Some of you saw my post on Facebook — I’m back in Elgin.
Sunday evening, while having a female-only marshmallow roast with my friends Catherine and Pam (and her daughter, Sarah) my brother called and told me my dad choked on food at his nursing home and was in ICU in critical condition. Later I learned he’d been “down” (without oxygen) for up to 20 minutes.
My mom called me at 4:30 the next morning with news that the hospital called and said she should get there as soon as she could — the situation was grim. I started packing soon after, jumped in the car and drove 12 hours to Elgin.
During the 12 hours that I was in the car, the doctors decided to use hypothermic protocol on my dad, where they lowered his body temperature to 94° F for a while in the hopes that the cooling would prevent further brain damage.
I saw my dad on Tuesday morning. His body temperature was raised to nearly normal, but he seemed to be shivering. After a while a nurse came in and explained that he was not shivering, but having a seizure and would be placed on anti-seizure medication in addition to 3 kinds of blood pressure medications, and a sedative. Doctor after doctor came in and gave their opinions. Nurses came and went. Dad showed no sign of anything beyond basic life.
Today we rushed to the hospital to talk to the elusive neurologist who told us he wanted to wait up to 72 hours to see if there was any improvement. A few hours later his cardiologist came in and said there was no hope and we should make our decision quickly to remove the breathing tube. I asked him if he’d even talked to the neurologist and why their advice was so different. He claimed the neurologist didn’t want to be seen as a failure. I didn’t buy that and asked a nurse if there was someone more neutral we could talk to. She thought that the pulmonolgist might have a more middle of the road view.
Well, we waited and waited for the pulmonolgist, but he never appeared. Finally he called and talked to me. He said he agreed with the cardiologist and outlined a plan of his own which included removing the breathing tube. I didn’t ask, but wondered what happened to our right to make a decision. it seemed as if he were making the decision himself.
I talked to the nurse again and she agreed that we should be the ones making the decisions. She added that she didn’t have much hope that my dad would recover in any significant way, but that it was our decision in the end.
We’d all made a decision, separately, but it was the same decision in the end. It was the doctors that kept confusing us — giving us opinions that didn’t match the others.
We all want to do right by Dad. There is no chance he’ll recover and we understand this. We’re in agreement.
In the end the neurologist and pulmonolgist agreed that the next 24 hours would tell them what they needed to know.
I wished for a flow-chart or checklist we could go through to make this decision easier. I never expected the doctors to be in such disagreement.
Yes, I’ve watched House. I know TV doctors disagree, but I never expected it to happen in real life. In my life.
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Last night I dreamed I committed act of violence against a loved one in the past and this loved one kept goading me on until I wanted to be violent again. I awoke in the middle of the dream to use the bathroom and willed myself to not remember the dream, knowing it was going to bother me. I did remember the dream, and I immediately understood where it came from.
I’ve been simmering lately. I’ve been angry below the surface — not ready to explode, but angry-calm in a creepy sort of way. I’m not positive why I’ve been feeling this way — but I think it has to do with procrastination. I’d hoped that I was going to kick the habit of procrastinating after being back in Elgin where I couldn’t procrastinate or I’d never get out of there.
One of the things I’d been avoiding was calling my mom about putting me on the list of people the insurance company was allowed to talk to. I got a form from them, and assumed my mom got one too. We’d talked about it — that she would get one and would need to fill it out and send it back to the insurance company. I kidded myself thinking that my mom was going to follow through. I didn’t have the energy to call her and try to explain why she needed to fill it out, walk her through the form and have her send it into the insurance company.
Another thing I was avoiding also involved a call to Mom — to make sure she paid the nursing home bill and sent the invoice to the insurance company so they could finalize their decision whether or not to pay. If not, we’d be back at the beginning — scrambling to find a place for Dad.
So last night I got a call from my mom telling me she’d paid for a month of the nursing home bill but not all of it because she didn’t have the funds yet — some screw-up with an account her financial advisor was supposed to get to her by last week. She’d had to use most of her liquid savings for the bill and needed a little in reserve for other bills. She didn’t know what to do next — what to send to the insurance company so they could send her a reimbursement.
I got angry. The slow simmer I’d been feeling boiled over and I was furious. Mom knew it — I know. I told her that I’d have to call the insurance company to find out what she was supposed to send, knowing that my delay in getting permission to talk to them about this was going to be an issue with whomever I spoke to. Knowing that I should have called her last week to make sure she’d paid the nursing home and sent the invoice to the insurance company. So, I wasn’t mad at her — I was mad at me.
I did call the insurance company, then called mom back to tell her what to do and to ask if she’d gotten the form she needed to fill out authorizing me to be put on the list of people the company could talk to. She finally understood what she needed to do about the bill, but didn’t know what I was talking about regarding the authorization — even though we talked about this when she was here. She thought I should fill out the form I got and then send it to her to sign. I’m reluctant to do that because she needs to begin doing these things herself. The more I do, the less she’ll do and be dependent on others doing things for her. I don’t think it is too late for her to start learning these things.
I went to bed late, and since Dean wasn’t there (he was up late watching TV in the family room) read my current book group book. What a mistake that was. I’d been enjoying Little Bee for the laugh-out-loud parts where Little Bee discusses the language and cultural differences between Nigeria and England. Last night I got to the part where she told about what happened after the men took her and her sister to the overturned boat on the beach. You know the phrase going cold with horror? I felt that last night as I read Little Bee’s account of the event. I went cold.
Then I went to sleep and dreamed I beat someone to a bloody pulp.
- Don’t procrastinate
- Don’t read about horrible things before bed
- Find ways to deal with the simmering kind of anger before it becomes a rolling boil.