7/31/17 – surgery day
The day of my surgery I woke up right to my alarm clock at 5 a.m. and moved pretty slowly through the morning. I wasn’t in the biggest rush to get to ORMC, given what was on the agenda, but when I got there, I was greeted with my praying posse of people. They prayed over me while we waited in the downstairs main lobby and then together we stormed the halls to the 4th floor to check in at surgery.
The amount of people and prayers that I felt on the day of my surgery was completely supernatural. I was more worried about my cerebral angiogram than this brain surgery, and I believe it’s due to the peace that God provided me.
After checking in, I was called back to have an MRI before surgery just to make sure the surgeon knew where to line everything up I presume. Then it was back to pre-op to scrub down and put all my awesome surgery gear on and get a cocktail of medications. Here’s our pre-op photo.
I love this photo of Rob for so many reasons. He looks proud of me, he looks emotional, holding tears back, and this is a total “live out the wedding vow” kind of moment. This is a potential bad and scary time, we’re walking straight into the unknown, and I am so beyond grateful for having Rob. Husbands are not just supposed to be rocks–rocks have no feelings, I can’t get comfortable on the shoulder of a rock if you know what I mean. “Vow moments” get into the thick of it, with feelings, comfort, support and yes strength, but the strength we are receiving is supernatural, not of our own power. That strength is the only way to explain how we’ve been able to get through ridiculously tough circumstances. It’s not us acting strong, it’s God giving us the strength, it’s a strength only he can dish out and it’s immeasurable.
Back to the medical stuff, I had to have so many IVs and I was stressing about those every time they said they needed to do another (I had three all together) The nurses and anesthesiology staff kept saying that the IVs were more daunting to me vs. having my head cut open. But with one in my elbow vein, one in my hand, and another in my artery on the other arm it just made everything seem all the more serious. The anesthesiologist said for these types of surgery, lots of things are monitored, like my pulse and blood pressure were not only monitored from a pulse ox reader on my finger tip, but from my artery blood pressure line. She gave me a cocktail of medications to calm me down and then I began my journey down the hall to the OR.
After moving and positioning me on the operating table, I listened to the surgeon speak to the operating room staff about what they would be doing, how it could be an aneurysm or tumor and how they didn’t know yet. The room seemed somewhat struck by the fact that they didn’t have the answer before surgery, but I felt completely confident in my surgeon and I knew God was in there with me, the room was filled with his presence.
When it was time, the Anesthesiologist came over with a mask and told me she was going to administer the anesthesia. I took a few deep breaths and as I did so, I’ve never felt so much at peace. The feeling of peace and calmness before going under was a total answer to prayer. That prayer was prayed over me that morning and I know for weeks prior to that very moment. As I started breathing the vapor, I knew God had me, he was holding me and I had complete trust that I’d come out OK.
Meanwhile, the waiting room was popping with people coming and going. A friend took this photo of my cheering section and when Rob showed me, I was so incredibly grateful to see all the support that showed up, especially grateful that Rob had a group of people to sit with him. Rob would also get text updates from the OR and share them with those waiting…here’s an example:
No one can quite communicate the feelings of that day, the waiting room or the conversation with the Dr. other than Rob, so I want to allow space for his thoughts here. I am so grateful to have him and for his ability to feel his feelings, be calm and present in moments like this and be exactly who and what I need.
Rob’s account of the day’s unfolding events
Leaving the pre-op room once AM’s surgery team was ready to take her back was unsettling. Thoughts of what this mysterious thing was in my wife’s brain, how long the surgery would take, how the surgery would go, and ultimately how AM would wake up from the surgery swirled in my mind. Would she be the same? Would this surgery take care of everything? Or is this the beginning of something much bigger than brain surgery? (Not quite sure what is bigger than brain surgery, and I don’t really want to find out.)
Upon exiting the pre-op doors, I felt God reminding me “I got this.” I had heard those words the week prior, and leading up to this date I was moving forward with this promise. But once everything got real (the IVs, the medical monitors, the beeps of AM’s pulse, the nurses and doctors), fear started to creep in. I’m certain this is all some sort of PTSD from everything that happened with Reagan and how life was dramatically changed in an instant on April 8, 2014, and I didn’t want to have this date seared into my memory as the day life changed again.
