Attempting to recover at home

April 13, 2018. A lot had happened since our last visit to Temple. Dad had checked himself out of Cornerstone, which meant that instead of receiving daily physical and occupational therapy, he would receive physical therapy twice a week at the Roney Bone and Joint Institute. After Dad’s unorthodox transfer home, Stan and I were anxious about his situation and were eager to set eyes on him.

home4Cross2Stan and I left Houston for Temple shortly before 3:00 P.M., but because of an accident in Cameron that closed the road in both directions, we didn’t reach my parents’ home until 6:30 P.M. Shortly after we arrived, I learned that Dad had not been out of his wheelchair since his last physical therapy treatment on April 10. In principle, Mom would help Dad with his rehab exercises between sessions with the therapists, so I was a bit concerned that nothing had happened since he had been home.

We had a nice evening, and I tried to contain myself and not say anything about Dad’s lack of therapy since his return home. The four of us discussed some of the chores that they needed Stan and me to do over the next two days. We played Oh Hell, and I won.

home4Cross3April 14. Following our Saturday breakfast of homemade waffles, we reviewed and refined the list of chores that Stan and I needed to tackle today. Mom and I went to Academy, Walgreens, and WalMart. Dad had asked Mom and me to find some exercise aids that he could use at home. We purchased a couple of items from Academy, but I doubted that he would use them. They were simple and inexpensive so our loss wouldn’t be significant. After we returned from our shopping expedition, I tried, without any success, to encourage Dad to try walking a few steps with his walker. I hoped that he would try walking a few steps before we left for home tomorrow.

IMG_3501My parents had a large vegetable garden. Between Dad’s stint in the hospital and rehab and Mom looking after him, weeds had taken up residence among the tomatoes, squash, beans, and cantaloupe. While surveying the garden, I wondered why the vegetables couldn’t be as low-maintenance as the weeds. After lunch, I weeded the vegetable garden while Stan planted a couple of rose bushes and a couple of saplings in the yard. The day before Dad fell, he had placed bags of mulch in the front gardens. A couple of weeks ago, Stan had spread the mulch but thought that we needed to purchase a couple more bags, but Dad wanted only to use what he had purchased. When I had finished weeding the vegetable garden, I redistributed mulch in the front gardens. I had often said that my parents’ large yard kept them active and was good for their health. The large yard was now becoming a chore for Stan and me, and we fantasized that they would consider downsizing.

home4Cross4During our happy hour, Dad announced that he and Mom had decided that they could not continue living in their home for many of the reasons that concerned Stan and me. Dad said that they wanted our opinion and looked to us to do some research. We discussed many options, and it seemed that they wanted to move into a small house, which wasn’t my first choice for them. However, I knew of a 55+ community in The Woodlands and discussed its possibilities. I allowed myself to dream of all sorts of possibilities that included them living in or near Houston.

April 15. While Mom and I attended church, Dad and Stan played cribbage. After lunch, I tried again to get Dad to walk a few steps with his walker before we returned to Houston, but was unsuccessful. Stan and I left at 2:40 P.M. and arrived home at 5:50 P.M. Although we were concerned about Dad’s lack of therapy, we were very encouraged that my parents were open to moving.

home4Cross3April 16. I spent a few hours scouring the web for independent-living communities in Harris County that had decent reviews. I spoke with a representative from an independent-living community in The Woodlands, Texas. The community sounded exactly like what my parents wanted, but I wasn’t convinced that this was the best place for them. Although it provided many amenities, it was a gated neighborhood that didn’t provide transportation, which could be problematic in the future. I did a little more research but didn’t find anything that I liked well enough to suggest without first visiting the property.

April 28. Stan had a bad cold, so I traveled to Temple today without him, arriving at my parents’ home shortly after 10:30 A.M. My mother had been worrying the heck out of me with her stylish shoes that wouldn’t stay on her feet. During the past year, Mom had lost a lot of weight, and now her slimmer feet often stumbled out of her shoes. Sunday had become one of the most dangerous days of the week as her shoes fell off while we walked to and from the church. I had told her that we would shop for some stylish, yet sensible, shoes as soon as I arrived.

After finding the perfect shoes, we dashed into HEB for a few groceries and then went home for lunch. Dad told us that he had exercised four times while we were gone. Because he had “exercised,” he wasn’t willing to walk with the walker.

home4Cross2I had a difficult time hiding my disappointment when Dad told me that he and Mom had decided to stay in their house and not move. Several thoughts came to mind, but for once, I decided to keep my thoughts and concerns to myself. However, I wished that they had told me sooner about this decision so that I wouldn’t have wasted so much time looking for viable options for them.

We ended our evening with a game of Oh Hell, and Mom won.

April 29. Mom and I attended church this morning, which gave her the opportunity to test and show off her new shoes. I still wasn’t able to get Dad out of his wheelchair, so I had to settle for batting .500 during this weekend trip.

