July 29, 2015. Dr. Hildago, the neurology resident, was in Dad’s room when we arrived at 7:45 A.M. She told us that his ammonia levels were back to a normal level and that his eyes would now follow her hand, which was an improvement over yesterday. We were still anxiously waiting for the radiology department to schedule him for the MRI. Dialysis had already started, but it could be interrupted for the MRI.
His pulse was running in the 130s again, and his oxygen saturation levels were low. To compensate for the low oxygen levels, the respiratory therapist increased his oxygen levels on the ventilator to 60%. A few minutes later, the ventilator started alarming, which prompted the nurse to page the respiratory therapist. Evidently, one piece of the ventilator was cross-threaded, which was what caused the system to alarm. The alarms were starting to drive us crazy and I could swear that I could hear them when we were away from the hospital.
Dad’s heart rate was like a roller coaster all morning. A resident stopped by and said that we might be able to stop the wild fluctuations if we gave Dad some Fentanyl, the pain killer. If that was true, then perhaps I now understood why they would give an unresponsive person pain killer.
A technician stopped by at 8:55 A.M. to administer an EKG. Dr. Burkholter and his neurology team stopped by 45 minutes later. He did observe that Dad was a bit more responsive than he was Monday, but his responses were not robust. He wouldn’t know more until they could see the MRI.
When Dr. White and his band of providers arrived outside of Dad’s room, I heard comments about Dad being tachycardic and encephalopathic. It took several Google searches before I came close to the correct spelling of either term. When he finally entered the room, the doctor said that Dad was on the right antibiotic, although his WBC count kept increasing. He added that they would probably perform a bronchoscopy on Dad later today to ensure that everything was OK with his lungs. He commented that it was good that Dad seemed to be waking up, but he said that he suspected that Dad’s tachycardia was related to his change in mentation. I had watched a lot of medical dramas in my day, but I still wished that he’d talk about Dad’s rapid heart rate instead of tachycardia.
When Svenja, the Trach Goddess of Scott & White, had last visited my father, she said that if Dad improved, she would switch out his tracheostomy. She returned today to switch out the current trach tube for a softer one that would be more comfortable for Dad. Svenja was another comforting provider, and I was glad to see her again.
At 11:00 A.M., I went to the hospital cafeteria for coffee. While I was gone, Mom said that Dad opened his eyes full wide and looked around the room. By the time that I returned to the room, he appeared to be sleeping again.
We had several visitors during the afternoon. Sandra, one of the Lay leaders from the church, stopped by for a short visit and said a prayer. A little later, Kelli, the charge nurse from the north tower ICU, stopped by for a short visit. She was leaving for vacation and wanted to check in on Dad before she left. The providers in the south tower were great, but sometimes I really missed the nurses in the north tower, especially Kelli. Not long after Kelli left, Addison, a speech therapist, also stopped by to visit for a few minutes. I liked visiting with Addison and Holly, the two speech therapists. When they entered the room, it felt like they brought in sunshine with them. My mother felt the same way about Adan, the speech therapist at the CCH. Perhaps there’s something special about people who become speech therapists.
Shortly before 4:00 P.M., I was presented with a bronchoscopy consent form, which was quickly followed by the arrival of the mobile bronchoscopy unit. Shortly before 4:30 P.M., they started the procedure, which had become almost routine to me. I wondered how routine it had become for Dad. I hoped that he had been oblivious to all of them.
While Mom and I were waiting for Dad’s procedure to end, Wynn Moore stopped by to say hello and tell us that she was leaving town for a few days. It seemed like everyone was going someplace. There was such a dichotomy between life inside and outside the hospital.
As we were leaving for dinner, Charris, a resident who had been assigned to Dad since his readmittance, told me that she was off for the next couple of days but would be back on the night shift for the weekend. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t see her for a few days. As it turned out, I never saw her again, which was a shame.
We returned from dinner at 6:45 P.M. and met Dad’s night nurse, Cinnamon. The day shift personnel wouldn’t be leaving for about 20 minutes and Mom and I wanted to say good-bye to Kelli, although I hoped to still be here when she returned in five days.
When we returned to Dad’s room, he was receiving only a tiny dose of Levophed, his remaining vasopressor. Cinnamon thought that she’d be able to reduce that amount somewhat or entirely by the end of her shift at 7:00 A.M. Unfortunately, his oxygenation was still poor and he was receiving 65% oxygen from his ventilator.
Cinnamon seemed very attentive to Dad. Mom and I felt better than last night with him in her care than we had with Dustin the previous night.