Sunday, October 19, 2008

Terry's Brain Salad Surgery: The Ultimate, Multimedia, Extravaganza, Director's Thump

Avenue Q at Clowes Memorial Hall

7:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 15, 2008, Clowes Memorial Hall

The best possible distraction to take our minds off a day's worth of brain surgery seemed like an evening of puppet sex watching the Broadway Musical AVENUE Q.

From the official Web site: AVENUE Q is the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He soon discovers that the only neighborhood in his price range is Avenue Q; still, the neighbors seem nice. There's Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fianceƩ Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his roommate Rod -- a Republican investment banker who seems to have some sort of secret; an Internet addict called Trekkie Monster; and a very cute kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate. And would you believe the building's superintendent is Gary Coleman?!? (Yes, that Gary Coleman.) Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life.

With song titles like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet is for Porn," "I'm Not Wearing Underwear," and "Schadenfreude," what's not to love?

The last line of the musical: Everything in life is only for now.

Heading to the Hospital

8 a.m., Thursday, October 16, 2008
Surgery has been rescheduled from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. so I decide to take the Trooper to the only Isuzu dealer left in town to install a new tire rim. For the first time in weeks, I actually oversleep, but I still make it to the appointment, albeit a few minutes late. I make a quick run to the dry cleaners and then head home to await the appointed hour when we need to head to the hospital. Check-in time is at 11:30 a.m., two hours before the scheduled surgery. While waiting to leave, I receive a call from my dad that my grandmother - my mom's mom - has died at the age of 98.

11:35 a.m.
We arrive at the hospital a few minutes late, but the intake process goes smoothly and I am sent downstairs to the pre-op waiting area to get ready.

11:55 a.m.
My number is called and I am sent back to Room 24 to prepare for surgery. The first order of business is to disrobe and put on the hospital issued robes - two of them. My vital signs are taken, I am asked lots of questions and there are three nurses around to make sure I am properly prepared. When we bring out the camera to start documenting the experience, one of the nurses becomes rather uncomfortable and feels the need to say, "Oh, more pictures," every time the camera is raised. I tried to assuage her concerns that I am writing a book or trying to "out her" from the witness protection program to no avail. We decide just to ignore her idiosyncrasies and go about our business because the next logical step would be a punch in the face. She must have really been flustered by the camera because she used the wrong vial to draw some blood and it had to be done over.

Our next visitor was Dr. Robert S. Byers, the lead anesthesiologist on my surgery. A former football player, Dr. Byers has a terrific bedside manner and goes over all the potential risks and complications that can occur when one is put under general anesthesia. He also talks to the Harper lads about the importance of getting involved in sports and teamwork, and really puts them at ease. After all of our questions are answered, Dr. Byers leaves to prepare for my surgery.

One of the doctors marked my head with a "yes" to indicate where the incision should be made. As you'll see below, they pretty much cut along the last year's incision.

Our final visitor is one of Dr. Shapiro's young fellows/residents, a Dr. Voorhies, I think, who comes in to go over the procedure with us one more time. He marks on the back of my head with a Sharpie to ensure that the cutting happens in the correct place.

I am stripped of my final vestiges...my LiveStrong bracelet, my wedding ring and my St. Peregrine Medallion.

Almost time to head back to the O.R. Time for one last kiss.

1:45 p.m.
The time has come. Last year, an emergency cropped up and I had to wait more than fours hours past my scheduled surgery time, but not this year. I bid goodbye to Lee Ann, Dale and Jace and walk back to the operating room. It seems smaller than last year, but was probably the same size. There is a lot of activity in the room...all folks on the anesthesiology team. They have me lay on a table that resembles what Mel Gibson was laid on before he was eviscerated at the end of Braveheart. I did cry out "Freedom!" but only loudly enough to evoke some laughter from the doctors and nurses that were moving about preparing to send me into a deep sleep. Only a few moments later, I was being stuck and pricked with various needles. There was another anesthesiologist working on me, but I do remember Dr. Byers coming into the room and speaking to me briefly. An oxygen mask was placed over my mouth and nose. I was instructed to take a few deep breaths and that's all I remember until I woke in the recovery room about four hours later.

