The Gibbs family is now back home in Tallahassee. Here’s the latest information on how things have gone over the past two weeks.
The recovery in the hospital seemed to go pretty well, with a few minor exceptions. Francis will tell you that he thinks he was kicked out of the hospital a little too soon (just a week after surgery). I have to agree with him based on our experience with the smaller procedure in Jacksonville last May. Selfishly I am happy about the speedy release because I love having him home with all of us. All that aside, he’s done amazingly well at home for having undergone major abdominal surgery just a little over two weeks ago.
Toward the end of Francis’s hospitalization, there was a place along his incision that began showing signs of infection. The doctor decided that they should remove about six staples (he has two dozen, give or take) and allow the incision to reopen and heal from the inside-out. This open incision site must be packed with wet-to-dry dressing, twice per day.
As I mentioned before, a G-tube (gastrostomy tube) was placed in his stomach to replace the NG tube that was in his nose leading up to surgery. A painful reality of the G-tube is that the opening in the stomach and abdomen along the tube creates a path for stomach acid to seep out and contact unprotected skin.
This potential for leakage seems to be exacerbated by the fact that Francis continues to suffer from distention of his abdomen because of the cancer. We have to apply a cream to the site to try and protect his skin from the acid, and change the dressing at least twice per day depending on the irritation at the tube insertion site.
Francis is “fed” his TPN nutrition for 12 hours overnight. He has to have the IV bag of fluid mixed with fats, vitamins, and medication nightly. In addition, he must have the dressing on his PICC line and the caps on the lumens (see PICC line link) changed weekly. I had to get special education and a sign off from a special IV team nurse at MD Anderson to be able to manage this by myself at home. We also have a home healthcare pharmacy that is providing the TPN and weekly nursing support.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the news we got about the severity of the cancer and the heap of education we had to do in the weeks following has been overwhelming. We all craved the familiarity and comforts of home, while we feared the actual process of getting home. We were worried about the pain the change in pressure of an airplane ride would cause; we were also worried about the pain and discomfort caused by bumps and shakes of a road trip.
Ultimately, the call was up to Francis and he preferred the car to the plane. The pain caused by the pressure change from the flight to Houston wasn’t an experience he cared to repeat. We decided that following a check-up with Francis’s surgeon one week after his discharge we would start our journey back home in our car, assuming the surgeon gave us the green light.
The lovely rainy weather here in Tallahassee gave us an added logistical wrinkle – getting the rest of the family home by plane. The original plan was to have Francis’s dad and stepmom fly back to Houston on Tuesday morning, and his dad would accompany us on the drive back while Ann and my mom would travel by plane with our kids.
Unfortunately, the plane trip to Houston was delayed a day for weather. So, Francis and I decided that rather than delay the trip the extra day we should get on the road, just the two of us and have everyone else fly back by plane on Wednesday.
Francis and I arrived at MD Anderson for his follow up appointment on Tuesday morning. The surgeon told us that Francis was fine to return home, encouraging us to leave his staples in place for at least another week or two.
We returned home, I grabbed some lunch, and my mom and I packed the car to the gills with take-home nursing supplies and as much luggage from the trip as possible. We had to stop at MD Anderson’s pharmacy to pick up a few prescriptions before leaving town.
Francis and I began our drive together just before rush hour started on Tuesday afternoon. The ride was pretty uncomfortable for Francis and it had already been a long day of walking and examination. We made it to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, around 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening. We decided we would spend the night there and take our time getting back on the road the next day.
We departed Baton Rouge just after 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday and were fortunate to have a smooth trip along I-10, arriving in Tallahassee at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. That drive was much easier for Francis; he was even able to sleep comfortably for a couple of hours along the way. Since our return, we’ve all been recovering, getting back on Eastern time, and trying to get ourselves settled and organized.
Many people have been in touch with us now that we’re back home. We look forward to catching up with so many friends and family. Please bear with us as we work through Francis’s recovery from surgery and the new reality of our lives for the coming weeks and months. As I’ve said before, we are very appreciative of all of the messages, calls, etc.