Archive | November, 2010

An evening to remember

19 Nov

It often feels like we live in a world where one has to dig deep to be reminded that there are still kindhearted, generous and caring people.  When you turn on the television or open a newspaper, we are quickly reminded of the ongoing housing crisis, are witness to political smear campaigns, or learn that Brett Favre is once again dealing with another injury.  Through my battle, however, I haven’t had to look far at all, as the amount of love and support that has been pouring in has been incredible.  The cards, flowers and emails I receive from friends, family members, and even people I don’t know is overwhelming – in a good way.  Another example, is the benefit dinner that my amazing friend Allison Luse is putting on for me tomorrow night, Saturday, November 20th at the Fireside Lounge at Camerata Park in St. Louis Park.

Always a go-getter, Al can’t just sit back and watch when someone is struggling…and my case was no different.  Allison held nothing back when she was organizing the festivities for tomorrow night.  The evening will be catered with a great dinner, feature Ruth Bachman as a keynote speaker, a silent auction, and best of all, a Zoolander-inspired dance off competition.  I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me that she did this.

An Evening in Support of Emily Ihrke Akerberg

Thank you Al, and to everyone else who is coming together to make this an incredible evening.  While I am bummed I will not be able to physically be there, I’m hoping to be able to join in via Skype to say hello!  It is always neat to see people join forces on someone’s behalf…never in a million years did I imagine that it would be on my behalf.

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There’s no place like home

19 Nov

Finally going home!

Well it finally happened.  After 15 days in the hospital, I was finally released this past Wednesday and I must say it was one of the greatest feelings of freedom I’ve ever experienced.  As indicated in previous posts (which are still a blur to me as I re-read them), following my surgery on November 3rd, I was on track to be released within 4 days – the doctors were very pleased with my initial signs of recovery.  However things started to not look so good as I developed an infection in one of the wounds.  Needless to say the extended hospital stay was quite necessary, but as I continued to improve, I also continued to grow more stir-crazy; the last few days were especially restless.

Now that I’m at home, I am adjusting to a temporary different way of life.  Due to the wound infection I developed, they had to open the sutures to remove all of the bacteria.  Once the wound had been opened up, they couldn’t just stitch it back together again.  Instead, they re-dressed the wound with the assistance of a ‘wound-vac’ which creates a negative pressure system that helps wounds heal 40-50% faster than normal.  There is now a small hose that runs from this wound into a vacuum system which will accompany me everywhere for the next 2-4 weeks.  Every three days a nurse comes to the house to put fresh dressing on the wound and ensure that recovery is as expected.

I previously mentioned I would be sporting a colostomy bag post-surgery.  Well I was mistaken – it is an ileostomy bag.  A colostomy bag is used when the contents of the colon are redirected; an ileostomy bag is used when the contents of the ileum (or small bowel) are redirected. During the digestive process, food hits your ileum before your colon, therefore my entire digestive system past my ileum is essentially shut down for now and being diverted into a wonderful pouch that is secured onto the front of my stomach, thus allowing everything below this point to heal.  I empty the pouch 7-10 times a day and change it out every 3-5 days.  This whole experience has really provided me with a crash course in anatomy, as I can literally see my pipes through the bag…when I was bored in the hospital, I would eat something, and then time how long it would take to see it come into the bag!  Albeit temporary, wearing this bag makes one feel less than stunning, so please feel free to send any fashion-forward tips for concealing a decent-sized plastic pouch on the front of your belly that contains no-so-appealing contents…

Em and Nick enjoy 'date night' at the hospital

While there is still a long road of recovery that lies ahead of me (i.e. another surgery in 4-6 weeks to reattach the small bowel in order to remove the ileostomy bag, and a cancerous lesion that still remains on the liver) I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers throughout this arduous process.  Your positive vibes allowed us to remain upbeat through challenging times, which goes a long way.  A quick example: one difficult part of this entire process was that Nick had to travel for work a great amount of the time, so I was so thankful to have Mom, Dad, Bill, Jane, Nora and Jan around throughout various times of my hospital stay.  One evening however, Nick showed up and surprised me when he was supposed to be out of town.  We took advantage of the few hours we would have together and enjoyed ‘date night’ – which consisted of several laps around the hospital hallways, but not before getting all decked out. I ditched my hospital gown for a new silk robe that was given to me, brushed my hair and put on some lipstick (the hospital socks and IV cart accompanied us on the date)!  At a time when I was feeling so miserable, it was the strength that everyone else was sending that enabled me to muster up the ability to make this happen.  Thanks again for all your support, I am constantly reminded I am not fighting this battle alone!

