The Surgery – Part 3

This is the part of the story I had to get permission to write. EEK

Surgery ends, and we (at this point, Paul’s three sisters, mother, and a brother-in-law) headed up to SICU. We had to wait for him to begin to wake up, so we hung out in the hallway (turns out the waiting rooms are locked at this point in the evening).

We chatted, I sat on a gurney I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be sitting on, and we waited.

And then we started hearing a noise. An angry, loud, yelling sort of noise. Not like someone in pain, just like someone who had gone beyond angry to full rage-beast.

We all stared at each other and I said “That’s Paul.”.

I know my husbands voice, y’all. Even drugged out of his mind and yelling in an inarticulate rage, I know that man’s voice.

The yelling continued for another few minutes before quieting down, and a rather frazzled looking doctor came out of SICU.

“So, he’s…not happy.”

“I heard.”

“He keeps trying to rip his bandages off, but we’ve got him dosed with fentanyl, so you can come back and see him.”

He was calm enough while his mother and sisters saw him, but apparently the rage could not be contained with mere peasant drugs, and soon after they left, homeboy lost. it.

It turns out that the “For worse” part of your vows sometimes means helping a nurse restrain your husband while he tries to rip out his A-line and punch you in the face.

I may or may not have said something to the effect of “they’re trying to help you, you idiot!”

He was very apologetic the next morning, and began the process of shocking every doctor, nurse, and therapist with his recovery process. He spent only four days in the hospital before being released into my (kind-of) capable hands.

We spent the next week discovering which kinds of drug store bandages cover pressure wounds best, and what kinds of medical tape simply don’t do their jobs. We spent a week just the two of us, watching movies, talking to therapists, taking medicine, and laughing. So much laughing.

Recovery was long, and sometimes rough, but he is back to normal, his brain has returned to brain-shape, and what was left of the tumor has begun collapsing in on itself. He is currently in Atlanta, doing what he loves, which is teaching people how to cook amazing steak. He no longer wakes up vomiting and dizzy, and in two weeks, his cochlear implant will be turned on, and he will have full hearing for the first time in seven years.

You have all been there with us every step of the way, and I am so thankful for each and every one of you.

This part of the story is over, and I am happy to be able to start writing about the things I love: homeschooling, books, baking, and general silliness. I would love for you to stick around.


The Surgery, Part 2

I made it back to the waiting room, where Paul’s sister, Peggy, and I took one look at each other and promptly started to cry.

And thus began the waiting game. It was about 9am, and we spent the next hours pacing, reading, trying to sleep in uncomfortable hospital chairs, playing a quick game of Heads Up that everyone was too distracted to be very into. We popped down to the cafeteria at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime, and marveled at the actually-not-that-bad hospital food.

The waiting room emptied, and the two 50 inch tvs showed surgeries going from “In Progress” to “In recovery” before disappearing altogether. We got two phone calls from inside the operating room to let me know he was handling the procedure well.

His siblings showed up, and at one point, four of the six Yates kids were in the room, with one unable to make it out from LA and the other, well, under the knife.

We waited…and waited…and waited. 8 hours, 10, 12…

At 1am, we got the call that surgery was over. At 1:30, Paul’s surgeon walked into the waiting room, and, to my horror, I heard myself say,

“What’s up, buttercup?”

In what world.

I can only blame sleep deprivation, because I have never uttered this phrase before or since. This man has a doctoral degree and teaches other people how to slice into people’s brains without murdering them.

But yes, go with What’s. Up. Butter. Cup.

Sometimes I don’t even understand myself.

He either didn’t hear me or did me the great courtesy of pretending not to, and gave us a rundown that I heard precisely zero of, because my brain was screaming WHEREISHELETMESEEHIMNOW

They let me run back and see him before they wheeled him to SICU. Head completely bandaged, covered in blankets to his neck, mouth swollen from intubation.

“You can talk to him.”

No. I can’t. All I can do is say, over and over. “He’s ok. He’s ok.” while apologizing for weeping at them.

