Friday, March 19, 2010

Really new LR Update - 3/19/10

WELL, it's been a while since I did an update, so here we go!

LR sent me this first picture yesterday with the caption, 'Look Mom, no bed!" I sent him back a text saying, "HE'S ALIVE!" (The younger generation might not get the 'Young Frankenstein' reference, but at least I thought it was funny.)

He's finally been able to get out of bed and sit up. On Wednesday evening they transferred him from the hospital to a physical rehab facility, still in the Phoenix area. I asked him what needed rehabbing, other than his attitude (little sister joke), and he said that his arms and legs are very weak from the lack of oxygen he suffered during transport between hospitals and he still can't walk. So he's getting a lot of physical therapy and stuff like that to try to build up his strength.

Most of my communications with him have been texts, so when I got this new picture today with the flowers from the school where he works, I decided to call him. That's when I found out that he is still struggling with getting his voice back. He's a little bit hard to understand. He said that he is also working with a speech therapist, trying to get his throat back to normal and build strength there too, something damaged by both the lack of oxygen and the ventilator and everything else they had to stick down there to save his life. Whatever it takes!

I asked him today how his legs are doing, and he said that he has graduated from a wheel chair (just sitting up in a wheel chair was an accomplishment at first) to beginning to use a walker, so things are slowly improving. Who would have thought a month or two ago that he'd soon be excited to use a walker?!

Hey, I just got a brilliant idea. He now has his phone with him and I know he gets unlimited texts, so how about this: Everybody out there who has texting on their phones, send him a text! Let's flood him with texts and let him know that he is loved!

If he won't immediately know who you are, start with that ("Hi, this is Igor, Karen's neighbor"). Then say get well, glad you're better, stop being so lazy, whatever you want! Here's his cell phone number:

928 551 1118

Go get him! And if you want to, come back here and give us a report!


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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Newest LR Update - 3/13/10

Good news!

After the miserable day he had on Thursday, LR was given a blessing. On Friday, things started turning around for him. He has been able to eat a little bit of soft food without choking, and Rhonda got him the glass of water he's been dying for since he woke up. (I guess we shouldn't use the term "dying for" but there it is.) At about 3:00 this morning (Saturday), they moved him out of the ICU and into a regular room.

When I called Rhonda for an update this morning, she actually put him on the phone and I got to talk to him! He's a little hard to understand, I guess because of the damage done to his throat, but other than that he sounded good.

One thing that he said surprised me. The doctors had discussed where to fly him if they couldn't treat him in podunk-ville (wherever it was he was first taken by ambulance), and he thought they were taking him to Las Vegas! He didn't know he was in Phoenix until a day or two after he woke up. It would have been so nice, to have him here in my town. It was really great having him so close to Jill and Jared, but having him HERE ... well, you know! At the time, though, they decided to take him to the closest hospital that had the facilities he needed, so I guess that was the best decision. The other alternative was Albuquerque, and THAT would have been BAD, so I guess I'll accept where he ended up without too much grumbling. They did help him get better, after all.

I asked him if anybody had asked how much longer he would be in the hospital (something that wasn't even thought of only a few days ago) and he said probably another week or so. The lungs still need work and so does the solid food thing, but as it is, things look really good.

A big thank you to everyone, my wonderful friends and family, for your thoughts, prayers, fasting, and especially your love.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Newer LR Update 3-11-10 Prayers Still Needed

LR and Rhonda had a tough day today. It seems like with these things, you take two steps forward and one step backward. After the good advances yesterday, today was a bit of a setback.

First of all, LR was not able to swallow any food today, and he wasn't even able to suck on an ice cube without choking. The doctors fear that there may have been some damage to his throat, and Rhonda is really not sure what they plan to do about it. Today both the nurse and the doctor had heavy foreign accents, and she had trouble understanding what they were trying to tell her. They may have to put the feeding tube back, but they are reluctant to do it because he obviously already has problems there. We suppose that further tests and procedures will be needed if the problem continues.

