P.’s Path: And Now the Hard Part

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Day 3, Post Surgery

Maybe we thought the hard part was making the decision to amputate and wondering if he’d survive the surgery, but now is when the real work begins, the long hours, long days of sitting in the hospital and watching him struggle to regain his strength and his clarity of mind. His hands shake so much and his fine motor skills are so poor at this point that it’s difficult for him to eat. Part of me wants to just feed him, but I know he won’t get stronger unless he has to do things for himself. It’s a mess — hard to watch.

The physical therapist comes in to get him into a chair for a couple of hours a day. Within a few minutes Dad is asking how much longer he has to sit up. He’s tired. Hell, he was tired before this happened. Just imagine what his 97-year-old body must be experiencing. His skin is paper-thin and I worry about bed sores, even though his bed has some sort of system designed to inflate and deflate channels within the mattress to keep that from happening. 97-year old skin is a lot more sensitive than younger skin.

He is swollen with edema almost everywhere, so the doctor took him off IV fluids for awhile. I wish they’d give his wrists and hands a needle break, but hospitals love needles. They allowed a student nurse to practice on him today. She couldn’t get a new line started. I wish I’d just said, “No. No practicing on my Dad.” I will next time.

How many more days in the hospital? No way to know. He’s developed “a touch of pneumonia,” the nurse says, so they’re also giving him antibiotics and cough medicine. After this, it’s The Lutheran Home for rehab. Again, no way to know for sure how long he’ll be there. The goal is to get him strong enough to move himself out of a wheelchair and into bed or onto a toilet and back again. If he can do that, he can go back to CapeTown Assisted Living, where his second family loves him and takes good care of him.

Day 7, Post Surgery

Both he and I are getting grumpy. It’s really hard to maintain a positive attitude for such a long time. My friends have been super supportive, and I am more a Facebook fan than ever, since it is through it that I have reached out to high school friends who have really, really helped to take my mind of the situation for brief respites.

Dad is getting better, but progress is incredibly slow, as anyone might expect for his age. He’s not in a lot of pain — just discomfort. He’s very weak and can’t even shift himself around in bed by himself, but he can raise and lower the head of his bed, call for the nurse, and he can feed himself (although it’s a very messy operation). He has some swelling in places you might not expect, and still some pneumonia, but it isn’t serious.

I’m here until Wednesday until Fleda comes to take over, then I suppose I’ll be back. We’ll have to keep taking turns until he’s well enough to trust others with his care. If you’ve ever had a loved one in a hospital or nursing home, you know that’s true. Patients MUST have someone to advocate for them.

I keep telling him, “You can’t go dyin’ on me now, Dad. If you were gonna do that, you should have done it last week.” I sure hope we can manage to keep his (and our) spirits up in the weeks to come.

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