May 26th came all too soon. We arrived at University of Utah Hospital at 7am with his parents and his brother, Ben and his wife, Sonja. Cassie, one of my closest friends, watched my kids. Joe was all jokes as the Dr.'s (2 heart surgeons, 4 anesthesiologists) each came in to talk with and examine Joe. Pretty soon he was on happy medicine and was wheeled away. The surgery was supposed to start at 8:30, but they had trouble starting an arterial line in his wrist. After many tries in his right wrist, they moved to his left wrist and eventually pulled out the ultrasound machine to get the line into the artery to monitor his bp. The surgery went smoothly, the nurse called me on a phone in the waiting room about every hour and a half and gave me the updates. I dreaded that time of sitting and waiting. I was so thankful for those calls and the support of Joe's family. The relief finally came at 2:15pm when Dr. Bull came out to give us the good news that all went well and that he did well. Now for the next hurdle, seeing Joe after surgery. This was the other moment I dreaded.
Ben and I went back to see Joe first. It was hard seeing him like this. The nurse was amazed at how strong he was. Just before we came in , the nurse said he opened his eyes and sat straight up (this was a big feat, seeing he was strapped down and his chest was just ripped open, so he shouldn't even sit up yet!) He had taken his first breath while the ventilator was trying to breathe for him and it woke him up for a brief second. After about a half an hour they had us leave so they could remove the intubation tube.
Joe was pretty out of it when he was intubated. He doesn't remember any of this, thank heavens. The nurse told me to talk to him to help him wake up enough so they could remove the tube. I was so overwhelmed all I could do was cry. Ben was amazing he jumped right in and calmly started talking to him.
Here is a pic of that arterial line they struggled with, the wrist restraints, and an IV line in his hand.
Ben was a huge strength through this. This is exactly how Ben was every minute he was there. What an amazing bond these brothers have. Ben was scheduled to leave the next day after his surgery, but it was obvious how much Joe needed him through this that Ben canceled his flight and stayed until Joe was well enough to go home. I look back on those 6 days and don't know how I would've survived without Ben. I am so grateful for him. I have always thought of him as an amazing guy, but now I know him as my brother and my friend. I now understand why Joe looks up to his little brother so much.
After they removed his tube, the rotations began. In the ICU only 2 visitors are allowed. I took a couple of pics when his parents each came in. It was a sweet moment to watch them with their son. David was smiling and so upbeat as he sweetly spoke to his son.
Gwen instinctively looked over her son. Checked every monitor, every line attached to him and quietly held his hand. I can't even imagine what she, as the mother, has gone through today. I am amazed at her strength.
I didn't get a pic of Sonja when she came in. The nausea had kicked in by the time she made it in. I also had been posting on facebook updates from the day and Joe's mission companion that lives in the area heard and tracked us down. Both were there when Joe was sick, not fun. Pretty painful to throw up after having your chest cracked!
Ben was all smiles and jokes. I loved the balloons he made. Never a dull moment with him!
One of Joe's first smiles. This was a few days later after he was out of ICU.
This was Joe's enemy. Every hour he was awake he had to suck in as much air into his lungs as he could to inflate the aveoli. Really uncomfortable, but much better than the alternative of catching pneumonia!!!
This was the kids first time seeing dad. This was day 3 since the surgery and just after he was off the ICU floor. When the girls first saw him they "moo"ed . They figured seeing he was part cow now, he must understand cow. Pretty funny. To anyone who hadn't heard, he went with a tissue valve. The Dr. chose to put in a valve that was made from the pericardium of a heart of a cow.
Dad got up for a walk and the girls climbed into dad's bed. Jack, of course had to follow.
New room and Joe awake means entertainment is needed. Here is the pic of the men hooking up the playstation for Joe.
Of course, gotta have the pic of what really was happening while Joe was recovering in the hospital. Got quite a bit of magazine reading in during this time!
Sonja spent the majority of her time watching my kids and keeping the house running with David. We of course, enjoyed it when she came to visit. Man, I don't know what I would have done without her either. She, too canceled her flight just to stay and help out an extra week. We are so blessed to have such an amazing family. Sonja and I are already close, but still, every time I am around her I am in awe at what an amazing person she is. She is definitely my idol!
Here is a pic of the war wounds. We don't know how many stitches, but the incision is about 8 inches long and the two horizontal incisions are from the chest tubes he had.
This was the last line to be removed. It was the central line to his heart that was stitched into his neck. All in all, he had a central line, an IV line, an arterial line, two wires stitched into his heart that the nurses called his " jumper cables" (you can see the two vials that have the wires inside in one of the first pics after surgery) and 2 chest tubes.
The nurse removed the central line and then laid it on Joe to show me how far it went into him. Earlier they had removed a monitor that was also in this line that actually went through all the chambers of his heart!
The cabinet doors were whiteboards. The nurse gave the kids markers and they left daddy some notes.
Joe came home Monday, May 31st. 6 days after his surgery. What an emotional roller coaster. Glad that is over. Thank you everyone for all the thoughts and prayers, flowers, balloons, gifts, and phone calls. They all lifted us up and helped us through. I am so grateful for the support our family has had through all of this!...... Till the next time!