 

Leaving rehab just a tad too soon

April 6, 2018. Today was my last day of employment. After 19 years, one week, and one day with my employer, I had been informed that I was ready to pursue other interests. In anticipation of my employer’s significant US layoffs, I had left Temple last Thursday so that I could be in the office in case I was included in the reduction.

badRehabCross7My week in Temple for Dad’s surgery had put me behind in many of my responsibilities at home, so when Stan suggested that we return to Temple tomorrow, I brought up several reasons why I could not leave town for the weekend; besides, he had plans to play golf on Saturday. When he said that we could drive to Temple after golf, I agreed to the trip.

April 7. I hit the ground running and finished my grocery shopping before Stan left to play golf. While he and his friend Mike were playing a couple of rounds of golf, I checked off tasks on my to-do list and was ready to leave town when the guys returned at 2:00 P.M., and we left home shortly before 4:00 P.M.

badRehabCross5I had decided that I would not tell Mom that we were coming for a short weekend visit. Knowing her the way that I do, I knew that she would try to tidy up the house or prepare dinner during our three-hour drive. When we were about two miles from Cornerstone, I called Dad. Although he answered his phone, he couldn’t hear me. We continued our drive to the facility and surprised him when we walked into his room. During our 20-minute visit, I adjusted the speaker control on his phone so that he could hear callers. I then called Mom and told her that Stan and I were with Dad and that we would be arriving soon. In the 30 minutes that elapsed before we arrived at my parents’ home, Mom had rushed around the house, trying to tidy up. Truth be told, even when she thought that the house was a mess, it still looked like it was minutes away from a photo shoot for House Beautiful magazine.

April 8. Stan was right to suggest that we visit my parents this weekend. It was obvious to us that Mom was approaching the end of her rope. With Dad away, she wasn’t sleeping well, and she was skipping meals. During the day, she spent most of her time at Cornerstone and then was distressed about not getting anything done at the house. She was also too tired to cook when she got home and had lost weight that she couldn’t afford to lose. During our short visit, I prepared six protein- and carbohydrate-rich single-serve casseroles for her to eat. I didn’t want her to get sick while Dad was in rehab.

badRehabCross2April 10. Dad had been the sole occupant of his semiprivate room and had been enjoying his privacy. Although the Cornerstone staff encouraged patients to visit some of the common areas, Dad had no interest in leaving the room except for physical therapy. Today the staff notified him that he would get a roommate on Friday, three days from now. Shortly after receiving this news, he started complaining in earnest about the facility. He didn’t like the therapists, and the room was too small. I agreed with him that the rooms were small, but the rehab stay was supposed to be short, and he could leave his room and spend time in the common areas. Nothing that I said about the facilities and the purpose of rehab seemed to sway his opinion. Dad now seemed to be more concerned about his accommodations and not about his rehabilitation mission.

Dad had his first post-op appointment with the orthopedic surgeon today, and my parents used the services of the Cornerstone bus to get to the clinic. The surgeon wasn’t there, but they met with his physician’s assistant (PA). She told my parents that she could order outpatient rehab for Dad (which he would receive twice each week) and that he could leave Cornerstone at any time.

badRehabCross7With the blessing of the surgeon’s PA, my parents decided to check out of Cornerstone before Dad’s roommate was admitted to the facility, and several days short of the recommended two-week stay. Mom assured me that she would help Dad with rehabilitation exercises on the days between physical therapy. The separation was taking a toll on Mom, Dad didn’t want a roommate, and they had decided that they didn’t think that the therapy was helping. I was opposed to their plan, but she said that it was their life, and she was right.

Mom had not eaten dinner last night, and I was relieved to hear that she ate one of the prepared single-serve casseroles tonight. I hoped that she would start taking better care of herself when Dad got home. On the other hand, Dad had been eating well, although it didn’t seem that Cornerstone had been serving him a renal diet.

At 9:45 P.M., I received a call from a Cornerstone employee. She had been trying to call Mom but it didn’t seem to her that the phone number was correct. After telling me the number that she had called, it was apparent that she had transposed a couple of the digits. When I asked her if there was a problem, she said that Dad had slid out of bed and was found on the floor. She went on to say that Dad had been uncooperative, but they helped him back into the bed and he seemed unhurt.

badRehabCross4After hanging up, I tried calling Dad at Cornerstone to get his side of the story and see how he was doing, but after the phone rang a few times, I decided to hang up. I didn’t want him to try to get to the phone if it happened to be out of his reach. I called Mom, and she was breathless when she answered the phone saying, “Melody, is it Dad?” The ringing phone had awakened her, but by the time she reached it, the caller had hung up. My call came moments later, and I told her about the call from Cornerstone. Mom said that the incident surprised her, saying that he had been out of bed before to use the bathroom. This incident only heightened my concern about Dad coming home early.

