Sunday, May 22, 2011

let us run with patience the race that is set before us

                                         May 12th - May 15th 2011

Psalm 146: 2  I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

  Apparently Scott's uneventful flights last week left me being the one to have more than my share of airport stories.  Typically while traveling I wear comfortable footwear that is easy to slip in and out of during the security process, however this trip I opted for my running shoes and that choice paid unexpected dividends.   The combination of a cancelled flight, delayed flight and rerouting with another carrier all left me sprinting to the gate to make my connection.  In spite of the delays I was able to arrive at the rehabilitation institute in time to catch Dennis sporting his spiffy new slip on sneakers and hard at work with the physical therapists.  Following his session in the gym those sneakers continued to add mileage as he demonstrated his fancy footwork and maneuvered his wheelchair to the elevator, thru the hallways and to the dining room.  I now found myself equally, if not more thankful for Dennis' tennis shoes and his perseverance.
  Observing Dennis eat his supper I was impressed with all the textures of food he was handling.  From feeding tube to soft diet and now a fairly wide open menu.  Chris brought me up to speed on the schedule, facility, staff and procedures as she fed Dennis. He continued to prove himself a worthy member of the  clean plate club.  Scott had mentioned how much Dennis enjoyed the vanilla milkshake he brought him last weekend, so plans were made for another "Purple Cow" run.
  The weekday schedule is full, getting dressed, breakfast, morning therapy sessions, lunch, nap, afternoon therapy, dinner, a shower tossed in somewhere, and that's just the basics.  Long days for Dennis but they are paying off, much progression from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning and then Friday morning to Friday afternoon.  One of the occupational sessions included the introduction of a universal cuff.  The cuff slips over the fingers and slides down the hand with an elastic portion resting across the top of the hand below the knuckles while a leather portion with a slit lies in the palm of the hand.  The desired utensil is placed in the slit and it enables Dennis to have better control of a spoon or fork and work on the aspects of regaining the ability to feed himself.  Scott texted as the trial run with the cuff was about to occur and asked what he was going to have.  "Chocolate pudding" was the reply, to which Scott responded "but he likes Tapioca best."  Even from Pennsylvania Scott can make things happen in Arkansas, tapioca pudding was added to the shopping list.
  Another therapy session focused on transitions from sitting to standing and standing to sitting.  Something we do all the time and never think twice about.  A little attitude,  and a lot sweat, exhausted-Dennis pressed on with a P.T. that refused to take anything less than his best effort.  He earned rights to his first pizza in two months.

  From the time I arrived at The Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute (BHRI) it was pure southern hospitality.  The first person I asked regarding the whereabouts of the gym was headed that direction. A short conversation was pleasant and encouraging and I later found out he was the physician Chris had been telling us she was extremely pleased with.  Hence the nickname Dr. Wonderful, to continue the original style of Scott's blogging.  Another nickname that quickly fell into place was Nurse Fantastic, although no cape, a super hero of sorts who can single handedly move Dennis with just his pinky while juggling four stethoscopes and three thermometers and simultaneously operate a bed by foot control.   Seriously, he motivates, encourages, and gets results from Dennis, having him do as much as he is able to do for himself.  He appropriately pushes Dennis to exert more effort yet delicately balances when to cut him slack as he tires.  What thrilled me the entire stay, (minus just one don't even expect me to Smile type nurse) was the respect and dignity that the therapists, nurses and aides offer to Dennis.  Scott would have been beaming and most likely exclaiming-- NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT--as the staff addressed Dennis personally, (no talking over him as if he wasn't there) established eye contact, and found a point of connection.  I was reintroduced to many southern phrases and even learned a few new ones as I listened to all the interactions, thanking God for the precious employees here who realize the importance of proper communication and patient rapport.  Continued kindness and concern weaved its thread throughout each building from security to food services and even in the gift shop.  Point of interest:  the hospital chaplain is the same pastor that performed the marriage ceremony for Dennis and Chris.  When I commented to him about the excellent care at BHRI he shared with me a little card he carries in his wallet that summarized what I had been witnessing;   Our Belief -  Baptist Health is more than a business;  we are a healing ministry.  Our Mission - Provide quality patient services and respond to the changing health needs of Arkansans with Christian compassion.
  Random information:  Coffee lovers, there is a Starbucks on site.  While waiting on drinks one afternoon, I noticed some kids bouncing around with delight with what appeared to be ballon like animals with accordion style legs bopping along on a string.  Further investigating I saw the ladies in the gift shop having a heap of fun as they sorted thru packages.  What does one do with all that happiness surrounding them?    Pick out a puppy for Dennis of course!  They didn't even charge extra for a hospital broken, obedience trained, cream of the litter selection.  Returning with sweet teas, and a mylar golden retriever,  I asked Dennis what he would like to name his new puppy.  He immediately responded Pooch.   Those of you that knew Dennis during his school days may recall Poochie was the name of the family dog middle school thru college years.  Dennis' long  term memory is clear whereas his short term memory remains very fuzzy.
 One of my favorite memories from this visit occurred after Dennis had been listening to some sports coverage and dozed off.  I turned the t.v. off and switched on the radio which was tuned to K-love (contemporary Christian music.)  The song "By His Wounds"  from the group "Glory Revealed" came on.  At the end of this song the group incorporates two lines from a hymn.  Much to my surprise I heard a familiar voice join in "what can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus."   Not knowing whether to jump for joy or burst into tears I opted to start the next line of the hymn, "what can make me" and Dennis continued to sing "whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus.  Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.".   Incredible, the man who was slowly piecing words together again was now singing word perfect, in tempo and in tune, a familiar hymn from childhood.  I have heard previous reports of people that struggle talking but can sing, and have witnessed the effects of music therapy, yet at that moment I stood amazed as Dennis initiated his own version of music therapy the glory of God.
(listen to the song here

