Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jell-o and a Leak

I have an ongoing conversation with God. It is the most regular prayer that I have these days. It is scattered and unpredictable, usually involving thanks for resolving the cancer and questions about why recovery from the surgery is so wrought with complications and setbacks.

The past two days have brought both elation and gripping fear. Yesterday, Dalton convinced the doctors to allow him to have a "swallow test". After passing it with flying colors and proving that his hardware wasn't leaking, Dalton received a tray of chicken broth, lime jell-o, cranberry juice, and a cherry Popsicle. It was in his own words, the best juice he has ever had. Apparently, it doesn't feel much different to swallow without an esophagus, but he has to remain upright for at least an hour after the last bite - a small price to pay for being able to teach Iain to ride a bike. Unfortunately, that joy quickly turned to fear as the liquid that was draining out of the chest tube turned to chyle - a word that I did not want to hear.

Chyle indicates that there is indeed a thoracic duct leak, and I spent much of today trying to calm my nerves about what that meant. When the possibility of a thoracic duct leak first presented itself on post-op day 2, I furiously googled my way to an article that indicated a very high mortality rate for patients who were treated conservatively rather than aggressively. For me, that meant that either Dalton would have to be opened back up again or face a 50% chance of dying. Between that and the realization that I will soon be the one having to pack his open incision with gauze, I was desperately wishing that I had left my Zanax in my purse rather than the medicine cabinet at home. I don't do dying husbands and I don't do open wounds (not that there is even a comparison!). The wound is like a fifty-cent piece sized 1/2 inch deep hole smack in the middle of Dalton's chest. Since it became infected, they had to remove the outside sutures and let it heal from the inside out. Dr. Demeester's nurse informed me yesterday that it would be my job to clean and dress it every day until that happened, and I immediately felt my heart begin to race and my stomach began to churn. Other people's pain does that to me, and although my mother-in-law offered to do it (three times a day), that just served to make me more determined. As much help as she has been, my husband does not need his mommy to take care of his ouwies any more. His wife will just have to learn to deal.

As for the thoracic duct leak, my concerns seem to be a bit excessive. While he will certainly keep an eye on it, the surgeon is convinced that it will heal itself. He had read the same study I had and never understood how they witnessed such differing scenarios as those he had seen. He assured me that although he had seen this sort of thing at least 50 times, he hadn't lost anyone yet. And, they only rarely had to go back in to correct it. Instead, it just means that Dalton will have to have the chest tube left in longer than they had hoped, and that will prolong his stay. O, once again, patience seems to be the lesson of the day.

So, to summarize, Dalton is on a clear liquid diet - yeah! But, he is also stuck in the hospital until the leak is resolved. On a most excellent note, the fever has stayed away.

Coming soon... a look at Dalton's esophagus. That's right, I got to see the whole thing after it had been removed. FREAKY!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tricia,

my email is I am honored to be able to officiate at your grandfather's graveside service this Thursday.

I am looking forward to seeing you and Dalton on Wednesday.



11:49 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...


Just got back into town last late last night and thought to look into your blog to now finding out about Grandpa....I'm relieved to know that this is now over and you can better concentrate on taking care of you. I will call you soon and hope to hear Dalton is doing well. Love, Me

11:39 AM  

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