Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Couldn't Make It Up If I Tried

At 3:00 p.m. today Elana was released from Mt. Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach after spending two and half days in the hospital for gall bladder surgery.  If you are saying to yourself, how much more misfortune can one person endure, you are probably not alone.  We have not even put away the suitcases from Mexico and she is already back in the hospital.  However, what you probably don't know is that this, we only learned recently, is actually an old problem that Elana was suffering from and we finally arrived at a solution.
If you recall from earlier posts, I explained that Elana had not eaten solid foods in almost a year.  I was actually trying to remember the last time we went out to a restaurant for dinner, and the only one I could come up was in Providence last summer.  There may have been something since, I just can't remember it.
We had explained away Elana's gastrointestinal issues as a symptom of RSD as RSD can cause the same pain that she was experiencing.  What is worse, is that Elana's job as a pharmaceutical sales rep was to call on GI doctors.  She is well versed in many matters related to the stomach.  As Elana would say her territiory was from the "gut to the butt".  Even though we could have gone to any one of several very well respected GI doctors who each would have been happy to do a full work-up for Elana, we just kept on assuming it was the RSD.
While we were in Mexico, Dr. Cantu suggested that we see a GI doctor anyway when we got home.  That led to the Ultra-Sound which led to the finding of several large gall stones.  We met with the Surgeon on Monday and Elana was had the surgery on Tuesday (3/2/10).  I am happy to report that the surgery was successful and Elana is now sleeping in her own bed as I write this.
Thanks are not enough for her wonderful team of doctors at Mt. Sinai who all banded together without regard to ego, turf, status or any other possible obstacle to high level patient care.  I feel compelled to mention them by name:

Dr. Stephen Unger, the surgeon who performed the surgery and now only needs to do a surgery on Jesse in order to complete the Hellring family surgery triple crown.  In 2006 Dr. Unger took out my appendix.

Dr. Brett Kandell, the Anesthesiologist, who I have known since high school and was willing to take the lead in coordinating all of Elana's pre-op and post-op care.  This is the second time Brett has made sure that Elana got the correct surgical protocol as it relates to her anesthesia before, during and after her surgery.  In January of 2009 Elana had a cysectomy and Brett, even though he was less than a month on the job stepped in to save the day.  It's too long a story and way too medically dense to describe what Elana needs, as RSD patient in order to have a safe and successful surgery.  What I can say is that, for Elana, the surgery is the easy part.  The Anesthesiologist, in my mind is the key player to make sure Elana is safe before, during and especially after the surgery.

Dr. Arin Newman, the GI doctor, who is also a good friend of the family along with his wife, Dr. Rachel Newman and their daughter Madison , who Jesse was putting the moves on in the picture I posted of the two of them in Jesse's jeep. Arin, cleared the path for Elana to get into his office right away once we got home and then made sure Dr. Unger got the full briefing before we saw him.  We would probably still be waiting to get scheduled for surgery if it were not for Arin.

Dr. Susana Gonzalez, Elana's internist, who has been tireless for two years in not only doing anything we have asked, but in coming up with idea's to make Elana comfortable.  Anytime there is an issue, she makes time for Elana, no matter how busy she might be.  While we were at the hospital she made sure that Elana was receiving timely and attentive care from the nurses and made sure the boat never veered off track no matter how high the waves got.  I know that sounds like a trite metaphor, but if you have ever had to spend a night in ICU, you know that it can be very intense and having a strong advocate, like Dr. Gonzalez helps immeasurably.

In addition, Dr. Farcy, the head of the ICU, and his staff did a solid job in managing Elana's case.  They were not very familiar with RSD and were willing to listen to me and Elana's other doctor's as they set out her post surgical protocol.

Of course,  I must thank Dr. Cantu for advising the entire medical team on how to manage an RSD surgical case.  There is no way the surgery and Elana's post op care would have happened the way it needed to if it were not for Dr. Cantu's unmatched ability to communicate in a way that automatically breeds trust and friendship.  In my opinion, Dr Cantu could stop practicing medicine and make a fortune training doctors and health care providers on how to treat patients and colleagues.

Also a special thanks to Dr. Ken Ratzan, Dr. Alex Ferro and Dr. Greg Michael for taking the time in the middle of the day to come by and say hello to Elana while she was recovering in the ICU.  I hope the smile on Elana's face when she saw all of you walk in the room was worth the effort you made to make the out of the way visit.

Many of you have asked how is Elana post-coma.  The answer is: It is too early to say how beneficial the coma trial was for Elana.  Although she still has severe pain in her foot, there has been a legitimate reduction in the pain.  If it was usually an 8 or 9 it is now a 6 or 7.  We believe that with the continued infusions and water therapy, that Elana will continue to see a reduction in the pain.  I don't know if this effort will yield a single, a double or a home run but I do believe we are going to get on base and more importantly stay on base.

I have no idea how many of you will read this, as I had told you that I was likely to retire my blogging hat in Mexico.  However, Elana asked me to provide a follow-up once the gall bladder issue came up.  Now that we are back home from the hospital and it appears the worst of the recovery is over, I felt I was in the clear to give a report on the recent events.

I hope all is well with you and yours



  1. Thank you for keeping us updated, you have NO idea how it eases the soul of those that aren't sitting there with her.
    THANK YOU for being that person and you should continue blogging because you really are a phenomenal writer.

    Love always. AJR

  2. If we are the only 2 that read this, then that is ok. We are your team that support you and our girl and love you both dearly. We can't wait until we stay on base and work towards moving to the next base. We are running right next to you.
    Love you!

  3. I am reading your blog, even though I do not know either of you - I am reading about Elena and keeping you all in my thoughts as you heroically move toward health.

  4. Hopefully another step in the overall bettering of Elana's quality of life. So on that note, congratulations on a successful surgery. And, how awesome to have so many people serving as advocates for her to receive the best possible care. Loving this blog update! xxoo, Mandy Jezin

  5. Hope she got to keep some of the stones for mementos. Please give her my love. Thanks again for the update.

  6. Lance and Elana:

    My thoughts are with you. I know that things will get better soon!

    Joshua Teverow

  7. I check the blog every day hoping to read good news about Elana. Your family is in my prayers every night. Thank you for the updates. I will continue to pray for a happy pain free life that Elana deserves! If she ever reads this or asks, tell her Deana from high school will never be the same after reading this and is inspired every day by her courage. All the best!!

  8. You are both on my mind and I stop in here from time to time to check on here. I'm sorry to hear things haven't been all that better.


  9. I bookmarked your blog just in case you had any updates and check back often. Elana is in my thoughts and prayers.