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It’s been one year since my husband had a ‘routine back surgery’ at a huge hospital in Portland, Ore.

The day of surgery, we got up at 4 a.m. to get ready, we checked in at 4:55 a.m. The night before we stayed at a local motel. The nursing staff member called Garrett to surgery at around 10 a.m. It was going to be a really long surgery (14-16 hours). So I decided to drive home to the Oregon Coast. I waited for the doctor to call and update his progress.

There were three (surgical) teams working on him.

The doctor called and said one of the associate doctors cot his femoral artery. He bled out, the doctor called and asked permission to use 19 units of blood on him. Permission was granted and several hours later, the doctor called back and said, “we saved his life, now we need permission to remove his right kidney. Seems when we cut the femoral artery we then cut the lifeline to his kidney. We need to remove it.”

So I gave my permission. After the removal of the kidney, the gave him a few days to recover before we went back in and finished the back surgery. The surgery site was open, but covered.

A few days later around 2 a.m., I received a call from the surgery coordinator… my husbands brain had ceased to function, would I come and sign papers so we can take him off life support.

I got packed, dressed and with Mary Ellen in tow, headed for Portland. When we got there his brain had started its function, so – thank god – we cancelled the ‘pull the plug.’

The next day they resumed surgery. During surgery he had a stroke, so his left side was not functioning right. At the same time he relapsed into encephalitis.

He had tubes wherever a tube could go.

This went on for the better part of a month. We me going back and forth between home and the hospital (three and a half hours one way). At this point, Garrett had used up his insurance for the hospital. So they transferred him close to our home.

A month later, he started falling due to a bad knee (we thought). He was referred to Dr. Butler for knee surgery.

The day of the appointment Dr. Butler stated, “it wasn’t his knee, someone cut his spinal cord. He will no longer be able to use both legs without aide.”

Now on a good day he can put on his own shorts. I still need to assist him in the bathroom. Now he can no longer drive, cook, walk more than 7-10 steps unaided. It is now hard to take out the garbage.

He has little short-term memory. No more evening walks, no more loving interludes, no more hunting and fishing, no more real meaningful conversation.

In less than two months, I went from wife to caregiver. I love him more now than before.

I have tried numerous times to talk to the doctor, his associates in the neuro-spine unit, patient advocate, head of the hospital, etc. No one would contact me back, so I hired a local attorney.

We wrote to the hospital and doctors. No avail.

As of Aug. 12, the host has not yet gotten back to us; it’s been one year.


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(1) comment


What kind of routine back surgery is scheduled to take 16 hrs ?? ..seems as if it may have been a much more difficult surgery from the start than this article leads to believe

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