April 11. My parents’ next-door neighbor, Jo, and her caregiver arrived at Cornerstone this morning to help get my father home. My parents called these two women angels, and they were. Mom had not called them; I didn’t know how they knew that Dad was leaving, and I don’t know how Mom would have been able to transfer Dad into the car and then transfer him out of the car and into the house. My parents didn’t have a wheelchair yet, so their friend used an office chair to get Dad into the house from the car.

A representative from American HomePatient, the provider for the wheelchair, called me today. She was trying to call my parents, but their records had my parents’ former phone number, which had changed after my parents returned the last rental wheelchair to American HomePatient.

badRehabCross2When I called my parents’ home, Dad answered the phone and told me that Mom was at WalMart. She was shopping for medical supplies that she would need to care for Dad. During our conversation, he told me that he would start receiving physical therapy on April 23, 12 days from now. This news worried me, which seemed to be my default state these days. When I expressed my extreme concern about such a long gap in his therapy, he said that he and Mom were just old people trying to get by the best that they could. So now, in addition to being worried, I was also feeling guilty for questioning all of their decisions.

 

So far, so good at the rehab facility

March 30, 2018. After spending most of the week with my parents, I was now back home in Houston so that I could spend the Easter weekend with my husband. I was pleased to learn that Dad had received physical therapy today. He had not received physical therapy every day at the hospital, so I hadn’t assumed that he would have therapy today. In the hospital, physical therapists didn’t work on the weekends, and I didn’t know if physical therapists worked on the weekends at the Cornerstone rehab facility. Having therapy today lessened the potential gap in his treatment. To ensure that Dad would reach his physical therapy goals in the targeted time, he needed frequent sessions. Significant gaps between sessions could slow his progress or cause him to regress. My parents and I were intent on Dad being able to safely leave Cornerstone within two weeks.

goodRehabCross1Shortly before 11:00 A.M., the case manager called me from Scott & White Hospital to tell me that Dad was still in the hospital but would be transferred to Cornerstone later today. She said that she had tried to reach my mother, but no one answered the phone. I told her that I was in Houston, but my mother was with my father at the hospital and that she could speak to both of my parents by going to his room. I was a bit surprised that she had not tried Dad’s room first. Even if my mother hadn’t been there, Dad would have appreciated knowing the details of his transfer.

Later today turned out to be noon, just an hour after she called me. The previous occupant of Dad’s semiprivate room had already been discharged, so Dad had the room to himself. I hoped that he would have a private room for a few days. He didn’t receive any physical therapy during the afternoon, so I was thankful that he had received therapy this morning at the hospital.

When Mom called me a little after 5:30 P.M., she told me that the day had gone very well and that Dad was determined to be fit enough to go home in five days. Mom’s enthusiasm and optimism about today’s events rubbed off on me, and I had a good feeling about Dad’s prospects.

goodRehabCross5March 31. I wasn’t sure what time Mom planned to leave home this morning for Cornerstone, so I called her mobile phone, hoping that she might have it with her. Mom usually kept her phone in her purse and had a difficult time answering it before the call was transferred to voicemail. I knew that Dad kept his phone on the bedside table, so when there was no answer, I tried his mobile phone number. As I had expected, Mom answered Dad’s phone.

I could hear a lot of background noise during the call, and Mom said that Dad’s room was a hubbub of activity. The occupational therapist and an aide were getting Dad ready to take him to the shower, which was located down the hall. Because of all of the distractions, I told her that I would call her later this afternoon.

goodRehabCross2When I called Mom at 5:30 P.M., she gushed praises about the physical therapist. Mom said that the therapist was kind but firm and that she did a great job with Dad. After spending an hour in physical therapy, my exhausted father returned to his room. I don’t know how much time he spent with the occupational therapist this morning, but if every day was like today, Dad just might be ready to leave in less than a week. I was very pleased that the residents of Cornerstone received therapy on Saturdays. Because tomorrow was Sunday and a holiday, I didn’t think that he’d receive therapy, but at least he would have only a one-day gap in his treatment.

April 1. Today was Easter Sunday, and I called Dad’s mobile phone as soon as I returned home from church. After four rings, the call went to voicemail. I called again with the same result. On my third attempt, I received a text from him, which had to have been the result of some fumbled fingers because he does not text. Now that I knew that he was there and most likely was holding his phone, I called again, and this time he answered. We talked for almost 25 minutes. He was in a great mood. He said that Mom had been there for a couple of hours before she went to church. The Cornerstone staff had delivered bags of Easter candy to the residents, and he proceeded to itemize the contents of his bag during our call. When he found the six-inch Hershey bar, he said that he would start with it. While we were talking, a caregiver arrived with his meds. He told her that he was on the phone and would take the pills later. In jest, I told him to take the pills with his candy.

