Our journey series: four of eight

Our journey

Read what happened following Doug's accident. These posts were originally published on Doug's CaringBridge site, https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/dougbichler.

If you don't know Doug and I well, you don't realize how often I use the phrase, "Woo!" in conversation, mainly to make Doug laugh and smile. This morning the phrase is appropriate as Doug estimates he had at least six hours of sleep, in addition to a three-hour nap yesterday. Doug's muscle tension and pain have been more tolerable; thanks to the talented hands of Jeff the massage therapist and his sister-in-law. He ate a good supper, and I can tell he is feeling good this morning as his request for breakfast was pear, avocado, bacon and coffee. He went for a long walk last night and has plans for the same today. He wants to peruse the gift shop after his shower this morning. We haven't talked to the doctor today, and we don't know yet when the wound vac dressing change will occur. If the dressing change happens tomorrow, then more than likely we will stay in the hospital today. If the dressing change happens today yet, we may be discharged this afternoon. Doug's brother, sister-in-law and my mom will be leaving the cities today, but another sister-in-law is arriving this afternoon. Our niece will be coming this weekend, and Doug's sister is coming back on Sunday. Needless to say, we've been in good hands this entire time between our family members and the staff at Regions Hospital. Thank you for the continued prayers and support, and for all the mail. The staff told us yesterday that Doug is the most popular guy on the floor because of the amount of mail he has received thus far. Your cards and drawings make us laugh and bring a piece of home to Minnesota. Now, if we could just have our dogs mailed to us then we'd really have something to say, "Woo!" about.

Laundry list 
So, today we: Took a shower Ate a full breakfast, mid-morning and afternoon snack Walked to the gift shop Walked and ate lunch in the cafeteria as a group Had a massage Wore a real shirt instead of a hospital gown Said goodbye to family Welcomed more family Prayed with our health care company via the phone Had questions answered Didn't have pain spikes Napped Saw video of our dogs and re-modeled home (being cleaned and organized by our family) Were informed the wound dressing will be changed tomorrow morning Were told the plan is to discharge us after the dressing is changed And, we continue to be very thankful for all the love and support!

Okay, Fred
Besides having nine names picked out for Baby Bichler, we now have a name for Doug's right arm. This morning we christened what we have been calling his phantom arm, "Fred." Using the word phantom only brings about negative thoughts and feelings. Granted, this is more than likely only a joke between us for the day; humor has been good medicine through this process. I just stepped out of Doug's room as the team had entered to begin the process of taking off his current wound dressing to put on a new system, which will be out of the hospital friendly. If all goes well, we will be leaving the hospital this afternoon to stay at Doug's cousin's home with her and her family. We do not know an exact time as they will have to consult to decide Doug's medicine schedule, have the prescriptions filled, complete paperwork, etc. Doug had a good night of sleep, having four hours of uninterrupted sleep followed by two hours before we woke at 6 a.m. We went for a walk around the unit and then both walked to the cafeteria to get coffee and breakfast. We have been relaxing in the room for the rest of the morning because we were waiting for the nurses and doctors to begin the dressing change. Dr. Mohr (one of the two doctors in charge of the burn unit) will be in Doug's room to look at the progress of his healing. This should allow the doctors to decide when they will be able to conduct the skin graft surgery. We are hoping for good news and a surgery next week. We are prepared for road blocks and know our timeline could be set back depending on the healing process. Sleep, nutrition and exercise will all help and that is the plan over the next few days. Let's hope Fred cooperates and is on board with the plan, as Doug would enjoy to have less pain as the days go by.

Portable vacs, construction and one bed
We left the hospital yesterday afternoon after a stressful morning. Emotional, hard times were to be expected and such times occurred yesterday in full force. I thank God for my wonderful husband, because on top of going through all he is and has, he manages to be a voice of reason for the both of us when times seem unbearable. We arrived at Doug's cousin's home and had an evening of medicine organization, unpacking and settling in for our one-week vacation from Regions Hospital. I never thought I would say this, but I missed the hospital yesterday; the comfort the nurses provide and the peace of mind that Doug is in good hands. Now he is in my hands and that's a whole other story. The home we are staying at is a ten-mile drive from the hospital, but felt like an eternity thanks to road construction on the interstate system, which didn't help with the stress and emotions of the day. Doug and I are working on a system to control his pain and keep him comfortable while laying and sitting. We both had good segments of sleep, getting four hours followed by almost three more. With me being almost 36 weeks pregnant and Doug needing to get up and move, we have to make a couple trips to the bathroom every night and wake to take pain medicine. One of the best things about being out of the hospital, as scary as it may be, is that I was able to lay next to Doug in the same bed. We both didn't realize how much we missed being able to simply lay and talk. Our gracious niece is also with us this weekend and has made a coffee run to start the day. This morning, Doug is looking forward to a haircut from his cousin (thankfully his sister, Sue, isn't here) followed by getting cleaned up for the day. He just finished a walk on the treadmill and is sitting on the couch enjoying one of his favorite TV shows: The Incredible Dr. Pol. To say he is like a kid in a candy shop would be accurate. The television show follows a veterinarian on his day-to-day activities. Nutrition is still a priority so the day will also include cooking so we can have protein on hand for meals and snacks. Doug has friends who plan to stop by; with stock trailer and all. I wonder what the neighbors will think. Maybe they can bring a slice, or pile, of North Dakota to White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Sweet silence
Last night and this morning, the portable wound vac machine we left the hospital with took its last breath. Thank goodness. Long story short, the relationship between the vac and Doug just wasn't working out, and it was time to say goodbye. We took a morning drive from White Bear Lake back to Regions Hospital to visit the Burn Center nurses and Dr. Mohr. They took down Doug's original wound vac dressing (silver microbial layer, charcoal sponge, tape, etc.) and instead placed a silver microbial layer over his wound, then gauze and finally a compression sleeve. The dressing change didn't cause Doug pain or discomfort, and Dr. Mohr reported the wound is healing well and the skin graft is still scheduled for this Friday. So, instead of dealing with a negative pressure machine system, we now simply have to irrigate the wound with sterile water three times a day. This allows the Integra to stay moist and heal well. With this dressing option, we now also don't have to listen to a motor purring, alarms beeping and Doug doesn't have a tube connected to him to worry about. We stopped at the Lunds & Byerlys grocery store when we left the hospital, and Doug treated himself to a Hawaiian sushi roll and indulged in a piece of sea salt caramel dark chocolate. He is trying to rest on the couch at the moment, but is dealing with quite a bit of phantom pain. Now we wait for the medicine to do what it was designed to do. We hope to greet a visitor today who has had a prosthetic limb for some time, and we plan to go to Mass this evening. For now, at the very least we are enjoying the sweet sound of silence and are trying to help Doug achieve rest and comfort.

Weight of the Mass
Our afternoon proceeded as planned. We had a great visit with a friend of Doug's who lost his right arm in a farming accident almost forty years ago. He traveled here with his wife and son, and it was great to hear what he went through and how he has overcome obstacles. After they departed, we made supper and Doug rested before we left for Mass this evening. I was apprehensive about leaving the house because Doug becomes exhausted on the turn of a dime, but I had a purse of medicine ready for the worst case scenario. After we entered the church and settled in to our pew, the realization of what could have happened hit both of us. The overwhelming sense of joy for Doug's life was present for the entire celebration. I have never been so happy, so thankful, so moved by the simple sound of Doug singing. Because, the alternative is never being able to hear his voice again and that is something I do not want to face. The cherry on top of the evening was Doug asking if we could go for ice cream after Mass. So, to Culver's we went and to Doug's stomach went a salted caramel ice cream mixer.


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