Friday, August 19, 2005

And now this

I got a call at work today at 4:00. My father had fallen at the nursing home and struck his head, and now was vomiting. Would I like him to be taken to the hospital?

Let me fill you in on the story so far. After having a stroke ten years ago my father began to gradually exhibit the signs of encroaching dementia, most likely Alzheimer's. His dementia has increased significantly in the last six months or so, and has worsened dramatically since the beginning of July. At that time we had him checked into the hospital to see if what he was displaying was actually a bad reaction to some new medications. (It wasn't.) While visiting him, my mom contracted a nasty strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that gave her tremendous gastrointestinal distress and landed her in a different hospital for nearly a week. While she was in that hospital, my father was discharged from his hospital and transferred to a nursing home just down the street from our house.

After my mom got home we began the routine of visits to my father. But after a week or so he began to experience mini-seizures of about 5 seconds duration. These got to the point that he was sent back to the hospital for another week or week and a half. After some medication adjustments were made, his seizures got to a point where he could be transferred back to the nursing home.

My mom and my sister had a vacation in Florida planned for months. (It was actually a work trip for my sister, but my mom was going along for a vacation.) Now my mom had a lot of trepidation about going on this vacation. Finally, at the urging of her doctor, she decided to go.

That was last Sunday. I have visited my father every day since then, and he has exhibited symptoms ranging from advanced Alzheimer's to basic drug-induced stupor. Some days he didn't recognize me. Some days he was asleep and unresponsive, in his padded recliner on wheels with a combination meal tray/restraint.

So how, you might ask, could someone confined to a padded recliner on wheels with a combination meal tray / restraint manage to fall and hit his head?

Well, if you're old enough to remember when high chairs didn't come with baby-restraining crotch straps, you'll have a fairly good idea of what I think happened. I don't know for certain that he slipped out from under the tray to freedom and a trip to the emergency room, but I imagine that's what happened.

My mom is cutting her vacation short by two days. She and my sister are flying back tomorrow.

My father has subdural hematomas. Bleeding on the brain. Two of them. In twenty-four hours, he may die as a result. We have to wait and see.

UPDATE (Saturday, August 20, 5:10 PM): My father made it through the night and his condition does not appear to be worsening. But he is much worse than he was before the accident. Where he would sometimes talk about random nonsensical things and call me by his late brother's name, now he is simply spouting a jumble of incoherent and unconnected words - every third or fourth one being his brother's name. We hold pseudo-conversations - if the word jumble sounds like a yes or no question, or a question of place, or a request to bring something to him, I will answer in a way that seems appropriate to what I imagine the question was. This seems to satisfy him. He was having seizures (well, the nurses said they weren't technically seizures, but I don't know what the technical term is) every five to ten minutes until I sat him nearly fully upright in bed. In one of his few coherent moments, he asked for water - and in the absence of any available doctors or nurses or "nothing by mouth" ("NPO") instructions, I gave him a sip - which he promptly spit up, so I think he has lost the ability to swallow. He then began to dry-heave, and I was afraid he was going to actually vomit, which is why I sat him up in the first place. That was a few hours ago. I'm heading back now.


Super G said...

I am very sorry to hear about the terrible things going in for your family. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I hope that things resolve quickly. This will be a challenging time and I'm sure your family will need you. I'll check your blog for news. Don't know what more to do, but hang in there.

Super G said...

It can be very valuable to have a friend or family member at the hospital. Don't worry about what others think, just decide what you can do and do it. Don't forget to get some rest.

D.B. Echo said...

Thank you, Super G.

I have heard several health-care providers say that the most important thing to remember if you are going into the hospital is to have someone with you 24 hours a day to prevent the staff from actively or negligently killing you. I learned that lesson a few years ago when I went to visit my grandmother at the nursing home and found her with her feeding tube turned off. It apparently had been off for hours, and would have been off for a few more if we hadn't noticed it and caused a near-riot. Still, such a thing is physically and economically impossible for most people, unless they have a large crew that can share shifts. My mom will spend a lot of time with him, to be sure - but doing that almost killed her a month ago.

Dammit, I just had to delete two more spam comments. I think I'm going to need to prohibit Anonymous Comments.

marc said...

My thoughts and Prayers go out to you and your family.

anne said...

I''m so sorry for you and your family. Saying prayers for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

prayers and best wishes, Harry. I'm sorry to hear about this.