Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Long Ordeal

The other day I was at my parent’s house and I noticed the calendar in the frame was still on October.  I took it down to flip it over to November and remarked to my Mom, “I guess we sort of lost October, and maybe most of November too!”  Things might be beginning to settle a bit, I pray so, but we have had a wild six weeks or more!  (Editor’s Note:  It has definitely been more.  This post has been in the process of being written since October!)

In early fall my Mom began having a lot of pain in her sciatic nerve area.  She’s had this before, but this time she was not recovering and the pain just increased.  She began using a cane (actually she was using two) to walk.  Finally she went to the doctor and was getting scheduled for an MRI.  Then there was the referral to a specialist, or rather the waiting for the referral.  It was taking a bit, but Dad was taking care of Mom and they were patiently waiting. 

Then October 9 rolled around.  Wally and I were just finishing a Manager’s meeting when my Mom phoned.  She said she was needing some help with Dad, she was having a hard time getting him up.  A few more explanations came as we drove to the house, arriving just before the paramedics.  Dad had come home on Monday night from Bible Study and exclaimed that “he could not believe how tired he was.”  He had a restless night of sleep, moving between the bed and the couch.  Mom said he finally slept well and she was just trying to wake him up and to get him to eat when she phoned us.  Dad was breathing fast and hard and he was very lethargic.  When the paramedics arrived they began asking many questions and I’m not sure that Dad was either hearing them all, or just not quite comprehending.  It made me nervous so I asked to ride in the ambulance with him and Wally brought Mom to the ER behind us. 

All first indications seemed to show the ER staff were concerned about Dad’s level of oxygen and his rate of breathing…it was 43 when they put him on oxygen and was working its way up into the 70’s. But in the 90’s is normal.  Mom arrived and the nurses started gathering information from her.  The ER doctor examined Dad and then asked us what were Dad’s wishes…did he want to be resuscitated?  I thought it was just “standard operating procedure” kind of questions.  A couple of hours went by and then they moved Dad to a larger room.  Another Doctor, a lung specialist came in and examined Dad and again began asking us about Dad’s wishes.  He then asked Dad personally “Did he want to be resuscitated?”  (I wondered if he didn’t like our answer?)  We were told Dad had pneumonia and that he was sepsis.  Sepsis is caused by the immune system's response to a serious infection. The infection gets into the blood and is carried to the organs.  The doctor told us his lungs were failing and his kidneys were shutting down.  Mom and I were sobered and we just sat there praying. I had been texting/phoning my brothers and sisters. Lots of family and friends were praying. We were in touch with the Great Physician now!  I just have to wonder, what do people turn to when they do not have God in difficult times? I do not know. I do know that as we waited, we prayed and while we might have felt helpless, we were not hopeless!

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But Dad was very sick.  About 9:30 that night he was moved to the Critical Care Unit.  They had antibiotics and fluids going and he was on a  Bi-pap ventilator…a breathing machine that poured oxygen into his lungs under pressure.  He was going to have a lot of difficult days on that machine. 

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The second day in CCU, Dad seemed so much better.  When Mom and I arrived, they had removed the big breathing mask from Dad’s face and he just had a small mask and regular oxygen flowing.  He had eaten a little bit and he was talking.  I asked the nurses each day about his kidneys and they assured me they were working.  The final diagnosis was “he has pneumonia and because of his age and other medical issues, it is difficult and will take a long time.”  They told us that a lot!

He had a few visitors that day, his brother, sister in law and sister had driven up from Colorado Springs. 

Weldon and DadDad and Uncle Weldon

photo (28)Aunt Jane and Dad’s sister, Aunt Phyllis

Then it seemed things got difficult again.  Dad was put back on the bi-pap ventilator and it was really, really hard on him.  He was moved to another floor, but still part of Critical Care.  One day when I took Mom to the hospital, Scott was there already.  He said Dad had him worried,  that Dad kept saying, “He didn’t think he would be able to get over this.” 

photo (25)                                                                                                                          Each day that we left, Mom would hobble close to the bed and say, “Shall we have a little prayer before I go?” and then she would pray with Dad.  That’s a sweet memory for me.  I know I am blessed to have had parents that prayed for their family all through the years. Not religious memorized prayers, but conversation with God whom they had a relationship with. Dependence and trust in Him, not just for healing, but for whatever they would face if not given healing. They had learned through the years that God is faithful and He is very good, no matter what the difficulty of life that they went through. 

