After several days of testing and consulting, Dr. Lisle called to tell us he felt he had the answer to Kevin’s issues. He had performed yet another CT scan and found his jugular veins were being pinched, causing restriction of blood in and out of his brain. The procedure to correct could be another surgery at the base of the skull, but he wanted to see if a stent could offer the fix before such a complicated surgery, one that likely would come with other risks.
I was relieved to know we might ultimately have an answer. It seemed to be an easy option; however, we didn’t know we would have yet another hurdle to overcome. A stent was placed on one side, and I was allowed to be with Kevin for several hours as he recovered. The procedure was lengthy due to the proximity of the vein and placement of the stent, but it was done. He was waking up and complaining of nausea, which we attributed to the anesthesia. The next days would reveal the nerves that control Kevin’s ability to swallow – and even speak – were impacted with the stent placement. We were told they would take time to “settle down” and heal. There was no guarantee if they would recover; only time would tell.
It was several days with no improvement in swallowing, so a feeding tube was surgically placed. Kevin would now receive all his nutrition and liquid via syringe and feeding tube until those nerves healed and regenerated. I watched Kevin struggle and become weary with his inabilities to swallow, eat or speak clearly. During his last week in the hospital, we worked on strength and his speech, and we talked about getting through this. I could tell he was depressed and seemingly had lost his desire to do much of anything. I continually reminded him I was going to love him through it. I prayed each day for those nerves to settle down and return to normal, allowing him to resume life as we once knew it just a few months prior.
Twenty-three days after his first seizure and craniotomy, he was finally coming home. It was a day we both eagerly anticipated; this time, I knew it was going to be different. While clearly not 100 percent, Kevin was far better, even in spite of the challenges of a feeding tube, speech impairment and the loss of 30 pounds. I considered it a victory and answered prayers.
The months following his release were not easy. He continued to have issues related to the damaged nerves and the inability to swallow, causing sleep and speech challenges, etc. Over time, he improved slightly and so did our outlook. We were determined to focus on whatever good we could find. While we already had a very strong marriage, this created a bond between us I’m not sure could ever be broken.
We’ve learned to rely on each other for help and strength. I’ve shared some events of those early days with Kevin, but I really am not sure it’s necessary for him to know exactly what he endured. Recalling those darkest of days is still very painful for me, and we both have days when we are frustrated with the challenges the fix brought. Ultimately, we ALL persevered and came through it stronger.
Kevin will never be 100 percent. Today is likely our new normal, and we are OK with it. The feeding tube came out a few months ago, and he’s had a small surgery to help with the vocal chords for improved speech. The little things in life once taken for granted are returning: He eats what he pleases, talks about as much as he really wants (that’s funny if you know Kevin), and spends time back on his lawn mower and in his yard.
Kevin and I are believers. We trust the Lord has a plan for our lives, and He has orchestrated these last 10 months for a reason as part of our story. We are happy to be turning the final page on this chapter, filled with uncertainty, darkness and sadness.
If we could turn back time, in spite of it all, I’d say, “I do,” all over again, for better or worse, in sickness and in health to that handsome, blond hair, blue-eyed young man from a small town who I met all those years ago.
We are now looking forward to the wedding of our daughter to her fiancé, Derrick, in November. Kevin is thrilled to be alive, and he will be strongly walking Peyton down the aisle. While, albeit sad to give her away, he will be able to respond, “Her mother and I,” when asked, “Who gives this bride?”
My prayers today have not entirely changed. I still ask God to place his hand on Kevin and continue to completely restore his health. I do find I’m more thankful. I’m trying not to take little things for granted. I truly am challenging myself to view life through a different set of lenses. We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary just this year.
Perspective is an interesting thing. Those vows we took many years ago have certainly taken on a more significant meaning for us. If we could turn back time, in spite of it all, I’d say, “I do,” all over again, for better or worse, in sickness and in health to that handsome, blond hair, blue-eyed young man from a small town who I met all those years ago. SZ
1) The bleeding on the brain that caused Kevin to return to the hospital just as he and Sandi sat down to eat was indeed a seizure, not a stroke.
2) Dr. Robin Trottman studied Kevin’s case to learn why the membrane surrounding Kevin’s brain was discolored. It was determined the cause was excess blood in the brain. “Dr. Trottman worked tirelessly during the height of COVID-19 to examine and test the tissue,” Sandi says. “He called me frequently to update me on his findings. Drs. Lisle, Rahman and Trottman were amazing.”
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