Nolan Travels -- Happy trails from Lewis & Betty Nolan
Getaways - 2006
Travel by Lewis & Betty Nolan
The Men's Bible Group met at Lewis's home during his recovery, January 2007
Recovering Lewis with Linda, one of his caretakers, at Gulf Shores, 2007
Lewis with nurse Pat and CNA Dorris at Mobile Infirmary when he returns in November, 2007 to thank them for their excellent care
Nolan Getaways – 2006
Brain stroke and long recovery of Lewis Nolan
Record driving time from Gulf Shores to Memphis
Jan. 1 -2, 2006 – In Gulf Shores, Ala.
There was heavy fog near the beach on New Year’s Day, kicked up by the relatively warm water of the Gulf of Mexico colliding with the mildly cool temperatures of a winter morning, with lows near 70 degrees. We had been here since December 27, 2005 and enjoyed the fall-like temperatures. On this day, we walked on the beach for about two and a half miles then drove a few miles to Walgreen’s to buy small batteries that drive the remote control for our new, black-and-white television set.
We had purchased the TV at Wal-Mart the previous day to put on a small shelf we had installed over the corner of the bedroom closet, just beneath the ceiling of our condo on West Beach Boulevard. That gives us two TVs in the unit, the big color set to watch in the living area and the smaller one while in bed. Also during the previous day, I had continued to laboriously copy and transfer addresses and telephone numbers from my old address book into a new book.
We framed a small cutout of the local cable TV channel guide and placed it near the set in the living area, to be of future help to us and renters. I also practiced my putting at the Gulf Shores State Park golf course. That night we enjoyed a home-cooked meal of pork chops with a glass or two of white wine. Happy New Year.
On Monday, we had a pleasant drive home with Betty doing most of the driving in her Ford Focus in what was record time – 7 hours and 23 minutes. Once we cleared the coastline fog, we had nearly ideal weather in very light traffic for the 450-mile ride, with mainly sunny skies and no rain. The daytime temperature rose into the mid 70s, like on a spring day. We made excellent time in part due to the absence of food stops. We ate only sandwiches prepared in the condo early that morning and had only two gasoline stops and one rest stop. When we arrived home in Memphis, we were greeted by the winter scene of trees barren of leaves.
‘Out of It’ But Near the Beach
March 11, 2006 – To Gulf Shores and medical disaster
Lewis Nolan and his wife, Betty Nolan, spent most of a month in South Alabama as he was recuperating from brain surgery and other illnesses that followed his collapse March 14, 2006 from a brain aneurysm (ruptured artery) while in Gulf Shores, Ala. They had arrived in Gulf Shores on Saturday, March 11. Lewis collapsed while at a nearby convenience store to buy a newspaper. Betty kept a journal beginning with March 14 and continuing for several weeks while Lewis underwent emergency medical treatment in Alabama. Fortunately, their condo is a short distance from a Gulf Shores fire station, where a team of paramedics, sometimes called EMTs (emergency medical technicians) were stationed. The paramedics responded quickly to Betty’s 911 telephone call for help.
That morning, Lewis had fallen down at Pier 33, which is a convenience store a few blocks from their condo. He was trying to buy a newspaper at a coin-operated, newspaper rack. He was helped to his car by a passerby. Lewis somehow made it back to the condo and - though bleeding from scrapes suffered during his fall on the pavement - made it up two flights of outdoor stairs (consisting of 36 wooden steps) to their condo on West Beach Boulevard, about a mile-and-a-half west of the intersection with U.S. Highway 59. Betty called the EMTs. They came in a hurry, carried Lewis down the stairs with the help of a wheeled contraption and transported him to the South Baldwin (county) Hospital in Foley, Ala., about 15 miles to the north of Gulf Shores.
A quick exam in the emergency room and MRI indicated that treatment for a burst artery in his brain was beyond the hospital’s capabilities. The EMTs quickly drove Lewis to the state-of-the-art Mobile Infirmary Medical Center in Mobile, Ala., about an hour to the northwest. As chance would have it, a highly regarded neurosurgeon was on duty. He was called in and arrangements were quickly made for the first of several surgeries to get underway the next day.
Following is Betty’s journal of what she and Lewis went through initially, a saga that would include six months’ of treatment in Mobile and Memphis hospitals and a year of his recovery and rehabilitation while under professional care in their Memphis home.
Betty Nolan’s Journal –
Tuesday morning, March 14, 2006 –
Buzz went to Pier 33 to buy the morning newspaper, the Mobile Press-Register. He seemed to be gone for a long time. I began to worry. He returned pale, heavily perspiring and said he fell and passed out in the parking lot of Pier 33. Two young guys helped him up and got the paper for him. He had skinned his right elbow and arm in the fall.
When he returned, he said, "I think I may have had a stroke." He lifted his arms and smiled in the mirror to check himself for stroke. I called 911 on our cell phone since the condo’s land phone placed by Kaiser Realty (rental agent for the Nolans’ condo) wasn’t working. The Fire Department paramedics were there immediately. They checked him for diabetes, ran an EKG and checked his blood pressure. He had taken one aspirin before the paramedics arrived. They called for an ambulance to transport him to South Baldwin Hospital in Foley, Ala. They started an IV on him before taking him to the ER. I grabbed the phone and our insurance cards, etc., before leaving for Foley in my car. Meanwhile, the phone company showed up to determine if the condo’s telephone was a bad one – at a most inappropriate time, when I needed to get to Foley to the ER.
When I arrived at South Baldwin Hospital in Foley (about a 30-minute drive), the nurses had made Buzz as comfortable as possible. They ran an EKG, blood pressure monitor, etc. When they did the CAT scan, we found out he had an aneurysm on his left cerebrum. We knew by mid-morning it was definitely serious. When the doctor came to tell us what he had read on the CAT scan, he said it was most urgent to move him to Mobile or Pensacola to have a neurosurgeon assess his condition.
By the time clearance was made to transport him to Mobile to be under the care of Dr. Troy Middleton, it was about 2:15 p.m. I got directions to the Mobile Infirmary, as I needed to go back from Foley to Gulf Shores to pack a bag and shower for the long haul of the surgery and post-op.
It was 3:20 p.m. when I left Gulf Shores with heavy traffic going north on Highway 59. By the time I made it onto I-10, Casey (32-year-old son of Lewis and Betty, who lives in Arlington, VA) had called from Washington National to say that he and (fiancée) Caroline Cardon were on their way to Atlanta and then Mobile around 9:20-9:30 p.m. I had been in contact with Casey during the morning once we knew the severity of Buzz’s condition. Casey had asked if it would be okay for Caroline to come. I told him, "of course" because she is family, too. They are to wed Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. She is our daughter, too.
When I arrived at the Mobile Infirmary, I parked and located where NICU was (NICU stands for Neuro Intensive Care Unit). They had taken Buzz for more brain scans and tests. Shannon, Buzz’s NICU nurse, kindly took me to the floor where they were doing the tests. I was able to talk with the neurosurgeon, Dr. Middleton, after the test. He explained to me that the aneurysm was double lobed, on the left side of the brain and there had been some hemorrhaging from the aneurysm. He explained that there were two options - of which one he didn’t recommend unless the patient was high risk, which entailed putting some type of coils into the aneurysm rather than clip it off.
They took him for two more detailed brain scans. After these tests, Dr. Middleton explained and drew a picture of what he needed to do. The picture from the last scan showed exactly where the blood vessels lay under and over the aneurysm. Dr. Middleton is to put a titanium clip on the larger lobe and a small clip on the smaller lobe, rather than one large clip that would restrict blood flow.
