By Leslie Gallagher
The one week recheck with the cardiologists arrived quickly. Because Kenny had smoke in his ventricle all the cardiologists at ASEC were clamoring to see his recheck echocardiogram. And because Dr. Ettinger is such a rock star he wanted to come along! And, because Dr. Ettinger is so famous, all the cardiology interns were giggling, nervous, sweaty and paid rapt attention to his every word. Dr. Ettinger personally helped Kenny into the hospital using both front and rear Walkabout Harnesses to assist Ken in walking. I was touched by how much he cared about Ken and all the energy he put into him. I wanted to hug Dr. E, I was so grateful that he was there.
The repeat echocardiogram showed that the smoke in his ventricle had disappeared. (All the cardiologists were clearly bummed out. I actually felt bad for them). Ken still had borderline left ventricular dilation and mild systolic dysfunction. That made the cardiologist want to figure out if he had early dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) or if his symptoms were just secondary to degenerative valve disease. This was turning out to be a really weird case. He still had borderline pulmonary hypertension but the fluid around his lungs was gone and he had something else going on called ventricular premature complexes or VPCs which occurred during his echocardiogram. VPCs can be another manifestation of the DCM so what the cardiologist wanted to do was to hook him up with a Holter monitor to record his heart activity over a 24 hour period. This would give them more information as to whether or not he could be put on heart medication to help with potential arrhythmias.
The cardiologist also suggested that we also repeat a cardio exam in three months, doing yet another echocardiogram, more X-rays of his chest and again the Holter monitor. Good grief! I just wanted Kenny’s pneumonia to be gone so that we could get him back into intensive therapy and get him walking again! As Dr. Ettinger was watching over Kenny like a hawk every single day, the decision was made just to watch him and see how he did. My biggest concern was the pneumonia, which was resolving. Kenny was clearly feeling better. Even though his few days in the ICU with pneumonia had weakened him, Ken was raring to go. His legs were just starting to work on their own before he came down with the pneumonia and he was antsy.
We brought Ken back to the office and everyone let out a cheer! He was back! He was trying to walk! I could exhale! As soon as he finished the antibiotics we were allowed to start getting him back in the water. Ken’s favorite. NOT. We started out slowly, with assisted walking exercises in the harnesses. We also put him in a quad cart to have him to start pulling himself around the building “on his own” without our support. Ken wasn’t used to this because usually we had one person walking and supporting the front half of his body and another supporting his rear. Much easier for him. Killed us. With the cart we could pop him in, position ourselves ten steps ahead, cheer madly and wave treats to get him to walk towards us. At first he had absolutely no idea how to make it work. He just stood there looking at us. Fortunately, he is a complete chow hound. We found that if we held a treat right in front of his nose, called him to come towards us, and then walked backwards he got the idea. When he figured out that he could pull himself around, he was grinning ear to ear. (He was also exhausted!)
Our days began to get better. Ken was improving almost every single day. I don’t know who was more ecstatic, him or us. The workload was getting slightly easier as he was bearing more and more weight on his own. No more up in the middle of the night ten times carrying him outside and begging him to urinate. Since he was finally off Prednisone he could hold his urine all night long. Felt like a miracle. We listened to his heart about a thousand times a day, counted his respiration rate, checked his gums, held our breath. He was fine. We all hovered over him constantly worried that something else might go wrong. I gasped when he would stumble, and everyone would say “RELAX!” . It was hard to relax when we’d been through so much with him. Clearly he was improving. Ken was going to walk again. By himself. Of this I was sure.