Marys Hospital, where Tom would stay for the next seven days.
His first surgery was a simple procedure that removed all tissue
from his left orbital area, while retaining his upper and lower
eyelids (medically described as a lid-sparing exenteration.) The
pathology report on this tissue indicated that about 1 mm of cancerous
tissue was present in the orbital area prior to surgery. This
would have been enough to kill Tom had we left it alone. Thankfully,
a tumor free margin was obtained with the removal of the tissue.
This surgery was, emotionally, the hardest. Tom's left eye itself
was healthy. Now it was gone. He no longer had perfect vision.
day Tom underwent plastic surgery. A team headed by Dr. Craig
Johnson performed this surgical procedure. One of Tom's abdominal
muscles (the same type used in reconstructive surgery after a
mastectomy) was inserted in his left orbital area. A blood supply
was provided for this using micro surgery (described medically
as a rectus muscle free flap to the left orbit region anastomosed
into the superficial temporal vessels.)
seven hours seemed to stretch into an eternity. I spent that time
in a waiting room on the 7th floor of the hospital,
where I found a sofa that I made my temporary home. I tried to read
a book, but spent most of my time rereading the same pages. Shortly
before the surgery was over, my sister arrived. She spent the night
with me. Her visit provided the emotional support I needed to face
the next several difficult days.
Tom tolerated the procedure well and spent the next five days in
intensive care. His room was heated to between 80° and
85° Fahrenheit to enhance the chances of the transplanted
tissue remaining viable.
In retrospect, these several days have become a blur. The heat,
lack of sleep, discomfort and uncertainty took its toll. Always
lurking in the background was the chance the transplanted tissue
would die and the procedure would have to be repeated. Pat, one
of Tom's nurses, was instrumental in helping him through this difficult
Saint Marys Hospital has approximately five miles of corridors.
I probably walked most of them. Each day I would make my way to
Marys Hospital Chapel. Here I would pray and would write Tom's
name in the book provided for prayer requests. I would also go to
the Groves Foundation Meditation Room, which has a beautiful water
fountain in the center, and is flanked by an Islamic prayer room
on one side and a Christian prayer room on the other.
Five days later, Tom returned to the operating room. The muscle
flap was trimmed and placed behind Tom's eyelids, which were sutured
shut. The next day, Tom was released from the hospital.
The last stitches were removed a few days later, and we headed
home 16 days after we had arrived. A friend, whose trip was funded
by our Sunday School class, was our chauffeur.