Health Update


Quick version — I’m finally home, and if people want to help we’ve set up a GoFundMe Page. Click this link:

Long version — This one’s a doozy.

On Friday 6/12 I was admitted to the Emergency Room at NYU Hospital, where I was immediately prepped for an emergency procedure to drain a massive amount of fluid from around my lungs and heart. I’d put on an absurd amount of weight (267 pounds at my heaviest), and after listening to an ultrasound of my chest it sounded like my critical organs were literally drowning.

I was conscious during this first procedure, which took about 15 minutes around 7pm on Friday. An incredible team of specialists were on hand, chiefly these two doctors who I credit with saving my life:

This provided immediate relief, but I was still in an insane amount of discomfort. I spent Friday night in the ICU, where I underwent several X-Rays and a chest CT scan as the same medical team met and prepped for a second procedure for Saturday morning. I’m fairly certain they don’t usually do this — from what little I remember (thoughts and memories are a little scattered) there was talk around me about getting me in ASAP because a lot of people were supposed to have the weekend off.

After getting little to no sleep, I was whisked away at 8am to the operating room again on Saturday 6/13. At this point I hadn’t laid back flat in about 3 weeks, and the doctors put me back on the table. There must’ve been maybe 10-12 people in the room, as I faintly remember getting strapped in, IV’d, and given anesthesia as I painfully tried to adjust to laying back. This procedure would be lengthy — maybe 2 hours — and involve delicate surgeries to two places:

1) The pericardial sac — literally the lining around my heart, and
2) Cutting into my lungs to place a catheter on either side

This is where things get good (relatively). All I literally remember is laying back, starting to breathe the gas — then BAM — like someone snapped their fingers and it’s over. Textbook. I’m wheeled out of the room and back to the ICU, coughing and alive.

So, I spend Saturday recovering. They have me hooked up to four different machines:

1) A Heparin IV drip to prevent blood clots (which I’d developed in my lungs)
2) A pigtail catheter to drain fluid on my left side
3) The Pleurx catheter on my right side
4) A catheter in my bladder to help with draining (fun times!)

On top of this, hourly vital checks, meds to take, doctors checking in on me, and the usual humdrum of a world-class hospital operating at full-strength in the middle of June in NYC.

At this point things kinda slow down. The draining has worked a lot, and the first chance I have to weigh myself in the ICU gives a reading of 238 pounds. For those playing at home, that’s 29 pounds of fluid gone. Boom.

So I chill in the hospital, and recover surprisingly fast. Like, superman fast. They move me out of the ICU on Sunday, up to the 16th floor — where I spend Sunday night recovering.

Monday 6/15 moves pretty quickly. Before any of this happened, my vitals were nuts (blood pressure high, oxygen level low, heart rate high). With all that weight off, my numbers were literally baseline normal. So by the afternoon the drains and tubes started coming out, and the doctors are talking about sending me home for a Tuesday 10am discharge. Spent the night watching the Blackhawks win the Cup, go to sleep.

Today (yes, today), which is Tuesday 6/16, I woke up around 6am. And I can walk. And I’m moving around, and packed up my room, and ate a big breakfast, and met up with my sister-in-law Mikayla and her husband Stuart who helped me home after a few last-minute issues with the nurses discharging me. Phew.

So! I’m back home. I’m fine, and not fine. I’m going to take it easy and one-day-at-a-time right now. This was a very, very fast few days — and if you’re stuck around long around to read this, thank you.

Thank you for the prayers, the support, the love, the light — everything you threw at this worked.

Moving forward I’m not sure what the plan is. When they went into my chest, they grabbed a big piece of tumor to biopsy, and I’ll know the pathology results on that in a day or two. Was all of this this caused by the steroids? Lack of sleep? Not eating right? Is the cancer back with a vengeance? Not entirely sure right now — but it doesn’t matter. Lifestyle changes are happening now.

No more McDondald’s ever. Eating heart-healthy meals every meal. Exercising daily. All that stuff they say you should do? Yup, on it.

Other than that, please know that my response time will be a little slower on texts/messages/emails for the next few days — but I will catch up and I will get back to work doing what I love: photography. It brings me such joy.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the support everyone.

With love,

  • Elizabeth Rondthaler Jolley

    Crazy few days there, and a bit scary, too. I am so glad you are feeling better, able to move around, and losing the water weight. I second your assessment of your wife–what a trooper she is! You are both so lucky to have each other, and I pray that stays that way for many years to come :-) Thinking of the two of you often.