1:45 - 5:30 p.m.
Lee Ann, Dale, and Jace move to the surgery waiting area to sit with friends: Gale Wilkerson, Jill and Rich Rezek, and Jan Lindeman sit with us and Lee Ann's sister Heather Kish. Two of Terry's colleagues, Joe Skeel and Chris Vachon, stop by, as does Lee Ann's friend Wendy Brewer.

Dale and Jace have lunch with Gale and play UNO with Heather; Lee Ann visits with everyone to detail what happened in the pre-op area (where only family had been); some read books and snack. There is a good deal of conversation, most of it an effort to keep from thinking about what's going on nearby.


Jace has carved out his little spot in the waiting area.

4:00 p.m.
A surgical nurse informs us that Terry's preparation for surgery lasted until 2:57 pm. So surgery has only been going for an hour.

At 5:10 several visitors leave and Terry's parents call for an update. We all expected it to be over by now. Lee Ann shares the update from the surgical nurse and informs them it may be as long as another hour.

5:40 p.m.
Lee Ann visits with Dr. Shapiro (surgeon) who informs her that the surgery went just as planned with no complications. He says he placed four Gliadel (chemotherapy) wafers on/in the cavity left by removing the tumor. They removed everything they could see with the eye and using the MRI. He says that Terry is awake, alert, talking, and adding (the question was what is 4 plus 5). No one will be able to see him for at least 90 minutes, when he is settled into the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit.

The boys eat dinner while the rest of us make phone calls to update family and friends. I make calls to all on Terry's list (save our good friend Ron Richard--damn--who gets a phone call from the man himself when Lee Ann's gaff is discovered later that evening).

7:10 p.m.
Lee Ann, Dale, Jace, Heather, and Gale are in the elevator heading to see Terry in Neuro-ICU (Lee Ann is never on time but there is a first time for everything).


video
How in the hell do we get into the Neuro-ICU?

7:15 p.m.
We finally get to our destination! Who knew that the trek up three floors could take so damn long?!

In the Neuro-ICU, Room 9.

A post-operative smooch!

Terry and fellow Oklahoma State Cowboy Gale Wilkerson.

It's hugs and kisses for everyone. Dale and Jace are visibly relieved to see their dad smiling and talking. The ICU nurse scowls at the large number of guests but works around us. We try hard to stay out of her way and not step on the cables that snake across the floor. There are IVs and bandages adorning Terry (oxygen tube to the nose for good measure); monitors flank his bed.

8:00 p.m.
All but Lee Ann have left for the night. Heather takes the boys home to relax--Terry feels they have paid their dues at the hospital for the day.

8:00 p.m. - midnight
The nurse comes in for a regular rotation of pain medications (IV and pills), questions to test neurological function, monitor checks, and respiratory tests. Barely 30 minutes goes by without a visit from some medical staff. Between medical meddlings, Terry calls his parents to assure them he is feeling good.

12:30 a.m.
Lee Ann kisses Terry goodbye for the night and heads home for a few hours of sleep.

3:00 a.m.
CT scan (because, really, what else are you going to do at 3 in the morning?)

Terry calls a few members of his posse he knows are awake at this hour.

7:30 a.m.
Dr. Shapiro visits his favorite patient; within the hour his entourage of students/fellows follow. Breakfast arrives: grits, hash browns, sausages, eggs, yogurt, juice...everything a growing boy needs!

9:15 a.m.
Lee Ann arrives.

10:15 a.m.
Terry dons his Superman outfit after being untethered (IVs, catheter, blood pressure cuff). Lee Ann brings a skinny vanilla latte for Terry!


Friday morning. Finally! I am untethered and can move about freely!