They took Buzz back to NICU where his new night nurse, Debbie, was coming on duty. She was given his orders on how much blood pressure medication and painkillers to give him. The doctor wants him to be stress free and partly sedated. They allowed me to stay in NICU with him. I left at 9 p.m. to go to the waiting area to wait for Caroline (Caroline Cardon, Casey’s fiancée, who is a CPA also living in Arlington, Va.) and Casey. When they arrived shortly after 10 p.m., we all went to see and talk to Buzz briefly.
I asked when they would prepare him for surgery, and they indicated around 5:30 – 6 a.m. as he is scheduled for 7 a.m. The surgery could take 4 hours or 8-to-10 hours. I think it will be the longer one due to the seriousness of his aneurysm.
Casey and Caroline went to find the hotel her mom, JoAnn Cardon-Glass (of Atlanta), booked for them. Most of the nice places were already booked due to conventions. They said later that the hotel is not a place in which to spend much time. They picked me up a sandwich and drink and returned to spend the night with me in the cold NICU. We managed to find someone to give us some thin blankets. With two sweatshirts on and two blankets, I was reasonably warm. A few hours of sleep were had by all.
Wednesday, March 15, 2000 –
At 5:30 a.m., I went down to see Buzz. The nurse was giving him medication and changing his linens. I went in to see him and left to go get Casey and Caroline before they took him to pre-op. He asked us to say a prayer for him, which we did.
They let us go to the Operating Room holding area and waiting room. The anesthesiologist came in to ask me questions as Buzz was pretty groggy. We discussed his other surgeries and all the medications he has taken. Then Dr. Middleton came in and met Casey and Caroline. Then he tried to explain more about the procedure to me and how Buzz will have a drain coming out on the forward and right side of his brain, with an incision made on the left to open a window for them to perform the neurosurgery. He tried to explain some of the possible things to look for after the surgery. He also said they want the blood pressure to be high to keep the blood vessels open and unrestricted. If things go well, he will go to PAC after surgery for recovery. Then he’ll go back to NICU. We’ll have to wait and see how he recovers, but we know it will be a long recovery before he is able to go home to Memphis. I have tried to call some of our friends and relatives to let them know what is happening and asking for prayers.
The pager system here at the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center seems to be run very efficiently. Each family of a patient in surgery is given a pager with a number on it. When the pager lights up and beeps, you go to the desk to which you are assigned and a report from the surgical nurse is given to you. Our nurse is Jennifer.
At 8:40 or 8:45 a.m., we were told Buzz was in surgery. At 9:40 a.m., we had a report on the progress of his surgery. At 10:40 or 10:45 a.m., we were told Buzz was still in surgery and doing okay. In a few more minutes, we will be notified after the last pager goes off. I told Casey and Caroline to go up to the room I rented earlier today in the hospital Guest House. They need to get some sleep. Casey left his phone on in case someone calls us.
I have notified our church pastor, Rev. Ken Letterman of Evergreen Presbyterian in Memphis, and our good friends, the Van Middlesworth family in Memphis and Bob Raub in Parrish, Fla., of the situation. Everyone is praying for a successful surgery and recovery for the repair of the aneurysm.
Daily on the hour we have been paged and given reports of Buzz’s surgery. At about 3 p.m., we were told they were closing. By about 4:10 p.m., I went up and asked if they were through. The lady at the desk called back to surgery. She reported shortly thereafter that the doctor was waiting for Buzz to wake up. We went to a conference room, called the Pink Room even though it is not really pink, on the operating room floor. Dr. Middleton, Buzz’s neurosurgeon, came in to explain to me, Casey and Caroline what they did in surgery.
He told us he was able to put a titanium clip on the larger lobe of the aneurysm and that the small lobe had calcified so a clip there wouldn’t work. He felt the bleeding had occurred from the larger lobe and that a test in about a year might be advisable to check the small lobe of the aneurysm. All in all, Dr. Middleton was pleased with the surgery.
But he did have to give Buzz several units of blood as there was a lot of blood loss during the surgery. He tried to explain the purposes of drains and the Doppler ultrasound they use to check the flow of blood in blood vessels of the brain. They keep a record of results and watch blood pressure, elevating it, and administering more fluids and medication to thin out blood to keep it flowing.
Dr. Middleton said Buzz had not awakened so they still had his breathing tube in. He said a man of his size (he weighed over 250 pounds) needed time to throw off the anesthesia. Since he was in surgery from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. – plus extra hours from pre-op to closing, it is understandable.
Around 5 – 5:30 p.m., they moved Buzz to NICU. The pulmonary physician, Dr. Gewin, was there and very cordial. He said Buzz had bitten down on the tube and when they removed it he was able to breathe better. The doctor could not have been more understanding. He explained to us that Dr. Middleton always has a pulmonary specialist to check on his patients after surgery to prevent any complications.
When we were able to see Buzz, he was mostly sleeping due to his ordeal. He did wake up enough to recognize us and know we were there for him. He will stay in NICU for several days before he goes to a regular room if he progresses well and Dr. Middleton hopes he will.
Casey, Caroline and I went to dinner and stopped to check out several hotels but to no avail. Everything that is decent is booked with travelers, Hurricane Katrina displaced persons or conventioneers. Who would think Mobile would be such a hard place to find a hotel room!
They dropped me off at the hospital after we made a quick stop at a Rite Aid drugstore in a shady neighborhood on Springhill Avenue to pick up some bottled water and a curling iron for me (mine is at Gulf Shores).
I went by to check on Buzz in NICU. It was about 8:30 p.m. Visiting time is at 8:30-to-9 p.m. at night. The new staff person told me I was too early. Before, everyone had allowed me to come and go as I desired under the circumstances. I do understand rules have to be followed. When time for visiting came, they moved a new patient into NICU. According to privacy guidelines, no one is allowed around to visit while a new patient is around and being questioned, etc. At 9 p.m. or so, I was allowed to see Buzz. His nurse, a woman named Ray, had to put restraints on his hands to keep him from tearing out his tubes and bandages. He had gotten one hand loose so Ray had to double up the restraints on his arm and hand.
Buzz was able to talk and knew who I was. Ray would ask him things to check his memory. He remembered who I am as well as Casey and Caroline. I asked him what our dog’s name is. He said, "Dickens." I am relieved he is able to do as much as he has after an all-day surgery on his brain.
I left and went to my room. It is No. 504 in the hospital’s Guest House on the 5th floor. It is a handicap accessible room with a queen-size bed, love seat, TV, table and chairs. It is really much like a Holiday Inn at a very affordable price, for a single room at $50. You have to pay by the day and check early in the morning to see what availability exists for other rooms. I intend to try and get Casey a room for two nights. He and Caroline will drive to Gulf Shores Saturday. They can stay at our condo (part of the Gulf Village development on West Beach) before they have to leave for the airport in Mobile around noon to fly back to D.C.
We have been really blessed to have a loving son and future daughter-in-law to take time away from their busy lives and work to come at this time of need. I know I can depend on him to return if I need him to do so. The issue of things at home that must be attended to may make it necessary for me to fly back and take care of things if I can get someone to look after Buzz when he is in a regular room.
I talked with my oldest and best friend, SuAnne Turnage of Jackson, Miss., last night. She works at the University of Mississippi Medical School and looked up Dr. Troy Middleton III, Buzz’s neurosurgeon, who graduated from there. He is super. He said he would be off today, but Dr. Faircloth would do his rounds. He will be back on duty this weekend.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Dr. Faircloth made the rounds today and told me they were doing a Doppler Ultrasound to check the blood flow in blood vessels in Buzz’s brain. He said they were pleased with his progress and it was progressing as they thought it would.
Casey, Caroline and I went to visit Buzz at 8:30 a.m. He had a liquid diet, which he didn’t want. They got him tomato juice, which he drank and liked. He was looking better and was about as good as he could be considering the seriousness of his all-day surgery on Wednesday.