After all of the effort that it took to convince him to enter this facility, I was thrilled with his positive attitude and good mood. We had a great talk, but when his lunch arrived, he was done with me. Evidently, Cornerstone’s food was pretty good too.

goodRehabCross3Mom called me a couple of hours later from Dad’s room. Dad was in physical therapy, and because my parents’ neighbors said that they might visit this afternoon, she remained in Dad’s room during his session. While Mom and I were talking, an aide wheeled Dad into his room. I was thrilled that he had had therapy on a Sunday, and Easter Sunday at that. At the end of our call, I was feeling good about this facility and Dad’s care. It seemed that his stay at the Cornerstone facility was going to exceed my wildest expectations.

 

 

Maybe rehab won’t be so bad after all

March 29, 2018. Mom left home for the hospital shortly after 8:30 AM., and I followed her in my car about 15 minutes later. By the time that Mom arrived at Dad’s room, he had been visited by Mike (today’s physical therapist) and a nephrologist. According to Dad, Mike had had him walk around the bed. He seemed to like Mike and was eager to have another session with him.

When I arrived, Dad was finishing his breakfast of hot cereal, pancakes, eggs, and a few cups of apple juice. Dad looked much better today and had a healthy appetite. He was still a little confused about the dreams and hallucinations that had occurred during the night, but he seemed to be in a good mood. Unlike Dad’s previous surgeries, I had been able to warn him about the potential for hallucinations and confusion after this surgery. yoRehabCatI was encouraged that he shared his events with me so that we could sort out what was real. During the day, he asked me about a cat that was sitting in the corner of the room. Although it seemed real to him, he believed me when I told him that there was no cat in the room, although he could still see it.

noRehabCross3The morning’s happy mood took a nose dive when Alisa, the nurse, tried to give him a doxycycline capsule. He insisted that he would not take this pill because it had made him vomit. Alisha said that she would give him a Zofran for nausea to take with the antibiotic.  I reminded him that he had had problems with this antibiotic when he took it on an empty stomach, but he had just eaten breakfast. He eventually calmed down and agreed to take it, but I was not hopeful that he would take the second pill after dinner.

Sara, today’s physician’s assistant, stopped by at 10:15 A.M. to tell Mom and me that Dad could be discharged to Cornerstone as early as today. Mom told her that we wanted to meet with a Cornerstone representative and tour the facility before Dad was discharged. Sara thought that our request was reasonable and would relay our request to the case manager. When I asked her if we were responsible for Dad’s meds, she said that the hospital would send Dad’s list of medications to Cornerstone and that they would obtain them through their pharmacy.

yoRehabCross1At 10:30 A.M., I went to the cafeteria to get some coffee for Mom and me. When I returned, Dad was in the bathroom. Being able to get out of bed to use the bathroom was a significant and welcome milestone after hip surgery. With his movement at glacial-speed, the short trip took quite a bit of time, but Carrie, the aide, eventually got him back into the bed at 11:10 A.M. After watching the process that was required to get Dad from the bathroom to the bed, Mom was convinced that we had made the right decision to have Dad discharged to a rehab facility. Dad had insisted that he could have out-patient therapy, but Mom and I together could not have safely transferred him from home to the rehab facility.

Shortly after Dad was settled back into his bed, Dr. Bolanos and Dr. Duran, the nephrologist, and her entourage arrived. Dr. Duran said that Dad’s kidneys were back to where they were before this surgery, whatever that meant. Dad hadn’t seen a nephrologist or had a blood test since early December, so I wasn’t convinced that his kidneys had been in great shape when he entered the hospital. I knew several of the Scott & White nephrologists and was disappointed that one of them was not working at the hospital this week.

When the nephrologists left, Dr. Bolanos spoke with Dad again about rehab, and he was still very resistant to her recommendation and dismissed her reasons why he should have in-patient therapy, insisting that Mom needed him at home. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to change his mind, she left the room.

yoRehabCross1After the doctor left, Dad started talking about how he wanted to extend his hospital stay so that he could get the physical therapy here that he needed before he went home. I explained to him that his insurance didn’t allow patients to extend their hospital stays for physical therapy. I also reminded him that hospitals were germy places and that he didn’t want to stay any longer than necessary. I added that the hospital wanted to discharge him either this afternoon or tomorrow morning and that there was no way that Mom could take care of him. Because Mom seemed to be Dad’s primary concern and his stated reason for not going to rehab, I had told her that it was up to her to convince him to go to rehab. When she started telling him about her appointment at Cornerstone this afternoon, I excused myself and went to the waiting room so that they could talk in private.

Shortly after I returned to his room at 11:45 A.M., Brenda, the occupational therapist, and Carrie, the aide, arrived for a therapy session with Dad. The goal of an occupational therapist is to prepare the patient to become independent in the job of daily living, and today she wanted to get him into the bathroom. Brenda and Carrie had him practice sitting on and standing up from the commode. She also had him stand at the sink and brush his teeth.

yoRehabCross2During Dad’s therapy session, Mom told me that he had agreed to go to Cornerstone and complete his therapy as fast as he could. The doctor and therapists had estimated that he would require two weeks, but he planned to be ready to come home in half that time. I was thankful and encouraged by his change in attitude. I left the room to find Dr. Bolanos to let her know that we were all on board with his rehab plan at Cornerstone.

