Where there is despair, hope

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faith and prayer

We entered Saint 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.

The next 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.)

The 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.
St. Marys 7th floor waiting room

an intensive care room, Pat (left) and Tom

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 time

Saint Marys Hospital has approximately five miles of corridors. I probably walked most of them. Each day I would make my way to the Saint 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.

Copyright © 2002 Bev Fotovich