When we came back for our mid-day visit, Buzz ate a little of his soft lunch of mashed potatoes and chicken/rice soup. Water is what he consumes the most of even when he wasn’t sick. He said a few things to us. They are giving him large capsules every four hours to prevent germs in his brain. He takes them agreeably. His blood pressure is elevated, which is what they want to keep the blood flowing in his brain. They monitor it and give him medication to lower it when it gets too high.
Our pastor from Evergreen Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Dr. Ken Letterman, arrived around 2:30 – 3 p.m. I had just gone by the nurse’s station in NICU to tell them to call me when he arrived. I had not been back in my room but about 10 minutes when they called. I went back to NICU to see him.
Casey and Caroline went out to get lunch and check email. They met us in the lobby atrium where we visited with Ken. He left about 4 p.m. to go find a place to stay. We told him that we hoped he would have better luck than Casey and Caroline. He even said he had a clerical collar in his car if he needed it. He said he would be back at 5:30 p.m. and offer a prayer. Then he would return the next morning before returning to Memphis. He said he would report to the congregation on Sunday and that everyone would pray for Buzz’s recovery. Ken told us that one of his sons, who is an Army helicopter pilot in Honduras, had tick fever. He said his daughter, who is a Navy nurse anesthetist at Bethesda, had been in contact with his son’s doctor in Honduras. It is either tick fever or malaria. The young man is being treated, but Ken hopes he can be medivaced out to Walter Reed Hospital in DC. They were going to be able to talk to him Friday night.
We all returned to see Buzz at visiting time. I was called at 5 p.m. in my guestroom to be told that Buzz had called for me. He was talking a lot. When Ken, Casey, and Caroline arrived, Buzz insisted on writing a note. Some of it made no sense, but at least he can still write. He had been speaking some Spanish to the nurses although he rarely uses more than a word or two when we shop in Mexican border towns. He is pretty alert. Ken offered a prayer and left.
We went back to visit at 8:30 p.m. Buzz wanted to take his tubes out and asked me to untie his wrist. We told him we wanted him to get well and he needed to let the nurses take care of him. Rae has been his night nurse several nights. He didn’t want to write at this visit, but Casey took a pad and a pen just in case.
Friday, March 17, 2006
We talked to Dr. Middleton when we went to see Buzz. He told us he was pleased with his progress and that a therapist would come to work with him today. He said he would keep him in NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit) through the weekend if he continued to improve.
Today, Buzz was not as talkative and slept a lot. He is being medicated to keep his blood pressure where it should be. He has a little fever, but he is being given antibiotics to keep down infection.
Ken came by and prayed for him. He was going home to Memphis and will have the congregation offer prayers on Sunday.
After the morning visit, Caroline and Casey went for a jog and walk. I went to get coffee and checked my email at the Seniors Resource Room. Before I went to the Resource Room I walked out of the cafeteria to admire the azaleas and beauty of the little park area adjacent to the hospital. Casey and Caroline were at a picnic table, cooling down. When they left to go shower, I went to the Resource Room to catch up on email. The hospital room is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. and again from noon until 4 p.m. Between Casey’s Blackberry (portable phone and tiny computer) and the computer in the Resource Room, we have been able to keep up with some family and friends.
We visited Buzz again at 12:30 p.m. The nurse said he had eaten a little of his lunch and had asked for a TAB. I told them to get him a Diet Coke for his dinner. We left and went to get some lunch, buy a few clothes and just get outside.
We ate at Panera, a great sandwich place on Airport Blvd. After lunch we went to an Old Navy store and also to a Wal-Mart. By the time we got back to the hospital, it was about 4 p.m. and we went to visit Buzz at 5:30 p.m. Buzz slept through most of our visit.
Casey and Caroline decided to go to a movie. I went to visit Buzz at 8:30 p.m. but he slept through most of that visit, too. When Casey and Caroline returned from the movie they came by my room. Casey stayed for a while and checked his phone messages.
Saturday, March 18, 2006 –
Today is our sweet dog "Dickens’" 10th birthday. He is in a boarding kennel at the Southland Greyhound track in West Memphis, Ark. Today is also the birthday of Casey’s best man, childhood friend and longtime neighbor Patton Dycus, who will be 31.
I took a shower and got downstairs early to pay for my room after moving my things to Room 513, which Casey had. I was glad to give up my handicap accessible room. I went upstairs to the hospital’s NICU early in hopes of seeing Dr. Middleton, Buzz’s neurosurgeon, when he made his rounds. He had a surgery the night before so he came in early but had told the nurse to page him if I wanted to talk to him. He called back to say that he felt Buzz was progressing as he should. They are to do a CAT scan, a normal procedure for three days after surgery. It was scheduled for 8:45 a.m., after the visit. Pat, his nurse, went with Buzz for the test.
Casey and Caroline left after the morning visit to drive to Gulf Shores so they could get some things for me and check on our condo. He and Caroline took my Mustang convertible, but the weather was neither warm nor sunny on this St. Patrick’s Day. Casey will get my home keys and send them to our friend Curtis Downs in Memphis. I will call Curtis and walk him through the things I need to be shipped to me here – mail, bills, check books, etc. It is been a comfort and moral support to have our son Casey and his fiancée Caroline here with me this week.
When I went back to NICU for the 12:30 p.m. visit, we were not able to get in on time due to some things going on with other patients in the unit. They always adjust your 15-minute time slot if it is interrupted. I cannot say anything but positive things about the nurses in the intensive care unit. They are so caring of their patients who are in such serious condition.
When I saw Buzz he had his lunch. I fed him some meatloaf and green beans. He seemed to be a bit out of it due to the test, medication and everything he is going through. I had not been in the room but a few minutes when Ann Trapp, ex-wife of my oldest brother Harvey Trapp, came in. She and I are both blonde and about the same age.
Buzz couldn’t speak very well. He has a fever but was aware of us. Tonya (Ann and Harvey’s daughter and my niece), came in to see her Uncle Buzz. We left and went to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. After lunch we came up to my room in the Guest House for a visit. They brought lots of activity books for Tonya’s daughter, Maggie, and she did very well considering she is only 3. Maggie probably fell asleep in the car on their way home to Decatur, Miss. They spent most of the afternoon with me.
I went to see Buzz at the 5:30 p.m. visiting time. His speech was not understandable. Something is going on that is interfering with his talking. I asked his nurse, Pat, about it and she said he had said "Hi" to her, but then his speech was not understandable. She said she had talked to Dr. Middleton and he said the clot from the drain tube was interfering with speech. The brain has to absorb this. Taking aspirin is not a good thing. It has shown up in bruising from the surgery. I am worried.
Casey called from Gulf Shores. He was more positive since Dr. Middleton has performed this surgery many times and has told us there will be bumps in the road to recovery. It is just hard to accept.
When I went back to see Buzz at 8:30 p.m., things were worse. He had vomited and they had given him something for nausea. He again slept through my visit. I asked them to call me if things worsened or to have the doctor call me.
I talked with Casey, who told me they would drive up to the Mobile hospital from the Gulf Shores beach to see Buzz and to talk with the doctors. He said he would stay with Dad if he was still in NICU.
No one called me, but JoAnn Cardon-Glass (Caroline’s mom) had called twice and left messages. I didn’t feel like talking; I knew I would break down. It is so hard to see someone you’ve loved so long be in such distress as Buzz is in now. I wonder if surgery was the thing to do, but I know it was the only option we had before us because of the bleeding aneurysm.
Sunday, March 19, 2006 –
I woke up early, took a shower and shampooed, got dressed and went down to pay for my room. I went to see if the doctor had been in early.
When I got to NICU, his nurse Pat told me Buzz had had a bad night. Dr. Middleton had come in, too. I asked why they didn’t call me. She said Dr. Middleton felt I should get some rest. I know I can’t do anything to help, but I want to know what is going on. I feel so helpless, especially since Buzz and I are always organizing and getting things done. I am trusting God to get him through this.
