The Short Versions

The shortest version: As of 3:35 p.m., Alison is okay and recovering from surgery.

The short version (the long version will be forthcoming later, i guess): Alison went into surgery this morning at around 7:30. I managed to sleep through a few of the many activities the hospital staff made Alison undergo all night long: extra Dilatin to ward off seizures, steroids to reduce swelling, blood draws, urine tests, temperature, etc. etc. We were woken with finality at around 4:30 a.m. and told to kind of start getting ready for when they came to get her at 6:30.

At about 6:30, when indeed the staff showed up to take Alison to pre-op, she grabbed my arm as she lay on the bed and started doing the swallowing thing she did when she had one the of seizures i witnessed back durning Christmas. She looked scared and kind of lost, but this time she managed to not go into a full-blown seizure. After about twenty seconds of the lost look on her face, she seemed to recover a little bit and i asked her if she'd had a seizure. Groggily, She answered yeah, i shuffleboard! I could smell something and then i grapejuice. Obviously, this wasn't a great start for surgery day. However, i thought at the time--and Dr. Freidman later confirmed--that it was probably stress induced.

At 6:45, roughly, the staff wheeled Alison down to pre-op at which point i had to leave her for a while. I was given a little restaurant beeper thing at the waiting rom and was told they'd call me back in just a few minutes. True to their word, i got to visit with her and her anesthesiologist (mentioned yesterday) and the doctor that would be talking to her throughout the operation. His name was Jay. Nice guy. Everyone at Duke has had an excellent bedside manner and i really appreciate it.

Now: this is what we were expecting to happen this morning: Alison would be taken to surgery. She would be...maybe" sedated", maybe "knocked out" was the phrase they used. At this point Alison's head would be opened up. She would then be woken up and undergo an exhaustive period of "awake brain surgery" for maybe as long as four hours. When her language started to deteriorate, they would stop, knock her back out, put her head back together again and take her to the ICU. True to their word again, that's what happens. Here are a few of the details:

7:00 a.m.: I had to leave Alison and walk out into the vast waiting room alone and as scared as i think i've ever been (and i've been in jail, had several car accidents, had a gun pointed at my face, been threatened with a knife, and have fallen from a cliff). Alison's family showed up a little later and we were all miserable together. I sat and read Live and Let Die, the James Bond novel by Ian Fleming. I wanted escapist literature and it fit the bill. It also, by the way is a tour de force of racism.

About every hour and a half the beeper would go off and we would go find out what was going on, E.g.: 8:30 "they have started the procedure." 10:00 "Alison is awake and talking during the procedure". This went on until the ungodly time of about 1 p.m. when we finally got the call from the waiting room desk that i could go speak to Dr. Freidman.

Here is what he said (paraphrased): 2 1/2 hours of awake time. Alison started having seizures when they started to get deeply into the tumor, so they stopped. Easily over 50% of the tumor was able to be removed, perhaps as much as 60-70%. The real-time pathology report confirms that the tumor is indeed low-grade. Crudely, that means that Alison will most likely be alive in 10 years--85% of low grade glioma patients are. Language should take an average hit--what he expected. Alison is now on two anti-seizure medications and will be for the next few weeks. After that, she'll be taken off the Dilatin and be put on Kepra (sp?). 80% of people respond positively to Kepra, 10% get sleepy, 10% get "mean".

Lord, Lord. Mean Alison?


At 2:00 p.m. we got to go visit her. Evidently, directly after she was taken from surgery, the only thing Alison could say was her own last name. By the time i got in there, she was wildly groggy, but, for Dr. Freidman, was able to correctly identify a thumb, a pair of glasses, Maybelle, Me and say that she was uncomfortable. 5 for 5! Freidman looked relieved and said "i think we're gonna be okay."

Alison will be in the ICU all night tonight and perhaps tomorrow. The plan remains the same, though. Hospital room for a night or two after that, a couple of days in the local hotel and then, if all is well, homeward on Thursday.

That's all in got in me folks.


Julia E. said...

Walter, thank you so much for letting us know so quickly. It sounds like a good outcome despite all the uncertainty that's still ahead. You must be so tired--please take care.

Cate Bush said...

Walter. You must be exhausted. I hope you can get some sleep tonight. I love you guys. It's been a very worrisome today and I'm relieved that Alison is 5 for 5. Much love and hugs.

Sarah said...

You're a champ for getting all that posted so quickly. Go to sleep little camper, you've earned it.

Christie said...

Hugs and love all around

mcl said...

Walter, thanks for writing all of this - we are relieved. Get some rest and let us know if there's anything we can do from here. We love you guys. The Ween says hello.

Stephen said...

Thank you for the update! Glad to hear things are on a good track. We're thinking of you.

KMB said...

5 for 5 - Woot! You get an A+ for the day. Hard part number 137: done. Just a few more... Sending you both strength for the journey. When you get out of ICU remember they have an infinite supply of apple juice and hot blankets, just for you.

Hugs, Kris

Jen Howard said...

Thanks Walter - there's a lot of people out here that are thinking of you guys and really want to know what's going on - we're indebted to you for sharing. Hope you are able to rest soon!

Aaron Bibb said...

Hey Walter, we've only met a couple times, but as someone who's got a wife he loves very much (who is a cancer survivor herself) and a baby just a bit younger than Maybelle, I wanted to tell you I've been thinking of you and Alison a lot. I'm glad to hear things went well, and I hope you're doing OK.

Peter Felten said...

Thank you for the detailed update, Walter. I know all of your emotional energy is being used towards Allison. All of us out here in the ether so appreciate your diverting some of that energy to keep us updated.
Sara W.

Syd said...

I am so hopeful for Alison. Thanks for the update.