 A couple new occurrences for Chris as well during my stay.  One, after sleeping in hospital beds since March 20th, and waking up with a fever Friday, she agreed to go to the hotel around the corner and climb into a regular bed and get some real sleep!  And then on Saturday after going to pick up some supplies and a "healthy" pizza for Dennis (chicken, cashews, veggies) Chris ventured home for the remainder of the day/evening to join those having a work day prepping the house and yard in anticipation of their eventual homecoming.
  As I left Baptist on Sunday morning Chris and Dennis were getting ready to go to the hospital church service.  The airport greeted me with another delayed flight. The gate attendant scrambled for one of the last tickets to reroute me and like the passing of a baton in a relay race, she sent me sprinting to a plane that was already loading.  I haven't examined my shoes to see if there is any tread left, but I have examined my heart and it is full of praise!

Post script...grace to Scott for this late entry.  Once again, his guest blogger did not submit prior to acceptable deadlines.  Much has occurred over this past week following my departure and no doubt Scott is already preparing a feast of tasty morsels to serve up on his next posting.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

Friday was a successful mission in which I have come up with the name: operation surprise for obvious reason. Only a select few were privileged enough to know that I was going to make a surprise visit to the hospital this weekend. No one from Arkansas was aware because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise and now that I’m old enough to rent a car on my own, I figured I should take advantage of my old age and keep it secret by renting a car and driving on my own. I had the weekend off of work, and hearing about dads recent successes, I had the opportunity to come and spend some time with him and wanted to take full advantage of it. Chris and Courtney both thought that my aunt was coming down to help and much to their surprise, it was me! I made it to the hospital around 9:30 at night, and I walk to the unit where Chris was “working” first. As I walk up to the nurses’ station, she looks up with a confused look as if she was thinking, “ look at that strapping young lad, he looks just like Scott (I know it’d be a lucky kid if there were two of us).” The closer she looked and the more she began to process it, she realized it was me, she then blurts out an “o my word, what are you doing here?” Still in shock, we go up stairs to Dads room where Courtney was sitting and dad was sleeping. Courtney looked just as confused, and probably a little irritated that she wasn’t aware I was coming (she thinks she’s knows everything and is nosey of course, but what older sister isn’t?) As I’m talking to her, Dad wakes up (I’m assuming it was my angelic voice) and as he sees me, he starts grinning. I’m not sure if he knew I haven’t been there for awhile, or just sensed the excitement in the room, but he seemed pretty happy I was there, but quickly feel back asleep.

I was trying to think of what I was going to say when I walked in the room for the past couple days. I wish I had a cape so that I could open the door and jump in as if I was superman, but I went with the less drastic option and threw open the door and asked where the bathroom was in this joint. I think it was a successful surprise and definitely put a smile on some faces and most importantly dads. I’ve been warning dad that he needs to get some sleep tonight because boot camp starts tomorrow at 0900 (o nine hundred) and that he’s not going to be able to sleep during the day because he wouldn’t let me sleep at night. I told him we’re going to do jumping jacks, somersaults, handstands, push ups and cart wheels. If he begins to sleep, I’m going to buy a fly swatter and hit him, shake the bed, or make loud annoying noises (to bad I don’t have a recording of quincy talking).

My first thoughts of dad through the night were that overall he looks pretty good. He still has a lot of involuntary/uncontrolled movements which is typically called ataxia or ataxic movements. This can be caused because he was out of it for so long and his brain didn’t really have to think about his movements and coordinating them properly. He is going has to relearn how to move in a smooth pattern. It’s not uncommon to have, but he seems to have a pretty good case of it. He’s definitely talking more and most of the talking is simple responses and repetitive. I’m trying to get him to use his voice more than just little whispers so we can hear him and understand him. He’s forming his own language and he refers to it as “thai.” He has random words he says all the time some of the being pottayyy (which means potty) and ta ta. He tends to say pottayy a lot even when he doesn’t have to go and I’ve reminded him of the boy who cried wolf, because that is all I have heard the entire night was. I also had to tell him what ta ta was and that we aren’t going to talk about that when I’m here.

