Jonathan got out of surgery this afternoon at 4pm and is now resting in the recovery room at Montreal General Hospital. He’ll be in recovery tonight and will move to the ICU for the weekend. Following Jonathan’s lead, I too will tell you exactly how it is, without overwhelming you with too too much detail.
Jon’s surgery took almost all day, from 9:30am-4pm, a long haul that culminated in the surgeon successfully removing the rest of his thyroid and 30+ cancerous lymph nodes in his neck. The vocal nerve on his left side that was at-risk due to the surgery is intact and working, though at present it is not working well enough for him to breathe on his own. The nerve is “stunned,” as the surgeons said, which is likely a result of the physical trauma of the surgery itself. One surgeon said the nerve had been stretched. As a result of the nerve being stunned/stretched, Jon will be intubated (have a tube down his throat and be hooked up to a breathing machine) from now until Monday afternoon, at which point one of his surgeons will check to see whether the vocal chord is fully working, thereby enabling him to breathe on his own. The surgeons decided to keep him intubated over the weekend to see whether the nerve just needs a few days to recover. While I cannot fully explain the relationship between the vocal chords and our ability to breathe, I know that there’s an intimate relationship between them and our ability to control the esophagus/windpipe interface. What I know is that he needs that left vocal chord to be able to breathe and swallow properly without outside intervention.
If on Monday he is unable to breathe by himself, the surgeon will give Jon a tracheostomy — making a hole in his windpipe (covered by a valve) bypassing the vocal chords so that he can breathe. Most likely this would be temporary. Everyone involved with the surgery indicated to me and Muriel (Jon’s mom), that they think the nerve will become fully functional. The issue at present is whether it will be fully functional by Monday afternoon, when the tube will be removed.
Muriel and I are hanging in there. We are a bit exhausted from the anxious waiting we did today. We will see Jon tomorrow morning. I do not expect him to really be that aware of us when we do see him, since being intubated requires that he be sedated (being intubated is apparently very unpleasant if you’re not sedated; it induces a gag reflex). He won’t be able to talk while that tube is down his throat, but I’m sure he will appreciate our being there. From his two surgeons’ estimates, it is sounding like Jon will be in hospital for at least 6-9 days.
We are grateful to you all for your support and concern. As things progress, I will send make additional posts.
Source: Thyroid Cancer Superbon