Welcome to our CaringBridge website for Lou Harris. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.
Posted by Carol Harris:
On December 10th. Lou and I were out for a walk around Washington, Ga planning a winter trip. Maybe a road trip to Florida. We always enjoy seeing new places together. Since last March we have been at my family "home place" in Washington, G A isolating. As a Master Gardener for Cobb County I have worked every day in the flower beds and Lou loved the results. As he saw people on their morning walk, he would invite them to come and see how the garden was "unfolding".
At the end of Oct. we both had laryngitis. My voice returned Lou's did not. A 2nd. clinic visit - nurse said sometimes it takes time. We returned to our home in Roswell the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, hoping to make an appointment with his Dr. at the Emory Clinic. A lot of delay with Covid-19 protocols and the holiday. I gave up and took Lou to my Wellstar ENT the week after Thanksgiving. He found that Lou's left vocal cords were paralyzed. He thought that the virus could have damaged the vagus nerve that comes down through the chest from the brain and back to the opposite vocal cord. He ordered a CT scan to be sure that was what the problem was. When we returned the following week, he said that Lou had a tumor in his chest and told us to see a thoracic surgeon. He handed us the report. We made calls to get into Emory. We drove back to Washington on Friday the 10th.
Monday we started calling again. We gave up on Emory, tried a recommended Northside surgeon with no luck. At 4:00 p.m. I called the ENT. He called back with an appointment for us to see a Wellstar physician on Wed. Dec. 16th. She would have an associate do a biopsy that would determine what it was and then treatment could start. Calls were made. The earliest anyone could do a biopsy was Feb. 3rd. That was not acceptable. Another Dr. could do it Jan. 6th.. On the 18th. as I watched Lou decline, I called the thoracic surgeon. She told me to take him to Kennestone ER. We spent a precious time together in their new emergency building from 2:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. when they got him a room. It was so hard, to leave, but I could not go up on the floor. I drove home in tears. Lou had gone into Atrial Fibrillation due to the tumor and was having shortness of breath. A biopsy was done on the 22nd. More delays due to the holidays. They could not treat until they knew what they were dealing with. They released him on the 23rd. Each day there was further decline, I would ask him often about us returning to to the hospital. He was trying to hold on until our oldest grandchildren arrived on the 26th. I had gotten in touch with Home Health, as they did not come on Christmas Day and they got there an hour after our grandchildren did. By that time Lou was gagging on soft food and unable to get a pill down. He had a strong rattle with every breath. It was confirmed we needed to go as fast as possible to the hospital. Another precious time together from 4:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. This time when I left, I felt God's peace. Lou was placed on the oncology floor.
Monday the 28th. pathology finally came back. It said it was a primitive undifferentiated malignant cancer. That means they were unable to identify what it was, where it came from or what stage it was. On Tuesday the 29th. they finally started radiation treatments. The next day they started chemo to relieve some of the acute problems. The tumor was very aggressive. Of course inoperable. At this point it had strangled his esophagus closed, was beginning to close airways and now affecting his aorta. They struggled to get a feeding tube in due to problems with his heart, caused by the tumor, then finding no way down his esophagus. On the 30th. they put his feeding in surgically. They were unable to put him fully under with anesthesia. It made me think of Job. On Thur. the 31st. I was called to come to the hospital. They were very concerned, as Lou's oxygen levels were falling. I was so fortunate to be able to pick up his Bible on the way. We had it rebound and there it was, with his name.: Walter Louis Harris. The oncology nurses allowed me to stay with him overnight.
On Friday he continued to struggle and they felt it was time for us to call our children to come. They put him on a BiPaC machine and he made it through that acute situation and the Lord opened up a door in ICU. Our daughter, Katherine, had driven from Charleston through a driving rain, but got to the hospital in time to see him. They allowed me to walk with him to ICU, it was more a fast jog. They said I would not be able to stay, but the nurses were so short handed that one handed me a blanket and a pillow. God continued to open pathways through the continuous obstacles. I stood beside him most of the night, helping anyway that I could. At 2:30 he had another acute issue and I thought I would lose him. They continued to use the BiPaC which caused him to panic. A natural reaction to something over your nose and mouth. Things settled down after much prayer. At 4:30 a.m. his nurse said the charge nurse wanted to speak with me. She told me they had rules and I was to leave. I guess she did not realize I was there until that time. I told her that he was helpless, nurses had been too busy with other critical patients and had not responded. I told her that I was exhausted and did not feel safe to drive. I went back into the room and sat on the fold out chair. She did not kick me out. Another praise. On Saturday, they told me they needed to hold off on the last radiation treatment because his condition was so critical. His pulmonary Dr. did a procedure on the left side of his chest on Sat and they were able to draw off a liter of fluid. That helped him greatly. They repeated it on the right side on Sunday.
By this time, Lou was becoming very agitated with all the tubes, wires, pricks, lights and the BiPaP machine. He was begging me to get him out of ICU. We requested a bed on the oncology floor. His oxygen levels were good with the procedure on his lungs, and he did not have to use the BiPaC. Again, another obstacle. No available beds. On Monday, the Oncologist was telling me that he felt that to continue treatment would do more harm than good. Lou's cancer was too far advanced. Later the Radiation Oncologist was more positive. The Pallative Care Dr. came to see me. I told him I was getting mixed messages. He was very compassionate and said he could not imagine how I felt after going through such a frustrating ordeal with such a sad ending. He told me that he would talk to all four doctors involved in Lou's care and get back with me. He came back and we called our children and included them on a Zoom meeting. In the early 1990's I worked for Hospice Savannah, as the Assistant to the Executive Director. I was fortunate to be part of building the first inpatient facility in the state. in Savannah, GA, I often went out into the community and spoke to people about Hospice and what it offers. I asked for them to find out if there were any available rooms at Wellstar's Tranquility House nearby. Praise God, there was and they moved him out within the hour. He was so relieved he broke down and sobbed. We have been here together since Monday at 6:30 p.m. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. He is getting oxygen and medications to make him comfortable and to relieve the congestion in his lungs. God has not provided the miracle we hoped for , but has made a way for us to finish this journey in comfort and peace.
With Covid 19 this facility is unable to let people in, other than myself and my three children. They hate the restrictions as much as we do., but must follow the law. We can only enter, two at a time. Other family members have been able to Face Time. We are thankful. We are at peace. We know that God is with us. Lou will be healed as he enters heaven. He made Jesus his Lord and Savior at a Business & Professional Ministry called Needle's Eye Ministry in 1980, when we were living in Richmond, VA. This decision was made after a lifetime of church attendance. He heard the Chief of Police of Richmond talk about having a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and realized he did not have that. He prayed that day to not only know about Jesus, but to make him Lord and Savior. We are grateful for the wonderful life we have had together. I have surrendered my precious husband into God's care and I trust the Lord to do what is best.