Friday, July 31, 2009

Settling in

Friday, July 31

So. Wichita Kansas, place of my birth and stomping grounds of my teens. We’re actually in Andover, east and north of central Wichita, but it is all sort of one big city.

Anyway, here we are and nothing is happening. Mom has been moved out of ICU and it is all about waiting. She had a CT scan of her lungs, but I think the doc went out to play golf, because the nurses had the results, but couldn’t tell me. Of course, eavesdropping is an honorable thing when it’s your mother’s health so I heard them say there was a pleural effusion, which means fluid in the lungs, (probably from lying in bed for a month). But the biggie is waiting for the blood culture to come back as pseudomonas is not a good thing in the blood stream so the doc doesn’t want to open her up if the infection is still there.

So here I am, with the clothes on my back, the pills that were left in the pillbox and a dwindling supply of cash. (Fortunately I decided to keep my travel kit with me but had removed the shower related supplies, so have some things.)

  • The clothes; went out at 5 am and hit the local Wal-Mart (sorry) to buy basic supplies and a clean shirt. Then yesterday I went to the local Penney’s and now have enough clothes for 4 days.
  • The cash: found a Wells Fargo in town, will be an adventure but cash is possible at last.
  • The pills: will try to convince the doc to give me a weeks worth of drugs. Will let you know how that went!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday, July 30

Good grief! What happened to July?!?!?

So much sitting and waiting, and then so much drama. Mom’s heart began to misbehave and when I asked the doc if she was going to live long enough (18 hours) to get the pacemaker, he looked at me for a minute and said “We aren’t going to wait,” and then he disappeared. Twenty minutes later a nurse appeared in the room and said “We are airlifting her to Wichita.” Confusion followed.

I had asked Marian to come sit with her while I went home and got a shower, fed the cats and changed clothes. Didn’t happen, but good thing Mernie was there. As I was packing for the trip, she asked what she could do to help and I replied “Fly with her to Wichita.” I was sort of kidding, but she said okay and she did. (I am not a coward!) So after I finished loading the car, I left and 20 minutes later the plane got to Meade and they loaded her in. An hour later they landed in Wichita, loaded into a medical transport and headed to the hospital. An hour after that, I arrived and they were all settled in, and Marian’s son Doug had arrived to take her home.

The night before we left Meade, the doc had given Mom a half a zanix to help her sleep. It worked. She slept for the next 36 hours. She does remember being on the plane but not much else. But the great news is that when she really woke up this morning, she was her old smart alecky self! They so stabilized the heart that her brain was working again too! Hooray!

More River Pictures


Tuesday July 28

Oh dear, torsed de pointes! Don’t know what it is but I do know it is scary as hell! Mom thought she was having an arm spasm, jerked out of sleep into an arched back scream, and went back to sleep. Night doctor showed up and announced loudly that something terrible had happened and that we needed to airlift her to the cardiac unit in Wichita, and that anything they did here would cause more harm than good and did she have a DNR request. Mom and I talked and she said she had requested no resuscitation and if she was going to die, it might as well be here in Meade. So we decided to tough out the night. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see morning arrive with no more awful things.

I am beginning to love her doctor. He showed up first thing this morning, came back later in the morning, came back in the afternoon and then after dinner. The current word is that the atrial fibrillation is converted, but it was masking another heart issue that could easily be solved with a pacemaker and that he had called the cardiologist from Wichita and he (the cardiologist) was coming to Liberal (30 miles west) on Thursday and had tentatively scheduled her for a pacemaker then. In the meantime, he assures me he has given her meds that will prevent another occurrence of torsed de pointes. I hope so!

In the meantime, she is surprising the physical therapists with every workout. She was able to stand alone for a full minute this morning. Progress!

Side note, the cardiologist who will install the pacemaker is the same one that did Marian’s father-in-law’s pacemaker long long ago.

Sunday Monday

Monday, July 27

Atrial fibrillation is converted! Now we just need to deal with all the other problems, you now, stroke effects, infection and the lung issue caused by the meds to treat the heart. But except for the fact that it just hurts your heart to be in the room with her and her constant discomfort, things are looking better.

