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Liz Stokes


Recovery sucks. There’s just no easy way around it. Here it is July 31st and I have way too much stress and anxiety bearing down on me between preparing for work and getting Carter to a place where he could come home.

Over the coming days Carter struggled with pain management. He was fighting pain meds. and they can’t find a happy place for him. He was extubated and back on the ventilator that evening. Later we discovered that Carter’s lung had collapsed. He was weaned off the ventilator on August 4th but that was just the beginning. The warning signs were adding up quickly. Is it lung disease or is it something else we’re missing?

On August 5th we found out through ultrasound what was going on. His lung collapsed again. The second time in two days. This time while on the ventilator. Carter’s right side of his diaphragm is paralyzed. Not moving. No flopping. A dead fish. This is a consequence of his last open heart surgery. When they were in his chest cavity they stretched it too far causing the damage. He’s going back on all his sedation medications, the ventilator, and the best case scenario this time tomorrow his diaphragm will start moving again. Worst case scenario? We’re looking at another surgery. They’ll go in through the right side of his back under his rib cage, suture the diaphragm down, and leave it that way. Hopes would be in the future it’ll start working again and break free from the stitch.

Morning rounds came and went and we’re in limbo waiting for surgery. Dr. Bryant is on his well deserved vacation hopefully relaxing. Come to find out later in the day he called in to check on his patients. So he’s always working…

August 8th rolls around. I haven’t said anything-

To be honest I don’t want to make this post but this is a major part of my history and a major part of why I am who I am today.

Around the time we got word of Carter, one of my nearest and dearest found out she was in the fight for her life. Cancer. I won’t tell her story as it’s not mine to tell but know that if you knew her you were forever changed for the better. I have 35 years of amazing memories locked in my mind. I have stories of courage, sadness, and pure insanity. I loved that woman as if she was my mother, heck she was my mother… I know she thought of me as one of her own. The last words she spoke to me were at her husband’s birthday dinner. Carter was in the hospital and Rob was with him. I had the older kids. And it was all chaotic as we had all had a very long day. She kissed me like always and drew me in for a hug then came the whisper in my ear “You know I’ll always love you.” That’s when I knew and I knew that she knew what her future held. That this very well could and would be the last time I’d see her.

I miss her. I miss her a lot but I don’t have any regrets. I miss her encouragement. I miss her spirit and above all I miss her humor and ability to make me laugh even when trudging through the darkest of times. She was and is so very special to me.

Well isn’t that just great for shit to hit the fan?

Surgery gets postponed until the August 9th. Good news? Dr. Tweddell performed the surgery. Top surgeon in the unit (next to Carter’s heart surgeon). 4:30 in the evening and Carter went into surgery. They didn’t start until 5:20p with incision. By the time the nurse came up to tell us they were starting he was wrapping up the surgery. Dr. Tweddell came up and briefed us at 6:20p all went well and there were little consequences to worry about.

More.. No more but there’s more.

Rob and I were in Carter’s room watching him recovery. When I went to go love on him, his left leg was ice cold but his right leg was nice and warm. It happened to be evening round time so in popped the fellow when I raised my concerns to Rob and the nurse. The attending’s ears perked up and immediately removed Carter’s arterial line from his leg and now we wait for the pulse to return. He has good capillary refill and his pulse ox is reading in the 90s. Ultrasound is on their way up to check on what happened. Pseudo-aneurysm. Blood clot. SO what do we do? We start Lovenox injections.

What came over the coming weeks was a messed of extubation and reintubating. Carter’s lungs have been on the ventilator so long that they don’t know how to clear themselves properly. This is going to be a slow process.

School starts and I’m at work. My mom is amazing and volunteers to stay with Carter during the week then on the weekends, Rob or I will take over. It stinks but we are very much a two income family that can’t make it on one income.

On August 20th they decided to extubate Carter to bipap through a ram cannula. All respiratory folks will argue that that’s high flow and well maybe it is but lets not tell the higher ups, mmmkay?

August 29th Another doctor on and the ram cannula is gone! We’re on the wall and have begun the long process of weaning off sedation medication.

September 1st we make our second move to the cardiology floor. We learn that we’re not going home before October and I’m exhausted and devastated. Looking back this was all for the best. I had babysitters who were licensed to take care of the most fragile of children watching over him 24/7. We carry on and things are looking up… That is until….


Carter’s saturations and anger management gets the worst of him. He earned himself a trip to the cath lab on September 6th. Dr. Bryant will be in attendance. Could be a good sign could not be…

September 12 we’re headed back in for open heart surgery.

This sucks.

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