Replacing the crumbled hip

August 21, 2018. Once again, Dad objected to my plan to come to Temple to sit with my mother in the surgery waiting room. I told him that I had to be there for Mom, but truth be told, if something went wrong, I’d never forgive myself later for not having been there to give him a hug and kiss before his surgery.

I had a full schedule today and didn’t leave Houston until 7:15 P.M. Houston traffic was still a bear, and I was thankful that I was able to bypass most of it with my EZ Tag toll tag.

I didn’t arrive at my parents’ home until after 10:00 P.M. I had a house key, but Mom had insisted that she would wait up for me until I arrived. As I expected, Dad had been in bed since 8:00 P.M. and was asleep when I arrived. Mom told me that we would be getting up very early tomorrow because Dad had to be at the hospital by 5:30 A.M. for his 7:30 A.M. surgery. At least one of us would be well rested.

hip4August 22. We all woke up earlier than necessary, and we were ready and in the car by 5:00 A.M. Needless to say, the streets of Temple were all but deserted at that time, and we were in the day surgery waiting room by 5:15 A.M. Dad’s name was called a few minutes later, and we rode the elevator to the second floor and located our surgical bay. We were greeted by Richard, one of Dad’s nurses, who handed Dad his surgical wardrobe. While Mom helped Dad to change into his surgical attire, I waited outside of the bay curtain.

After Dad had donned his surgical gown and cap and was situated on the gurney, Allison started his IV. Shortly after 7:00 A.M., the anesthesiologist arrived to address any questions that we might have. I mentioned our experiences of Dad’s challenges with extreme confusion following surgery. His not-so-comforting response was that as we age, anesthesia becomes more problematic, so today would be no better (and could be worse) than Dad’s surgery in March.

hip1Moments after the anesthesiologist left, Dr. Daniel Stahl, the orthopedic surgeon arrived. He described the surgical procedure, and while talking, he lifted the portion of the sheet that covered Dad’s legs. Dr. Stahl seemed somewhat alarmed when he saw the many sores on Dad’s legs. The doctor then told us that because of Dad’s age, his kidney issues, and the sores on his legs, the hip-replacement surgery was very risky. When he offered Dad a chance to cancel the surgery, Dad said that it was too late to back out now, to which the surgeon replied that until he made the incision, it was not too late to back out. I asked the doctor why he didn’t perform the hip replacement surgery in March. Evidently, the earlier surgery of mending the hip with pins was a lot less invasive and often sufficed. I, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling great about more surgery and starting over with rehab.

After hearing from Dad that he wanted to proceed with the surgery, the doctor told Mom and me that he would meet with us after the surgery, and then he left. At 7:25 A.M., Shasta, another one of the OR nurses, wheeled Dad to the operating room. As Mom and I proceeded downstairs to the surgery waiting room, she was noticeably upset. She said that during the pre-op visit on Monday, she had not heard that the hip replacement would be a high-risk surgery for Dad.

While we waited, I mentioned to Mom that Dad would probably require rehab. She said that after their previous experience with Cornerstone, she didn’t want him to go to a rehab facility. I reminded her about how weak he was after the last surgery and that we should be open to rehab, even if we went someplace other than Cornerstone.

Dad’s surgery was over at 9:30 A.M, and the surgeon stopped by to speak with us a few minutes later. He said that Dad came through the surgery fine and explained a bit about the condition of the hip from the earlier surgery. When I asked if we would bring Dad home from the hospital, he said that Dad should go to rehab for a couple of weeks. Before he left, he told us that we would be notified when Dad was ready to leave recovery. After the doctor’s disturbing comments prior to surgery, Mom and I were very relieved and eager to see Dad.

hip2An hour later, Mom and I were becoming concerned that we hadn’t heard anything about Dad. We were also starting to turn blue from the temperature in the waiting room, which must have been set to 65 degrees. We had seen several people leave the waiting room to see their loved ones and we were curious about our long wait. When I approached the waiting-room clerk to check on Dad’s status, she told me that “they” would call her when he had a room. At 11:15 A.M., almost two hours after his surgery, his recovery nurse, Karly, called us to tell us that he was still in recovery because there were no available beds on the orthopedic floor. I gave Karly my mobile phone number and Mom and I went home for lunch and to change into warmer clothes.