The therapist came in today and I can say without a doubt I’m fairly disappointed. First of all if you’ve been following at all you know that it irritates me when people do not introduce themselves or explain what they’re going to be doing. I don’t care if you explain it to me, but explain it to the patient. The transfers were just not that good and they lifted improperly because it was “Easier.” He stood up and transferred to the toilet and was able to sit with pretty good balance for awhile, but he fatigued fairly quickly. The therapist was trying to get him to lift his arms up (which he’s been having issues with because he’s so weak). I’m trying to get him to focus on picking his head up but it’s a lot harder than you think. He hasn’t had to hold it up for quite a while and now that he needs to his muscles are really weak.
In the experience I’ve had, you need to focus on the easiest stuff first such as sitting edge of bed, keeping your head up, and safe transfers before you begin to walk appropriately. Although that stuff is still hard and very tiring, I feel that most therapist focus on quantity rather than quality. A lot of people will think that since you’re walking 60 feet you’re doing great when in actuality you should only be walking 10 feet at a time and focus on doing that correct before you go any farther. It’s my fear that there are focusing more on the quantity of it, because they aren’t a true rehab hospital they just aren’t familiar with what to do first.

I can also say that I’ve been disappointed with the nursing staff overall on this unit. Some of them have been very friendly but they don’t seem to be doing much at all. It could be the fact that I’m in the room all the time, but it’s be nice to actually see someone around the start of their shift and not 3 hours into it. I miss most of the ICU nurses I’m familiar with and the care that they were giving. The nurses on this unit don’t know how to work the bed, and aren’t comfortable with helping transferring to the toilet. I’m just ready to get him to a nice rehab facility so we can really focus on the things that we need to.

We worked a little bit more on therapy before I left on Sunday. A retired physical therapist in the family has been gracious enough to spend his time and come and help with dad and his progress. We worked a lot on trying to normalize the movements to decrease the ataxic movement and we also worked on strengthening overall, especially the muscles that help him stand. He’s weak and needs a lot of work and therapy needs to focus on transferring and overall strengthening.

It was a pretty boring flight both there and on the way back. I think I slept most of the time and there really weren’t any interesting stories. I did stop by the ICU waiting room and it looks different. I think I’m just not use to my stuff not being cluttered everywhere around my bed. in there. Since my return dad has moved to little rock and is now at a neuro rehab facility. From what I’ve heard about it so far it seems to be a pretty nice place. I’m excited to journey back down and check it out to see his progress. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Did you save room for dessert?

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done...were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5

Saturday was pretty much a non-stop praise party! Dennis' cousin Dawn arrived early (yes Scott, armed with her famous sweet tea and peanut brittle) and I'm not certain who was happier to see who, Dennis-Dawn, Dawn-Dennis or me watching them both but regardless we shared a day of acknowledging how our mighty God's hand has moved! A variety of doctors, nurses, therapists and staff popped in to say hi to Dennis as word has spread about his miraculous recovery. Courtney, Quincy, Brenda, Gabby, Marcus-Lucas and Elena joined in hearing Dennis now communicate by way of our temporary best friend, the Passy Muir. There are just so many sweet, sweet stories, along with a few comical ones, they go on and on and on. In speaking with one of the respiratory therapists she commented on how "clinically" this is so incredible, and how inspiring to those in the medical profession to witness such a story. From March 20th to present Dennis' story clearly demonstrates that only God, our maker determines our final breath.

Dennis has successfully been off the ventilator for two days and can wear the Passy whenever he wants other than when sleeping! He continues to identify pain in his right hand with a consistent grimace whenever his 5th digit (pinky finger) is even slightly touched. An x-ray did not reveal breakage so further plans are being made to evaluate it. He continues to need Potassium but has progressed with the tube feeding and a swallow study should occur soon with the hopes of beginning some pureed foods (he's really wanting to chug down a big gulp or route 44 size drink.).

The evening hours were a far cry from Friday night. Dennis peacefully slept the majority of hours between midnight and eight with the exception of 3 short times . There were no jerking movements of the arms and legs, shifting or restlessness, attempts to pull on wires or tubing, or extreme bouts of coughing. I could only praise God as I sat beside him praying for this to continue, and thank each and every one of you that have been praying, your prayers are making a difference and they are being answered! Our night was not without a little humor, as Dennis' nurse Freda teased him about the pink nail file I was using on his toe nails (they were borderline becoming weapons) and that he might wake up with pink nail polish and his respiratory therapist Lisa told him he better be careful touching the buttons on the side of the bed, especially the third one because it would eject him out the window, such fun to see his huge grin again and a bit of a chuckle attempting to escape through his speaking valve. I can't stop asking, who I am that God should allow me to witness all these marvelous happenings. 
During his next awake time I was able to play an Easter message for Dennis that Tricia had sent and watch him glow. I then asked him if he would like to hear some of the blogs Scott had written. I asked if he would prefer the most recent or to start at the beginning and he choose the beginning. For all of you who left comments, he was truly touched as I read your remarks and names. After each entry I checked to see if he wanted to continue and he would say yes. When we had completed several his eyes began to show signs that he might be able to dose off again. Following another hour and half rest we were nearing morn and choose that awake time to talk about Easter and the resurrection of Jesus and pray together. It was certainly a different sunrise service however the most meaningful one I have experienced. Dennis once again returned to a peaceful nap prior to Chris's arrival following work which briefly proceeded my departure for the airport.

