Today we went to another Mayo Clinic campus to get some autonomic tests done (like a tilt table test where they take one's blood pressure lying flat and standing up by moving the bed while the patient is motionless) and I was reminded again of how beautiful Arizona is. There are amazing rocky ‘desert’ gardens all over the city, artistically and creatively bringing out the very best this landscape has to offer. Cheerful red and yellow flowers, prickly cactuses of many shapes as well as unique emerald- and fall-coloured trees with the most interesting leaves I’ve ever seen. Tall stately palms add contrast as well, and the roads are lined with walls engraved with interesting designs that catch and hold the eye. It’s a little easier to be cheerful today, because the miniscule improvements of the last week are adding up into substantial improvements, including walking in to my check-up today and sitting upright in the waiting room which felt like a huge achievement. I also took a 15-minute walk around our neighbourhood! At our appointment yesterday with Dr. J., she said she was quite pleased with my progress which also improved my spirits.
Mary Beth wouldn't say she's feeling good yet. She's still in a lot of discomfort, but today was a better day and I think she's getting close to having a 'good day'. We had to go get another COVID swab at the hospital for her followup appointments tomorrow. This one didn't seem nearly as uncomfortable as the first. She really enjoyed sitting up in the car and looking around at Phoenix for the first time since we've been here and is getting faster on her walks around the neighborhood.
Please pray that she would be more comfortable.
Yay! Mary Beth was released to home from the hospital today around 2 pm. Here you can see her with nurse Carley getting into our car to go home. 'Home' is used loosely here, since Mary Beth had never been to where we are staying before I brought her here. But she is glad to be here none-the-less!
She is still having some discomfort and taking pain medicine but glad to be 'home'. She said that she is having less pain than she expected from what she had read about the recovery process. But she is by no means pain free. She was having a lot of pain at 5 pm, so I gave her another Tramadol and it helped right away. She is, importantly, able to stand up without her heart rate going up significantly, so the surgery has already made her markedly better. Thanks for praying!
Mary Beth is doing well and having a good day. She's able to stand or sit up without feeling like she is going to pass out. Last night she shed tears of joy when she said that she took what felt like the first deep breath of her life! We are so thankful that she had the surgery here as her case was more complicated than usual. The surgeon wrote in Mary Beth's operation note: "This case was substantially more difficult than usual". Because of COVID I can only visit her once a day, but I don't think there is a time limit to my visit, so I'll be here from 1:30 until 6:00 pm. She's sleeping right now (3:00 pm). She will probably go home tomorrow, if they can take out the chest tube today and if she does well overnight.
The kids and I moved from the hotel next to the hospital to a house on a golf course about 30 minutes away. We feel like we are being spoiled.
The day has finally arrived! A month ago MB decided, "I want to go to Mayo. I'm going to tell God that's what I want, even though it doesn't look like it is possible. He likes to give us what we want if we ask for it." So she started praying to be able to go to Mayo and here we are against all odds!
We're hoping that Mary Beth will suddenly be able to stand up without being light-headed and having tachycardia (fast heart rate) again. We were told that it very likely won't be instantaneous, especially since she will be sore immediately after surgery, but we are hoping for a quick improvement. We were told to realistically expect 3 weeks to 3 months to be back to normal.
I was given a tracking number to follow Mary Beth's progress like a marathoner with a chip in her shoe. She is the top yellow in the right column ending in '434'.
Everything went well. The surgeon said she had to put in 3 bars instead of 2. She said the heart was being compressed even more than Sunday's echocardiogram had demonstrated. I'm not surprised, having taken care of her and monitoring her heart for the last 2 months!
Mary Beth had her echocardiogram. It took the U/S tech quite a while to get good views of Mary Beth's heart, but it showed that her right heart outflow tract was markedly compromised.
Met with Pamela Valer the international patient coordinator. Turns out she is originally from Lima, Peru!
Met with Chris from the business office to pay our deductible for the insurance company.
Mary Beth had blood tests taken.
Mary Beth had a chest X-ray.
Time for an EKG!
Met with the surgeon and her nurses. Surgery is scheduled for 10:30 am tomorrow!
Got pre-op photos taken.
Whew! As a physician, I was amazed most by how 'the trains all run on time at Mayo'. At each of the appointments, we got in a line to check-in and they told us to sit in the waiting room and in every case we never had to wait more than 5 minutes before being called.
And just for fun:
Hottest Mary Beth has ever experienced.
Mary Beth got her results from her nasal swab test yesterday and they are negative, so she was allowed to go in for her MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) to make sure the circulation to her head is unimpeded by cholesterol plaques or anatomical abnormalities.
Attended our Peruvian church by zoom. They collected an offering for us, which made us feel very loved. They ask about how things are going daily and are praying for us.
Dropped Mary Beth off at the door of the hospital for her MRA and they swept her away, saying I could go no further than the lobby. It took them longer than expected and Mary Beth found it surprisingly difficult to hold still in the machine.
Yesterday, we got up at 5:45am to get ready to go to the repatriation meeting point at Larco Mar, a park/shopping mall in the rich part of Lima. We were there before our 7 am appointed time and found a line of 300 people waiting to get on the buses for the air force base. I parked our Nissan Patrol near the end of the line and we left Mary Beth lying in the back while Mia and Paul waited in line. Mati and Titi Rogers (thank you!!) went with us to take our truck to its parking spot for the next few months. It was clear that the line wasn't going to move quickly, so they offered to go back home to wait and I'd call them when we were closer to the front of the line so that Mary Beth could lie down in the truck.
We had to get up again after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep and get on our flight to Phoenix. Mary Beth had a first-class seat on that flight too, but unlike the Delta flight, these seats didn't recline more than enough to tease you. Luckily, the entire row in front of Paul, Mia and me back in steerage was completely empty, so she came back and lay flat in it for the 4-hour flight. She probably missed out on her caviar and champagne but it was the right thing at the moment.
We got our Nissan Pathfinder which has room for Mary Beth to lie down in the middle seat, and went to Mayo with 40 minutes before the deadline for getting her COVID test nasal swab.
She didn't like it.
We were very hungry by the time we got some food, but it was worth the wait: cheddar cheese, sweet corn, sour cream, Tostitos® with guac and Tillamook icecream!
Tomorrow is a big day. We have to meet at the Lima Marriott Hotel at 7 am with all of the other North Americans who got approved for tomorrow's repatriation flight. They will take us in shuttle buses to the air force base (since the airport is closed to international travel) and we will wait outdoors in the cold and snow (okay, no snow, but it will probably be cloudy and cool 60˚F/16˚C) while they check all of our paperwork. There is no water or food available while we wait, so we have to pack our own vittles until our flight leaves at 3 pm. We get to Miami 5.5 hours later.
Mary Beth has been doing the best she has in weeks. She's actually been sitting at the table and eating meals with us, which is great. I wonder if it is the increased oxygen at sea level.
Many have asked which of the kids are traveling with us. I guess a picture from yesterday's trip will quickly show that Mia and Paul are with us.