They took him away, and the surgeon hugged me while I thanked him.

“Thank these guys (his surgical team). They are superheroes.”

Why, yes, yes they are.


Part 3, where it gets exciting, tomorrow. If you missed it, here’s Part 1.

The Surgery: Part 1

It’s been almost six months since Paul’s surgery, and I’m only now getting to writing down what happened that day. It isn’t painful, really, but it’s only now that I can look back and really reflect on the day without tearing up. Emotions are weird.

We got to the local teaching hospital around 6am. The waiting room was already crowded, and two 50 inch TVs on the wall listed nearly fifty surgeries scheduled for the day, all with “waiting” or “prep” listed next to their numbers (numbers. No names. HIPAA and all that). We checked in with the woman at the front desk, who commented on my baby belly and told us Paul would be called back shortly.

They took him back to prep at 7:30-ish, about five minutes before his mother and sister arrived, and as soon as they had him all hooked up, they called me back. I got to see the MRI for the first time, and couldn’t believe what I was staring at. The tumor was so much larger than I had imagined, and his brain had been pushed out of its natural shape to accommodate. I couldn’t believe he was still functioning.

Paul amazed me with his calm as the doctor explained the possibility of motor function and facial function loss, the minute possibility of personality change (I know, right?), and the risks associated with a tumor so close to the brain stem. The doctor made no question that this surgery made even him nervous, and that, had the tumor not been so large and been growing, he would never have even considered surgery in Paul’s case. (Because I wasn’t at all nervous before)

We all shook hands, Paul kissed his mother and sister goodbye, and we had a few minutes. I don’t even remember what we said. Probably nothing of real consequence. Our relationship has been full of laughter from the beginning. We are always joking, always laughing, and in those moments, there was none of that.

It’s funny what the brain remembers. While I don’t remember what we said to each other, I see vividly the change in Paul’s face as they gave him the first sedative before taking him back. I can see his eyes glaze over, and the part of him that makes him Paul fall asleep, even while his body was still awake.

I walked out, fighting tears, when his doctor stopped me. His wife was expecting too, their third, a girl, within days of us. He shook my hand, and I remember saying “Just, please. Be extraordinary”

“We’ll try.”



My rule is that I stop the story when I start to cry. Part 2 tomorrow.

Back in the (Waiting) Game

Surgery has been postponed.


After the vitamin K shot (you’ll remember how that went), Paul’s PTT dropped to 39 seconds. A huge improvement. Unfortunately, not quite to the 34 seconds needed to consider him within “normal” ranges.

His doctors initially sent him on another hunt for a second Vitamin K shot, but then backtracked, deciding instead to get second hematology decision before doing anything else.

So he sees a hematologist Friday, with hopes that surgery can be rescheduled quickly. Hopefully, as his surgeon assured us, this month.

What we know:

  • Surgery must happen. It is literally the only option. This is a delay, not a cancellation, and should not be as big a delay as our last reschedule.
  • Paul’s surgeon is not worried about bleeding during surgery. Apparently we have arrived in the future and have scalpels that cauterize while they cut. The worry is post-surgical bleeding.
  • All the childcare we’ve already scheduled has to be scrapped, and I’ll have to make a new schedule in my PRETTY NEW PLANNER. I mean, yay for using the pretty planner, but no one likes crossy-outy lines.
  • If you were amazing enough to sign up to bring us meals, we will still need them, but not until a week or so after you signed up. So, like, keep an eye out for updates on that.

Keep thinking about us. Keep praying for us. We love you guys!

How to use Social Media to Get Drugs

Can’t wait to see what the analytics do for this one.

Surgery is impending, and we are in the midst of pre-ops, MRI scans, and, today, a Vitamin K shot to help Paul’s justthatmuch too thin blood. It really wasn’t supposed to be a big issue. Go to Pharmacy. Obtain Vitamin K shot. Have shot administered by qualified shot-giving individual. The whole thing was slated to take an hour, tops.