About an hour later, Karly called and told me that a room on the orthopedic floor was being cleaned. When I asked her for the room number, she said that to avoid problems caused by last-minute changes, she could not give me the room number until he was in the room. At 1:15 P.M., as we were backing out of the garage, she called me again and told me that Dad was in room 546 South. We arrived at Dad’s room at 2:00 P.M., and Pastor Tom from my parents’ church entered the room about five minutes later. During his visit, he told us that quite a few of his church members had had hip replacements and recovered quickly. After a short visit and a prayer, Tom left at 2:15 P.M.

Dad’s nurse, Brittany, was very nice and spent a significant part of the day monitoring his vitals. His oxygen saturation level was low because he sometimes stopped breathing, but it eventually leveled out between 98 and 99%. She asked if he had any history of sleep apnea. We said that he didn’t, but I mentioned that we had seen similar breathing patterns after earlier surgeries.

hip3With Dad sleeping soundly, I was able to give the nurse an update on his meds. I also told her that he had a bit of fluid overload, and that his face was usually puffy in the morning, although the fluid usually dissipated by mid-morning. Unfortunately, as the day progressed his legs became swollen from sitting in the wheelchair all day. A couple of hours later, she said that Dad’s face seemed swollen from lying down all day, and she elevated his head.

Around 3:00 P.M., a millennial in red scrubs and many tattoos entered the room with a heart monitor, and hooked it up to Dad. When I asked her if she worked in the war room, she said yes. I had seen the war room employees in one of Dad’s earlier stays in the hospital and was relieved that his heart would be monitored. The color of employees’ scrubs identified their role at the hospital, and the red scrubs stood out among all of the others.

hip5Dad’s oxygen saturation and blood pressure levels looked good for most of the day, but his heart rate hovered around 109, which seemed high to me. When I asked Brittany about it, she said that as long as it wasn’t fluctuating between the 60s and 90s, he should be all right. She reminded me that because of his AFIB, he was being closely monitored by the heart team in the war room, and they would keep an eye on his heart rate.

Try as we might, Mom and I could not get Dad to open his eyes for more than two seconds, and he only grunted like a bear when we asked him questions. At 4:45 P.M., his condition had not changed, and we decided to go home for the day. Mom and I were sleep deprived, had been here for the better part of 12 hours, were starting to get hungry, and Dad would probably sleep for the remainder of the day.

hip1We were relieved that the surgery had seemed to go well and that his condition seemed stable. I didn’t know how well Dad’s new hip would work with all of his excess fluid. I hoped that he might have some dialysis during his stay, which I hoped might improve his mobility.

Because of his history of delirium and confusion caused by the anesthesia, the next three to four days would be important for him, and probably a little challenging for the three of us.

 

 

Is this fall number 5 or 6?

July 25. Dr. Ebert’s nurse called me today. She had repeatedly called my parents’ phone number but there had been no answer, and she was concerned that she might not have their current phone number. I confirmed that she had the correct phone number and suggested that she keep trying. About 30 minutes later, Dad called me to see if I had called him. Evidently, he had heard the phone, but my mother was away from home and he had not been able to answer it before it stopped ringing. I told him that the call was most likely from Dr. Ebert’s nurse. I couldn’t tell him why she was calling, but I was certain that she would attempt another call.

ouchCross4When I called Mom a couple of hours later, she told me that Dad had not walked or exercised since Stan and I had left on Sunday, three days ago. I suggested that she move Dad’s little step into the living room so it would be easier for him to access and perhaps use it. I didn’t think that it was a reasonable substitute for walking, but it was better than nothing. During our call, Mom told me that Dr. Ebert’s nurse had called to tell them that Dad’s November 20 nephrology appointment had been changed to Tuesday, July 31 (next week!), at 3:30 P.M. I was relieved that the appointment had been moved up because I didn’t think that Dad or his kidneys could wait four months to see a nephrologist. Also, with this schedule, I could do my volunteer shift at the wildlife center, drive to Temple for the appointment, and then come home on Wednesday in time for my shift in the cattery at the SPCA. Everybody wins.

fallGuyJuly 26. I called my parents’ home numerous times today, starting at 3:00 P.M. Finally, at 4:50 P.M., Mom answered the phone. I could hear Dad’s voice and a woman’s voice in the background, and Mom said that she would call me in five minutes.  When she called, she told me that Dad had fallen while trying to walk from the car into the barber shop. As they were coming home, neighbor Jo’s aide saw them and offered to help. She wheeled Dad into the house and started bandaging his bloody arms.