I needed to return to Houston today, but Mom wanted me to join her for her appointment with Marie at Cornerstone. Because we wanted to spend as much time with Dad as possible, I picked up a soggy sandwich from the cafeteria for us to split and eat in Dad’s room. At 1:00 P.M., I woke Dad from a nap to tell him goodbye. It was a good goodbye, and I felt optimistic about his prospects. Mom and I left the hospital together and drove in separate cars to Cornerstone for our 1:30 P.M. appointment. After Mom signed a huge stack of papers, Marie provided us with a tour of the facility that ended at what would be Dad’s semi-private room. The current occupant was due to be discharged tomorrow morning, which meant that Dad would have the room to himself for some time. Everybody was very nice, and it seemed like a nice place. I hoped that Dad would do well here.

yoRehabCross2After our meeting, Mom returned to the hospital and I drove to my parents’ home, where I worked for another hour before driving to my home in Houston. Five days ago, Mom called me with news of Dad’s fall. Because of his severe osteoporosis, I feared the worst for him. With Dad seeming to be inspired to get back on his feet, I now felt optimism that I hadn’t thought possible.

They say that he has to go to rehab, but he says No.

March 27, 2018. Because I was concerned about how Dad fared during his first night after surgery, I didn’t sleep well and woke up just before 2:00 A.M. I hoped that he had slept well and that he had not tried to get out of bed during the night. Mom and I didn’t have much of an opportunity to visit with Dad yesterday after his surgery, but I had warned him that he might experience some confusion after his surgery. I knew that I would be spending a few hours at the hospital today, so I set up my computer shortly before 5:00 A.M. and worked for about four hours. Thirty minutes later, Mom and I arrived at the hospital.

noRehabCross3When we entered Dad’s room, we found that a nurse and a couple of nursing students were turning Dad in his bed. Until patients can get out of the bed, they must be turned every few hours so that they don’t develop bed sores. After Dad was resituated in his bed, Dr. Bolanos entered the room. Within moments, the two of them were arguing about Dad’s antibiotic suppressant drug. He insisted that the doxycycline gave him an upset stomach and that he hadn’t taken the pill in six months. She suggested that he take the antibiotic with food or with Zofran, which would prevent any nausea. He agreed but said that he would take only one pill a day and not the prescribed two pills. Fortunately, she avoided the subject of rehab during this visit.

Although Dr. Bolanos had steered clear of the contentious subject of rehab, Kim, the physician’s assistant, took the bull by the horns when she stopped by Dad’s room. While she was there, she described the different types of physical therapy available to patients and the patient requirements for each option. For Dad, she reinforced Dr. Bolanos’s recommendation for in-patient therapy at a rehab facility. As before, Dad insisted that he had to go home and take care of his garden and wife.

Dad_ot-paintShortly after lunch, Amy, the occupational therapist arrived and had Dad stand with the walker. Before Amy left the room, Brooke and Lisa, the physical therapist and her assistant, arrived. They had Dad stand up and sit down and then sit in a chair. While he was enjoying being out of bed, Pastor Tom entered the room. While Tom was there, he spoke of the many benefits of rehab. The pastors in that church always seemed to answer my prayers. Before Tom left, he urged Dad to get well quick because he needed a Christian in the church, which was a running joke between them. Tom had a very busy schedule this week, and Mom and I greatly appreciated his taking the time for a visit.

At 3:00 P.M. I returned to the house so that I could get in a couple more hours of work. I was feeling the effects of my sleepless night and drank coffee to keep myself awake until 5:00 P.M., which was when I logged off for the day. While I was working, my parents’ neighbor, Jane, dropped off a Cobb salad that she had purchased for us while she was in Austin. Mom and I devoured this much-appreciated gift for dinner.

March 28. Dr. Bolanos stopped us in the hall as we approached Dad’s room. She told us that Dad was very confused. He thought that he was at home and he was also having hallucinations. Also, during the night, he had gotten out of bed, and the nurses had found him on the floor when they responded to the bed alarm. To help prevent him from injuring himself, they exchanged his bed for one that could be lowered within inches of the floor. As if this news wasn’t enough, she added that Dad was argumentative and was still fighting the notion of going to rehab.

noRehabCross1When we entered Dad’s room, we encountered chaos. Dad was eating breakfast and arguing with Alisha, an aide who was trying to take his blood pressure, which was required before he could have his morning meds. He insisted that he would not take the meds, and wanted her to leave. Steve, the electrical technician, was also in the room, trying to repair a problem with a spastic call light and oversensitive bed alarm. It didn’t help matters any that Steve and a nurse were discussing the problems with the system.

