Christine's First Surgery

Social Time

Christine is ready for visitors!!!! She has now been to sewing a couple of times, and, after trekking around the hospitals, is now becoming quite mobile. She had her first proper meal with John and Heather this evening. Andy continued with his spiritual journey and had a nice Bunnahabhain with John, and a Laphroaig later (excuse any sprelling mistrakes). Should you wish to see Christine, please send me a text (281-750-2417) to arrange a time - we still have doctor's appointments to take care of!
The Friday gang back together.
Christine's first meal since the operation - thanks Heather!
Nurse Yanet packing Christine's wound. I think Nurse Andy has a better technique….

Infection Setback

Christine had a bit of a set back on Sunday. Out of the blue, her neck just above her trach swelled up, went very red, and started to leak. We think that whilst she was sleeping the trach cap rubbed on her wound and irritated it. We were visiting Dr. Pytynia on Monday afternoon to remove the trach as Christine had managed two nights with it capped off. Unfortunately, once she saw her neck she ordered another CT scan and told us to go home and prepare to go to the emergency room, just in case. We went back later for the results, and the diagnosis was that there was a small infection. The wound was packed to soak up the leakage, and Christine was given a course of antibiotics. At least no emergency room was needed! The downside was that the trach tube has to remain in until the infection has healed. Today we visited Dr. Garvey downtown, and he had a good poke around. He felt it was a small infection and with continual packing and antibiotics it should go away in a week or so. The only trouble is that nurse Andy has to get in there and get the packing into the wound. I have received training, in that I videoed Dr. Garvey doing it... Despite this we are in good spirits (mainly whisky for me) and are muddling along quite nicely.
Dr.Pytynia and her sidekick Monica, checking Christine's infection

Solid Food

Christine passed her barium swallow test with flying colors and is now without her feeding tube. She is now able to eat soup, ice cream, mashed potatoes without much problems. The highlight of the last few days was finding out that Christine will not need chemotherapy or radiation. This is the BEST news ever! Saturday night we will attempt to spend the whole night with her tracheotomy tube blocked off. If successful, it will be removed on Monday! As an "unbiased" observer, I am incredibly proud of how Christine has managed her recovery.

As soon as we got home, some flavour was in hand.
Not quite the Corvette, but, nobody was overtaking her…
Christine managed a brief visit to sewing this Friday. Thanks to Margaret and George for hosting.

Emergency Room

Christine and I had a hectic weekend. Saturday was spent rearranging the furniture so that Christine could have a better view of the garden. I have to say it was worth the effort! We still struggled with the feeding tube but managed to have her consume her daily allowance. She is now sleeping very well now that she doesn't have to suction anymore. Big shout out to our nurse Yanet for providing the tip to help Christine swallow.

On Sunday, we found it impossible to push anything down the feeding tube, so we gave up and went downtown to the emergency room to see if we could get it sorted out. They also tried and failed, even forcing Sprite down the tube. It is a bit of a myth, but the acidity and carbonation of Coke and Sprite are thought to ease a blockage. It partially worked. Dr. Wechsler ordered an X-Ray, which was quite illuminating! As you can see from her handwritten drawing, the tube within Christine's stomach had somehow bent over. No wonder we were having difficulties! Dr. Wechsler managed to ease the tube up by about an inch, and, touch wood, we haven't had any real problems since.

Over the weekend, and this morning, Christine's Aunty Jean was visiting Christine's Mum in Athelstan House in the UK. Rob kindly set up a FaceTime session so that the three of them could chinwag for a while. A good time was had by all.

