Friday October 12, 2001: Into the Mayo Clinic (St. Luke's Hospital) Jacksonville Florida
at 6:00 AM EST for open-heart surgery to be performed by a Dr. Sanford 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 of my stomach.
Dr. McBride called my wife again soon thereafter and asked her for permission
to operate on my abdomen to repair a puncture in my stomach that had been caused by an improperly inserted drainage tube.
Accompanied by my daughter my wife went to the Mayo Clinic/St. Luke's where they were informed by a Dr. Stephen L. Smith that
he had "closed the hole in the stomach due to a puncture caused by a drainage tube 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 right
Tuesday October 16, 2001: My wife came to see me in the evening, saw that
I was unconscious and still on a mechanical respirator so she 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 and was told 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/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 spotted 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 her permission and one of my sons obtained leave of absence from his employer and came to stay at the Mayo with me.
Sunday October 21, 2001: A Dr. Wentling called my wife and said that 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/St. Luke's where they saw Dr. Ronald A. Hinder, Chairman of the Mayo 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.
Monday October 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.
Wednesday 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 and said she would arrange
home care for me when I was sent home.
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 and told her that because
of my infections, Heartlands Rehabilitation Center wouldn't accept me. Dr. Fink also told her that my gall bladder had
stopped working and that he was calling in a GI (gastrointestinal) doctor. Dr. Finck called again and said that 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 and said 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 more surgery.
Sunday November 4, 2001: Pain, pain, pain from the bedsores and retaining
stitches. My leg and feet becoming swollen.
Friday November 9, 2001: Moved to another room because my picc (intravenous)
line had become infected (because they left it in one place too long) and so they had to disinfect the room.
Wednesday 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/St. Luke's. I don't want to bore readers with too much detail but I should have been smart enough when
I first went into the Mayo/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
An irritant were the trainee nurse assistants from the local community
college. 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 so they can take one's vital signs, it made it very
difficult to get any rest.
Another distressing aspect that still lingers in my mind is the raging
thirst, cracked lips and dry mouth that 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, 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 let go and die. 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 nine 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.