Also, his lungs are still pretty weak. One lung has cleared up pretty well, but the other is still pretty cloudy and there is a problem with them filling with liquid. He was able to sit up a bit today, and he said that he could breathe easier when sitting up, but of course he can only sit up for a few minutes at a time.

Rhonda is also a little concerned about LR's mental functions. He seems to understand what is said to him. She has to repeat some things that are said, but she hopes that maybe he just wasn't paying attention. However, when he talks to her, he is talking very slowly. She doesn't know if that's a result of his damaged throat or if his mental capacity isn't fully functioning, either because of his illness and basic weakness or something worse.

We knew that LR was deprived of oxygen while he was being transported between hospitals. She found out today that the oxygen on the plane wasn't working at all and the only reason LR is alive today is because the emergency tech manually squeezed the round ball thing (sorry, Matti, I have no clue what it's called!) for the entire 45 minutes. Some may say that it was just his job. I say, thank heavens for you, angel from above, and may God bless you.

So, the news for today is that we need to keep LR in our prayers. We need to pray for total recovery for his mind and his body. Rhonda has asked Jared, my son-in-law, to come and give him a blessing tonight. Let's join with our prayers that he will be well soon.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New LR Update - 3/10/10

I spoke with Rhonda this afternoon, and there's very good news!

First of all, the kidney specialist has declared that he's not coming back. LR's kidneys are functioning again and all is well in that neighborhood!

The ventilator was removed today! He still has some oxygen from a tube in his nose, but the ventilator is gone and he has been able to whisper a bit. I guess it will take his throat a little while before his vocal chords are back to normal. (Some might consider that a blessing.)

They tried to feed him a little applesauce, but the first spoonful caused him to choke, so I guess he's not quite ready for solid food, but they'll try that again tomorrow.

So the improvements are coming quickly and I am so grateful. Prayer and fasting works!

Love to all...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

LR Update - 3/9/10

It's been a few days since I've had both the time and energy (at the same time) to post something, so here we go. I'll try to keep it brief, but you know me!

My last post was Saturday night, when we weren't able to go see him all day. Loren and Carolyn were there and Jared, April and Angela (known hereafter as JA&A) were on their way. They wanted to come earlier in the day, but April couldn't find anyone to work her shift, so they didn't leave Utah until after 10:00 PM that night. Kids these days!

On Sunday morning, Loren and Carolyn and family left to go home. Jill and Jared's Sacrament Meeting starts at 2 PM, so we thought we would go see LR before church. Rhonda and Dad left for the hospital and I got ready for church and followed them. It was pouring rain all day, which made everything more complicated. So much for fixing your hair for church!

When I got inside I saw that JA&A had finally arrived after driving all night. They had been there for a couple of hours but couldn't find anyone to help them get in to see their dad. Rhonda's cell phone hasn't been working very well and some nurses wouldn't let her take it into LR's ICU room with her, so contacting her can be difficult. We took our turns going in to see him (remember, only two at a time, and you have to get all suited up first). The doctor said that they might try to let him start waking up on Monday, so that was good news. I was sad that we were leaving Monday morning, but he probably doesn't need a lot of excitement when he first opens his eyes anyway.

We figured we needed 45 minutes to get to church, but just when we were getting ready to leave, one of the doctors showed up, this time the kidney specialist. He said that LR's kidney function has continued to improve, which is good. Then we had just started out the door again when the couple from LR and Rhonda's ward who were bringing her car to her showed up. Of course we had to stop and talk to them for a few minutes. We were finally rushing out into the rain with about 20 minutes until church time when we got on the freeway and found it at a standstill. A major pileup had occurred, three wrecked cars probably 100 feet off the freeway and one on its roof. After creeping along the freeway for a half hour, we dropped JA&A at Jill and Jared's place to get some rest and made it to church for the last half hour of Sacrament Meeting. Well, we tried to get there on time! I hope not partaking of the sacrament didn't cancel out our fast! (JK)

After the meetings we went back to Jill and Jared's place to cook dinner, and eat it, and relax a bit. Rhonda and I decided to go back to hospital to get her car (we had left it there when we left for church) and so I could see him once more before I have to leave town the next day. We didn't bother calling for permission, we just showed up! We found out the night before what happens when you ask for permission! LR looked pretty much the same as he did that morning. His blood pressure numbers looked really strange to Rhonda and I. They were in the range of 85/75. (85 over 75), and the top number would occasionally drop below 80, and an alarm would start beeping. No one else seemed worried, though. Finally when we were leaving we talked to the nurse on duty, and she said it was from the heavy sedation he was under. She said that they had to increase the dosage to keep him calm. We sure hoped it was okay.

