April 17, 2018

The last picture taken of us together. Opera Birmingham annual gala March, 2018

Our saga began, unknown to us, on the day of the annual Opera Gala in March of this past year. Tommy, as company manager, was intimately involved with a hundred myriad details getting everything ready and had left the house early that morning. I was at work per usual. About 10:30 AM I got a call from him that he had crashed his car on I-65 and could I come get him as he didn’t have time for that. I hurried off to where he was to find his Prius in the ditch with a busted axle, a very large light pole uprooted, and Tommy not the least bit hurt talking to a very nice state patrolman. Tommy had no idea what had happened. He had been driving down the road and then he was in the ditch. (In hindsight, he probably had a mild cardiac syncope event but we didn’t suspect that). I got the insurance people on the phone, found him a rental SUV and off he went at a mad dash to finish his day. I met him down at the ballroom in our glad rags and the party went off without a hitch due to his usual meticulous planning.

The next few weeks, were the usual production period blur. I was in the cast of Romeo and Juliette and he was busy with dozens of off stage tasks. He also came up with several score of wigs for a Red Mountain Theater showcase in there somewhere. By the time the opera was over, we were both tired. We closed on Sunday. He took Monday off and stayed in bed feeling fatigued, not unusual for him after a busy time. On Tuesday, he felt worse and his legs were starting to swell alarmingly. On Wednesday, he was worse still and I insisted he head for the ED. (He usually refused to listen to me about health issues. After all, what did I know about such things? I was only a doctor and he was a nurse and therefore much more knowledgeable as he saw it). There, he was found to be in fulminant congestive heart failure due to previously unsuspected coronary artery disease. He was admitted to the cardiac service while people tried to figure out what to do. He was admitted on March 28th. It took the cardiologists nearly two weeks to decide that his best option was cardiac stents to open his blocked vessels and, just after his birthday on April 10th, he finally went to the cath lab and had seven stents placed in an eleven hour procedure. His heart needed rest and he was placed on bilateral assist pumps intravenously to do some of the work of his heart.

Tommy was always very guarded with personal information so while our close friends and families knew what was up, we hadn’t posted anything specific on Facebook or elsewhere. He finally decided the time was right on April 17th when he was through his surgery and slowly getting better in the ICU. This was my entry:

Those of you who know us know that Tommy is a very private individual while I am much more the let it all hang out there type. Because of this, I have waited until he felt it was time to post about what has been going on with us the last few weeks.

Three weeks ago, just after Romeo and Juliette closed, Tommy developed sudden onset shortness of breath and body swelling. In the emergency room, they found that he had serious, and previously unknown cardiac disease and was in heart failure. Since that time, he has been hospitalized at UAB in the CCU. I won’t bore you all with all of the dramas and complications of the last few weeks but will say that a number of very good cardiologists have found a route out of the hospital for him. The first major step occurred yesterday when he was given seven stents in his heart and a temporary assistive pump.

He is currently confined to bed due to the pump, but is awake and alert and doesn’t feel that bad, just weak. It’s been a long journey but will continue for quite some time. We’re taking it day by day.

We don’t have any immediate needs. He is well cared for at the hospital. I am home to sleep, and take care of the house and cats, but spend as much time with him as I can. My job has been very understanding about some extended and unplanned time off. This all may change as things progress.

I will try to keep people updated as we navigate this unexpected detour from life. Our usual activities are in abeyance. If you are expecting something from us in the near future, I apologize but we’re unlikely to be able to meet that obligation at this time.

If you have questions, feel free to call, text, email or message me. Tommy is not always up to communicating. .

I’m a good enough doctor to recognize how seriously ill he was, but my assumption was that he would recover enough to come home to a somewhat reduced life (which he was not going to like…) I was wrong.

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