Come home soon Mom…

10 Nov

...We miss you!

Two steps back and hopefully one cartwheel forward

9 Nov

Greetings from Las Vegas!  I flew in from Minneapolis Sunday night and came straight to the hospital.  Jane promptly informed me that I was now on blog duty, so an exhausting two days later, I’m here with the next update for you.

Emily was making great progress the first couple of days following surgery last Wednesday, but by Saturday a few complications were setting in.  She hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the day before because she was experiencing cramping and bloating in her abdomen as well as acid reflux.  The doctors decided she should stay another night with plans to go home on Sunday.  But by Sunday she wasn’t improving.  She was even more bloated and extremely dehydrated, claiming that any time she even tried to take a sip of water she felt the onset of heartburn.

Dr. Browder ordered an X-Ray first thing yesterday morning, but because the X-ray was only a one-dimensional view, the doctor then ordered a CAT scan to get a three-dimensional view to determine what was going on.  This immediately brought tears to Emily’s eyes knowing she’d have to drink an entire bottle of barium, a liquid used to coat the stomach so the doctors can easily read the CAT scan images.  In an attempt to alleviate the mere thought of having to drink 3 cups of fluid, Emily and Jane resorted to playing drinking games.  Was this a flashback from the college days, or what?!  With a deck of cards, a bottle of berry-flavored barium, and water, the mission was accomplished half an hour later.  Jane took a few sips of barium herself to help Emily along…..but we somehow failed to mention that part to the nurses.

Em and Jane playing drinking games

The hard part next was waiting more than two hours for the barium to do its job….on Emily as well as Jane!  Then, another two hour wait to get the results from the doctor, which revealed severe blockage.  A tube was then inserted into the opening of the stoma (the part of the intestine her bag is hooked up to) and another tube, called an NG tube, up her nose and down her throat into her stomach to pump out more bile.

Emily was extremely uncomfortable and had the IV for morphine hooked back up along with another catheter inserted.  By this point it had been three days since she had eaten and the mere smell of food made her nauseous.  After being at the hospital for 9 hours, we thought we’d let her rest.

It is now Tuesday morning and Emily is feeling better.  The drainage tubes seemed to be serving their purpose and she has released about a quart of the fluids that were backing her up.  She was taken away for another X-Ray of her bladder because the doctor noticed there was air in front of the bladder, and just wanted to make sure everything was working properly.

Emily has a whiteboard in her room indicating the date, her nurses names, and personal goals they write for her.  For the past few days Emily’s personal goal, as written by the nurses, was “to get better pain controlled.”  This morning Jane and DJ brought in some dry erase markers to write some new goals for Emily:

Personal Goals

I know Emily will reach her goals…she is truly an inspiration.  Please remember that every prayer does count.

Battlefield Update #3: Minor Setbacks

6 Nov

Well, yesterday we were fairly excited because the doctor told Em that if she was feeling well enough she would be able to go home.  She was able to eat solid foods, was unhooked from her catheter, and detached from the pain meds that she was administering to herself when she felt she needed it.  Unfortunately later on she started to experience some painful cramping and decided she would stay the night with the hopes of heading home today.

As it stands now, however, she is still in pain and still cramping, so she’ll be spending tonight in the hospital, too.  Today my dad and Nick’s parents head home, but my mom gets into town tomorrow evening.  I’ll keep you posted about her return home; I’m sure she can’t wait to be in her own bed alongside her beloved dogs!

Battlefield Update #2: Em Goes Shopping

4 Nov

Just a quick update to let you know that Em is doing even better today.  I had to work while friends and family visited her throughout the day, but was able to stop by around 8:00 this evening.  I walked into a room filled with beautiful bouquets, games, other knick knacks, and most importantly, thanks to her good friend Jaime, a size 40DD bra to accommodate Em’s sarcastic request to come out out of a breast enhancement surgery rather than a laproscopic lower anterior resection.

Yesterday she took on a puffy appearance from having her abdomen pumped with air but she must have released it somehow because she looks much better!  She also was able to make a couple laps through the hospital hallways in a fashionable manner – because she is currently hooked up to a catheter it had to come along for the stroll as well…disguised in a shopping bag.

Doesn't she make hospital attire look good?