But Robert, I got this.
Entering into the waiting room filled with family and friends was definitely an immediate showing of this promise. There were lots of people in the waiting room, usually only one or two people per patient. But probably a quarter of the waiting room was filled for AM, and for me. I’m so grateful that during this time I was surrounded by people that were there for us and chose not to let the seriousness of the moment consume me. Conversations were had, jokes were made. Even if I wasn’t participating in the conversation, listening to them was certainly comforting and helpful.
Every time my phone buzzed with an update, I would update the room and text those that weren’t able to be there. Getting these updates were both helpful and frustrating. I couldn’t imagine having to sit for the eventual four and a half hours the surgery would take without hearing anything on how things were going. Knowing me, my mind would have begun to prepare me for every possible outcome—the good ones, the bad ones, and the worst ones.
So hearing things were progressing well was certainly helpful, but every time I received an update, I wanted to ask questions back to the OR. Obviously, this wasn’t possible, and that is for the best. The only person that could answer them was the surgeon, and I don’t want him chatting with me mid-procedure. But I still had questions.
The final update I received said “in the recovery room now”, and with that I immediately went to the waiting room’s front desk and asked when I could see my wife—AM would have been so proud of my impatience in that moment. I was told that the doctor would see me first, and then they would come and get me once she was transferred from recovery to ICU and was settled in.
When I was called in to the consult room, I asked my sister to join me so she could write down and remember the exact things the doctor said, as well as be there in case there was any bad news. The doctor came in and visibly looked exhausted, but was in good spirits. He explained that the surgery went well, that the lesion was actually a tumor called a meningioma (thanks Mel, definitely wouldn’t have remembered that) and it was removed, and that is was non cancerous. (Whaaat?!? I hadn’t even considered cancer as being a possibility. Whew!)
Once I had processed that info, I went back into the waiting room to update everyone. Everyone was relieved with the news, but I wasn’t. For me, a tumor was worst case scenario as a small section of AM’s brain would have to be removed surrounding the tumor. What was in that section that was removed? Was it speech? Would she be able to talk? Was it the ability to understand expressions and tone? (Because I speak sarcasm fluently, and that could be a problem.) I had asked the doctor before and again what was in that area of the brain, and the scientific answer he gave to the question is that section of the brain is typically dormant, so she could have a few lobes of the brain removed without any affect. In AM’s case they removed a section about the size of a sugar cube, so there should be no affect. But when it comes to the brain, there isn’t an exact science as everyone is wired differently. Just look at Reagan, being able to move and walk and do lots of other things all requires the use of her basal ganglia—but that was catastrophically damaged during her crisis, however, God has allowed her brain to figure out a way to work around that.
So while everyone found comfort in the news, I was still concerned on how she would wake up. Would it be the same AM that I left in the pre-op room hours earlier? Would she be someone different? If so, how different? All of that would be answered when I could see her and talk to her.
Robert, I got this.
Alright God, if you say so.
Walking into the ICU room was odd. I feel like I should have had more fear or timidity, but I didn’t. I remember boldly walking into AM’s room, expecting things would be okay. I knew she had just started to wake up, so I approached her and began speaking with her. I’m not certain when or what was said, but I do remember making a joke to which AM immediately told me to be quiet and said my jokes weren’t funny.
There she is. Same Anne-Marie.
The first couple of nights in the hospital after surgery were painful. But I had incredible nurses on the Neuro ICU floor and they were able to manage the pain and get me weird cravings like vanilla pudding at 3 a.m. and Rob was on point making sure I had anything I needed.
The morning after my surgery, my neurosurgeon stopped by and said I did great. I asked him how many staples he put in my head and he said, “just enough”.
Dr. Wehman has a pretty good sense of humor and he told me it didn’t hurt him at all doing the surgery so I should be just fine. I can totally appreciate a neurosurgeon keeping the mood light so my first request was that we take a picture together. He told me I’m the boss and obliged. I am so thankful for Dr. Wehman and his skills and I’m happy to be under his care for the next several years as he keeps an eye on my brain. I’d say surgery day was a big success.
Oh and one other thing…I had a closing, while in brain surgery. #bossRealtor #alwaysbeclosing #eveninbrainsurgery