In the afternoon, we went to MD Anderson in Katy for the post-op review with Dr. Pytynia. The dietician, also popped in to ensure that the feeding tube was working properly again. We reviewed the pathology report of the removed jawbone, gum, and lymph nodes. As I reported earlier had no evidence of cancer spreading - it was still good to hear it again though! We will have to wait for Dr. Chun, the radiologist, to decide whether Christine will have to have any radiation treatment. Dr. Pytynia examined Christine's mouth and the swelling and was satisfied that everything was progressing as expected. Whilst discussing with Christine, she shut off her air supply through the trach, and much to Christine's surprise, she could breathe through her nose and mouth. We will now be starting the cap test with the goal of having the trach closed off for 24 hours. Once this happens, the trach tube can be removed. Tomorrow's barium swallow test was also discussed, and if Christine's passes, the feeding tube will be removed. This means that she will be able to start eating soup and mushy food. That bacon butty will have to wait just a little longer!
Andy rearranged the living room so that Christine could see out better. Nice!
Lovely flowers from Les. Allan and Michelle dropped off some goodies for Christine, plus a meat pie for me Happy
Emergency Room registered nurse in attendance. Dr. Wechler's graphic of the tube problem.
FaceTime with Mum and Aunty Jean. Phoebe, Ben and Rob in attendance.
Dr. Pytynia checking Christine over, and proving to her that she could breathe without the trach!

Katy MDA Visit

Christine and I visited the new MD Anderson facility between Eldridge and Highway 8. It is pretty impressive! We had two appointments, one with Dr, Patel, one of the top dogs of the oncology department, and Christie Siebel the nutritionist.

Dr, Patel, who is a really nice guy, gave us some excellent news in that he felt it was unlikely that Christine would need radiation therapy or chemotherapy. He confirmed that the cancerous lesion was limited to the gum and had not spread to the jaw bone or the lymph nodes. The final decision will be with Dr. Pytynia on Monday, but obviously, we are absolutely delighted with this news.

We have been having a lot of trouble getting the "food" into her feeding tube. There seems to be a blockage somewhere between the nose and the stomach. We have been pumping, what seems like gallons of water through the tube to clear it. Obviously, this is not ideal. After some brainstorming and experimentation, it was decided that the best way to get the food into her system was to siphon directly into the tube, rather than use the drop feeder. So far this has worked really well. It is also a lot easier to administer, and provided we are careful with quantities it is a safe way to administer her food.
Enrique, the occupational therapist, put Christine through her paces.
Yanet, our wonderful nurse, ensuring Christine is recovering as well as can be expected.

A Restful Day

Christine had a restful day today, still suffering from a sore throat and excess saliva. We managed to speak with the clinic and they recommended that we went full on with the pain meds again, which are mainly narcotics. Our nurse, Yanet came later and gave us a tip that if you have a sore throat and can’t swallow, stick your fingers in your ears as you swallow and it doesn’t hurt as much! It worked and Christine had a noticeably more comfortable evening. It'll make Christine a zombie, but we will also continue with the pain meds as well.

Another bit of good news was that I went to have my knee checked out by my surgeon, and although I have to have some physical therapy, I am allowed to swing a club again. Not sure when this will be, as Christine is my priority at the moment. I have set up a hitting net and chipping green (pool) in the yard, so that should at least keep my hand in!

The swallowing technique proposed by our nurse, Yanet.
This should keep Christine occupied. Thanks Doris!
Beautiful flowers arrived from Jane

Drainage Tube Removal

Christine had an exhausting day today and is cream crackered. We were up at 6am to get to the imaging hospital on Highway 6, to have a CT scan on her mouth. Unfortunately, this had to be postponed until another time as she was unable to lay on her back and stay still for enough time for appropriate images to be taken. Later in the morning, we headed downtown to meet with Dr. Dhanani, Dr. Garvey's associate. He was very pleased with her progress and to our relief, removed the last drainage tube. He has now arranged for a barium swallow test in a week or so to see whether enough swelling has gone down for Christine to move to the next stage in her recovery. We were also able to get some new pain medication prescriptions. By the time these were ready, we didn't get home until early afternoon. After a short rest, Jorge the physical therapist showed up and put Christine through her paces. He is quite hard on her, but at the same time quite convincing. Christine is now down to her last two fashion accessories, the trach tube, and the feeding tube. Now we have finished the antibiotics the feeding tube is behaving properly. The trach tube though is still causing a lot of discomfort in her throat, especially when Christine speaks a lot. We have started a course of decongestant medicine, which will hopefully improve things over the coming days. We will see Dr. Pytynia on Monday 17th, so my next report will be after this.
Drainage tube removal!!