Upon hearing this news, I lost my cool. When we were in town this past weekend for Stan’s birthday, Mom mentioned that Dad needed a haircut. I told her to wait until we returned so that Stan and I could help get Dad into the inaccessible shop. Mom said that as soon as Dad fell, she could hear my words in her ears. I told her that she and Dad needed to reassess their living options, and she said that they would never live in a nursing home. I wished that they understood that they had options other than their large, unmanageable home or a nursing home.

Before I hung up, I told Mom to contact the orthopedic surgeon and schedule an X-ray to ascertain whether or not Dad had broken or rebroken any bones.

home4Cross3July 27. After spending a few hours away from home today, I logged on to Dad’s MyChart account and noticed that his Tuesday appointment with the nephrologist had been rescheduled to a date and time that I could not make. The change was required to accommodate a new appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. I called Mom to see if she would let me try to reschedule the nephrologist appointment to a more convenient time for me, and she agreed. I spent the next 30 minutes on the phone with a very patient woman who worked at the appointment desk at the dialysis center. I was able to reschedule the appointment with the nephrologist to Monday afternoon. It wasn’t the most convenient time, but I could make it work without missing any of my commitments or appointments in Houston.

July 29. After attending my church in Houston, I packed a small bag and drove to Temple. Traffic was better than I would have expected on a Sunday afternoon, but parts of US 290 still left me white knuckled. Although the seemingly 100-year construction project was nearing completion, some of the road conditions were still far from ideal.

gliderhairWhen I arrived at my parents’ home, Dad was sitting in a glider chair with his legs resting on an ottoman. It was the first time since his surgery in March that he had been able to get himself in this chair. In addition to it being much more comfortable than his wheelchair, having his feet elevated might help reduce the swelling in his legs. Unfortunately, while he was on the glider, he was watching the Texas Rangers beat the Houston Astros.

After dinner, the three of us played a game of Oh Hell, and Dad won.

July 30. Besides the afternoon appointment with the nephrologist, Dad had a 9:10 A.M. appointment with the lab. According to my parents, Dad seemed to be having weekly trips to the lab for blood draws. Each specialist ordered lab work that addressed only his or her area of specialty. With any luck, Dad wouldn’t need any more blood draws for a few weeks. After we returned home from the lab, Dad helped me assemble a canvas stretcher for an art project. Before we were finished, I had hauled at least six different tools from his workshop into the living room, but we had a good time working with the difficult stretchers.  After lunch, we all snoozed for a few minutes before going to the dialysis center to meet with Dr. Maaz Syed Ahmed, the nephrologist.

My parents had a little difficulty understanding him, but they liked this doctor. He encouraged Dad to keep taking one pill/day and to monitor his weight and blood pressure. Dad’s creatinine level was elevated above high normal, but the doctor didn’t think that that Dad’s level was alarmingly high. The doctor also did not recommend that Dad resume dialysis, but he provided the following guidelines:

  • Restrict fluid intake to less than 50 ounces per day.
  • Do not exceed 2,000 mg of sodium per day.
  • Schedule an appointment with a wound specialist to address the wounds on his legs.
  • Walk as much as possible, but when seated, keep his legs elevated.
  • To address any pain, take Tylenol. Do not take aspirin or Advil.

The doctor asked Dad to schedule a couple of follow-up appointments before we left the building. Dad now had another appointment in October with the nephrology PA and then in January with Dr. Ahmed. I hoped that Dad liked this doctor enough to follow his recommendations, which seemed to dovetail with Dr. Ebert’s advice on July 17.

As soon as we returned to their home, I packed up my car and drove back to Houston, arriving shortly before 7:00 P.M.

