With the permission of Max I am allowed to share his most recent health scare! Gosh! Scare is an absolute understatement.
A few weeks ago Max went for his regular check up with a cardiologist, like he did every year. Off he went, cardiologist said all looked good “see you in a year” Max just happened to mention that his breathing was worsening and it was only then that the cardiologist said “since you mention that, I have noticed a few changes over the last few tests”. Max was booked in for an Angiogram- The camera that looks at your arteries to check for blockages and also a TOE- a camera that looks down your throat to check your heart. That was to happen on the Tuesday.
Needless to say after that appointment Max walked away disheartened and confused. How could someone get it so wrong? How could they say I’ll see you in a year, then tell you they have noticed changes? How could they not have pushed for further investigating a long time ago? Doesn’t make sense to us either, but none the less you guessed it, we won’t be seeing that Dr ever again!
Never take for granted your health. Especially your heart. It’s such an important organ in the function of your whole body.
On the Monday Max was making funny noises sleeping, and I was due to work, I was getting frustrated so I told him to get up! It was 4am. Max tried to get up and couldn’t even get to the door without feeling breathless. I knew deep down something just wasn’t right so off we went to the emergency department at the Gold Coast Private. Straight away Max’s new Dr the amazing Dr Michael Greenwood picked up that one of his valves must be leaking and gave him intravenous lasix (diuretic) and just that first night Max lost 5kg! He was carrying so much fluid on his lungs that he presented with acute heart failure. Deep down we were scared but not yet ready and oblivious for what was about to come. Silly me! I still get mad at myself for not picking this up sooner. How could I miss it? How did I not realise Max was breathing so bad? Why did he not tell me? We don’t dwell on the past!
Max was admitted to hospital.
He had an angiogram and we couldn’t believe it but his arteries were clear! Hallelujah.
He had a TOE done- Max’s mitral valve was leaking quite badly. The rest of the report the weren’t so sure on.
We got sent to Dr Ben Anderson the cardiothoracic surgeon.
Ben was honest with Max and told us we knew about the Mitral Valve but his tricuspid valve also showed signs of leaking but he wouldn’t know until he had a look in there. Max’s only option for this surgery was open heart. Sorry for gruesome details but they basically cut you down the front, saw your sternum to get to the heart and take your heart out of your chest while you lay on the table with a perfusionist (Dr Andrew Brooks) ensuring the rest of your body gets adequate supply of blood and oxygen to survive.
That Monday the 12th August Max was booked in.
On the Sunday he was admitted for a pre work up.
At this stage Max’s lungs had also started to collapse.
His heart was under so much pressure.
Max was scared. In my 10 years of knowing Max all I have known is a stoic, dominant figure, optimistic man and fighter. In the days before the operation I saw a vulnerable side. A scared man who thought his time was coming to an end. Max kept dreaming he was going to die. He couldn’t sleep, he hardly ate, and he was scared. We spent the week together at home doing not much but watching Netflix. Max had no energy. He was tired, breathless, scared and home bound. It was terribly hard watching this because Max is a huge figure in so many lives including mine.
Family gathered around Max on the Sunday. We laughed, chatted, made jokes, ate some lunch, chatted some more and watched the footy. Max loved it. He is such a family man and loves when we all get together. I said goodnight to Max. I came home, didn’t sleep much and woke up at 2am. I was so nervous and scared! I went to the hospital and sat with Max until his sons arrived at 6am and then the theatre staff at 7:30am. Max at that stage was asleep. He had been given a pre med to help with the nerves and anxiety. I went with Max down to theatre. Held his hand, kissed him and told him how much I loved him. I deep down knew he was safe with the amazing Ben and also his assistant Dr Karen Betts and the ever so wonderful anaesthetist Dr Amelia Traino. While Max was asleep Dr Andrew Brooks was the Man who perfused his body! These human beings are the wonderful, talented people I get to work with. I left knowing he was in the best hands but I also was scared.
