Glenn Carman was hospitalized in early September. He has no recollection of the two months of his life that came thereafter – nor did the Luling man realize at the time how close that life was to ending.
On the night of Sept. 8, Carman and his wife, Tracy, were settling in to watch the New Orleans Saints play their season opening game against the Houston Texans when Glenn began to feel discomfort after a fit of coughing. His chest was hurting as was his back, and Tracy insisted they get him to an emergency room.
Initially, doctors couldn’t get a clear read on what the issue was. At first, it was thought he had air caught in his chest (Pneumomediastinum), but he was sent for a better look. A scan came back unclear, so he was sent to a second facility, where a scope found a serious problem: an eight centimeter hole in his esophagus.
A stint had to be inserted to address the issue, but it wouldn’t immediately solve the problem, nor lift the heavily medicated Glenn out of a great danger he was unaware of. He went septic, with his stomach and intestine contents seeping into other parts of his body. The hole had to be stitched up, but that was considered a last – and only – resort to save his life.
“If that doesn’t happen, Glenn isn’t here with us today,” Tracy said.
He had to be placed on a breathing machine, suffered a heart attack and had blood pressure spikes all threatening his health.
“They told us to call the family,” Tracy recalled. “We understood he was critical then. It was incredibly scary … they said he was ‘minute to minute.’”
The heart attack had to be treated on site where he was, as his condition was considered too critical to move him elsewhere. Furthermore, every time an effort was made to “wake him up” from his medicated state, he would be too disoriented and try and pull out his feeding tube – from Sept. 9 through early November, he was unable to eat or drink anything and lost more than 100 pounds.
“It was the bad patient in me,” Glenn quipped with a chuckle.
Throughout the process, better news would come in small doses. He was able to be taken off machines, then he was well enough to leave the hospital’s main campus for rehabilitation. While there were no promises made about his eventual well-being for a long time, because there couldn’t be, each step eased some anxiety for Tracy and the couple’s two children.
“At that point, I knew he was on the right path. It would be a long path, but he was headed in the right direction,” said Tracy.
In many ways, it had already been too long a path for Tracy, who endured not only the prospect of losing her husband for an extended amount of time, but lost her father during the process after the latter’s long battle with cancer.
“My brother and I were supposed to go see him before he passed away,” Tracy said as both husband and wife sat tearful. “I didn’t tell (Glenn) … he didn’t know. They were supposed to do his tracheotomy done the day of the funeral. I asked to delay … I had to be in two places at once. It’s still really hard.”
When Glenn did finally come to and able to fully communicate once again, he quickly found himself in shock.
“She told me, ‘you can’t walk right now.’ Well, sure I can walk. I’m the same guy I was, I thought,” Glenn said. “Then I looked down and, wait a minute, there’s nothing left, just skin and bones. I was in disbelief. Everything they’d told me was true. I couldn’t adjust to it. For almost three months, I have no recollection. I would have never dreamed this is where it was going.”
As to what fully triggered the problem, Glenn said there hasn’t been a conclusive answer. His case was rare, so much so that the couple noted the doctor who placed the stint in Glenn was having his students study the case due to how odd it was.
“They couldn’t pinpoint anything. Maybe it was a variety of things contributing,” Glenn said. “But it was so rare. Nobody had heard of it.”
The journey isn’t over. Glenn has just begun what’s expected to be a long rehabilitation process, but he’s coming along. At first, he couldn’t walk from his couch to his television. He’s now able to make it out to the street and “move around a little bit.”
“It’s very challenging,” he said. “Every day brings a different obstacle. They tell me I’m making great progress, but that I have a ways to go.”
While he was hospitalized,, neighbors, friends and others in the community lent a helping hand. Neighbors would cook meals for their two teenage children while Tracy attended to Glenn. Others donated to help offset their medical expenses as Glenn is sidelined from work. $1,700 has been donated to a GoFundMe set up for the cause (titled Help for the Carman family).
“We’re definitely surprised and so humbled by the outpouring of support,” Tracy said. “I came home in September maybe five times … they took care of things for us and we’re so grateful.”
“What a blessing,” Glenn said. “People have been amazing.”
He’s not quite finished with hospital care. Within the next two months, he’ll have to return to have the stint removed – the hole is not quite closed yet, but is much smaller now. The breathing tube will have to be placed back in, he’ll have to be medicated, and an uncomfortable experience all too familiar will be revisited.
But it’s his second chance at life, one he doesn’t remotely take for granted.
“It changes your whole perspective on things,” he said.