They did a CAT scan last night and said there was no change. The swelling, breathing, nausea and fever has Dr. Gewin, his pulmonary doctor, and Dr. Middleton, his neurosurgeon, concerned. Dr. Gewin has called in an infectious disease specialist.
Dr. Middleton examined Buzz again before calling one in to talk to him. He said he was concerned about the fever and tried to explain to us what was going on. They do not know what is causing the fever and swelling in the neck. It is possible that the IV is the problem. I do hope and pray that they get a handle on the problem. I am at a loss to understand all this. Maybe God is trying to make the road bumpy for us and is testing my strength to endure.
Casey said he is not leaving until his dad is out of NICU. Caroline does not want to leave but needs to return to work. We will try to get a room for them in the Guest House so we can all be near his Dad.
We got a room and they will return the rental van to the airport and use my car while here. It makes no sense to have that added expense of the van when we are here at the hospital.
I am now trying to write this journal while Casey and Caroline go to the airport. I am so glad I have them with me at this trying time. I feel like sitting down and crying a river, but I have to stay strong and positive. It is tough!
I must think things will get better. I want to spend more years with Buzz. Our 38th anniversary is June 7th.
Dr. Gewin, the pulmonary specialist, just called my room. Buzz has clots in the back of his throat that are constricting his breathing. He tried to irrigate the clots, but this didn’t help. He has called in an ear, nose and throat specialist. If they have to, they will put the tube down his trachea to keep the breathing passage open.
Dr. Gewin said they were going to do a CAT scan of his neck and chest to see what is going on. I asked him if clots could cause the fever. He said it could, but he didn’t feel the fever should have been as high. We continue to hope for the best and hope good news will arrive soon.
Dr. Carter Bryars, the ear, nose and throat specialist, came. He felt a breathing tube might be the answer to help breathing, but they are waiting a bit. Later, a Dr. Steven Alsip of infectious diseases was called in to check on the fever. They put Buzz on two broad, heavy-duty antibiotics. We just hope for a miracle to shake this and not let pneumonia to set in.
By the night visit on Sunday, Buzz was breathing better.
Monday, March 20, 2006 –
Buzz was looking better and his fever was down some. He is able to breathe better but still tries to cough up fluid in his lungs. He opened his eyes and knew we were there for him. He squeezed my hand with his right hand. It is hard to see him struggling like this.
If he doesn’t get better, I know I will have to call our lawyer to get his living will sent here. I just pray that God will let him get better.
In the visits the rest of the day, he was stabilized. Dr. Middleton met with us and showed us the CAT scans and what he had done in surgery last Wednesday. We were encouraged but still hated to see Buzz struggling so hard. He is a fighter, as I am, hoping he can knock this out.
My dear friend Betty Hoffman of Memphis called me to talk after my 8:30 a.m. visit. She said she was sending a fruit basket to us at the Guest House on Monday.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 –
The nurse called at about 7 a.m. to tell me she was putting a ventilator in the breathing tube. Dr. Gewin had ordered it to help Buzz breath. She called me to make it not come as a shock to me when visiting time arrived.
I paid for our rooms downstairs and went on to wait for visiting time. Casey and Caroline met me outside the NICU and I told them about Buzz having been vented. When we got in to see him, he was alert, eyes awake and he squeezed my hand. He was no longer having to struggle to breathe. Fever is still up and they have him on a cooling blanket. We talked to his nurse, Lisa, and visited with him. He knew we were there for him.
I went to the Senior Resource Room to write emails and respond to emails. What a good thing to have for families to connect with, especially since we are so far from home.
When I went back to my room, a beautiful, large fruit basket from Betty and Richard Hoffman was waiting on the desk for me. It was so sweet and kind of her to send it. I am hoping the mail package to be shipped by Buzz’s friend Curtis Downs will arrive.
I went back upstairs. Casey and Caroline are out getting breakfast and checking their email on a wireless computer. When they return we’ll go and visit Buzz at 12:30 p.m.
When we arrived for a visit, Buzz woke up for us briefly. His fever is still up. He was breathing better. Dr. Gewin came in to tell us Buzz did have pneumonia. If they have to, they will put a swam cath under his collarbone to drain fluid from his lungs. He listened to his lungs and said they didn’t sound bad. He is not sure that the fever is from the pneumonia. He did say that it was treatable.
Things are definitely a challenge right now. We know they are doing everything they can, but it is so hard to deal with. I know Casey and Caroline have to go back to Arlington, Va., and can’t stay indefinitely. I wish there was something I could do, but there is only hope and prayer.
I am sitting in a beautiful park with walking paths on the other side of the hospital. It is the USA Children’s Park, with beautiful azaleas blooming, pansies and snapdragons. There are bronze figurines of children playing as well as statues and fountains. What a beautiful place to sit on a sunny, clear spring day.
Casey and Caroline were going for a run/walk. I wish it were more pleasant for them. They are young and in love, and this is not a happy time. I appreciate their being here for a week.
At the night visit, Buzz was awake and alert. Rae is his night nurse. He had Rae the first three nights in NICU, so he remembers her.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 –
Caroline has to return to Washington, DC and Arlington, Va., today. She has been away from work longer than she can. Casey is staying for a while longer. We had hoped NICU would be out of the picture by now, but the complications of pneumonia, etc., has prevented that. Physical therapy is on hold, too. We’ll just take it a day at a time.
We visited at 8:30 a.m. today. Buzz is resting. He had a bath and was tired out. Anna is his day nurse. We hope he’ll get a good report on an ultrasound Doppler test on the brain today. The pneumonia is our hang-up. We just hope they can treat it aggressively and keep fluids out of his lungs by suctioning him. He wants to chew down on his tube. When it does, it makes a sound like a bicycle horn. If they can get the fluids out of his lungs, keep the fever down and prevent clots, we’ll be on the road to recovery.
After our visit, we arranged to get a double room and give up the two singles. Casey and I will share one room while he stays. We got our things moved to Room 505 on the Guest House floor. I went back to the computer room to send emails to friends. Casey and Caroline were going out for breakfast and to run errands. I asked Casey to get some cut flowers for the NICU nurses. The tulips I got them last week are looking tired.
After checking email, I went to the hospital cafeteria for a sandwich and coffee. I then went outside to walk around. It is a beautiful, sunny and cool day. A cold front has come through. I saw where it was 33 degrees this morning in Memphis.
When I got to my room I had a call that the mailroom had something for Buzz Nolan. NICU wanted to know if this was the same as Lewis Nolan. I confirmed this. Someone has probably sent a card.
Today at 3 p.m., I will call Curtis and walk him through the house in Memphis so he can get the checkbooks, etc., for me so I’ll be able to pay bills. He shipped last week’s mail and I received it yesterday afternoon. I have had to accept the idea of having someone else poke through my personal belongings. I have no choice. I am not in Memphis and Mobile is a day’s drive from home.
I am trying to keep this journal of the days at Mobile Infirmary. I get the days mixed up sometimes because there have been some days I have not felt like recording anything at the time it happens. We have talked to so many doctors, nurses and staff here. Dr. Middleton, Buzz’s neurosurgeon, is highly respected and the best here. We have to trust they know what they are doing and pray for His guidance in healing Buzz.
On our visit at 12:30 p.m., Buzz was awake and alert. Caroline told him she had to fly back to DC to get back to work. He nodded that he understood. We left the visit. Casey took Caroline to the airport around 2 p.m. to insure that she got on the flight to Memphis, which connected to DC. He went to Panera to get something to eat and to check his email since they have wireless Internet service.
