Robert Stecak Bob's Journey to Wellness

First post: Apr 1, 2018 Latest post: Mar 21, 2019
My father has been struggling to recover what was initially thought to be an acute episode of pancreatitis that turned into a series of complications and misadventures, most of which have not been diagnosed or explained with any certainty, even to this day (update 1-16-19).  

In a nutshell:
On 3/17/18, he presented to the ER at Jefferson Hospital with abdominal pain and was admitted to a regular floor. The next day, he fell and sustained a head injury that, at the time, was deemed to have caused no resulting damage; however, he was transferred to that hospital's ICU for "preventive” but unclear reasons and returned to a regular floor on day 4. On 3/22/18, he was transferred to the ICU at Presbyterian Hospital. Brain scans done at hospital #2 revealed a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage (a brain bleed). It is believed that the fall was likely the result of the adverse reaction that he had to the IV Ativan that was mistakenly administered because at some point, the physicians were under the impression that my father was going through alcohol withdrawal (he hasn’t had a sip of alcohol, beer, wine, etc. since 2003). Along with the sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, his body was also still trying to heal from the inflammation of the pancreas, which was not necessarily acutely life threatening in and of itself, but significantly compromised his immune system. But that wasn't the extent of it. There were other problems arising that were also later thought to be caused by something other than the pancreas, other than the head trauma, and other than the weakened immune system. These "complications" ranged from multiple infections of unknown origin and dysphagia (inability to swallow), to aspiration, pseudoaneurysm near his pancreas, MRSA pneumonia, prostate and bladder issues, 2 blood clots, dangerously low hemoglobin levels, delirium, joint and muscle pain/weakness, immobility, and a stage 4 decubitus ulcer (highest stage).

In early May, he was transferred to a skilled nursing facility where he was expected to be rehabilitated enough to begin walking, and after 4 weeks of little to progress in that area, and after pleading with the attending physician to refer him to neurologist (because his legs were not just deconditioned, they was clearly something going on with his nerves/spine). Imaging showed some sort of a "cyst" inside of his spine and we were told to go back to Presby ASAP because the cyst not only looked ominous, but it was something this neurologist had "never seen before."


Back to Presby on July 4th. They admitted him and ran more neurological tests, CT myelogram and MRI's only to decide that they too couldn't do anything with this cyst, that it was "too far gone" and had done "too much damage" to his spinal cord and nerves. Presby referred him to the Spinal Cord Injury Rehab unit at Mercy, so he was transferred there 6 days later.


At Mercy, he participated in PT, PT, and ST 3 times a day. He gained some weight, and they took good care of his bedsore. They ordered him a custom-made wheelchair and before you knew it, he was zooming all over the place there. Going to the gym, lifting weights, socializing with anyone and everyone. He was discharged on August 13, and we were able to drive him to Raleigh to stay with me while he continued outpatient PT and had home care to continue working on the wound healing, and other things that a "paraplegic" might have to deal with. 


The plan was to continue rehab in Raleigh and follow up with a spinal surgeon in a few months. The spine doctor who saw him at Mercy relocated to Chapel Hill, NC and was able to see her in November. She referred him for more PT, a neuro-urologist, and a neurosurgeon to check the cyst. Over Thanksgiving, he had a slight setback with his wound. Too much time in his wheelchair + an infection compromised his immune system, & his wound became angry again. The home health agency had sent the wrong wound care treatment, & that made matters worse. That all took a week or so to clear up and we had to reschedule the neurosurgeon appointment for January. 


The ulcer was looking good again, so Dad was cleared for travel to Wilmington (Robi's house 2 hours away). We took him there for Christmas. Within 2 days, he began running a temperature and it spiked from 100 to 103.5 in an hour. My sister rushed him to the hospital in Wilmington where he was admitted to the ICU with a severe urinary tract infection. There he also developed pneumonia. Both cleared up within a week and they transferred him to acute rehab where he once again began intensive rehab. A neurosurgeon ordered MRI's of his spine and was concerned about the cyst growing in his spine. He suggested that Dad have exploratory spine surgery to look at the cyst and see if it is operable or not. They performed this procedure on January 15th, and drained the cyst a little, and also took a biopsy. We are awaiting the results to see if an additional surgery will be warranted to treat/remove the cyst. 


More detailed updates of this ongoing 10-month battle are posted in the journal entry section of this Caring Bridge story. Your prayers and continuous words of encouragement for my Dad have been so appreciated throughout this journey.  And also, thank you everyone who helped me out while I was in Pittsburgh for those 5 months. Whether it was opening your home to me, sending food, visiting at the hospital(s), or just checking in with concern and well wishes, it truly helped ease of the stress in getting through my Dad's ordeals and obstacles, as well as the difficulty of being away from my home for so long.   

God Bless!