mechanical respirator and asked to speak to the doctor on duty, a Dr. Coleman, who told her that I "had undergone
two major surgeries within a few days and needed rest."
Wednesday October 17, 2001: My wife called the
intensive care unit (ICU) duty nurse and was told that I "was doing O.K."
Thursday October 18, 2001:
My wife called the ICU nurse who said that because I wasn't responding to questions correctly, a neurologist had ordered a
CAT scan of my brain. My wife then went to the Mayo Clinic/St. Luke's ICU where she found two critical care doctors
coming out of my room. She asked them how I was doing and was told "he needs time to get well." She
then saw Dr. Trejo, my Mayo cardiologist, passing the door. She called him in and asked why I was unconscious and still
on a mechanical respirator, Dr. Trejo told her that "on Monday October 15, 2001 your husband almost died and is
sick, very, very sick and has peritonitis and pneumonia."
Friday October 19, 2001: In the early evening
a Dr. Yeo (an infectious diseases specialist) called my wife for permission to do a bronchoscopy with brush on my lower left
lung to collect fluid. She gave it and one of my sons obtained leave of absence from his employer and came to
stay at the Mayo Clinic with me.
Sunday October 21, 2001: A Dr. Wentling called my wife saying my abdominal
wound had burst open and asked her permission, which she gave, to perform surgery to close it again. My wife and
daughter then went to the Mayo Clinic/St. Luke's where they saw Dr. Ronald A. Hinder, Chairman of the Mayo Clinic's Dept.
of Surgery who said he had "completed the surgery and put in retaining stitches." The duty nurse
in the ICU told my wife that I had "contracted an MRSA infection."
Thursday October 25, 2001: My wife
visited and noted that my NG (nasogastric) tube had been removed and that I had been allowed one teaspoon of iced juice by
mouth. Since it looked as though I was going to make it after all my son returned to work.
29, 2001: I was moved from the ICU to a room in the patient care unit at which time they removed my urinary catheter
tube (definitely NOT recommended guys).
Tuesday October 30, 2001: Some drainage tubes removed.
Because of bedsores and the retaining stitches I was suffering from the most agonizing pain one may imagine.
October 31, 2001: Dr. Finck called my wife and said they were going to try and send me home Friday November 2,
2001. Later a Ms. L. Brown called my wife about arranging home care.
Thursday November 1, 2001:
A nurse called my wife and told her that therapy at home wasn't enough and that I was going into Heartlands Rehabilitation
Center for one to two weeks.
Friday November 2, 2001: Dr Finck called my wife saying that because of my infections,
Heartlands Rehabilitation Center wouldn't accept me. Dr. Fink also said my gall bladder had stopped working and that
he was calling in a GI (gastrointestinal) doctor. Dr. Finck called again saying he was going to have to re-insert drain
tubes (THIS TIME GUIDED BY X-RAY!!!) in two areas around my
heart and possibly my gall bladder. Later that day another doctor called my wife saying that it had
been decided to treat the gall bladder with antibiotics and that if the antibiotics didn't work I would have to undergo yet
Sunday November 4, 2001: Unremitting pain, pain, pain from the bedsores and retaining stitches.
My legs and feet becoming swollen.
Friday November 9, 2001: Moved rooms because my picc (intravenous)
line had become infected (because they left it in one place too long) and the room had to be disinfected.
November 14, 2001: Sent home with various medications including darvocet for the pain.
The foregoing doesn't
tell the "nitty-gritty" of my experiences at the Mayo Clinic/St. Luke's. I should have been smart enough
when I first went into the Mayo Clinic/St. Luke's to have been forewarned when, upon telling the staff nurse that the hot
water of my pre-surgery shower was scarcely luke-warm, was told: "Oh, that's so patients don't scald themselves."
Also, although I'm hardly a "clean freak" my room wasn’t, in my opinion, very clean.
I don't recall
too much detail of my time in the ICU but I do remember the ever present hallucinations. They were really terrifying.
Whether caused by the drugs or possibly an elevated temperature I don't know. Among other things I dreamt that a preacher
buried a dog up to its neck alive outside my room to demonstrate "man's dominion over animals." That although
my doctors had human bodies their heads were those of monkeys. That a friend's house had burnt down. That my wife
had started a coin operated cafeteria in the hospital. It all seemed so real that when I came to my senses I had a hard
time believing it all hadn't actually happened. I now understand some of the turmoil, agonies and terrors of the mind
that people who hear voices in their heads; schizophrenics or the otherwise mentally disturbed endure and have much sympathy
The trainee nursing assistants from the local community college were an irritant. Too idle to open
the door to my room they left it open all the time and would gather just outside the room where they would discuss, at the
tops of their voices, their latest boy friends, the last TV show they had watched, the latest recording of some rap or hip-hop
artist and suchlike. They'd shut the door when asked but prop it open and leave it open the next time they used it.
Not a major problem but when one is ill and very tired from being woken at regular intervals throughout the day and night
to have one's vital signs taken, it made it very difficult to get any rest.
Another distressing aspect that
still lingers in my mind was the raging thirst, cracked lips and dry mouth I endured. Being fed intravenously and
not being allowed anything by mouth, my thirst was both constant and intense. Sometimes a kindly nurse would wet
a flannel under the faucet, wring it out until just damp and let me put it in my mouth - but that was all I was allowed.
Makes one feel for people who are shipwrecked or stuck in a desert without water.
Wide subject matter readers among
you may have heard of instances known as an "out of body experience." This is said to be, by those who have
experienced it, a situation where, when near death, one feels a state of calm and peace and is in an intense white light
suspended over and looking down at one's own body. I have twice experienced this in my life. Once in my
late teens and once in my late thirties, both times while recovering from anesthesia after surgery. But, in both of
the previous instances, I wasn't anywhere close to dying. However, while in the Mayo Clinic, where I really was facing
death, I did NOT experience it.
One experience I had, during the period my son was there, was that I came to the
conclusion that the pain was too much to bear. I decided to give up. I said goodbye to my son, maybe just
in my mind, and turned my face to the wall to die. Then my mother (deceased) appeared, stood by my bed and said
that it wasn't my time to go, that I still had things to do and to hang on. Then my first wife (deceased) appeared and
said much the same thing. Although, like many people, I'd like to believe there is something there, I neither have any
strong convictions about life after death nor any opinions about spiritualism. One's mother plays such a crucial part
in one's life and I had known my first wife since I was ten years old so, since their psyche is embedded deeply in my own
sub-conscious, it is entirely possible I was dredging up inner thoughts and desires.