I checked my email downstairs and then went for a walk in beautiful USA Children’s Park adjacent to the hospital, on the east side. I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful bronze statues of children playing in the park. There is a fountain near the entrance with an alligator on one end, two frogs in the middle and an elephant on the other end that spits water into the rock-lined pool. There are two bronze giraffes near this and a large, bronze turtle. The grass is so green it must be a fescue winter grass as the St. Augustine isn’t totally green this early in the season.
At the evening visits, Buzz was awake and alert. He seemed to be breathing easier. We just hope he can kick the pneumonia. I stopped by to get a sandwich from the grill. Casey went on back to the room since he was out most of the afternoon doing his work on email at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Casey ate while he was out, before our 5:30 p.m. visit to Buzz.
Debi is his night nurse. We have had most of the NICU nurses in our 10 days here.
Thursday, March 23, 2006 –
When we went to see Buzz at 8:30 a.m., he woke up briefly to acknowledge our presence, but drifted off to sleep. The nurses said he had a good night. Yesterday they got him a bigger air bed so he seems like he is resting more comfortably. We talked to his nurse and the nurse assistant, Mickey. They have moved him to help in getting rid of pneumonia.
We asked Brandy, his nurse, to let us know when the doctors arrive and to let them know we want to talk with them.
When we went to see Buzz at 12:30 p.m., he was awake and alert. Casey put on the golf channel on TV so they could watch the game both love.
I went to the computer room to check email again. Casey left for the bookstore to work with his wireless computer. I had not been in the computer room but a few minutes when Casey came in to tell me that Dr. Gewin wanted to talk to us. When we went back to the NICU, he had already left but he called us. He said he wanted Buzz off the ventilator and that he felt Buzz could then cough up some fluids.
I went back to the computer room, where I received a call that Dr. Middleton wanted to talk with me. He said very positive things and said they were removing the breathing tube. The nurse’s assistant motioned for me to come to his room, Number 2863 in NICU. Buzz was hoarse, but who wouldn’t be after having tubes down your throat twice in 10 days. He was awake and alert.
I went back to the computer resource room to send a few emails to friends and update them on Buzz’s recovery. I received a call to let me know that the FedEx package Curtis had sent was at the hospital desk. I went to retrieve it and take it to my room in the Guest House.
Earlier today, Brandy (Buzz’s nurse) said his eco-cardiogram showed a murmur in a leaky valve but no infection around the heart. This was positive as the fever still nags him.
I got something to eat from the grill in the cafeteria around 3:30-4 p.m. I then went outside for fresh air before going to the room and met an older man and woman with a big, beautiful brindle male greyhound they had adopted six months ago. (Greyhounds race in both Mobile and nearby Pensacola, Fla.) They renamed him Blue because his gray in the brindle is almost a blue-gray. The man had brought the dog with him to see his wife, who was in the hospital for something related to her diabetic condition.
Blue let me pet him for 20 minutes. I miss our Dickens (the Nolans’ adopted greyhound) and Blue helped today. The lady said her blood pressure had lowered since they had gotten Blue. They just adopted another greyhound, a white and tan female, but didn’t bring her to the hospital.
When Casey and I went for the 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. visits, Buzz was awake and more alert. He is talking some but is very hoarse. Casey turned the basketball game on TV on for him. We had a nice visit and told him we loved him. He said, "I love you, too." We hope he has a good night and doesn’t decide to pull off his IV or tube. We feel more encouraged today than we have in several days.
Friday, March 24, 2006 –
Today is a sunny, cool spring day. Casey is running. We visited Buzz at 8:30 a.m. after Dr. Middleton had been in earlier and said he would call us. Buzz was getting a breathing treatment to help break up fluids in his lungs. He had a small cup of TAB and really wanted to drink it instead. We told him to hang on and finish his treatment and that the TAB would be there. The nurse said he had asked for a BEER that night and said he felt like he had a bad hangover. The nurses said when their patients ask for beer or cigarettes, they know they are feeling better. He has a little seepage from his head incision. Dr. Middleton is to put in a couple of stitches today. Then we hope to talk with him.
Buzz seems to feel better and definitely looks better. Everyone is praying for his recovery. It has been 11 days since we came to the hospital here on Tuesday. He had surgery on the following Wednesday, March 15. An ill wind from the Ides of March has been blowing. Hopefully, it is over now.
We are encouraged by his progress yesterday and today. We continue to ask God to help him. We have so many friends out there praying for his recovery, as well as praying for those who are caring for him. Buzz has wonderful nurses and caregivers in NICU.
Dr. Middleton has not come by. We went for the 12:30 p.m. visit. Buzz had the feeding tube out and I fed him about half of the chicken broth and a bite or two of custard. He also had TAB and water by mouth. We asked Brandy, his nurse, to have Dr. Middleton call us when he came to redo stitches and attend to his incision from the aneurysm surgery.
We left Buzz and told him we were going to get out and get some lunch. Casey and I went to Panera for lunch, where he checked some of his work email on his computer there since they have wireless Internet service. We went to Dillard’s, where I found some pants and a couple of cotton sweaters on sale. It is cold in the hospital, and I don’t have many clothes with me. We went to Wal-Mart for personal items and snacks.
Dr. Middleton had called while we were at Dillard’s. We had waited around all morning for him and had no idea when he would show up. Casey talked with him. He gave a positive report. As long as they can handle Buzz’s pneumonia and fever, he will have a chance to rehabilitate him from the side effects of surgery and being bed-ridden for almost two weeks.
We got back in time to check emails from friends. Everyone is so anxious to hear how Buzz is doing. He has a world of friends rooting and praying for his recovery.
Casey took his work computer to the hospital’s Resource Room to do some work. He is going to be swamped when he gets back to Arlington. If Buzz continues to improve, Casey will try to fly back to Washington, DC Sunday. JoAnn Cardon-Glass, Caroline’s mom, will stop by Mobile Sunday as she is driving from her home in Atlanta to New Orleans to see Lauren, her oldest daughter who is working on a doctorate degree in literature at Tulane. JoAnn will also stop by here next Tuesday on her way back home.
At 5:30 p.m., I fed Buzz his whole bowl of soup. He didn’t like the sherbet, but he is drinking water and his TAB. I just hope he continues to improve and can keep the nourishment down. We are cautiously optimistic as he was recovering last week, then things reversed themselves. We are hopeful things will be brighter each day. He has a long way to go toward full recovery. I am here for him as long as it takes. I miss home and my work (as a teacher of culinary arts at Northside High School in Memphis), but taking care of Buzz’s needs will be my priority.
We just got back from our 8:30 p.m. visit. Buzz was sleepy but stayed awake a little bit for us as Rae visited with him, Casey and me. Rae was night nurse for three nights when he first came to NICU. She talks to him a lot and is so caring. She said he was the sweetest patient.
We left a little early as he was drifting off to sleep. I hope he has a restful night. Rae is giving him Tylenol to help with fever. She said he was cold on the cooling blanket. I hope they get the fever and pneumonia under control.
Saturday, March 25, 2006 –
I slept a little better, thinking Buzz was improving. Tim (Tim Parks, a longtime friend in Memphis who sailed with Buzz and Betty for several years in the 1970s when they regularly competed in the Lightning sloop races at Arkabutla Lake south of Memphis) called and asked how things were going. We had so many positive things to tell him in spite of the 12 days in NICU. He said if he could do anything he would when we are able to transport Buzz home to Memphis.
I got up, showered and took my Fosamax (a bone building prescription medicine) that I take every Saturday morning and walked as usual for 30 minutes or more. Last Saturday, I didn’t take it as the prescription was in our condo at Gulf Shores. Taking my calcium Rx was the last thing on my mind. I went downstairs to change and pay for our room in the Guest House. A new lady was on duty and the charge card machine would only print out yesterday’s receipts. We moved back to another desk in the lobby atrium when Casey walked up to say the nurses had called and said Buzz’s speech was jumbled so Dr. Tyler, another neurosurgeon in Dr. Middleton’s group, had ordered another Doppler ultrasound test on his brain. Anna, his nurse, had called and told Casey.
