Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The upside of the down

When I got to the ER parking lot, I grabbed the first empty space I found. I was feeling more than scattered after having been on the road 6-ish hours and wasn't sure what all I should take inside. I grabbed my bag, phone, and keys and took off. As I was making sure the van doors were locked, I heard the familiar sounds of kingbirds nearby. Oh how I love the sound of fledglings as they call for their parents. I looked in the branches of the tree I had parked in front of and there they were. 4 of the most healthy juvy kingbirds ever. One parent landed in the tree top above the young ones and made sure I wasn't going to wander any closer.

I took a deep breath and stood, transfixed. Seeing the intact (against all odds) family made my anxiety level fall a few notches. Still, this was not the way I expected Father's Day to go.

Lillie, Niles and I had gotten to Dad's early Saturday afternoon. Misty and the boys were there and we were all going to take Daddy out to eat for father's day. We had a great time at dinner and we all pretty much went to bed when we got home. The next morning dad got up and just wasn't feeling well. We all thought it was because he didn't eat breakfast right away. He got chilled so we put him under a blanket. As I left, he said he was feeling better. He did have a slight fever so I made a mental note to make sure and call him when I got home.

Misty called me when I was about half way home. She had called daddy and he sounded awful--he was slurring his words and he wasn't feeling well at all. She called our cousin Jeanie (who is an EMT) to go check on him and let us know what she found. His blood pressure was elevated as was his temperature, and, he couldn't breathe well. Her EMT skills told her he was needing urgent care. Of course, he didn't want to go, he wanted to just sleep for awhile and felt certain he'd feel better when he woke up. The last time he felt like that he almost died. He has COPD and doesn't just 'have allergies' or just 'a bit of a cold', he gets pneumonia. And his lungs just can't tolerate it. His oxygen saturation crashes to the mid 70s (healthy people level out at 100%), his heart is burdened by his body trying to breathe by working even harder even though it's been damaged by prior infarctions. Fever causes chills that shake him to the bones. The color leaves his face. It's scary--for him and for those of us on the outside.

I rushed home, dropped the kids off and turned around and drove another 3 hours to the hospital.

Walking the back hallways of the ER, I found his room. I was so relieved to see him when I walked in the door. He looked exhausted. My aunt was there and so was my cousin (a different one than above). The doctor was there and I waded in with my questions--what were his test results, what tests had already been performed, his blood sugar level (he's diabetic), what did the x-rays show... in the past he's gotten a bit embarrassed and apologetic with my 'interrogations' of doctors. This time he just waited until I was finished then smiled.

Not long after my arrival he was moved to a room. This meant that my aunt and I followed while he was pushed while still in bed. She had one bad knee and one knee that had been replaced several years ago so our going was slow. We had almost made it to dad's room when her bad knee gave out and she fell. In my mind it happened in slow motion and though I tried to catch her before she hit the ground, I was just too late.

In no time there were at least 6 nurses, three doctors, two trauma specialists, a security guard, and a chaplain that surrounded us. Long story short, her knee had begin to bruise and swell and all thought it was best that she get an x-ray. So back down to the ER we went. Three hours later she was cleared to leave. No fractures or breaks, just a really bad bruise.

We met dad back in his room. He was exhausted and napping through our conversations. Finally, around 10pm, everyone was gone dad and I turned out the lights. He in his bed, me beside his bed in the chair that lounged just a little. The night was incredibly rough in that every 30-45 minutes, some one was coming in for something--blood, vitals, meds; one nurse even came in at 4:30am, just as we were falling asleep again, to see if dad was ok and if he needed anything. That was the last interruption until 7:30am when they began all over with vitals, meds, taking blood, etc.

I finally was able to talk with dad's doctor when she came in around noon. The x-rays showed he had pneumonia in the two lobes on his right side and one lobe on his left side. That's why his oxygen saturation was so low and he was on oxygen. She thought he would be there for several days so they could get the infection under control.

We napped for the rest of the afternoon. Around 2pm I had to leave. Forrest was going nuts watching the kids and I needed to get back for him, and the other two. Sadly, I walked out of the hospital conflicted about leaving. Who was going to ask the hard questions, or make sure the nurses knew what he needed... I put it all in perspective in knowing he would be in good hands even if they weren't mine.

The hardest thing I've done in awhile was leaving him. As I walked to the van, there was the kingbird family once again, although in another tree. Then it hit me--it had been less than 24 hours since I first saw them. They were still calling to their parents and life was continuing on no matter my crisis.

June 27
Daddy was released from the hospital this past Thursday. He's now on oxygen 24 hours a day. He's getting stronger daily and this weekend Misty is there helping him wade through everything he needs to do to get better.

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