I asked Alisha if she could leave so that Dad could finish his breakfast, and she agreed to come back later. As soon as she left the room, another woman entered the room. She introduced herself as Lisa, the nurse manager, and asked if we were having problems. I told her that the room had been like a sea of chaos when we arrived, which was not helping my father’s anesthesia-induced confusion or his mood. She took control of the situation and orchestrated the activities of the nurses, aides, and Steve until a relative calm settled over the room. The only challenge, which remained for a few hours, was the bed alarm and call light. Dad’s new bed did not have a built-in bed alarm and an attached call light. The nurses were using a chair alarm and the rigged-up system was somewhat faulty. I finally had Steve turn off the maddening bed alarm, promising to have the nurse turn it on when Mom and I left.

noRehabCross2Adding to the parade of people who dropped by was the case manager, who asked whether she should start looking for a rehab facility for Dad. Dad didn’t hear her question, and I quickly ushered her out of the room. Rehab was still a touchy subject, and I didn’t want us to launch into another argument in front of the case manager. I returned to the room and told Mom that she needed to see the case manager in the hall. While Mom was gone, she signed the appropriate paperwork to set the discharge process in motion. While Dad had been in surgery, I had asked Pastor Tom about Cornerstone, and he said that he thought (based on his visits to many rehab facilities) that it seemed like a good facility. We hoped that Cornerstone, which was within a couple of miles from my parents’ home, could accommodate Dad.

Mom and I had hoped to be with Dad during his next physical therapy session, but we hadn’t heard anything about today’s schedule. To ensure that we didn’t miss the session, I went to the cafeteria to buy lunch for Mom and me. While Dad enjoyed a lunch of pork chops, Mom and I ate yogurt and fruit. Dad admitted that his lunch was pretty good, which was practically an enthusiastic endorsement of the hospital food. We finally asked the nurse about Dad’s schedule, but she said that there was nothing on his chart today about him having physical therapy. With that disappointing news, Mom drove me back to the house so that I could get back to work.

noRehabCross3Shortly after Mom returned to the hospital, Pastor Tom returned for another visit. Tom told Dad how rehab had made a difference in his recovery when he broke his ankle after jumping from a plane while he was in the army. Although Tom’s words probably fell on deaf ears, I felt like we should have baked Tom a pie for trying to sell Dad on the notion of a rehab facility.

Shortly before I logged off from work, I answered a phone call from Cornerstone. Marie was calling to inform us that Dad had been accepted and that she wanted to make an appointment with Mom so that they could finalize the arrangements for his two-week stay.

Now, all we had to do was get Dad to agree to the transfer from the hospital to the Cornerstone facility.

 

Back at Scott & White Hospital. Oh, joy.

carCross1March 25, 2018. After last night’s disturbing phone call from Mom about Dad’s fall, I wanted to get an early start to Temple so that I could be there during Dad’s surgery. I was up by 5:30 A.M., called Mom 45 minutes later to let her know that I was coming, and left home at 7:40 A.M. Because of my early departure, and some good highway luck, I arrived at my parents’ home at 10:15 A.M. I quickly unpacked my car, drove to Scott & White Hospital, and made my way to room 566 in the south tower.

I had just missed the surgeon, who had stopped by to tell my parents that barring any emergency surgeries, Dad’s surgery was scheduled for that afternoon at 1:20 P.M. Shortly after I arrived, Dr. Karla Bolanos, Dad’s attending physician for the week, stopped by to visit with Dad. Dad was very charming and witty, giving her the impression that he was a cooperative patient. At this stage of the process, he actually was very cooperative because he had no idea what was in store for him.

noRehabThe doctor said that Dad would have his first physical therapy session and evaluation the day after his surgery. Following the surgery, he would remain in the hospital for 2-3 days and then move to a rehab facility for two weeks of rehab. It was at this point in the conversation that Dad balked and said that this plan didn’t work for him. He had no intention of going to rehab; he was needed at home. Unfortunately, Mom seemed to agree with Dad. In an attempt to sell my parents on the notion of rehab, I related the story of their friend Sally and her experience with rehab after her hip-replacement surgery, but my parents were not swayed.

Shortly after Dr. Bolanos left us, I left the room to call Stan and my friend Rhoda, both of whom wanted an update on Dad’s condition. On the way to the lobby, I saw the doctor at the nurse’s station and spoke with her about Dad’s diuretics, his swollen legs, and I requested that she order an infectious diseases specialist to check Dad to see if he still needed the antibiotics to suppress infection in his lungs. She appreciated knowing about the diuretics but said that Dad would need to take suppression antibiotics for the rest of his life. Furthermore, she said that he needed the antibiotics because of his new heart valve. It seemed to me that he needed the antibiotics for a couple of good reasons. Because antibiotics can affect the kidneys, I had hoped that he could quit taking them, but the doctor dashed that hope.

pegOutCross1When I finished making my phone calls, I returned to Dad’s room. Dr. Bolanos returned to the room a few minutes later and told us that they had noticed a spot on Dad’s heart that looked like a clot. Before they could operate on Dad’s hip, they would need to run some tests, which were scheduled for tomorrow. By now it was 12:30 P.M., and Mom and I were hungry and decided that we would leave Dad for an hour and go home for lunch. When we returned to Dad’s room, because his surgery was rescheduled for tomorrow, his NPO restriction had been lifted, and he was eating lunch and complaining about the food. Some things never changed.

