For the last couple of weeks, everyone in the family has been thinking about Aunt Calm and Uncle Restless. They live in Camera City, about 90 miles away from here. They used to host a big get-together every summer, an all-day party that included bocce, horseshoes, and large quantities of good food. Their daughter and son-in-law, who own a nearby bakery, always brought all kinds of goodies, including a special box of cream puffs just for my father.
Until 17 days ago, Uncle Restless was in good health, enjoying retirement with a host of activities and friends. Then he was hit with a sudden and severe headache. He was in such pain that Aunt Calm drove him to the hospital, where he was given morphine and a CAT scan. He was then transferred him to a bigger hospital where an MRI showed an abscess in his brain. Unfortunately, the abscess was in deep in the brain, not in place where it could easily be removed by surgery.
Because of the swelling, his thinking was very jumbled and confused. He didn’t know what had happened and didn’t always recognize people. His condition was clearly pretty serious. He was also very restless, trying to get out of the hospital bed all the time, but his daughter explained to the nurses, “Oh, he’s always like that. Even without an abscess.”
In what seems like both a crazy coincidence and a stroke of good luck, Uncle Restless and Aunt Calm have a son who is neurosurgeon. He and his wife flew up from the southern hospital where he works. Friends and family congregated to be supportive, and Baker Cousin set up an internet site so that we could all get updates. The doctors put Uncle Restless on antibiotics and as the infection cleared up, he began to return to his old self, although he was still in the hospital.
As friends and family have visited Uncle Restless, they’ve written entries on the website so that we could all get updates. Baker Cousin has written an update every night and Neurosurgeon Cousin has written several entries to explain to us all exactly what is going on. Friends, family and neighbors have been chiming in from afar with messages of love and support — and an endless stream of corny golf metaphors.
When my parents visited, they reported that Uncle Restless was in good spirits, joking like he always does. The antiobiotics had cleared up the infection. But then another MRI showed that the abscess was still present: a capsule of pus lodged deep in his brain.
Then the abscess leaked. Uncle Restless developed a severe headache and a fever. At some point, the doctors and the family decided that the danger of the fluid leaking into the brain was too high, and that the benefits of brain surgery would outweigh the risks.
So this afternoon, after 17 days of being in the hospital, Uncle Restless underwent the kind of tricky brain surgery that he’s heard his son talk about. A small hole was made in the front part of his skull and brain. Then a fiber optic catheter was advanced through the hole, along with suction and cutting tools, and the contents of the abscess removed.
His siblings drove in to join his wife and daughter at the hospital, and everyone else waited by computers and cell phones for updates. The good news is that the surgery seems to have been a success. Uncle Restless still has recovery and rehab ahead of him — and obviously, he’ll have to be monitored for complications — but for now, everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.