On May 6, 2015, we arrived at the hospital before 6:00 A.M. and found our way to Day Surgery. Another patient—a woman who appeared to be in her 70s—was also being admitted for the same procedure. The surgery preparation was typical and my father was wheeled away to the OR around 7:30 A.M. My mother and I waited in the frigid Day Surgery Waiting Room for about six hours, the expected duration for this procedure. We kept in touch with family and friends via social media and email, and we kept tabs on my father’s progress by watching the status bars on the large screen in the waiting room. My family and friends are spread across the country like buckshot from a sawed-off shotgun. Until this surgery, I underestimated the importance that Facebook would have on our ability to communicate with loved ones.
We anxiously waited for the periodic calls from the OR, telling us that the surgery was progressing well and that my father was doing fine. We were relieved when the surgeon, Dr. Sai, finally met us and told us that the procedure went well but that the next 24 hours were critical for strokes and blood clots. We went to my father’s room and were thankful that he was able to respond to simple commands from the nurse. His nurse, Ursula, was an interesting personality. She hailed from Transylvania and didn’t want to grow old. At the time I wasn’t thrilled to hear about how she didn’t want to become like the people in her care, but I grew to really like her and chalked up her comments to cultural differences.
Early the next morning I stopped by the hospital to check on him and say hello, and then drove back home to Houston, believing that all was well. Later that day, my mother called to tell me that my father was very disoriented; among other things, he saw bugs everywhere. Evidently, the woman we had met prior to his surgery was in the room next to his and she also experienced a couple of days of delirium after surgery. It was a small comfort to know that another patient was also struggling with delirium, although a heads-up about post-anesthesia delirium would have been nice. The passage of a couple of days and a couple doses of Haldol, and he was back to his normal self.
Mother’s Day was May 10 and my husband and I spent the weekend in Temple visiting with my parents. My father was still in the ICU but was moved to “the floor” soon after my husband and I went home. My mother called me on Monday to tell me that while she was away from the hospital for lunch, my father fell when he got out of bed to fetch the urinal. The nurse had neglected to return it to his bedside after repositioning him. We were concerned that the fall would extend his 7 to 10-day stay by a couple of days. Although I was annoyed with him for getting out of bed, I now wish that I had a dollar for every time a nurse or other professional left objects out of his reach–including call buttons. Although my mother and I admonished him for doing it, we’d have probably gotten out of bed, too.
On May 13, my mother told me that he’d been walking the halls with a front-wheeled walker and that therapists were stopping by each day. He seemed to be improving, and she and my father thought that he’d be discharged by now. As my father’s discharge date seemed to approach, the physical therapists, PAs and other hospital personnel recommended outpatient physical therapy, a notion that my parents quickly rejected. Based on these conversations, his length of stay in the hospital, and comments from the doctors and hospital staff, my parents surmised that my father’s discharge was imminent.
On Friday, May 15, my mother was under a lot of self-imposed pressure to prepare the house for my father’s homecoming. She had no idea that in a matter of hours two separate events would occur that would rock their world (and mine).