Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cruisin' through recovery

Travis has been home from the hospital for 2 days now. He slept for nearly the entire first 24 hours. Today has definitely been the best he has felt so far. He has been walking around the house, catching up on some emails, the newspaper and other reading. His appetite has been great and he is going to try to gain back the weight he lost in the hospital. His shorts keep falling down and unfortunately his belts are too big. I wish I had that problem! I cannot believe how well he is doing. He hardly takes any of his pain pills. He has pain and tightness in the area of his incision. That's about it. He gets the sutures out in a few days. He even made the comment this morning that he felt like he wanted to go back to work. Right! It's going to take effort to make sure he rests as much as possible. I can tell he's going to get antsy! He's catching up on daytime TV. That is already getting old! We are trying to find a physical therapist in the east valley that specializes in neuro rehab. Our friend, Fred Treece who is a PT here in Gilbert is helping us with that. So hopefully, we can get therapy started very soon. I am shocked at how well he is strutting around the house like nothing else. No one would believe he had brain stem surgery 8 days ago. He still needs help with balance and coordination. I know he will get it back quickly. He's just completely awesome!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Travis came home tonight!!! The past couple of days at the hospital he just blew everyone away with his "skills." He's been walking a bunch(he has his very own walker!), eating well, feeling great and pretty much off pain meds. He was really having a hard time getting any sleep at the hospital and nights were torture for him. They just went on and on. All the therapists were wowed by his progress and thought that outpatient therapy would be great. We are so happy about that because he's been getting very homesick. The idea of another week at an inpatient rehab was not looking very appealing to us. When they mentioned he was doing well enough to possibly go home today, we grabbed onto that idea and made it happen! I can't believe how difficult they make it for you to leave. It's such an ordeal. I found that the best approach was to be VERY assertive and basically act like a squeaky wheel they wanted to get rid of. By 7 pm we were on our way home. Travis was exhausted by the time we got home and was anxious to see the kids, have a smoothie (hee!), and go straight to bed. I am sure his recovery will really accelerate now that he is in the comfort of our home and with our crazy bunch of kids. Yes, I will ease him in with the kids so many of you may be adopting some kids here and there. And school does start next week. Is anyone else kind of excited about that and willing to admit it? So I plan on being very protective of Travis and nursing him back to his superhuman self in no time. We really limited visitors at the hospital and will probably keep it to family for the next couple of days. I  think he has some serious sleep deprivation and needs to catch up. I swear, aren't hospitals supposed to be a place to rest and get better? NOT!

We're so happy to be home. There truly is no place like home! (Thanks Kristen) It's been an emotional week. After being in the hospital for 7 straight days with no contact from our kids, that was tough on Travis. It was touching to see how tender he was as he embraced our kids, especially Ella. She's been very concerned and observant this week. She's experienced many lifetimes of doctors and hospitals in her short 5 years. I think she senses more than the others. We had the kids look at daddy's incision. The boys were not overly interested, but Ella and Olivia took it in and asked a lot of questions. More than anything, I know how relieved they are to have their dad home. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008


WARNING: This photo if not for the squeamish or faint at heart!

Can you even believe that incision? Wow!  I knew no one would even believe me without actually seeing it for themselves. They didn't have to shave much hair, so unfortunately my plans to give Travis a mohawk have been foiled. Just a quick update while I am home and taking my 2nd shower in over 4 days. Every day is better for Travis. His pain and nausea are totally under control. He ate a very healthy breakfast today consisting of frosted flakes, hot chocolate, cranberry juice and grapes. He even asked for a Twix and a Coke late last night. Yah, his special new diet will hopefully be short lived until I can get him home to his spinach and tofu smoothies! No one eats healthy at the hospital, right? Also great news, the lumbar drain was removed last night and he is off all monitors. We are waiting for a bed in a regular room, but he is off ICU status. He also isn't requiring pain meds as often.