At 3:30 P.M., an imaging tech arrived with an ultrasound machine to scan Dad’s legs for blood clots. She couldn’t tell us anything, and we assumed that we’d hear something soon from the doctor.

Shortly before 5:00 P.M., Mom and I left the hospital for home, having not seen any medical providers after the imaging tech left the room.

March 26. Mom and I arrived at Dad’s room shortly after 9:00 A.M. Dad said that he had been told that his surgery was scheduled for 1:20 P.M. Dr. Bolanos stopped by the room and told us that Dad was scheduled for a VQ scan at 10:30 A.M. I had never heard of a VQ scan, but I learned that it evaluates the circulation of air and blood within a patient’s lungs. The transportation tech arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled time and transported Dad to the procedure location. Not knowing how long he would be gone, Mom and I started getting antsy when he hadn’t returned by noon—especially because he was scheduled for surgery at 1:20 P.M. We didn’t want the surgery rescheduled for tomorrow. We also didn’t want to leave the room for lunch and risk missing the doctor.

ouchCross4Dad was returned to his room at 12:15 P.M., and a couple of minutes later, we were told that he was still scheduled for surgery today. Less than 30 minutes later, another transportation tech arrived to take Dad to the OR prep area. Mom and I were both allowed to accompany him. Dad wasn’t in favor of my coming, but I wanted to speak with the anesthesiologist. Dr. Daniel Stahl, the surgeon, stopped by to tell us about the surgery. He said that Dad would need three pins and that unless they found something different from what they had seen on the x-rays, the procedure should take less than two hours.

I told the anesthesiologist that following Dad’s previous two surgeries, he had had a heck of a time dealing with the anesthesia. For three to four days, he had been very confused and had had hallucinations of animals, insects, and water in the room. The anesthesiologist said that he had Dad for his second surgery in May 2015. He said that if this surgery lasted no more than 90 minutes, he could use a spinal tap. Dad would be aware of what was happening, but he wouldn’t have any pain, and he would not suffer the after-effects of the anesthesia. He said that he would confer with the surgeon and try using a spinal tap if we agreed that was the route that we wanted to take. He thanked me for the update on Dad’s history, and Mom and I hoped that we had found a solution to Dad’s post-op dramas. While we were speaking with the anesthesiologist, the nurses were having a heck of a time finding a vein so that they could type and screen Dad’s blood.

anotherFallCross1When the nurses had finished drawing Dad’s blood, Mom and I made our way to the OR waiting room. After waiting for about an hour in the freezing-cold room, we were pleasantly surprised to see Tom, my parents’ pastor. I don’t know how he found us, but pastors seem to know their way around hospitals. We had a nice visit with him, and during our discussion, I mentioned my concern about Dad’s reluctance to go to rehab. I hoped that Pastor Tom would be able to have a guy-to-guy talk with Dad sometime before he was discharged from the hospital. After talking with Mom, I learned that part of her reluctance to send Dad to rehab was because of the promise that my parents had made years ago to not put the other in a nursing home. I explained to her that he would be admitted to the temporary resident section of the skilled nursing facility, not the permanent resident section, commonly referred to as a nursing home. I think that she felt somewhat better about rehab after our discussion.

Just a few minutes after Pastor Tom left us, the surgeon arrived to tell us that the surgery had gone well. Unfortunately, because of Dad’s spinal compression, the anesthesiologist was not able to use a spinal tap and had to use a general anesthetic after all.

Oh, joy.

 

Tap dancing along the slippery slope to recovery

Before Dad’s hospitalization, his organs had been in pretty good working order. However, the aspiration and sepsis events impacted his kidneys, which resulted in his dependence on dialysis. To say that my father hated dialysis is an understatement. He hated the inconvenience of it, how it interfered with his ability to travel, and how much it tired him. In addition to the four-hour sessions that impacted his daily life, he also had issues with the dialysis center. Although the place was spacious and had nice dialysis beds, Dad’s opinion of the facility changed drastically when he moved from being a dialysis catheter patient to a fistula patient.

tappingCross1Because of the potential for infection, only RNs can work with dialysis catheter patients. However, techs are trained to hook up dialysis patients who have fistulas. My father quickly learned that not all techs are created equal. Dad had a problem with bleeding, which could be reduced or avoided if the tech took care when removing the needles at the end of the session. A couple of careless techs caused bleeding that the nurses at the dialysis center could not stop within 60 minutes, which was their threshold for calling 911. As you might expect, going to the emergency room significantly increased the time required to solve the problem. During one of Dad’s trips to the ER, the paramedics stopped the bleeding during the two-mile trip to the hospital, but because of their protocol, they still had to take him into the ER, and blood was drawn as part of the normal procedure (ironically, to ensure that he had not lost too much blood). If that wasn’t enough, my parents paid a $200 co-pay for the privilege of visiting the ER.