I am distressed that we are on a roller coaster. The same thing happened last week. Then, we were in a deep pool of despair until Buzz came out of it last Thursday. Please let it clear up. We don’t know if the problem is due to the fluid, the fever or what. They will call us when they get Buzz back to the room. I need some guidance because my strong constitution is wearing down. I had sent uplifting emails yesterday. Now we are going down a slope again. I wish there was a way we could get home. Casey needs to leave, but he thinks he should be here supporting me and his dad. He has his priorities right, but I think he needs to go back to his job (Casey is senior executive for a $400-million project by his employer, Clark Realty Capital, to build more than 1,600 housing units for military personnel at Ft. Belvoir near Washington, DC). His career is on the line, too.
When I write again today I hope to have better news. Just hope, faith and prayer right now is what I have to go on.
When we visited at mid-day, Buzz had eaten soup and some of his lunch. He had some fever but was pretty alert. Casey and I told him we loved him and we were going out to get some lunch. We went to our room where I got mail (bills paid) and found the Post Office. I got a book of stamps for future use. The closest Post Office is left on Springhill Avenue from the hospital and down about a mile, on the right at 907. We actually drove by it and doubled back. There was little traffic on early Saturday afternoon as this area from the hospital to downtown Mobile is very depressed and poor. There are some beautiful, old mansions on Springhill Avenue going west from the hospital, but there is a whole area of pawnshops and depressing buildings right off I-65 on Springhill headed east toward the hospital.
The hospital complex is very nice. The Pride of Mobile (hot pink azaleas) are just finishing blooming. Oh to be home to see our blooms! (Thanks to Betty’s horticultural skills, the Nolan home in Memphis has more than 200 azalea bushes that make it the showcase of the neighborhood when blooms are in season.)
When we got back, Casey decided to watch TV and take a nap. I went to ask Hospital Security to let me into the Senior Resource Room to use the computer. When I left, I came back to our room as Casey was trying to nap. I got my digital camera and sunglasses and went outside to the Children’s Park to take photos of the statues and park area.
When he went for our 5:30 p.m. visit to Buzz, we had to put on yellow, disposable lab coats and latex gloves. Anna, his nurse, had stool-tested and found out he has C-Diff bacteria in his gut. You have these bacteria all the time, but the high doses of antibiotics they have given him for pneumonia and fever has killed all the good bacteria. This bad bacteria is contagious if you come in contact with it. Consequently, we have to be careful, wear lab coats and gloves and dispose on them in a bag near the door when leaving. We then wash our hands and use a sanitizer. Casey is a bit squeamish, but I don’t feel threatened because we are taking precautions. They are giving Buzz flagyl for infections.
I went back to visit at 8:30 p.m. He was tired and had a breathing treatment. He coughed some from pneumonia in his lungs. We visited briefly and he drifted off into sleep. I told him I loved him and left to come back to my room in the Guest House. I pray Buzz will improve daily. He will have to relearn so many things in his rehabilitation.
Sunday, March 26, 2006 –
Buzz is alert but having difficulty with speech. He is battling his C-Diff infection and trying so hard to recover. Anna, his nurse, has been so good to him, going over and beyond her duties to try to get a handle on what is causing his problems.
We visited again at mid-day when Casey told his Dad goodbye and that he was going home to his work in DC. He told him he loved him and wanted him to get well. No one can know how much patients know what is going on, but I want to believe that Buzz is aware that we are there for him and love him very much.
We left to wait for JoAnn Cardon-Glass, Caroline’s mom, to get here from Atlanta. I packed Casey’s bags so we could put them in JoAnn’s car to avoid driving him back to the airport and losing time.
When JoAnn got here, we put Casey’s baggage in her car and went to get some lunch. Casey drove since he has learned his way around Mobile during the almost two weeks he has been here. We tried to eat at the Olive Garden, but there was a 30-minute wait. We went to the American Café instead, with no wait. JoAnn had a Caesar salad with grilled salmon. Casey had a pizza, and I had a large salad with Cajun shrimp. We had a nice visit and then Casey drove to the airport while JoAnn talked to the airlines so they would not charge him extra. She continued to plead his case even after we got to the airport.
We left Casey at the airport, and JoAnn drove us back to the hospital and then went on to New Orleans to visit her daughter, Lauren. JoAnn brought Buzz a gift of a robe for when he gets into a regular hospital room. It is wrapped in beautiful paper with a city scene of skyscrapers from Bloomingdales. I am sure it will really come in handy when he is up and about in rehabilitation and physical therapy.
JoAnn gave me a nice personal soap and lotion kit and a nice plant book for the garden. It was truly thoughtful of her. She dropped me off at the hospital and headed to New Orleans to see Lauren at Tulane. She will come through Mobile on her way back to Atlanta Tuesday.
Buzz seemed a bit tired and lethargic this evening but ate most of his dinner.
Monday, March 27, 2006 –
Today is my first day alone since the ordeal of Buzz’s surgery, other than the one night Casey and Caroline went down to Gulf Shores the Saturday after Buzz’s surgery. I went for the 8:30 a.m. visit and met with the nurse manager who coordinates with the Aetna Nurse Manager assigned to Buzz’s case. (Aetna is the health insurance company for Schering-Plough retirees like Buzz.) I had talked with the Aetna’s nurse manager in Atlanta to ask questions about getting home to a Memphis rehab facility when he is released from care here at the Mobile Infirmary. Helen Walker, the nurse care manager here, is being helpful with the process we have to go through. I am hoping that the insurance company will pay for transport when the time comes.
Visiting Buzz four times a day and keeping up with emails keeps me busy. If Buzz is doing okay tomorrow and the weather looks okay, I will go to Gulf Shores (about a two-hour drive), but not Tuesday as JoAnn is coming from New Orleans for another visit and to go to lunch before heading home.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 –
Buzz was more alert and responsive this morning. JoAnn called and was here before the 12:30 p.m. visit. She saw him through glass. He smiled and waved at JoAnn. She talked to Dr. Gewin, his pulmonary doctor. JoAnn knows a mutual friend. JoAnn has a friend from college whose family had given a great deal of money for the Mitchell Cancer Center being built next to the Mobile Infirmary complex here.
We went to the Olive Garden for lunch and had a good conversation and visit. JoAnn had a salad. I had minestrone soup, and we shared a pizza. After lunch, JoAnn dropped me off at the hospital and gave me some pralines from New Orleans and a small box of Godiva chocolates that I will give to the NICU nurses.
I went for the 5:30 p.m. and the 8:30 p.m. visits. Buzz was sleeping during most of the visiting times. The C-diff is draining on the body, too. I will be glad to see that infection go away.
If he is doing okay tomorrow, Wednesday, I plan to drive to Gulf Shores after the morning visit. I want to get our things out of the condo, clean, etc. and get it back on the rental market. We will not be able to use the condo for a while since Buzz won’t be able to manage the stairs for a while.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 –
This morning Buzz was looking better and ate most of his breakfast. I told him that I would be back in the evening since I was going to Gulf Shores. I made the decision to make the short trip when I saw that the weather was cloudy and not raining and because Buzz was okay. I told the nurses where I was going and that I would have my cell phone on and with me.
I left about 9:30 a.m. – after rush hour on the heavily traveled I-10 causeway over Mobile Bay – and made good time to Gulf Shores. There was less traffic on Highway 59 South, but it was still busy. I stopped at Kaiser Realty and picked up yet another telephone for the condo. I talked to Roger Kaiser (the real estate agent who handled the sale and our purchase of the property 20 years ago) as he knew about our emergency on March 14.