This blogger shall now return this space to its' originator but before doing so would like to share how my heart has been enlarged by the incredible care, commitment, constant advocating and being a voice for Dennis when he couldn't speak, such immense love that Chris has showered upon Dennis. She has been our Esther, " for such a time as this."

I also must put a plug in for the St. Joe ICU respiratory team. For those of you unfamiliar with the old T.V. series Charlie's Angels, good search it, and know those angels pale in comparison to Dennis's Angels - Kristi, Lori, and Lisa! Many doctors and very special nurses have been the hands and feet of Jesus for which we shall eternally be grateful for.
Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

NEWS FLASH.......Dennis was able to begin eating by mouth, not the pizza he was wishing for but he is one step closer!!!!!!!

Ok Simmer down folks, I’m still here. I believe that the mystery blogger did a great job (thanks auntie). I also think she realized that the blog a little more difficult to write than one would think. She was a little late on the deadlines, but other than that she did lovely. Because of her late assignment some great things have happened since then. I called Chris on Easter to see how things were going (yes I do actually call her at times) and much to my surprise a heard a deep “hello” on the other end of the phone.  It was Dad, I think I was a little overjoyed and probably squealed like a girl, but I was happy to talk to him. He sounded great, and I could understand mostly every word he was saying. I asked him if he was feeling ok and he responded with a “no.” I was surprised by that, and as I dug deeper he told me his hand hurt pretty bad. I’m not really sure what’s going on with it, but I’m sure he fell on it initially and maybe tore some ligaments or it just hurts from being poked and prodded so much. I told him again that he’s doing great, and he’s making me proud with how hard he’s working. I’ve been amazed at the progress he’s made, and he responded again with a “I’m trying.”  I also had to remind him that he’s doing much better since I left, so he had to know Chris wouldn’t take care of him like I did.  We talked about Easter dinner with the family and Jeff at one of mine and my dad’s favorite restaurant in Cleveland. It’s a Brazilian steakhouse where they bring 16 different kinds of meat to your table and of course it’s all you can eat.  I told him that Jeff eats like a girl, and he needed to come up and show him how to eat and he responded with a simple “ya, I’ll show him how.” We also told him that he needs to come up because we’re getting playoff tickets for the Indians since they’re starting their season off so well.

Yesterday Dad did great, he finally moved out of ICU after 37 days! It’s been a long road, but miracles have happened and he has been fighting like a champ. I told dad that he needs to be careful moving to another unit, because I need to come down and flirt with all the nurses again so that they’ll take extra special care of him. There is talk about taking out his trach if he continues to do so well. He has been breathing on his own for quite a few days and he even ate a good breakfast today. His food is pureed and his drinks are nectar thick. It basically is food thrown in a blender with water added and his drinks are just a little thicker so that he can swallow it easier for the time being. He had cream of wheat, apple sauce, mystery meat, biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  I’m hoping it’s better than that food I ate in the cafeteria when I was there, because it really didn’t even smell like something I wanted to eat. And I’m sure it looks the same pureed as it did normal.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

And now for your host of (insert catchy game show name)....

Good Friday.  Sitting here bedside to Dennis.  Where to begin.  You will no doubt quickly come to realize this is not Scott writing this entry - primarily due to the lack of quick wit, and secondary by the end it will occur to you there has been no ripping on Chris and that clearly is not Scott's style.

   First let's address disclaimers:

    English teachers, majors, or generally proper speaking people, etc.  Please accept my early apology for grammar, spelling, presentation and view this only on the basis of information to update you from the land of ICU.
    And more importantly, the views represented tonight may or may not reflect the opinions of the originator of this blogspot, voiding him of any responsibility or accountability of backlashes from the followers.

