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.
When 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.
July 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.
July 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.
When 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.
August 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.
August 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.
When 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.