On August 16, 2004, Sylvia was moved from the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Mission Hospital to the long term acute care hospital. She continued to have intensive nursing care there, but in addition she would receive physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc., by professionals in those fields.
August 20, 2004
Sylvia still has a feeding tube. She is also still on a ventilator (trach now instead of the breathing tube), but now she initiates the breaths and the ventilator supplements to provide the volume of air she needs until she can get stronger and breath entirely on her own. Her right lung still has an air leak, so she still has a chest tube to provide a place for the escaping air to go. But the leak is much less than it has been, so her lung seems to be healing. The doctor has been able to reduce the amount of steroids being used to combat the BOOP disease, which helps the healing process, but he has to be careful not to reduce it so much that the BOOP returns.
Sylvia was heavily sedated and asleep for weeks. She is awake now and can respond, but she is not able to talk. She can nod if we can think of the right questions to ask. When she is able to come off the ventilator, she will have to learn to talk and swallow and eat again. She will also have to learn to walk again. She is literally skin and bones with no muscle mass. She has been off the paralytic for over two weeks now and parts of her body are beginning to "wake up" and it is very painful. She can turn her head some, shrug her shoulders, and move her thumb and a finger or two on each hand very slightly. We get very excited when she is able to make even a tiny movement in any part of her body.
Dr. Pritchard was smiling yesterday (for the first time that I have seen since I met him on July 6th). He was excited about the progress that the nurses and physical therapists reported to him about Sylvia's increased movement, the improvement he saw on her x-rays, the reduced air leak, etc. He said, "It is going take several more weeks, but she is going to get well."
On July 12th he thought she would die before the day was over. He said it is a miracle that she is still alive. He has also said that God must have a special plan for Sylvia. I agree.
September 3, 2004
The doctors and the pain management team have been working to find a balance of pain medication so that Sylvia will not be in severe pain and can get the rest she needs and also be alert enough to participate in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.
They are weaning her off the ventilator now. Yesterday she was able to stay off for 17 hours. She still has the trach collar and oxygen. And the chest tube to give the air leak from her lung some place to go. The doctor expects the air leak to heal up completely after she is off the ventilator for a while.
She also still has the feeding tube in her nose. She continues to receive the steroid to keep the BOOP disease from coming back. This causes her to require insulin from time to time to bring her blood sugar into control.
She has been able to say a few words using the voice patch that can be attached to the trach collar. She answered some questions correctly, such as the names of our three children. When asked how many children she has, she answered, "Four." Suzanne suggested that she may have been including me.
The speech therapist continues to work with her on strengthening her vocal cords and being able to talk again. Also on swallowing, so she will be able to eat again.
This past Sunday, I told Sylvia, "Today is August 29th. Do you know what special day this is?"
She nodded, "No."
I said, "It is my birthday."
She seemed to become very sad and looked away. I didn't think about it at the time, but she may have realized that she had missed attending our granddaughter Jennifer's wedding which took place on August 14th. On July 14th, the day before her surgery and learning how near death she was, it was thought that she might be well enough to make that trip to Florida.
On Tuesday the speech therapist told Sylvia to say "Happy Birthday" to Bob.
She tried, and was able to say, "Hap-"
And then she got upset and begin to cry. My heart went out to her and I began to cry too. And now as I am typing this years later, I just had to stop and wipe some tears away again.
Prior to June 5th when her sickness began, Sylvia was very healthy and even worked out at a fitness center three or four times a week. She has been in hospitals since July 6th and in intensive care since July 15th. The rare and deadly disease she had was very aggressive and would have killed her if not for the grace of God. There were several times when the doctors did not expect her to live. She has come a long way from the brink of death to where she is now, but she still has a long way to go to be well again.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Sylvia later described it as her best day and her worse night in the hospital. It was the night we engaged in spiritual warfare in order to save her life from the powers of darkness. I tell about that and the amazing way God intervened in chapter 5 of my book, "TONGUES", which is available in print at Amazon.com or to read online free of charge at http://www.theophilus.org/Gifts/Tongues.html.
Monday, September 20, 2004, 7 p.m. Sylvia was moved out of ICU into a private room.
She has been completely off the ventilator for several days. Her trach tube was replaced by a metal trach which could be plugged and allowed her to talk. Late last week they removed the chest drainage tube since the air leak from her right lung had apparently healed. Over the weekend they lifted the contact isolation that was imposed for a couple of weeks while she had a couple of contagious infections. Monday morning she was taken down to radiology for swallowing tests. Then the doctor ordered her feeding tube removed. Now she can eat and drink again! All of the monitoring leads were also removed. And she was moved out of the "fishbowl" to a private room.