From 7:30 when I left Max until recieving that call at 2:30pm from Dr Anderson my heart raced, my head spun, my tears flooded, my nerves were a wreck and I paced the room. Brad a nurse who is my colleague was Max’s anaesthetic nurse and I am so sorry Brad but I know I annoyed him so much, at least every hour messaging him. I knew Max was doing well, I just didn’t know what was happening in there.
When Ben phoned it was the best voice and only voice aside from Max’s that I had wanted to hear all day.
Max’s heart was in a bad way.
Nearly to the point of not being able to be fixed.
I could hear it in Bens voice that he was relieved.
It was so calcified that at one point he had Ben worried that there wouldn’t be anything to be able to suture his new valves to.
His Mitral and Tricuspid valve both had to be replaced.
It was a huge operation for Ben and the team as well as for Max.
His heart was out of his body for 4 1/2 hours. Brooksy the perfusionist I owe you big time for keeping Max alive during that time.
After the valves were replaced Max’s heart was put back in and jump started and his would closed and he was sent to the intensive care unit.
We all raced to the hospital.
Max had lines coming from everywhere.
It was scary to see even though I see it every day.
When it’s your loved one it’s just different.
Slowly they started to wake Max up, he was showing signs of improving.
That night at 8pm the decided to take the tube out of Max’s mouth.
I left at 9pm and he was saying Bibby (as he calls me) and was telling me he wasn’t in pain. I left thinking he would be ok and when I came in the following day he would be up, sitting in a chair and doing his exercises as they are so important after this surgery.
Robbie one of Max’s sons was staying at our house.
At 11pm I got a phone call. Max wasn’t doing well and the tube had to be re inserted and he was back on the breathing machine.
I was shaking uncontrollably. Shock was setting in.
How could this be? He was talking just 2 hours ago? Everything was looking good!
My head hurt, my heart ached. I held the dogs tight.
They said to just rest and if anything they would ring again.
I lay in the bed praying. Desperately praying, crying, hugging Max’s pillow trying to get his smell.
At 12:15am the phone rang again. “I’m not happy, you really need to get here now” were the words of Dr James Renton the intensivist.
Myself, Brett and Robbie raced to the hospital. The car drive there was quiet. All we could do was pray and hope.
As we entered the ICU and Max’s room everyone was there- Ben the surgeon, James the ICU Dr, multiple nurses, Amelia the anaesthetist and right in the middle of all of that was Max. He was as white as a ghost, cold, clammy and I looked at him and then looked at Ben and cried and said “is he going to die”. My heart sank. I felt helpless. I wanted to jump in there and help, kiss him, hold him, tell him how loved he was, tell him to keep fighting. Instead we were ushered away while they did their job.
We paced the corridors, waiting, watching, hoping for someone, anyone, just to give us some thing! Any thing! We just needed to know.
That 20minutes, to us, felt like an eternity.
Thinking I may have to say goodbye to my best friend, I couldn’t even contemplate. I didn’t want to even think about it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what life could or would be like. I didn’t want to. I kept the prayers and the fight going for Max. I had to.
There is no way that I wanted to say goodbye. How could you ever say goodbye to some one you so desperately love? My eyes still cry thinking about it.
Finally first Ben appeared- Max’s heart was great and good news is he didn’t need to go back to surgery and from a surgical point of view Max was doing well.
Then Amelia- She had done another TOE to check for leakages and none! His new heart was perfect. She explained so much to us that we instantly felt at ease.
Then James- He explained what had happened and they believe they may have taken Max’s tube out to quickly.
But Max had a fight on his hands.
After a huge operation his body needed a rest.
Time to heal.
His body was slowly shutting down.
Organ by organ.
His kidneys failed. So he was put on dialysis.
The rest of his body was slowly shutting down.
We left the hospital at 3:30am. Tired, exhausted, but feeling much better about how Max was looking.
We knew he was far from being safe and out of the woods.
But we also knew that the team in the intensive care unit at Gold Coast Private were doing everything possible they could to keep Max alive.
The rest was up to him.
Max literally came back from the dead.
I’m so proud of his fight and determination.
He wasn’t ready to die.
We weren’t ready for him to die.
The next few days were a blur.