Christine having her first social walk outside!

16 Days After Surgery

Christine,16 days after her surgery!

Overall, all is well, and we have endured one or two bumps in the road, which I guess should be expected. We went to the doctors on Thursday and they decided to keep Christine's drain in until the discharge lessened. They thought there may have been an infection, so they gave her some antibiotics to take. This seems to have done the trick, with the discharge now being minimal. Aside from this, the main issue is the production of saliva, and mucus builds up in her throat. This causes her to have coughing fits, and to be up quite often in the night. Consequently, this tires Christine out all day. She had a much better day yesterday and today and has slept reasonably well since. She still gets pain from her jaw as the meds wear down. For now, we have a good back-up supply to keep the pain at bay.

During the week, we have a nurse visiting daily, and a physical therapist a couple of times a week, which has been good, mainly from the peace of mind that her vitals are OK. We also had an occupational therapist visit to ensure that Christine is safely going about her daily routine, and provide her goals to aim for as her health improves. These included driving, cooking, swimming, and, of course, sewing.

Next week, we are visiting the doctors again, and I suspect that they may take the drainage tube out providing that the improvement continues. We can’t get the trach tube out until we have done some tests to ensure that she can breathe normally for 24 hours. Hopefully, we can start this soon.

Christine is becoming more and more mobile, walking around the inside of the house four or five times a day. She is able to have a bath and a shower, which gives her great pleasure.

We have had some interesting experiences with her feeding tube, The antibiotics seem to block the feeding tube, so there was an incident when the safety valve blew, with all of the medicine spurting onto the wall and everything in between. The problem was that the color of the medicine was deep red, so looks like blood spatter. Seems some decorating is in my future!

Thanks to Allan and Michelle for the Get Well wishes, and to Clare Smith for the hand-made glass art card.
George the physiotherapist, working his magic
The new awning provides some welcome shade in the hot summer Texan afternoons. Thanks ton John for helping put it up. Hopefully Christine will be well enough to take advantage of it soon.

Visit to Dr. Garvey

Christine has been home three full days now and we have settled into a good routine. After two good nights sleep, she struggled last night and is quite tired. She is suffering from a very sore throat caused by the tracheotomy tube. We will be visiting the head and neck surgery to have this addressed. I think once this has been removed, Christine will be in better spirits.

Today we visited Dr Garvey and his team to assess her leg and mouth surgeries. Her leg looks fantastic, and is well on the mend. The outside scar on her face is healing very nicely, especially as all of the staples have been removed. The inside of mouth, although still hurting, is doing well too. This will take a lot longer time to heal. Dr Garvey removed some extraneous tissue from her mouth (actually her leg muscle&hellipWinking, and cleaned around the wound. We have another appointment on Thursday to remove the last drainage tube. Then we will be down to one remaining tube!

Thanks again for all of the incredible support, the cards, and flowers. They are most appreciated!

Beautiful flowers from Dr Jacobs and The Dentists at Grand Parkway
Walker from Alicia and Jeff, accessorized by Nancy! The wheelchair from Sue and Colin was invaluable today!
Doctor Garvey working his magic!

Coming Home

Christine came home today! It doesn't seem possible considering the amount of surgery that she has had to endure. The surgeons at MD Anderson really know what they are doing, and we really thank them and their nursing staff. Inevitably there have been some ups and downs, but now Christine has come home she can fully rest and recuperate. We have everything all setup, a feeding station, a drug station, and a plan of attack. Keep your fingers crossed! Follow up doctors report late next week. I'll report again in a couple of days. Thanks for all of your cards, emails, texts, and support!
Dr Bailey came in mid morning to remove the last staples, and clear Christine for discharge.
Ready and waiting!
Quick, before they change their minds!!
At home with Matron (I've got a promotion) Andy at her beck and call!