Hodge: Memo from paradise, aka KGH

Kelowna Coun. Charlie Hodge recounts his struggle to survive major surgery at KGH

By Charlie Hodge

Hello from Paradise. Also known by most as Kelowna General Hospital. Right now it feels like paradise to me compared to where I briefly was.

Odd, I know, to refer to here so glowingly but just to be able to write this column today means I am back in the land of the living and that makes me one big happy camper.

It is a terrible feeling to not be able to breathe, to panicky wonder if every little smidgeon of air you manage to suck into your gasping body is your last.

On Oct 25 at 8 a.m. I went under the knife for major plastic surgery on my jaw. The brilliant Dr. Scott Williamson took two and a half inches of bone and meat off my fibula and then ripped open my already previously operated on jaw and built me a new one. The surgery took more than eight hours including a bone graft and tracheotomy and it was touch and go a few times. However the amazing army of surgeons involved did their job and my skinny 98 pound body pulled through… barely.

Round one was done but round two – recovery had just begun.

Around day two or so my body went into shock or defibrillation. My poor wife watched as my heart ping ponged from 201 to 80, back up to 180 then 90 and doctors went nuts to save me. Sometime within the next 24 hours (it is all a blur to me) I remember while in a deep fog of pain and exhaustion deciding I was going to just quit.

I had had enough and let go.

Not sure why or how—I’m giving this one to God—but a few hours later I remember I decided I still wanted to live after all and started to struggle for my life. Literally and figuratively.

Then I wondered ‘Had I waited too long?’

The last 10 or 12 days since then have been a long, long climb back with a lot of help from talented medical people such as respiratory therapists, nurses, staff, specialists. Among the many (with more to be named later) including Doctors Graeme McCauley, Penner, Dominelli, and Ferris. Respiratory therapist/technicians (first names) Joel, Mark, Richard, Cass, Keaton, Meagan and nurses Anneleis, Michelle, Cindy, Amiee, Jenn, Jill Adrianna, Aleah, Suzanne, Sherry, Veronica, Wendy, Chi, David, Barb, Steph and aid Sherry, (more to come). Thank goodness for them.

I am not out of the woods yet. Far from it. I must survive at least three more weeks recovery in hospital, heal the throat once the tube is removed in two to three weeks, avoid infection and then several months of eating through a tube. But I have my boxing gloves back on.

I can’t complain about the hospital food cause I have not had a bite and likely won’t. I have not even had a drink of water in 12 days nor will I for a while.

I am down to only three tubes in me: feeding tube, anti-biotic and the trachea. That is better than the seven I had right after surgery. Heck that’s more tubes then most gas stations.

There are many bonuses to the journey I have been on including how it has made Tez and I that much closer. My love for the girl has magnified more than I thought possible the past few weeks.

As the countdown date to the surgery date crept closer and the serious uncertainty of what lay before me drew nearer it fully dawned on me what we have. What I may just leave forever. How much I love her, our life, our kittens our yard…

I never knew if I would wake up or not and I was scared horribly. I would lay awake next to her at night the few days before surgery and watch her sleep. Hold her and pray.

It also brought me closer to the Great Architect of the Universe as well. Fear has a way of doing that for faith. Many, many folks have been praying for me and I appreciate that. Please do not stop.

Certain friends have really been there for me or Tez while a few have not. Interesting how that works in such stress scenarios.

For now I need to concentrate on healing, working on finishing Dan McGauley’s book, keeping up to snuff on council stuff (which I plan on being back to in early December), and getting stoked for Christmas, right after Remembrance Day.

Next up: Tez and I have to figure out where to hang Christmas lights in my hospital room. Bless you all.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


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