So...let's roll. Dennis currently is resting well, as he deserves to be, he has put in quite a day.  As Scott told you yesterday there has been the welcomed addition of a speaking valve.  For you internet surfers, you can google (or rather let me put in a plug for for your search engine and identify Shepherd's Ministries Union Grove, Wisconsin as your charity and they will receive a penny every time you search and Dennis will be thrilled that you not only are keeping up with him but are helping a very worthy cause in doing so) the Passy-Muir Tracheostomy & Ventilator Swallowing and Speaking Valves.  This wonderful little round purple gizmo reminds me of a kazoo- with just the right amount of air exerted, delightful sounds occur.  Today the respiratory therapist had him wear it twice.  The first time to talk with the Doc to whom he said thank you (even minding his manners in these circumstances) and the second time Chris had him make phone calls.  Yesterday he talked to Tricia so the first call out today went to Scott.   Chris was getting Scott on the phone and in doing so she said something like hey babe your dad wants to talk to you, to which Dennis furrowed his eyebrows and pursed his lips and then responded "BABE, that's me" with a quizzical look like who is on that phone that she is calling babe and making certain we were clear that term of endearment belonged to him (which at this point in the story I can assure you if Scott were writing he would have an over the top remark). I tried to capture the call on a phone video to send to Scott so he could see his Dad's expressions as he talked with him but there is no way even if it were crystal clear that it would portray the happiness in this room.  What a blessing to be witnessing!  Following that call Chris had Dennis talk with Courtney, Gigi, Grandma and Pa.   Plans for Skype sessions are in the rough!
    The respiratory therapist played music to our ears as she described the plan to increase the length of time and sessions with the valve and later on Dennis must have decided he too was going to go with the music theme and do a little conducting but we'll get to that in a moment.
     A tad of physical therapy in the afternoon, breathing treatment, routine checks, and lots of TLC passed the afternoon.  Change of shifts and Chris was off to work 1 floor below.  Dennis took a two hour power nap  9 to 11 following which he decided to pull an all nighter!  I reminded him we were long past those stereotypical college kid hours but that didn't seem to phase him so the games began.  The speaking valve was out so it was lip reading and sign language along with a letter board that he would attempt to identify letters, our version of Wheel of Fortune, but he evidently was wishing Chris was playing the role of Vanna rather than me because he spelled out "love Chris".   We then tried a dry erase marker on a board, (orange marker, a fave color) to write Chris a love letter ( I know this is nauseating you Scott and you probably are about to hit the delete button) but not to worry it just ended up with a few scribbly scrolly markings that only  I can identify.  Under the false impression that I might actually persuade Dennis to sleep a little he began our next game that we lovingly later referred to as Dancing with the Sheets, our version of Dancing with the Stars (for you Snookie.).  Dennis fidgets with his hands a lot and in attempts to keep them off the tubes and wires I would give him things to hold, a stuffed moondog (Cleveland cavaliers mascot )wannabe, Ohio State Buckeye keychain, but this time he was liking his top sheet.  He did the wave with it, rendition of the Chicken dance with both arms going, some moves that looked like "wax on, wax off" from the original Karate Kid, gestures of shooting hoops and coaching the game plans, and for a grand finale he conducted the St. Joseph Orchestra its first performance of the ICU Overture.   When I told Dennis he most likely had put in the equivalent of 4 occupational therapy sessions and  5 physical therapy sessions, well maybe only 4 in Scott's book (keep that bar raised high) we finally made a pact to nap - at 5:20 a.m., (6:20 eastern time):

Random St. Joe's fact:  ICU X-ray's are scheduled at 2:00 a.m.

Tune in Sunday or Monday for the Saturday Night Late Edition.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's a small world after all..... With a Giant God and a great Miracle

I feel as if I’ve been having some sort of withdrawal from blog writing. Although it was taxing at times and definitely not that good, it had become routine and sort of therapeutic for me. Since my return home, I’ve wanted to journey back and be there every day again. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but my busy schedule and lack of sleep has helped make it a little easier. I’ve also been meaning to write more since my travels because I have a few stories that would be interesting.

My last night in the hospital was one of the more exciting ones. I’m not sure if it was because I was wearing scrubs, a stethoscope and a pager while pretending to be a doctor or if it was because we had an all star nurse and dad had a great night. I started to see a change in dad that day when he started to respond a little more and when the nurse asked him to rub his lips together after she put on a hospital form of chap stick (which looks like nothing more than Vaseline in a tube), he did! He was sleeping really well each time I went to check on him and I think the nurse was just as excited as I was to see him doing so well. I give her a lot of the credit (to make her feel good of course) but I could tell he was starting to turn around. They were a little overstaffed in the ICU so she was able to give one on one care which I was pretty happy about. I would always ask the nurses how many high priority patients there were in the ICU and I especially liked the ones who responded with the appropriate answer of one, while they were looking at dad.

Chris was working and since dad was doing so well I decided to pretend to be doctor and walk around. It’s amazing to see how many more people say hello to you when you look like a doctor rather than just a family member. I was acting as if I was a specialist from out of town who was there for educational purposes. I even went into a room to shut off a call bell! I continued to check on dad periodically throughout the night until about 5 am. Each time I had a nice chat with the nurse who was still on cloud nine and very excited about his progress.

I decided to finally go to bed a get a little rest that night. I slept for 3 hours or so and then I journeyed over to my grandparents hotel room to pack up and take a shower. I had noticed during the initial stages I thought I forgot my toothbrush, so I had to buy a new one and I kept it at the hotel. As I get out of the shower and get ready to brush my teeth, but I realize my toothbrush isn’t around. I ask my grandma about it and she looks at me as if she was confused. It soon comes out that she thought it was her toothbrush and that apparently she’s been using it for the entire trip. I was kind of grossed out, but I think I was really just too tired to care that much about it. I made sure I used really hot water that morning.

We get back to the hospital to say our goodbyes and dad is still sleeping pretty comfortably. It wasn’t easy to leave, but we were in a time crunch and knowing that he had been doing better the day before really helped out. We make it to the airport and my grandpa tells me they aren’t going to sit next to me, because a “cute” girl might sit next to me instead. Indeed he was right, and I did get to sit next to a cute girl. I warned her that my grandfather would say something about her sitting next to me and no sooner than I said that, he turned around and yelled “lucky.. lucky...” It made both of us laugh and as we get off of the plane I get thrown under the bus saying that I didn’t stop talking the entire flight and was a pain to sit next to.  We land in Baltimore and have a 2 hour layover and all I really remember about the airport is a that apparently they were testing fire alarms and they weren’t aware of how to turn them off. I remember hearing a overhead page saying “this is just a test” but it was an annoying long test. I’d estimate it went on for at least 15 minutes.