The Gulf Shores beach area was busy was construction and all the reconstruction going on from the damage caused by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. They are finally putting a new roof on our building at Gulf Village. It has been seven months since a temporary roof was installed that sadly has allowed water to come in during heavy rainfall. When Buzz and I had arrived on Saturday, March 11, our unit had blowers and a dehumidifier in our dining room and kitchen area because the new carpet had gotten wet from a ceiling leak and water blowing under the door.
Things were pretty much as we had left them because of the emergency situation that had occurred on Tuesday morning, March 14. Casey and Caroline had used some towels. I threw the towels and bed linens in the laundry and started to pack and clean up. I was able to give some perishables like butter, milk, bread and eggs to a nice, older couple who were renting a nearby unit. They had arrived around the time we had and always stay in our building, on the level below our top-floor unit. They were very nice and wanted to know how Buzz is since they knew the paramedics had come that morning he collapsed. Being in a small complex is kind of like living in a small town.
When I got everything packed up and closed up the condo, I headed back to the hospital after stopping at Kaiser Realty to let them know everything was again ready for them to rent Gulf Village No. 201. I returned to Kaiser the old telephone that probably became inoperable once it got wet. I then left Gulf Shores.
I drove back to the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center and fortunately missed the afternoon rush hour traffic on the causeway over Mobile Bay. I also missed my mid-day visit in the hospital, but soon learned that Buzz was fine since he was in intensive care with constant care. I got back around 4:15 p.m. I parked in the physicians’ office building garage. There is no charge for parking, thankfully.
I went to the Resource Room to quickly check email before going to the 5:30 p.m. visit. I had 38 emails backed up since I had been gone all day. Many people were wondering how things were going since they didn’t know I had gone for the day to Gulf Shores. Security had let me into the room, which I left but came back after my visit to finish replying to emails.
Buzz was better and looked better. If he continues to improve, he will be moved to a regular room.
Thursday, March 30, 2006 –
Today is a foggy day early in the morning. I am so glad I went to Gulf Shores yesterday. I would hope the fog burns off. It did by 9:30 a.m. or so, when the sun took over with a few clouds.
Buzz ate most of his breakfast. He really doesn’t like the eggs and I can understand that. He rarely eats eggs in the morning. These are probably powdered, too.
Today was a pretty good day for Buzz. At the last visit, NICU said they were looking for a bed in the regular hospital space for him. I had talked with Dr. Middleton around 4:30 p.m. He was pleased with the improvement and is on the same page with me about getting home for rehab. He will have to word his medical order saying Buzz will not be able to fly with his head injury so he can be ground transported to Memphis. I just hope that insurance will not disallow it. I do not see being able to drive him. It is such a long drive (about 450 miles that normally takes nearly 8 hours) and Buzz needs to have medical care with him. I am hopeful things will work out.
At 9 p.m., NICU said they didn’t think he would be moved tonight, but at 1:49 a.m. I heard a light knock on my door. I first thought it was someone else’s door. But it continued to come from my door. I got up and it was John, Buzz’s NICU night nurse. He said the phones were off in the Guest House and they had to notify the patient’s family that Buzz was being moved to Room 2712. This is around the corner from NICU, in the step-down unit from Intensive Care. I asked John if Buzz was okay. He said he was fine, but I couldn’t sleep.
I got up and put on jeans and went to check on Buzz at 3 a.m. He was sleeping and looked okay. I went back to my room and got a few hours sleep.
Friday, March 31, 2006 –
I was down at Buzz’s room, No. 2712, early. Dr. Middleton was in early and said he was progressing fine with after-effects from the surgery. He said he would have the rehab doctor at Rotary Rehab in the Infirmary come by and check him. Dr. Middleton said he would be in Baton Rouge for the weekend. His daughter is involved with something there he was going for.
Dr. Schnitzer, the rehab doctor, came afterward. He came when the nurses were bathing Buzz and changing his linens. He was rude and abrupt. He was under the impression that Buzz would stay here for rehab. I set him straight that we planned to go home to Memphis to a rehab hospital there when the doctor released him and clearance was made with both the hospital and Aetna Insurance Co. for transport to Memphis. I just hope and pray Aetna will approve it. He cannot stay at our Gulf Shores condo as there is no elevator. He cannot walk at this point. I need to be home to go back to work, too.
Buzz had a pretty good day. I made sure I checked on him frequently and stayed in his room more when he was awake.
Dr. Gewin, his internist and pulmonary doctor, was by in the afternoon. He, too, is off for the weekend.
Saturday, April 1, 2006 –
Dr. Flotte, the neuro doctor, came by to check on Buzz in the morning when he made his rounds.
Buzz ate some of his breakfast. I complained about the lack of response to have a choice since we can’t tell him what he wants for the diet choices he has. The dietician called me and changed some things.
I did not see anyone working with him in therapy. I went for a walk in the afternoon, in the park to get outside.
Sunday, April 2, 2006 –
My older brother, Harvey Trapp, called me at 7 a.m. to ask if he could come. He and his former wife, Ann Trapp, came to Mobile to see me and Buzz in his "step down room" at the Mobile Infirmary a few days later.
(Note: Betty’s journal ends here. She soon returned to Memphis on April 6, 2006, driving her Mustang convertible while Buzz was transported in an ambulance from the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center to the Baptist Hospital rehab center in Germantown, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis. In all, he was in the neuro intensive care unit in Mobile for 17 days and in a regular "step down" hospital room for six days following lengthy brain surgery on March 15, 2006. The ambulance for the all-day ride home was staffed by two drivers and a medical attendant. Buzz made the drive while reclined and was given medical treatment as needed.
(Buzz spent the next five months in the Baptist rehab hospital in the Germantown suburb of Memphis and the main Baptist Hospital in East Memphis, where he had several additional brain surgeries performed by Dr. Julius Fernandez, a neurosurgeon and graduate of the University of Virginia and Tufts University Medical School in Boston. In his early 30s, he is affiliated with the renowned neuro group of Semmes-Murphy, which is adjacent to Baptist Hospital in East Memphis.
(Buzz was released from Baptist on Sept. 5, 2006, a day after Labor Day. Meanwhile, Betty and two friends (former college roommate SuAnn Turnage and Buzz’ former secretary at Schering-Plough, Nancy Russell, drove to Atlanta for the wedding of Casey Nolan and Miss Caroline Cardon on Sept. 4, 2006.
(Back in Memphis in early April, Betty returned to her work teaching culinary arts at Northside High School but devoted virtually all her free time for the two-month balance of the school year to visiting Buzz and looking after his well being. She taught full-time for the next school year, but retired from teaching a year earlier than planned to be with Buzz as soon as the school year ended in early June, 2007.
(Both Casey and Caroline traveled from their home in Virginia to visit Buzz and provide loving cheer and support in the spring of 2006. After he was released from Baptist on Sept. 5, 2006, Buzz spent the next 12 months recuperating at his and Betty’s home in Memphis, under the care of two women who live near the Nolan home and who have home health care work experience. The women who took care of him while Betty worked were Linda Ray, who worked from about 3 p.m. until about 11 p.m. Monday - Friday, and Jackie Anderson, who was on duty from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. the same days. They cooked breakfast and lunch for Buzz, cleaned house and attended to all of Buzz’s needs. Betty was home every evening and on weekends and holidays.
(A number of neighbors and friends visited Buzz in Baptist Hospital in Memphis and at home during his rehabilitation. Among them were his golf buddy Curtis Downs, pastor Dr. Ken Letterman, his former boss and attorney Mike Pietrangelo and other lawyers with the firm of Pietrangelo Cook and his sailing buddy Tim Parks. At times, Betty and his health attendants were regrettably tested by Buzz’s unpredictable behavior, which was related to his brain surgery and sadly bordered on the erratic at times. At one point he seemed to have an inexplicable fascination with military matters learned during his brief time in the Marine Corps during the late 1960s.
