Friday, March 25, 2011

"I thought I was going to die"

(Friday, March 25, 2011)
“I thought I was going to die”

I thought I was going to die Saturday morning.
I have never been so scared in my life. Patra also thought I was going to die. It was frightening.

Let me be clear. I am not afraid of dying. I can't wait to be home with Jesus! Throughout this journey, there have been occasions where I have prayed that God would take me home. But I also pray that my homecoming will be peaceful. What I experienced Saturday morning was not peaceful.

Yet throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, while I was in Morton Plant Hospital, I received emails from friends, “Hearing about how you are doing has blessed my life.” “Blessed your life? I almost died. The doctors say I have “pulmonary edema.”

I soon realized what was happening – people were responding to last Friday’s blog, not the emergency treatment I was undergoing.

Things can change very quickly with this “nasty little disease.” I’m going to set out a chronology which may help explain what happened so quickly.

Wednesday, (March 16, 2011) I was feeling very good and I wrote most of my blog because on Thursday I was scheduled for surgery on my fistula.

Thursday, (March 17, 2011) The surgery went well and Jenny updated the blog so it could be posted early Friday morning. Everything is still positive.

Friday night (March 18, 2011) I could not sleep. Finally, about 3:00 a.m. Saturday (March 19, 2011) morning, I told Patra I was going to go into the living room and watch TV and not disturb her. (This is the first time since I became ill that I have left the bedroom and Patra.) Around 5:00 a.m. things were really bad. Every time I took a breath I heard a gurgling in my chest. Then I became short of breath and began to gasp for air. I called out for Patra – she was asleep in the bedroom and couldn’t hear me. Eventually I called out with everything I could and she woke up. (I firmly believe that was an answered prayer because if Patra had not responded when she did, I would not have survived.)

By the time Patra ran to my side, I was in acute distress – I could not breathe or get air. She called 911. Patra and I were both convinced that any moment I would take my last breath.

EMS took me to Morton Plant Hospital where a chest x-ray showed significant fluid in my lungs. I was sent on an emergency basis to the hospital’s dialysis unit and 10 pounds of fluid was removed, primarily from my lungs.

Saturday and Sunday were busy with tests ordered by my nephrologist and cardiologist. The most significant test to determine whether I could be released from the hospital was a heart echo cardiogram performed Sunday morning. Although it showed that my heart function is diminishing, the cardiologist did not feel that it warranted more invasive tests such as a heart biopsy or heart catheterization.

Without going into too much detail, a decision was made to lower my “dry weight” at dialysis and to be more aggressive in removing fluids during dialysis. If this works and I do not accumulate fluid in my lungs, great. If I have continuing problems then I will go back into the hospital for more invasive heart studies. I am praying the more aggressive dialysis works!

On Monday, I went to my regular dialysis and they removed approximately 6 lbs of fluid. If you're keeping score, and if my math is correct, that means on Saturday and Monday, more than 16 lbs of fluid was removed through dialysis. That’s more than 2 gallons of fluid in 3 days.

As I write this on Thursday night, I am feeling pretty good. I had physical therapy today and tomorrow I will go to dialysis.

Months ago, I wrote that this journey through the tall weeds was a roller coaster. This past week certainly exemplified the quickly changing ups and downs.

My brother, Chuck flew into town Monday and we took him to the airport Thursday morning to return home to Kentucky. You may recall from earlier posts that he was/is my spiritual mentor – when I was a teenager, I could always go to him for advice. His visit was way too short. I told him that one of my favorite memories of his trip will be his interaction with Jenny and David's children, Andrew and Megan last night. They really took to him this visit.

Dear God – thank you for saving my life. I have never been so scared. I thought you were bringing me home. Father, that was so frightening and painful, fighting for every breath. If it is your will, I pray that whenever it occurs, I may enter your presence peacefully. Father, this is hard on Patra. She has been through so much. Please wrap her in your love. I pray that the new aggressive dialysis will prevent any reoccurrence of the fluid in my lungs.

We should be reporting the birth of Riley Bugg in next week’s post. I can’t wait to meet him.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Friday, March 18, 2011

"So much better"

"So much better"
(Friday, March 18, 2011)

(This is Bob – it is Wednesday, March 16. Tomorrow I will have the surgery to finalize my fistula so I’ve asked Jenny to finish the blog at the end with a report on the surgery.)

