Inside the ICU there is no cell phone usage, no WiFi usage, and no stopping. Things beep, respirate, alarm. Code Blues are called, people run. Still, there is an eerie calm. Nurses seem to lope from station to station, all too used to this. Tonight Brandi sleeps in the ICU, and I've gone home (tomorrow we'll switch). Only one is allowed in the room overnight.
The day began as smoothly as any day might that happened to sit between two brain surgeries. Scarlett looked better; her swelling had dropped and we were able to catch little glimmers of her eyelashes poking through. She had three arterial lines, an intubation tube to breathe, and a plethora of other tubes and monitors that I don't want to gross you out with. As the day wore on, we took turns sitting outside to field emails and phone calls, and inside we watched her right eye beginning to peek open.
Our surgeon came in to let us know his plans: an MRI tomorrow to provide a new geographic guide to a surgery on Monday or Tuesday. This will be the final surgery with any luck. "Monday or Tuesday" - the sort of casual time frame I used to assign to paying bills. Brandi and I would much prefer something like "Tuesday, 9:35 AM," but we can't fight every fight these days...
The afternoon became anxious. Scarlett was having "sub-clinical" seizures, a common thing post-brain surgery, where the brain neurons seize in a minimal way, without outward bodily signs. These seizures began to increase to 4-5 per hour, and so her anti-seizure medication was upped. This much anti-seizure medication presents a risk to her stopping breathing, but, as it was explained to us, that's not really such a big deal given where we were. Bizarre, but true, and so Brandi and I agreed.
Also, we all had noticed her left arm and hand weren't moving a lot. So it was in the afternoon that all of this added up to a call for an immediate CT scan. Brandi and I were ushered aside, and we helds hands and watched a mobile CT scan machine, which looked maybe like a time machine, roll in. Scarlett was picked up, and I remember hoping they didn't accidentally rip any of the delicate lines out of her skin. They placed her in the CT machine, and after 20 minutes of scanning, the circular machine was rolled away, and we were allowed to comfort her again.
We can't really pick her up. I wanted to, but there's just no way to hold her without breaking something attached to her. So all day we'd placed our fingers in her right hand, which was gripping, and her little right foot, which can also grip with her long slender toes. I placed my hand on her belly, to let her know I was there, and then both of her eyes began to open! Brandi and I were so proud.
We waited for an hour, speculating what might explain Scarlett's lack of movement. We both hoped it wasn't neurological, and we had plenty of reasons to believe it. Her left side was more swollen, and she had more lines and boards restricting that side. Surely this could explain it, right?
One of the neurosurgery team came in to tell us the news. It was not what he had feared: brain bleeding. What he did find was air - a giant air bubble composed of nitrogen. Still no explanation for the lack of mobility, but that issue was tabled because there was no emergency course of action that needed to be taken on it. The solution for the air bubble? Tilt the head so that it came in contact with the brain, and increase the oxygen supply. With that, our neurosurgeon team member explained, the vessels in the head would simply carry it away with the oxygen into the blood stream, and the bubble would disappear.
We looked at our daughter's CT scan, a gaping hole filling with half liquid, half nitrogen, and shrugged in agreement. Sounds good, we guess.
Then, with the crisis apparently over, we settled in and I helped her make a cozy folding bed. She has a t.v. there, some mindlessness of which I'm glad for. I left hoping nothing else would happen while I'm gone.
Our nurse was very nice, very casual. They all were like this. The nurses and doctors moved from machine to clipboard to computer, as nonchalant as they could be. They joked with each other and calmly carried out life saving scans and checks as though they were doing a load of laundry. Just another day in the ICU for them. Brandi and I meanwhile check another day off before the final surgery that can set us up to remove this thing. If we can make that far, then maybe we can make it through Chemo. If we can do that, then maybe we can win this thing.
Oh Scarlett, keep fighting baby.