Kirsten Is Sick – August 24, 2012


Hayley feeding Kirsten
We just returned from the hospital. Kirsten’s friend Maggie is the SCU 4 CNA tonight, and is going to give Kirsten a spa treatment. For dinner she ordered a lobster roll, tea, ginger ale, fruit, and apple crisp. If they keep treating her so well she’s not going to want to go home. The girls and I took turns feeding Kirsten, which was nice. She talked to us, and laughed.

Report from the nurse tonight was unremarkable. Kirsten is off of the pressors and isn’t on any pain medications. She’s still receiving oxygen through a nasal cannula, and levels are good.

I know this is short and boring, but, quite frankly, those are the kind of updates we like for a bit. Am I right?

Good night, my friends. We love you all.


Kirsten is presently enjoying her first solid food since Monday (the only other food she had was through a feeding tube last evening). I ordered her peaches, whipped potatoes, squash, strawberry Glucerna, low sodium V8 juice, and blueberry yogurt from room service. She is alert and can carry on a conversation. She wasn’t aware of the damage to her right wing, but doesn’t seem too bothered by the news.

Emily, her endocrinologist, called while I was having lunch with my buddy Adam at Portland Pie. She said Kirsten is responding very well to the metyrapone, which has reduced her cortisol levels. She is still on high doses of steroid, which compromises her immune system.

I had a long consult with Dr. Patty Lerwick, the ICU attending physician. Nobody expected Kirsten to improve this quickly. She is completely off the pressors (except a small maintenance dose) and is receiving oxygen through a nasal cannula. Oxygen levels are hovering in the high ninety percent range, which is the goal. Kirsten’s rapid recovery in the last day indicates she probably does not have an infection, so we’ve eliminated two of the four antibiotics. She will come off the other two when the bacterial cultures come back negative from the pathology lab in the next day or so.

Patty apologized to me for the approach of the anesthesiologist who spoke with me yesterday and who clumsily suggested that low oxygen levels and the lack of the SCU nurse’s urgency, might have–probably did–lead to some damage to Kirsten’s brain. There is no indication that that happened, and the low O2 levels which concerned us post-op and lead to intubation and ventilation, were not dangerously low.

If Kirsten continues to improve today and tonight, the SCU team might put in a transportation order to another room in the hospital. There is very little bed availability, so even if there is a transportation order there is no guarantee she will be moved. I, of course, would prefer she stay here where she has a far more dedicated team.

She remains on Keppra (Levetiracetam) to prevent additional seizures. They still believe the cause of the seizures was high blood pressure, and say that it isn’t common for patients with high blood pressure to seize. Kirsten, as I’ve heard so many times, is atypical and complex (we knew that already, right?).

Because she’s now extubated, Kirsten is on a long lasting pain medication, Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) via the PICC line. The nurse said if I want some I have to first go through the Emergency Department (ED). I think I’ll stick to Cold River Blueberry Vodka, thank you very much. :)

I spoke with several people about the reasons Kirsten had to be placed on ventilation. Heather, the attending respiratory therapist, explained to me better what is a pulmonary edema following a postoperative laryngospasm, which Kirsten experienced. She explained it to me in a way that I could understand. I love learning this stuff. If people weren’t so gooey, I think I might like medicine. It’s so complex, which is incredibly appealing.


Smiling, happy Kirsten
When I walked into Kirsten’s room she was smiling, off the ventilator, and changing the channel on her television. What a difference a couple days make! I asked her if she knew she had a seizure and broke her neck. She said she did. I told her she broke it good, to which she replied, “If you’re going to do something, you might as well go all the way.”

Ultrasound to check for blood clots
A sonographer is doing an ultrasound of her legs to check for blood clots. Around noon Kirsten will go to x-ray for an image of her neck, which is standard after surgery. They’ll be looking to make sure everything is in the correct position.

She gave me a high-five, which was pretty freakin’ awesome. I’m so indescribably excited and relieved to have her back from the brink. She’s sleeping now, which is very much a good thing. She’s going to need plenty of rest over the next couple days to prepare for the next round of tests and procedures.


I spoke with Kirsten’s nurse from last night, Peg, by telephone. Kirsten had a “very good night.” She’s on a tiny amount of one pressor, and is going through CPAP trials to get her to breathe on her own to exercise her breathing muscles so she can come off the vent.

She was washed up this morning and has been being fed through a tube. Hopefully the ventilator weaning will continue to go well, and that there isn’t any swelling which would prevent extubation sometime soon. It would be great to hear her voice again.

I had a beer with my friend Jill last night after having a nice dinner with Soni and the girls. It was nice to talk to someone about what I’ve been going through. Emotionally I’m feeling very strong, and pleased that the precipitous decline in Kirsten’s condition seems to have been halted. The weekend should be uneventful, and provide much needed time for her to get stronger for next week’s activities.

48 Replies to “Kirsten Is Sick – August 24, 2012”

  1. Jessica Somers says: Reply

    Very happy to hear the positive news. I hope that the healing continues at a quick pace and that you and the girls can speak with Kirsten soon. Thanks for keeping us all updated.

    1. You’re welcome, Jessica. I do my best.

  2. Good news! Here’s to an uneventful weekend! I am always happy to grab a drink or walk with you and talk through things too, Brent.

  3. Kris Lethin says: Reply

    So glad to hear the news! Have you considered doing a video post to your blog? In a way you could be talking to all of us.

    Love you man.