My next flight was a nice short one and it turns out the lady who was lucky enough to sit next to me on this round was a healthcare journalist. Of course I thought about the blog and mentioned to her that I’ve been writing about my experience in the hospital and she promised to check it out and give me some constructive criticism on it. It’s kind of strange how much it has blown up and how many people whom I don’t even know have mentioned to me how they enjoy reading it. It’s been so much easier updating the blog rather than calling a lot of different people. It reaches so many different people that it’s truly incredible. It’s kind of cool how I was able to talk to certain people over the past 4 weeks and connect through this ordeal nd strange that I can even connect through this on the airplane.

Typically whenever I’m flying i’d call my dad or even text and let him know where I landed and how the flight went. As I was walking off the plane, I caught myself taking my phone out and dialing “Dad.” I even attempted to do it again when I was sitting in the Baltimore airport. It then hit me again, that I haven’t been able to talk to dad as I have in the past. I’m not really sure how I’d handle it if I didn’t have the opportunity again. I was ready to tell dad how bumpy the landing was, and where I was going to eat in the airport. It’s the little things throughout your day that you don’t realize you have until something is in the way of that routine. That’s when you really begin to miss it.

I’m thankful I have so many amazing friends willing to give their time to help me out, I’ve had friends come and clean out the sour milk and food from my fridge, do laundry I had piled up (thanks jeff) and ones that have even picked me up from the airport. As I got home I sat and talked to John and Carla (my ride) a little more and once they left I decided I should probably eat something.  Although I was still pretty tired, I made a little food and sat on the couch to eat it. Next thing I know I’m waking up in the middle of the night with my food in my face untouched. I decided there was no use in eating it and continued to go to lay in bed while not worry about waking up at any particular time. I eventually wake up around noon and immediately think of my chiropractor friend after I stretch. I haven’t really been used to stretching out when I sleep, and in some form or another my back was reminded me of that.

I was welcomed back to Erie by snow, yes snow. After I was getting up and ready to do my task for the day, I get ready to walk outside and see snow. Seriously, snow in April, how ridiculous is that. Courtney (step sister) calls me later in the day and tells me dad is responding more and he’s even smiling when she was talking to him. Leery that he’d be smiling when she was talking to him, I was convinced he was still a little sedated to recognize her. The next morning when doctor walked in the room and introduced himself dad reached up to shake his hand. The doctor was ecstatic and gave two thumbs up on his progress. Apparently throughout the day dad was trying to pull out his tubes and was getting very anxious together.  He was excited trying to give Chris hugs and was even playing with her hair and smacking his lips making kissing faces. The thing I immediately thought about was either I should have left sooner if he’s doing this well or I’m glad that I got out just in time so I don’t have to witness touchy feely stuff.

Yesterday dad went to surgery and they put in a peg tube. I asked Chris who was with her in the waiting room and she told me that Quincy was there.  I was surprised by this because I assumed that he was getting ready for his weekly American idol party but apparently someone else took over the task of frosting the cupcakes this week. I’m sure he was hoping the surgery would get done soon so that he could go home and watch it live.  The peg tube is placed in his stomach so he can get more nutrition and it’s not that annoying tube that goes down your nose. I was able to talk to him on the phone a little and he is starting to sign and mouth words back to us and Chris is poorly attempting to translate. Most of his medicines have been taken off and he has been doing really well. He’s still in ICU and we aren’t sure when he will come out of it, but they aren’t going to rush anything to get him out of there.

Today has been even better than the last couple. Unfortunately I missed the call when I was at work, but my dad was able to talk a little today. A speech therapist came into today and put in a valve so that he could talk a little. It’s not in all of the time, but they’re going work their way up on wearing time. I was excited to hear that he was able to talk and is doing so much better. He was able to talk my sister and tell her he loved her.  I’m sure it was such a relief and encouragement to hear his voice. I’m kind of scared in a way to hear from him, because he might tell me that he’s understood everything I told him when he was sedated and I might get yelled at. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed for a “hey bud.” Look for another update coming in the next couple days from the guest writer, I have no doubt it will be a good one. Continue to pray for improvement. We’ve seen miracles so far and he’s been doing great. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Warning: Not recommended or small children.