11:15 a.m.
Terry and Lee Ann walk around the hospital lobby; showing off, Terry walks outside briefly in the new Simon Cancer Pavilion's Healing Garden.

A visit from two of my colleagues: Joe Skeel and Chris Vachon.

Heather Kish, Lee Ann's sister, made the trip from Lebanon, Ohio for the main event.

The Harper Family is Living Strong...ready to kick ass and take names.

3:30 p.m.
Dale, Heather, and Jace leave; Heather heads home to her family in Ohio and Dale reports to Arsenal Tech High School for the season-ending game against Broad Ripple (a bitter defeat).

Powerful local attorney and friend John Mead stops by to see if a malpractice suit is in order. Thankfully, it is not.

5:30 p.m.
Lee Ann leaves to grab a bite of dinner and report to the Tech Titans football game. Terry is kept apprised of their progress via cell phone.

Saturday, 7:30 a.m.
Lee Ann arrives to video the doctors who will remove the head bandage.

video
The Moment of Truth!

A lovely scar...and NO STAPLES!

10:30 a.m.
Terry and Lee Ann drive away from Indiana University Hospital, 47 hours after arriving.

29 comments:

The "Me" of Four Plus Me said...

Okay, so I finally have to comment here. I have been reading this for a while with no comments. I am a friend of Lee Ann's from work and found your blog via her LinkedIn profile. Dale stayed in my son's cabin this summer at camp, too. This is just freakin' amazing! I cannot believe you are home after like 47 hours. And wafers in there?!?! Wow. You all have taken this thing head on with no prisoners--full frontal attack, I love it! You're rockin' it--keep it up, Harper family!

SallyB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SallyB said...

Good tough Harper genes! YEAHHHH! And I'm amazed that they took the bandages off so quickly and allowed you to get the incision wet. When I had my left hand operated on in May, I had to keep the bandages on for two weeks until I saw the doctor for my post-op exam and I couldn't get the incision wet, so I had to wear a rubber glove while bathing, washing my face, doing dishes or anything that would involve getting my hand wet, so hats off to you that you're able to do so much so soon after surgery! That's a Harper for you!

Guenveur in Kent said...

Terry, Lee Ann, Dale and Jace: Thanks for the thorough coverage. I feel as if I had been there. You are a fantastic family!
Mucj love to all of you,
Favorite Aunt Guenveur

tonycp said...

Have been following the blog and talking to Shane. Great news! Keep it coming.

We'll be cheering against the evil Ok St Cowboys tomorrow ...Tony

cheribaby said...

Not that long ago, I found out about what you have been through. I didn't check out the blog until tonight...in the middle of the night as I awoke and was not able to sleep. Now I have been in tears that won't stop flowing and feel so many emotions. I know I should be happy for you and I am...so happy that it is all working out positively. It's just hard to think about you going through all of this. It makes so many of lifes 'concerns' seem miniscule (I haven't used that 'big' word in a while, not sure if it's spelled right). Well, you are amazing, your family is amazing and the love and strength you all have are amazing...I'm sure there's even more that's amazing! Your favorite lost and found, kind of cousin (but we are)..... Cheri DeLuca Belko

Len Bruzzese said...

You are one obstinate son of a gun. Keep it up! We're routing for you down here in Missouri (even if OSU beat the Tigers by some fluke).
Len

brooke said...

Dude, you ROCK. No pressure or anything but you and your family really are my heroes. Many hugs, Brooke

Mike Chasteen said...

I have to agree with Brooke. You guys ROCK! I am amazed at the frankness you have shared with your jorney and the absolute positive vibe you have carried with you through the whole thing. I know that Lee Ann is a strong person, but I think she truly found her strength in you Terry. LIVESTRONG! Our prayers are with you.

JHGrove3 said...

Hey, Terry -
I'm glad to hear that you are over another hump. (Or is that another Thump?) Your resilience is inspiring. Hang in there, bro.
James Grove...

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