Data dump, part 1

I asked Paul this evening if he wanted to write something for the blog. He said that, as his lizard brain is pretty much running the show tonight, he thought that about all he’d be able to manage was “Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!” We agreed that, while evocative, this might not provide y’all with as much information as we’d like you to have. So, here’s a little something about the three pre-op appointments at UW today.

First, we saw the otolaryngology/ head and neck surgery folks. We met Dr. Ernie Weymuller (surgeon #2), Dr. Samson Lee (surgical resident) and Cheryl Armstrong (social worker); we also saw Dr. Neal Futran (surgeon #1), Carol Stimson (nurse practicioner) and Barbara Geng (patient care coordinator). Both surgeons poked and prodded Paul’s mouth a bit more, and gave us more details regarding the surgery. Dr. Lee gave us lots of detail regarding the typical course of the hospital stay following this surgery (7-10 days, more on that later), and a very thorough discussion of the possible complications of surgery, and their (very low) probability, prior to Paul’s signing the consent form. Paul asked Dr. Futran about the music they play in the OR. Dr. Weymuller apparently likes classical and some bluegrass (which the resident hate, but would be fine with Paul); Dr. Futran said that his tastes are firmly stuck in the ’70s. Paul said that, as long as it wasn’t “Kansas”, that was OK with him.

Next, we met with Dr. Kovacs from the medical consult team. They’ll be monitoring Paul’s general medical condition during his hospitalization – in particular making sure that he gets his regular cocktail of meds (or their IV equivalents) and that he doesn’t get overhydrated (an issue for surgical patients with congestive heart failure if they’re getting IV fluids). The general “head to toe” medical review that she went through with Paul reminded him that, other than the long-term side effects of the lymphoma, and this new cancer, he’s generally pretty healthy. Dr. Kovacs told us that Dr. Futran is an “amazing” surgeon, with a remarkable surgical record (great functional results with very few complications). She’s heard that Dr. Futran is a bit superstitious about OR music; he always plays Boz Skaggs.

Finally, we met with – oops, I’ve forgotten ALL their names – the friendly, funny, pre-anesthesia consult team. What did they have to say (other than that they’ll keep Paul out cold during the surgery)? Since it’s a very long surgery, they’ll also be providing lots of padding on the table so that he doesn’t wake up feeling like he “slept wrong” on some part of his body. (OK, so maybe his mouth and neck won’t feel quite right, but that won’t be their fault.) He’ll have “patient-controlled analgesia” – push-button pain meds – once he’s awake.

At the end of the appointment, they needed to draw blood for general lab work and to type and cross for possible transfusion (which they don’t think they’ll need, but just in case). The nurse got out the usual blood draw supplies. She took a look at Paul’s right arm (‘cuz the left arm is now “reserved” for the surgery), and then asked him what vein folks can usually get a needle in. His reply: one in the other arm. She got out a butterfly needle (which is smaller than the usual needle), then looked at his veins again… and called in the woman who used to be an IV nurse. She looked at his veins, and asked for the smaller butterfly needle. After slapping Paul’s veins around a bit, she found one she thought might work, and then put a hot compress on it to warm it up so it would relax. She hit it on the first try. Everyone was relieved. Much laughter and joking as the tubes were filled… and the suggestion that Paul come in very warm on Friday morning (mittens, warm coat) to make it easier for the IV folks to get their lines in.

Although we spent most of the day at the hospital, and had to wait quite a while for the two later appointments, the wait was made more pleasant less annoying by the environment in which we were waiting. The UW med center has a brand new surgical pavilion, which is a beautiful building, with glass-walled waiting areas overlooking beautiful landscaping. UW also has, at least in the areas that we’ve seen, a marvelous art collection (rather than the fish tanks that are ubiquitous in Group Health and MD Anderson waiting rooms). Fish are nice, but I’ll take art and a view.

I’ve had enough writing for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll do the details of the surgery and hospitalization (Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!) and where I’ll be on Friday if you want to come hang out at the hospital for a while.