Thankfully Sara's gauze dressing held all night and she got a great night of sleep to prepare her for surgery again. She didn't even hear my 5:30 alarm go off or the breast pump going so she was able to sleep another 30 minutes.
Three EMTs arrived around 6:30 to load her up and take her back to Methodist Hospital on Mayo Clinic's campus. This crew was very good at interacting with Sara and one guy in particular had a 5 year old daughter so he could relate. Sara seemed particularly quiet this morning and they were great getting her to tell them some jokes.
What did the 0 say to the 8? Nice belt!
Why did Earth stay away from Saturn? Because it is gassy!
Thursday morning's prep time was soooo different than Tuesday morning. No hustle and bustle of people in and out. No nurses taking vitals and asking a million questions. No visits from 3 different doctors. Dr. Nemergut, the anesthesiologist came in. He was already familiar with Sara from Tuesday so he didn't have many questions either. We talked the most about her sensitive skin and different ways he could apply tape to protect her. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Sara commented she thought it was silly to come over so early just to sit around and not do anything. We read in her Ranger Rick magazine together. She was unusually quiet, even around just me. I let it be, knowing that she had been thru a lot and may be just processing another day of surgery. Dr. Nemergut came in again with his colleague. They were opening the door to wheel Sara out and he said, "Wait a minute! We need to get Cimba ready for surgery!" Then he found a hospital hat, gloves, mask, and even made him an ID bracelet. It seemed so unusal for him but his pause brought a smile to Sara's face. That was definitely a nice way to send her off at 8am.
I found a booth in the back corner and for the first time in this journey I was able to have a quiet moment. As a mom, I have had to be whatever Sara needed me to be. Even though Shannon is on this trip, he and I are tag teaming the kids so much that even he and I haven't had many moments to emotionally process all that is happening together. I found myself getting weepy. God knew and sent an uplifting note from a fellow twin mom at home!
I finished breakfast and headed up to the same waiting area as Tuesday and requested Sara's 5 digit number so I could follow her progress on the monitor. Surgery started at 8:45.
Shannon and the boys arrived around 10. Time sure did pass more quickly with the little ones to keep track of instead of waiting by myself. Adam and I chatted for a bit and read part of a magazine. I changed Evan's diaper and started walking him in the stroller to see if her would fall asleep for a morning nap. At 11:15 I was heading back down the hall and the nurse informed me they had just closed Sara so surgery was over! For the first time on this trip I felt very nervous. Dr. Montgomery told us things were so complicated that the absolute best case scenario would be a 3-4 hour surgery. It had only been 2 1/2 hours so my first thought was it must be bad news and Dr. Krambeck was not able to get all the stones.
I kept walking the empty halls with my sleeping baby and then I heard, "Mrs. Mollenhauer?" I turned around to see Dr. Krambeck by herself looking her usual joyful and confident self. She asked "How are you?" I told her "I don't know, how should I be?" She answered with a big smile, "You should be great!"
What a relief!
She lasered the narrow passageways and was able to remove all the stones. "So you didn't have to do the second percutaneous procedure?" "Nope!" "And you were able to get out the really big stone thru the scope?" "I took out 8 really big stones thru the scope!" I'm tearing up again just thinking about my conversation with her in that empty hallway. For the first time Sara is stone free and Dr. Krambeck was the woman who was able to make that happen.
I went in the waiting room to tell Shannon the news and gather up our things. Within 10 minutes of being informed surgery was done they were already letting us know she was ready for us in recovery. We had to ask at the desk how to get to the recovery area because there wasn't a nurse to escort us. We went down one floor and gowned up. Shannon went in first to see her for a few minutes. Then we traded gowns because his was at his knees and mine was dragging on the floor! Shannon left with the boys to go outside for lunch and I went in with Sara to accompany her on transport back to her hospital room at St. Mary's. When I got back there, Dr. Nemergut had already released her for transport and the ambulance service had been called. Sara was very very quiet and didn't even want to shake her head to indicate whether she was in pain.
We got back to her hospital room and her nurse was shocked we were there already. An hour after surgery ended and she was out of recovery, transported 10 minutes away, walked almost 10 minutes thru the hospital, and transferred to her bed! On Tuesday she was in the recovery room for an hour before they even called for transport!
Not long after we settled in, a volunteer came in to say they would be playing Bingo in the play room. If Sara didn't feel up to walking down there we could turn on the TV and then phone in when we won. Sara perked up when she was the first person to win and she got to say "BINGO!" She picked a new baby doll as a prize. Adam arrived soon after and wanted to join in on the fun.
At 2:00 Evan was ready for a nap so we laid him in the hotel's pack and play that was still in Sara's hospital room while Adam and Sara went to the playroom. Around 3:30 Dr. Granberg (Sara's urologist) and Dr. Montgomery (her assistant) found us in the play room. They looked at Sara playing games just 4 hours after surgery and shook their heads. If she was able to keep food down and felt up to it, they were fine with her being discharged that night.