Surviving on 3-4 hours sleep Max.
I slept in a bed in the ICU near Max. I couldn’t bare leaving him.
My Mum flew up here to help with the house. I owe her so much. She cooked, cleaned, fed me, made me sleep, gave me sleeping tablets so I could sleep, hugged me and was there when I needed her. The best!
I sat with Max- day and night. Crying, holding his hand, hoping, wishing, that he was still fighting.
Each day he showed signs of improvement and for us that was all we needed.
For anyone in the intensive care in an induced coma always comes so many risks. Pneumonia, infections… but Max fought hard.
For 8 days I sat with Max while he slept. Day and night.
8 long days.
8 long nights.
8 of the hardest days of my life.
Then finally the time came that they would try again.
We were told there would still be a 30% chance it may not work again and Max may need a tracheostomy to help wean him off the ventilator that was keeping him alive.
At 9am on Monday 19/8 they took Max’s breathing tube out. Again it was up to him to fight.
And that he did.
And he fought hard.
Those dulcet tones of his voice were the best I had ever heard.
I longed and prayed to hear those tones.
He got through it- no tracheostomy.
Max woke up and was confused, unsure of what had happened and where he was.
Slowly we started to tell him.
Even today he still isn’t sure 100% sure of what happened.
I have written him a diary and kept him the papers to read about what he has missed. So in good time and in his own time he can read the diary and look at pictures.
This was the scariest thing I’ve endured. Seeing my rock, my husband, my life, my love, like that was terribly hard. Feeling so helpless and unable to help him, hurt!
Thinking that I may not have him around scared me.
What would I do?
How would I cope?
We have so much to achieve yet.
Our 10 years flashed before me many times during that week when I sat with him.
The nurses in the ICU were amazing. Feeding us, making me sleep when I was swaying on my feet from no sleep, holding me when I cried, wiping away tears, listening to stories about Max, and helping us through the most difficult week of our life, while Max slept. The care they showed towards him and us we can never thank them enough for. Max is now on the ward and still the ICU nurses pop up to see how he is and to say hi.
Knowing Max’s passion for the Sea Eagles they had him wrapped in a Manly blanket the night they played and the TV on in the background. Max doesn’t remember it but those simple kind gestures were huge for us.
We are forever indebted to Dr Ben Anderson and the team he works with, they saved Max’s life. They gave him a second chance. They gave us our hero back. He is a brilliant surgeon and a lovely man. Maybe one day we will get him to a Manly game with his lovely wife Vanessa.
Max is now weak, lost a lot of weight, and doing daily rehabilitation.
But he is ALIVE
His rehab will continue for a long time yet as this has knocked the wind out of him. The physios have been a great help in getting Max back on his feet quickly.
But we will nurse him and get him back to his good health as quickly as we can.
We thank all the nurses I work with for stopping in to say hi, feed me, hug me, talk to me, send best wishes and just be there for me.
All his family and friends who sent well wishes and came and visited Max. We love you.
All the Manly supporters and people who sent cards, gifts and love from afar.
Pete and all the wardies at Gold Coast Private who still call in and see Max each day. He sure does make an impression on people.
But most importantly we thank Dr Ben Anderson. What a legend!
While Max did a lot of hard work, with out Ben he could potentially not be here right now! And that breaks my heart (pardon the pun). Always seek a second opinion when you just don’t feel right about the first one. Health is important. Life is precious.
Max is still in the Gold Coast Private.
Happy, blessed, has a new lease of life, back to his cheeky self, causing mischief, being bossy, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
This certainly puts things in to perspective for us and who and what is important.
Please keep praying for Max.
It’s a long recovery but he will get there and you will see him again, on the Hill, at Brookvale oval. Each day Max is proving his determination and fight. Showing us he wants to get home to the poodles and I. This man is my hero.
Life just wouldn’t be the same without Max in it and I am glad I don’t have to think about that yet. He has so much love to give and even more now that he has half a new heart.
It’s a huge thumbs up to getting that new lease on life.
That second chance.
My Lazarus. The Maxy who rose from the dead.