Medical staff with the air ambulance service and the EMTs with Leon County EMS arrived at Francis’s hospital room around 2:45 on Wednesday afternoon. At 3:15 p.m., Francis was sitting up all secured on a gurney in the airplane, the doors were closed and engines fired up. The weather we were flying into wasn’t the greatest, but overall we were expecting to be in the air for around 2.5 hours.
The one thing that was unknown was how the flight would make Francis feel. When your abdomen is distended with gas and fluid the pressure change from high altitude, even with a pressurized cabin, could cause some problems.
About an hour into the flight, Francis began to feel uncomfortable. He requested that the medical staff plug the NG tube, which wasn’t removed prior to the transport, into the suction on the plane. Another consideration of flying is that the suction on the airplane isn’t as strong as hospital suction.
With mediocre suction and the painful pressure from the altitude, we were anxious to have the flight finished. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate so well. We circled all the way around the airport to get the best path through the storm to the runway below.
After a rather bumpy ride, we landed safe and sound at William P. Hobby Airport around 4:30 p.m. local time. The ambulance met us plane side and we got on the road to MD Anderson.
Now, for those of you who haven’t driven around Houston, the traffic is horrible. Friends in the DC area can understand this well. A trip from the airport to MD Anderson could take 30 minutes or it could take two hours.
The weather and a stalled car in the middle of the highway weren’t going to help our return. The driver of the ambulance informed me that we would likely be to MD Anderson in two hours. Yikes!
As an aside, along the way on this cancer journey we’ve met a lot of interesting and inspiring people. The driver of the ambulance is one of them. He served in the Marine Corps and lived in the Washington, DC, metro region for a number of years. We bonded over bad traffic. He shared that he has a two-year-old son (just a few months younger than Couper). When his son was only six months old, they discovered that he had cancer. He was treated in Houston, and is cancer free today. I love hearing these stories!
Fortunately, our two hour drive was only 45 minutes. The trip from the ambulance bay through the maze of hospital hallways took nearly as long.
Francis settled into his hospital room at about 6:15 p.m. What followed was a well-oiled machine of hospital admission. In what felt like no time at all, Francis was in a gown, IV and fluids started, doctor in and out, and NG tube plugged into suction.
I escaped downstairs to the cafeteria and grabbed a bite to eat before returning to the hospital room to settle into my cot for the night.
That night I think Francis and I had the first night of restful sleep (despite the 5:00 a.m. check-in by the nurse) since this ordeal began 13 days earlier.
Since settling in here, Francis has been seen by his surgeon (Dr. Fournier), his dietitian, the surgical fellow for Dr. Fournier, and the plastic surgery fellow. Next week we’ll visit with more doctors who will be present for the surgery on Wednesday. Around here they refer to it as the “Mother of All Surgeries.” The more we hear from these doctors the more appropriate that title seems.
Everything is now falling into place as we look forward hopefully and anxiously to the big cut on Wednesday (2/13).
For those of you who have asked what we need and what our goals are, here are a few things. We both need rest because next week will be exhausting both physically and emotionally. We need attention to detail as the doctors and nurses begin to prepare us for the surgery and the recovery with an abundance of information. Francis needs to continue to build strength and health with the help of the TPN (total parenteral nutrition) and walks around the hospital.
I will be sure to keep everyone updated on Wednesday, and if anything new comes up in the meantime. I cannot thank you enough for your continued thoughts, prayers, and support.