Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Good News - Tracy Douglas Update

All –

I feel a need to preface this good news update regarding Tracy’s condition with an analogy: Tracy's situation has been a bit of a roller coaster ride of late with steep inclines, big drops and scary turns. Although there's more ride ahead, I can say without any hesitation that I personally like this part of the ride, as do Tracy's Mom and her boys. I think you will as well. That being said…

Tracy’s condition has improved significantly. Although the conversations just a week ago were dire in nature, somehow our girl has managed to surprise and delight the doctors (not a surprise to those of us who know her of course, but certainly a delight) and has now been taken off the respirator/ventilator because she no longer needs its assistance to breathe. The trachea tube in her throat still provides an oxygen mixture to ensure that she maintains sufficient supply, at least for the time-being, but the percentage of oxygen is being reduced slowly, indicating that her lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen from the air is increasing – a very good thing. Both the charge nurse I spoke with yesterday and Tracy's Mom said that conversations are taking place regarding Tracy’s potential move to rehab (timing TBD) – another very good thing. Although Hospice had been considered, now Palliative Care is the approach. For those of you who may not know the difference between the two (and please don’t feel embarrassed, most people don’t – but we ALL should), Hospice focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients with a life expectancy of weeks or months, not years, and their families. Palliative Care may be given at any time during a person’s illness, from diagnosis on – its goals are to improve the quality of a seriously ill person’s life and to support that person and their family during and after treatment – in this case treatment for Tracy’s pulmonary hypertension. The fact that Tracy and her family are now receiving Palliative Care, not Hospice, indicates that Tracy’s medical practitioners do not regard her present pulmonary condition as terminal – another very, very good thing. So, those are the facts at present.

Now, because a number of y’all have expressed appreciation for the stories behind the facts, here’s a bit more color commentary from my seat on the roller coaster – so fasten your seat belts…

I visited Tracy four times last week, after sending my last very wrenching update. During those visits I experienced Tracy as looking quite good, given the circumstances, meaning that her face showed good color, that she tracked (followed) my presence and movements with her eyes, but that she was not overtly responsive to my questions or attempts at soliciting a response. She appeared to be uncomfortable, as she moved her legs, repeatedly pulling them toward her chest then stretching them out. The charge nurse during those visits said that the medical staff was monitoring Tracy’s behavior for any indication that she was consciously responding to input but they hadn’t observed such at that point.

However, as I approached Tracy’s ICU room yesterday, I saw Nurse Betty (I’m not joking) quickly covering Tracy’s legs (propriety, you know) as she saw me coming down the hallway. Nurse Betty and I have struck up quite a rapport and she appears to absolutely adore Tracy and be providing her with the kind of attention and care that anyone would hope to have. I say “big gold stars for Nurse Betty’s crown”. As I approached Tracy’s bed, Nurse Betty said “Tracy, you’ve got company”, and Tracy turned her head toward me and offered a small smile with very soft eyes – she couldn’t speak because of the trachea tube, but there was no question in my mind that she recognized me. I took her hand in mine and Nurse Betty said that Tracy was having a very good day indeed, then proceeded to show me a photo on her phone that she had taken earlier in the day of Tracy actually SITTING UP ON THE EDGE OF THE BED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN NEARLY TWO MONTHS – another very, very, super-dooper, jumbo economy-sized good thing! I asked Nurse Betty if she could email me the photo so that I could share it with y’all, but wisely she offered that Tracy might not want that particular image floating around the ether of the Internet in perpetuity – DUH John. As observed during my visits last week, Tracy continued to move her legs constantly and I commented to Nurse Betty that obviously Tracy was doing her Jane Fonda exercises, to which Nurse Betty replied “Oh NO, she kicks FAR higher than Jane Fonda…”. I say “another gold star for Nurse Betty’s crown”. And Tracy's mother June mentioned today that a physical therapist administered some "simple" exercises (simple to whom?!) and that she (June) coached her through them, receiving glaring stares from Tracy. June also said she thinks she figured out at least a partial reason that Tracy has seemed to furrow her brow constantly for weeks - she hadn't had her glasses on in weeks - DUH all of us. So June mentioned them to Tracy, then Tracy smiled, and then after June put them on her, Tracy gave June an even bigger glaring stare through magnified eyes... Now THAT's improvement.

So folks, how’s the ride? Pretty darned good, huh?

Some final notes for this update: Tracy’s Mom and her boys really appear to be doing well right now. Additional good news is that the hospital has lifted the "under 18 years of age" visitors ban, so the boys can visit their Mom without having to duck down and sneak past the nurses station or try to talk in really deep cracking voices (ah, the joys of puberty...). They're feeling much more hopeful about things, and are very, very appreciative of all the support that everyone has been sending and giving.

I’ve mentioned to most of y’all that I’m in the process of establishing a college fund for Tracy’s sons – they are very fine boys, reflecting Tracy’s ethics, intelligence, wit and manners, and I feel so strongly that they deserve to have the opportunity to excel in life and become the kind of men of whom Tracy would and will be proud. So many of you have expressed interest in helping in any way you can, and I thought this would be one way to do that, and one that will reap long-term and I think wonderful benefits. I’ll be providing more details about the fund as soon as I finalize the paperwork with my financial advisor. In the meantime, please feel free to share the idea with others as you see fit – in this case, more is certainly better!

I hope these updates help give you the data and facts that the left sides of your brains might require, and also give the right sides a good reason to reflect a smile too. I'm lovin' the data and smiling a whole bunch!

More to come, and much love - John

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