On Monday morning, JA&A left for home before I got up. A few hours later, Dad and I got on the road for home, too. Rhonda told me that when she got to the hospital Monday morning, the plans for bringing LR out of the sedation were canceled. One of his lungs had partially collapsed. The doctor said that they would have to wait and see if it didn't re-inflate itself. Not a happy prospect! I guess these things are like that ... two steps forward, one step back.

When I called Rhonda this morning, though, they had just stopped the sedation and it was wakey wakey time! As I spoke to her, he opened his eyes. I called again this afternoon, and she said that he had been basically fading in and out of consciousness all day. This morning the oxygen they were giving him was at 35 percent. Twice today they tried to get him to breathe on his own, but he couldn't do it. He still had the ventilator down his throat so he couldn't talk, and a few times his throat got clogged, but he motioned to Rhonda that he couldn't breathe, so they cleared him out. His blood oxygen level dropped a bit after the breathing-on-your-own fun was over, so they had to boost his oxygen back up to 40 percent. They will try again tomorrow, and when he can manage it, they will take out the ventilator.

LR's blood pressure has been a little higher than it should be while he's been off the sedation, but I'm sure he's feeling a lot of stress over his situation.

Another thing -- Rhonda said that when she told him I had been there, his blood pressure took a little jump. Good news or bad?! Happiness or dread? :-)

I've already decided that I'm going back to see him. I can't this weekend because Jill is going to be here (Jacob's spring break) but I definitely must go back and see how high I can get his blood pressure going! (Just kidding!)

That's it for now. Many, many thanks to all the friends and family for your fasting and prayers.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Most of us didn't get to see LR (aka my Brig Bother) today. This is what happened.

Loren, Carolyn, and their kids arrived last night (or this morning) around 1:00 a.m. I was still sitting up gabbing with Jill when they arrived. As a result, we all slept in a little bit and then had pancakes for breakfast. I needed to take a shower and get ready, so Rhonda and Loren left to go visit LR at the hospital. Dad and I were planning to join them as soon as I was ready to go. We were just getting ready to leave the house when Rhonda called to tell us not to come.

Apparently they had only been with LR for a few minutes when the doctor came by. He stood in the room with them and told them that LR is showing some improvement. Apparently his kidneys had begun to shut down when he first arrived at the hospital, but tests done this morning showed that his kidney function has improved, so that is really good. The doctor then said that LR's lungs looked like a solid snowstorm yesterday, but today they have cleared up quite a bit. His blood oxygen levels have continued to improve.

Rhonda and Loren were facing away from LR and looking at the doctor as he spoke, but the nurse was attending to LR, and even though he was heavily sedated, he obviously could hear what the doctor was saying, and he started to move on the bed. They think he was happy about the good news. Right after that he realized that his son was there, and he opened his eyes and tried to sit up to hug him. This caused his blood pressure to suddenly spike and disrupted some of his many tubes and wires. The nurse was surprised that he was able to move like that, since she had just increased his medications. Rhonda and Loren were rushed out of the room. The doctor told them that too much stimulation could cause him to relapse, so they gave him more medication to sedate him further and asked everyone to leave and not come back until this evening.

After dinner, Rhonda, Loren, and Dad left to go back to the hospital. They also needed to do some clothes shopping for Rhonda. She left home with only the clothes she was wearing, and she has borrowed pajamas and a few other things from Jill. She has nothing to wear to church tomorrow.

A while after they left, I started feeling that I needed to see my brother, so I got my purse and was getting ready to go out the door to head for the hospital when Rhonda, Loren and Dad returned. They went shopping at Wal Mart (didn't find anything) and then called the hospital to check on LR before going there. The nurse told them that LR is resting comfortably and not to come bother him. She said we could see him in the morning.

