Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our Journey in Pictures

This post is our journey in pictures. If you have a sensitive stomach, I don't recommend looking. Although, it's much easier to see these pictures than it was experiencing it in real life. Many of these photos were taken with the camera on my phone, most often because Patrick wanted to see what he looked like or what his scars looked like. On the morning after his surgery, he desperately wanted a mirror. All I had to offer was a compact, which was extremely small, so we took photos with the cameras on our phones.

I have experienced a lot of firsts over the past several weeks. One of them was seeing Patrick without facial hair. We'll be married five years in July and I've not once seen him without it. Here he is waiting in the Day Surgery room. This is where he was given an IV. This room was where each doctor met with us before the surgery took place. This was where the chaplain prayed with us. This is the room where reality really sank in. This was where I said, 'I love you' before he was wheeled away.
After the eight and a half hour surgery and emergency tracheotomy Patrick was wheeled to the ICU. The Intensive Care Unit is where I first saw him. It's where he laid with an extremely swollen tongue, a ventilator, tubes, wires, bandages, blood, a feeding tube and what seemed like everything else you'd find in a hospital. I sat with him for several minutes and held his hand. This is where I shed a few tears out of sadness. When I took this picture I told him that I was doing it for him, not that he heard me, but oddly, it made it less awkward. This is where he tried to wake up. This is where he was given a bolus to force him to rest. This is where he lay all night until I was able to see him again.
While still in the ICU he got up and walked around and sat in the recliner in the room. The recliner is where he sat trying to stay awake because sleep meant he might choke on another blood clot. The recliner is where he wrote 'pass out,' which made me dart out the glass doors to get his nurse.
During Patrick's operation, they inserted an NG (feeding) tube. There is a weight on the end which helps it find its way down to the stomach. Normally, they do not stitch them in, but for Patrick they did. Here is his tongue one day after the surgery. You can clearly see the flap and stitches which by the way are still in his mouth to this day.
The massive incision on Patrick's neck that strings from below his left ear to the other side was stitched with numerous sutures inside and out. There was a drain placed in his neck which led to a Jackson Pratt (a plastic bulb) which was emptied every few hours or so.
Once awake and breathing on his own, a warm air humidifier supplied air to the trach sight. The tube is held there by a mask and rubber band type apparatus. Due to the constant stream of blood from the tracheotomy, we tried to keep a washcloth there at all times. Many times a day I would change it out and wipe his chest with a warm cloth to remove any dried blood or pool of blood that had settled. Due to surgery, Patrick had a lot of gunk in his lungs. Gunk his lungs didn't want. He would cough and gasp for air. He, or I, or my sister would use a suction tube to help him clear the blood or clot.
After two days in the ICU, Patrick was to be moved to a room on a floor. He was helped to the recliner while the new bed was wheeled in. After being awake for so long out of fear and having so much medication on board he immediately conked out once helped onto the new bed.
The Thursday following surgery Dr. C. and a resident changed out the trach for a smaller, metal version. This version allowed him to talk and breath easier. After they stepped down the trach, the hole required two stitches. This is the trach they plugged for a while in the evening when I wasn't there. This is the trach that they plugged all night which led Patrick to feel so much better that he started joking and smiling. Once they put the plug he he said, 'I can breath. Now that's blog worthy.'
Patrick's arm was the donor site for the flap that was used to reconstruct his tongue. Here is what it looked like four days post operation. The mark in the lower left of his arm is where another drain was placed.
Here is the donor sight 11 days post operation. The skin is still see through like a window. You can see the tendons in Patrick's arm. We are told the line trailing up his arm will slowly disappear. His arm is still causing a lot of discomfort due to tight tendons and bothered nerves.
Here is the trach hole 12 or so days post surgery. It seemed to be closed then opened again after the stitches were removed, then again after he slept on his side last night. We are really hoping it closes for good soon as he does not want any other stitches.
The skin graft taken from his left leg was used to cover the donor site on his arm. It has since scabbed over and sloughed off. All the remains now is a red square. In time it will heal, but will remain discolored.
Patrick's tongue is healing nicely. There have been a few concerning moments after eating something or accidentally biting his tongue. The swelling has significantly gone down. His speech is becoming more clear, but he still has a lisp. Immediately following surgery and for several days after the flap appeared pink in color. Now it has taken on a white tone.

The incision on his neck (taken yesterday), has improved so much and each day looks better.

And the journey continues...


  1. Laurel and Patrick...those pictures bring back some tough memories. I'm so glad to hear that recovery and healing is going good. it takes time, but it will eventually be largely unnoticeable. I am overjoyed that he will not have to deal with further treatment...that's an enormous blessing. you guys continue to be in my prayers.

  2. Gosh, I couldn't have imagined what this begin to look like. Patrick is such a strong person and so are you for having to see him in this condition. I am so glad that he is healing up nicely. Continued prayers for your family.