Wednesday morning brought us closer yet to the next big step – surgery. I rested with Luke in his room and helped to channel all the love coming our way through the big window towards Luke while he calmly rested in a very focused way – like the athlete he is, before a big game. Turns out hospitals are not very amazing about letting their patients sleep much before something like this, which seems to go against common sense. Sleep deprived as he was, he was prepared.We waited for the appointed hour – sometime between 2 & 3 o’clock. However, at 1:30 pm there was a bustle that the time had come sooner than expected. The nice Irish, soccer-loving, nurse, David reported that in 7 years of working here, he had never seen a resident come to fetch a patient as they did in Luke’s case. The resident reiterated this as he wheeled Luke via wheelchair downstairs to the surgery floor, asking if Luke’s feet were on board and noting that this was also the first time he’d done this.
The pre-op room was bustling. We were secured in a small nook where we were prepped by a very nice nurse who shared a story of her husband’s toothache that ended up being the result of a brain tumor and how everything was fine today. Next we were introduced to the anesthesiologist, her resident, the surgical nurse and a few other team members. Everyone was great. The anesthesiologist gave Luke a pep talk about remembering to breathe, the team effort of the process, how hard it might be and how they were all there to help him with anything he might need.
At 2:30 pm they wheeled him away after a small pause at the “kissing corner” where I sent him off with the obvious. One of the last folks we met before they took him away was a lovely gal from the research division of Dr. Berger’s office. She wanted to save a few select samples of the tumor for future research. Of course Luke agreed, but she wanted to more fully discuss the research, process and his case with me.
We made our way up to the sun-filled surgical waiting area and talked for an hour or more about his case, the nature of brain tumors – each one is like a fingerprint, totally unique. They are working on matching MRI imaging to specific parts of the tumor, i.e. if there is a section of the tumor that might grow faster on a molecular level, might it also be visually different. This would help doctors know more before they go in and/or in lieu of waiting for pathology results. She was an incredible lady who’s mother died of a brain tumor at age 45 – leading her to study medicine.
After our meeting, I was shocked to see how much time had already passed. At 3:55 I got an update from the surgery team that they had completed the mapping stages and were beginning the “surgery” aspect. I headed for Golden Gate Park, as directed by Luke. We both agreed that being in the park would serve us both better than spending the entire time in the waiting room. He promised to imagine me in the Japanese Tea Garden and so I went there as requested. It was a beautiful with so many shades of green. I continued to wander the park, finding the big trees and taking comfort in their magnificence.
The surgical team gave me hourly updates and at 6:15 I got word that they would likely be done in an hour. I eagerly awaited Dr. Berger outside of the surgical area as directed. Around 7:15 pm I got another call that things were taking longer than expected, but that all was okay.
The anesthesiologist came out at some point, saying that all had gone well and that Luke had told them that he was tough and had done a great job. A little before 8:00 pm Dr. Berger appeared. He explained that the tumor’s edges had been distinct and had not infiltrated any of Luke’s language or motor areas. He was able to remove everything he could see and supposed he got 99.99%. Of course there will be cells that have already divided and are not visible, which is where the radiation and chemo come in. However, these have the best chance of being the most effective when there is little left to attack. There was a small issue with Luke’s low heart rate, that when increased effected his blood pressure, but Luke, himself, did a wonderful job. Dr. Berger is an incredible individual and by all accounts a terrific surgeon.
He walked me up to the Neo-ICU where we intercepted Luke being wheeled through the hallway. He asked that I wait a few minutes for them to get him settled and further stabilized. Momentarily he waved me into the ICU to officially see Luke. He was enshrouded in blankets and resembled Mother Theresa. There was a suction draining off excess blood from his head, but all in all, he looked good. He gave me a “Hello honey” and readily remembered my name and was able to talk, though his head was in all kinds of pain, as expected. They had said that the first impression upon waking would be indicative of his recovery and it all promises to go very smoothly.
It took some time to get a handle on the pain, but eventually they were able to decrease it enough to allow him to doze. By midnight we decided he was in good hands and I decided that I was officially tired. Anna & I retired for the evening.
Thank you everyone for your support across the board! We are so grateful for our community of friends & family – near and far. There is a huge sigh of relief to be on the other side of this first stage – step 1.