This post is a continuation of the story told here.
We arrived at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) Emergency Center at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1, for what would prove to be an awful emergency room visit. Francis was now uncomfortable sitting up for any extended period of time, and I think half of Tallahassee must have been in line ahead of him on the emergency room roster. Had Francis been feeling better, he may have had a better appreciation for the cast of characters in the waiting room. I got to experience this joy mostly to myself. We were hostage in the brutally uncomfortable waiting room chairs until Francis was finally given a bed at 10:00 p.m. We saw a doctor and Francis was started on IV fluids for his dehydration. He was taken for a CT scan at midnight, and after reading the scan the doctor came to see us at 2:00 a.m.
The doctor’s preliminary diagnosis from looking at the scan was that Francis was suffering from symptoms associated with Crohn’s Disease. It was strange to present this late in life, but not unheard of. Sadly, he was likely to face similar such attacks the rest of his life, but the symptoms would be manageable with prescription drugs and diet and perhaps an occasional surgical procedure. We were understandably shocked and afraid of what this meant for Francis’ future health. However, our immediate concern was getting Francis comfortable, and getting his stomach deflated by passing what was undoubtedly lots of gas and poo, and determining what we needed to do to address the inflamed portions of his intestines seen on the CT scan.
At 6:00 a.m., Francis was finally admitted and moved to a room. Unfortunately, he had to share it with Jim. Jim is an early riser, as is his wife who arrived shortly after we did. We later learned that Jim was a 60-something, lifelong chain smoker who had a cough that could likely be heard on several floors of the hospital. He was also a loud phone talker, and we were uncertain who it was exactly that he was talking to as it seemed that just about everyone in their known universe of friends and family now stood between Francis and the bathroom.
The emergency room doctor had given Francis a shot of steroids after seeing the CT scan to address the inflammation (typical treatment to assist Crohn’s patients in the midst of a bad episode). The result of the steroids seemed to be a larger opening through which backed up stool and gas could pass. Fortunately, it did. Unfortunately for Francis’ dignity, it was loud and experienced by the World of Jim…several times.
Francis was much more comfortable once things got moving. I walked myself to the Obstetrician (thankfully attached to the hospital) for a regularly scheduled appointment, then I headed home for a brief nap and shower before returning.
On my drive back, I called Francis and knew things had gotten worse since I left by the tone and shakiness of his voice. The nurse came in and inserted a nasogastric (NG) tube attached to suction to remove excess fluids from Francis’ stomach. It took them two attempts to get the tube inserted. Googling said procedure will provide links to educate any curious minds as to the horrors of the insertion. Francis faced it alone. I felt horribly guilty for not being there, he felt thoroughly dehumanized.
Thankfully, shortly after my arrival the on-call physician from the Digestive Disease Clinic came for his first consult with Francis. He took one look at the ridiculously small volume of output from the NG tube and promptly removed it. He was our favorite person at TMH at that point. He informed us that he would continue with the current high dosage of steroids, restrict Francis’ diet to liquids to rest the intestines, and then slowly step up the diet. As long as Francis tolerated each step well, he could go home. Hopefully by the weekend.
Jim went home later that morning, and thanks to a wonderfully helpful Patient Care Assistant, Francis was moved to a private room at the end of the day.
I should insert a big “thank you” here. We’ve been so blessed to have the best babysitter in Tallahassee for Couper. Melissa has been a great addition to our family and Couper loves her and has learned so much from her. She dropped everything and filled in throughout our crisis, as long as it didn’t conflict with her college courses. We couldn’t have survived those first few days if we didn’t know that Couper was in such good hands at home. It was an enormous relief that we didn’t have to worry about the care he was receiving. Sadly, Melissa was leaving for summer break very soon.
My next “thank you” is to my incredible parents, who got online and booked my mom a ticket to arrive in Tallahassee on May 3. This preggo Mama was spoiled nearly as much as Couper to have her mom’s support and help. I’m also pretty certain that both MawMaw and Couper were on Cloud Nine.
Thankfully, Francis’ condition continued to improve and on Saturday, May 5, he was discharged. My mom made arrangements to return home early because he was doing so well. He was planning to take a couple days to recover, but hoped to be back to work by Tuesday before heading to Orlando on Wednesday for his final trip before the arrival of Baby Gibbs.
Little did we know that the road trip on Wednesday would be a much shorter drive than Orlando…