My dad was first diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm before Christmas. The doctor suggested he not cancel his annual trip to Florida, but have it operated on when he returned. Arteriogram showed he had 3 aneurysms, one in the aorta and one in each leg. They decided to operate sooner than scheduled. The surgeon who discovered the three aneurysm said the ones in my dad's legs were the worst he had seen. He decided to operate much sooner than had been planned. My dad was able to donate one pint of blood for himself, and he was operated on about a week later.
The operation took about twice as long as they planned. The surgeon said the aneurysms in his legs were way under the pelvic bone and that he had two blood vessels on his kidney (one in front and one in back) and a lot of other things that I only barely heard or understood. By then the recovery room was closed, so they took him directly to ICU. He was on a respirator and swollen with the extra fluid they had given him, but we were able to see him.
I left the hospital for a couple hours, during which time his blood pressure began dropping and would not increase no matter how much blood or medication they gave him. His heart was also having trouble beating and they weren't sure if he was having a heart attack. They rushed back down to the operating room for emergency surgery about 9:00 that night. The surgeon reopened him and checked the aneurysm repairs which appeared to be fine and reclosed him. Apparently whatever was leaking stopped, although they were not sure what it was. And my dad was not having a heart attack, but because of all the fluid in his abdomen pressing on his heart it had just looked like one.
After that my dad's recovery went as the doctor had told us, the respirator came out, the catheter monitor came out and in four days he was moved to a regular floor. We all breathed a sigh of relief. He was on a regular floor for another 3-4 days. He was still weak and nauseous, but he was getting up to go the bathroom, eating real food (complaining about the quality), and losing all the water weight he had gained.
Wednesday morning, one week and one day after the operation, I stopped in to see him and he looked like he was worse than the night before. He had gotten sick several times during the night and that morning. Also he had fallen trying to get out of bed. (I guess that's when I wish I would have talked to him, but I just wanted him to rest and get better.) As the morning went on he got more and more "out of it". The nurses put the tube down his stomach to relieve the nausea, and I think, increased his IV. That afternoon they took a spinal tap because they suspected spinal meningitis. He was moved back to ICU and they began treating him with antibiotics while waiting for the test results. Later that night, a neurosurgeon called my mom to tell her a CAT scan had shown that there was bleeding in his brain and if it didn't stop on its own they would have to operate.
There was no improvement by morning so he was taken back downstairs for a CAT scan and then brain surgery. Again he came through the surgery and back to ICU. By the weekend he was alert, although agitated which the nurses said was normal after a head trauma, and responding to our conversations if not participating.
Monday he started having periods of unconsciousness were he would not respond at all for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. And then he would have to be brought back by a sternum rub (I think it's called). A CAT scan showed no more bleeding in the brain (at least not where they could see it), and there were no other infections or problems they could find. They thought maybe the problem was pressure on the brain and decided to put in a shunt. They were able to relieve some pressure, but there was no big change and after a few days they removed it because there was no more pressure. We had by then resigned ourselves to a long recovery.
The next few days were interchangeable, my dad could squeeze hands and move his toes. He ran a lot of fevers, but they never found pancreatitis or infections, and mostly the fevers came down with Tylenol. On Friday (Good Friday) his lungs began to fill with fluid. The nurse was suctioning them when his heart rate dropped. She told us to leave ICU and was calling the doctor, we were just outside the door when we heard the "CODE BLUE" called over the intercom. The doctors and nurses brought him back from a heart attack, but when they let us in to see him the nurse showed me his eyes were fixed and dilated. (I get all my medical training from TV, but even I know that is bad.) He had two more massive heart attacks within the hour and that was it.