Personal Stories: Kim W.Adams-By Jeff Hurt
My name is Jeff Hurt and I am using my partner--Kim W. Adams--of 19+
years' account to post some info.
The day before Thanksgiving 2003, Kim had an aortic dissection
followed by a 10-hour surgery, six days on life support, ten
additional emergency room visits after the surgery and three more
additional hospital stays. Kim experienced a host of complications and
today all his doctors say he is a true walking-living-breathing
Kim's an RN-case manager and works for Dallas County Parkland Hospital
which is also a teaching hospital for University of Texas Southwestern
Medical School. I will let Kim eventually post his story and then I
follow up with a view as a family member and caregiver. The main
reason I am writing today is to address a side effect--cognitive
processing deficits--of the open-heart surgery used to correct the
Five and half months after Kim's initial dissection, Kim's health is
great. Aside from the frequent back and chest pain from the surgery,
he is doing well. He tires quickly and easily but the biggest
challenge facing us today is the setbacks from his cognitive thinking
and processing. Kim's short-term memory is poor and he often has
challenges with word finding, expressing himself, multi-step tasks,
normal coping skills, poor judgment, loss of inhibitions and other
normal thought processes. Stress exacerbates the problems and work has
been somewhat difficult at best. Some of his doctors think he went
back to work too soon and we are now waiting for test results
concerning his brain to see if he should stop working for a while.
We were unprepared for this side effect and have since learned that
this is rather normal for anyone who has open-heart surgery. Some of
the docs lovingly refer to this side effect as "Pump Head" because of
the time spent on the lung and heart bypass pump. Short-term memory
loss, mood swings, difficulty focusing and intensified emotions are
some of the traits associated with "Pump Head."
At first, Kim was unaware of his deficits but eventually came to
realize that he had some challenges with his brain. Three weeks ago,
Kim spent two days in neuro-psychological testing in hopes of
identifying the problems and finding ways to deal with them. The Neuro-psych
doc stressed that Kim's challenges are common for people who have
open-heart surgery and could last for up to two years after the
This doc further stated that current research showed that
those who did not have immediate symptoms experienced similar
challenges five years after the surgery. We will receive all the
results next week and are anxious to have a medical diagnosis. Then we
can officially start making the necessary changes to our lives to
adapt to these new challenges.
For a long time after the surgery, I was not sure that Kim was the
same person I had known for 19 years. He looked the same and sounded
the same yet he acted very different. In today's world, change is the
one constant but when it is in your own household, with the family you
love, it is still hard to embrace.
I have titled this portion of our life together "White Water Rapids
Change" and decided just to enjoy the ride. If I get soaking wet from
the river ride, it really doesn't matter. Life is a journey and when
you've seen and faced death, nothing else really matters.
We have a saying in our home, "What's the worst thing that could
happen at this point?" Death? Well, our faith rests in a higher power
and for us that is just a crossing over to the other side. Yet,
deficits of the mind were one of those challenges we never thought
would happen. We have not come this far to give up. We will get
through these hurdles and will make whatever changes to our lives are
necessary so that we both can experience "quality life."
I primarily wanted to share with folks that once you clear the hurdles
of diagnosis, successful surgery, the correct balance of meds and some
semblance of a normal routine again, there may still be another
unexpected challenge staring you in the face: "Pump Head" or deficits
with normal cognitive brain processing. Face those challenges with the
same tenacity as the aortic dissection, one day at a time.