Tomorrow Em will be able to eat solid foods; she’s truly looking forward to UMC Bistro’s menu because, let’s face it, we all know it doesn’t get any better than hospital food.  It’s looking like she may be able to head home on Saturday, but it depends on her bowels.  Who knew life could be so dependent on a fecal stream!

Thank you all for your continued support.  She is one amazing woman, and if you ask me, it’s her optimism and high spirits that keep me positive!  I think my brother Bill put it best: Lance Armstrong ain’t got nothin’ on Em.  Except for maybe one testicle.

Battlefield Update #1: Commence Operation Kick Ass Cancer

3 Nov

Hello everyone!  My time has come to assume my role as interim blog-poster, as you may have already read.  Before I continue, I must ask that you please don’t hold as high of expectations from me to write such lighthearted and funny posts as Em has, but to maintain the integrity of the blog, I will surely try my hardest to reach the bar she has set.

I met Em, Nick, and my dad at University Medical Center (UMC) at 6:30 this morning to prepare for her 8:30 surgery.  Em and Nick got all settled in the prep room and my dad and I were later brought back to meet them.  We walked through the most secure hospital unit I have ever seen only to enter into what seemed like a crazy zoo!  Every prep station was occupied with a patient and their family, machines were beeping left and right, and nurses pushing large machines through already cramped walkways.

After settling in with Em and Nick in her 8×8 pre-op curtained cell, we had plenty of time to chat with some doctors and her prep nurses, Ann and Rizalee, two Filipino sweethearts who told us more about things we probably didn’t really need to know.  At one point Rizalee shrieked while flipping through Em’s charts and began shaking her head saying, “Oh no!”  The four of us glanced at each other wondering what the issue was. Rizalee informed us it was nothing of our concern, it’s just that the doctors liked to “play tricks on her.”  Shortly after that she ran out of the room.  She came back a few minutes later in a huff telling us that she just almost had her car towed…she had parked it in the wrong lot this morning that was considered “illegal” parking for employees.  We just laughed it off and pretended to ignore the absurdities of the morning rush at the zoo.

One of the doctors came in to ask her a few questions: Why are you here? What is the goal of having the procedure? What’s your name and your birthday?  When he walked out I asked Em how confident she felt that her doctor who would be in on the procedure had to ask her those type of questions.  She explained that it was just a standard procedure (to make sure they are dealing with the correct patient with the right chart) – and then, in her true form and high spirit, told me that when asked what the goal of her surgery was she replied, “to come out with bigger boobs.”  Only Em.

Em in her sexy hospital get-up and Nick in his lucky sweater prior to surgery.

We remained waiting for a while longer with Ann and Rizalee checking in on us to see if the anesthesiologist or surgeon, Dr. Browder, had come to talk to us.  They hadn’t.  The nurses went to go figure out where she was, as she was supposed to meet us at 8:30 (and her office is right across the street). Finally, the anesthesiologist came to go over what his role was in the surgery game, and that he had absolutely no responsibility for the operating part.  Five minutes later, another anesthesiologist came by informing us that he was taking over the task.  At this point it was hard to feel like we were making any progress aside from getting Em dressed in her sexy hospital get-up…until…Dr. Browder finally showed up around 10:00.  She told us she would call us once the surgery was finished; she proceeded to write Nick’s phone number on the pant leg of her scrubs after I offered her a piece of paper, claiming she wouldn’t lose her pants…another element instilling complete confidence in us as members of the E-team fan club…

We were told that we wouldn’t hear anything for at least 2 hours from anyone while Dr. Browder operated.  Nora, Nick’s mom/Em’s mother-in-law, met the three of us at the hospital.  Over the next 4 hours we sat patiently waiting for any news.  Around 3:00 Dr. Browder came out to tell us that Em performed beautifully during surgery, maintained stability, and there were no issues.  She showed us pictures they had taken of the tumor and 6 inches of the colon they removed.  It was only a matter of time before the nurses woke up Em and let us see her in the recovery room. She was very groggy, but she was Emily Ihrke Akerberg, nonetheless.  She was doing her best to keep up with the jokes Nick and I were trying to crack about diverted fecal streams, suction catheters and the sort.

She is now all settled in her hospital room with a nice tray of hospital soup broth and a Popsicle, and Nick, Em, DJ (my boyfriend) and I sit listening to some Notorious B.I.G. as we bring the night to a close.  Tomorrow will be a better day, hopefully filled with books, boardgames and movies.  Thank you for your patience in these posts, and I plan to write again tomorrow.  Please keep your thoughts and prayers with her, they have been serving their purpose!