But of course not. Because obviously.

My phone is currently in a state of complete disrepair, and needs desperately to see a phone doctor, so Paul’s only way of contacting me is via Facebook messenger. This morning, sometime between circle time and getting started on my first round of assessments (which is a fancy word for a standardized test administered to a four year old. I just can’t, guys), I got a message.

So there is a dilemma. The vitamin k injection that we didnt set up ahead of time wont be covered by our insurance and we cant fill it at a third party pharmacy cause they dont carry the injection form. I am talking with someone to try to straighten it out. Ill let you know what happens….

I just…I can’t, not this early in the morning. After verifying that not only did the hospital pharmacy not have the drug in stock, but that they did not accept our insurance and they DON’T ACCEPT MONEY, I put a call out on facebook, asking for prayers for resolution, then asking if any of my pharmacy/health industry friends knew a guy who knew a guy. One of the perks of living in Jacksonville is that literally everyone is a nurse, or a pharmacist, or a medical assistant, or like has spare syringes at their house or whatever.

Within a few minutes, I had offers of help and suggestions from everyone from old work friends to old internet friends to the mom of one of my students. Around this same time, we received word that this was not a “Oh, you can do it tomorrow” situation. There would be no ordering of the drug and taking care of it tomorrow. If we wanted to keep our surgery date, today was our only day.

Now, to be fair, this was mostly our fault. We should have had the medication already in hand. Somehow, I just assumed the hospital pharmacy would A) have it in stock, because, you know, hospital and B) Take our VERY COMMON insurance (because again, HOSPITAL) and C) if they didn’t take our insurance, they would at least accept MONEY. But you know what they say about assuming. That you shouldn’t, because the American healthcare and insurance industries want to see you suffer (Feel the Bern, y’all)

An old work friend who works in the medical field, offered to administer the Vitamin K if we could get it. I was, at this same time, fielding a possible lead from one of my awesome room moms, who had connections with the Winn-Dixie pharmacy. Also my students were being four, and I was supposed to be acting like a teacher, rather than an addict after her Vitamin K fix. The anxiety was starting to fester a little, when Casey (aforementioned old work friend) sent me the following four words:

Found it call me

Another hospital in the area had one dose left, sitting on a shelf, waiting for some poor sap with bad clotting time. Luckily, it was my poor sap, and he hustled his way to another downtown hospital, where they handed him what is probably the last dose of Vitamin K in the greater Jacksonville area and maybe the world. He drove back to his neurosurgeons office, where they DIDN’T HAVE THE PROPER NEEDLES, they stuck him, and we all breathed for the first time since 10:30am.

We still have a few steps. Blood work tomorrow, and MRI tomorrow, and a slew of medications and at-home cleaning to do before surgery, but nothing that requires us having to do much more than show up, thank goodness. For now, I’m going to eat my homemade fudge, watch the Lego movie, and thank the Lord for social media, because as much as people seem to want to think it is the great disconnector, there is no way I would have been able to locate one package of one medication in a completely different hospital without it. Thanks, Zuckerberg. I owe you one.

Ikea Hates You and Other News

Just as a PSA:

IKEA hates you. They hate you and your family, and they want to see the world burn in a fiery pile of flat-pack boxes and screws that somehow don’t go anywhere.

That said, I have a bed now!


I mean, like, WE have a bed, because technically I share it with Paul, but guys, we’ve been on a mattress on the floor since we got married. There was a short hiatus where we had a truly beautiful bed built by yours truly. But it turns out that I have special needs when it comes to beds and the noises the make. As in, I need them to be quiet while bed-type recreational activities are happening.

Don’t judge me. That nonsense is distracting.

The new one came by way of Ikea, because they’re so INEXPENSIVE. SO MODERN. SO PRETTY. POPE FRANCIS ABOVE SO MANY SCREWS.