Last night was without a doubt a test of self control and patience. The night was dragging and I was having a hard time keeping dad calm. I was able to do it for 5-10 minutes and then he’d start back up again, finally he started to rest for a little longer and because I’m very familiar with the staff who had him and confident they’d come get me if needed, I decided to rest my eyeballs around 1:30. The waiting room was pretty full with 5 people sleeping and only one lawnmower (which was impressively loud). I fall asleep and shortly wake up to a group coming into the waiting room and talking. I’m used to many people coming in and out throughout the night but most are very courteous and observant that people are trying to get some sleep so they stay as quiet as possible. This was not the case for this family. They’re talking with their outside/mid day voice and consistently complaining. I look up and give a slight death glare and see that everyone else in the waiting room was awake as well and doing the same thing. We try to fall back asleep and then one of the family members decides to sit on the chair next to me and call someone while another family member across the room was calling what sounded to be like friends. I soon hear the words inmate and detained next to me and I perk up. Apparently there was an inmate from a prison who was beaten up by someone and sent to the hospital without notifying the family. They then decided to turn the tv on and increase the volume so they could even hear it upstairs. I almost didn’t care if I had the remote anymore because I was about to throw it across the room at the loudest accomplice. Of course I’d be upset as well, but I think I’d have the courtesy of talking in the hall way or being a little quieter when 6 people are sleeping. Granted I was lacking sleep so it may have increased my irritability but I was considering how much bail would be for assault because I strongly tossed the idea of throwing them out the window. I texted Chris to warn her that if there is a code 13 (hospital lingo for rowdy family members) to the waiting room, not to be alarmed. After I asked how much the bail would be set at and she said probably 1k per person, I was still comfortable with that. I just can’t believe how people don’t have enough courtesy and respect for others to at least act like they’re aware people in the same situation are trying to sleep.

I wanted to attempt to sleep a little because the opportunity arose in which I could wrestle alligators. Apparently Hot Springs has an alligator farm and it’s time for the gators (that’s what us real wildlife men call ‘em) to come out from inside and go outside into the pools. Quincy’s old basketball coach owns the farm and so he needed help moving them from inside. The gators we moved ranged from 7 – 65 years old so some of them were pretty big. We grabbed onto their tail and drug them backwards into the water. They were moving kind of slow because they are still semi-hibernating. Some were a little feisty but nothing that  scared me too much. It was definitely a cool experience and something I never thought I’d actually do, so I’m glad I can now call myself THE alligator man. As I was leaving I began to think about how I could add my experience with the gators and in the south together and the best idea I could think of was crocodile skin cowboy boots. I’m on the lookout for them, don’t worry. After wrestling we decided we needed a good hearty breakfast so a McDonalds trip was in order.

I get back and begin the rest of the day in the room. Dad is a little restless which is probably mostly due to Chris being in the room elevating his blood pressure. I took over and finally calmed him down and he slept well for a couple of hours. They wanted to take out the feeding tube from his nose and put it in his mouth, but he didn’t tolerate it well so they just switched nostrils. Dad has inflamed sinuses which may be part of the reason for the temperatures. He wasn’t really weaned off of the medicine too much today and he stayed pretty stable. The thing that they’re mainly working on at this point is getting the powerful sedative out of his system. The fetanyl is stored in fats and can last in your system for quite a while. He does seem more alert today and it’s good to see. He has started to open his eyes when you ask him to and he’s even started to squeeze my hand again. I started to ask him questions and told him to squeeze my hand for a yes. I began to ask him if he was in pain, and if he’s squeeze I’d ask where. He was able to squeeze and tell me a few different things that hurt, and that he was having trouble breathing once. I also asked him if he wanted to roll to the left or right and he scrunched up his face as if he was confused. I asked him if he wanted to roll left and he squeezed yes. I then followed up asking if he wanted to roll right and he didn’t respond. The responses to me were very appropriate but it could just be involuntary or non purposeful squeezes.

I know from experience not to get my hopes to high and to expect the roller coaster ride. It’s going to be tough to leave tomorrow seeing the gains that I saw today. It was welcome to see these improvements but then again I don’t want to get too hopeful and have to cope with the downhill aspect of the ride. Dad has started to become more restless throughout the afternoon and it appears to me as if it’s some sort of hallucination from the drugs. I try to picture what he’s thinking as he’s moving around and try to match the motions with a story. One story I thought about was him driving the bus, he put his hand up as if he was shielding the sun, and then would pump his right foot up and down as if he was pressing the gas. Another story I thought about was that he was a karate kid. He would kick his legs and flail his arms as if he was attacking someone and he got a few good kicks on me here and there. Myself, along with the nurses have been surprised how strong he is. He’s been resisting and kicking pretty well and still has lots of strength. I can’t wait to come back and see the improvements he’s made.

Many people have asked if Chris will keep up with the blog in my absence, my initial response was a laugh, and then my secondary response kicked in and I come to the conclusion that I’ve set such a high standard for this, that no one can come remotely close to making this blog in a way I approve. I feel like letting her take over the blog would be like giving a toddler matches in a pile of dry leaves, it’s just not a smart idea. No really all kidding aside,  I will try and keep everyone updated as much as I can. I won’t have the first hand information and Chris will be busy enough as it is, I doubt that she will have time to write. I do have a mystery guest spot lined up for this weekend and I have no doubt it will be a stellar one. I plan on being back within a couple weeks and will give my input on a new unit if we’re out of ICU. I am going to plan on keeping the blog a secret this time so it won’t hinder my writing style and I’m not afraid of what everyone will think about it. Please pray for improvements and him to continue to wean off the medicine with no complications. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Attn: PETA - No cows were harmed in the making of the blog