Sunday, July 26

So the infection that started the whole thing is a pseudomonis infection, which is fairly rare and resistant to most antibiotics. Terrific. But now we know and can do something about it. This has been an interesting ride, and so bizarre since everything led to something else. Cat scratch led to antibiotics which led to stomach distress which led to adjusting meds which caused a stroke along with atrial fibrillation, which put her in bed again, so now there is lung involvement. What next? I’m back eating guest trays. I can feel the fat, but can’t resist. Sigh

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello Meade

Whoa! Did I tell you that I am in Meade KS, at the hospital? No, I know I didn’t. But here I am nonetheless. It took us forever to get out of the hospital at Shattuck and that meant not going by to see the kitties, but instead doing 90 in a 55 across Kansas in order to get the doctor’s on time for the preadmission physical. He found that she had atrial fibrillation and put her in the hospital. Apparently this means the heart is likely to cause strokes somehow. Anyway, that was Tuesday, this is Saturday and they finally stabilized her heart today. Yay! Physical therapy is working with her and she is standing and bearing weight for a few seconds now, which is way better than before. I am becoming a medical expert!

Meade is north of the farm, and the highway route is 71 miles. There is a shortcut through the pasture, which is only 40 miles, 25 of which is on soft sandy curving roads. But there are rewards. The hills are pretty and the river is in fine shape right now. Sometimes there is no water, sometimes too much. And you get to see wild and tame life. Witness the turkeys, and the cows. The trip takes about 45 minutes, and I have been coming home every day to shower and feed the cats, and actually connect to the internet. It’s not too bad, but the weather is only hot, not rainy or snowy, which might make a difference. Hmmmm soft sandy and wet! Nope doesn’t sound good.

River Pictures

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodbye Shattuck

Monday, July 20

Last day at Shattuck! All the nurses who won’t be here tomorrow have come in to say goodbye, and the night nurses, Krystal and Tina, brought in strawberry shortcake to celebrate her moving on. When I say the night nurses are great, I mean it, they have been sweet and kind and caring. They manage to do everything right on time, follow all the orders, check to see if she is comfortable, and take care of what has become a very busy floor. I actually have felt for the last week that I could go home at night, but whenever I’m not here, I am really uneasy. Don’t know what will happen when I have to stay home while she is at Meade.

We took a walk/ride around the hospital this evening, went outside for a little bit and it was still quite warm, but they lock the doors at 9 so we had to come back inside. It was quite pleasant sitting on the front patio, under a spreading redbud tree watching the semi trucks and pickup trucks and occasional motorcycle go by, listening to the cicadas, and watching the clouds build to the north.

Looks like another rough night for the state, the storms just keep moving through. Two-inch hail and 70 mph winds. Sideways rain so thick you can’t see 20 feet away. Only one of the last three storms has hit Shattuck, and it was the first one. Each storm has been more intense that the last, and tonight they are predicting tornados as well. And then they go and have an earthquake! Of course it was only a 2.2, but who expects earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Story time! So … they had an earthquake here several years ago and our nearest neighbor was the only one injured. Ethel Pope felt the jolt and couldn’t figure out what happened so she went to the basement to see if it was the furnace. She fell down the stairs and broke her arm.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Sunday, July 19

Today is Shel’s birthday. Happy B-Day Shel!

Last night, Mom was so focused on wanting to go home, that I was beginning to be frightened again, but this morning she was much better. I asked if I could take her outside in a wheelchair and they said she was supposed to go outside every day. WTF!?!? Why didn’t they tell me that days ago? So we went out and sat under the shade of a tree with her feet in the sunshine and a good time was had by all. But once we came back inside, we went back to the “we’re going to go home tonight” refrain. She doesn’t really know where she is either, usually she thinks she is in Meade and that she was somewhere else yesterday. Wonder what she will say when she really is in Meade.

On the road to Kansas

Saturday, July 18

Yesterday I drove again (the song of the day? “God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy”). This time I went to Meade Kansas, best known for the Dalton Hideout if you are into cowboy outlaws. Small town on highway 54 with a big retirement home (nice euphemism). It appears to be a very nice place, and there are some people that Mom knows there including the director of nursing who used to be her aide at Beaver Hospital, and then came back to work with her as an RN. She will take care of my mother!