We talked about follow up needed. She had a bag attached to each side of her back that covered her incision to catch any seeping. We would have to empty it as needed and when it stopped draining we could remove the bags and just cover the incision with gauze. She also had a stent inside holding one of her kidney passageways open. That would need to be removed in 4 weeks and can be done in Peoria if they are willing because it is about a 10 second procedure under light anesthesia. Then 6 weeks after that Dr. Granberg would like us back at Mayo Clinic for an ultrasound to see how her kidneys look post-surgery, as well as a consult about next steps. We are hoping to also coordinate with Dr. Sas, her nephrologist, at that time.
Dr. Granberg commented on the uniqueness of Sara's left kidney and said we should not let anyone else operate on her other than Dr. Krambeck who is now familiar with the peculiar roadmap she has. It was interesting to hear the respect in Dr. Granberg's voice as she talked about Dr. Krambeck using highly skilled methods of moving around, dilating for access, and then lasering, that most doctors do not have the experience to perform. It was interesting reading Dr. Krambeck's surgical notes and stating she "spent significant time trying to find the upper calculi in her left kidney!"
Around 5 Sara got dressed in street clothes. It felt like it had been a long time since she looked "normal" and it was so nice!
After heading back up to Sara's room, we learned discharge would be delayed even longer because they wanted her to eat more. Really? She wasn't nauseous after surgery either day and she had eaten jello, a popsicle, apple juice, and goldfish. Apparently they wanted "food" except the cafeteria food really wasn't the greatest. I spent the next 30 minutes fighting with Sara to even eat 1 chicken finger. By the end we were both in tears because we just wanted to leave. Shannon had gone for a walk with the boys. Sara and I had a very mature girls moment while sitting on the bed. She was sobbing from exhaustion. I put my arm around her and talked to her about how she had been so strong all week and I was really proud of her. But sometimes you just need to take a breath and cry if you need to, that's okay. She leaned her head against me and cried. After a few minutes I asked her if she was ready to go home. She shook her head yes and I got the nurse to start removing her IV tape.
The next 30 minutes was spent using numerous adhesive remover pads to get the tape off both her wrists that could have still been stuck there at Christmas. The nurse was not very sensitive to Sara's twitching and turning in pain. Twice she said she needed a break because she couldn't stand it anymore. She screamed and cried in pain at the end because I think the nurse pulled on the needle instead of the tape. So hard.
Finally at 8:30 the room was cleaned out and we were ready to go!
Adam was so helpful the entire trip! It really was the right decision to take him. He was sensitive to Sara and loved on her. He kept wanting to push her wheelchair, carry her bags, etc. Even at the airport I asked the two of them to stand and wait for us and I returned to find them holding hands. It melted my heart. Evan was very laid back and just went with the flow. It was a very difficult trip but could not have gone any better!
Shannon was able to get our flight home changed from Sunday night to Friday night, at no charge! What a blessing! It was so nice to have Sara laying in bed next to us in the hotel, sleeping peacefully. She and I woke at 6am Friday for her medicine and we went to breakfast together. The rest of the morning was a scramble to pack.
Again, Adam wanted to push Sara in the wheelchair when we left the hotel. As we were leaving, a boy and a girl were entering with their parents. We had been fighting with the kids over the balloons they had gotten. Of course they wanted to take them on the plane and we said no. Thankfully God sent children that we could bless and the kids enjoyed bringing a smile to someone else.
We made it thru the airport pretty well except for the TSA agent who thought Sara was in a wheelchair just for the convenience of hauling our stuff. Then he looked and saw weird plastic bags of fluid hanging from under her shirt. Oops.
We arrived home safely around 5:30. My neighbor had picked a few things up at the grocery store for us and left Michael's Italian Feast spaghetti, garlic bread, and a sub sandwich for us. The food was still warm so we were able to walk in the back door and sit right down to eat. What a huge gift! HUGE!
Sara was actually so exhausted she was in tears so she laid down on the couch without eating dinner. Five minutes later I checked on her and she was asleep. We let her rest for a few hours and then moved her to our bed so I could help her with medicine and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Saturday morning I spent 1 1/2 hours taking the bags off her incisions--tape is not our friend! If you have a queasy stomach you may not want to look at the next few photos but I wanted to document what Sara has gone thru. This is what Sara flew home with to catch any drainage from her incisions. The second photo shows her actual incisions.
She still has tape residue covering her entire back. We work on it little by little when she can stand it.
Sara was so excited to get flowers from Grandma Sue and Grandpa!
I think Adam was feeling a little left out over the past week as he kept asking to be in photos, too. This is one of my new favorite photos of the kids together!
There are many people to thank for helping in various ways. The Palms for watching our kitty, parasites and all, as well as providing lunch on Saturday and just going above and beyond any time we need it. Tammi for taking care of Ivy so we didn't have to board her again, getting the mail, groceries, and warm dinner Friday night. She is a neighbor I want to keep all for myself! So many people were praying, more than I even know. Thank you!
Sara is back to school and feeling her normal self. I have had to yell at her out the kitchen window to stop running as she is supposed to have restricted activity for 2 weeks! I can't believe her strength--she is truly an overcomer! Not only did she not have any pain medication other than 2 doses of Tylenol because it hurt when she peed but she never complained or freaked out about anything. She had tubes hanging out of her back with bags of blood attached and rolled over from side to side like it was no big deal. She didn't panic when she went to the bathroom and it was bright red. She carries a spirit of peace and calm beyond her years. She teaches me things...I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.