Summer 2001 - The Surgery
Back again on June 19th (6 weeks from the date of the first scan). The CT scans were repeated in the morning and we met with the ENT surgeon that afternoon. Good news! The spots were either unchanged or smaller. Surgery was rescheduled for Monday, July 9th.
Once again we made all our arrangements and headed to Buffalo the day before the scheduled surgery. We checked into the hotel, called our home voice mail and found three urgent messages from the surgeon -- due to weekend emergency admissions there was no available ICU bed for Mike. The surgery was cancelled again. Click to see more post-op pictures Finally on July 25th Michael had his surgery -- a palatectomy, partial pharyngectomy, and instead of a modified radical neck dissection, a comprehensive radical neck dissection. The surgery was about 8 hours long with no major complications other than the change from a modified neck dissection to a radical. It seems that two more lymph nodes had been rapidly growing and were wrapped around the spinal accessory nerve and other areas.
Mike's surgery only shows on the outside but extensive work was done inside: palatectomy, partial pharyngectomy and a comprehensive radical left neck dissection. He also had a temporary tracheotomy and a feeding tube (PEG) put in place as well. The surgery left him with a large hole where the soft palate was. He couldn't talk for the first week and communicated with a dry erase whiteboard. This would mean his voice sounded like someone with a cleft palate, which in effect he had now. He also had a problem drinking -- liquids would reflux up his nose.
After less than 2 days in ICU and 9 days on the floor, Mike came home -- much stronger than we anticipated and sporting a temporary tracheotomy and stomach feeding tube (PEG). The temporary tracheotomy was removed during his first follow-up visit, happily since he really hated it.
Solid food was slowly added but eating and especially drinking were major challenges. Our hope was that swallowing, eating, drinking and speech would improve once he received his prosthetic device.