So twice today I was going out the door to see him and twice I had to turn back. I'm feeling sad that I didn't get to go see him today, but I am so happy that he's doing better. Let's all pray that he will continue to improve and that he will fully come back to us in mind and health.

More tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Brig Bother

Yes, that is what I used to call my dear big brother Loren when we were growing up together in good ole Caliente. Back then I would never have admitted even liking him, and he was much the same to me. Picture this: you are attending a high school with a grand total of 150 students in four grades (on a good day, counting the polygamists out in the countryside who didn't actually attend). Loren is only one year older than me, so I thought everybody pretty much knew us both, but one day someone randomly realized that we shared the same last name and asked Loren if he was related to Karen Smith. Loren's reply? "No."

But of course I did love him and I was proud of him. And I still do, still am. And it's so hard for me to see him so sick. It brought back awful memories of another hospital many years ago soon after he was in a school bus accident and came too close to death's door.

Backing up, Loren and Rhonda currently live in a small town in southeastern Arizona, and most of you probably know that he is in a hospital near Phoenix. Apparently he got sick a couple of weeks ago and actually went to a doctor. He got some medicine and was feeling better. Then he suddenly started getting weaker. By this last Tuesday, he was so sick that he couldn't get out of bed, couldn't walk. Rhonda called an ambulance and he was taken to a fairly small hospital near their home. When they got there, they considered flying him directly to Phoenix, but then decided to try treating him there. By that afternoon, they changed their minds and put him and Rhonda on a small plane for Phoenix.

He was very seriously ill when he got there. He has a bad case of viral pneumonia and has tested positive for the flu; they don't know yet if it's H1N1 (Swine) Flu. Besides that, he had been deprived of oxygen sometime during his treatment and transport, and they feared that he had brain damage. He was put in a drug-induced coma so that they could put him on a ventilator and begin other treatments. He still is. The doctors say that his condition today is about the same as yesterday, but Rhonda feels that he is getting better. She should know, she has been at his side this whole time.

My dad and I decided to drive down to Phoenix to give our love and support, so we left this morning and I am writing this from Jill and Jared's house near Phoenix. I am so grateful that they are here. Dad and I got here this afternoon and went directly to the hospital. My dear brother is in the ICU, connected by many tubes and many machines. He appears to be completely knocked out, but sometimes when he is asked a question, he responds, which is so wonderful to see, gives us so much hope that he will eventually be okay. They only allow two people at a time to visit him, to even be in the area where you "suit up" to see him. You have to wash your hands and then put on a paper gown, gloves, and a mask. If you don't wear glasses, you have to wear a mask with a plastic shield covering your eyes. I hate to say that I wished for glasses today, and breathing behind that thing gave me claustrophobia even before it started fogging up. I was uncomfortably hot before very many minutes passed. But as I stood there, the nurse who was adjusting the various machines and tubes asked him if he was in any pain, and he shook his head quite definitively. Rhonda has asked him a few things, and he has responded by nodding or shaking his head to her, too. Dad says that he thinks Loren was aware that he was there when it was his turn to visit. I spoke to him and he didn't seem to respond, but he was probably trying to figure out what the heck I was doing in his bedroom. So we have high hopes that he will be okay.

I imagine we will be here for a few more days, depending on how he does and how soon Dad (and I) need to get back to work (Dad has an important Boy Scout meeting on Wednesday night, and I know that Loren would appreciate the importance of not letting your Scouts down). I will give an update whenever there's anything to report. I am told that we are planning a family and friends fast for this Sunday. Hey, it's Fast Sunday anyway, just toss your prayers our way for this one. We would appreciate it.

As for my future visits to his ICU, I'm wondering if anyone would object to me sporting a pair of sunglasses with one of those half-size face masks. And Jared (my son-in-law) has offered the use of his paintball mask. What a guy.

Please get well soon, brig bother. I'm not nearly done with you yet.

Your sittle lister.