We have an idea of what his recover is going to be like. A physical and occupational therapist both evaluated Travis and both recommended an inpatient rehab facility once he is discharged from the hospital. This will give Travis a fast track to overcoming the weaknesses he is having. The brain stem controls balance, coordination, vision, speech, swallowing, and a lot more. He is a little weak with the balance and coordination and vision. When I say weak, I mean he just needs some concentrated work to get back to normal. The therapists assured me that he can make a complete recovery. Inpatient rehab will move that along more quickly so Travis can get back to work and helping me out with the kids and house! He has been doing techniques already to improve all of this. He did mention to me and Kevin, the physical therapist at the hospital, that walking with the help of a walker and another person is "very humbling". But you should see him, he is soooo determined to bounce back quickly. He is truly the most positive and motivated I have ever seen him.

We are doing so well, mostly because of the HUGE support we are receiving for family and friends. My kids think this is the best vacation ever! They have loved spending time with wonderful friends and family. I don't know why, but it still makes me so emotional when I receive calls, emails, comments here, notes, etc. I feel absolutely no stress or anxiety about this process because I know I have countless people to help the second I ask. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! You are all angels to me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Successful Surgery!

Finally an update!.........I've been living at the hospital the last 2 days with no computer. I came home to take a much needed shower and then I'm heading back to the hospital. Travis and I arrived at 5:30 am at pre-op on Tuesday morning. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Shedd, and the chief resident, Dr. Chang answered some questions about the surgery before having me and Travis' dad, Gerald say good-bye to Travis. It was a little emotional but I really tried not to be a crybaby. Then they whisked him away for surgery at 7:30 am. My parents and brother came to wait with me later in the morning and my sister, Emily and sister-in-law, Jodi joined us later after lunch. Gerald's wife, Linda also came later on. With all the company the time passed fairly well until about 2 pm. They told us it could take 4-6 hours but could very well take longer. By 2 pm I started pacing and getting antsy. I checked for an update at 2:30 when they told us they were closing up following surgery. It was another hour and a half before we heard anymore. Dr. Shedd came out to tell us that everything went well and a good deal of the tumor was removed. After this, everyone left except for me and Gerald. I was waiting alone when Dr. Spetzler came to give me information on the surgery. He said that he was not able to remove most of the tumor without a big risk to Travis. He said it was "scared tightly" or something like that. He said we would wait a couple days for pathology to come back. Also, Travis may be able to have gamma knife, which is a non-invasive surgery in which a precise laser of radiation is directed with scalpel-like beams that can possibly take care of the remaining portion of the tumor. This was a treatment that we had heard about early on, but because of the size of the tumor, Travis wasn't a candidate for before the surgery. I felt very happy to hear this news, as gamma knife is an amazing procedure with great results.

Travis was taken to recovery but I wasn't allowed to see him until they transferred him to ICU. That didn't happen until 6 pm. When I got there, I saw a nurse pushing a bed with a man on it and didn't immediately recognize that it was Travis. His eyes were swollen and he had neosporin-like stuff on them. His face was also a little swollen so he didn't look exactly like himself. I guess I must have stopped in my tracks and stared because the nurse stopped and asked me if I was with him. I told her that I was his wife. He looked like he was still asleep but she told him I was there. I  leaned down and said, "Hi hon, it's Andrea." His eyes flew open and he looked at me with overly open big blue eyes and whispered, "Who are you?" I immediately panicked but replied, "It's your wife!.....Andrea!" He then said in a raspy whisper, "I'm just messin' with ya." Can you believe that! Over 8 hours in brain surgery and he still has a sense of humor. (even at my nerves were shot!) 

The next 24 hours were definitely the hardest. He was hungry so they gave him ice chips. He immediately threw them up. Even with morphine, it only helps keep the pain from being intolerable. He has had a bad case of the hiccups off and on. This also triggers vomiting. By this morning, he is more talkative and will try standing and maybe walking. Our biggest obstacles are the nausea and major headaches. He has a very respectable incision in a zig-zag shape behind his right ear. They call his headache "incisional headache," even though the pain wraps around his whole head. The nurses tell me he is doing so great....better than most following such a difficult surgery. I am amazed how well he is doing. I think today will be better and he will keep improving from here.  I have been living on the very comfy sofa in his room, it makes for a decent bed too. I am so grateful to be able to stay 24/7 with him. There is a special place in heaven for those who are taking care of our kids for us until we are able to all be home together.