(Buzz sustained memory loss of nearly everything that happened to him in 2006 and much of 2007 due to his brain stroke, a fairly common occurrence in people who suffer brain aneurysms and go through the multiple, corrective surgeries that he underwent. He agrees with the observations of people who were close to him that memory loss during such circumstances can be a blessing.
(Buzz, who had pretty well returned to normal life by January, 2008, remains profoundly grateful to Betty, Casey, Caroline, JoAnn, SuAnn, Harvey, Mike, Tim and other members of his family, neighbors and friends who prayed for him and who extended to him extensive support and understanding during his ordeal.) – Lewis "Buzz" Nolan, Jan. 30, 2008.
* * * * *
Betty Nolan worked tirelessly during Buzz’s hospitalization to keep family and friends informed of her husband’s medical condition and progress through a dedicated and lengthy series of telephone calls and Internet emails. Following is a key email she sent April 7, 2006, following her drive home to Memphis from Mobile, Ala., where Buzz spent more than three weeks in the hospital following brain surgery to repair an aneurysm.
Dear family & friends,
We made it to Memphis on Thursday, April 6th. Buzz came via ambulance transport and I by car (Mustang convertible that he gave her for an anniversary present in 1998). After 17 days in the neuro intensive care unit and 6 days in a step down floor of neuro, we feel fortunate to be back in our home city. The medical staff and all persons associated with Mobile Infirmary Medical Center were super to us. It is not the way you would want to spend your vacation, as it all happened on my spring break on March 14, 2006 with Buzz’s brain aneurysm while in Gulf Shores, AL. The following day, March 15, he underwent brain surgery in Mobile to repair the aneurysm. Complications made the road very rocky. Lewis (Buzz) is now in Baptist Rehabilitation Hospital in Germantown, TN, at 2100 Exeter Rd., Germantown, TN 38138. I am restricting his visitors at this point and time as he needs the time for therapy and healing. If I give you the password he has, you will be allowed to see him. I am sure down the road to recovery, he will need visitors. Now is not the time.
I want to thank everyone for your love and concern during this trying time in my family’s life and ask you to continue to pray for his full recovery however long it may take. Please know that I may call on you to help me in some way at another time during his therapy.
Other key emails from Betty to a great many family friends and relatives – which produced a flood of kind email responses and telephone calls - included the following:
Betty Nolan <email@example.com> wrote:
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 11:17:33 -0800 (PST)
On Tuesday, March 14th, Buzz (Lewis) Nolan was rushed to ER in Foley, AL, to South Baldwin Hospital. He fell and passed out when going for a morning paper where we were staying at our condo in Gulf Shores, AL. When he returned to our condo, he told me he felt funny while driving to get a paper and fell and passed out when he got out of the car. I have no idea how long that was since I was not with him. Two young guys helped him up and got his paper. He drove back and came up 2 flights of stairs. I kept thinking he had been gone too long. He came in and told me what happened and said he might have had a stroke. I called 911 and fire dept. paramedics came immediately. When they checked him out, his blood pressure was extremely high and he complained of an extreme headache. They transported him to a small hospital in nearby Foley where they ran tests on him. When they did CAT scan, they found out he had an aneurysm on left side of his brain. The fact that aneurysm had bled attributed to his headache and high blood pressure. There was no chance of getting home to Memphis for him. They arranged for a neuro-surgeon in Mobile to take a look at him. He was transported to Mobile Infirmary Medical Center on Springhill Ave. about 3 miles east of I-65 N in Mobile.
Dr. Troy Middleton is his neuro-surgeon. He ran a multitude of tests with 2 very high tech brain scans that showed the exact location of aneurysm, size, and where blood vessels crossed the aneurysm. It was decided that the best approach was to do surgery on Wednesday, March 15th. He was scheduled for a 7:00 a.m. surgery with the possibility of as much as a 10 hr. surgery.
Our son, Casey, and his fiancée, Caroline Cardon, both of Arlington, VA, flew in on Tuesday night to be here for Buzz and me. I do not know how I would have survived without their love and support.
Surgery was an all day ordeal, but they have pagers you are assigned and the surgical nurse calls in to desk and reports on an hourly basis of progress of surgery and how patient is doing. This is a wonderful thing that takes a lot of anxiety out of the family who is waiting to hear about the family member in surgery.
When surgery was over, Dr. Middleton talked to us and told us he was able to put a titanium clamp on the large lobe of the aneurysm and the smaller one had calcified. He said the large lobe was the one that had bled. We awaited his waking up so they could take the tube out and return him to NICU on 2nd floor. It was probably around 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. when we went to talk with the pulmonary dr. who accompanied him to intensive care.
We were able to see him briefly. When I returned at 8:30 p.m., I had to wait to see him since they were admitting another patient. They let me see him around 9:00. He was talking and remembering names. I felt good about the progress even though we have a long way to go. He has wonderful nurses in the intensive care unit for neuro.
Today he looks better. He feels better and asked us for a McDonald's hamburger. We can't accommodate him, but at least he is in good spirits considering major brain surgery yesterday. We know we have a long road to go before we are able to travel home, but I am asking all of you to keep us in your prayers and pray for Buzz's recovery.
Thanks to all of you, Betty
Betty Nolan <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote on Saturday, March 25, 2006:
We have been keeping a prayerful vigil over my husband Lewis (Buzz) Nolan since he had a ruptured aneurysm on left side of brain on Tuesday, March 14th. He went through surgery on following day, March 15th, at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center in Mobile, AL, while we were on my spring break from school and on vacation in Gulf Shores, AL. Things have been a roller coaster ride since with his getting through surgery and doing okay. Then last weekend pneumonia clouded the recovery picture. Breathing and feeding tubes came back into the picture with high fever. Four different specialists were called in last Sunday. We just prayed every day for him to get better. On Thursday, March 23rd, he was able to have breathing tube out. The following day, on March 24th, they removed his feeding tube. He seemed to be on the road to recovery.
Today. March 25th, we have hit a few bumps and needed more tests. We are hopeful things will improve.
Thanks to all of you who have called, left messages, and sent e-mails. I do not know how I would be making it without everyone's support. Our son Casey has been here since March 14th. His fiancée Caroline Cardon was here until Wednesday, March 22nd. Casey needs to return to his work in Washington, D.C., area but wants to be here to support me. I know he needs to be at work so he is struggling with what he should do. I know I have old friends who will come to support me if need be. We are just taking it one day at a time. Keep the prayer chains going.
Betty Nolan <email@example.com> wrote:
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2007 10:17:17 -0700 (PDT)
Many of you may be wondering how Lewis (Buzz) is doing after 1 year and 4 months since he suffered an aneurysm in his brain on March 14, 2006. I can thankfully tell all of you that he is progressing nicely with his brain functions and physical well-being back to normal. After many surgeries, infections, setbacks, and complications during 2006, he came home on September 5, 2006. He had to had another ventricular shunt placed on his brain on November 14th due to malfunction of the valve in the Codman that was installed last summer. He now has a Medtronic vp shunt (Medtronic is a Memphis co.) and so far so good. When he went for his checkup at Semmes-Murphey Clinic to see Dr. Julius Fernandez, his neuro surgeon on June 6, 2007, Dr. Fernandez was pleased with the progress and made no adjustments to shunt. With a checkup to his internist recently, we have pared down most of his Rx, and we are monitoring his blood pressure to see if he can stay off one of the pills.
Every day he feels a little better. He is practicing driving with a good and loyal friend, Heard Murphy, weekly with anticipation of driving with someone in car with him in the future. This is another step in his recovery and independence. He sleeps more than he probably should, but sleep is restorative for him. He checks his e-mail daily.
Thanks to all of you for your constant prayers. It has been a long journey, but things are better every day. We hope to hear from you through e-mails, calls, or visits.
Sincerely, Betty Nolan
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