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"We Won't Go There Today"

 

From: "Jay Scruggs  "
Sent: November 17, 2005

Our son, Clarke, a six-four ex-Marine, a picture of health and father of two, complained of having an intense headache and said he felt as if he were coming down with the flu. For several days he experienced diarrhea, vomiting, and couldn't keep anything on his stomach. He complained of getting dizzy in the shower, and at his wife's request, we took him to the emergency room at Salem Hospital in Salem, Oregon.

Clarke was very quickly diagnosed as having an aneurysm. Good grief! How did we miss it? The signs were all there. To their credit, the neurological staff at Salem Hospital referred him to Dr. Burcheil at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital in Portland. The neurological team at OSHU came up with a split diagnosis. Half believed it was an aneurysm and half believed it was a cavernoma. They all agreed, however, that it had been there a long time. It measured three cm. by four cm. and was located just to the right of center in line with the top of his ears. It was in what we came to refer as being a low-voltage area, but it was putting pressure on all of the high-voltage areas. To our dismay, Dr. Burcheil had to be out of town for Labor Day weekend. We had to accept the fact that neurosurgeons have other commitments, just like the rest of us. The plan, then, was to switch Clarke to oral pain killers and send him home until the surgery could be scheduled. The problem was that he was allergic to morphine and after two agonizing days of watching him get worse, the residents relented and called Dr. B. He ordered that they switch to codeine for the pain and a common steroid to reduce swelling. Clarke felt swelling behind his right eye, so we spent another day at the hospital. A bleed occurred, but it was a minor one. The new medications worked miraculously and he eventually came home.

The day before the surgery, they glued a series of what look like Life Savers to his head and gave him an mri that was somehow fed into a computer program. This program mapped the safest and least obtrusive route into the area and was to be used in the surgery room. The next day they performed the surgery. Let me say at this juncture that in my opinion all of the waiting in this ordeal was the most difficult part for everyone involved, save perhaps the doctors.

Clarke was apprehensive about having the surgery and was afraid he might not be the same person coming out of it that he was going into it. I prayed for him and in effect said that we were putting him into the hands of the best surgeon on the west coast, but more than that, we were committing him to the hands of the best physician that ever walked the planet, Jesus Christ. It was around eleven a.m.

The surgery was over in half the scheduled time and Dr. B said Clarke looked awesome. We were elated and expected to see him in an hour or two, but there was a set back. Bleeding occurred form the outside in and caused two seizures, and Clarke quit breathing during both of them. They re-opened and also opened another area behind his right eye to check for residual blood. All of those things went well, and we were allowed to see him in the ICU around midnight. He was so heavily sedated that he wasn't aware that we were in the room. All of his vital signs were excellent, so we went home feeling as if we had turned a corner and were about to enter the recovery phase. When they started waking him, we communicated with him by trying to anticipate and answer all of the questions we knew he would have. We squeezed hands or he nodded. They removed all tubes early that afternoon and at around six that evening, he ate one bite of Jello on his own, a major step.

His recovery was very rapid and four days later he was released. He is doing so well one month out that we are all astonished. This isn't to say that these surgeries are to be taken lightly. They are major undertakings and require a great deal of physical stamina, intestinal fortitude, abundant courage, and all of God's grace. The best advise I can give a parent, relative, or friend of such a patient is that you absolutely must take it one day at a time. Don't allow yourself to think ahead. It will consume you. Don't allow yourself or anyone near you to start down that path. Just say, "We won't go there today."

We were blessed by having a great church family and lots of Christian friends praying for our son. By the way, he accepted Christ during this ordeal. We told him that if there were 1000 steps between him and Christ, Christ would take 999 of them but not the last one. He had to take that one on his own. We are grateful that he did. Clarke asked me to reiterate that having a good attitude and praying friends determines the outcome of these things. His mother and I agree but from my experience I can add that his mother's cell phone came in mighty handy, too. May God bless you as abundantly as He did us.

Keep the faith.

Jay Scruggs
Salem, Oregon