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Posted on October 15th, 2013

The last two days in the hospital were filled with therapy and doctor visits. Each day Mike enjoyed walking down to get Starbucks and looking around the expansive MD Anderson campus.  Our highlight was when my coworkers live-streamed the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Wall of Fame event for us to watch from Houston.  

What Mike and I didn’t expect was all the well wishes, words of encouragement and moments of complete comedy shared by our colleagues and friends with us on the camera the night of the event.  It was like a wedding video of sorts – they could only talk to us – but it lifted our spirits and made us fall more in love with Oklahoma City! 

When we left Houston on Sat., Oct. 12, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got home.  Although Mike looked well, it was obvious he was dealing with some speech issues and his lack of memory and comprehension was alarming. 

For example, when we stopped at McDonald’s about an hour out of Houston – Mike looked over the menu and then announced to me he wanted what he had the morning before.  That breakfast included two poached eggs, oatmeal, wheat toast and bacon.  He settled for oatmeal and a fruit smoothie.

We were blessed we had a smooth drive for the 500-mile trip.  We stopped every hour so Mike could stretch his legs. He is susceptible to blood clots for the first couple of weeks because of the type and length of the surgery.  It was helpful having my dad with us during the week and for the drive home. Mom had homemade stew waiting for our arrival and it was great to see the kids after almost two weeks.

We hugged and kissed my parents goodbye and settled in for dinner with the kids.  They were glad to have us home and were somewhat entertained with seeing what Mike did and did not remember.  First request from Sam: “Dad, please count to 100 by 5s.” (This is what they had been working on when we left).

The temporal lobe area Mike is missing from the gross resection surgery affects his retention of visual memories, language comprehension, emotional memory, processing sensory input and deriving meaning from various situations.  Although his functional MRI properly mapped the large areas of speech, comprehension and motor skills – there is still a lot of trauma experienced by the brain during a surgery of this magnitude.  There was alot Mike didn’t understand and I couldn’t explain to him in a way he could comprehend.

It’s interesting that Mike can’t quite explain emotions. The two he knows are love (“I know love because I love you”) and happiness (“I’m happy when I do this,” and smiles). I believe I’ll take those two!

He doesn’t know the opposite of those emotions and he has trouble describing sad, scared, or angry. He caught me crying once and was confused. He wasn’t sure why or what I was doing. From that conversation, I realized he wasn’t quite sure of his diagnosis and even what it meant when I tried to describe it to him in simple terms.

Sleeping was tough too. The combination of medications kept Mike fairly wide-awake most of the week and he doesn’t feel sleepy either. Unfortunately, because of the memory/comprehension issues, he struggles with reading (something he loves) or watching television. Baseball and football have been a hit though (Go Pokes! Go Red Sox!)

It was difficult at first for us to have a two-way conversation because for several days most of what I said didn’t compute. This is gradually improving. Ironically, his two favorite words/phrases, but have been our least favorite prior to surgery when the kids use them, are: “Whatever” (to answer any question); and “I’m bored” (stated nearly ever hour on the hour).

Over the course of the first week home we have seen daily improvements.  Mike went into the office each day for four-to-five hours. He was careful not to do too much, but the activity was therapeutic and the visits from friends and colleagues during the day lifted his spirits.
We enjoyed the cooler weather, quiet evenings on the patio, a couple of great home cooked meals delivered by friends, continued prayers and encouragement, and taking small steps in patience with the healing process.

We return to MD Anderson on Oct. 20 for follow-up appointments and to receive more information on the pathology of the tumor and plan for treatment.
Dinner with family the night before surgery.
My dad (Dan Hatfield) and cousin Sheri Hatfield were there with us every day.
Spending a special night "together" with amazing friends and colleagues!
Mike's world-class neurosurgeon - Dr. Amy Heimberger
One week later - Back to work.


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