Monday, February 19, 2018

Bad Couple of Days

Not looking forward to this post, and I'm foregoing the usual T&A meme because I don't want to make light of it.

My wife never shakes me awake. She just calls out my name and I'll wake up eventually.

Only time she'd ever woke me up by shaking me was on 9/11.

Until Friday afternoon. I awoke to her shaking me, still groggy from a few hours of sleep, and said, "What?"

"Your dad's had a massive stroke!" she said in a panicked voice. "You have to get to the hospital now."

Quick backstory cuz I just searched, and I guess I never went into it, but about 10 years ago my dad had a heart attack. They had to do a quadruple bi-pass on him. When I went to the hospital to see him, it was insane how old and frail he suddenly looked.

He was taking something for his high blood pressure, but had stopped because when he smoked(which he wasn't supposed to be doing) it made him naturally he stopped taking the drug rather than stop the smoking.

Swore up and down he was done with smoking, that this was the wake up call, that he'd almost died and that was it.

Anyway, months later he took up the smoking again in secret, but if you're a non-smoker then you know how easy it is to tell when a smoker gets near you. He regained his strength and look for the most part, and you'd never know he had the heart attack.

Back to me waking up groggy. I throw clothes on and bolt to the emergency room--which luckily is the nearest hospital to me. I get there, get a visitor bracelet and head in and here's the fucked up part. I honestly don't remember who in my family was in the room with my dad at the time, or what was said, or anything.

Other than how my dad looked again. Not only old and frail, but the right part of his face sagged unnaturally, very disturbingly. A doctor or nurse or somebody asked him if he knew where he was, and gibberish came out. Like, actual words, but none of them made sense, and all with only half a mouth because the right side of his face just drooped.

(and my thought is along the lines, "Oh Jesus, he's like insanely smart, the smartest person I know, please don't tell me he's brain damaged now...")

They asked him the date. More nonsense. They asked him his name. More nonsense, and a desperate look in his eye because he couldn't say what he wanted to say. They started asking him if his name was Bob--he shook his head. Was his name Mary? He shook his head. Was his name Paul? He nodded.

At some point my memory comes back. They'd only let two of us in the room at a time, but it's not like you really wanted to stay there. He couldn't communicate with you, and it was hard to put on a brave face and smile.

I went out in the hall to talk with my sister in law, then found out the scoop from my younger brother.

My mom is out of town visiting my sisters in Wisconsin, and helping one of them out because they have a new baby.  My aunt--the one with cancer who's been living at the house for a couple years now while my dad basically takes care of her--she was admitted to the hospital a few days earlier because she's having pain and mind-addled issues.

That's a whole other story(and she's literally in the same hospital a few floors up from him when he's brought in. Someone went upstairs and told her, "Your brother in law had a massive stroke and is on the way to the hospital", and she says, "Can you tell him to bring my pajamas?"  And this is the fucked up part about how she's been since my parents took her in--we're not sure if she said that because her brain is addled, or that's just how self-obsessed she is)

Friday morning--coincidentally my mother's birthday--she gets a call from my dad, but he hangs up immediately. She calls him back, and the phone just rings and rings, and finally he picks up. But he's making no sense talking to her.

She hangs up and calls my brother Mike who lives 5 minutes away. "Call an ambulance and get over to the house--your dad's in trouble."

He calls an ambulance and jumps in his car, and is surprised to find the ambulance at his house BEFORE him.(nobody else had called them) The paramedics are outside looking for a way in, so Mike lets them in.

My dad is sitting on the floor, his back against the wall behind his recliner. The two dogs are standing in front of him, barking ferociously at the paramedics, who wouldn't approach my dad until the dogs were gone. Apparently they even growled and snapped at my brother, who they know because he's always over there.

My brother got the dogs away and the paramedics checked him and rushed him off. My mom booked the first flight home, which wouldn't arrive until 9pm that night, and she was bringing my sisters.

Back to hospital time. The doctor comes out to talk to all of us. My dad has had a massive stroke, and there's a clot in his brain. They think he's a candidate for a procedure they do at the university in Baltimore where they will insert some sort of device into his crotch, take it all the way up into the brain, grab the clot, and pull it out.

Sounds insane to me, but the doctor says it's actually a procedure with an extremely high success rate, and on top he tells us that a high percentage of the patients will literally walk out of the hospital the next day, and you might not even know they had a stroke.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

The doctor says they're just waiting for the university to approve him as a patient for the procedure, and if so, they'll rush him off in an ambulance to Baltimore.

He gets approved. We're all going to meet at the university. I go home and grab a shower and a bite to eat, figuring I'm probably going to be up there for a while and I literally haven't eaten anything in ten hours. I get to the hospital pretty quick to find my brothers in the waiting room eating pizza.

My older brother says that he went in when they originally got there and there was a doctor testing my dad. He said that the doctor tested my dad's right hand and it moved some, which they found strange.

There's no word on what's going on yet. The doctor's going to come out soon and tell us something, and damn if he doesn't. He's Indian, and looks like he's twenty. He purses his lips oddly.