There has been word all day about an upcoming storm, the clouds were gray and it felt as if the rain was coming. The TV was set to the news station, and the weather man with to much hair product (like I should talk) was on for hours, there were weather advisors out all over the state as the storm was approaching. I put my chairs together, curl up and get ready to fall asleep for the night to the sound of the only other occupant in the room making motorcycle noises. I close my eyes and doze off when I’m awakened by a lady on the phone complaining that she can’t get the window closed, she had closed all the blinds and is asking my houseguest to move away from the window. Apparently there is a “level 1 tango” which is hospital code for a tornado warning in the area. The sound of hail (marble sized), rain, and wind was pelting the window along with the flashes of lightning and the crackling of thunder. I begin to think to myself is this the place I really want to be if a tornado hits? And then I got excited that I could potentially see a cow flying by if I looked out the window, if it really did come.  The thoughts didn’t last long as I was watching the spokes person for suave hair products point out the rainbow of colors on the TV I dozed back off. It was then the nurse wakes me up. She told me dad has been pretty restless for the past 20 minutes and wanted to see if I could calm him down.

At first I was confused on who it was that actually woke me up, but I quickly gathered my thoughts and came into the room, dad was all over the bed. It was as bad as I’ve seen in awhile, and I’m so thankful she was willing to come get me. This is what I’m here for and it was nice that she was willing to let me help. I came in and respiratory was in monitoring his breathing and trying to help. We eventually got him to calm down and I sit down for 3-4 minutes when I see the x-ray guy push his cart to the door and I had to demonstrate a little self control not to go block the door. They took the x-ray even though the nurse and I were perturbed. Of course he became riled up again and it took a little longer to calm him down this time. Respiratory came in again and bumped up his oxygen and it seemed to have almost an immediate effect. He fell asleep again and appeared to be resting comfortably. Today was the first time in awhile I’ve seen some expression on his face. He had an expression on his forehead again as if he was hurting or confused. Although I hate seeing that, it was welcome to see some sort of expression come back. It’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve seen that last. I think seeing it makes it harder for me to go home for awhile, because I know I need to be here.

The staff tonight has been fantastic, the communication and care has been top notch. The nurse was interested in dad and what he did for living. I always enjoy listening to my patients and their stories on where they work(ed) and what their background is. It gives you such a better understanding for the patient and type of person they are. As soon as I told her that he now owns a business after 30 something years in education she shot off the name of his store and you could see her recounting the times she had talk to him. She went on to say that her and her husband have a ministry in which they help get furniture and mainly bedding for underprivileged kids and how dad and been great in talking and helping her. She recounted a story in which he had told her about a coffee table. He had the opportunity to buy it, and he really didn’t need it for the store, but felt a need. He took  it in and within a couple of days a lady came in and was crying near the table. He found out she had been struggling recently and fell in love with the table but couldn’t afford it. The nurse then told me, she didn’t know how much it was, or how much she paid for it, but she did know that she could afford it that day, and went home with a coffee table. It was touching to see the smile and sparkle in her eye and she was recounting the impression that dad had made on her. They had just talked a handful of times, but he made a lasting impression.  It’s always amazing to hear these stories from people whom I’ve never met before and the different ways dad has touched them.

It’s been a long night, dad has been giving me a workout. I think he heard that I gained some weight and I’m starting to look hefty, so he felt the need to give me a workout. Different churches bring meals for the ICU families each weekday for lunch, we’ve been getting lots of pizza and lots of sandwiches and of course I’ve been eating whatever I can. I’m thankful that people are willing to spend some time and money and help us out with meals. It makes things easier when you don’t have to worry about going out and getting something or going down to the cafeteria to get some “food.” I would assume that when you would approach a cafeteria or a kitchen you would smell the food that they were cooking, but it hasn’t been the case, so I haven’t been a big fan of eating there. Since I’m not a big fan of the cafeteria food, I had the opportunity to eat at an IHOP for the first time and it was amazing. I ate an unhealthy amount of food, but it was so good, and I can’t wait to go back and continue the feast. Who knew there were so many different kinds of syrup.

My breakfast today consisted of cheetos and a coke, it’s a breakfast of champions if I may say so myself. I also feel a little weird I haven’t really made fun of Chris in awhile. I really haven’t seen much of her recently because we’ve been alternating shifts or she is just napping when she tells me she’s doing homework. Chris is working tonight so it appears as if I have night shift again. 

I feel slightly out of the loop again because I slept from 10-3 or so, I missed all the doctors coming around and had to get my information from Chris. Since I really never pay attention to her, and am used to automatically tuning her out (kidding people… mostly). The fever has subsided throughout the day, and it’s about normal. He has had periods of restlessness and sleeping. It figures that most of the time he was sleeping today was with Chris, so I get the tough work. I was in the room for a couple hours so far and I’ve been kicked in the unmentionables a few times, and the face once so far. I think it’s just his way of getting back to me for all the things I did to him growing up.

Dads meds have decreased a little today, and the doctors have decided to leave him on this new medicine a little longer. It’s a newer medicine and we’ve read reports where it has been on as long as 11 days, but it’s only typically  on for 48 hours. I’m pretty sure that has been all the changes throughout the day. Hopefully tonight will be a restful one.