PenultimateFullSizeRenderAugust 3-5. After Stan arrived home from work, we drove to Temple and spent the weekend with my parents. Dad ignored my requests to walk with him and did not walk during the weekend. He and Stan built a higher step, which Dad was excited about using. I still didn’t think that the step was a reasonable substitute for walking, but Stan gave me a look that suggested that I not raise any objections. Dad had enjoyed working on this little project with Stan and felt that it would help him. For me to raise objections wouldn’t accomplish anything and would only irritate Dad.

As expected, we played Oh Hell Friday and Saturday nights.

August 7. Mom was not at home when I called today, so Dad and I had a chance to discuss her birthday dinner. She would be 91 in a couple of weeks, and Dad had assured Mom that I knew how to prepare her favorite food, chicken-fried steak. I had never fried a chicken, let alone steaks, and I was thankful that I had a membership with Omaha Steaks. I was pretty certain that they knew how to prepare chicken-fried steak. Because Mom loved balloons, I planned to get her some, and I also planned to have flowers in her honor delivered to the church for the August 19 services.

August 9. Dad accompanied Mom to the store today, but he stayed in the car. He had not been walking, but he had convinced himself that using the little step that he and Stan had made would be an adequate substitute for walking. Evidently, getting Dad from the house into the car was a real struggle, and it became clear to Mom that walking was important. She decided that Dad must start walking again and planned to broach the subject with him. I stressed to Mom that he needed to walk over the weekend so that he could get into the car on Monday for his physical therapy.

August 12. Dad didn’t walk today, but Mom said that she was able to help him transfer from his wheelchair into the glider chair (with ottoman). She said that he fell asleep as soon as he was situated. I was glad that he was out of his wheelchair and sitting with his legs elevated. I’m unable to watch television in these glider chairs because their soothing gliding action puts me to sleep within moments.

fallGuyAugust 13. Dad slipped or fell out of bed this morning while trying to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair. According to Mom, it took her about 30 minutes to get him up and into the wheelchair. This event marked the second time in the past couple of weeks that he had slipped to the floor. Getting Dad up and off of the floor exhausted Mom, which concerned me. Fortunately, he didn’t have a physical therapy appointment until 10:30 A.M., so they both had a little time to rest before they had to go to his physical therapy appointment with Christi. Shortly after PT started, Mom and Dad told Christi about his fall this morning. She stopped the therapy session and scheduled an appointment for Dad later in the day with the orthopedic surgeon’s PA. She said that she would consult with the surgeon and then call my parents to see if they should continue therapy. The therapist strongly suspected that Dad would require hip-replacement surgery. Ye gods.

August 15. My parents still hadn’t heard from the surgeon’s office, which meant that Dad was just sitting around without any physical therapy—regressing.

I was a little anxious about today’s activities. Tomorrow was Mom’s 91st birthday and her driver’s license would expire. The Temple DPS office was small, and when the 30 chairs inside were full, people had to wait outside in the 100-degree heat. Mom planned to go early to avoid the worst heat of the day, but I worried about her standing outside in the heat and sun. I also was worried that she might not get her license renewed, which would create an impossible situation for my parents. Until Dad was up and around, she was the only driver in the house.

badRehabCross1When I called Mom this evening, I was pleased to learn that she waited only 15 minutes outdoors and then another hour inside. Even better, her license was renewed. One hurdle down, numerous more to go.

August 16. Today was Mom’s 91st birthday. On this date 41 years ago, Elvis Presley died, and later today we learned that Aretha Franklin had died of pancreatic cancer. After Mom and I discussed the sad news of the day, she told me that someone from the surgeon’s office had called and scheduled a pre-op visit for Dad on Monday, August 20, followed by surgery on Wednesday. I just hated the thought of more surgery. It seemed to me that we were back to where we were on March 24 when Dad fell and broke his hip, and I dreaded the thought of another hospital stay.

