Posted by: wrmcnutt | October 12, 2009

Dad Update


Well, Dad continues to recover amazingly well from the lung surgery that kicked off this current hospital stay.  All of his chest tubes are out and his coughing is back down to the level it was at before they surgery.  In fact, he has no fluid discharge at all, other than the sinuses that have been bothering him since the Eisenhower administration.  His hip still hurts, but that’s not surprising – it’s only been a week since he broke it.  His therapy is going very well.  It hurts, and he complains it hurts, but each day he makes progress, and I can see the signs of it around his hospital room.  His robe has been moved.  The orthopedic toilet is in a shifted position.  His house shoes are on the floor instead of on a shelf.  It’s all good.

The thing is, and here’s what’s bothering me.  Since the stroke, his eyes don’t point in the same direction.  Plus his ability to focus has deteriorated.  The stroke also left him with neuropathy in the two little fingers of his left hand.  I noticed recently that he doesn’t use that hand much, and he carries it in sort of a claw, with the fingers folded against the palm.  I asked him about it and he rolled it over and opened it up.  The fingers curl, uncurl, and grasp just fine.  The problem is that they’re numb most of the time.  But when they’re not:  it sucks.  If he touches something cold, it feels like they’re frozen. If it touches something hot, it feels like they are on fire, and if he bumps something with them, it feels like they’ve been hit with a hammer.  So he just curls them up out of the way any only uses his right hand unless he really needs to two-hand something.  Since the stroke, his eyes don’t point in the same direction.  It’s not so pronounced that you notice it when you look at him, but he has persistent double-vision.  We sent him to a specialist and spent an unbelievable amount of money on prism lenses that not only correct his focus, but they are bifocals, and to use the prisms he has to tip his head back too far to be comfortable.  Most of the time he would rather just use his old glasses and shut one eye.  All of his upper teeth are gone now. He’s got a dental plate.  We did the final work about four months ago.  For the first few weeks, he was very happy.  Apparently, his mouth had been bothering him all the time, and having those final teeth out was such a relief he was happy.  But these days, he’s having trouble with plate.  I haven’t asked him about the details, but he hardly ever wears it, preferring to stick to soft foods rather than foods that require teeth.  Which brings us to Barrett’s esophagus.  Trust my Dad to be in the 1% of the population that this affects.   I don’t know all the details, other than it puts him at risk for more cancer. I’m not sure if it’s directly related, but he’s having a lot of trouble swallowing, and is on aspiration precautions, which include turning his head all the way to the right every time he swallows.  While on supplemental oxygen, which he did not need before the lung surgery, his oxygen saturation stays above 90%, which is good, but off of it, it drops below “satisfactory.”

In short – they could fix the broken hip and get rid of the cancer.  But neither of those things were “bothering him.”  All the stuff he’s complaining about are things that nobody seems to be able to fix.  While he may be able to go home next week, his quality of life is still going to suck.

And we’ve added somnambulation  to his list of problems.  As many of you know, Dad fell and broke his up ten days ago, sleepwalking.  As it was a one-time event, I wasn’t too worried.  Unfortunately, the night before last he took another unauthorized walk at 3:00 AM and fell.  He didn’t break anything this time, but now we have a pattern that indicates a problem.  Step one was to take him all of his sleeping meds.  He’s been on Ambien before and it’s never caused a problem before.  I haven’t talked to him today, but as far as I know, he’s not been sleepwalking for the past three nights.

I’m tired.

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Responses

  1. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re going through.

    *hugs*

    • Thanks – it helps to hear that.

  2. Every time I catch myself thinking that my mom is a pain these days, I just come read your blog for a good dose of perspective. Man. I am so sorry this is happening. How’s your sense of humor these days?

    • One of the things that bothering me lately is that I feel like I’m constantly whining, and that’s really not the case. Dad has a lot of friends, and I get a lot of queries about his condition. I’ve just found that by posting a single update here and pointing people at it, the amount of time I spend going over and over it drops significantly. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve become nothing but whine-whine-whine.

      As to my sense of humor, I think it passed out sometime about two weeks ago. My boss came in this morning and asked me how I was doing. The answer was, day to day, and moment to moment, I appear to be doing fine. But I find that I have no patience, tire easily, and, now that you mention it, have no sense of humor.

      • Normal. It sucks rotten eggs on a warm day, but it’s normal to feel that way. It’ll come back, promise. Your sense of humor is too much a part of you to take more than a sabbatical, I think.

        If you’d like, I can get you in contact with my mom who for a number of years worked for a transitional health care unit in Nashville. She primarily worked with patients who, as I understood it, were in the process of weaning off of respirators and were about where your father is. She may have some insight into the process if you and Catherine are running short on ideas about what’s going on. She’s even a native speaker of Nurse, so Catherine will understand and can translate for you.

  3. Please have some chocolate. And as soon as you can, please get away from it all for a day or maybe two. Leave him in good hands and take a break. Seriously. Your mental health demands a break.

    I can’t say “I know how you feel” because I don’t, but I have a fairly vivid imagination and my diagnosis is that you need a weekend of really good beer and funny movies with a good friend of yours that lives in Snellville now-a-days.

    that or a padded room and a brick-bat.


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