The Aftermath

The day after Mark’s surgery, which had gone so well, was spent trying to deal with his pain management, which had not. Around noon, an epidural specialist came and replaced the epidural, and took Mark off some of the other narcotics he had been given. In the meantime, from early morning until late afternoon, Betsy, Kaki, Kaki’s husband Tib, Mark’s father Marvin and I took turns urging and shaking Mark awake to breathe. We all got to be experts at playing that video game – watching the monitor to see the bell curves of his respiration, telling Mark to “breathe” before the yellow warning beep goes off when his respiration level falls below “8”; you lose when the red light flashes on with more insistent beeps, and the word “***APNEA***” appears in the top right hand corner of the monitor.

Later that evening, while Mark was asleep (and finally breathing on his own), his hepatologist motioned for me to come outside. “Did you hear what the pathologists found?” “No.” “They found a worm!”

A worm; a tiny parasite. And an egg! Something picked up from a “developing” country. This mysterious mass was the body doing what it had to do to protect itself from a foreign body. (Our friend Duran Randolph put it best – Mark’s body created a pearl.) In this “first” world country, we’ve had so little experience with the results of infectious diseases that the doctors (radiologists, hepatologists, surgeons) had no idea what this lesion could be. When Mark first discussed the results of all the images that were taken of the lesion, the doctors said that there was a 60% chance that it was benign. Two months later, after more imaging, the percentage was increased to 90% benign. But they still did not know. Better to take it out than live with the uncertainty.

Three days later, the epidural was taken out, and Mark had another setback, of his own doing. He decided to try and sleep off the pain after the epidural had been removed without taking any additional medication. (Why did we all listen to him?) For two and a half hours, he did not use his self-administered morphine. After realizing his mistake, he couldn’t bear to wait the 15 minutes between doses, and kept pressing the button continuously (beep beep beep) until the medication was released (beeeep). Yaniv, who was visiting during part of that time, played time-keeper, and discovered that it was actually 15 minutes and 15 seconds before the drug could be released. Too long…

Mark stayed in his room in the Transitional ICU for three days, two more days than is generally allowed, then was transfered to the best room in the hospital for his last day and a half. Room 565. Large (could house an Indian family of 7), with views of the Bay, and a window in the bathroom (could house an Indian family of 3). It helps to have a sister who is the favorite resident.

He is home now (walked out of the hospital at 1pm on the 21st because he got tired of waiting for the Transport person with the wheelchair), and is pretty much in constant pain. He stopped taking the Tylenol with codeine that had been prescribed for “breakthrough” pain two days ago, and is just taking a non-narcotic drug for baseline pain management. After taking so many drugs to counteract the effects (fluid retention, headaches, nausea, constipation) of other drugs, it must be a relief to be done with most of them.

He is eating solid (normal) foods, walking, climbing steps… he just can’t lift anything heavier than a cup.

Thanks to all of you who visited, brought food, books and gag gifts, called, emailed, sent cards, and pampered me. We love you.


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