Surgery and Health Updates

August 28
Joe was able to walk down to the nurses’ station today with the physical therapists, so there is definite improvement in that area. The doctors are trying to stimulate his digestive system so they have begun the tube feeding into his small intestine. Much of his progress hinges on his being able first to tolerate the tube feedings and then progressing on to receiving food by mouth eventually. In a sense, they have to “wake up” his intestines to function the way they are supposed to and that timing varies from person to person.

Does anyone who lives close by have an electric razor that we could borrow? Because Joe is on blood thinner shots, he is not able to shave with a regular razor and is sprouting quite a beard. It is not a necessity but might help him feel a bit cleaner.

We are so blessed by you.

August 27
We just saw the surgeon who seems pleased with Joe’s progress today. Joe was able to walk down the hall a bit with the physical therapists without the aid of a walker, so that is major progress. The plan is to try to get him on clear liquids possibly tomorrow if he can tolerate being off of the suction. They will begin tube feedings after that and see if his digestive system will handle it. It is so encouraging to me to see progress. He still has a very long road ahead but we are trusting God for continued improvement and no complications. Joe has a goal of being able to go to the 115th Anniversary banquet at Keswick on Sept. 18th. It is a pretty ambitious goal but it is good for him to have something to shoot for.

Praying for God’s blessing on all of you today.

August 26
Good Sunday morning. Just in case anyone is planning to visit, Joe’s room number is now 619. They moved him at 10pm last night – no idea why. This room is smaller but still private and nice. Not much has changed in Joe’s status. He is still weak, in pain, and not able to eat yet. The doctors are looking for signs that the digestive system is starting to function again but so far that hasn’t happened. It is not unusual after this type of surgery to have this situation. It just takes time.

It is amazing how God shows up in places when we most need Him and least expect it. Joe had a good chance to talk with his nurse last night, who made the decision to ask Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. She is a single mom who felt shame over getting pregnant as a teenager. Joe was able to share the truth of Galations 2:20 and the concept of the “new past,” that all things are now new. The consequences of Joe’s drinking for 40 years landed him here at Cooper for an extremely painful surgery, and yet many people have been introduced to the best Healer of all as a result of being here.

Thank you for praying. We are so blessed.

August 22

I just spoke with the nurse who is taking care of Joe today. He was transferred to the trauma/surgical ICU last night about 11pm. Overall, he is doing well but pain continues to be a problem. They called in the pain management team and have switched his pain meds to a different type. They are waiting to see if that is more effective. Visiting hours in that unit are from 1 – 5pm so I will be headed there later this morning. Please continue to pray that they will be able to control the pain, as that affects not only his comfort but also his healing. His blood pressure goes up considerably when in pain, so the doctors can see visibly when it is not under control. Thank you for continuing to stand with us. To God be the glory.

Today was a very difficult day. It took until around 3 pm to get him on a medication regimen that is helping at all. Because of his past history, he has a huge tolerance to pain meds. It is not always easy to get that across to doctors who want to do things in a certain way that just doesn’t work for him. They finally hit on a combination of meds that took the edge off enough to allow him to sleep and to get his blood pressure down. He normally has good blood pressure but it goes very high when he is dealing with severe pain. It was up as high as 210/110 at one point, which is very dangerous. It had come down to 165/90 when I left tonight, evidence of better pain control. Otherwise he is doing well in his recovery. Tomorrow they will try to get him up if possible, even if it is for a short time. When he is stable enough, they will transfer him to the surgical floor (with a single room!!). That could be tomorrow later in the day or else on Friday, if all goes well.

August 21
I just talked with the surgeon. Everything went very well. There was no evidence of cancer. The blockage of the duct was right at the opening so the rest of the pancreas looks good and the duct is open. He will either be in recovery or ICU tonight, as they have to monitor him very closely. We should be able to see him in about an hour. The surgeon said that the first few days are difficult but he is hopeful that Joe will be able to eat again.

Thank you all for your prayer.
August 20

We just received word that we are to be at Cooper at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, with surgery in the early afternoon.

We are so overwhelmed and grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for us as we go through this difficult time. To have Bill Welte from Keswick schedule a day of prayer on Joe’s behalf has blown us away. We are going into surgery feeling loved, supported, and surrounded by prayer warriors who are holding us up before our Abba Father. There is no safer place to be in the world.

I will be updating everyone as I find out anything throughout the day.
August 16
We had a good visit with the surgeon today. It has become clear that this surgery is the only choice left for Joe, so he signed all the releases to proceed. It looks as if the date for the surgery is next Tuesday, the 21st. It will be done at Cooper University Hospital. Dr. Spitz took the time to explain what we can expect and even drew diagrams of what he will be doing. He was very compassionate and comforting, to the point of putting his hand on Joe’s shoulder as he talked with him at one point. An added bonus was that Dr. Elfant, the GI doctor who had done the ERCPs, stopped in and assured Joe that there is nothing more he could do of a less invasive nature. That settled things in Joe’s mind and was an added blessing to the day. We are so thankful for caring doctors who will be handling his case.

Joe is very weak and tired from the trip to the doctor. Please pray for rest and strength as we anticipate this procedure.

August 15
Dear Friends and Family,

There are a number of things that have happened in the last few days that I want to share with you. One praise is that the university where Joe is taking his Master’s classes has given him medical incompletes on his two courses so this semester won’t be a total loss. That has been a big concern, as he was half way through his courses when he got so sick and would really love to finish them.

We had a good conversation with Joe’s GI doctor, Dr. Nagaria, who had spent a half hour on the phone with the surgeon from Cooper, Dr. Spitz. These are the conclusions:

1. There is a concern that there may be undiagnosed pancreatic cancer, which can only be diagnosed by doing the surgery.
2. The surgery needs to be done soon.
3. Without the surgery, even if he doesn’t have cancer, he will die of malnutrition, as he can’t stay on the picc line indefinitely.
4. The surgery gives him the best chance of returning to a more normal life, with some eating modifications such as small, frequent meals. The goal will be to open the ducts so that they will function normally.

Dr. Nagaria knows Dr. Spitz and feels very confident that he is an excellent, skilled surgeon. I did some checking online and have seen that he is listed in TopDocs both nationally and locally. Since we have not been able to get an appointment at Jefferson yet and time is of the essence, we are going ahead with the appointment tomorrow with Dr. Spitz and expect that surgery will be scheduled as soon as possible. Dr. Spitz called me a few nights ago to clarify some questions and I felt much more confidence about going back to Cooper after that. Joe would be admitted on the surgical service so Dr. Spitz and his team would supervise his care directly, instead of the miscommunication problems we experienced between the medical, surgical, and GI teams last time.

This is a very difficult time for us emotionally but we are clinging to Jesus for strength and peace. I will update you after we see Dr. Spitz tomorrow.