The Gift of Life: Part Five

January 14, 2013

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At 4am, the nurses came to take dad to the surgical area. We all got to go with him as he was being prepped for surgery, putting his IVs in and monitors on.We got to say a final goodbye, see-you-later and they took him back. We were then directed to a separate waiting area. This one was full of other people. There were probably three to four other families with just as many loved ones waiting as we had in our group. They were all waiting for their loved ones in surgery as well, one for a heart transplant, a couple others for open heart surgeries and such. We all sat and waited for updates all morning. Every once in a while, the little black phone would ring and someone would yell out “Rudd family?” and my mom would go speak with the nurse on the other end of the line attending in the OR. They were very good about keeping us updated. They called when he was officially under, when his lungs had entered the building, when his right lung was out and then the left and when each of his new lungs went in.

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Finally, at 12:04, his surgeon came out to speak with us. Everything had gone smoothly. The only concern was that one of the lungs may be too large and they may need to do a lobectomy – cut some of the bottom lobe off to make it fit better. It wasn’t a huge concern but more so something that needed mentioned.

It was a while before we were able to see him. They left his chest open so that they could have easy access if they needed to do emergency surgery and so that they could assess him as the swelling went down to see if he would need a second surgery for the lobectomy. They kind of had him saran wrapped together at that point. I think I was the only one to peek at it, it made my mom feel sick. He was ghost white. He was heavily sedated and restrained so he would not wake up and hurt himself. I remember so vividly the “wall” that all of the IV poles and monitors created behind his bed. The sheer amount of medications being pumped into him was amazing. He had been put on the heart lung bypass machine during surgery so he was on blood thinners, he was on anti rejection medication, antibiotics, fluids, steroids, blood products just about anything you could possibly imagine. By that time he had received 14 units of blood.

We headed home later that afternoon. We stopped by Little Caesar’s and got some pizza for dinner because we had eaten nothing but vending machine snacks the past day. Everyone was worn out. By the time we went to bed, we had all been up over 36 hours straight save for a nap or two.

They ended up taking him to surgery the following day to do the lobectomy and close him up. We were once again living in yet another waiting area, this time it was basically just a set of chairs next to the elevators outside the cardiothoracic ICU. They woke my dad up after surgery when he was in his room. He doesn’t remember it, but he waved at us and mouthed a “hello.” He said that he felt good too.

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