Travis has a lumbar drain to keep swelling off the brain. He has a little tube coming out of his lower back and a stand with a bag collecting spinal fluid. He gets it out tomorrow and then he will probably be moved out of ICU. We don't want any visitors for now in order to allow Travis to completely rest and recover. This has been helpful. He's really no fun to be around right now anyway! We are anxious to get pathology reports and post surgery MRI results back. We are through the worst part now, I think, but we still have a ways to go. 

I want to express my love to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone who has gone out of their way to show love, pray, fast, do service for our family. My faith is strengthened by your examples of love and charity. Also, I have to say that through this past few days, I have absolutely felt a peace and comfort that everything is going to be fine. Everyone would ask how I was doing on the surgery day. I never had a doubt that Travis would come out of it better than he went in. I know this feeling was a blessing from our Heavenly Father. I know He wants to bless our family. Through our faith and the faith of so many others, I know He can make Travis whole and healthy again. I just know it. Travis and I love you. All of you know who you are. We couldn't possibly do this without you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Night with the D-Backs

Travis promised Ethan that we would go to a Diamondback baseball game so Friday night that's exactly what we did. We got tickets in the cheap seats, but since it was against the LA Dodgers, those cheap seats were twice as much as usual. Oh well! By the time we parked, got tickets, took the kids to the bathroom, got hot dogs and nachos, hiked 10 flights to our seats, Ella was asking when we were going home. I pulled out my snacks, treats and drinks to keep her entertained. When they were gone she was ready to go home. 

During the 4th inning, Baxter the Bobcat is in his den and takes visitors. We were some of the first in line and the kids love to see Baxter. He signs a picture and high 5's the kids and gives them hugs. They love it!!! We got a couple Cold Stone ice creams to share and back up to the nose-bleeds we headed. Ethan and Travis sat together and Ethan couldn't get enough of the game. He was asking questions and making comments to Travis about the game. It was so cute. Ryan was very excited and loved to join the crowd in yelling and clapping. It was a great game to watch..... a lot of runs for both teams the first inning and the D-backs were playing awesome. After the 7th inning stretch we decided it was time to get going, much to Ethan's dismay! He could've stayed the whole 9 innings for sure. We had 4 tired kids but it was such a great family night out! Unfortunately, the D-backs didn't end up winning they game. The Dodgers won in the 11th inning. (I'm glad we went home when we did!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Cash and Maizy!

Kathy (my sister-in-law Jodi's mom) made the most darling polka dot and candy cakes!

Cash turned 1 on July 10th. He is quick to smile and loves to walk everywhere. He's the sweetest little boy and so much fun to have in our family!

Maizy turned 1 on June 29th. She is an absolute doll. She has a more serious personality but if I work a little she will laugh and play with me. She has a thing for climbing my stairs every chance she gets!

We had a combined birthday party for the two babes turning 1 last Saturday. It was fun to have everyone together. All the kids enjoyed running around and eating yummy cake. Cash and Maizy were most likely overwhelmed by all the fuss, but seemed to have a great time just the same. I just can't believe that these two sweet babies are already one. I know it's been said millions of times, but time goes by too fast!

Travis and I are making preparations for his surgery next Tuesday. We meet with the hospital on Monday to get pre-op instructions and get another MRI. We are incredibly in awe that Dr. Spetzler is our surgeon. We feel completely at peace about moving forward with this surgery. Travis has been reading a book written about Dr. Spetzler called "The Healing Blade." It really cements in our minds what a miraculous surgeon he is. He has been blessed with a rare and amazing gift. I'd have to say that our expectations of the surgery's outcome are very high. 

I'm keeping it together.....barely. We are entering unchartered territory. I'm trying not to over think everything, but can't control my subconscious mind from running all over the place. This is the most intense event of my life. I have faith that everything is going to go well and we'll be okay. But it doesn't change the gravity of the upcoming events. As always, Travis is my rock. I don't know how he does it. He is the greatest blessing in my life and I am enormously thankful that he is my best friend, partner and husband. 