 

Maybe enlisting the assistance of a physician would help

July 3, 2018: Independence Day fell on a Wednesday this year, but for Stan and me to celebrate the holiday with my parents in Temple, we had to have our celebration on the preceding weekend. Afterward, I had left their home with some concerns that I hoped Dad would address. However, when I called Mom today and asked her if Dad had taken a pill today, she said that he had not, and he was through taking them. When I asked her why, she said that Dad felt that he was making enough urine without the aid of the diuretics. I couldn’t believe that he was reneging on our agreement to take one pill every day. I understood that it was his life, but what he did also affected the rest of the family, especially Mom. I also wasn’t sure that he understood the possible consequences of his decision.

ouchCross4In desperation, or maybe out of frustration, I called my friend Sue, the dialysis nurse practitioner, to sanity-check my assumptions and fears. Unfortunately, all of my fears about what Dad was doing to his body were well founded. After sharing the highlights of my 30-minute conversation with Stan, he encouraged me to write a letter to Dad, outlining my concerns, describing Dad’s symptoms, and listing the probable consequences of his decision to quit taking the pills. I agreed, but because I felt that time was of the essence, I decided to email the letter to my parents and then tell them to read the message. In my perfect world, they would print it and refer to it often.

July 4: It was raining in Houston, and it rained most of the day. The media dubbed the rain event the Fourth of July flood.

I called Mom to see how they were faring and to tell them about our weather, but there was no answer. I waited a few minutes and then called again. This time my mother answered, but she seemed out of breath. It seemed that while Dad had been showering, he had fallen off of the shower chair. It’s not easy to fall off of a shower chair, but because of his fluid overload, his center of gravity was out of whack. He didn’t break any bones, but he dislodged a large scab on his elbow, causing his elbow to bleed profusely. I didn’t want to keep Mom too long from her cleanup activities, so I quickly told her that I had emailed her a letter for Dad. She said that she would be having a “talk” with Dad later today and she would print my letter and have it handy during their discussion.

ouchCross2When I called my parents again later in the day, it seemed that my parents had had a come-to-Jesus meeting. According to Mom, following their little talk, Dad took his pill and said that he would continue taking them. From her lips to God’s ear.

July 9. Dad saw the orthopedic surgeon today. He said that although Dad’s hip was healing, it was not completely healed. Considering that Dad had severe osteoporosis, I was thrilled that the doctor expected the hip to heal. Mom added that the doctor said that he thought that Dad’s leg seemed thinner; however, I had a hard time believing that he could recall the size of a patient’s leg that he saw a month earlier.

July 10. According to Mom, Dad was still taking his pills. Stan and I had been spending every other weekend at my parents’ place, but because of a work conflict, Stan would not be able to accompany me to Temple this coming weekend. When I relayed this information to Mom, she was very disappointed. I suspected that Dad was also disappointed. My father cared for Stan and always looked forward to seeing him. Stan also seemed to have a calming effect on my parents.

ouchCross1July 15. Mom and I usually attended church when Stan and I were in Temple. Because Stan wasn’t here, Mom thought long and hard about whether she should attend church and leave Dad home alone. She finally decided that we would go when Dad insisted that she and I attend church. Unfortunately, while we were gone, Dad tripped on one of the front wheels on the wheelchair when he tried to stand. He wasn’t badly hurt, but his fragile skin was quick to tear and bleed. When we returned home, Dad had a bloody leg and sock. Feeling guilty for having left him alone, Mom dug into her stash of bandages and tended to his leg.

When I asked him if he had taken his pill today, he became a bit miffed at me, telling me that he had a lot of things to do today and he didn’t want to take the pill. After telling him that I couldn’t think of anyplace that he needed to be, he eventually took a pill. My health discussion with Dad seemed to deflate his mood, and getting him to take his pills felt like a hollow victory.

goodRehabCross2Fortunately, he didn’t stay mad at me for long, and we spent quite a bit of time planning for his 90th birthday celebration on October 6. We were expecting one of my cousins and her family, and we needed menus for three days. Dad and I were partial to many of the same foods, and we developed menus that contained some of my favorite foods as well as his. Dad also wanted to play a few hands of Oh Hell during the festivities, and he drew a seating chart of how we would seat seven people around a table that accommodated six.