He says the clot has been breaking up on its own, and it's now too small to operate on--this is bad news. Because again--if they could get it out, perhaps 100% recovery. The doctor also says they can definitely see the stroke damage on the left side of his brain--hence, the sagging and non-movement on the right side of his body.

He gives us this news in a peculiar way. Like, if you took your dying mother to the hospital and the doctor came out and said, "Well, she's not dead but we had to cut off both legs and both arms. But she's not dead." Like, I guess we should be happy?

He says right now they're going to try to get him in a room a few floors lower(we were in the ICU but we'd be going to MICU which is medium intensive care unit I think).

We wait. And wait. We exchange turns going in the room to hang out with our dad, who mostly just sleeps. On the occasions he opens his eyes and stares at you, it's bad. You can see the frustration behind his eyes. He tries to say something and out comes nonsense, and he just grimaces and shakes his head.

They keep telling us the room is getting ready, and soon they'll take him up. Mike tells me the ambulance driver on the way over said that they would tell us that he'd be moved to a room, and they'd keep saying it, but they'd never move him. They said be prepared for that.

Dudes weren't far off. They moved my dad into a room on the fourth floor around 9pm that night. Weird part is that the sag in his face wasn't as noticeable by that point. He also had surprised the doctors by moving his right arm, holding it up for 10 seconds, and also moving his right leg.

My older brother told the story of this other Indian doctor who came in, thinking my dad couldn't move the right side of his body. He said to my dad, "Hold your right arm up." and my dad would hold his right arm up.

The doctor spun his head to my brother with an astonished look. Back to my dad. "Raise your right leg." and my dad did it, and the doctor spun to my brother again, like, "See what I did! I told him to do it, and he was suddenly able to!"

Anyway, my dad can't stand so they keep having to put a catheter in him to drain his bladder. He also can't swallow, so they tried to put a feeding tube into him twice. They failed both times, and I watched one of them, and let me tell you--you do not want a feeding tube put in you while you're awake. The sight, and the sound of him choking as they tried to jam a plastic tube down his throat is not something you're getting out of your head any time soon.

My mom eventually showed up. They were finishing up a catheter, and they pulled the curtain aside, and she strolled in and started singing, "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me." My dad looked at her and grimaced, and I said, "Want me to put her back on the plane for you?"

He smiled on one side of his face then shook his head, so that was good to see. But then my mom starts whispering to him about what happened that morning, and she says, "I don't know how you answered the phone. God was with you that morning. That was God working."

Now don't get me started on that fucking notion. Like, you're saying God was there to push the answer button on his phone? Man, fucking shame he couldn't have been there when, you know, my dad had a fucking stroke. I mean, obviously God GAVE him the stroke in the first place, right?

But all I say is, in a half-kidding voice, "Or it was a triumph of the human spirit. You know, an amazing will to live."

She got pissed at me.

I left around 10:30pm. My mom was spending the night. I said I'd be back the next day.



Got to the hospital in the afternoon. I go into the room and am instantly surprised--pleasantly--at how my dad looks. There's definitely more life in him. He's sitting up, for one. (he didn't have the strength for that the previous day) His face isn't sagging as much. If his mouth didn't bend down on the right side, you wouldn't know anything was different.

Still nothing but gibberish for the most part, but at one point that night Paul(my older brother) asked him if he could go the bathroom on his own or if the nurse helped him, and he said, "I can't go the bathroom on my own."

We were both like, "Woah..."

Paul said he was trying to see what my dad could understand. He held up the remote control for the TV and said, "What's this?" My dad said, "Phone." So my brother held up his phone and said, "What's this?" My dad said, "Phone." My brother held both of them out and said, "This is a phone?" and my dad nodded. He held up the remote again. "And this is a phone?" My dad nodded.

But then he held up the remote and asked my dad, "What's this do?" and my dad pointed at the TV. It was weird, he said.

We took shifts. Paul left after a while and I stayed with him by myself until Mike showed up. I had my laptop, so I streamed some Netflix for him. We watched a couple of original Star Treks(he's the one who got me into it when I was like 6). Watched a couple Flash episodes. (he's never seen the show, but loved the comic as a kid)

He can answer yes and no questions. Everything else he simply can't reply to correctly.

My mom spends the night again.



Went back today. My sisters were there, and they're a whole 'nother brand of ridiculousness. They'd been there for hours, so they took off after I got there. My dad looked about the same, but apparently he'd gone to the bathroom on his own. Standing and walking already(though the walking is with assistance) was a good thing.

My brother Mike showed up, so we watched another two Star Treks. During the break, my dad stood up and shuffled into the bathroom to piss. Shuffled back out and got in bed on his own, though really slowly.

The nurses don't know much, and there are no doctors around. (they come in every couple of hours to test him or inject him with something or take a blood sample, and he's attached to one of those machines by like 8 wires.

What we hear is that the doctors come in tomorrow, and they're hopeful that my dad can get into rehab by Tuesday or Wednesday. Though we don't know if that's a place he stays all the time, or he goes home and we take him there during the week. We think probably the first, since he's still in very rough shape.

But it's encouraging to see how much progress he's made in only two days. I told him my AC unit is going to need some work done on it soon, so he needs to get better, and he chuckled and shook his head.

More later. But if I go MIA for a while, this is why.

No comments: