Friday, October 24, 2014

Interrupted Updates

Have a sick kitten...posts suspended for now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dad and the Mini-Stroke, Part Two: Chasing Dad...

To recap in brief, my Dad was admitted to the hospital on August 27th with a minor stroke...well, one of the first things they did as they tucked him into his hospital gown, and ran IV's and medication (one being his blood thinner), was to put red socks on him. Now, red socks are a visual code at this hospital for "do not get out of bed without assistance from hospital staff, period."

Pretty much what 
Dad's socks looked like. 
I should have taken a picture
 of them!
Dad immediately grumped that he didn't need this. We told him, um, no, that's what you have to do, Dad, for your safety. He grumped some more. The first time he tried to get out of bed by himself, we fussed and hit the call button, and he blew up, furious. He did not, DID NOT need help, thank you. And then the fun really began.

First night we were all in there together, exhausted, Mom and I were both sound asleep and he made it out of bed by himself, to of course use the bathroom. Weak and shaky, he didn't make it and, poor man, had a major accident. The staff caught him and there was a major uproar - which I slept through, but finally woke Mom up. We both fussed at him the next day. He remained unmoved by our anger or fears. He, dammit, did not need help. Much stress was had and shared all around.
Until the Dr. came in to see him that morning.

Evidently, the nurses and staff had reported Dad's incident during the night, and the Dr. came down on Dad in no uncertain terms, that he was to call for assistance EVERY time he wanted to get up, because if he didn't and he fell, the results would be "catastrophic", to quote the exact word the Dr. used.
At this point I piped up and asked if the Dr. would define "catastrophic" in these circumstances. Which he did. Evidently, given the high dose of blood thinner that Dad was on, to dissolve the blood clot in the brain, if Dad were to fall, it would be fatal, it would kill him, from internal bleeding.
*THAT* got Dad's attention, or so we thought. His grumping faded to inaudible mutters and he grouchily allowed us to push the call button from there on out. Battle won...or so Mom and I thought. However, no. We weren't out of the woods yet.

Whenever Dad woke up - and not just at night, but when he napped during the day, which he did a lot of - he would wake up confused and foggy...and promptly proceed to get out of bed on his own and become furious when thwarted. In a sense, it wasn't his fault. He was so groggy from sleep that he did not track things or remember where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. At that point, we started stationing a family member (several of my brothers were in and out to see him and visit and support mom and me) with him when we went to the cafeteria to eat, because we did not trust him to stay put and behave if he had just waked up.

This led to a number of memorable occasions, the first, when I stayed with him while my mom and oldest brother went to supper...and Dad woke up and - completely out of it - tried to scramble to his feet. That round finished up with me desperately hanging on to the back of Dad's hospital gown to keep him on the bed, while frantically pushing the call button, as he howled at me. Oy. Things I never thought I'd be doing, I have to say.

The second memorable one was in the middle of the night, with Dad, once again, fogged from sleep wanting to get up and use his pee bottle (I assume there is an official name for those things), which he preferred to stand up to do. I was not, repeat, NOT to hit that dad-blamed button, and I was to hand him the %$#@ bottle! Immediately! Of course...I hit the button. More fussing and language ensued. Demands for the bottle. The room was dark, and the pee bottle was hanging on the edge of the bedside table. He couldn't see it,  but I could and I just told him I had no idea where the bottle was, and he'd have to wait. Much fussing and fuming. The nurse showed up and we got him assisted and handled.

I have to point out, that when Dad was awake, he would hit the call button or ask us to do so, even if he wasn't thrilled about it. It was only when he woke up, foggy from sleep and disoriented that he got out of control. And while we were stressed and freaked out, and yes, furious with him, we did understand that this was not entirely his fault. Also, his anger and the extremely uncharacteristic profanity - up until then I'd heard him say two swear words in my hearing in my entire life! - was also symptomatic of the stroke. Anger issues and rages and emotional outbursts tend to follow a stroke, and the stroke victim has no control over it, may not even really be aware they are doing it. So we tried very hard to be patient with him. I can't say we were always successful, because we were pretty terrified, given that definition the Dr had given us of catastrophic!

As the week went on, each day with him fussing to go home and stating this was the day he was going home, and bitterly disappointed when he couldn't, I learned something new about my Dad's past.
Dad has always been leery about hospitals and hospital stays. He will just barely tolerate staying over night. Or having someone he loves in his family stay over in a hospital. He was furious last year, when my Mom, who'd had a pulmonary embolism that could have killed her and probably did come close to doing so, was kept over a second night on oxygen. She was so weak, she had difficulty walking down the hall and back, their test to see if she could go home safely. They assisted her back to bed, and while they were tucking her in, Dad boiled over, saying it was their fault that Mom couldn't go home, they'd made her walk too fast, and he was going to take her out of here - at which point, I turned and told him to shut up and had he lost his mind! I did this deliberately. I figured if he was fussing at me, he wasn't yelling at the staff and causing a bad situation. And let me tell you, I felt really weird doing it, because I have always treated my Dad with deep respect.
Mom finally looked over and saw us about to boil over, and asked what was going on. We both dodged and said that nothing was, where upon she said that she really didn't want to go home, feeling the way she felt, and would prefer to stay here. That brought that to a halt, and he settled down. (Mom by the way, is fine, healed up and no longer has to use an oxygen tank. This has been quite an eventful year or so.)
But I was shocked by his anger and unreasoning desire to get out of the hospital at all costs. I mean if it were Dreamweaver, my wife, in the hospital having almost died and still in danger, I'd be begging them to keep her, until she was better and safe!!!

During this week in the hospital with Dad and his stroke, I caught a glimpse of what may have been a clue to my Dad's almost pathological fear of hospital stays. Dad and I were talking, as we sat together, me by his hospital bed, and he told me this story of his childhood, which I had not heard before, or at least not in full. He was born in 1927, the youngest of 10 children, and his mother - my grandmother - lived to be a little over a hundred. When he was a young boy, he fell and broke his arm, rather badly. His mom took him to their family Dr, who concerned about the severity of the break, offered to have dad admitted to the hospital and anesthetized for it to be set.
Evidently, his mother hit the roof. NO child of hers was going into the hospital over night for any reason and that was THAT! End of story.
Well. Think about it.
Back then, people who went into the hospital often didn't come home. It was a place you went when things were fatally serious, and terrifying. All of his mother's children, including him, were born at home. She managed to pull all of her children of the time - before Dad was born, obviously - through the 1918 - 1920 flu pandemic, though she was told that she and the children would die. A tale to terrify any child. And she did it at home nursing them from her own sick bed. She was a tough woman, but I suspect that hospitals were a terrifying thing for her, implying the possibility of death in those days - which was probably more true than not, and she vehemently refused to have Dad admitted to one. Loudly. In his hearing. That had to be frightening!

I suspect as a young child this made a permanent terrifying impression on him, and stayed with him subconsciously all his life, shaping his reactions to hospitals. And I think, as he has gotten older and more rigid and less flexible (not that he ever WAS particularly flexible in the first place, mind you.), that this has become more and more of an issue, rising up from that childhood experience.
So, I learned something about Dad, that was sort of a key, to understanding him and what was going on inside him. Even if, in the wake of the stroke, he could not have understood it, himself.

It made it a little easier to deal with him, as he obstinately grouched his way through being in the hospital for a week. Part three on the way tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dad and the Mini-Stroke...Part One.

The last update I have below specifically about Dad was that he was being tested for Diabetes...a lot of people immediately leaped to the conclusion that he automatically was diabetic, when they issued him the little doo-hickey (technical medical term, trust me) that checks your blood sugar levels. However, turns out, he was to spend a week using it to check his blood sugar to see if he actually had diabetes. Turns out, he doesn't. His sugar was perfect, and never once deviated into any of the danger ranges that presage diabetes. So that got ruled out. Which is good...
And then everything went to hell in a hand cart.

On August 27th, I went out to Mom and Dad's to drive them around on errands that needed to be done, Drs appt, and other things. Dad had started using the walker and put down his keys and not driving after 2 falls he had taken...he was very concerned about how weak and shaky he was. Mom stopped driving some years ago, and is on a walker and every now and then a wheel chair, due to a bad back. (He is 87 and she is 86 years old, respectively.) Since both of them needed assistance to the car, and there was only one of me, we started with Dad, with me shadowing his steps as he crossed the den heading for the door. And then something strange happened. He paused by the end of the sofa, and leaned with his right arm down as though he were pointing at something on the floor, still clinging to the walker. I stepped closer and said, "Dad, what is it?" He replied that the walker was wet, and there was something wet on the floor. He couldn't get his arm back up to put it on the walker. Stubborn man that he is, he insisted on staggering on out to the top of their wheel chair ramp and there it completely went wrong. He stopped making sense, lost the walker all together, and if I had not been standing right with him and caught him, would have hit the ground.
His speech was completely word salad garbled and he was clinging to me desperately trying to stay on his feet. I held him up, looked over his shoulder at my Mom and we both mouthed the same word at the same time - "Stroke."

I had Mom get a chair and put it right behind him, touching the back of his knees, and I slowly lowered him into the chair and held him there. And he began to clear up, become more lucid and regain control of his arm and legs. Eventually, we got him back up and assisted him with the walker back to his recliner chair....and THAT was when the fun started.
He, as far as he was concerned, was fine now, and no, we were not going to call the EMS, he didn't need to go anywhere. Oy. Mom managed to get him to take some aspirin which is advised for someone who has just had a stroke, and in a fit of inspiration, said we should call his GP, and see what the Dr or one of the Nurse Practitioner's said to do.
This took a little while...they close for an hour for lunch everyday, and we still had about 20 minutes before they re-opened. Meanwhile the argument raged on, with Dad getting furious anytime we tried to over ride him and just call Emergency Services anyway. He was fine, dammit, and didn't need to go to the hospital. Finally, Mom got through to the Nurse, who when she understood the situation, exclaimed in blue horror, "You mean you haven't already called the EMS?!? You call them right NOW!" Since Dad had agreed to do whatever they recommended, he was stuck, and Mom made the call. Dad sat and fumed. His speech was clear, though he was still rubbing things with his right hand and saying if felt weird.

The EMS arrived and the two techs went over Dad carefully. I do have to say, he was in pretty good shape, it was obvious that it was a mild whatever-it-was, and he might have slithered out of going to the hospital except for one lovely piece of irony. Mom and Dad get their mail at a UPS store, it is not delivered to their home address. So, one of the men asked Dad to recite his physical address. They haven't gotten mail at their physical address in years and I knew for a fact that Dad, since he has not had to recite it in forever, didn't remember it. He had never had to. I started laughing. He stuttered and fumed and could not recite it - but he wouldn't have been able to, even if he hadn't had a stroke. So, they looked at him and said, guess what. You get to take a ride. What Hospital do you want to go to? More fuming from Dad, but he really did let them pack him up and get him on the gurney and out the door with fairly good grace. I suspect, looking back, that Dad in his heart of hearts may have been scared, and probably glad to go, but he wasn't about to admit it.
Mom rode in the ambulance and I followed in my car, and off to the hospital we went.
At the hospital, in the ER, it turned out his cardiologist was there, on call that day, and things moved fast after that. He was admitted, for at least over night - oh, little did we know!
I tore out of there, and went back to Mom and Dad's and packed them up some clothes and over night stuff...and then I ran home to my place, and did the same for me, walked the dog and loved on everybody and went back to the hospital. You see, the staff was there to take care of Dad...but Mom, with her bad back and mobility problems was going to need help and care for her, and she wasn't an official patient. So I stayed in the room to be there for her.

In the following 24 hours, after arriving at the hospital, Dad was given a CAT scan, an MRI, an ultrasound of his carotid arteries and an echiocardiogram, that last one they did in his room and I had to hang around outside in a waiting room because they shoe horned all the equipment for it right in with us.
The upshot of this was that Dad was diagnosed as having a mini-stroke due to heart arrhythmia, on the left side of his brain, which showed swelling. And suddenly, we were not just there over night. We were going nowhere until the swelling went down. Dad was put on enough blood thinners to stun a horse, and - God BLESS the hospital staff! - they moved our crowded selves into a bigger corner room where we could spread out and Mom could have a cot to lie down on. *I* however got the door prize...the window ledge. It was just wide enough barely for me to lie down, though long enough for me to stretch out on at least. One arm or the other inevitably hung off, since I was wider through the shoulders then the ledge.

Home sweet window ledge where I slept for a week! 

All the comforts of.... 
And there, friends, we were, for a WEEK. Thus ends part one, as I have to go feed a baby kitten we inadvertently adopted last week. (There will be a blog post about the kitten too - and oodles of cute pictures which will probably be needed as an antidote by all by the time I get to the end of the tale of Dad's Mini-stroke. It really was a small one. But it has left big effects on our lives.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A very Small Update...

In brief, a little over a month ago, my dad had a minor stroke - it was minor, but the effects from it were pretty major from all our perspectives. Dealing with the situation was grueling, and life is only now beginning to adjust to a pace where I may sit down and write again...I realize this meant a terribly neglected blog, so I am doing a quick update here and now, and tomorrow or the next day, more likely, I will sit down and fill all this in...not only for those who do read or follow my blog, but for myself, as I work towards understanding what these changes mean in my Dad's life and in my relationship with him.
See ya shortly.