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Monday, January 13, 2014

a different kind of holiday

Well, a very belated Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us!

This holiday season was a little different for us. We didn't send out cards. I didn't get a lot of time off work, and it was just different for several reasons. The biggest reason was Chris' Dad has been sick and has been at Duke University Hospital for the past 8 weeks. He has spent 5 1/2 of those weeks in the ICU, and it has been a very heart-wrenching, roller-coaster of emotions past 2 months.

Dylan first fishing trip with Gabby ~2003
Chris' dad's voice started changing over 2+ years ago. He started sounding hoarse for no reason. It was a gradual sort of change, some days you noticed  and some days you didn't. Then it got worse. Fast forward to November 2013, and he one night he started having trouble breathing. He ended up in the ER on a Thursday night, and they asked him to follow up with an ENT. The next Monday he went to the ENT, and he didn't go home after that.

Apparently, his airway was almost completely blocked with what we now know was a stage 4 squamous cell throat carcinoma mass. Throat cancer. He was airlifted to Duke and then proceeded to have 5+ surgeries and procedures over the next 6 weeks. The most invasive was the tracheotomy that was followed by a complete laryngectomy.  His hospital stay has been littered with multiple complications. He developed HIT; heparin induced thrombocytopenia. His platelets were as low as 6,000 at one point. The normal platelet count is usually ~400,000+. This complication put him at risk for spontaneous life-threatening bleeding. That was a scary week. He also had a couple bouts of pneumonia, feeding tube placement, feed tube issues, an ileus, a half-dozen aspiration events, and he now has a large hole in between his esophagus and windpipe that we are praying will heal.

He has been such a fighter. He has day when his spirits are so low, and then he has days where he perks up and you are just awe-struck with his strength and perseverance when he gives you that "thumbs up". Chris has been at the hospital almost each day since Nov 18th. We spent Thanksgiving night and Christmas Day there. His Mother has barely left the hospital at all. It has been such a difficult time for everyone.

Gabby and James, our nephew 2013
Yesterday, we went to visit Gabby, which is what we call Chris' Dad. Dylan was the first grand-child and he had a hard time saying 'granddaddy'. It came out as Gabby, and before we knew it everyone was called him Gabby. It just stuck, and now all the grandkids call him Gabby!

Yesterday was a good day. He was able to leave his room via wheelchair, and we took him up to the top floor and watched a helicopter take off. We went to the 5th floor and looked at the massive pediatric wing fish tank. Then we went down to the lobby, and the kids played him a little piano. He was so happy to see the kids for the first time in a couple of weeks. The hospital really tightened up on their visitation policy due to flu season.

Dylan being shy at first, in the hospital lobby
 Dylan has had his eye on the pretty piano in the main floor hospital lobby since the first visit in November. Yesterday, he got brave enough to take a seat. He got a little more comfortable when Karsen joined him. Gabby was so happy to be out of his room, and he didn't realize it was Dylan and Karsen playing the piano until he came around the corner. His face was so happy. It was a special  moment. My mother-in-law captured it on video. Hopefully I will be able to post it here soon.

Here's hoping 2014 is full of health and happiness for you all! One of my 2014 resolutions is to do more of the things I LOVE. Including blogging... :) (was that my resolution last year too?)

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Deciduous Heather