Mom told me that Dad had an appointment this coming Tuesday with his cardiologist, Dr. Elizabeth Ebert. I had met Dr. Ebert on several occasions, and I hoped that she would not mind if I contacted her about my father in advance of his appointment. I assumed that my parents would not tell her about his reluctance to take his pills, so I planned to send her a message via MyChart, Scott & White Hospital’s patient portal. I had been using this website to communicate with Dad’s physicians when he was at home on home care. His credentials were cached in my browser, which enabled me to periodically monitor his test results and correspond with his doctors.

July 16. I wrote the following email to Dr. Ebert and hoped that she would read it before Dad’s appointment the next day:

“Hi, Dr. Ebert.
I’ve been encouraging my father to see you. Dr. Issac (his nephrologist), said that he could try getting off of dialysis if he would take diuretics. My father has been taking them on a less-than-regular basis, and I am concerned about fluid overload and how it might be affecting his heart and lungs. He views the diuretics as an imposition that affects the quality of his life. He hasn’t seen any nephrologist since November 2017. My parents trust you, and I hope that you can have a frank discussion with them.

Thanks.
Melody Locke”

fastCross2July 17. When I spoke with Mom this evening, she said that Dad’s appointment with Dr. Ebert had gone well. While they were in the doctor’s office, she referred Dad to Dr. Concepcion, a senior nephrologist with Scott & White. I knew and liked Dr. Concepcion, but he spoke with a heavy accent, and I feared that my parents would have a difficult time understanding him. After our call, I told Stan about the upcoming appointment with the nephrologist, and he told me that I needed to go with them, and I agreed. When I logged on to Dad’s MyChart account, I was dismayed to learn that the appointment was scheduled for November 20, more than four months from now, and a year since his last appointment.

PenultimateFullSizeRenderJuly 22. Today was Stan’s birthday. We had arrived in Temple yesterday and celebrated the previous evening with some of his favorite Midwestern foods. He and Dad also spent some time playing cribbage. While Mom and I attended church today, the guys played more cribbage and took time out to build a mini step that Dad could use to exercise his legs while he was sitting. I was able to get Dad to walk twice this weekend. We now sing She’ll be “Comin’ Round the Mountain” when he walks. We could usually sing four verses before he had to stop and rest.

barberPoleDad said that he needed a haircut and would see the barber either this coming Wednesday or Thursday. Recalling the difficult time that Mom and I had getting him into the barbershop during a previous visit, I implored her to wait for a weekend when Stan and I could help get him into and out of the building. I didn’t get much of a response, but I hoped that Mom would recall the harrowing experience.

July 24. I logged on to Dad’s MyChart again today to see if Dr. Ebert had left any notes about Dad’s last appointment. I was pleased when I read the following message:

“RE: Visit Follow-Up Question

I spent a good bit of time last week with your father (and mother) in the clinic. I expressed how important it was to take his diuretic every single day. He did complain that it was an inconvenience and he did not feel that he should have to take it daily. I explained that with his kidneys, he needed to take the diuretics if he wished to stay off of dialysis. I told him that as long as he had 6 to max 8 hours, then the diuretics would have worn off. I told him that if his appointment was at 2 in the afternoon, then he should take his diuretic at 6 am; or if he had a 10 am appointment, to take his diuretic as soon as he got home. I also encouraged him to follow up with Nephrology. He informed me that he did not wish to go back to Dr. Issac, so I instructed him that he should see another Nephrologist. He requested a recommendation. While I do not know all of the Nephrology department, I reported that Dr. Concepcion is very good. Unfortunately, it appears that an appointment was not scheduled until November. Because of the delay, my office will be contacting him requesting that he do some lab work so we can see where everything is now (electrolytes, renal function, etc.). We are also going to get him an appointment with a nutritionist to discuss an appropriate diet (requested by your mom). If he continues to have some difficulty, then I will also request that he be seen by one of our Heart Failure nurse practitioners so that they can continue to monitor him and reinforce the need to take his medications.

Sincerely,
Dr. Ebert”

I hoped that Dad would heed her recommendations. I felt that with Dr. Ebert as an ally, Dad might start taking his pills on a regular basis and reduce some of the fluid in his extremities, which would improve his center of gravity and reduce the weight in his legs.

