December 21, 2016. Dad had continued to progress well. Not only was he eating more, but he was also eating foods that I had assumed would be off limits for a patient who had been deemed a chronic aspirator. I recall a day in August 2015 when a pulmonologist fellow warned Mom and me that Dad would probably never be able to eat carrots and peas again, but we shouldn’t stop him from eating what he wanted, even if it killed him. And this guy was one of my favorite doctors. Not only was Dad now eating peas and carrots, he was also eating nuts and rice.
I contacted Adan Torres, who had been one of Dad’s speech therapists during his hospitalization and who had become a manager with Scott & White Home Care and Hospice, to ensure that he would be in his office today and able to take visitors. During our telephone conversation, I asked him if he knew who the attending physician at the CCH was this week. Happily, our favorite doctor and lifesaver, Dr. Randall Smith, was there. I had to admit that there were other doctors who I would have liked to see, if only to show them how wrong they had been about Dad. Fortunately, the universe was directing me to take the high road.
Dad and I arrived at Adan’s office shortly before 10:00 A.M. and spent more than 45 minutes visiting with Adan in his office. Dad didn’t have much memory of Adan, but he held a special place in the hearts of Mom and me. Adan marveled at Dad’s progress. A few weeks earlier, my parents had donated their unused medical supplies. Adan mentioned that when Dad had backed up his SUV and started unloading the donations, he called one of his associates to share the news of this once unlikely sight.
As the time approached 11:00 A.M., I wanted to get Dad across the parking lot to the CCH before Dr. Smith left the building for lunch. Before we left, I gave Adan some of my homemade biscotti to share with his wife and some cookies for his kids.
When Dad and I left Adan’s office, we drove across the parking lot to the CCH. As we walked into the building, the receptionist recognized Dad and me and remarked on how much better Dad looked than the last time that she saw him. She wasn’t just whistling Dixie: when we left the CCH on September 29, 2015, most of the personnel at the CCH didn’t hold out much hope for Dad’s recovery. When I told her that we wanted to see Dr. Smith, she mentioned that we might have missed him because she didn’t see his pickup truck in the parking lot.
While we waited to see if the doctor was still in the building, I asked the receptionist if we could see Marty, who was the case manager at the CCH. I had had somewhat of a rocky relationship with Marty during Dad’s two stays at the CCH. She had been very negative during about Dad’s prognosis and had not always treated my mother well, but in the end, she had pulled off a case-manager miracle during his discharge from the CCH. During our short visit in the CCH lobby, Marty told us that Dr. Smith was on a conference call that should be ending soon. Before she left us, I gave her some cookies for her daughters.
We had a fabulous 30-minute visit with the good doctor. He was thrilled with Dad’s progress and said that he looked great for an 88-year old, let alone someone who had been through a medical ordeal like Dad’s. He told us that seeing Dad inspired him and that he seldom had the opportunity to see patients after they left the CCH. Once again, Dad had no memory of this medical provider, but Dr. Smith had been the difference between life and death for Dad, and I will be forever grateful that God placed him at the right place at the right time.
December 23. My parents have a large vegetable garden on their acre lot. Dad had decided that he wanted to change the footprint of the garden, which was designated by cinder blocks and bricks. Stan and I didn’t want my parents to move the cinder blocks themselves, so we volunteered to help Dad with the garden, and today’s weather was perfect for the task.
Dad, Stan, and I created an assembly line in which Stan would place the blocks on the handcart, Dad would bring the cart to me, and I would reposition the blocks in their new location. In the period of an afternoon, we had changed the footprint of the garden. One side of the garden remained open because Dad needed to move large sections of dirt before placing the final bricks.
Two days later, on Christmas day, Stan presented Dad with a gift certificate to rent a Bobcat to finish the dirt-moving task.
February 25, 2017. The day that Dad would rent the Bobcat had finally arrived! Stan accompanied Dad to the rental company to pick up a Bobcat mini track loader. After successfully backing up the trailer and unloading the Bobcat, my two guys couldn’t figure out how to raise and lower the bucket. Fortunately, I understood how to read the documentation printed on the loader and was able to help them get started.
After a couple of hours of moving dirt and relocating the cinder blocks, the garden was well on its way to being ready for the spring planting. After missing the entire growing and harvesting season last year, Dad was ready to partake of another fruitful harvest.