Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hospitals and My Sick Dad . . . Being That Person; Part 1

Well, my dad is sick.  He's in the hospital and I fully intend to medicate my tired mind with a brain-clearning ramble.  I'm clicking away at the keyboard to purge some thoughts, emotions and ease some of the tired tension that has my shoulders in knots and my forehead knit into a deep furrow.   So, in no particular order, these are the things on my mind this morning.

I can't sleep.  Mimi went right back to bed after potty-time this morning, but once my eyes were open, I starting thinking about medical histories, previous surgeries, medical complications and conditions.  Is it because I was helping the graveyard RN complete his intake just before midnight last night.  Maybe.  Usually I wake up thinking about my to-do list for the day, what needs done and what's low on the list.   This morning, I'm thinking about hospitals, hospital staff, the process, lab tests, surgical consults . . . the list could go on forever.

I'm his person.  Who is yours?  Likely, it's your husband.  Or wife.   Mine is.  My "person" is my husband.  This is the person that is supposed to know about you.  They are supposed to be able to help complete a medical intake at midnight.  They stay tethered to their phone, for you, when your need arises.  They provide emotional support and strength when you need it.  They hold your hand.  If you want it.  Or they go away. When you need it.  So, I am my dad's person.  I'm super-duper with the paperwork.   Although, last night, I didn't have his social security number with me.  I'll fix that this morning and slip a copy in my wallet.  I'm super-duper with the hand holding and emotional support.  I do, after all, love the guy.   But . . . everyone's expectation of their "person's" job is a little different.  And right now, I'm not there.  My physical body is not slumped over in a chair in his room waiting for him to wake up.  He's alone, and this morning, my most heart-felt prayer is that in his heart-of-hearts, that's okay.  It's hard not to project MY feelings onto HIM.  I wouldn't want to be alone.  I would want to wake up to a familiar sight, smell, sound.  But my dad has always been a loner.  He's always been content to spend hours all by himself in a homemade ice-shack, dangling a fishin' pole into a frozen hole.  He's always been content to golf in a party of one, ride a tractor with room for only one butt or take long car trips where AM1240 was his only companion.  This morning, I'm praying that he wakes up without pain, in a warm bed, with a smile on his face.  I hope he rested well.

Illness progression.  Everyone wants to know what happened.  I called his family yesterday and started the "I just wanted to let you know" conversation.  The question they all ask is, "what happened."  The answer is:  I have no idea.  Second, they say, "how bad is it?"  The answer is:  I don't know.  How's that for vague and un-feeling.  Dear family, know that I don't intent to string you along.  I really don't know.  The illness progression has been like this:

Last Friday morning, the nursing home staff called me to report that he had been sick in the night.  What kind of sick?  Vomiting sick.  My mind went straight to stomach flu.  He ate breakfast and was napping when I called back to talk with him.  Later that day, we spoke and he said his stomach hurt a little, but he was ok.  The rest of the day was unremarkable.

Saturday morning, the same thing happened.  Vomiting in the night.  And a fall.  I gave consent for treatment and a bed alarm.  But he ate breakfast.  He had an appetite.  Curious.   We spoke on Saturday afternoon.  He said he was real tired.  He was lucid and playful.  He asked about the kids.   And Christmas.  We had a decent conversation, considering my weak cell connection, their weak portable phone connection, me shouting outside a restaurant and him being hard of hearing.  All things considered, if you manage to shout more than two words and be understood, that's a successful phone conversation.

By Sunday, he was looking more ill, having discomfort and was being admitted to the hospital.  Testing, testing, testing.   Something abdominal happening.  Maybe an obstruction, but not definite.  Reports have to be sent out to be read, so it takes a while.  Like a whole day.  I'm not used to that kind of lag in care, but it's a small, rural hospital, and I do understand the country.  So . . . let the waiting games begin.

Fast forward to Tuesday when things were looking better.  Nasogastric tube is out, well, mostly because he said 'the hell with this' and yanked it out.  Ouch.  He's not combative, he just wants to eat.  His diet advanced.  He drank broth and ate jello.  It was looking like we were coming out the bright side of the woods.

Then his doctor called me yesterday morning.  And folks, let me tell you, when a doctor calls you personally, don't mistake that for kind bedside manner.  They aren't being nice.  It's a bad sign.  Doctors, even the ones in small-time, country bumpkin hospitals, have scuts and grunts to do stuff like that for them.  So when his doctor called me and requested for me to call back on her cell phone, I knew we were in for turbid waters ahead.    Yesterday was a flurry of lab work, abdominal CTs, pelvic CTs, an ambulance ride, and ER intake, transport to a higher level facility, an evaluation by the ER doctor, a visit by a hospitalist.  There was an EKG, a couple of full assessments, some painful exams and lots of personal questions, which he evades like a champion.  There was a blown IV and three more sticks to get a new line and blood drawn.    By bedtime last night, everyone was shaking their head and saying, "it's something abdominal".  I don't mean to be a smart ass here.  I'm not a general surgeon or even a med-surg nurse, but my 10 year old daughter could probably look at his distended, hard, hot, drum of a belly and obtain these two pieces of information (belly pain & vomiting) and say "it's something abdominal."  Duh.  Of course it's something abdominal.

The WHAT is what we don't know.  Today will tell.  I hope.  A general surgeon is coming in to consult today.  It could be a small bowel obstruction.  It could be a recurring small bowel obstruction.  It could be a mass.  It could be a handful of things . . .

It snowed last night.  One mother of a storm came blazing though, and complicated my drive home last night.  There's 6 inches on the ground.  Stuff is closed all over town and all along the front range.  It's gonna be a white Christmas, but a rough drive down to the hospital today . . .


Homestead said...

He's old. A report to the family of "we don't know" is perfectly acceptable. Don't feel bad about that.

He's a loner. My father-in-law loved being in the hospital by himself. They brought him decent food and left him alone to read the paper. He was happy.

M&Co. said...

Oh I'm sorry. For the weather, the holiday, for your sick father, for not knowing. I'm just sorry.