Friday, Feb 26: Day One, ICU

Today Dan was able to drink water (he said it was ambrosia) and eat some red Jell-o. His pain has lessened somewhat, and he was able to sit up in a chair for almost two hours. The kidney is producing urine, and the doctors are watching his potassium levels closely. If potassium is at 5 or lower, there won’t be any dialysis today. They are also watching the creatinine.

The ICU has four wings, and Dan is in the “D” area. You have to call the nurse to ask permission to enter, and then they buzz you in past the security door. The signs all say that you must wash your hands and wear a mask, but Dan’s nurse tells me that a mask is not necessary for now. No one under 18 can enter the ICU area, so Charlie will have to wait until Dan’s in a regular room. You can’t have a cell phone while you’re in the unit, which is very difficult because I feel very isolated without it.

Dan is hooked up to about fifty different lines and tubes. Most of them are connected to his IV drip, and some are for his monitor: blood pressure, heart monitor, oxygen level, breathing monitor. He has a central line in his jugular, which apparently looks more painful than it actually is. He is learning how to make fancy sine waves on the breathing monitor by taking huge breaths and letting them out very slooooowly. He is supposed to be breathing through this handheld lung-capacity tube thingie, ten deep breaths through it per hour, to move the little rubber ball past the 2000 mark. This will help to keep his lungs clear and open. He also has a morphine clicker, which he is using less today even though it’s there for him to use, not to conserve. He also has inflatable cuffs that cover his lower legs, and cycle on and off every few minutes.

He has a nice window that opens up into a small garden area, but the bed faces away from the window and he can’t really see out too well. There are patients on either side of him, divided by privacy curtains and sliding glass doors and windows. A nurse’s station sits in between Dan and the woman next to him, who is very very sick and has family flying in from all over to say their goodbyes. It is sad, but also heartwarming: she is surrounded by loved ones (they bent the two-person visitor limit, thankfully) and they played the guitar for her and sang to her for a while this evening. She is covered by a quilt and they were able to move her bed so she can look out of the window to the garden.

Dan’s doctors come by and tell him things are looking good. They are watching his blood pressure closely, because after all of these years worrying about it being too high, it’s actually on the low side. They want the blood pressure higher to increase the blood/oxygen flow to the kidney, which will help it to “wake up” and start doing a better job filtering the blood. They started Dan on some medication to raise the blood pressure, but they want to wean him off of it before moving him to a regular room. They are planning on upping the dosage a bit overnight, since his blood pressure goes down while he’s sleeping, and then decrease it in the morning.

Dan was able to eat some salmon for lunch, and a pork chop for dinner, selections from the “heart healthy” menu. He is feeling and looking more like his old self.

I stayed with him for a few hours this evening and watched him doze a bit, my eye on the monitors. The readings are actually very addictive — more interesting to watch than the TV. He has a blood pressure cuff on his arm that takes readings every five or ten minutes, but what I found most interesting is the little sensor they have in his right wrist. They’ve inserted it into his artery there, and it gives real-time blood pressure readings. So it’s kind of fascinating to watch that monitor and see the readings fluxuate when he’s sleeping, talking, and eating.

Things are going well, Charlie’s spending the night with my mom, so I’m heading home to get some sleep. (Oh, the potassium was right at 5, so they didn’t do any dialysis. Dan was relieved.)

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