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Around noon on Monday, July 29th, Shelton went into his primary care doctors office because he was feeling a little short of breath. We were not overly concerned as he had worked floor duty just the day before and played tennis 2 days prior. During his visit they found his oxygen saturation to be somewhat low and recommended admitting him to the hospital for a "quick tune up" of what was probably COPD exacerbation. On admission to Memorial Hospital that afternoon they performed many tests including a chest x-ray, which we were shocked to learn was read as probable metastases throughout both lungs. Shelton has been so active and conscientious, diligently seeing his primary care doctor and several specialists regularly.
Monday night they performed a CT of Shelton's chest, abdomen and pelvis and a little after midnight Monday night we learned that the cancer had already invaded many other parts of his body, including his kidneys, pelvis, and spine, leading to a compression fracture of his L1 vertebrae. The CT also showed a very large tumor invading the right main bronchus and affecting the air getting to the entire right lung. Shelton has never been one to complain, about anything, however we were still amazed that he has been so active despite these significant findings.
Tuesday morning was slated to very very busy with many specialist consults and discussion around what does this mean and whats our plan of attack, however around 8:30am Shelton became unstable very quickly with his oxygen sat dropping and heart rate elevating. He was quickly moved from the floor to the ICU where his condition continued to deteriorate quickly. Shortly after, a fast decision had to be made and he was intubated and placed on a vent to buy us some time to try and figure out what was going on. The next 24 hours he struggled to maintain his oxygen despite maximum assistance in the ICU. However by midday Wednesday he began to trend toward stabilization which was incredibly encouraging, and a biopsy of the tumor was able to be done.
Thursday he had his first radiation treatment while intubated and began responding to us, although still on the vent. He shook his head denying that he was in any pain, opened his eyes, and squeezed our hands when we told him how much we love him. Friday he seemed to be even stronger with increasing responsiveness with removal of the sedation. He had another radiation treatment Friday late morning and was doing so well they decided to do a breathing trial to try and get him off the vent. This was successful so he was extubated Friday afternoon and we were able to hear his sweet voice and talk to him. He told us all sorts of things that he remembered from his time on the vent listening to friends and family tell stories and speak of their love for him. Truly incredible.
Friday evening he had another episode where he became very unstable and we almost lost him. It became very clear just how fragile his body had become. Saturday and Sunday we are so very thankful for and believe were direct answers to prayer. We were able to talk and be together and reminisce so many wonderful memories, trips, and experiences together. We were able to pray and sing and laugh together. It was truly such a special time. Shelton was able to see not just family, but some lifelong friends and we were able to hear them laugh and tell stories of years past. In true Shelton fashion, he couldn't stop expressing his appreciation for everyone's efforts and love. Sunday he felt well enough to see his grand-daughters and talk about some of his favorite things.
After meeting with the oncologist late Sunday and weighing the risks and benefits of additional treatment, Shelton elected to focus on his loved ones and enjoy the time he has left.
Shelton has shown unwavering courage and faith throughout this journey, inspiring all he comes in contact with. His doctors and nurses continue to comment on his genuine warmth, kindness and the appreciation he shows for all of those around him. Mom has been a rock throughout, showering Poppy with love and encouragement. We are so grateful for the incredible people and care we received in the ICU at Memorial.
Monday we moved moved over to the Hospice House. We will keep everyone updated as we can.