Eight hours. Eight hours of work to put it together. 20151206_184528.jpg Look how happy I look. We’re only two hours in at this point and I don’t yet know my husband will threaten divorce six different times. But silently. Because he knows who makes his doctors appointments. He really doesn’t have the threaten verbally. He has this face. It’s his impending divorce face, and is the optimal blend of “I love you” and “I hate you literally more than ISIS right now.” It was used in my general direction multiple times, usually because I was reading the wordless directions upside down.

The process was further complicated by the two small people who wanted to “help”. Which means to wave screwdrivers dangerously in the vicinity of each others eyes and trying to resort the tiny hardware pieces. Finally we handed them both a tablet and told them to go be good children of the new millennium and stare mindlessly at a screen so we could get come work done.


So helpful.

In the end though, no one filed papers, and we have a grown up, king-sized bed, off the floor. Like adults. Paul likes it.


In tumor news, we have a new surgery date! Paul’s latest round of bloodwork came back normal, so he heads under the knife on January 13!

Living in the What If

I wrote and erased five introductory lines to this post before finally shaking my head and saying “just start in the middle.” Because no introductory hook would have been enough for this.

When we got the news of Paul’s diagnosis, there was a certain amount of oh shit. Because it’s a tumor, and no one wants those words. We were able to avoid most major worry, mostly because of his age, which offered him a higher likelihood of an easier, quicker recovery. Our neurosurgeon assured us that, while brain surgery is always brain surgery, this one is fairly simple, great chance of full recovery. We felt good, we were at peace, we knew everything would be ok.

When his PTT numbers came back, we were shoved back a few steps, but didn’t take it as any huge blow, because the process had been so easy, we joked. Of course something would go wrong at the last minute. So I researched, assured myself that a little Vitamin K, and the problem would resolve, no worries.

When the PTT numbers stayed persistently high, we were forced to face what had really been the truth the whole time: None of this is “going to be fine” What was a fairly minor procedure, as brain surgeries go, had now become one fraught with risk.

While there are things the surgeons can do to mitigate the bleeding risk as much as they can, he is still at a heightened risk for coma, stroke, and death. We cannot, cannot, cannot know that it won’t happen. It might. It is a distinct possibility, and no amount of “He will be fine” changes that.

Because the fact is, while those words are well-meant, they aren’t factual. There is no way of knowing that he will be all right. There is a possibility that I will see my next Christmas as a widow. And this sounds melodramatic, because we love to say “it will be alright.” It makes us feel better, but it isn’t real.

I am not promised another moment with my husband. It’s something we say, but we don’t really mean. We like to throw out the platitudes, and the scriptures that make us feel like everything will wrap itself up in a nice bow, but the truth is, every part of this life is temporary. Even marriage. Even the life of a not-quite-thirty year old husband and father. I believe in the promise of the resurrection. I believe in the promise of heaven. But God doesn’t promise me that I get to keep my husband until we die in each other’s arms at the age of 82.

Please don’t misubderstand. I’m not angry. This isn’t bitterness. I am pragmatic, and I am also aware that “Faith in God” doesn’t mean “As long as he makes my life sunny and happy”. Paul and I share a faith that believes in the long game. Our faith deals in the eternal, not the temporal, and while I am so grateful for the ten years I’ve had with this man, while I want a hundred more, I understand that he was only ever on loan to me.

Paul is dealing with the reality of his own mortality, and I am making small plans in the back of my head for the “what if”. We talk about it occasionally, poking around the edges, never really talking about the bits that really hurt, the parts that would break us. We talk about practicalities. A bit about how we are feeling. Never about the little life still growing in my belly, who will almost certainly be born after surgery. After finding out whether or not “Fine” is in our cards. Never about the girls.

We aren’t scared, or angry. We are joyful in our moments. Our marriage is the strongest and happiest it’s been, probably ever. We delight in our girls and in the eventual growth of our family. We live simultaneously as though he has no time and as if he has all the time in the world. We plan for the future. We have not resigned ourselves to funerary arrangements. We have simply chosen to acknowledge the unknown, and to accept it as much as we can.