From the bum’s rush to a snail’s pace

Thursday, June 18. Mom and I drove in separate cars to the hospital and arrived shortly before 8:00 A.M. Dad was still sleeping and still on CPAP. Although I knew that the CPAP gave his lungs a break, it made him look as if he was breathing hard. Blair, his nurse, told me that his WBC count was down to 9,900, which put him back into normal territory. According to Dr. Sanchez, Dad had had an uneventful night, and was doing much better today.

Janie was the respiratory therapist and, for some reason, Dad just didn’t cotton to her. He especially disliked the deep suctioning and respiratory treatment that she administered that morning. That good time was followed by the always fun mouth cleansing. Although Dad hated it, mouth cleansing is very important for patients who aspirate. If you’re going to aspirate your saliva, it should be as clean as possible. At the end of this session, Janie switched Dad from CPAP to the trach collar so that he could breathe independently. Being on the trach collar also meant that we could attach the speaking valve.

Dr. Walker, the nephrologist, said that Dad would need dialysis this day, and he’d also need to visit IR to have his dialysis catheter changed out, which was one of the prerequisites for his transfer to the Scott & White Continuing Care Hospital (CCH). She was pretty sure that Dad wouldn’t transfer to the CCH today. She added that there was a pretty good chance that they would dialyze Dad tomorrow, too. The CCH dialyzed on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Having dialysis tomorrow would get him in sync with their schedule.

Dad still had his chest tube, and he couldn’t leave until it was removed. Dr. Sanchez assured us that he would remove Dad’s chest tube later in the day, but I would have to hear about it second hand. I had to return to Houston for a couple of days, and I left the hospital at 10:00 A.M. As I was turning onto FM 93, which intersected with my parents’ street, I saw two ambulances turn down their street. I learned later that day that their next-door neighbor had died from a gunshot wound. It was almost too much to take in.

Dad completed his second four-hour dialysis session. The doctor thought that he tolerated it “fairly well,” but these four-hour sessions left Dad drained. Dad had a little difficulty breathing during the afternoon and was returned to CPAP support. He had lost a little blood during the catheter change out, and the IR department had a difficult time stopping the bleeding. The blood loss was enough to cause his hemoglobin level to drop, which meant that he required another unit of blood.

Friday, June 19. Dad had slept well during the night on CPAP support and was moved to the trach-collar at 7:00 A.M. According the nurse, Dad’s WBC count was down to 9,000, which was terrific news. This good news was tempered by the arrival of the dialysis nurse. As the nephrologist had predicted the previous day, Dad had more dialysis during the morning. Although Dad seemed to be progressing well, the doctors decided to delay his transfer until Monday so that they could monitor his hemoglobin levels. Later that day, Sandra, one of the church’s lay leaders, stopped by to visit Dad. This visit was the first of many from this exceptional and caring woman.

June 20. Stan and I drove from Houston to Temple separately—Stan arriving before lunch. When I arrived midafternoon, I was cautiously alarmed when I learned that Dad’s WBC count had ticked up 400 points to 9,400. Although I was assured that it was not statistically significant, any increase in his WBC count made me nervous. Mom said that he had had some pretty thick secretions, and the respiratory therapist had suctioned several times before I arrived.

We returned to the hospital after dinner so that we could say good night and speak to his night nurse.

Father’s Day, June 21. Mom and I arrived at the hospital and visited with Dad before we attended church. Dad was sound asleep, but we were pleasantly surprised to see Daytime Natalie in his room when we arrived. For the past few days it seemed that we were getting a string of new nurses—people who didn’t know him or his medical history. Natalie told me that Dad had received deep suctioning earlier that morning. She also told me that his WBC count was up to 11,400, a 2,000 point increase from the previous day.

Compared to a of couple days earlier, today he seemed lethargic and very sleepy. When he finally woke up, he kept saying that a procedure had gone wrong during the night, and he demanded to see the doctor. Because there was no evidence of any procedure during the night, when Dr. Velazco arrived, he ordered another respiratory treatment, an ABG, and an X-ray for Dad. Stan arrived shortly thereafter and Mom and I went on to church. Father’s Day wasn’t starting out as well as we had hoped.

After lunch, the three of us returned to the hospital to celebrate Father’s Day. Dad opened his cards, but he didn’t want to open any gifts. It was raining when Stan left for Houston around 3:00 P.M. We didn’t like to leave our cats at home alone too long. Stan had made this trip several times since Mother’s Day, but I never relaxed until I knew that he had arrived home safely.

It hadn’t been the greatest Father’s Day. Other than hearing that Stan had made it home safe and sound, the best news of the day was that the ABG didn’t show any problems with Dad’s blood gases. Mom and I left for the evening at 5:00 P.M. feeling just a little depressed. It seemed like we kept meeting obstacles that we couldn’t overcome.

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