Today was a good day. Mulu, our nurse for today, a wonderful man from Ethiopia, came in right at 7 AM and turned all Corey’s sedatives off. He knew the goal for today was to make even more progress toward waking Corey up and getting him to breathe on his own. He was on board and wasn’t messing around (I liked this guy!). Then Crystal, our sweet and strong and dedicated Respiratory Therapist, came in to check on Corey about 7:30 and I asked her when we were going to start today’s breathing trial. Mulu said he was all ready to go so at 7:37 AM Crystal flipped the switch and Corey, once again, started breathing on his own.
It’s 12 hours later and he’s still breathing on his own.
Like I said in my previous post, there are two components necessary for Corey to be extubated. The first is, obviously, the ability to breathe on his own. Crystal told me today, “Check that one off your list. His lungs are fine and he can breathe on his own. Done.” That doesn’t mean his lungs are fully healed, but they are definitely better and are getting stronger every day. They did finally identify one bacteria that they believe was responsible for the pneumonia, and they still believe there is some damage from chemo toxicity that will have to be addressed after we get through this whole ordeal.
The second component, and the one we’re working through right now, is his brain’s ability to tell his body to take those necessary breaths. I was asking Valerie, an amazing Charge Nurse who was here the day Corey came crashing into the ICU and has walked this whole journey very closely with us, if with all his sedatives off it meant that Corey was no longer in a medically induced coma. She said yes, right now they’re coursing through his body but are being flushed out and he’s in a more natural sleeping state with the ability to wake as they are wearing off more and more. They have him on diuretics and the more they flush out of his body, the more that fog will lift.
We had some pastoral staff and family visit for a bit this afternoon and after they left Mulu said, “No more visitors!” in a sweet but “this is my patient and I’m in charge!” kind of way. He said that in Corey’s current sleeping state, he can hear everything that’s going on around him, from the machines to the voices and everything in between. As he is trying to wake up, his brain is trying to process everything it’s hearing and if it isn’t directly contributing to his general wellbeing, it needs to be reduced to almost non-existent levels. He told me to turn the lights down, draw the curtain and limit anything that might stimulate his brain. His brain needs rest to heal and his lungs need his brain to tell them to breathe before they can take the ventilator out.
Sir, yes sir!
So I spent a quiet afternoon recovering from the emotional whiplash of the past 3 days and generally resting in a posture of extreme gratitude. Honestly, I didn’t know if Corey would make it through Thursday night, and here we are, Sunday night, and he’s been breathing on his own for more than 12 hours now! What a turnaround from that hard, hard night! Like my sweet friend Sherry said today, it reminded her of that song “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.”