ICU room transfers and road trips

. I didn’t sleep well, and I got up around 3:00 A.M. and started the coffee maker. One of my photographs was in an art gallery exhibition in Johnson City, Texas, and the opening reception was tomorrow evening. I had made a hotel reservation in Fredericksburg, about 30 miles from the gallery. I now thought that I should cancel this reservation and book a room in a hotel closer to both the gallery and to my parents’ home in Temple. When I logged on to the hotel’s website, I learned that the deadline for canceling without a 100% cancellation fee had passed at midnight, three hours ago. I was too frugal to pay for two rooms, so I kept the reservation in Fredericksburg. Barring any emergencies, we would be gone for only 20 hours.

swapCross1I had texted Pastor Tom several times yesterday and he finally responded shortly before 5:15 A.M. Unfortunately, his message said that he was out of town. He said that he would notify Pastor Brian about Dad. Although Mom and I would welcome a visit from Pastor Brian, Dad did not have a relationship with him. In addition to comforting us, Pastor Tom could often get a response from Dad.

Mom woke up shortly after 6:00 A.M., and we arrived at the hospital during the shift change at 7:15 A.M. I found a nurse sitting outside of Dad’s room charting, and I asked him if he knew where I could find Dr. Yawn, the doctor who had called me last night. He replied that that was a good question, and set off to locate him. I had only spoken with Dr. Yawn on the phone and didn’t know what he looked like.

badRehabCross2While I was waiting, I saw that Dad was restrained with soft restraints. I also noticed that he no longer had the a-line in his right arm. When Dr. Yawn entered Dad’s room, he had a long list of updates to share with me. During the night, Dad had pulled out his a-line and his IV lines. Dr. Yawn and another doctor had tried to find another vein using ultrasound but without success. Dr. Yawn was able to start the central line. He had not yet used it for administering medication but was keeping it open with saline. While we were talking, a transportation person appeared outside of Dad’s room. The doctor told me that Dad was scheduled for a VQ scan at 8:00 A.M., which would test for the presence of a pulmonary embolism. He had had this test before his hip surgery in March. The doctor reiterated Dad’s problems with his liver enzymes and ammonia.

I couldn’t believe that Dad had pulled out the venous and arterial lines; it had to have hurt. I was in pain just thinking about it. While we were talking at the foot of Dad’s bed, I told the doctor that I was surprised that Dad had pulled out all of these important lines, yet left the feeding tube in place. Many patients, including Dad, accidentally pull out the feeding tube because it irritates their nose. The doctor agreed and said that the feeding tube would have been preferable.

I spoke with Dad for a few moments and told him that I was going home to Houston but would return later this evening with Stan so that he could beat Stan at cribbage. He smiled and kissed me good-bye. I hugged Mom goodbye, introduced myself to Jennifer, Dad’s nurse, and I left the building at 7:45 A.M. When I stopped for gas in Somerville, I noticed that I had received a text from my friend Rhoda, who wanted an update on Dad’s condition. The nice thing about Stan’s new car, which I was driving, is that I can make hands-free calls. I called my friend and gave her a quick update on Dad’s fragile condition.

swapCross2When I got home at 10:30 A.M., I texted Stan to tell him that I was home. I tried to call my mother but all of my calls to Mom were directed to voicemail. Hoping that she might also have Dad’s phone with her, I called his number too, but with the same result. I finally gave up and called the SICU nurses’ station and asked Dad’s nurse to tell Mom that her phone was off.

At 1:30 P.M., I received a call from my parents’ landline. It seemed that Mom’s phone hadn’t been off; its battery was dead, so instead of eating the sandwich that I had prepared for her, she decided to eat her lunch at home and charge the two phones.

Mom said that Dad wasn’t doing very well and that he was having a difficult time getting enough oxygen. However, she said that the nurse had told her that they were going to ensure that he got more oxygen. I didn’t know what that meant, and I hoped that it didn’t mean intubation.

I kept hoping that he’d rally again, but I was becoming concerned. Besides attending the exhibition reception in Johnson City, we were meeting with another couple from Houston. We had been planning this trip for quite some time, and I didn’t want to cancel it. Mom also didn’t want me to cancel the trip, but I told her that I would not go if Dad’s passing seemed imminent. I planned to be gone less than 24 hours, but I didn’t want to take any chances on being gone if he and Mom needed me.

swapcross3Stan had arrived home from work a little after 1:00 P.M. and by 2:00 P.M., we were on the road back to Temple. Thankfully, Stan said that he would drive. We usually shared the driving, but I had not had a chance to rest and was very tired. Stan hadn’t slept well last night either, so we stopped at Buc-ee’s for some coffee.

During the time that I was away from the hospital, the hospital chaplain, a woman from palliative care, Pastor Brian, and my parents’ neighbor, Sharon, stopped by to visit Mom. Sharon stayed for almost three hours. I was grateful for the pastor and Sharon, but Mom couldn’t tell me much about the visit from palliative care. I didn’t know why, but I was suspicious about this visitor.

Stan and I arrived at the hospital at 5:15 P.M., and we were greeted with the news that the SICU doctors thought that Dad should be moved to the Medical ICU (MICU). At 5:40 P.M., Jennifer said that his room was ready and that he would be transferred to room 246 South in MICU right after the shift change.

hip3Mom and I returned to the hospital at 7:30 P.M. to see Dad in room 246 South, but the room was empty. We walked to the north tower to his room in SICU. He was still there, but they were preparing him for his transfer. We walked with the nurse as Dad was transported to his room in the south tower. The two nurses who were getting him situated in MICU said that we could see him when they were finished—in about 15 to 30 minutes. When we told them that we just wanted to say good night, they stepped away from his bed so that we could kiss him goodnight.

We left the hospital shortly after 8:00 P.M., hoping for a better day tomorrow.

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