In Michigan with Dad

I didn’t have internet when at Dad’s so I “blogged” on a Word document.  Now I’ll post five days at a time.

It’s good to be home, but I miss Dad and the doggies.  I called him today, and everything seems to be okay.  I will continue to monitor him from here, as I am sure my sister will too.

I left names of people and places off here, because I respect my dad’s privacy. 

It was quite a journey, in a number of ways–spiritual, physical, emotional.  Here are the first five days:

July 21

I was not really looking forward to what I have in front of me.  And it has only gotten marginally better.  Dad is nowhere near the invalid I was afraid of, but there is a helluva lot that needs to be done.  And remembered.  And I am not a medical person, and am scared to death.

Yesterday was a pretty routine air trip to Michigan, and my cousin picked me up.  During the two-hour ride to P., he filled me in a lot about how things were.  It was the last time I felt like I was still in control of me and my life.

We headed out of P. almost immediately upon my arrival, a car full of meds and oxygen and luggage, two little dogs, and a couple of crabby people.  My sister will be only too glad to go home on Monday.  Dad is not easy to get along with even when he’s feeling well, and now…well, let’s just say that his tripwire temper is being held back by spider web.

He’s got some memory problems.  We were heading home after eating at a restaurant, when the subject of a grocery store came up.  My sister, who was driving, was looking for a spot to turn around to go back to the store, when Dad asked her how much gas was in the tank.  She said about half, and he gestured, but did not say, for her to go into the gas station.  When she didn’t (she had her eyes on the road), he went hoppin mad.  Then he had a problem with how she pulled into the gas station.

Well, we got the gas in—the first time in about ten years I’ve used a gas pump, so that was frustrating.  We then went to the store, and drove out here.

Okay, I’d been up since 4am, my sister was tired and frustrated, Dad was cranky.  She tried to get me to do some of the stuff I would need to do when she was gone, and I panicked.  Blood sugar fell, couldn’t breathe, shaking, the whole thing.  It got to where I had to go outside and cry my eyeballs out.  She had pity on me and sent me upstairs to bed.  This was the last night I had to not be on-call.  Tonight, and for how many nights I don’t know, I will be on the couch.  Sleeping?  Doubt it.

Today was better.  I’d had plenty of sleep, and Dad was getting along so well it was almost like he’d never had surgery.  But I have to learn the times and types of exercises, meds, and breathing exercises he has to do every day.

The visiting nurse came—fortunately, my sister and I had the house cleaned up.  Being a nurse herself, Sis could get in trouble if someone comes out and the place is the way Dad usually keeps it.  We got the floor swept and washed and the rugs vacuumed.  I have to say my sister did all the organizing and most of the cleaning.  I did what I could, but she mostly wanted me to get acquainted with how my days would be for awhile. 

The visiting nurse checked Dad’s vitals and his healing progress.  He’s got some rattling in the lower parts of his lungs, so that will have to be followed closely.  But his BP and oxygen levels were excellent, so that’s good.

I was pretty much okay all day.  I had asked Himself for advice last night, and He pretty much told me to take the advice but leave the emotional bit out of it.  My sister is a very fussy, anxious person, and Dad is a real challenge for her—he does not like to be fussed over.  I know exactly how he feels, because we are cut from the same cloth. 

But there remains the problem with his memory—or rather, what he thinks he has said.  Today, he said he wanted a tortilla with mayonnaise and mustard on it.  When Sandy started getting out the stuff, not questioning what he just said, he got mad at her because he wanted peanut butter.

So—I guess I will have to gauge how things go.  He might improve after getting some of these meds cancelled and out of his system.  I hope.  How can he live alone when he has memory problems like this?  Or is it because of my sister?  Time will tell.

My sister and I worked in the yard after the nurse left.  Sis got on the riding mower and did the grass, while I pulled strategically-placed weeds (those in the walkway), moved stuff out of the way of the mower, raked grass, and kept the walkway swept.  It looks pretty good out there now.

The one thing I was not looking forward to at all was helping Dad with his shower.  But seeing him in his altogether was not as traumatic as I thought it was going to be.  Still, I hope I don’t have to be doing that too many times.