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About his time, the nurses were telling us Dad was getting what they called ICU delirium. When a patient is in the Critical Care Unit for so long, they begin to lose track of day and night because there is so much constant activity. Dad was only sleeping for short periods of time and that adds to problem. One story that Dad kept repeating had to do with a garage. I’m not sure if he was building it, working on cars in it or just stuck in it. But when Mom and I would arrive and say hello, we would ask how he slept? It was never good because “he was in that garage all night.”  It was busy, or it was cold, or there was some problem in the construction.  It was kind of comical, if you didn’t remember how sick he was.

I would just like to say what wonderful care Dad was given.  The nurses in CCU are the best.  Each time there was a shift change and someone new came in, we thanked them.  I heard my Mom say more than once, “We thank you so much for all you are doing and your wonderful care.  We just want you to know that ultimately we are trusting Don to the Lord, no matter what happens.” 

But slowly Dad improved and they released him to the regular floor of the hospital.  One day when we rounded the corner to visit Dad, we saw this…

photo (37)I called him “Golden Boy”

Somewhere along the way, Mom finally got her appointment with the specialist.  Her MRI had shown two fractures in the sacrum.  They felt it could be repaired in an outpatient surgery where they inject cement into the fractures using needles and watching where to apply it on an x-ray!!  So, the  appointment was made and the waiting began again.  We were hoping to get Mom walking and free of pain before Dad came home. 

It was decided Dad was too weak to go home with Mom…who was still waiting for her appointment!  So he was taken to a Rehabilitation Center.  They felt if they could work with Dad he could possibly go home without oxygen.  So Dad worked hard and marked another 18 days off the calendar!

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Two grandsons dropped in for a visit.  Brian came from Ohio.  He was there in Dad’s first week of rehab.  Dad was getting four breathing treatments a day on a nebulizer.  Since Brian has asthma, he was encouraging and helpful . 

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Wesley was coming home for an annual Alumni soccer game. But he spent quite a bit of his weekend home with his Grandpa.


And one other visitor of note snuck in to see Dad…our new puppy Sadie!  She was a therapy dog for one evening!

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Mom’s day finally arrived.  Robin came to take her to the hospital.  They waited quite a long time and then began to prep her for the procedure.  But can you believe it???  She had a bladder infection and was sent home with antibiotics!!  Poor Mom! 

Dad came home on Saturday, November 16.  Mom went in the following Tuesday for her procedure, the infection was diminished enough that they were able to proceed   So now they have both been recovering for about two weeks.  Recovery is slow.  Aging is hard.

The past two months have challenged me in a lot of ways.  I have tried to figure out what I should be learning.  Three thoughts keep rambling around in my heart and head. The fist thought…it actually keeps smacking me in the face over and over is that growing old is so very hard!  Like the bumper sticker I’ve seen and used to smile at, “It’s not for Sissies!”  Sin has permeated our world, lives and bodies.  Growing old and dying are proofs of its work.  On the flip side of that thinking is just how precious life is and we were created for life, eternal life!  It is not over at the grave, it is just beginning!  Eternal life will be lived out in one of two places, in the presence of God and Jesus Christ with all all its glories.  Or in the place of judgment, filled with all the ugliness of sin and suffering that never ever ends.  It is a choice that is made while we live.  It is a choice to believe and receive Jesus Christ as our Savior now, while we are living. 

Which sort of brings me to my second thought, which is, that I love my parents very much!  I know how blessed I am to have both of them still living and being a big part of my life.  God has healed my Dad and given him more life.  But really, Dad is okay with being done with this sinful world.  He made that choice long, long ago. I know that if the sepsis had taken him back on day one of this ordeal, I would see him again. 

And my last thought is just how faithful God is.  I am sometimes overwhelmed at just how timely His encouragement is to me.  Each day something from His Word enabled me to keep going, to keep up with parents and work and other commitments.  Not always enough sleep, but enough grace for each day! In Bible Study this year we are studying the book of Matthew.  I have been so encouraged by Jesus’ example. He had long days of caring for people.  At least no one is lined up outside my door after supper waiting for attention as they did at Jesus’ door.  Jesus was willing to touch people with disease.  He had compassion as he saw people stumbling through life with all its difficulties.  He took time.  He gave.  He loved.  And He reminds me I can do the same as I depend on Him. 

So the December status is that Dad is improving but still weak and recovering from the pneumonia.  He actually goes to see his Doctor tomorrow.  Mom is going to repeat her procedure later this week.  They need to build up the fractures some more. This is Mom and Dad on Thanksgiving Day. I snuck a photo shot as we were praying before dinner. 


They look great don’t they?

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