As many of you already know, Nancy was admitted to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at HCMC in Minneapolis on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21st, the day after her 72nd birthday. My mom Patty, Nancy's life-partner of 27 years, was leaving for a rehearsal around 12:30 PM and Nancy appeared to be napping. This seemed strange to my mom as Nancy never takes naps. My mom decided to say goodbye in spite of the risk of bothering Nancy while she was enjoyed a rare catnap. When Nancy did not respond to my mom's voice, she tried nudging her but still was unable to rouse her. My mom called 911.
The EMTs arrived within approximately 8 minutes. In the meantime Nancy appeared to gasp for air but remained unresponsive. Nancy's heart was fibrillating, or pulsating rapidly but not pumping oxygenated blood through her body, when then EMTs arrived. Her heart soon stopped altogether. They revived her and she had a breathing tube inserted.
During the first 24 hours following her hospital admittance, Nancy's internal body temperature was chilled to 88.6° to help reduce swelling or brain damage that may have been caused while she was without oxygen. She was given pain medicine to alleviate her discomfort from the breathing tube and was sedated to let her body rest and prevent shivering which could led to additional brain damage. She was closely monitored during that time.
On Monday Nancy was visited by a score of medical personal and specialists who observed her and attended to her condition. Many near and dear also rallied around my mom and Nancy with offerings of healing words and energy, prayers, support, concern, and bountiful love.
We soon learned that people who experience this type of incident while in their home have a very low chance of recovery, only a 30% probability. We remained hopeful that, of all people, Nancy just might be the rare, stubborn bird who beats the odds. However, we were also faced with some very difficult choices in the event that things didn't work out in our favor since the brain can only survive a very short amount of time without oxygen; every minute is critical.
After 24 hours of chilling, Nancy's internal body temp was increased by .5 degrees each hour until returning to 98.6°. Nancy was also given an antibiotic to preempt getting pneumonia. We all returned home to rest overnight.
We returned to the hospital Tuesday morning with the expectation that Nancy would have the sedation lifted in order to be observed by a neurologist first thing. We became cautiously optimistic when Nancy responded to her a name, although she was unable to give us that telltale thumbs up the neurologist was looking for as an unequivocal sign. Nancy was also regularly visited by a respiratory therapist and a cardiologist who said while her heart was weak from the heart attack she has just three weeks prior, this was not a heart attack but rather the result of an irregular electric impulse likely triggered by existing scar tissue.
Nancy was also given an opportunity to try breathing without the ventilator, which she successfully did for a couple breaths before tiring. While promising, the breaths were shallow and the medical team wanted/needed something deeper, stronger before they could remove the breathing tube altogether.
Throughout the course of the day Nancy continued to be visited by loved-ones who held her hand, stroked her forehead, encouraged her and offered sweet tidbits as reminders of who she is, what happened, and all that she has to look forward to as she reemerged from the haze. We left the hospital around 5PM so everybody could rewind and rest.
On Wednesday came the best development yet. Upon arrival to the hospital first thing in the morning, Nancy was again taken off of sedation to allow a true glimpse of her condition. When the RN came in, she asked Nancy a series of simple questions to test for cognitive responsiveness. Nancy was listening, attending, and tracking with her eyes. Nancy smiled at friendly faces in the room numerous times! And she was also responsive to the voice of her oldest friend who called by phone. We were all excited!
Nancy continued to breathe on her own for several hours thereafter.
Later afternoon on Wednesday, after a Nancy had shown continued ability to breathe independently her breathing tube was successfully removed! Although she was unable to speak right away, we're hopeful that with rest and hydration she'll, once again, be talking and snappy as usual.
Provided that Nancy continues to breathe on her own over night, tomorrow's scheduled visit with the physiatrist could result in her being discharged from the MICU and transferred to a rehab department of the hospital for combined occupational and physical therapy.
Stay tuned. Eternal gratitude to all of you for your continued love & support!