Caregiver Log: White Horses

NOTE: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. It is written with express permission from the person whose situation is described.

White horses are breaking waves of the sea or ocean. Also known as whitecaps, these small surface waves break offshore and impede open water swimmers. But as it’s said, slow progress is better than no progress.

Jenny received a radical small bowel resection on March 1, 2023 and has been hospitalized at Mayo Clinic for recovery ever since. By some miracle, she did not go into ICU after her surgery. She has a private room with a view, on the 5th floor at the Saint Mary’s Hospital Campus . Over the last four weeks, she’s gone from being tied to the wall by monitors, IVs, tubes, and machines to now walking herself to the bathroom and taking medication by mouth.

But it is this last piece that is the problem. Digestion.

The risks of this surgery include infection, intestinal blockage, and malnutrition. So far, these complications have been avoided. Her surgical team is ‘CT Happy’ (as Jenny describes it), monitoring the progress of her guts and installing as many drains as are required to remove fluid build-up and promote healing. This past Friday, March 31, she went down from ten drains to two and had her catheter and nose tube removed. On Saturday, April 1, they took out 56 staples and 13 long fishing line like stitches. Her abdomen is closed for good. No foolin’.

Now she must prove she can digest solid food, but nausea is plaguing her. Is it from eating too much, too soon- or not enough? Is it the irritation of the stomach from pills? Lousy hospital food? Or is it caused by her intestines which are slow to ‘wake up’ and recover? The loops of bowel that she still had available are her life saving grace but they have also been out of use for years- alive but not functioning. And postoperative opioid use to manage the severe pain also affects gut function.

As of this morning, April 2, 2023, Jenny was authorized to eat a full liquid diet but as I excitedly brought her groceries, she had to try three different anti-nausea medications to keep herself from vomiting. They want to keep her on full liquid for five days, then move her to solid food. If she can keep it down and process solid food, she gets to come home. But they’ve been trying to get this to happen for a couple weeks.

Authorizing food and rolling it back. Taking out the nose tube and putting it back. White horses on water- inch by inch, stroke by stroke. It is painfully slow recovery.

Jenny is stir crazy. She is fighting the desire to eat all the food denied her by the previous condition, the hunger of not being able to keep food down for this past month, and the taste of wet pennies in the back of her throat caused by IV nutrition (TPN). For a person who has been trapped in her home for two years with an open abdomen to now finally have a closed abdomen, the urge to get up and literally run out the door is overwhelming. And there is the boredom and the loneliness, being in Rochester, MN with her nearest friends and home 90-minutes away. It’s just far enough to make it hard to stop by for a visit.

I keep up with Jenny via text, phone, and Facebook. I was lucky enough to be able to be in Rochester with her from February 27 to March 12, through her surgery and early recovery. I was able to get back March 16 to 18, but due to previously scheduled obligations, was not able to return until April 1. But in the two weeks since I saw her last, her recovery has been solid progress. She is in good spirits and anxious to get back to the business of living.

If she can manage to meet her ‘digestive goals’, she will be home next week. But healing happens in healing’s time…


If you’d like to help, please consider encouraging Jenny by sending flowers or other gifts this week. It’s always nice to know people are thinking about you. Jenny is in room Francis 5-100.

Sisters Crossing Gift Shop
Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus
Joseph Building, Lobby Level
Phone: 507-255-2500
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone orders are accepted during shop hours.
There is no charge for delivery to patient rooms.

At this nonprofit shop, 100% of net proceeds help to support programs and services for patients, visitors and staff at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus. This includes donations to the Poverello Foundation, which provides financial support to patients who are unable to pay for medical care received here.

Sisters Crossing Gift Shop offers many unique products and everyday necessities, including:

Apparel and accessories
Candy and snacks
Essential oils
Greeting cards
Inspirational items
Magazines and books
Postage stamps
Toiletries and lotions
Toys and stuffed animals

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2023

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