My Dad died on January 28th, 2017 due to complications after a fall. He would have been 85 years old this year. He and my Mom would have also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. This is the second in a series of articles written about his final days.
Article 6, Dad’s Death – 10 Life Lessons: https://goo.gl/SXh5NX
Article 5, Dad’s Death – The Aftermath: https://goo.gl/6YILxK
Article 4, Dad’s Final Days: https://goo.gl/k4PH63
Article 3, Dad’s End of Life Dreams and Visions: https://goo.gl/x2zvqA
Article 2, Dad’s Recovery: https://goo.gl/80ZBAc
Article 1, Dad’s Fall and Surgery: https://goo.gl/M7Xm65
ROAD TO RECOVERY
After Dad’s emergency surgery on Thursday January 5th, it was a matter of watching his recovery hour-by-hour. Different doctors would parade in and out of his room. It was important for one of us to be there because Dad was overwhelmed with everything that was going on. If we missed a Doctor making his or her rounds, it was hard to determine what was really going on with Dad’s health. His orthopedic surgeon, who usually showed up around 6:30 am, monitored his post-surgery healing. His cardiologist, who visited mid-morning (thankfully), monitored Dad’s heart. During the first week after surgery, Dad’s blood tests showed he was not clotting properly. This was the result many years of blood thinners. The cardiologist decided Dad should receive another transfusion. Then another. A few days later, Dad’s clotting was back-to-normal but he was now anemic. They added iron to his long list of medications. It seemed like one issue would get resolved then something else would pop up. It was a balancing act. Every day was different. Sometimes it changed by the hour. Once Dad’s iron levels improved, fluid began to accumulate throughout his body; most specifically his lungs. This led to bringing in a pulmonary specialist, who put Dad on diuretics and scheduled daily chest x-rays. The Doctors didn’t want this fluid to lead to pneumonia. You don’t have to be a Doctor to know what pneumonia can do to an an elderly man.
CRITICAL CARE UNIT (CCU)
By Wednesday January 11th the fluid in Dad’s lungs had not improved, so his Doctors decided to move him to the CCU. There Dad could get more specialized and focused care. He was placed on oxygen and received regular breathing treatments to keep his lung passages open. Things really started to improve. He was in better spirits. He watched movies again. He ate well. He pooped and he peed. He received visitors. He even started walking with the Physical Therapist. This all lifted his spirits. And ours. Everyone agreed Dad was doing better.
As a result of these improvements, we were contacted by the Hospital Discharge team about finding a Rehabilitation Facility (Nursing Home). This meant Dad would be transferred over the next few days. It would begin next phase of his treatment; one step closer to getting him back home. My sister and I went through the list and decided to physically check the facilities out before making a decision. She would check a couple near her house; I would check out the ones near the Hospital and my parent’s house. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking walking into many of these facilities. Although the facility personnel were loving and caring, the elderly seemed to be crammed into every last inch of space. The energy was sad and depressing. This was NOT what we wanted for Dad.
One night after leaving the Hospital, I stopped by the rehab facility that was closest to my parent’s house. It was tucked away in a residential neighborhood on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. I felt like this was “the place.” I let my sister and Mom know. They agreed this would be our first choice. Now we just had to pray they had an opening. The next day, I spoke to my Dad about the facility. He said it was the same facility he had chosen for his Mother (my Grandmother). Unfortunately she died before she could be transferred there. My heart dropped to my stomach. I had no idea. My son had just been born when my Grandmother was in the Hospital. Although I visited her there, I had no idea the behind-the-scenes work my Dad was doing on her behalf. Realizing this may be a problem for him I asked him if he was okay with going to the same place. I said I absolutely understood if he couldn’t. We could find somewhere else. With tears in his eyes Dad said “yes”, mostly because he remembered the beauty of the facility. I started working his transfer paperwork.
By Saturday January 14th Dad had improved to the point he was moved back to the Orthopedic floor. This meant the rehab facility would happen sooner than later. Things finally seemed to be progressing in a positive direction.
MAKING IMPROVEMENTS (AGAIN)
Once Dad was back in Orthopedics, things continued to be on the upswing. He seemed to be in a better place emotionally, spiritually and physically. He received daily Physical Therapy, ate well, peed and pooped. Life was beginning to look rosy again. We spent time talking. We watched movies. I showed him how to “binge watch” shows on Netflix. Dad especially loved Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlinson. He couldn’t get over how he could watch episode after episode. We started with Season 1. I also set up “casino games’ on his Kindle. He played for hours. He seemed to be on the mend. This was the Dad I knew and loved.
The one thing that changed significantly during this time was Dad’s sleeping habits. When I would leave the Hospital at night he would seem relaxed and ready to sleep. However when I would arrive the next morning , either the nurses or Dad would mention he had a “rough” night. At first I wasn’t sure what “rough” meant. I could only gauge it by how he appeared when I arrived that morning. Most of the time he was grumpy or agitated. Consequently, the day would go downhill from there. Thinking back, there was really only one morning when I walked into his room and found him calm and relaxed. No wonder his health was on such a roller coaster.
So I asked the night shift nurses what they thought was going on. They told me Dad may be “sundowning.” I had read about this condition before. It is normally associated with Dementia and Alzheimer patients and refers to a state of confusion at the end of the day and into the night. As a result, I paid more attention to Dad’s “behavior” as it got closer to the afternoons and evenings. I noticed he did become more agitated and restless. Maybe this explained what the nurses had meant when they said he had a “rough” night. I could only pray it would get better so he could get some sleep. After all, the body needs sleep in order to heal. If he wasn’t sleeping, how could he get better?
Dad had now been in the Hospital for over 2 weeks.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!