Where The Popsicles Are-35

The healing begins.

It always seemed to me that the aim of surgery was to make the person whole again. In Joanie’s case, it was different. While the surgery she underwent, was meant to be “curative,” it wasn’t going to make her whole again, instead, it was meant to create something different in order to prolong her life. The recovery from that surgery meant it would take an exceptional effort on her part to make it a reality. Starting on the Friday night she was wheeled back up to her room on 7C from the Intensive Care Unit, it all began.

Back in her room on 7C, Joanie still had multiple tubes coming out of her body, several drainage bags hanging on the sides of the bed, and IV poles holding bags of fluid and pain killers being fed through the line in the side of her neck. It didn’t seem as dramatic as it had the night when I saw her in the Intensive Care Unit, and now the focus had shifted to healing.

Her brother Dick was here from San Francisco, and I think that helped her out, but it was hard to tell. She was still groggy from the drugs and the morphine that were dripping into her veins, and would drift off regularly. Talking to her days later, as one might expect, she knew Dick had been there, but did not remember much else about that first day post surgery.

On Saturday morning, when I got to the hospital, I could see a difference already. While still groggy, she was more alert than she had been the night before when Dick and I had left her. As we were talking that morning, a nurse came in and informed Joanie it was time to get up and try to go for a walk. She seemed a little uneasy about that, but ever the one to please the nurses and doctors, she said okay.

Getting ready for that first walk post surgery took some doing. The first thing they had to do was remove the pneumatic leggings, the ones used to stimulate blood flow to her legs while being bed ridden. Then, once she was sitting up, they adjusted the IV lines, and hooked the bags to the IV pole so she could begin her walk. Her first steps were tentative, and I knew she was nervous. Holding on to my arm, she walked about ten feet, which took her to the door of her room, and then walked the ten feet back to the bed. That, she informed me was enough for her first time. Later that afternoon, we would do it again, and this time she made it 60 feet out and 60 feet back. I figured it was a remarkably good start.

Earlier that day, after her first walk, I told her I was going to go and check out of the Radisson and move my stuff over to Tom Sand’s place. Dick was there, so that was okay. My son Ryan came to the hospital, and he helped me move to Tom’s, where I would crash for the duration. It was a move that would help a lot on the financial stress, and the drive from Tom’s place, north of the Capitol building to the hospital was only a ten minute drive most days.

The remainder of Saturday with Dick and I there was spent in and out of the hospital room. It was then I first learned about sponge on a stick. Joanie couldn’t have anything by mouth until the NG tube, the tube that drained her stomach, was either clamped or removed, and that meant anything. The  pink sponge on a stick was just that, a small bit of sponge on a stick like you would find when you got a Tootsie Pop. It was something she could use to wet her lips with some cold water when she was thirsty, but nothing more. It would be one of my jobs to see the water the sponge was dipped in was ice cold. The fact she couldn’t drink anything, did nothing to help her disposition, but at this point, it was all she could do.

Considering it was only day two since she had surgery and she was still dealing with a good deal of pain, Saturday turned out to be a pretty good day. We still had a long way to go, but the healing process had begun, and so we said good night to Joanie and I gave Dick a ride to where he was staying and headed for St. Paul.

There would be more work to be done tomorrow, and my role in all of this would begin to be defined more clearly.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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