“Less than three percent of patients undergoing Whipple surgery contract infection.” said our surgeon, Dr. Asbun.
Just seven days after discharge from a six day Whipple surgery recovery stay, I was rushed to the Mayo ER with a 101 temperature and general overall feeling of lethargy. The drain, placed in my side to remove excess bile that collected post surgery was filling with a different looking substance. I was admitted and a CT Scan was ordered for the morning. The scan revealed three areas of abscess, one quite large where the original drain was located. The surgical team agreed I would need one more JP drain with the hope the third smaller abscess would respond to the massive doses of IV antibiotics I would be given.
The protocol, determined by my infectious disease doc…Lisa Brumble, began. Serious antibiotics: Caspofungin, Ceftriaxone and Vancomycin were administered intravenously twice daily, Metronidazole (Flagyl) given orally once daily. Daily visits from my surgical team, nutritionist, physical therapists, and infectious disease doctor were glimpses of the seriousness of my condition. I remained hospitalized for 12 days then discharged to a home healthcare agency for 19 more days of twice daily visits to administer the hour long infusions, flush the drains and take my vitals.
To say I was weak would be an understatement. I was recovering from a 9 and 1/2 hour major resection of my digestive system, and now my body was fighting off critical infection. I had no appetite and the antibiotics made the taste of food even worse. My weight was plummeting.
Every night my sweet husband Tom, would sleep in the recliner next to my bed in the hospital. Many times he prayed out loud holding my hand, asking God to bring us through this. His comic relief was always welcome and normally produced a big smile. I wondered if I could love this man any more…and then I did. He encouraged me to eat and walk the hospital halls to give me strength. He was truly my “Joseph”.
Daily visits from our church priest, deacons and nuns could be counted on. Even the Priest from St. Paul’s visited when he could. They administered the sacrament of holy communion, breaking the host into the smallest piece to be sure I didn’t have a problem digesting it. They prayed over me and told me about my CHRP sisters who were always asking and praying for me. They encouraged my faith and assured me I was in God’s hands.
My closest friends visited daily bringing me flowers, rubbing my hands and feet with creams and enticing me with milk shakes and thoughtful non-fat meals that took huge effort to shop for, prepare and deliver. I truly felt God’s love for me in their tender and genuine care for me.
The final day in the hospital was an especially difficult one for me. It marked the one year anniversary of the death of my sweet friend, JT Townsend. Carmen, JT’s Mother, stayed with me the majority of the day until I was discharged. We talked about her son and what an amazing man he was. She reminded me JT was up in heaven as my intercessor, making certain I got everything I needed. We clung to one another as we recalled our favorite memories.
By June 24th, the antibiotics had done their work and a CT scan and blood work revealed the infections had diminished. I would be taken off the meds and could resume a more normal schedule. Tom had a brilliant idea. He would take me to Hilton Head Health for a ten day get away. The Docs agreed it would be a great RX! And we were off……..