I had a thought while taking my own shower:  How many
years did he help me to learn and grow?  How can I begrudge him three weeks out of my life?  I don’t, really.  The problem is the same as when the kids came along.  All of a sudden I have no control over my life, and have to be close by someone all the time.  I have to pull me out me.  And it’s not easy.  I’m sure tomorrow will be even easier, but when my sister goes home Monday (singing, dancing, and throwing confetti, I’m sure), it will be just him and me, and my spotty abilities.  Oh Lord help.

July 22

Oh, terrific.  Now my laptop battery has died.  I’ll just have to write the old-fashioned way.  Not a foreign thing to me, since that’s how I write my manuscripts.

Last night was rough for Dad.  Around 4am, he had to put on the oxygen because of stuffed sinuses.  Then at 6am he was in a lot of pain; he’d been leaning on his elbow to facilitate breathing, which caused his ribcage some trauma.  Nothing permanent or serious.  But with someone fresh out of the hospital after open-heart surgery, anything can become serious.

This morning he was feeling pretty good.  I’m starting to get into somewhat of a pattern.  My sister spent a lot of time going over all the appointments, procedures, calls to make, et cetera, which helped me feel more comfortable with what I was expected to do.

My biggest problem is the lack of the chance to exercise/walk.  I did get to walk to the mailbox, which is about ¼ of a mile from the house, but that was pretty much it.  I did some leg exercises in the house, and took Dad for a walk around the looped driveway.  But I’m still feeling fidgety.

Didn’t get to church because of last night.  That made the day kind of weird.  So—I’ve missed church seven times in my life now.  Or thereabouts.  Don’t like to do that, but He understands.

This afternoon was something of a turning point for me.  Something finally cleared from my heart and mind, and I am not fighting this so much.  I think part of it was when I read an e-mail about the death of a friend’s mom.  At least I still have my Dad here, and always improving.  My friend’s mom is gone, and missed terribly by her friends and family.

And the thing in Denver—yeah, I’m lucky.

7/23

I’m writing this on 7/24.  It gets busy around here.

Yesterday was a pretty busy day.  Dad had a great night (used the oxygen machine just in case), Sandy slept well.  I may have gotten an hour.  But God is kind—I was awake and aware all day.  Needed to be, I’ll tell you.

A visiting nurse came in the morning, drew blood for tests, and checked Dad’s vitals.  All good, plus his lungs were clear (they had crud in them the day before).

After the nurse visit, I drove Dad, my sister, her luggage, the Oxygen Twins (Orville and Wilbur, I call them), and a grocery bag full of paperwork on down to P.  Got there just in time too.

While waiting for Dad’s appointment, I got to meet the wife of one of my cousins.  Just a howdy—she was very busy.

The first nurse who saw Dad did the usual vitals, then had Dad do some walking.  She was impressed by his abilities and endurance at this stage of his recovery process.  I think the best thing she did was to assure Dad about the non-scariness of the sleep lab study that is coming up.  He did not well in the test he took while in the hospital—but then again he didn’t sleep for four nights.

The main consultant—another nurse—spent more time with him, and it was her words that seemed to take away his anxiety (and mine) concerning what was done in surgery and what he could expect in recovery.  She drew a heart diagram, giving us more of a concrete idea of how his heart’s condition is.  Most interesting was that, since his double-bypass 30+ years ago, other arteries have grown around the blockages and have carried on the work.  She told him that the real recovery now was for his left ventricle.  Because of the aortic blockage, it has enlarged—the muscle had to work to get the blood through, so got bigger.  Now it has to shrink back to normal.

But what she said concerning what was expected of him during this time really helped:  “Just put up with all of this for as long as it takes to recover.  Then you can go back to your normal life.”  Ever since then, Dad has been very proactive and cooperative.

He was fitted with an atrial fibrillator monitor, which he’s supposed to use to keep track of any heart flutters.  So far, nothing to report—hooray!

We finished with his appointment, got back to the car, and go
t to the airport just in time to get Sis on the plane.  Too close for comfort, time-wise.

