Thursday, April 21, 2016, I set off in my father’s little black truck with a mission: I was spending the night at my brother’s house to take him to the VA hospital in Philadelphia, PA for surgery. This would be a “short” but necessary procedure to take out half of his thyroid gland and at least one of his (humans normally have 4) parathyroid glands. We were told the surgery would last about 3 1/2 hours and he would spend the night with a drain in to make sure he did not get excess fluid bleeding back into him.
Due to the fact that I couldn’t sleep because Bruce’s apartment is BRIGHT and he couldn’t sleep due to the nervousness of himself and his cat, we got up at about 2:00 a.m. and got ready to go. dressed, (screw the shower! it’s early!!!) coffee, and brush those teeth.
We were due in Philadelphia at 6:00 a.m.. We got there at about 5:00 a.m. maybe 10 minutes earlier than that. The waiting began. Eventually, Bruce was called back to the pre-op area. His surgery was expected to start at 8:00 a.m.. It didn’t. At 9:05, I was told when I asked, he had been wheeled into surgery. After the first hour I went to get some breakfast in the cantina. After the second hour, I was reading and chatting with others in the room, but mostly trying to drown out with glorious words from my book the grumbling of the elderly gentleman who sounded rather like a heavy chain being fed through a wood chipper. He was not pleased that he had to do any waiting at all, and for (I shit you not) 4 hours straight he did nothing but RrrrRrrrrRrrrGRrrrr… Suffice it to say he bugged everyone in the room. His friend abandoned him to go be elsewhere for a few hours at one point and when the buddy got back, the chain shredder griped at him for another half hour.
About the 4 hour mark, I checked with the nurse to make sure Bruce was still alive and kicking. She said, yes, he’s still in surgery but the doctor would be out as soon as they had finished. I started asking every hour.
Two hours later I got some lunch. The hospital breakfast far surpasses the lunch menu, although I make shifted a salad that was not too bad. They had my favourite salad dressing, which helped a lot. took me about an hour to eat a side salad (YAY gastric sleeve!!!)
I asked on and off and finally, the nurse told me that my brother (after 9 1/2 hours of pestering them for information) had been taken to recovery a “little while ago” and the doc would soon be out.
He was. First I met the assistant doctor, who was extremely nice and looked like the Indian version of Doogie Howser. He was 12. I think. maybe 8? God I remember looking young, but he looked like he still have spring in his step after 9 1/2 hours of digging in my brother’s neck. So I found out that 1/2 of the thyroid had indeed been taken out, then the parathyroid glands were what caused the hold up. First, they were a bit hard to find. They did not show up on MRI scans, so they basically had to root around. Next, none of them were diseased at the same stage, so they were all different sizes. One being “really big” the next not quite as really big (I swear, these are his words) and then the other only twice it’s proper size. And the fourth had to be cut away as much as possible to leave a gland at all. I think he has just about 1/3 of a working parathyroid gland. After each removal, they did lab work to see if his levels came down. part of the holdup was waiting for the lab to send the results. As it was, the doc never got the results on the final gland til after Bruce was in his room. The second doc gave me a few more tidbits of information (the main surgeon) but basically the same stuff again. Nice men, both of this, but the head surgeon looked old enough to play with sharp toys, at least.
So there it is…a 9 1/2 hour surgery, 14-hours (for me) in the hospital, and 2 days in an air bed that they never even blew up for him. I don’t know that I will ever be able to tell the story of the man who attached himself to me in the waiting room-a self professed paranoid schizophrenic (and yes I do believe that one) because it just makes me want to cry.