Anyway, I committed to have her go there after they do their initial assessments. It is going to be hard. Each day she becomes more focused on going home, and I am beginning to be the bad guy, since I won’t take her home. I don’t know what the best response is; I tell her the truth, and don’t insist she is wrong. Some people lie, some tell her she is wrong.

When a friend called her, she was quite rational, chatted for a while, asked questions of me about what was going on, and told the friend that she was sleeping watching tv and yelling at me. Kinda true. Then she went right back to telling me she wanted to go home.

Today I went to Woodward and cut back my phone service for the California phone. I went to WalMart, bad me, and bought some supplies. Then I went to the bank that wasn’t there. Wells Fargo has deserted Woodward. Now I have to find a new way to get cash!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Being reminded that I am an only child.

Thursday, July 16

Being reminded that I am an only child. When decisions need to be made, it is up to me. When arrangements need to be made, it is up to me. When someone needs to be with Mom, it is up to me. Lonnie couldn’t come again tonight, and Mernie just called and said she can’t come tomorrow. I will do the “run out in the middle of the day and get things done” thing, hoping that the right nurses are on duty.

Sometimes I never see the nurse on duty, only the LPNs (the lower paid nurses, they tell me.) Some of those LPNs are so good, some just doing their job, and one sympathy LPN. Just like in the rest of the world. The night nurses rock! If Mom could push the call button right, I would be willing to leave her, but she still doesn’t have it down.

Realizing that things have changed forever. First hint? She doesn’t remember how to play solitaire and can’t use the electronic game that she played for hours on end. Asking how her kittie Boots is and if he misses her (Boots died in 1987).

Wednesday, July 15

Lonnie didn’t come last night, but is planning on coming on Thursday. I might be stinky by then. But I didn’t want to have to get up at 5 a.m. to get here in time for Mom’s procedure. They did an EGD which means that they stuck a scoping tube down her throat and the news is good. There was no evidence of cancer or of ulcers and they are assuming that the copious bleeding was because of plavix combined with aspirin combined with low dose aspirin. (She was supposed to stop taking the last two). That makes planning a little clearer.

Anyway, since she will be knocked out most of the rest of the day, the nurses told me to go get things done, and I am trained to obey nurses, since Mom was one. So I have a long list of things to accomplish. We will see how it goes.

Wednesday July 15

I am constantly amazed at this life I am living. I cannot believe the things I do these days.

Today I got a new phone so that I will be attached to the real world, but at the same time I was admitting that I need that phone and that connection, and that I have left my world.

Today I spent time at a nursing home talking to the various people in charge, and at the same time I was admitting that I am now the responsible elder in my family, and that my mother is going to need help that I can’t give.

Today I drove many many miles because that is the only way that you can get things done around here and while I drove I was listening to the local station. During the drive I heard “(my gal is ) rocking the beer gut” three times. I don’t’ know what is going to happen to my brain, but at the same time, if I listen to the lyrics of the music that Mission kids listen to, I am left with the same sense of dismay.

Today I was reminded why Ryan always went back to California saying that Oklahoma was better. When the need to protect yourself from a crush of people is replaced by a need to connect to people, everyone is nicer. These people just do nice things.

And today, while I was talking to the ladies at the telephone office, I heard myself replicating their accents.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

Home for the night. Lonnie is staying at the hospital and I am doing laundry, feeding and socializing with the cats, doing my internet stuff, and trying to find the missing brown bag.

