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Jan 23, 2018 Latest post:
Feb 18, 2018
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About two and a half years ago, Rusty started having a smoker's type cough and felt the need to constantly clear his throat. He went to see his GP who felt like he maybe had acid reflux and prescribed prilosec and also had ordered allergy tests. The cough continued and he even started having some pain around his right breast and through to his back. The next thought was maybe it was his gall bladder so they tested it to find it was normal. Since he was due to have a colonoscopy he decided to go ahead and have an upper GI as well. (His joke was, "make sure they do the upper first.") As the doctor was completing these exams, they noticed he had an unusual heart rythmn right toward the end. The exams turned up normal but they recommended he go see a cardiologist about his heart. After a battery of tests, they determined that he had Atrial Fibrilation and would need to have an ablation to correct this. They also found an 80% blockage that required a stent. These two surgeries were done in January of 2017. Our hope was that this was the cause of the cough and the chest pain. He did feel better about his shortness of breath but the chest pain and cough continued and he begain to spit up frothy phlegm as well. The GP then recommended he go to a pulmonologist. The first one told him that he had a slightly elevated right diaphram and had atypical asthma with reflux. This doctor prescribed more meds and inhalers. The condition continued to worsen. At this point, Rusty was weak, tired and had lost 50 pounds. He was taking about 15 different meds and still didn't feel better. We began to think it was environmental so we started having the house checked for mold or other issues. No problems were found. We decided to try a new pulmonologist who did more tests and recommended a thorasic surgeon in Charlotte because he felt he might have a trapped lung. This doctor suspected a paralyzed diaphram and had him tested. He did indeed have a paralyzed diaphram but couldn't explain why. Another surgery was performed to correct this in July of 2017 in hopes of clearing up his pain. The surgery went well and Rusty could get a good deep breath, but the cough and pain returned and worsened. About this time we were grasping at anything to help so we began to see a holistic doctor as well and changed all of our eating habits. I felt great and lost 12 pounds. He lost more weight and still felt awful. He got to the point that he couldn't sleep because he couldn't get comfortable and was spitting up all night. We went to the emergency room at least 5 times in 45 days. Each time they would do an EKG and a CT scan and then send us home with pain meds and tell us to follow up with GP or pulmonologist. The pain got worse and the cough and phlegm got worse. He began to curl up in pain and beg for someone to do something. Finally we showed up to the GPs office on a Friday morning with him doubled over and demanded he get him admitted to a hospital because the ER wouldn't admit him. The GP and the thoracic surgeon got together and finally got him admitted on December 22 to CMC Main. Three days before Christmas they just made a plan to control the pain until he could be seen at Duke - which we had scheduled for January 25th. He was released from the hospital on December 24 with pain meds hoping to keep him comfortable until January 25th. On January 3, the pain meds quit working and he was once again doubled over in excruciating pain. We returned to CMC Main where he was once again CT scanned in the ER. This time one of the PAs noticed a "tear" in his esophagus. They immediately began to prep him for surgery and it finally all began to make sense. Just to be sure, the GI doctors wanted to do a esophogeal CT scan to confirm. They couldn't determine for sure that it was a tear and felt like it was a diverticulum (outpouching) and suggested we wait. He was admitted for further tests and pain controlled. At this point he had started to develop pneumonia in his right lung. An EDG would need to be done to determine the extent of the damage of the esophagus, but if it were just an outpouching could actually create a tear. The GI doctors weren't willing to risk it and wanted to treat him with antibiotics first for a few days. During this time, Rusty began to have trouble breathing and having elevated heart rate and blood pressure. One particular episode resulted in admittance to CCICU. He stayed in this ICU unit for 3-4 days in order to get his breathing and heart rate under control. An ultrasound of his heart was done and determined that he had heart failure. The cardiologist said it was reversible but he would need to get his other issues under control first. He said his right sided pain and cough were not related to his heart and asked if we had had a PET scan. We had, of course, asked for this in the past but all other doctors said there were no indications in his symptoms or bloodwork that it was cancer related. The GI doctors did not want to do the PET scan because they felt like any inflammation would light up on the scan and could cause false positives. After several days of pressing, we finally got a PET scan ordered. All the inflammation was around his lungs and esophagus and did not indicate cancer at all. That was a relief, but we still did not have answers to the pain and cough. The next step was to convince the GI doctors that we needed to take a closer look at the esophagus with an EGD. That was performed on Thursday, January 18th and he was immediately transferred to the surgical trauma ICU. It was finally documented that he had two holes in his esophagus that were leaking in and out of the chest cavity and they would need to be corrected sugically. The problem now was that Rusty had developed pneumonia in both lungs and couldn't go through the surgery until the pneumonia was healed. So as of today (January 21, 2018) he is in STICU trying to recover from pneumonia, heart failure and a punctured esophagus. He cannot take anything by mouth and has to be assisted with a ventilator to help with his breathing. He has been sedated most of today because he gets agitated with pain and the breathing tube and wants to rip it out. I hate to see my strong-tough-as-nails husband in such a weak and vulnerable position. He has a long road ahead of him to beat this, but I am faithful that he can. He has his first grandson due in mid February and we want him to be well on the road to recovery when he gets here.