Yesterday morning the doctor removed her trach collar. The only thing she is hooked up to now is oxygen, and they are gradually reducing that, so she should be off it soon.
She is still very weak, but gaining strength at a fast rate now. She is alert, thinks very clearly, and is aggressively participating in her therapy in order to go home as soon as possible.
She needs help getting to a sitting position, but can balance herself once there. She cannot stand or walk yet. That will require the most work, and it will be painful for her because she now has very tight heel cords ("foot drop").
A sign that Sylvia is well on her way to recovery is that she asked me to bring some of her clothes to the hospital. Also, she told me to go home and clean the bathrooms. And she told me to go to the store and buy a get-well card and send it to my mother who is very sick.
It is good to hear Sylvia's voice again. I have been with Sylvia every day that she has been in the hospital, except the day that Hurricane Ivan came through and I couldn't get there because of the flooding and fallen trees across the roads. But most of that time she was sedated and asleep or in so much pain that she didn't open her eyes.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Sylvia was transferred to Thoms Rehabilitation Hospital.
Saturday, October 15, 2004
Sylvia came home today! She will continue to receive physical therapy. She has made remarkable progress, but it will still take some time for her to regain her strength and ability to do what she was able to do before she got sick.
November 10, 2004. Dr. Pritchard said that her lungs are healed. He told us to discontinue the Prednisone steroid pills and made us an appointment to come back for a checkup in six weeks.
The physical therapist from Home Health Care has indicated that her visit tomorrow will likely be the last.
Our Trip to Florida
I didn't think that I would see Mother again. I knew she was getting sicker and sicker, and likely would not live much longer. Sylvia was still recovering from four months in the hospital and three of those in ICU. I couldn't leave her, and I didn't think she would be well enough to travel for us to be there in time.
On Tuesday, November 30, we received an e-mail from my brother Gaylon telling just how sick Mother had become. Sylvia read it before I did, and insisted that she was able to travel. So I called our daughter Robynne and asked her if she would arrange airline tickets for our travel the next day. She did, and early Wednesday morning (our 51st anniversary, and Mother and Dad's 74th) our daughter Suzanne took us to the Asheville airport. Our son David picked us up at Orlando International and dropped us off at Gaylon's home in Auburndale. We went to the hospital that afternoon.
Mother was surprised and delighted, but very sick and very weak. Her physical body was worn out. It was difficult to understand some of what she said, but I understood when she said that she wasn't worth anything anymore. I asked her if she wanted to go be with Jesus. She said, "Might as well."
I told her that if Jesus was ready to take her and she was ready to go, then it was okay with all of us. We all love her very much and would miss her, but we would all see her again, because we were going to be with Jesus too, when He calls us.
My sister Linda told me later that Mother seemed to be saying goodbye the day before we arrived.
That night Mother told Gaylon's wife Mary Lou, to get her suitcase down from the closet. She told her that Bob and Sylvia had come and she needed to cook dinner for them. When they told me about it, it was as if the Lord put a spotlight on the word "suitcase" as His way of saying, "Your mother is going on a trip with Me."
Mother used to be afraid to die. She didn't think she was worthy. She hadn't done enough. Wasn't good enough. I told her at those times that she was right. She wasn't good enough. None of us are good enough. That's why Jesus came and died for our sins, so that we could have a way.
But this time she had peace. She wasn't afraid. She was ready.
Mother's dad died when she was three years old. She said that in recent years she had dreams of her dad coming to get her, riding on a white horse, but he never completely got there. I think that the Lord was using the familiar image of her earthly father to represent Himself and give her hope. He would come to get her when it was time.
And it was time early Saturday morning, December 4th, 2004. My sister Janie was by her side, just as she had been with Dad four years earlier when he passed from this life. Now Mother is with Jesus, Dad, her mother and father, her sisters, aunt Doll, and others whom she loved so dearly and still missed.
Each time Mother and I talked since Dad died, she would tell me how lonely she was. She's not lonely anymore!
Friday, December 10, 2004
Sylvia and I arrived back home today. The Lord gave her the strength she needed to make the trip. I was relieved to have her back home safely.
A week later I took Sylvia to Asheville for a follow-up examination by Dr. Pritchard. Sylvia's oxygen level was 97 percent (the same as mine). Her blood pressure was 120 over 80, which was considered ideal. Her x-rays looked good. And her right lung looked better than the last time.
Dr. Pritchard was all smiles. He said Sylvia was healed and she could do anything she wanted to do, including training for a marathon if that's what she wanted. I asked him when she could drive again.
"Now!" he said. "She can drive home today!"
Unlimited permission to copy text without alteration or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.