Archive for December 2011
The fourth from last line in my last post was “In the meantime, my dad has stabilized and appears to be out of the woods for now.”
Not so much, it turns out. He died Monday, December 5 at 6:05 a.m.
Marion, my dad’s wife, transferred him to the hospital. He was placed in isolation in the emergency ward, but the folks there didn’t mind allowing as many visitors as wanted to go in.
I showed up to relieve Marion around 9 p.m. Sunday night. My dad had double pneumonia and kidney failure. The doctor wasn’t sure my dad would make it through the night.
I offered to stay overnight. Everyone else left to get some much needed sleep. I stretched out on three plastic chairs and drifted off for about a half hour. My dad’s heart rate was about 125 bpm, his breathing rate about 25 per minute, and his blood pressure was too low to be recorded. Metabolically, his blood potassium was high – his kidneys weren’t clearing it.
Now, I wrote “my dad” and I’ll continue to do so, but since I’d left him Thursday afternoon, he was only a body that gasped rattly breaths while being fed 100% oxygen.
The night shift doctor came to visit around 2:30 a.m. He was careful in introducing the subject of morphine, which my dad might not handle well, he explained. I told him that if it had been up to me, I would have stopped my dad’s feeding 13 months ago. The doctor quickly pointed out that he wasn’t advocating euthanasia; he was only hoping to make my dad more comfortable. I was pretty sure my dad wasn’t feeling anything, but the morphine couldn’t hurt, so I approved it. Shortly thereafter, Marion responded by phone and approved it, too. It was legally her decision. So sue me.
At 3:20, my dad’s heart rate took a tumble. It fluctuated between 28 and 70 bpm. Whenever it dropped below 33 bpm, the monitor alarm would beep loudly. The nurses came in to turn it off – apparently it has no volume control – and told me to use the call button if I needed anything.
I no longer had the monitor to calculate for me, but I could tell my dad’s breathing rate was slowing.
The nurses administered a second dose of morphine and a dose of something else that was meant to relax his breathing. I was in the middle of a wicked game of iBubble Shooter when I realized I was no longer hearing breathing. My dad’s face had turned… – what’s that colour? Pallor? I checked the clock and it said 6:06, so I pulled my estimate of his time of death back a minute to compensate for my inattention.
I pressed the call button twice but no one came. I stepped into the hallway and spotted the kind doctor at the main desk he looked up at me and I did that signal for “cut”, swing my hand in front of my neck. he understood and came to confirm that my father had died. He said he was glad my dad had gone on his watch and in comfort.
We had the funeral on Wednesday. The day went perfectly, even with my brothers cracking into laughter at the cemetery, first at my sister’s attempts to shovel dirt and then at my dad’s friend Allen’s near tumble into the grave.
I have a few things I want to blog about, but this had priority. I hope I remember what they are. Regardless, I have a pile of grading and freelance to get through now.
I made a quick Facebook status update that I was spending too much time in hospitals and here’s my explanation.
Child Two has been suffering repeated bouts of cold-like illness over the last three weeks so Monday I took her to the clinic. The resident thought he heard some slight crackle in her lungs, so we crossed the street for an X-ray, then returned to the clinic to await the results.
There was some sort of technical-communications glitch that left us waiting for a while. Finally, the doctor who was waiting for the results told us to go home and he’d call if there were any signs of pneumonia.
I had been planning to get a follow-up on my broken finger. I’ve discarded the splint and there’s no pain, but it remains swollen and stiff and it tingles a bit. I was a bit paranoid I had compartment syndrome because the original doctor had told me my finger would heal in four weeks. Monday was four weeks and one day.
I had wanted to visit my GP but the hospital had not forwarded the records regarding my broken to his office, so that meant revisiting Emergency to get either a follow-up or the records which I could then relay to my GP with whom I could book an appointment in January. I Was at the hospital already with Child Two so I popped in to check on my options. The triage nurse told me that there wouldn’t be a long wait so I decided to stay.
Two hours later, I had to leave to do carpool for Child Three.
The staff told me to come back and they’d see me right away. Child Two was testy that she’d had to wait with me and now would have to tag along for carpool. Ingrate.
I returned to Emergency after carpool and, sure enough, a resident saw me right away. He suspected an infection, but there was no sign of one other than the swelling. The physician in charge explained to both of us that my finger was swollen because my body was resorbing the many fragments of pulverized bone. Once that was gone, the swelling and stiffness would decrease. So that’s where my finger is.
My next visit to a hospital was Thursday. OK, it’s not really a hospital but the long-term-care center that is hosting my father. Thursday is his physiotherapy day and I went to encourage him. Upon arriving, I learned that he had thrown up in the morning so the staff decided to keep him in bed.
He looked sick. He had facial twitches and a wet cough. He was on supplemental oxygen. He would open his eyes every once in a while but there was no indication he was looking at anything. He certainly didn’t acknowledge me. I stayed 90 minutes then left to do carpool again.
Elvi and I returned that night. My dad was feverish and diagnosed with a lung infection and a urinary tract infection. He seemed worse. Around 11:00 p.m., Child Two called us because she was in great pain around her eye. We left my dad and headed home.
What Child Two described sounded to me to be a migraine. I gave her one of my Maxalt – that would cure a migraine but not another sort of head pain. It helped her a bit and she was able to get to sleep. The next morning, yesterday, she had more pain. This time a Maxalt did not help. Neither was the acetaminophen or ibuprofen. I pulled out the heavy artillery and gave her one of my 1-mg Dilaudids, that got rid of her pain and knocked her out for the afternoon. Victory – or so I thought.
Elvi reached my toward the end of a hockey practice last night. She was taking Child Two to the emergency room at Montreal Children’s Hospital. I dropped Child Three off at his friend’s for a sleep-over then went to join them.
I was almost there when Elvi called to tell me that she had forgotten Child Two’s health insurance card, so I drove home, changed clothes, and picked up the card. I got to the hospital at 8:30 p.m. At 2:30 a.m., we got the diagnosis: Child Two probably has a sinus infection. We picked up anti-biotics at an all-night pharmacy and came home.
In the meantime, my dad has stabilized and appears to be out of the woods for now.
So, yeah – too much time in hospitals.
Bonus peace and quiet:
At least the dog has stopped his barking/moaning sessions.