    1. That’s a great idea, Kris! I’ll record some of Kirsten so you can all visit virtually. Love you, too. :)

      1. Kris Lethin says: Reply

        Well video of Kirsten would be great when she is feelin up to it but if she’s still intubated she might not appreciate the camera in her face. I was just thinking if you speak your thoughts into your iPhone video cam it might save you some key strokes. ;-)

  4. Wow, Brent. I had no idea.
    It’s good to read about Kirsten’s recent improvement!
    It’s clear that you have a lot of love and support from a whole bunch of people.
    If there’s anything I can do, let me know.
    My thoughts are with you all.

    1. Thank you, Ruben. Yes, the recent improvements are hopeful and definitely take the edge off. I could use a little break in the action. :)

  5. So very glad to read that Kirsten had a good night and that she seems to be getting stronger.

    Also glad to hear that you got the chance to unwind a bit last night and have a beer after all.

    Hoping for a completely uneventful weekend for Kirsten.

    1. I had a shot of PatrĂ³n before dinner, which is exactly what I needed. :)

      1. Kris Lethin says: Reply

        I’ll have one of those in her honor tonight! ;-)

        1. Wish you were here, man. We’d imbibe together.

          1. Kris Lethin says:


  6. Kris Lethin says: Reply

    Woohoo! Wow! What a relief!

    Love to you guys.

  7. Its so great to see Kirsten smiling! Please tell her that when she smiles we are all smiling right along with her. She has a lot of inner strength. Sending all happy thoughts and positive energy your way.

    1. Awwwww. Thanks, Jody. :)

  8. I can’t tell you how glad I was to read today’s posts!! Thank you so much for keeping us updated! I am so far away and wish I could her hand a loving squeeze too. Would you from me? I sure do love you both! (and your beautiful girls too.)

    1. The statuette you sent is very beautiful, Amy. I was here when the nurse gave her your email. Kirsten read it to me, which is by itself pretty damn incredible.

  9. Awesome news!

  10. Bill Moreno says: Reply

    Great to see Kirsten smiling, Brent!

    1. Tell me about it. I can’t even begin to describe the happy emotions when I walked into the room this morning.

  11. This is the best update ever. I’m so happy to hear of the progress. Glad to hear she still is smiling and has her sense of humor. Totally smiling from ear to ear for you all!

  12. I can’t tell enough how much I love this post!!! Give her a hug from me or at least a hand squeeze. Love to both of you!

  13. Fantastic news!

  14. kathy longacre says: Reply

    Brent I’m so relieved to hear of Kirsten’s improved state. Thank you for keeping us so well informed. Please tell Kir I love her. To her continued strength! Love to the girls and you.

    1. I will certainly pass that along. Maybe in a few days she’ll be up for a phone call and you can tell her yourself. We love you, too, Mom.

  15. We’re all smiling now!!

    1. Yes, we are. Thanks, Ruben. :)

  16. A bit of sunshine after such bleak days. This is good news indeed!

    1. It’s about time, and very welcomed.

  17. BTW–the picture you posted of her is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!

    1. It’s pretty freakin’ rad, eh? :)

  18. YAY!!! What a gorgeous smile to see this morning! This is going to be an awesome day!

    Love you guys!

    1. This is going to be a very good weekend. We need for her to get much stronger and healthy so she’ll be better able to withstand the tests and surgeries planned for next week.

  19. Hope she was able to enjoy some of the solid food. In awe of Kirsten to have made such improvement overnight. I think my cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much for your family!

  20. Sara Sterling says: Reply

    I’m so happy to hear of Kirsten’s improvements! Such a better day for everyone.

  21. So happy to read this! I am in awe of how strong you have been for your family through this — I am sure Kirsten sensed this support all along.

    1. Next time you see her out and about, be sure to remind her. :)

  22. Jim Troutman says: Reply

    yay! 1000x yay!

  23. I am so happy and relieved to hear she is improving!

  24. We have tried several times to see if there were any new posts and the morning one just came up. We are hreatful she is doing better. We luv you both
    Patsy & Daf

    1. I have been creating a single blog post each morning and updating it throughout the day in reverse chronological order. So, the most recent update is at the top, subtitled with the time in the format HHMM.

      We love you both, too. :)

  25. Janice ORourke says: Reply

    This is incredibly uplifting news. I am filled with gratitude that you BOTH get a chance to regain strength for what is required next. Xo

  26. Katie Prior says: Reply

    I find the gooey-ness of people quite gross as well. I’m so glad she’s getting better. It’s amazing she’s made such a miraculous recovery.
    By the way, it was so awesome to have the girls over on Wednesday. Thinking of you all.

    1. I’m glad the girls were able to come over to your house, too. It was good for them all.

      I wouldn’t call the recovery miraculous. It’s been difficult, and the result of lots of good modern science, and well within the scope of probability. A miracle would be her getting up tonight and walking out of the hospital without any tumors or diabetes or Cushings and a fully restored neck and C5 nerve. And weighting closer to 100 pounds than 70.

      The recovery has been remarkable and wonderful. However, there is a VERY long and difficult road ahead for Kirsten. We haven’t even begun to tackle the endocrine issues for which she went to the hospital, or the likely metastatic tumors in her liver and elsewhere. Her neck will take at least three months in the collar to heal, and the shoulder muscles many many months of physical therapy to restore some of the lost strength and range.

      1. Katie Prior says: Reply

        I think it’s a miracle that she hasn’t progressed to her sickness destroying her own body. And isn’t it a miracle that science has created a way for them to help her?

  27. Keep these kinds of updates coming! Rest well everyone!

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