What a difference a week makes!

Patra’s birthday is Sunday and I told her my present was going to be improvement in my physical health. She has given me strict instructions not to talk about her or put anything sappy in the blog. So I won’t talk about her other than to say she is truly the best and I am hopeful she likes her birthday present.

I’m reluctant to use the word miraculous but truly God has answered many prayers recently. I am feeling much better. My doctors and nurses at dialysis have all commented lately about how well I am doing and that just weeks ago I was a “sick puppy.”

In February I was having such difficulty that the doctor did a direct admit from dialysis to Morton Plant Hospital where I spent 5 days. Just days ago, I was unable to get out of bed. I felt like a prisoner – someone had to help me get out of bed. I am now able to get out of bed by myself. That is an answer to prayer.

Just days ago, I could barely walk from my bed to the couch in the living room. Now, I walk around the house several times between the bedroom and the living room. My walker probably needs an oil change!

I have had no dizziness or passing out since the surgery at Morton Plant in February to ablate the right kidney.

I wake up every morning thinking about goals I would like to accomplish. Although I still fatigue easily and have not been able to accomplish most of my goals, just having goals is an answer to prayer.

My appetite is very good. Until recently, there were times I was unable to eat and times I could not tolerate someone bringing food into my room. My weight plummeted into the 130s. Before I got sick I weighed about 205. Patra prepares incredible meals and I am now asking for “seconds” after most meals.

I’m not cured and I know that there are still issues to be managed. My blood pressure is too high and the doctors have increased my BP medicine to try and get that under control. I’m still having significant “stomach issues” which makes it very difficult to get through the 4 hour dialysis treatments. I am still struggling with being mentally confused and fuzzy in my thinking.
What does it all mean? I believe it means that your prayers on my behalf are being answered so I beseech you – please don’t stop praying now. In fact, please pray even harder now. I believe God has heard our prayers and I am excited to see where He will lead.



(pictured above with Austin & Andrew this past week!)


(and with Emily & Sharon and his newest grandsons!)

Dear God – thank you for working in my life. I am so thankful for prayer partners who have lifted me before Your throne. If it is Your will, I pray that I will continue to improve and grow stronger. You deserve all the praise. May I be faithful to follow wherever You lead.

Until next Friday. God willing.
Bob

Surgery update (from Jenny):
Dad's surgery went well on Thursday! Again, he was blessed with an amazing staff of caring doctors and nurses. For instance, as he arrived at the surgery center Thursday morning, he and my mom were greeted by Kim, the nurse who had cared for him during his first fistula surgery. She remembered his affection for the heated paper gowns and made sure to greet my parents warmly (WITH a heated gown ready to go for him!).

The surgeon believes the procedure (to clamp of a fistula arteriovenous branch) was a success. It was a bit more involved than they anticipated; going in, they expected to clamp off one branch of the fistula in order to make it more effective, but they had to clamp off three branches once they got in there.

The surgeon expects that Dad will be able to use this fistula to begin receiving his dialysis treatments within the next few weeks. This is great news, as his current catheter method (inserted in his chest) makes him susceptible to infections and complications. We'll continue to keep you posted!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hard Days & Blessed Days

March 11, 2011
(From Bob)

This past Tuesday was a rough day emotionally. I cried several times. As I was preparing for my Bone Marrow Transplant (in February 2010), I ran into an attorney who had just completed his own transplant. He looked vibrant and strong and he and his wife were very encouraging to Patra and me. On several occasions he gave me suggestions to get through the transplant. He seemed strong and healthy. He and his wife came to visit us in the transplant unit. He was tremendously supportive. Charles was the epitome of a successful transplant patient.

Tuesday, while reading the Stetson alumni newsletter, I turned the page and saw that Charles died in June 2010. It hit me very hard, much like when I hear of young children with these diseases. I couldn't help but wonder why God has allowed me to continue to fight my disease and here is a man who seemed to have it under control and was taken within months of his completing his transplant. The news of his death hit me hard.

Later Tuesday, I learned that my good friend, Jack, had passed away. Jack had struggled with cancer for several years. He and his wife were good friends from church and he and I were prayer partners, praying for each other. Jack was one of the kindest men I have ever known. He served the Lord well - the people who worked with him appreciated his reflection of the fruit of the Spirit. He fought the good fight and, although I knew his death was coming, it was still difficult to receive the news.

