Sunday, July 14, 2013

It was kind of a nutty week, one in which I was relatively sure my dad was going to die

My mother called me on Tuesday morning to let me know my dad had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. That isn't the way you usually would like to wake up.

He woke up very early that morning and went out on the porch for some fresh air. He was having trouble breathing and didn't feel right.

Eventually, my mom called the ambulance and they took him to hospital.

While there, they began to treat him for pneumonia.  But who gets pneumonia in July when they didn't have a cold or something leading up to it...

I told my mom flat out it sounded like Congestive Heart Failure and she'd better tell them to knock it off and test him for that.

Meanwhile, they were testing him for that.

And that is what it was. (Read more after the break by clicking on the link below)

His lungs were filling with fluid (makes it feel like you have pneumonia) and oxygenated blood is not getting to all the parts of the body it has to, so you feel sick. He said he felt really nauseous... not dizzy or light headed like he'd pass out.

Wednesday morning my mom called and confirmed that it was congestive heart failure. She was a little choked up but I told her to relax, they'll take care of him and we'll get it all figured out. They immediately began treating him for that and that afternoon they transferred him to another hospital late in the day.  His pulse was 180 and his blood pressure was about 200/150 at times, and would drop to 120/80 and then go back up. Whenever he moved, shifted or did anything even the slightest bit "physical" the pulse and the BP would just shoot through the roof. They had to get him somewhat stable to transport him, and that took the better part of the day.

Thursday morning I drove down to visit. I got there at about 9:30am and he was looking well, very tired though.  We had a good visit, and the entire time his heart rate was up and down and all over. When I arrived his nurse was changing all of his meds, his pulse was 120 when I got there and then dropped down to 70. Blood pressure was 112/80 and then dropped to 90/72, so she had to come in and make all kinds of adjustments.

That morning they were talking about doing a catheterization to go up to the heart valve and check it out. On the X-ray, the doctor said it looked incredibly bad, and that surgery would be in the near to immediate future most likely and he wanted us to be prepared. Because they couldn't get the heart rate stable, they decided to wait until Friday and he was bummed out because he wanted to know and get this all over with. Surgery or no surgery, gonna die or not gonna die. Shit or get off the pot. My dad is a very "if it's gonna be done, do it now" kind of guy. So waiting another 24-36 hours was pissing him off.

He needed a nap so I took my mom out to lunch and then headed home. They did the procedure on Friday afternoon and the doctor reported that the valve is leaking but they're going to manage the situation with medicine instead of doing surgery. He said that sometimes with a 73 year old heart you go do procedures and you make things even worse, so doing things with meds for a little while is a better plan. If the meds do not work, then ... yeah. Surgery.

So my dad is thrilled, ready to go home. We went and visited yesterday and my sister and my aunt came up from NY to visit too.

I don't think I've heard my dad talk quite this much in a long time. I forgot he has a funny Lawng Eyeland Accent. Most of the time over the last few years he hasn't said more than a sentence or two. He likes to ask questions and hear what we have to say and then make agreement noises.

My husband mentioned to me a year or so ago that he thought my dad was starting to lose it, mentally. Doug is a speech pathologist and can kind of see/recognize/diagnose certain conditions and thought maybe my dad's years of drinking had caught up to him and were causing him to lose his faculties.

In February, he had a small stroke after doing some snow removal.  How do we know it was a stroke? He was standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of water and the water was trickling out of the corner of his mouth, all down his shirt. My mother asked him to raise his arm and he could not. And then he couldn't speak. She went to call an ambulance and he locked himself in his bedroom, refusing to come out. He came out several hours later and said he was fine.  But my mom knew he was not. He eventually agreed to go to the doctor, but they had to wait about 8 weeks for an appointment (God bless the American Medical System, eh?) and once he got there they confirmed it was a stroke for sure, found that the major arteries going to his brain were 100% blocked on one side and about 40% blocked on the other, so he's not getting enough oxygen to the brain. So what my husband thought was more of a spongey-drink addled brain and speech thing was more of a not enough oxygen getting to the brain thing. They perscribed blood thinners in the meantime, and he had an appointment scheduled for follow up later this month.

And for the past several weeks my mom was wondering why everytime he did something he was immediately exhausted. My dad is a yard work machine... he can go out in the morning and last all hours into the night doing yard work. But lately it was 15 minutes out, 1 hour inside sitting.

That brought us to Tuesday morning. So for weeks, months now he's been deteriorating, waiting for this July 23rd follow up appointment. He was on his way into the bathroom to get cough medicine because he thought he needed it. Meanwhile, he was slowly drowning on his porch.

So, long and the short of it is he is on the mend. Thank God. And once they figure out the right heart-happy, lung-drainey cocktail for him they'll ship him home. That should be tomorrow afternoon.

Some observations about this experience:

1. My mom needs to learn how to use her cell phone, how to leave it turned on, how to get a car charger (yeah, she didn't have one in February during the blizzard down the Cape and we couldn't get ahold of her because she had turned her phone off instead of calling us and saying "I'm turning my phone off to conserve energy" when they had no power for a week).

2. My mom has always been incredibly "snappy" and mean to my dad. He pushes her buttons and gets her going, and he thinks it is funny and she LOSES HER MIND. Sometimes he doesn't even have to SAY anything and she starts screaming at him. The last time we were visiting my husband said "well, THAT was uncomfortable..." Hearing her cry about his situation, and saying that she woke up at 3:45am and couldn't go back to sleep because she knew he wasn't in his room gave me pause and ponder. I guess I shouldn't question whether or not she loves him.

3. That said, I sure the hell hope she stops screaming at him all the damn time and is nicer. And I'll call her ass to the carpet on that one.

4. I can't believe that no one caught this leaky valve thing in May when he went in for a huge battery of tests. They did all these heart tests on him, SOMETHING should have shown up then. Not sure if someone dropped the ball or what but that gives me pause as well and kind of makes me mad.

5. My dad is a funny guy, and I often take that for granted. During our visit his nurse said "oh I can see smart ass runs in the family" after spending a little time in the room with the three of us.

6. I've said it before and I will say it again -- I am shocked that he actually still is alive. He just turned 73, but has spent probably 50 plus of those years abusing himself. Doug's semi-diagnosis a year or so ago about him being on a downhill slide was rather spot on, just not the exact right diagnosis. Certainly enough to make us see that he needed to see the doctor. My dad hates doctors and hospitals. And I always thought he'd just drop dead in the middle of something, like yard work, and be done with life. I think he'd prefer it that way.

7. Not to be mean, but that's the way to go, instead of years and years and years of unwellness. His brother passed away a year or so ago after fighting diabetes, heart failure, gout, lung disease. He kept smoking and getting bigger and fatter and more unwell and going to doctors and being advised to knock off the drink and smoke. He said he didn't give a rat's ass what the doctors told him, he'd live his life the way he wanted to. And yeah, he did... and was kind of gross and disgusting and made me utterly uncomfortable. I would kind of much rather see my dad just ... boom. Go. Gone.

8. I am far more prepared for the suddenness of death than I am for the long lingering illness.

9. I am relieved to have a little more lingering.

And that's it, dears. My dad has three siblings left. He has lost three. On one of them, I have no idea where he is, but here is a recent shot of my dad and his two older sisters taken over Memorial Day Weekend to leave you with today.


  1. You and your dad are in my prayers.

  2. thank you. he got out of the hospital and 48 hours later, he's back in. so ... we're back to square one.