Posted by: wrmcnutt | December 9, 2009

Dad Update

It’s been a relatively long time since I’ve posted an update on my Dad’s condition.  Dad’s cancer surgery is now receding in the review mirror.  His wound is almost completely healed and his breathing at rest is almost back to normal.  Alas, his breathing under exertion is very poor.  His high water mark for walking since the surgery was 150 feet.  Because he’s been stuck in bed for almost three months, he has developed pressure sores (bed sores).  One, in particular, on his heel, has set him back pretty badly.  He can’t walk nearly that far since the sore developed.  It’ healing, but it’s going to take a very long time.  Did you know that injuries on your lower limbs just heal more slowly that wounds on your arms, hands, and torso.  I’m told that it’s because the circulation to those parts of your body is not as good  as the circulation to the rest of your body.  Blood circulation is apparently one of the key things necessary for wound healing.  And that’s bad news for Dad.  Diabetics heal more slowly than healthy people.  More entertainment on the circulation front:  Dad has peripheral artery disease (PAD).  I think it used to be called “hardening of the arteries.”  PAD is the build up of fatty plague in the arteries which results in poor circulation.  And, finally, as we grow older, the valves in our veins wear out and don’t work as well.  Plus older people’s hearts just don’t pump as efficiently.  So Dad, as an elderly diabetic PAD patient with a wound on a lower limb, has four strikes against getting that foot to heal up any time soon.

I took him to a podiatrist last week, and the “foot” prognosis is actually good.  The sore is not scabbed over and is something they call “eschar.”  This is sort of a hard, shell-like uber-scab.  The podiatrist debrided the edges of the eschar where it was coming loose and crumbly, and found new skin underneath.  She said that he was healing very well, but very, very slowly.  The fat that he remains borderline malnourished is also holding him back.

Now that is another issue entirely.  Dad’s throat, specifically his epiglottis, did not react well to the artificial breathing apparatus used during his initial surgery.  After he recovered from the operation, we discovered that he had lost the ability to control which “pipe” his food goes down.  Any food he eats is likely to choke him.  The work around for this is called “aspiration precautions.”  All fluid has to be thickened to the thickness of honey, and all food has to be pureed. All his food has the consistency of applesauce.  He says that the food they give him taste foul in his mouth and feels nasty on his palete and has pronounced it “garbage.”  He’s refused to eat it, and is pretty much living on Ensure.  Ensure, applesauce, and pudding.  He’s lost an enormous amount of weight.  He now weighs 92 pounds.  It’s no woder he can barely walk and takes forever to hea.  Just to dial this up a notch, the Holston Recovery Center has lost his teeth.

And that brings me to last week’s ambulance ride.  Last Saturday I got a call from the recovery center.  He was having trouble breathing and had asked to go to the hospital.  He was admitted to the hospital for a bladder infection.  This is the second urinary tract infection he’s gotten since the operation, as he has been on a catheter since then.  There was some talk about having prostate surgery to allow him to remove the catheter, which is the cause of the repeated infections.  When his malnourished body is forced to divert resources to fighing an infection, it slows down the healing in other areas, and can even affect his lungs.

Which brings me to the aspirant pneumonia.  It’s caused by swallowing wrong and getting food or water in his lungs.  It’s treated by more of the same antibiotics that they are already treating his bladder infection with.  So he’s getting antibiotics by the bucket.  The current plan is for him to remain in the hospital until his infections get under control.  He will then return to Holston for a week or ten day, and then, they think he might be ready to send home.  They want to wait until he is stronger before they operate on his prostate and get more practice swallowing.

Speaking of swallowing, I ran into his nurse the other day.  She was quite excited.  He’d eaten all of his mashed potatoes, some of his meat, and a couple of bites of vegetables.  What the?  He won’t eat when I ask him to. He won’t eat when my sister asks him.  He won’t eat when his sister asks him.  He won’t eat when the therapist asks him.  He won’t eat when the doctors ask him.  What’s changed.

tick  . . . tick . . .tick . . .  DING

The nurse is young, sincere, and very, very attractive.

I’d stretch myself out of my comfort zone to get her to smile at me, too.

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  1. And people say that Sex doesn’t sell….HA!!

    I know that all this does not help you, but at least it does seem he is still fighting…..Maybe not the RIGHT battles at times, but he doesn’t seem to be giving up.

    Yeah I know, you are as patient as I am and things are not moving fast enough for you. All I can say is hold on and don’t forget that you have friends who will sit down and let you blow off the steam building up.

  2. Back when daddy was peddling bed pans door todoor …..

    There was an elderly gent at the Nursing Home in Tazewell TN (IIRC) that decided he was going to do everybody a favor. In the wee hours of the morning he went around and collected *ALL* the false teeth. When they found him the next morning, he was sitting beside his bathtub scrubbing each and every set of teeth.

    Took them *months* to get the right teeth back to the right people!

  3. sounds like you need to hire that sweet little nurse to be his “at home” caregiver. He’ll be just fine.

    • No prob. Please ship the truckload of money to . . .

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