Yes, Tuesday was a rough day.

I have spent much time in prayer over the last several days, (there was nowhere else to go but to God in prayer.) As I spent time talking to God, at some point I felt His embrace. I couldn't help but think of a warm blanket engulfing me.

"God, I really don't understand."

After a couple of days praying, I sensed that God definitely wanted to teach me something. Early on I settled the "why question" that God is sovereign and determines who gets diseases and who doesn't. Now I needed to trust Him with the "when questions" as well. He will bring me home when He decides it is time.
God made it clear that I needed to concentrate on the blessing. Every day that God allows me is a day of particular blessing.

Every day, I spend time alone with Patra and we talk about so many things and remembrances. What a blessing!

Almost every day I visit with one of my children or grandchildren. What a blessing!

It appears that I will be able to meet Riley and Anderson (my two grandsons, one due at the end of March and the other at the end of May). What a blessing! God is so good.

As I indicated above I do not know the purpose of God in allowing me to remain here at this time. I appreciate so much your prayers and pray that whatever God's purpose is, that I will be faithful to it.

My vascular surgeon met with me this week and wants to do some additional work to strengthen my fistula before it is used for dialysis. He has scheduled a "minor" outpatient surgical procedure on March 17 at Morton Plant Hospital. I am confident that this additional procedure will be successful (for those of you who have kept up with the blog from the beginning, I know you will find it hard to believe that I can describe any surgical procedure where I am put to sleep as "minor". That may be one of the lessons that God wanted to teach me because months ago I would have gone into deep spiritual preparation for this procedure and I would never describe anything where they put me to sleep and use a scalpel as "minor").

Obviously, one of the lessons that God has taught me through this process is not to panic over every surgery. Patra and I had hoped that I could avoid any additional surgeries for a while to let my body gain some strength. When the scheduling nurse called from the hospital to finalize the details for the surgery she was familiar with me and called me a "frequent flier."

If I'm not mistaken, I believe that during this procedure I again get to use the new gowns that have their own heater, and I won't even need to beg for the heated blankets!

Our family (especially Adam and Sharon) is anxiously awaiting the birth of Riley Bugg.

I am working hard with the physical therapist to be more independent and to gain strength. My goal is to improve my physical activities as much as I can before Patra's birthday.

Until next week, God Willing,
Bob

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good (?) Company

"Good (?) Company"
March 4, 2011

Dictated by Bob to Patra

"Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, and Charlie Sheen... What do these men have in common with Bob Bugg? Well... my mind has not been completely fizzled like Charlie's or Gaddafi's but I do feel like I would need to sit closer to Lindsey Lohan if we were all in a therapy session together.

I'm not to the point of being totally crazy... but I do feel like this disease is beginning to rob my ability to make decisions. I am definitely feeling more "fuzzy". We don't know if the fuzzyness is due to the disease, the procedures and recent surgery I've had, the medications I am taking or a combination of all of them.

I haven't been able to write a post in weeks. When I started this blog, it was my objective that I always be honest and transparent. It appears that this "nasty little disease" has decided to bite me not only on the physical level but also on the mental level.

I have not totally lost it, but sometimes I struggle to find it. I have difficulty reading and comprehending... what I miss most is my daily Bible reading, but I AM still able to recall memory verses from long ago and stay in God's word.

Several weeks ago I told Patra that I didn't think I'd be able to go back to work. I had always thought that would be the hardest decision to make because I loved my job... but I finally saw the light and God has allowed me to accept the fact that I probably will not work again. He graciously took away the trauma of that decision and I am accepting it for the reality that it is.

As this disease progresses, it is my prayer that I will be faithful and not allow my personality to change. My own father had dementia, but when he died, he was one of the sweetest men that there was... "


(from Jenny)
I'm so grateful this week that my dad was able to capture his thoughts to share with everyone! I admire his strength and courage, as I know some of this was probably not easy for him to share. And once again, I admire the example he sets each day by prioritizing his faith, family and friends even in these arduous days.

Perhaps next week, he'll be able to share a little bit more on the blog. And we'll keep praying that he feels less and less like he's supposed to be sitting next to Charlie or Lindsey. But we'll take it slow... for instance, I don't think it's time for him to open a Twitter account or anything!
 

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