I asked him about something, or he tried to tell me something, and there it was again. The word-finding problem. His EYES hurt. That was a new one. I went off to find Barry, the day nurse.
Barry has been a nurse for 26 years. He is fast, efficient, knowledgeable, and explains everything thoroughly. If he has time, he’s borderline “chatty,” but always in a sense of, “let’s talk about this thing for a minute or two because I’m friendly and I care but I also need to go check on my other patients.”
“Barry, he’s not right. I know he knows what month it is and what hospital he’s in, but he’s not able to find words, he’s not making sense, his tremor is quite noticeable just lying there, and he’s cold in a 400 degree room. There’s something WRONG.”
Barry went over all his numbers and tests with me. The CT scan I pushed for last night showed no significant change from the last scan days before. There had been an elevated white blood cell count, and they were still culturing his blood and CSF for infection.
Neuro guy came up to remove his lumbar drain (which had, in the prior 24 hours, slowed to a stop and was therefore both ineffective and a potential entry for an infection). Barry relayed to him my concerns, re: last night and today’s altered mental status.
An hour or so later, Ian’s surgeon came in, felt the back of his head, took one look at his sad self in the bed and determined: we need to do a brain drain; the CSF is building up. He said if it weren’t for the tremors and therefore anesthesia needed, it could have been done bedside. It’s a “procedure,” serving the purpose of a shunt, but where the latter is permanent, this drain will be temporary. All of this is complex, but the short version is: with his fever fluctuation still not definitively diagnosed, we need to be sure he is free from infection before another procedure to implant a foreign body.
After the surgery, the surgeon told us that upon opening him up (I’ve lost track of the head holes at this point), he found a significant build-up and flow of CSF. It’s gotta go somewhere, and it’s just insisting on trying to come out of his head, which is effectively (we hope! for good this time!) water tight.
A shunt is still in the plans. The blood thinners will be resumed half an hour from this writing, playing with the dosage so he has the appropriate amount in his blood stream to prevent new clots and tackle the current ones. If you look here, you will see the first potential complication is risk of bleeding, especially in patients on coagulopathy: ie: BLOOD THINNING. Also on that list of complications: migration (which is what happened to the last drain that was installed during most recent surgery to repair the hole/move the scalp), infection, which is always our enemy, and the most complicated and terrifying: obstruction (see all the things we’re now expecting of the ICU nurses in terms of care and prevention?)
The doctor told us something they learned in medical school: “Always believe the mom. If she says there’s an XYZ, there’s an XYZ.” It’s haughty of me, and not even remotely the important part of this story (which is that Ian received treatment for a bad thing doing bad things), but
I. Was. Right.