 

Chugging along the rickety tracks to rehabilitation

May 2, 2018. The month of May seemed to be getting off to a good start. According to Mom, she had been successful in getting Dad to walk a little around the house. My heart almost stopped when she told me that she also took Dad to his barber for a haircut. Although you can park in front of the barber shop, it’s not exactly an accessible trip from the parking lot into the shop. Had I known in advance about this excursion, I would have been a nervous wreck worrying that he might fall while negotiating the front walkway. I was glad that I didn’t learn about this outing until after the fact.

chugginCross3When I spoke to Mom on the following day, she told me that Dad had had a good day in physical therapy and that they both liked the new therapist.

I had been in Johnson City for a workshop and had planned to spend the night there. Because I felt like I was coming down with a cold, I decided to drive to my parents’ house tonight instead of tomorrow morning. I wasn’t happy to be visiting them when I was sick, but Mom was looking forward to seeing me that weekend, sick or not. I’d had to be vigilant with my hand washing to ensure that I didn’t spread my cold germs around their house.

May 11. Mom is a meat-and-potatoes gal from way back, so for Mother’s Day, I thought that I would serve her filet mignon. I purchased some nice steaks and side dishes from Omaha Steaks for our early Mother’s Day dinner tomorrow night.  Shortly after Stan got home from work, we drove to Temple for the weekend.

chugginCross1When we arrived, I told Dad that I had taken care of tomorrow night’s dinner. He then told me that he had already planned Mom’s dinner, which surprised me. For many years, we had had an understanding that Mother’s Day dinner was my responsibility, although we often discussed the menu and the logistics of the meal. Now that he was confined to a wheelchair, I had assumed that he would not be able to share in the dinner preparation. Because I wanted to grill the steaks, a task better done in the evening, we agreed to have the steaks for dinner on Saturday and the dinner that he had planned on Sunday for the midday meal.

May 13. While Mom and I attended church, our husbands played cribbage. Whenever we were in Temple, Dad did not take his diuretics, which concerned me. In addition to his not taking the pills, he didn’t seem to be following a renal diet or curtailing his sodium intake. Because any mention of pill, diet, or walking seemed to ignite an argument, I tried to limit vocalizing my concerns during this weekend.

Dad had told me that he would need my assistance with the preparation of today’s Mother’s Day meal, which was an understatement. Although he had planned a nice menu for Mom’s dinner, Mom and I ended up preparing the meal. In addition to shrimp cocktail, barbequed spare ribs, green beans, and twice-baked potatoes, Dad also planned on Mom’s strawberry pie and Jell-O salad. We had a full weekend of eating high-on-the-hog. Unfortunately, as I had suspected, Dad did not take any diuretics while we were there.

chugginCross2May 14—17. Dad attended physical therapy today and would do so again on Thursday, three days later. He didn’t get out of his wheelchair on the days between his sessions; however, he felt especially positive after his Thursday session and said that he was getting ready to get rid of the wheelchair. I was hopeful that he had changed his attitude about exercising between sessions and that he was becoming inspired to get better.

May 21. Because his physical therapist did not come to work today, Dad’s therapy session was canceled. Unfortunately, he didn’t take the initiative to walk around the house either. When Mom tried to get him to walk the next day, he said that he was too stiff to walk. If I had been sitting in a wheelchair for 12 hours a day, I’d be pretty stiff too. I hated that wheelchair.

chugginCross4May 24. I suspected that Dad didn’t have the greatest physical therapy session today. According to Mom, Steve, the physical therapist, lectured Dad about the need to exercise between his physical therapy sessions. I hoped that Dad would listen more to Steve than he did to me. Dad had been out of the rehab center and had been attending outpatient physical therapy since mid-April and I could not see much of an improvement in his mobility. If anything, it seemed to be getting worse.

