Our journey series: three 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.

Plus one
I apologize for the slow update from this morning's surgery. We've had a busy day! Doug left his room to head for pre-op around 6:30 a.m., and the doctor began surgery shortly before 8 a.m. At 8:15, we were given the good news that not only was the doctor going to be changing the wound vac, but also applying a layer of Integra (imitation dermis) to the wound. By doing so we: avoided an additional surgery and all the complications which can arise, lowered his pain because all his nerve endings are now covered, and are plus one on a layer of skin so when the time comes for a true skin graft, blood can flow and the skin will take. We are thankful to be one step closer to a full recovery, but we also realize all the risks and step backs which could occur. I was told by the doctor that the Integra product takes 10-14 days to fully set. Of these, 9-13 days should be able to be spent outside the hospital, but still in the city area. Of course, this is a very fluid timeline as things could go drastically wrong at any moment. We are praying and hoping for the best, as getting Doug out of the hospital for a few days would do so much for his recovery. If we leave, we would have to come back to the hospital for one wound vac change (they only last so many days). Then once the Integra is ready, a true skin graft would be done using donor skin from Doug's right thigh. There were timelines mentioned after this point, but nothing is guaranteed as many things were mentioned as, "it depends ..." Any bets on whether baby Bichler will be born in North Dakota or Minnesota? He has had a few visitors since returning from surgery. A brother left for home while another brother and sisterin-law just arrived. My mother and I are still here. Doug's friend from college stopped, along with his father-inlaw who happens to be from my home town. This gentleman was in this very unit almost four years ago after losing his lower arm in a farming accident. What an inspiration for Doug to see and hear from. This man does everything he did before; the movements and technique look different but they get the job done. He has manufactured custom ends for his prosthetic to help him complete farm tasks. I could see the wheels spinning in Doug's brothers' minds. Doug ate a good lunch and had good amounts of fluids. We went for a walk and now he is back in bed resting before the next visitors arrive.

A Monday I didn't hate
We've had a busy day, and it is hard to believe the clock says 1:45 p.m. I stayed with Doug last night, and we were able to walk around the unit overnight, massage his shoulders, neck and back, sit in a chair and have a few snacks. We both slept good, and hard, when the nurses weren't coming and going. Getting up and working a little bit in the middle of the night seems to help with Doug's soreness and inability to sleep. We heard from the doctor today, and we have a few goals in the next few days. The main one is: nutrition, nutrition, nutrition and protein, protein, protein. Doug's lab work reveals his body is devoid of protein and other important levels are very low. Next, the doctors need to fine tune his pain management regimen so the medicine works and works well. Also, a solution for a portable and appropriate wound vac/dressing will be decided. Our earliest date of discharge would be this Wednesday, July 5. This will depend on the progress of Doug's diet and the pain management. At this point, we will leave the hospital together but continue to stay in the Twin Cities area. When the Integra has set, we will come back to the hospital for the skin graft and the timeline continues from there. We will be here for at least two more weeks. We had wanted to get away before the baby was born, even if it was for a day or a simple weekend, and I guess this is our chance for a vacation in the cities. Doug has been cleared by physical therapy today. We are waiting for the occupational therapy team to arrive today. Doug's walking is getting quicker, stronger and more steady. He was able to do steps today, too. He is quite skilled at being one-handed. He used his electric shaver to trim down his facial hair, brushed his teeth, washed his face, etc. We are pleased with the progress he has made, but we accept the hurdles we are facing now. But, if all Mondays of the year could make us feel this hopeful, this joyful and this optimistic; well, then I really wouldn't dread the Monday morning alarm anymore.

A good start has been followed by a tough day. Please pray for comfort for Doug; swelling and pressure have set in as well as neurological pain in his right arm. He had his first session of shoulder exercises with the occupational therapist, which went well but wore him out. Exercise is great, and we will continue to do so in order to heal. Things from nausea to digestion hurdles have moved in this afternoon and evening. He did eat all three meals and is on a 100 gram protein and 2,200 calorie daily goal.

Instead of celebrating the Fourth of July by watching fireworks in the night sky after an enjoyable day at the lake or with family, here we sit trying to rest in a hospital room. Just as fireworks explode up to bring beauty falling down, we've had some ups and downs today. Doug has been restless due to soreness in his shoulder and arm. But, we were able to give him an actual shower; his first since last Sunday. He is tired because of interruptions and pain and can't seem to have peaceful sleep. But, he did enjoy sushi for lunch complete with a ripe peach and an allergy-free cookie for dessert. He can't seem to relax and have relief from the phantom pain. But, he could still possibly be discharged tomorrow. Everyone asks us when the next ___ is, but the truth is we take one hour, even one minute, at a time. So as you all enjoy your holiday today, have fun and appreciate all the little things. And, above all be safe!

To go or to stay? 
Today is the day. The day we heard we could possibly leave the hospital. At this time, we still do not know if we will be leaving or staying to wait out another day. Doug has been suffering from neck, back and shoulder tension and pain; more so pain from this area than his nerve and phantom pain. Because of this, he hasn't been sleeping and this morning has a terrible head ache. He is back in bed now, but as I type this his day nurse walked in to interrupt his attempt at sleep. She is administering pain medicine, which is another battle as we can't leave the hospital until his pain regime is under control. The stress is mounting between seeing Doug in such pain and discomfort; seeing the hospital bills in my mind; seeing family and friends be worried and shook; seeing our families drop their daily tasks to help us at every turn at the farm; seeing Doug have moments of frustration and exhaustion ... So whether we stay in the hospital or go, I just hope and pray Doug can have some comfort. And, soon. 

For the time being, we still be staying in the hospital. Doug had a good lunch and received a message from the therapist here. He is comfortable now and is going to rest. A quick update, but wanted to let those who are wondering that we will not be leaving the hospital this afternoon. Thank you for the prayers, thoughts and well wishes. 


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