Hospital food! I have eaten almost every meal at the hospital. Interestingly enough, the food is decent. Tonight I had lasagna, green beans, plums and vanilla pudding. For lunch, grilled chicken, new potatoes, mixed fresh veggies and raspberry sherbet. Breakfast was biscuits and gravy, sausages, pineapple juice cereal and coffee. The best part of it is that it is delivered to the room and costs $3 for lunch and dinner, $1.75 for breakfast. Some of the meals are pure comfort food, and there is always enough. Jenny Craig would probably not be happy with me right now! There are three or four places to eat in town, including a Pizza Hut, an upscale steak house, a café that never has parking because the pickup trucks have every space taken (and there are a lot of them) and a place called The Frozen Frog that has killer panini sandwiches!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fun and Games... not

Sunday. This time last week I was barreling across New Mexico, not knowing what was in front of me. Now I am sitting in the hospital, not knowing what is in front of me. I have gone from wondering how I was going to not go crazy from sitting around, to researching nursing homes and rehab centers and explaining that she can’t go home until she can move herself around. When it takes two nurses to take her to the toilet I don’t know how I would manage 24/7.

On a lighter side, we awoke to the discovery that a water main has broken on Main Street and the hospital has no water. Breakfast arrived, but no second cup of coffee, no baths, no flushing toilets. We had a pitcher of water from yesterday, so I was able to brush teeth and wash my face with 4 oz of water, but I am saving what’s in there just in case.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday July 11

Guess what! Pain pills make you sleep, sometimes too heavily! They took her off a bunch of meds and suddenly she is almost Mom again. And she is beginning to move the formerly immoveable parts. Not well, or quickly, but progress is progress.

Last night I spent the night at home, in a real bed and surrounded by cats. Lonnie, the neighbor who brought her to the hospital and who would not let her be here alone offered to come down and spend the night. It was nice to be home, but I know that Lonnie had to get back to work. Then the Texas cousins, Bobbi and Jeep, came by and spent several hours. Talk about a Texas accent!

I am trying to get some work done on my sweater, but have had to rip out the whole top section several times. I am to the lace parts and I don’t seem to be concentrating on the correct sequence of stitches. But I did call and reserve another skein of yarn so I could make it longer than the pattern was designed to be.

The weather here is not great. It was 108° today and at 8 this morning it was 93. It hardly cooled down at all. The wind is hanging at about 20 mph, and it feels like a blast furnace. Of course I walk out of the air-conditioned hospital and wham! What is the opposite of brain freeze? I was thinking about walking the four blocks to Tom’s Quik Stop but decided against it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

and yeah, that happened!

Tuesday July 8

Moms are sometimes the most wonderful things in the world. I know mine is. And here I am in a hospital, requesting that they fax durable power of attorney and living wills to me so that I can make the decisions that might need to be made.

Strokes are tricky. You don’t know what the outcomes are likely to be. She is alive. In this I am lucky. She knows who I am and often is quite lucid. In this I am lucky. She has improved her movement ability. In this I am lucky. Yet she looks so frail, so helpless and sometimes she is so confused. The persistent story is that she hurts because she fell from the sky into the pond, but there was no water so she made a three point landing. Did you know she could fly?

Wednesday July 9

Today they took Mom off the critical list. In Medicare terms that mean that she is in a room down the hall from the nurses station and someone comes in occasionally. I am actually worried more about her today because she is asleep and no one can really get her to wake up. She will acknowledge the people talking to her, but doesn’t really come awake.

In the meantime, I am working on the phone issue. If I change to PTSI, I lose my number, have to buy a new phone, sign a two year contract and don’t really have coverage in the rest of the world. Oh, and it will cost twice as much as my current plan. Thinking about just getting a pay and go local phone and keeping the other one which I can use when I go to town. Coverage is closer now, I can use the phone within 25 miles now, not the former 65. Wheee!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oh dear, speaking of plans going bad. I was supposed to leave on the 13th, and keep packing the house until then. And then....

Lonnie called from Oklahoma to tell me that Mom was in the hospital vomiting blood. He said I should wait until they knew what was going on before I changed my plans. Next morning she was better and then....

My mother had a small stroke. Lonnie was so upset he couldn't talk. I told him I was on the way. Went home, grabbed the now boxes and whatever I could think of and hit the road. And then...

Realized I had left my bag with my wallet in it at home - after I had driven 150 miles. Funny thing, you need money and cards and driver's license to make a 1600 mile drive, especially when you are going there for a long time. So I turned around, drove home, actually got the stuff I needed. Rushed out of the house without any chargers, any pillows, any glasses.