Travis and I are fasting this Sunday and invite all who wish to join us in this fast. We are so appreciative for all the prayers that have no doubt sustained our family in this difficult experience. We know it has made a difference. We love you all so much.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Office Quotes

Warning:  Travis Posting

Inspired by my friend Curtis ("C-Murder"), here are some favorite Office quotes:

1.  Dwight Schrute: A 30-year mortgage at Michael’s age essentially means that he’s buying a coffin. If I were buying my coffin, I would get one with thicker walls so you couldn’t hear the other dead people. 

2.  Dwight [Reading suggestions for health-care coverage: Who thought of this one? Anal fissures.

Kevin Malone: That's a real thing.  

Dwight Schrute: Yeah, but no one here has it.  

Kevin Malone: [quietly] Someone has it.

 3.  Michael Scott: 'Hug it out, b****.' That is what men say to each other after a fight. They hug it out, in doing so they just let it go, and walk away, and they're done. Not a good idea to say that to a woman, however, I've found. Doesn't translate.

 4. Michael: I ran down Meredith in my car.

Ryan: Did you do this on purpose?

Michael: No, I was being negligent. But she's in the hospital. She's fine, recovering nicely. Tiny little crack in her pelvis. But she will be up in--

Ryan: Did this happen on company property?

Michael: Yes. It was on company property with company property, so ... double jeopardy. We're fine.

Ryan: I don't think you understand how double jeopardy works.

Michael: Oh right, I'm sorry. What is, "We're fine?"


Hotel Valley Ho!

Thanks to the great kindness of Shalyn and Cooper, the cutest new married couple, Travis and I got away for the night to Scottsdale's Hotel Valley Ho. We spent the evening with some of our dearest friends from BYU, David and Becky, at Desert Ridge for dinner and "Hancock." The hotel is a modern-style hotel with a retro twist and was renovated a couple years ago. It was very cool! It was so great to sleep in until 9:30 with no cares for the morning. We had breakfast and then hit the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. I made Travis stop at See's Candy for a couple pieces of chocolate and then we went over to Borders Book Store. It wasn't until we went to make a purchase that Travis realized he was missing his wallet. We retraced our steps and went back to See's where we had made our last purchase. It was gone and there was no sign of it. That created a little panic as we contacted banks and credit card companies to cancel account numbers. On our way home we passed the DMV and stopped for a new driver's license. It took about 20 minutes and only $4 and we were on our far the very best DMV experience either of us have ever had!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Stars and Glitter

It's been a serious updates to report. We took a mini vacation to the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix on Thursday night with the kids. We spend two days in the wave pool, the lazy river and Travis and Olivia went down the water slides a few times. The kids loved it! Their favorite was the lazy river. They thought it was the coolest thing to float on huge tubes and go around the river over and over. We took them to Rainforest Cafe for dinner on Thursday. They thought that was the greatest place ever. They are asking to go back already. On Friday morning we went crazy and ate at Denny's before hitting the resort pools again. The kids sported their handmade 4th of July T-shirts all day. We painted them for a little project and they were so PROUD! Ella wanted as much silver glitter on her stars as possible. That girl is such a princess. We then spent the afternoon and evening with the Greene and Hicks families for a little BBQ and more swimming!  My highlight was watching all the men play a little Gorilla Ball in the pool. It got brutal. The guys were all comparing bruises at church today. We all had the best time......and that wasn't the end of it. We all caravanned to a fireworks show at Mesquite High School. They started a little slow but the show ended up being quite spectacular! The kids were worn out beyond all reason by the end of the day. We are finally recovering two days later. We also saw Wall-E on Saturday......way cute movie. I recommend it!

As for the more serious matters.......nothing new there. We are getting closer to the surgery date of July 22nd. Just over 2 weeks. I'm constantly aware it's coming soon. I feel a combination of excitement and fear. I really believe everything is going to go well. But the wife in me is quite nervous about it. The stakes are so high and we have no way to really know what the outcome will be. Travis has done nothing short of completely changing his diet and whole way of living. He feels amazing, looks amazing (eating this diet has that effect!), and impressed the heck out of me. This journey has taught us a great deal and we continue to learn as we go. I'm overwhelmed by all the information we have found that has helped us and given us such hope and empowerment.