May 26. I had not planned to go to Temple this weekend, but something in Mom’s voice during our last phone call prompted me to change my mind, and Stan agreed that I should go. When I arrived, Dad was in his wheelchair, trying on a pair of new shoes that had just arrived in the mail. The shoe size was larger than what he had been wearing, but he could not get them on his feet. I was appalled by the level of exertion that he expended trying to get the shoes on his feet. You would have thought that he had just finished the four-minute mile. When I later asked Mom if he had been taking his diuretic, she said that he had had not taken a pill in quite some time.

chugginCross3My parents had planned another trip to the barber later today. Instead of taking him in Mom’s LeBaron convertible, I decided to drive him in Stan’s new SUV. We were able to get Dad into Stan’s car, but the trip from the car to the barber chair was a bit harrowing, and we practically dragged Dad the last couple of feet and into the chair. Fortunately, because it was a holiday weekend, the barber didn’t have any customers and was able to assist us. More harrowing than the walk in from the car was the walk back to the car. Once again, the barber saved our bacon and was able to help us maneuver Dad back into the car. The barber and I could barely get Dad safely to and from the shop. There was no way that Mom would have been able to manage Dad without me. Because he had been able to negotiate the walk on May 2, it seemed that his condition was worsening. I couldn’t understand why Dad and his physical therapists were not alarmed.

I could tell that Mom was exhausted, and I was glad that I was there to help her. I also decided that I was going to help Dad to walk. He was able to walk 88 feet once today, but the next two times, he had to stop and rest for a moment at the halfway point.

chugginCross1I asked him if he had to stop because of pain (from the hip surgery) or because of exhaustion. He admitted that it was the latter. We proceeded to have a very civil and productive discussion about his condition. Not only was he easily exhausted, but he was showing signs of severe fluid overload. In addition to having swollen extremities, his legs were weeping fluid. I begged him to take the diuretics, and I told him that if he would, he would regain some of his strength and endurance. He promised me that he would start taking the pills on a daily basis.

The next morning he took his pill, and I left feeling more optimistic than I had in quite some time.

May 29. Dad had his assessment today during physical therapy and he was approved for another 30 days of therapy. Although this seemed like good news, it meant that he was not well. Also, his next appointment was not until June 7, which meant that he had a 9-day gap between therapy sessions.

According to Mom, Dad forgot to take his diuretic today.

chugginCross4June 18. According to Mom, Dad had been taking his diuretics on most days since I saw him on May 26. However, he found many reasons for not taking the pills, like trips to physical therapy. Today he didn’t take a pill because he spent a few hours at the dermatologist having a biopsy for skin cancer on his head.

Stan and I left Houston to spend a week in southern California with his family. While we were there, we also visited with some of my cousins. I wanted to call my parents every day, but the time difference posed some challenges; however, I was able to call them a few times. According to Mom, Dad was taking his diuretics as he had promised me. I was encouraged and looked forward to seeing a significant improvement when I returned to Temple at the end of the month. By that time, he would have been consistently taking the diuretics for three weeks. According to Mom, his legs had stopped seeping, so he was already on his way to reversing his dangerous fluid overload condition.

June 29. Stan and I arrived in Temple at 6:00 P.M. Instead of being pleased with Dad’s progress, it seemed to me that his progress had stalled. His legs weren’t seeping fluid, but his whole body still seemed very swollen. He also wasn’t wearing shoes because he couldn’t get them on his feet. When I asked Mom when he had last taken a pill, she said that she didn’t know.

I tried reasoning with him again about walking and taking the diuretics, but he lobbed excuses at me faster than Serena Williams. When I asked him to walk, he said that he didn’t want to at that time. When I asked if he wanted to get out of the wheelchair, he said, “Not if it means that I have to walk four times a day.”  I didn’t know how to respond. My mother was exhausted from trying to care for him, their 3,400 sq ft home, and their acre of property. I wanted him to get better and stay in their house if that’s what they wanted, but not at the expense of Mom’s health.

chugginCross2While Mom and I attended church on Sunday, July 1, Stan observed that Dad sometimes spontaneously drifted off to sleep while they were playing cards, which was also a symptom of fluid overload. He would sometimes fall asleep at the dining room table at the end of a meal.

I was appalled to learn that Dad wanted to install a ramp off of their patio, presumably to enable wheeling the barbeque grill onto the patio, but I suspected that it had more to do with wheelchair accessibility. He kept saying that he looked forward to activities that required him to walk, but it seemed that he was preparing the house for life ahead in that wheelchair. Mom told me that he wanted to walk again, but you couldn’t prove it by me.

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.