I generally heard repeated versions of Dad’s war stories during each phone call and visit to my parents’ house. I inherited many of Dad’s unfortunate circulatory traits, so I’m pretty sure the bleeding episodes would have also left me cold, if not bitter. It didn’t help that the decorum of the techs seemed a bit unprofessional and cavalier, and sometimes inappropriate. During my few visits to the dialysis center, I wondered if similar behavior by some of the techs might warrant a call to the Human Resources department.

tappingCross3Several years earlier, my mother had been the president of the Colorado Mesa University (CMU) foundation. Their annual meeting was scheduled for November 2017, and past presidents usually attended this meeting. Dad wanted Mom to attend, and he wanted to accompany her, which meant that he would need dialysis during their trip. CMU is located in Grand Junction, Colorado. Although Grand Junction and Temple are similar in size and population, I suspected that Grand Junction would not have a dialysis center that could match Temple’s. According to my parents, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Although it fell short in square footage, it whomped the Temple facility in the professionalism of its staff. When Dad asked one of their techs why they didn’t have chairs, she replied that she wouldn’t have had time to sit even if they had chairs. This environment contrasted sharply with that of the Temple facility.

I wasn’t surprised when Dad started needling Dr. Issac, his nephrologist, to test him to see if he still needed dialysis. Unlike most of the dialysis patients, Dad often had only the minimum amount of fluid removed during his dialysis session. Although Dad’s tests showed that he still required dialysis, Dad was able to convince Dr. Issac to reduce the time from 4 hours to 3-1/2 hours. Dad eventually got the doctor to reduce the time to 3 hours, which enabled him to get home before 11:00 A.M.

tappingCross2Because Dad received co-pay bills for physician visits to the dialysis center, he decided to take advantage of his VA benefits. Temple is near Fort Hood and has a large VA facility not far from my parents’ home. During Dad’s first visit to the VA’s nephrologist, that doctor allegedly told Dad that he didn’t think that Dad needed dialysis, which alarmed me. Dr. Issac had been treating Dad for two years, and this VA doctor had seen Dad for 15 minutes.

Now that Dad was convinced that the local dialysis center was less than stellar, he despised it more than ever and embraced the comments of the VA doctor. Armed with these convenient comments from the VA doctor, Dad was able to convince Dr. Issac to run another series of tests to check Dad’s need for dialysis. When reviewing the test results with Dad, Dr. Isaac said that Dad’s condition was borderline, and suggested that nephrology personnel closely follow Dad while he took diuretics. If the trial of diuretics worked, Dr. Issac would remove Dad from dialysis.

tappingBar

For all intents and purposes, Dad had approximately three liters of fluid removed each week, which would still need to be removed. With my parents’ blessing, Dr. Issac called me to ensure that I understood his plan so that I would be knowledgeable enough to discuss the process with my parents. In short, the doctor wanted Dad to go to the dialysis center once a week for blood work, weigh-in, and blood pressure check to see how well the diuretics handled Dad’s excess fluid. Dr. Issac prescribed that Dad take three tablets daily. I don’t know what Dad expected, but the diuretic had an immediate effect. Dad said that there was no way that he would take three pills a day. As a matter of fact, he said that he might take only one pill a week.

tappingCross1Dad went to the dialysis center on December 11 for his first weekly checkup, and according to my parents, the results were fine. When the nurse tried to schedule another appointment for December 20, Dad said that he would not see any doctors during the Christmas holiday. I was disappointed because I had wanted to accompany him (and the doctor wanted me to accompany Dad) on this appointment. While I was visiting my parents during the Christmas holiday, someone from the Scott & White dialysis center called the house and scheduled a follow-up appointment for Dad on January 26, 2018. I was concerned about the significant interval between visits and the lack of supervision during this test, especially now that Dad was taking the diuretics on a haphazard basis.

On January 21, 2018, I emailed Dr. Issac and updated him on what my father had and had not been doing. I asked if he could revisit Dad’s prescription during Dad’s January 26 appointment so that Dad might be more inclined to take the pills. I wasn’t expecting a response from Dr. Issac, so I didn’t log on to Dad’s MyChart account to see if the doctor had replied.

tappingCross2Unfortunately, the doctor did reply to my email the next day stating that Dad did not have any appointments scheduled with physicians at Scott & White, and then he asked me who Dad was seeing. My parents learned about the non-existent appointment when they showed up at the dialysis center on January 26. They were so mad that they vowed never to return to the dialysis center or see Dr. Issac. I was also very upset, but for different reasons. Not only did I respect and like Dr. Issac, but it had also now been more than a month since Dad had started self-medicating without the knowledge of a physician. Worse still, the more that I encouraged him to take the pills, the more that he dug in his heels to do as he pleased. The more that he resisted taking the prescribed drugs, the more I worried that he was dancing too close to the edge.