Dad and I were too hungry to go look for somewhere else to eat, so we went to the airport’s only restaurant.  This airport used to be a two-room building.  Now it’s got a pretty good-sized complex.  I was really surprised.  Of course, I hadn’t been there in 20 years or so…

We got groceries before we went home—again.  Living out in the boonies, he has to get them whenever he gets that far into civilization.  I was happy to see that he was going to be cooperative about the sodium intake.  But fish?  No way.  Sorry, but I agree.  Blech!!  Still trying to talk him into whole wheat.

He was too tired to go into the next store, and we didn’t need those things right away anyway, so we got gas and drove home.  It is such a lovely drive along the lakeshore.  Especially in the sunset.  Gorgeous!

It’s just been us and the puppies ever since.  My sister is still in charge from long-distance, and calls to keep tabs on us, but it’s up to me now.  And, of course, up to Dad’s cooperation.

 

7/24

Another good night.  Neither of us woke up until about 8:30am.  Had a good breakfast—got him to partially agree to whole wheat.  I’ll keep working on him.  But I can see it won’t be part of a permanent lifestyle.  Pity.

Got some laundry done and more phone calls made.  For me, being on the phone at all is a miracle.

Dad knew his pills, and was better than me at knowing whether or not he had done his “puff machine”, as I call it.

I’m keeping close track of his meals.  He’s getting about 95% of his food portions.  Hard to get him to eat everything, since he is used to eating so little.

The dogs (Shih-tzus) spent most of the time on the couch today.  They were really playing hard yesterday—chasing each other through the yard and house.

Dad had his first at-home physical therapy today.  The therapist was really impressed as to how well-coordinated and strong Dad was.  He showed her the exercises he does, walked around, and we showed her the shower and bathroom.  It was thought very important to get an aerobic bench step to put next to the shower—the bathroom floor is a good 8” lower than the shower’s, and there is a good-sized lip to step over too.

She is going to accelerate her program, since I won’t be here past August 10 (I hope).  She also told me I could go for short walks.  My sister had conniptions when I told her—guess the P/T didn’t have the knowledge to give me that kind of go-ahead.

This was after I’d walked the round-trip to the mailbox.  (Guess I won’t do that again until Dad gets his home alert system on Monday.)  I stopped at Dad’s nearest neighbor to borrow some potatoes for stew, and got into a bit of a conversation.  But I didn’t stay too long.

I made venison and beef stew, which Dad and the dogs really liked.  Dad then did the dishes (hand-washed), and we settled into TV time.

This is getting much easier.  I pray God it remains that way.

7/25

Another good night.  For both of us.  Dad was up at 7am, had his important info recorded (weight, temp, blood sugar level), and was at his desk sorting bills when I got up at 8am.

Today was really busy, yet again.  Just now has been the only time we’ve relaxed all day (it’s evening).  We had a trip down to the road a few miles for a doctor apt.  It got rainy out there today, so the roads were a bit tricky.  The boys (dogs) got to come along, and they were happy to see some other sights besides the house and yard.

Dad was a star in the medical world once again.  Most of his bloodwork looked low to normal.  His blood pressure is almost as low as mine!  Quite an accomplishment.

He had concerns about this constant cough he’s been dealing with, and we were happy to hear that it was probably the left-over anesthesia getting expelled from his lungs.  Good to know.

We drove home through a thunderstorm, and after lunch we sat at the table and worked on insurance and billing paperwork.  Phones are not something I’m comfortable with, but for this sort of thing I don’t mind.

Amazing thing he said today.  He complimented my sister and me (over the phone to her) on how well we’ve been taking care of him, and how grateful he is.  Compliments from him are very rare, at least verbally.  Makes it so much easier to be here.

The P/T guy came out, and Dad pretty much did all the things that were asked of him with no problem.  (Of course, Dad was pretty tired later.)  They worked on balance, endurance, and stair steps.  This took about an hour, and after he left we h
ad dinner.  Now we are parked in front of Fox News until the ball game starts.

Dad continues to wash the dishes, and I’ll be easing him into making himself some of his lighter meals.  I know very well that he can; it’s the food balance that we still need to work on.

I’m hoping tonight goes as well as last night.  It’s always a toss-up with a heart patient.

Noticed something tonight.  I’m no longer counting down the days until I can go home.

Oh—before Dad went to bed, he said what was music to my ears:

“I had a great day.”

 

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